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 … ?

Ifttt.com and platform reminiscing

I’m playing around with ifttt.com and it is intriguing. I remember an earlier effort, yubnub, that I always found compelling. A general script interface to all my Internet data and services so that I can do interesting things across sites seems good.

I remember the evolution of Lotus Notes. A super general collab platform that let you store anything, write nice scripts and forms on top of it. The generalness of the platform was appealing and a certain set of early adopters went for it. But there were many more customers who didn’t want to create their own collaboration apps, but needed some pre-built apps. And so then Lotus made the “nifty fifty” most popular apps available — email, calendaring, candidate tracking, simple CRM, etc etc etc. And that was good, and more customers bought it. But ultimately Notes got washed out of the market by Microsoft Exchange, for many many reasons. But one simple view is that, while Exchange was a collab platform too (although terrible to code against), Exchange really focused on the high volume apps of mail and scheduling and just made those apps work. And that is all most people really needed.

Competitively the ifttt.com guys need to be very cognizant of cherry picking. While it is great they have hundreds or thousands of canned scripts, I don’t need hundreds, I only need a couple. And that is probably true for most users. And if the couple that people need a common across large groups of users, then some competitor can sweep in and just do those couple scenarios really really well and ifttt.com will remain a niche tool. I’d bet that they will have to build a lot more code on top of their platform to make sure that the top scenarios are really slick and easy to use, to avoid losing users to alternatives.

For instance I can already pretty easily use a wordpress plugin to MIRV content over to twitter and then to facebook. Will I flip over to ifttt.com for this or will I keep using the solution that someone has polished and made fit into wordpress? I suspect I’ll use the one that fits really well in wordpress. Now if the ifttt.com guys wrote the code to provide an ifttt.com plugin for wordpress, that would be interesting…

Scientific computing and the cloud

This year I’ve had a chance to experiment with tools for compute intensive applications. In particular, tools that harness the profusion of inexpensive CPU/GPU cycles available — OpenMP for multi-threading on single machines so that multiple cores can be leveraged; MPI to distribute compute load over clusters of machines; OpenCL for handing general purpose computation off to a graphics processor. And then on top of these tools, NumPy and SciPy for scripting and visualization from Python. The amount of excellent computational software which is now available is amazing, these capabilities would have cost immeasurable amounts of money just a decade ago. And the first time I tied together a cluster of machines or yoked up a GPU and did a massive computation, and then displayed the animated results using Python — what a great feeling! The ability to attack really hard, really large problems is better than it is has ever been.

But what a nightmare of housekeeping. Breaking up computation into threads and spreading it across multiple cores with shared memory and file system is tedious and error-prone — hand-offs between threads create opportunities for many errors. The work to break up and manage the computation load across multiple machines is even more mind-numbing and error-prone, and now the lack of shared memory and files are additional complications. Using graphics processors is even more obtuse, with their funky fractured memory spaces and architectures and limited language support. And getting all the software piece parts running in the first place takes a long time to work through all the dependencies, mixing and matching distributions and libraries and tools, and then getting it all right on multiple machines. And then you get to maintain all this as new versions of libs and runtimes are released..

But again the results can be stunning — just look around the web at what people are doing in engineering (“Youtube video”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4z1STnnA3aM), life sciences (“Science Mag article”:http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6019/848.full#F3), or any of a dozen other areas. Harnessing multiple cheap processors to perform complicated modeling or visualization can have huge payoff in financial services, bioinformatics, engineering analysis, climate modeling, actuarial analysis, targeting analysis, and so many other areas.

However, it is just too darn hard to wield all these tools. The space is crying out for a cloud solution. I want someone else to figure out all the dependencies and library requirements and spin up the correctly configured virtual machines with all the necessary componentry. And keep that up to date as new libraries and components are developed. I want someone else to figure out the clustering and let me elastically spin up 1, 10, 100 machines as I need to, and manage all the housekeeping between these machines. I want someone else to buy all the machines and run them, and let me share them with other users, because my use is very episodic, and I don’t want to pay for 100 or 1000 or 10000 machines all the time, when I only need the machines for a week here and there. Maybe I want to run all my code in the cloud, or maybe I want to have all the VMs and clustering info delivered to my data center, but I want someone else to solve the housekeeping and configuration issues, and let me get to work on my problems.

Amazon is doing some great work in AWS with their HPC support (“AWS HPC support”:http://aws.amazon.com/hpc-applications/#HPCEC2).
Microsoft has made a commitment to provide scientific computing resources in the cloud (“NYT article”:http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/science/05cloud.html). There is a lot of great academic work happening (“ScienceCloud2011”:http://datasys.cs.iit.edu/events/ScienceCloud2011/). But the opportunity is out there to do a lot more.

