Category Archives: Technology

Review of ‘Dogfight’ by Fred Vogelstein

cover_thumbThe first book I have finished this year is Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution by Fred Vogelstein. The book covers the development of the iPhone, iPad, development of Android based phones, looks at the legal battle that erupted between Samsung and Apple, and finally, what these gadgets have done to change the market in a broad sense. I have seen this stated in other reviews and it held true for me after reading the book myself, that the first two-thirds of the book is the best part of the book and that it tails off after that. I read the first two-thirds of the book over the course of five days and it took me another week to finish the last third of the book. The first seven chapters make up the telling of the creation of the iPhone, Android, and the iPad and the battle that takes place between Apple and Google once Apple learns about Android. Those first seven chapters are the strongest and where we learn most interesting details about the inside stories of the two most popular mobile operating systems. It is in the telling of the back and forth story between Apple and Google where Fred Vogelstein shines in the book. The chapter covering the trial between Samsung and Apple was alright, just did not grab me as much as the previous seven chapters.  It did not cover as many interesting details which I guess is not a huge surprise given it was focused on a patent trial. The next two chapters are a bit different than the rest of the book, focusing on the more industry-wide effects that iOS and Android devices have had on the world of technology. From how it has effected websites, to media publishing, and the entertainment industry of movies and TV among other things.  While there is some good information in this section it just is a bit of a different turn for the book after a much closer look at a smaller set of topics in only two companies and topics in the first seven chapters. Overall if you enjoy reading about technology and parts of the inside stories surrounding Apple and Google, there is enough good information I think to read this book in the end. Although it is interesting after reading this book and now several weeks after I have finished it, a lot of the details from it have not stuck with me as well as I might have thought since I have just so recently read it.

30 Years of Mac Computers

mac30I am a few days late on this post since the Mac’s 30th anniversary was last week but I still wanted to share my thoughts. For me I have used Apple computers all my life. The first computer I used at home was one of the green-screened Apple II models. Over the course of the years I have used several Macintosh computer models and I am inclined to think that Apple and their computers have had a great effect on my continued love for all things technological. The first Mac computer I bought for myself was a Titanium PowerBook G4 in August of 2003 before I went off to my freshmen year of college at Gustavus Adolphus. That was a great laptop for me that served me through my entire college career. My Mac’s have served me well over the years and I hope they continue to.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball has a great post that he did yesterday on how in some key ways you can still see the design decisions from the very first Mac OS.

For one thing, they sweated the details. The greatest testimony to their genius is just how much of that original design is recognizable in today’s Mac OS X 10.9. A Mac user from 1984 could sit down in front of an iMac or MacBook today and recognize it as a successor to that original machine. That’s simply amazing.

Even more amazing is that some things haven’t changed at all. File, Edit, and View menus to start the Finder menu bar — the same today as in System 1 in 1984.

Daring Fireball: Special.

 In a piece that touches on a similar topic MG Siegler over at ParisLemon — 30 Years Ago, Apple Was The Same Company talks about how the design philosophy and decisions that guided Apple 30 years ago with the first Mac are still present in their current products.

Finally Apple released a great video for the 30th anniversary of the Mac and I have included it below.

New SimCity game a disappointment?

SimCity_(2013)_limited_editionWhen I was growing up SimCity 2000 was one of my favorite games that I played and I had a great amount of fun with it.  When I started to hear good things about the new SimCity game before it launched and watching some of the preview videos I got a bit excited about the game and it brought back memories from the earlier version of the game.  Once the game was released that image started to change.  First off EA had a massive problem with the servers for the game and people had a very hard time connecting to them to just play the game, since you had to be connected online all the time to even play at all.  Other problems related to how the game works and the AI they use in the game presents another problem that made me sad to read about. Problems such as the path finding that they use for sims when they are driving or walking to a certain place. I did read a piece that they are working on a fix for some of the car traffic problems, but seems like a bad bug to release with.

The last point I will add is that I was disspointed to read about the point below about the options you are allowed for traffic management.

Past SimCity games have included highways and subways, and I expected the new game to build on this solid transport infrastructure foundation. But it didn’t. It didn’t even keep pace with its predecessors, and I just can’t defend that by saying, “Oh it’s a reboot.” Yeah, OK, it’s a reboot. That doesn’t mean it can simply discard core elements of city-building gameplay.

via SimCity review: One week later, time doesn’t heal all wounds | Ars Technica.

Creating subways and highways was great fun to figure out how you wanted to lay it out and where to put them.  Subways especially were always very fun to lay out and create stops since you got to go underground in SimCity 2000 and have a bit more freedom in laying them out compared to roads that where more straight lines.

EA & Maxis said that the Mac version of the game will be out later this spring, so I will have to see what types of reviews the Mac version gets and what patches they have made to the game by then to really decide on whether it is worth getting.  A game that I was at first quite excited about getting I am now much more cautious on whether it is worth the money.

The Dramatic Success of Apple’s iPad.

I think this quick quote really helps show the dramatic success Apple’s iPad has been.

