Tag Archive for Apple

Giving up for now on Google Two Factor Auth

I love the idea of two factor auth, and I think Google has generally done a good job on it, they have certainly tried to make it easy to use .

But the collision of iOS/OSX and Google TFA is just killing me. The problem probably lies in the Apple products — when you configure a machine to do imap email PLUS smtp send PLUS calendar sync PLUS address book sync, it is just broken. The application specific password provided by google has to get squirreled away by all these apps and it doesn’t appear to work, I consistently have problems keeping SMTP send working. I’ve tried recreating the application specific password multiple times and I always end up broken somehow.

Google is not without fault tho. I have two google-hosted accounts I use regularly — a gmail.com account and my theludwigs.com account. When I try to configure the security settings, the Google web pages get super confused about which account I am in. I’ll try to set the security settings for the theludwigs.com account and I get the page for the gmail account.

So for now I am giving up.

installed both ios7 and osx mavericks last night

ios7 first impressions:

  • the mail app i think i will like, seems a little easier to dispose of messages, and viewing messages is a lot cleaner
  • i never used game center, mostly because i don’t care about the feature, but a little bit because it was so horribly ugly. nice to see that fixed
  • sometimes you can be too subdued and too flat. the weather app doesn’t work for me, the difference between a sunny and rainy forecast is now so muted.
  • all the new swipe from the bottom, side, etc behavior will take a while to get used to. tho quick access to airplane mode is nice.
  • i’m interested in the new photo library features and sharing, tho at first glance, the whole collection thing doesn’t really work for me. collections are too small or too big.
  • i hope i can airdrop easily between my mac and my phone. haven’t tried that yet.

osx first impressions:

  • laggy. wish i hadn’t installed. i am sure it will get better.
  • maps app is cool i guess tho i will have to see how much i use it versus the browser alternatives. the “send to iOS” feature will be great, obviously not a new idea, but still i will be happy with.
  • i suspect i will like finder tabs a lot. tags? i just don’t know. evidence from other domains suggests i won’t use them.
  • books, keychain — yawn. hard to get excited about when there are great 3rd party solutions that work everywhere.

Today’s reasons why I want to throw Win8 in the trash

http://www.flickr.com/photos/techfun/Everyone has written about forcing the stupid touchscreen down our throats, that annoys the heck out of me too. But maybe I can get used to it.

But moving beyond that, I just want to use a damn printer. There is nothing about printers on the home screen. When you type in “printers” it says it can’t find anything. Awesome. So I bring up the stupid f&*king charms (because menus and ribbons and taskbars weren’t good enough ways to start programs, let’s invent a whole new system, yay), choose Settings, choose “Change PC Settings”. Oh there is nothing called “printers” in this list either. OK click on devices and you can add a device, and then it tries and tries to search for devices. Meanwhile it is showing me a crappy list of devices I do have — great I have a “HL_DT_ST BD-RE WH08LS20″ installed, that is good to know. Oh and I have devices called “Microsoft XPS Document Writer” and “Send To OneNote 2013″. Where are those on my desk? Those are so much more important to me than my damn printer.

I know it isn’t cool and strategic to print anymore. But people still need to f&*king print. I eventually found a way to add a printer but don’t ask me where the hell I found it.

Oh and the arduino software won’t install on it, apparently the arduino board is not trusted. To install it, you have to boot into the secret system setup mode which you get to deep in the control panel, and choose to turn off driver signing enforcement. Except this super secret startup mode hangs on my brand new machine and I have to power cycle. That is great, you certainly don’t want the most active community of tinkerers using your operating system.

Oh and I am using with dual monitors — one plain old monitor and one touchscreen. DON’T DO THIS. It sounded like a great idea, keep the new interface off in one screen in its little ghetto, and run all my real apps on the other screen. Except the touch interface is horribly confused now — a touch on my touch screen moves the pointer on my non-touch screen.

Yes I am doing perhaps somewhat niche-y things but Windows used to be good at that, damn it. It would run on anything and let you do anything. Now it is just an OSX/iOS wannabe and not very good at that.