Recent Software trials – Soluto, Splunk Python, Calculize, Keymando, timely.js, onswipe

* “Soluto”:http://www.soluto.com. Soluto seems right up my alley — focused on simple common frustrations that we all have, promises to save me time. Install is a breeze and I really like the super sparse interface — such a difference from the overcomplicated software from Norton, etc. The software feels very light and the interface reinforces the promise of simplicity. And it does seem to make tuning up boot time simple, it pretty accurately understood all my boot processes and gave me reasonable suggestions. It’s browser diagnosis was less helpful, it found very little in Chrome to improve, and it didn’t look at my firefox install at all. Not sure why. Anyway, worth a trial and I will be interested to see how they go. A challenge they will have is getting users to pay — solving my boot speed issues is nice, but I only need to do that once and I have no enduring reason to keep on running the software — and thus am not going to pay much for it. They need to figure out a way to deliver me value every day. The only guys in the utility space that have done this are the virus/malware protection guys, who have latched onto consumer fear (and probably stoke that fear).

* “Splunk Python interface”:http://pypi.python.org/pypi/splunk-sdk/0.1.0. Really curious to play with this (disclosure, Ignition is an investor in splunk). I hadn’t installed splunk in a while, installs super simply on Mac and Win. and wow what a firehose of info you get from Splunk about your system. Next up, tie to python and try to write some simple scripts. A lot to play with here.

* “Calculize”:http://calculize.com/. Kind of like Matlab, in the browser. Might be useful. at times.

* “Keymando”:http://keymando.com/. Love the idea of hotkey utilities but I always seem to drift away from them. Because I can never keep them in sync across all my machines. And so I will probably never install this. But noted here in case I try.

* “timely.is”:http://timely.is/#/. Rand likes it which is a good sign. If I cared about readership and impact of my tweets I think I would certainly give this a whirl.

* “Onswipe”:http://onswipe.com/. This seemed really cool, but I thought it was basically a wordpress theme. It isn’t tho, it grabs your wordpress data and puts it behidn a new url. and it seems to be dependent on categories which I don’t use. so I will wait.

UPDATE: nice simple tip from the Keymando guys — use Git or Dropbox to keep Keymando settings in sync across multiple machines. This is a simple obvious brilliant thing I should do in general for my work and home Macs.

Software tips

* “How to unhide your Library in Lion”:http://tidbits.com/article/12306?rss — chflags nohidden ~/Library. Yay.
* “Making desktop web apps with Automator”:http://ihnatko.com/2011/07/22/making-desktop-webapps-in-lion/. All kinds of goodness in here.
* “BBEdit 10 is out”:http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/bbedit10.html. Purchased.
* “Marked”:http://markedapp.com/ seems like a super useful companion to BBEdit.
* “Billguard is now free-er”:http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/07/billguard.html.

Software Lenses and Lytro

I’ve wished for years that someone would come up with a “software-defined lens”:http://theludwigs.com/2003/07/camera-as-a-data-gathering-device/. A surface that would capture all inbound photons and let me decide later about focus, depth of field, etc.

It looks like “Lytro”:http://www.lytro.com/ has done it or something on the way towards it. Hope it is reality! Put my name down for one.

Playing around with GPU programming

Been spending a lot of time playing around with GPU programming for scientific computing the last couple weeks. Fascinating stuff, GPUs are computational beasts. Some observations:

* If you want to get into it, “GPGPU.org”:http://gpgpu.org/ has boatloads of great info — news, tools, definitions, primers, etc etc etc. The place to start.
* There is a good chance you’ll end up using OpenCL as the device- and platform-independent interface to GPUs. “Khronos.org”:http://www.khronos.org/ has tons of great info and in particular, the “OpenCL Reference Card”:http://www.khronos.org/files/opencl-quick-reference-card.pdf. Good stuff.
* The OSX platform has awesome support for OpenCL within Xcode. Very easy to get up and going. Great sample code up at the “Apple Developer web site”:http://developer.apple.com/library/mac/search/?q=opencl.
* Also tons of samples from “Nvidia”:http://developer.download.nvidia.com/compute/opencl/sdk/website/samples.html.
* However…you may quickly hit a dead end on OSX because only the most expensive Mac Pros come with GPUs which will support double precision, and double precision is kind of necessary for scientific computing. Info on which Nvidia processors support double precision “here”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CUDA. I could go whack around and build my own double precision math libraries for unsupported GPUs but what a pain that would be.
* So onto a PC, I happen to have one with an ATI HD 57xx which will support double precision. WAY harder to get working OpenCL code working on a Windows PC tho. After much wandering around, the “AMD SDK”http://developer.amd.com/gpu/AMDAPPSDK/Pages/default.aspx seems to be the best way to get working buildable OpenCL sample code. The most freaking obtuse make files ever tho, I am ripping them apart. But if you start with one of the sample code bases and duplicate it for your use, it works. (C++ by the way).
* However now I am currently blocked by limitations in the trig function implementations. Some discussion online that suggests that they are “single precision only”:http://forums.amd.com/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=390&threadid=137564. And even the single precision results seem to have crappy precision. I will definitely have to build my own.