Apple sold 11.8 million iPads during the quarter, more than double the number it sold last year. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, helped put this in perspective during the company’s earnings call.“Just two years after we shipped the initial iPad, we sold 67 million,” he said. “It took us 24 years to sell that many Macs, and five years for that many iPods, and over three years for that many iPhones.”

via Tim Cook Spells Out the Rapid Growth of Apples iPad – NYTimes.com.

Hollywood’s Idea Of Innovation, Make Buffer Copies Regulated & Licensed.

While SOPA and Protect IP are dead, we still need to be aware of what the next regulation or purposed laws will be.  The cause for concern here is a purposed provision in a leaked version of the  Trans-Pacific Parntership agreement (TPP).  What Hollywood in this case wants to regulate is:

the treaty contemplates requiring licenses for ephemeral copies made in a computer’s buffer. That means that the buffers in your machine could need a separate, negotiated license for every playback of copyrighted works, and buffer designs that the entertainment industry doesn’t like — core technical architectures — would become legally fraught because they’d require millions of license negotiations or they’d put users in danger of lawsuits.  

Via Son-of-ACTA, the TPP, wants to legislate buffers – Boing Boing.

This type of regulation has been purposed before (for more information on that see link above) and has been beaten back before.  In a Techdirt.com article, notes how this could present a real challenge to innovation/new services company’s could provide, giving this example as one case:

What the negotiators here are trying to do is to kill off any cloud streaming service (or require it to pay a lot extra). In the US, a few years ago, the 2nd Circuit ruled that Cablevision’s remote DVR was legal. Basically, Cablevision set up a bunch of servers that could act like a standard DVR, but rather than the box being at home, it was in a central data center. The TV networks freaked out about this and insisted that it must be illegal. But, of course, the only real difference between this and a TiVo was how long the cord between the DVR and the TV was. It seems ridiculous to think that the copyright could be impacted by the length of the cable. 

The key, then, to the TV guys’ argument against Cablevision was to show that Cablevision itself was involved in copying works without a license. Since it was the user pushing the button to “record” something that argument wasn’t very strong — so they picked up on a specific piece: that in the process of making this work, Cablevision had to, for an exceptionally brief period of time,buffer the TV streams that it was playing. The crux of the TV networks’ argument against Cablevision was that it was that buffer that violated copyright law. The court laughed this off, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal, leaving the ruling standing.

via The Real Goal Of Regulating Buffer Copies? So Hollywood Can Put A Tollbooth On Innovation | Techdirt.

To me this leaked draft provision of the newest TPP agreement, just shows how companies are more interested in trying to control their content and looking for new ways to put up road blocks to innovation and new ways of doing things that is unless they get their cut every time their content is somehow moved even if that is just transferring on a computer for content that the person has already paid for.  As the TechDirt.com article rightly points out, this type of regulation vastly extends beyond just hollywood content, in that it would have an effect really on type of digital file that a buffered copy was created of.  The article goes on to say:

For anyone who knows anything about technology, such a proposal is pure insanity. It’s an attempt to massively expand copyright law in the age of computers, for something that has nothing to do with the intended purpose, nor components, of existing copyright law. It seeks to put a legal liability for a transitional state of content for no reason other than that Hollywood wants to get paid any and every time a piece of content is touched. 

This kind of broad over reach just goes to show how important it is to keep aware of what is going on in these types of new purposed regulations, laws and treaties, to help beat back these type of ideas that are harmful to the future of technology and innovation.

Netflix deal with Warner Bros. includes delay in queues & why it is misguided.

Under a new deal between the two companies, Netflix users won’t just have to wait 56 days to rent Warner Bros. movies on DVD. They’ll have to wait 28 days to add the movies to their queues.

As part of the Warner’s continuing effort to boost its DVD, Blu-ray, and video-on-demand business, the studio’s new deal with Netflix throws up a new roadblock for people willing to wait and get the movie as part of their monthly subscription.

via Netflix deal with Warner Bros. includes delay in queues – latimes.com.

Making people wait to just add it to their queues on Netflix, just another example of why people dislike Hollywood entertainment companies sometimes.

I totally agree with Marco Arment (creator of Instapaper) on what this delay means for me in practice.

If I’m adding a movie to my Netflix queue, I’ve already decided not to buy the DVD. I’m adding it because it looks mildly interesting and I’d like to watch it sometime. If I can’t add it to Netflix, I’ll just forget about it and probably never see it.

via Netflix deal with Warner Bros. includes delay in queues – Marco.org.

To further echo that, If I am looking to rent a movie it is likely one that I did not have enough interest to see in the theater itself. That means I am not real interested in buying it before I have seen it, so I will wait to rent it.

The point that MG Siegler makes below is very pausbile I think in the long term.

I hope we all realize where this eventually leads: the banning of movie rentals entirely. 

via parislemon • A 28-Day Window Before You Can Even *Think* About Renting A Movie.

That leads into my final point, that making it harder for consumers to access and enjoy the movie and TV studio’s content does not help in the fight against piracy.  I am not advocating piracy here in response to this, but the harder companies make it or more barriers the companies put up to access their content, they should not be surprised if people turn to other means. In that sense this issue is just another facet of the fight over SOPA/Protect IP, if companies offered easier ways to pay at fair prices to let us use their content, company likely would see more people take advantage of those opportunities. One example is the iTunes music store.