Not in a good mood.

My Macbook Pro refused to boot this morning…

…the harddisk was full and that caused all kinds of hell to break loose.

But really it was a sign — “Macbook Pro with Retina Display”:http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/ — ordered.

J is laughing at me — $200 for the extra 8G of ram, so $400 imputed price for 16G, and J just bought 16G for $80. I am a lemming.

When you are 10x behind in mobile apps, your tools probably ought to be 10x better

As part of “my Windows Phone trial”:http://theludwigs.com/2012/04/switching-to-the-nokia-lumia-900-for-a-while/, I am going to dig into the developer tools. I’ve written a little throwaway iOS app, and i’ve written one with “Parse”:https://parse.com/ (super easy!). So I’d like to understand the experience of writing a Windows Phone app.

“App Hub”:http://create.msdn.com/en-us/home/getting_started seems to be the starting place. Like a lot of marketing-driven websites, there are a lot of words up here, and indices of more words, and pointers to more words. Not a lot of help for me to actually do something — Parse is a nice constrast, sample Parse code on the landing page and a signup button right on the first page which leads to a very simple signup. You can get developing with Parse in literally a minute; not so with App Hub.

Anyway, I followed the pointers and installed the “winphone sdk”:http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=27570. There are some words up here that talk about getting a Visual Studio Express edition and I am thinking, thank goodness, because VS is kind of a beast. Well I was wrong, I seem to have gotten a pretty significant chunk of VS with templates for all kinds of code projects. It actually took me a while to figure out where the templates were for winphone projects, and I actually found several, and couldn’t figure out which was the right one to start with. (I did have a version of VS installed a year ago and uninstalled it, but perhaps it left some residue behind which made my VS Express look more complicated)

So I figure I should “sign up with apphub”:http://create.msdn.com/en-US/home/membership and get a developer account assuming there will be some guidance on what to do next. Well apparently tho that is a hard thing to do. My credit card transaction keeps getting turned down with no explanation. Munging thru forums and trading email with apphub support has revealed that this is a common issue, there is something very off with the Microsoft billing system. People wait for days to get their account approved. I’ve been told I need to use IE9 to sign up, that I have to visit 5 different subdomains and make sure my account information is 100% consistent across all those, that I may just want to give up and try again with a new account. I’ve tried everything to no avail. Oh and the billing site is incredibly slow.

So I struggle on. I have email in to several people for help. But some broad prescriptive advice for MSFT at this point: When you are 10x behind in mobile apps and mobile app developers, you should probably aspire to have tools and a developer program that are 10x easier to use. Some specific ideas:

* Fix billing. I’d argue to get rid of it all together, let any damn fool in the developer program, MSFT needs developers. The billing system has clearly been poor for years, it needs some energy applied to it.
* Radically simplify VS. If what I am seeing is what all developers see, it is too much. Too many templates, frameworks, language choices, etc.
* Make the developer website more about doing, less about telling. Developers should be developing code in seconds and minutes, not hours. They can go munge thru detailed technical material later, get them up and running in a dev environment with sample code fast.
* Melding the above two ideas, look at something like “Cloud9″:http://c9.io/. Host a dev environment right on the site, require no download or install, let people start coding in seconds. Cloud storage of code so they can pick up their coding anywhere, a cloud-based testing environment (I’m sure some of our portfolio companies like “Skytap”:www.skytap.com would be happy to help). Make it dramatically easier to get a dev and test environment set up.
* Talk with the “Parse”:http://parse.com guys, they have figured out how to make it super easy to develop mobile apps, solving a lot of the backend issues that many developers don’t need to deal with.

This is just the beginning. I am sure MSFT has plenty of smart folks who have ideas. It is not a time to hold back, I’d look hard at bold steps to really change the playing field.

UPDATE: Some nice folks at MSFT helped me get this solved, but in a nonscalable way. Appreciate the help but doesn’t solve the problem for the mass market.

