Friday, July 27, 2012

Apple vs. Amazon

Can Gruber be right?

Could Apple possibly make more profit in 2 hours than Amazon makes in an entire quarter??

Mountain Lion: First Impressions

Let me start by saying that Lion was pretty awful. Felt like buying a wrecked Malibu that somebody spent a lot of time making look like a new BMW – looks nice, but things just didn't fit together or work right. Slow, buggy, annoying.

Enter Mountain Lion, America's big cat. In summary, it's been a breath of fresh air. It feels much snappier, and everything so far has been smooth and responsive and better.

If you want a detailed review, John Siracusa at ArsTechnica once again comes through.

First the bad:
  • Still RAM hungry. Big cats eat a lot, I guess, and just running 5 apps wipes out my 4 GB of RAM (wow). When I switch between apps, it often spins the SBBOD while it swaps RAM to disk. Curious, those 5 apps use about 1.5 GB, and there's another 1.5 GB "Inactive", which with the 1 GB of "wired" leaves 35 MB (effectively 0) free. If you want to run more than a few apps and switch between them, you should consider going to 8 GB of RAM. Fortunately, you can probably get 8 GB of RAM for about $50 these days.
  • It acted funny when I first logged in, BBEdit had the wrong font and wouldn't let me change it. Seemed like it was trying to get set up (font caches?) but didn't tell me it was doing anything. All those problems soon went away.
  • Gatekeeper. Computers have been pretty lax about what apps you can run -- download stuff and run it. This new Mac OS by default only lets you run things you got from the Mac app store, and the Mac app store apps have to be "sandboxed", meaning roughly that every thing they do internally must have already gotten a "mother may I" from Apple at one level, and the OS at another. This is meant to crush malware – your computer will just refuse to run it. But you can't buy MS Office, Photoshop, or most other big apps because getting mother may I's for everything they do at this point is expensive, hard, or in some cases impossible. The good news is that you can order this new big burly gatekeeper however you like ("go home", "let this guy through", etc.) -- it's just another step you need to be aware of.
  • Still no Rosetta (Lion dropped that ball), so if you have apps that you bought years ago on a PowerPC and need them to work, stick with Snow Leopard.

Now the good:
  • Mission control fixed. You can turn off the window groupings in Exposé (hooray!).
  • Responsive. Almost everything feels more snappy -- reminds me of how I felt when I got Snow Leopard.
  • New apps. iMessages, Notes, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts -- all sync with iCloud so I see the same things on my computer that I see on my iPhone. This is where we really wanted to be for all the years we've been using computers. I have one contacts list on iCloud, and can edit it from any computer or from my phone, and it all stays up to date. Nice!
  • AirPlay. Super easy to mirror what's on your computer to your AppleTV. Even Netflix video worked surprisingly well, though my computer got pretty hot while doing it. I don't recommend using your computer to play DVDs onto your TV with it, though -- my understanding is that it would be reading compressed video off the DVD, decompressing it to your screen, then taking what's on the screen, compressing it back into a compressed stream, streaming that over wi-fi to the AppleTV, which then decompresses it again to show on the TV. Both devices working very hard. I think it's more for showing PowerPoints, browsing the web, looking at pictures, etc., so everyone can see it. Still very cool.
  • Built-in dictation. Not word by word as you probably hope, but still pretty cool. Double-tap the "fn" key, say some stuff, hit "fn" again, and the text appears. Anywhere you have a cursor. Seems to do pretty well.
  • qi.pngIn-line dictionary. If you have a laptop, three-finger tap on a word and it will pop up a definition for it inline. Neat!
  • Lion document model opt-out. Lion tried to help people who don't understand the classic file/folder hierarchy by storing incremental versions of your document for you (without you hitting "Save"), and trying to save "state" when you quit apps, etc. I never understood it, and it didn't work with Office or other big apps anyway, so Mtn. Lion letting you partially opt-out (see the "General" pane of Sys. Preferences) is a good thing.
For $20, this appears to be a good move for almost everyone.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The iPhone turns 5

Gruber nails it.

He makes the point that one reason the iPhone has done so well wiping the other phone makers off the map is that they, including the media and other pundits, all think it's a phone.

It's not, though it does make phone calls.