Protect IP/SOPA And The Impact It Could Have On Industries And Jobs

 

All images come from AmericanCensorship.org

When I started to learn about SOPA and the Protect IP Act that were being considered in the House and the Senate, I was saddened to see that both of my Senators Klobuchar and Franken were supporters and co-sponsors of it. I wrote a short letter to Franken about my dislike for Protect IP and I got a letter back from his office which seemed to have as one of the main reasons for his support of it being the protection of American jobs. So in crafting a reply to that argument I did quite a bit of research.  With that research I ended up creating a lengthy reply that I think helps to show while Protect IP may be designed to protect some industries and jobs in them, it also as it is currently written will have quite a negative impact on many other industries and jobs. The results of what I found in my research are below.  If you want to see a PDF of this piece with all the footnotes and bibliography, you can download it here:  PDF

Let me make clear I am not against better enforcement of copyright, as long as it is done in a fair and just way both for the copyright holder and the accused party so that they have reasonable means to contest it if they feel they are wrongfully accused of infringement. Any new bill should balance the need of the copyright holder and potential new business’ ability to innovate without there being overburdened with legal worry.  After looking into SOPA and Protect IP they do not seem to fit into that criteria. Continue reading Protect IP/SOPA And The Impact It Could Have On Industries And Jobs

New trend in technology “Sell Big or Die Fast”

A good article on the changing landscape in technology and the devices the companies make. The article talks about several reasons have helped speed up the process of declaring them a failure or success. Which really is not a huge surprise given the growth of Twitter, Facebook, and tech websites and other places that all help to speed up the process on reviews and the collective consensus for each new device, which is talked about a bit in the article.

I think that is partly where Apple is successful they often are able to create great buzz around their products.  The company then also has to deliver the goods when the product is actually shipped or all the hype won’t help once it is out, and in terms of hardware devices Apple has had an amazing success rate in the last decade.

These days, big technology companies — particularly those in the hypercompetitive smartphone and tablet industries — are starting to resemble Hollywood film studios. Every release needs to be a blockbuster, and the only measure of success is the opening-weekend gross. There is little to no room for the sleeper indie hit that builds good word of mouth to become a solid performer over time.

Some analysts trace the origin of this blockbuster-or-bust mentality to Apple. Each release of the company’s popular iPads and iPhones crosses over into being a mainstream media event. Al Hilwa, an analyst at the research firm IDC, described the accelerated lifecycle of high-end hardware as “Darwinian.”

“There’s a level of desperation from anyone whose name is not Apple,” said Al Hilwa, an analyst at the research firm IDC.

via Technology Devices Either Sell Big or Die Fast – NYTimes.com.

The different ways Apple is on top.

Two great articles that look at different angles as to why Apple has been so successful over the last decade.  The stat in the quote below from the NY Times piece, about how how if the iPad itself was a stand alone company, really illustrates how much of a success it has been.  The second article gives great insight on why Apple has been successful by explaining the philosophy that drives Apple and Steve Jobs.

Hit products like the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad are fueling Apple’s logic-defying growth. The latest entry — the iPad, introduced in April — is on track to deliver $15 billion to $20 billion in revenue in its first full year of sales, estimates A. M. Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. At that size, if the iPad were a stand-alone company, it would rank within the top third of the Fortune 500.

via At Apple, the Platform Is the Engine of Growth – NYTimes.com.

 

Apple’s successful conquest of Sony’s home turf could be seen as the final evidence that the Cupertino company is what Deutschman calls Sony’s “spiritual successor.” “Under Jobs, Apple has the kind of passion for design and innovation that Sony did in its heyday,” he says. “Everything they do is the ‘greatest thing we’ve ever done,’ which will ‘once again change the world.’ And recently, most of the time they’ve been right.

via How Steve Jobs ‘out-Japanned’ Japan

 

The mythical Verizon iPhone 4 finally coming it appears.

The iPhone for Verizon has been a long time coming.  There were news articles back in 2007 a few short months after the phones’ launch, in how it would soon be headed for Verizon.  Unless something drastic happens, it certainly appears that Verizon plans to announce this coming Tuesday that it will get its own version of the iPhone 4.

The two things that I certainly will be curious to hear about is  how many people will either switch from AT&T if they already have an iPhone and how many new iPhone users there will be who have not wanted to sign up for it with AT&T. On those two topics, a few quotes from Wall Street Journal article on that.

Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein, has estimated that Verizon could add more than 10 million U.S. iPhone customers.

“It’s great news,” said Michael Benkoski, 55 years old, who works at a technology leasing company in Chicago. “I’ve been waiting for it for about two years.”

Analysts fear AT&T could see one to three million fewer new subscribers because of the Verizon iPhone.

The final link I will end with is this good piece from Daring Fireball:  Why Next Week’s Event Is Hosted by Verizon, Not Apple.

Via: Verizon Finally Lands the iPhone – WSJ.com. and Verizon iPhone 4 on CDMA Network Set to Be Announced – NYTimes.com.