To heck with AppleTV, give me an Apple Microwave

29 buttons on the front panel and almost none of them do what I want. The designers have optimized for packaged convenience foods and I never eat those, but cooking those is the default on the damn thing. All I want to do is defrost frozen foods and reheat leftovers. And 90% of the time I reheat, not defrost. Why is this so hard?

If this is my biggest problem I guess life is ok.

Friday afternoon musing about TV — VCOs, Airplay, Cameras

Gearing up for lots of basketball watching over the next month, OSU is on tonight, Go Bucks, humiliate the Boilermakers. I know he is long retired but that combover that Gene Keady sported for years still annoys me and Purdue must pay for it. Anyway, random TV thoughts:

* Why are there no virtual cable operators? Why have MSFT and Hulu pulled back from this strategy? Rumours are it was over rights fees but given what I pay for a full load of cable channels each month so that I can get all the sports content, it is hard for me to believe there is not a viable offering in here. This seems like the only viable “cut the cord” strategy (vs the wishful think about ala carte pricing), I don’t understand why no one has bit the bullet and tried to make a VCO work.

* When will all our TVs have cameras built into them? OK maybe this year — “Samsung plans”:http://www.cepro.com/article/samsung_smart_tvs_dominate_2012_plans/ Kinect functionality? The chip cost is de minimus and the TV guys need features. How will that change how we use our TVs? If I have a camera in my iPad and Airplay and a camera in my TV, which will I use for video calling? I am confusing myself.

* Should we junk projectors in our conference rooms and just use AirPlay/AppleTV and an LCD display? Or at least use AppleTV as input to projector? Would this end the silly game of trying to get laptops to work in conference rooms with projectors? The new Airplay features of the iPad seem undersold. The press coverage seems to be all about resolution and network speed and multicore but this Airplay thing seems pretty interesting.

* Oh and back on the VCO thing — hooking up your PC to your TV can be a PITA, but it seems like AirPlay is going to help on that, so maybe this makes a VCO more viable?

Why do they call it AppleTV? Where’s the TV part?

I mean, you can’t really watch TV on it.

Live sports like NFL football or NCAA football or all the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament action? No. That’s at least 50% of the reason we have TV sets and cable service at our house. NHL doesn’t cut it.

The most popular prime time shows like American Idol or The Voice? No. Episodes of popular series the night they come out so you can be current at the water cooler? No. That accounts for most of our other TV expenditure.

Daytime staples like Judge Judy, Ellen? No. I admit sometimes I like to watch Judge Judy bring the hammer down on some moron.

And it isn’t a TV either.

It is not a bad box for what it is, I really like some of the features, and I might get one of the new ones for the music and AirPlay features, but calling it TV just confuses me. I thought maybe the new box would somehow deliver more on the TV promise but not really.

MSFT’s biggest miss — another facet of MSFT’s stagnation

“Microsoft’s biggest miss”:http://minimalmac.com/post/17758177061/microsofts-biggest-miss is a nice discussion of another issue for the company, the slippage in relevance of Office.

I can’t speak to the whole market, but my document composition has moved almost entirely to vehicles like Evernote, Dropbox-hosted apps, Google Docs, and draft emails because the absolute #1 feature I need is document availability from everywhere — work machine, home machine, iPad, phone, kiosk, etc. No other document composition feature even comes close for me, I’m happy to use simple Markdown syntax for formatting. Office has started to embrace this issue but it is a little too late, I’ve kind of moved on.

The individual Office apps are still great apps. And it is still hard to not have Office on a machine with all the inbound Excel and PPT files, so I am still an Office buyer. But it feels like this kind of buying behaviour will collapse at some point — the viewers in Mac Mail for instance aren’t terrible.

MSFT and the decline of the PC hardware ecosystem

In the late 80s, IBM attempted to reassert control over the PC hardware platform with the introduction of the PS/2 and its proprietary “MicroChannel”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_Channel_architecture architecture. The cloners fought back, customers voted with their feet, the PS/2 initiative failed, and the era of open PC hardware continued and flourished. This was hugely beneficial for MSFT as a thousand PC OEMs bloomed, PC-based innovation surged and costs dropped, and MSFT software rode the wave of market expansion.