To all those (including my dad) who say, "Yeah, but what would I do with it?", I don't know, but here are the top 50 things I do with mine:
  1. Check the time or date.
  2. Check weather forecasts when I need them. (We went for a bike ride with all the kids a month or so back, and it started pouring rain on us. We raced forward and took shelter under a bridge. How long was it going to rain like this, we wondered. I pulled out my phone, pulled up the weather radar animations, zoomed in on our position using the GPS fix, and saw that it was going to pass in a few minutes. So we waited it out, and rode back dry.)
  3. Use it as a remote control for our AppleTV. (Where's the remote? Oh yeah, it's in my pocket.)
  4. Take pictures or videos of my kids being cute. (Who has a camera handy when the kids are being cute?? I do, now.)
  5. Take pictures of fliers or other useful pieces of info I want to remember.
  6. Show people pictures of my kids (including onto the AppleTV via Airplay).
  7. Read scriptures, and keep track of our reading with the kids.
  8. As a lesson manual at church.
  9. Have instant access to our church membership directory, including addresses (tied to maps), phone numbers, and kids names (which I'm all too quick to forget).
  10. Use it as a church hymnbook.
  11. Read books or PDFs on it.
  12. Keep all my contact information up to date and synced easily.
  13. Set multiple alarms with different tones (the perfect alarm clock!!)
  14. Set countdown timers so I don't lose track of time, e.g. when I'm working in the garage.
  15. Use it as a flashlight whenever I'm out in the dark.
  16. Battle boredom with it. (Note, my 22-month old baby knows all 26 letters, upper and lower case, because of an iPhone game. He can't even talk yet! Oh, and I've gotten pretty good at Scrabble/Words with Friends too...)
  17. Listen to music, whatever I want, whenever I want.
  18. Listen to podcasts (General Conference, church talks, NPR Fresh Air interviews, etc.)
  19. Keep lists of things to buy at stores the next time I go (using the built-in Reminders app).
  20. Manage my calendar.
  21. Read news and my other Google Reader items (Reeder is awesome!)
  22. Poke around in Pinterest and Facebook whenever I feel like it.
  23. Read emails.
  24. Navigate (Maps and TomTom) when driving or walking in new places.
  25. Look up stuff on wikipedia when a question comes up -- instant knowledge!
  26. Check bank balance, deposit checks (by taking a picture of the check), and transfer money between bank accounts.
  27. Lookup movie times and nearby theaters, check ratings and parental guides.
  28. Find the nearest Redbox with whatever movie I'm wanting to see.
  29. Watch Psych (and other fun shows/movies) on Netflix and Hulu.
  30. Use the WebMD app to figure out whether a particular "bug" is serious enough to warrant seeing a doctor.
  31. Buy stuff from Amazon.
  32. Lookup something I'm considering buying on Amazon to see how it was rated, e.g. a thermometer at Wal-Mart. The Amazon app has a cool feature where it will use the phone camera to scan a barcode and use it to look up items in their store.
  33. Remote control the computers in the house (via VNC free app).
  34. Maintain and have immediate access to all my online usernames and passwords via 1Password.
  35. Keep lists of important info, e.g. A/C filter sizes, house paint colors, clothing sizes, etc. 1Password is great for this because it's so efficient about storing important info for me already.
  36. Do quick calculations (for woodworking or whatever), or crazy hard ones with the Wolfram Alpha app.
  37. Find my wife (via Find Friends free app by Apple), and help her find her phone with the "Find My Phone" free app.
  38. Watch movies on the plane.
  39. Make sure I'm on pitch when singing in choir with the nice "Piano Free" app.
  40. Flip coins when I don't have a coin handy (using the free "Coin Flip" app).
  41. Convert units, e.g. teaspoons to tablespoons.
  42. Whitenoise generator for when it'a a little too noisy for the baby to go to sleep.
  43. Figure out what species a tree is using Audubon's "Trees" app.
  44. Check the status of my flight (FlightTrack app).
  45. See the value of homes I'm driving by (Zillow free app)
  46. Take voice memos or record talks, speeches, or other impromptu audio that's worth keeping.
  47. Download coupons when we're at the store.
  48. Use as a microphone where there's a sound system using the "Megaphone" free app.
  49. To check the meaning of the ODB II codes I read off our vehicles when the check-engine lights come on, using the "FUZZYCodes" free app.
  50. To check the value of a car on Kelly Blue Book when I'm away from home using the free app.
Oh, and I sometimes use it to make phone calls. =)

It's not just a phone, it's a Swiss Army Knife of information you can carry in your pocket.

Does anyone read this thing?

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