Category Archives: Computers

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.

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 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 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.

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 –

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 –


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


Finally Starcraft II has arrived.

I am not a huge video game person, there are times when I don’t play for weeks at a time, but Starcraft II is one of the few games I am excited about.  The original Starcraft was a mainstay for my friends I in junior high and high school.  It simply is amazing how well the game held up and that my friends and I still played it off and on up to 2009 early 2010 or so.  What made it so great is that the game was so well balanced between the three races for multiplayer.

From the gameplay I had a chance to do while the Starcraft 2 beta was up, the sequel seems like a nice balance between retaining parts of the original game and at the same time adding new and different units to be able to use.  It is great to have a new chapter in the Starcraft legacy finally after a long wait.  From the sales projections from the quote below it is almost certain that Starcraft two will be a big success.

Blizzard’s sci-fi real-time strategy sequel to 1998’s StarCraft went on sale at special midnight openings across the country, and with sales expectations high: At least one analyst at Janco Partners, Mike Hickey, thinks the game could sell 7 million copies worldwide in 2010 and pull in revenue of $350 million, netting Blizzard $171 million in the bargain.

Most of that won’t come from the U.S. StarCraft is even bigger in South Korea, where Blizzard could sell as many as 5.5 million units, carving off a grand $225 million slice of the total revenue pie. Those crazy South Koreans–they actually consider StarCraft a national sport.

via The Zerg Have Landed: StarCraft II is Here – PCWorld.

If you are unsure what a real time strategy game is, which Starcraft is, check out the link. Also in the article is the gameplay story and history of Starcraft.  StarCraft for Everyone – PC Feature at IGN.

A paid tier on Hulu, the future of TV?

Hulu announced their service Hulu Plus this morning while I was working on this post last night and this morning, so here is the original post with a few corrections.

I have seen news items and speculation for upwards of a year or so on whether Hulu will add a paid tier to its current ad supported model that they currently use.  The current article has stated that the subscription service Hulu will offer is as follows: (they basically got it right on the price, only 1 cent off at $9.99)

For $10 a month, viewers will reportedly have access to a wider selection of shows than the free, ad-supported version Hulu currently offers. The service would work on PCs and specialized devices such as the iPad, videogame consoles and set-top boxes.

That price range is within the area that I would be willing to pay depending on the content/shows available.  In the article it also talks about a report that Hulu “is talking with CBS, Viacom and Time Warner’s television studio divisions to add their shows [to Hulu],” additional content is crucial to getting to people to sign up and then retaining them as subscribers.  Hopefully this part will come true.

If the networks prove they can charge consumers directly, and consumers are happy to supply their own “cable boxes” in the form of game consoles, television-connected computers, set-top boxes, tablets and so on, it’s difficult to see why networks would tolerate cable and satellite providers grabbing a slice of profits, just for sending the shows through one pipe rather than the other.

via Subscription Hulu: Beginning of the End for Cable, Satellite TV? | Epicenter |

This is where the potential for change comes in, with subscriptions to Hulu and say another service like Netflix and its streaming service I could see people getting enough content of movies and TV to not have cable any more.   If Hulu is able to add CBS to their offerings then obviously they have all the big four  broadcast networks and it’s that much easier to cut the cord for cable.  It is important to have the broadcast networks on Hulu, but the area it would be personally most important for me is to make sure to to get the best cable shows on Hulu Plus.  If I cancel cable, I can still receive CBS, ABC, FOX, and NBC over the air using an antenna.  With that in mind I want more of the popular cable shows like Mad Men from AMC.  Hulu does have some cable shows but I would want more of them.

The other angle that would make me hesitate on whether I would pay for Hulu Plus or not is how soon after the show airs would it be up on Hulu.  While a lot of the shows on Hulu are on the next morning I believe, on some shows like Stargate Universe and some others (not sure what shows) Hulu is one episode behind and episodes are not on the site until the next new one airs.  That is a big drawback for me.  Not sure if I really want to have to wait a week or even several days before the shows are on the website, so will have to wait and see on this aspect of it.

Back to the title of the post.  I think potentially internet-based tv services like Hulu as they expand more have the potential to really harm cable companies but I personally don’t see that happening at least for the next year or two or maybe longer.  Certainly more long term I can see where they take over or really impact the cable companies, but only the future will tell.

Toy Story 3 & Pixar

I figured posting this Wired article about Toy Story 3 was appropriate given that today Toy Story 3 comes out in movie theaters.  I everything thing I have heard sounds like Toy Story 3 is another great Pixar movie.  It is amazing how successful pixar is and how much influence they have had on animated movies.  I say that because Toy Story being the first computer generated feature film if I recall correctly.  I have not watched it recently but the last time I did, it had held up over the years since it’s release in 1995.  Now it is 15 years later and movies like that are old hat and computer generated movies are getting even more complex like Avatar and the upcoming Tin Tin movies.  So it will be great to see the new Toy Story movie some time this weekend or maybe next week some time.

Pixar’s secret? Its unusual creative process. Most of the time, a studio assembles a cast of freelance professionals to work on a single project and cuts them loose when the picture is done. At Pixar, a staff of writers, directors, animators, and technicians move from project to project. As a result, the studio has built a team of moviemakers who know and trust one another in ways unimaginable on most sets.

via Animating a Blockbuster: How Pixar Built Toy Story 3 | Magazine |

iPhone 4 pre-orders go crazy.

Like Engadet says below, I am also a bit surprised that Apple & AT&T sold out of iPhone 4 pre-orders.  Granted I was one of the people making a pre-order so I helped in a tiny degree to it.  For me it makes sense to get the new phone when I can sell my current 3GS model to cover most of the cost of the new one.  The one thing that the pre-order sell out tells me at least is that the interest for the iPhone has no real sign of letting up and that there is still a huge amount of interest, which is not a surprise thing really but more the magnitude of how many pre-orders there where for the phone.

We were amazed last night to see both Apple and AT&T sell out of iPhone 4 pre-order units despite the sustained ordering issues, and now we know why: Apple managed to move 600,000 iPhones in just a single day. Yes, that says’s a lot — Apple says it’s the largest number of pre-orders it’s ever taken in one day, and AT&T says it’s ten times as many orders as it took for the iPhone 3GS. It’s not all sunshine and roses, though; Apple’s also apologizing to the large numbers of people who simply couldn’t get through yesterday.

via 600,000 iPhone 4s pre-ordered, Apple apologizes for issues — Engadget.

Also the increase in the new iPhone 4 is not just in the US, noted in this article over at Mac Rumors that the German carrier also had a ten fold increase in internet traffic compared to last year for 3GS.

Another quick Apple note is that I am quite happy to see that Apple has announced an update to the Mac Mini line.  While a shame they have raised the price $100 on the lower model, the Mac Mini that I got in 2007 has worked out very well for me and it is a great machine.  Nice that they finally added in HDMI to it, but not a huge need for me if I was to consider upgrading my Mac Mini.  For more details check out this post at Apple Updates Mac Mini with New Design, Faster Graphics