And it was great for end users. Not only because it drove system costs down, but it also created a rich market of add-on products — everyone could mix and match hardware to create their optimal system, whether they cared about cost or performance or maintainability or upgradability or whatever. Corporations could spec out and build standard low cost machines, enthusiasts could build super-tweaked machines, verticals could build out specialty machines, all on the same open hardware platform.

In the last 15 years, though, the market has shifted dramatically towards the laptop form factor. This shift has been a relative disaster for MSFT. The industry has moved away from an open hardware chassis with mix-and-match components, to closed tightly-engineered all-in-one machines. This shift has played to Apple’s strengths in design and integration and has negated many of the benefits of the PC ecosystem. The PC industry is still struggling to figure out how to regain design and profit momentum — Intel’s “Ultrabook”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultrabook effort being the latest scheme. But the Ultrabook is just a direct response to the MacBook, it does nothing to recapture the open hardware experience of the 90s.

The open hardware community still exists in various forms, but is no longer focused on the PC platform and is not much of an asset for MSFT. Enthusiasts still build PCs, mostly for gaming — “Maximum PC”:http://www.maximumpc.com/best-of-the-best for instance has a good guide to components, “Newegg”:http://www.newegg.com is the place to buy. But this isn’t mainstream any more. The “maker” community is vibrant but is focused on other platforms largely — “Arduino”:http://www.arduino.cc/, the “Kickstarter”:http://www.kickstarter.com community, etc. The vibe and energy around open hardware is great, but it is no longer tied to the PC experience and is no longer an asset for MSFT.

MSFT has always been great at chasing taillights and is hard at work supporting the Ultrabook, competing with the Apple stores at retail, pushing Windows Phone, etc. But chasing Apple’s taillights results in products that are more and more like Apple’s — fully integrated hardware/software/services, a captive retail experience. MSFT has to do all this, the mainstream of the market is here, but there is nothing distinctive about the resultant products and experience. The Ultrabook/Windows/Microsoft Store products may equal the Apple experience, and may offer users a few more choices of hardware brands (does anyone care?), but the experience won’t stand out. Necessary work but not sufficient to recapture thought leadership in the market — at the end of the day, MSFT will be able to claim parity but no more than that.

If I was in a leadership role at MSFT, I’d invest in strategies to recreate the open hardware platform dynamic around the Windows platform. It is not obvious how to do so with the laptop and tablet as the mainstream platform, but I would spend $100s of millions trying. MSFT clearly has the cash to spend on new frontiers and new adventures, a couple hundred million on an effort to change the basis of competition in the PC market seems like a wise bet, even if it fails.

How about putting a “maker’s corner” in every retail store with modified cases and modified machines, maybe even workshops? Get the energy of the PC gaming community into the store, let people see this energy. How can the laptop design be modified to support add on hardware — super high speed optical expansion busses, wireless high speed expansion busses, novel expansion chassis ideas? Sifteo cubes are kind of cool, can this idea be used to provide hardware extensions to laptops? Are there other ways to “snap on” hardware to extend the laptop or tablet, using bluetooth or induction or other mechanisms? Can MSFT seed the maker community with funds or tools? Can MSFT embrace Arduino somehow, or Kickstarter? Could the PC be the hub for thousands of Arduino-based sensors and actuators and gadgets? These ideas are all admittedly poorly thought out, and I am not sure any one idea is right, or if any will work.

But I would spend a lot of money chasing after any idea that would move away from closed all-in-one hardware designs, and I would experiment with many ways to reinject open hardware dynamics back into the PC/tablet market. Ultrabook is not this — it is a fine and adequate taillight chaser, but it won’t shift competitive balance back in MSFT’s favor.

This is not the only reason for MSFT’s stagnation in the last decade, there are many other aspects to consider, but the dwindling of the open hardware ecosystem has been a loss of MSFT. For another take on Apple’s success against MSFT in the last decade, check out “Rich’s analysis”:http://www.themarketingplaybook.com/2012/02/stocks-bonds-commodities-and-apple/ — the observations about vertical vs horizontal integration ring true.

An alternative view on Apple and TVs

Lots of rumours this week about an upcoming Apple TV reintroduction.

The partnering with major cable players makes sense to me, that is just the iPhone playbook all over again — pick off one carrier, create a great experience with them, help them gain share, and then the rest of the providers will crack. I’d think that Apple would go after the satellite guys first as a solution with them could be marketed and sold nationally, tho of course the internet side of a satellite solution kind of blows. But whatever, Apple will certainly try to work the iPhone playbook again.

On the device side, maybe Apple will roll out a super-TV with iOS embedded in it, but I kind of wonder about this. Apple is already a central part of my TV experience — I sit on the couch with my iPad and use it to fill voids or augment what I am seeing. And the iPad is the best remote control for a Tivo or Comcast box — just install the respective apps, way easier to navigate the guide. So I kind of wonder why Apple just doesn’t hollow out the TV and STB — let them stay as dumb tuners and a display surface, but all the app smarts migrate to the iPad and the cloud. This is basically what has happened to in-car electronics — nav systems and fancy cd players have been replaced by the phone. I’m not convinced jamming iOS and apps into the TV or STB makes for a better experience — my new TVs have all kinds of internet and streaming junk jammed into them and I never use.

I wonder if the upcoming iPad 3.0 will have more features for augmenting TV viewing. Seems like it should.

The day you stop learning is the day you start dying

My grandfather once told me “The day you stop learning is the day you start dying.” I’ve had a lifelong commitment to education and I am still learning every day. There is so much going on in education, the choices are broader every day, with so many efforts to increase access and lower costs. Some things I’ve been learning about:

* played around this weekend with Apple’s new ibook publisher — Tons of coverage of the event announcing this week, see for instance http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/19/apple-textbook-event/. The goal is noble — allow millions of people to create textbooks, targeting the iPad of course, and dramatically cut the price of textbooks, and the carrying weight of textbooks. The tool works although it is a little buggy yet. I made a first textbook — basically i poured all the portfolio company summaries from the ignition partners website into a textbook format (a tool that would automatically pour CMS content into a textbook would be handy). These textbooks are really just another form of app for the iPad with a dev tool that is substantially friendlier to use than Xcode. If you can author a powerpoint presentation, you can author a textbook. There is nothing super revolutionary about the resultant products but this is a good step towards electronic textbooks.
* signed up for a course at udacity.com — We believe university-level education can be both high quality and low cost. Using the economics of the Internet, we’ve connected some of the greatest teachers to hundreds of thousands of students in almost every country on Earth. Know Labs was founded by three roboticists who believed much of the educational value of their university classes could be offered online for very low cost. A few weeks later, over 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled in our first class, “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.” The class was twice profiled by the New York Times and also by other news media. Now we’re a growing team of educators and engineers, on a mission to change the future of education.
* thinking about taking a course at “Digipen”:https://www.digipen.edu/ as well. They’ve done great work, the team for Portal came out of Digipen.
* at Wolf’s advice, learning about the “Dalton research group at the UW”:http://depts.washington.edu/eooptic/. A traditional university setting but exciting content.

My brain’s a little tired but excited about the opportunities!

Kind of sad that Apple took “bounce” out of lion mail

I’m not the only one — “Apple forum discussion on bounce”:https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3201744?start=0&tstart=0.

OK I realize it wasn’t actually that effective in stopping unwanted email, but I enjoyed using it as a kind of “f%^* you” message to certain senders. I got an emotional lift from hitting that button.

Photostream is cute, but what I really want is Aperture/iPhoto in the cloud

So “I don’t really get iCloud storage yet”:http://theludwigs.com/2011/10/im-struggling-to-understand-why-i-would-ever-use-icloud-storage/, and “Photostream doesn’t really accomodate all my DSLR pictures well”:http://theludwigs.com/2011/10/icloud-photostream-and-dslrs-dont-seem-to-be-a-great-fit/. So rather than just whine about what I don’t have, what do I really want?

First — I have a 203G (gigabyte) Aperture library today, that is where my primary photo storage is. Digging into this a little:

* 54G is thumbnails, previews, cache of various sorts. 27G of thumbnails alone! Impressive use of disk space, Aperture. Clearly the team has embraced the idea that disk space is cheap and is getting cheaper. There are probably some settings I could tweak to trim the size of all this at the cost of performance, but whatever, disk space IS cheap, 30% overhead is probably not a ridiculous design objective. This is all derived data tho and could be trimmed, dropped, whatever, as I think about cloud storage.
* My masters are 149G. A mix of RAW and JPG depending on which camera/scanner I used and how long ago I took — tending towards more RAW over time.
** 19G from this year
** 34G from 2010
** 25G from 2009
** 71G from earlier years.

Lets assume I continue to take pictures at the last 3 year average rate for some time, that is about 25gig of new photos every year, not accounting for inflation in photo size due to better quality capture chips, “light field cameras”:http://www.lytro.com/cameras, etc. OK so you probably have to assume some growth in that 25gig of new storage a year.

Cloud storage of photos — is it important? Hugely so, if my house is burning down, I do not want to be running back in to save a hard disk, photos are emotionally very important. And I do NOT want to have to pick and choose which photos I store in the cloud — too many photos, not enough time, I just want the entire set up in the cloud. I really just want my entire Aperture (and iPhoto) collection replicated to the cloud automagically. And then I need some modest access control features on the folders in the cloud so that I can share selected photo sets with family members, etc.

So I want a cloud storage solution that gives me ~200gig of storage today at a reasonable price, and if I think about the next couple years, a clear path to 300-400gig. And with good web access with some security. What are my choices today?

* iCloud doesn’t begin to work. Aperture doesn’t really talk to it except for Photostream. The max storage I can buy is 55gig. There are no access controls. Doesn’t work along almost every dimension.
* Dropbox. I can get 100G for $240 a year with a nice web interface and some sharing controls. I could even get the team license, store up to 350G, but for $795 a year. If I had this, I could just move my Aperture library into my dropbox folder and voila, it would be in the cloud, on my other machines, etc. However — the Aperture library folder is not really meant to be browsed by humans, the masters are chopped up into some funky balanced tree of directories. Seems like Aperture needs to learn how to work with shared storage. But I could get everything in dropbox, with a very easy UI for me, but at a high price, and probably the ability to share folders with family members would be hard to realize.
* Box.net. Well I get 50G free with their iPad offer, so they pretty much trump iCloud. I could get up to 500G in a business plan for $180/year per user. Similar pros and cons as with Dropbox, but pricing seems better.
* “Smugmug”:http://www.smugmug.com. This is what I use today. There is an Aperture plugin, I can save from Aperture. The bad part about this is that it is not automagic — I have to intentionally move folders up there, not happy about that. But — unlimited storage, at $40-150 per year for jpg, some extra cost but still cheap if you want RAW. A great interface for sharing, completely customizable, printing integration, etc.

For now …. Smugmug is the way to go, but as storage costs drop, I can see flipping to box.net or dropbox at some point. I’d give up some of smugmug’s great interface for admin control but that is overkill for me anyway. If Apple made this all work natively in Aperture at a competitive cost, that would be fine too. For people with a more modest set of photos, the Box.net 50G free offer for iPad/iPhone users seems like an awesome option.

Love iOS5 keyboard shortcuts … But why aren’t they iCloud enabled?

Settings…general…keyboard…shortcuts. Love these, will save me infinite amount of typing. Completing web forms, email, everywhere.

But why oh why aren’t these iCloud enabled? I want the same exact shortcuts on my iPad, iPhone, and Mac. And I don’t want to have to re-enter them on each device. The lack of multiple device support is exactly why I’ve given up on so many other text expanders over time, if I can’t depend on text expansion working the same way on all my devices, then it just isn’t that useful.

Here’s hoping that that Apple fixes this in a future release.

I’m struggling to understand why I would ever use iCloud storage.

I’m struggling to understand why I would ever use iCloud storage. After a couple days of tinkering, I have two sets of data in iCloud — device backups, and Pages/Keynote docs.

* I really don’t get the value of device backups. My apps are all recoverable from the iTunes store. I use primarily apps like Evernote that already store their data in the cloud so there is minimal non-replicated data on my iPhone and iPad. Music isn’t backed up, I will need iTunes Match for that some day. My photos aren’t backed up in iCloud, that is not something that is offered at all (and besides the photos on my device are a fraction of my photo content, I use smugmug and other paid services to back up all my photos). So what exactly is in these device backups that iCloud stores? and why is this substantially better than backups stored on my Mac — when will I ever use these backups? In sum — I’ve been explicit about choosing apps and configuring apps so that all my valuable data and state info is replicated and in the cloud, so that I don’t care if I lose a device (and can use multiple devices). So why should I care about device backups?

* The other files in my iCloud storage are docs. I have Pages and Keynote docs in iCloud from my iPad. If I was purely a Mac person, and didn’t collaborate at all with people in my office and business partners who use Office, then maybe I could just use Pages/Keynote on the Mac, and the iCloud doc storage might seem pretty simple. But I use a PC sometimes to edit my docs. And so I use Office so that I can work on my Mac or PC. And so that I can, with no fidelity loss, work with my colleagues on docs they have created in Office. I guess I could still move these docs in and out of iCloud storage, but if I am going to go to the trouble of moving docs around, why don’t I just move them into box.net or dropbox? They both have great iPad and iPhone interfaces, they work with Pages/Keynote on the iPad, I get 50G free on box.net, they both offer sharing options, I can create folders in them to organize my docs and control my sharing (Seriously, iCloud, no folders??), they let me store any kind of doc, they have great Mac/PC clients so that I can sync my collection with local folders easily, etc etc. If iCloud didn’t have the Apple brand, we would all be laughing at it.

* iCloud claims to store your music but practically doesn’t. I have 16,000 songs, 88G of music, in my iTunes library (and flac versions of all this but not in iTunes). 99% of it is from ripped CDs or purchased in mp3 format outside of iTunes. None of which iCloud handles, I have to wait for iTunes Match.

* iCloud stores your photostream but “I’ve already talked about why this isn’t very useful to me”:http://theludwigs.com/2011/10/icloud-photostream-and-dslrs-dont-seem-to-be-a-great-fit/.

* I don’t care about mail/calendar/contact backup as all mine is already stored on my Exchange server or Gmail server.

So iCloud storage is substantially worse than leading competitive alternatives for document storage; its only unique benefit is device backup, which I can’t figure out why I’d use; and it’s other features don’t really solve any problems. I am sure Apple will improve iCloud over time but as a storage solution it is underwhelming. Am I missing something? Does anyone find iCloud storage to be hugely helpful?

My overall reaction to iOS5? Confusion.

OK like the rest of the working world I spent hours yesterday trying to upgrade my iPhone4 and iPad2 to iOS5. About a dozen retries for the phone, maybe half that for the iPad, and I finally got there. Not a great experience but no harm done, just a half day of my life wasted that I will never get back, Apple.

So now what? Well my iPhone 4 seems a little zippier but I suspect that is largely due to grinding the old OS off and laying down a bright new clean install. I like the tabs in the Safari. The Newstand seems like an utter waste and sadly cannot be off hidden in an “Utter Waste” folder, thanks Apple. Notifications are cleaner. Renaming the iPod app to Music is good.

and iCloud? Well this is just confusing. Settings spewed all over the control panel — in the iCloud section, but also in the mail/contacts/calendar section, the photos section, the notes section, the store section. Much discussion online about how to make this all work with exchange and how it does or doesn’t work with outlook — for instance http://daggle.com/outlook-icloud-google-calendar-sync-2748. I’ve no idea where things are actually stored in the cloud — the photostream for instance that I have turned on, where is it, can I go see it at a URL? Or Notes — they are associated with an account now, my gmail account. So when I create a new note does it go somewhere in the cloud? Where? The only thing that my cloud control panel lists as being stored is a backup of my phone — why exactly do I want to do this, I never had this in the cloud before, why do I want it in the cloud now?

The design compromises of iCloud — storage limits, and trying to work with a bunch of existing cloud services — seem to have led to a really fractured, incomplete experience. Not all my stuff is in the cloud, what is in the cloud is spewed across many services, and I don’t really know where anything is. Yay.

UPDATE: Ok, new Notes show up in a gmail folder named Notes. Which seems strange, why would I want my notes there? And not in Google Docs or Dropbox or Evernote or … ?

Apple is the new Honda

Nice writeup of “Apple’s manufacturing/supply advantage vs the PC OEMs”:http://daringfireball.net/2011/09/new_apple_advantage. Reminds me very much of the way Honda and Toyota crushed the American car manufacturers in the 70’s and 80’s — GM in particular had overly complex product lines, cars with a gajillion options. Honda came in with a simple model, no options, and great great quality, and just crushed GM in core markets. Product line complexity comes at a huge cost, Apple is playing this hand well.

Like many others, Steve Jobs has had a profound effect on my life

By the time I was a junior at Ohio State, I knew that a) i was fascinated with personal computers, and that b) despite my electrical engineering education, I did not actually want to be an engineer. So I was wondering what to do post-college, and a very good friend of the family who was CEO of a tech company in Los Gatos hosted me for a week visit. He set up interviews for me with Bob Noyce, Gene Amdahl, Steve Jobs, and several other notables. The trip was an eye-opener for a kid from Ohio — the west coast was an awakening, and these guys were heroes to me. I remember Steve challenging me very directly on my plans — I was a bit conservative and a conformist, I probably seemed pretty dull to him, but I certainly got a lot out of the visit, I was motivated to raise my sights higher.

About the same time I remember reading the “Byte Smalltalk issue”:http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?SmalltalkIssueOfByte and was entranced, my view of computing dramatically expanded.

A few years later I scrimped to buy the first Mac on the first day it was available to students, and was enthralled.

My career took zigs and zags and I never met Steve again or worked at Apple, but my meeting with him and my engagement with his products certainly set my direction.

Wishing him the best.

Business Models and Evil

Some interesting commentary on “Google’s business model by Gruber”:http://daringfireball.net/linked/2011/08/23/swartz-google-evil — a total Apple fan, doesn’t view ads as inherently evil, but says you need to be very respectful of your users. And referring to “an original article by Aaron Swartz”:http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/googevil who says you can’t make things worse for users just to make money.

I don’t know what evil is when applied to technology business models. I do know that I feel very comfortable with my Apple transactions — they ask me for a lot of money, in return they give me a product that is mine to own completely. They give me the option of signing up for services for more money, services where they keep data about me, but it is up to me. It feels like a transparent and respectful model. Similarly, I feel good about my Microsoft transactions — they ask me for money, in return I get a software or hardware product that is mine to do what I want with (excluding Bing which I rarely use, and excluding some of their new online service offerings).

I feel somewhat less good about my Google relationship. I do like and use their products. But the fact that they are “free” is bothering, I know that Google is making money off me somehow, but there is very little transparency around it. Who is looking at my data, what are they paying for it, are there certain things I do that are very high value, are there people using info about me that I would rather not, ?

I don’t know any of this and it makes me kind of queasy. Enough to abandon products that are actually useful? Well not yet — and for search,it is not like there are alternatives that are more respectful of me. But I can’t imagine ever having the kind of respect for and attachment to Google products that I have to products from companies with more straightforward business models.