UPDATE: a friend points out that Amazon also offers an “EC2-based instance with GPU capabilities”:http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/hpc-applications/. Worth a look

Recent software of note: Blogsy, Issue Bucket, Portal2, Office365, iPhoneTracker, …

* “iPhoneTracker”:http://petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker/. Cool toy to see where you’ve been and feed your feelings of paranoia.
* “Portal 2”:http://www.thinkwithportals.com/. Of course.
* “Qwiki”:http://www.qwiki.com/. I was kind of excited about this, but I can’t make my own Qwikis? Excitement way down.
* “Acorn”:http://www.flyingmeat.com/acorn/. Haven’t bit yet but I’d love something less obtuse than Photoshop.
* “Blogsy”:http://blogsyapp.com/. Seems like a brilliant WordPress front end.
* “Issue Bucket”:http://itunes.apple.com/ml/app/issue-bucket/id403133693?mt=8. Nice little frontend to bitbucket.
* “You Gotta See This”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/you-gotta-see-this/id379058646?mt=8. Stupid little stylized panorama camera app for the iphone. Fun.
* Office365 beta. The individual apps (word, xl, ppt) are nice and well done. The portal gluing them all together with email and calendar is strange and confusing — two URLs, yet another ID different than my existing ID used at all msft sites, an insistence on downloading software. Chalk it up to beta.

Math software sources

Saving for later reference….

* “Netlib”:http://netlib.org/
* “NIST”:http://gams.nist.gov/
* “Trilinos”:http://trilinos.sandia.gov/
* “PETSc”:http://www.mcs.anl.gov/petsc/petsc-as/
* “OpenCL”:http://www.khronos.org
* “Nividia OpenCL”:http://developer.download.nvidia.com/compute/opencl/sdk/website/samples.html
* “Apple OpenCL”:http://developer.apple.com/library/mac/search/?q=opencl
* “NERSC”:http://www.nersc.gov/nusers/resources/software/. ACTS stuff dead?

Recent Software Trials

* “gfxcardstatus”:http://db.tidbits.com/article/11982?rss to let me fiddle with macbook pro graphics hardware. which is proving to be problematic. Why does the browser (Chrome) require the high end power-consumptive nvidia chip? Seems like this feature of the macbook is a waste if the browser is always going to force the power hungry chip on. OK hmm, this might be just a Chrome issue as Safari is staying on the intel chip. gfxcardstatus is great for examining status and dependencies!
* “techdygest”:http://dygest.net/. Might be a little too digested. But worth a try.
* “daytum”:http://www.coolhunting.com/tech/daytum.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ch+%28Cool+Hunting%29. I want to love this but too hard to get going. There needs to be some easier way to populate it with personal data.
* “socialeyes”:http://www.socialeyes.com and “dailybooth”:http://www.dailybooth.com. There is something intriguing about the front-facing camera. I suspect there will be a lot more software written around. What will be the first front-facing camera game? (Ignition is an investor)
* “greplin chrome extension”:https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/bjclhonkhgkidmlkghlkiffhoikhaajg. Search of my content seems super fast, i am intrigued. (Ignition is an investor)

Software to try over the holidays

* “Printopia”:http://www.ecamm.com/mac/printopia/ to enable printing to any printer from iphone/ipad (via “Tidbits”:http://db.tidbits.com/article/11829?rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+tidbits_main+(TidBITS:+Mac+News+for+the+Rest+of+Us))
* “Textastic”:http://www.textasticapp.com/ code editor for the iPad (via “Read/Write Web”:http://www.readwriteweb.com/hack/2010/12/code-editors-for-the-ipad.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+readwriteweb+(ReadWriteWeb))
* “Postbox”:http://www.postbox-inc.com/ email alternative for OSX.
* “Momento”:http://momentoapp.com/, a diary app. (via “TechCrunch”:http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/28/momento-app/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Techcrunch+(TechCrunch))
* “A whole bag of iphone apps for engineers”:http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2010/11/17/iphone-apps-for-engineers-electronics-and-more-an-adafruit-electronics-gift-guide/.
* “Calvetica”:http://calvetica.com/ replacment for iphone calendar app.
* “boxcar”:http://boxcar.io/. Don’t really grok this one but people seem to like it.
* “Firesheep”:http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/24/firesheep-in-wolves-clothing-app-lets-you-hack-into-twitter-facebook-accounts-easily/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Techcrunch+(TechCrunch)
* “Bit.ly bundles”:http://gigaom.com/2010/12/15/bit-ly-bundles-now-allow-hyper-personalized-wikis/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+OmMalik+(GigaOM:+Tech)
* “mynameise”:http://www.mynameise.com/
* “GoMiles”:http://www.gomiles.com
* “One man’s view on essential programmer utilities”:http://jesseliberty.com/2010/07/29/12-absolutely-and-insanely-essential-utilities-for-programmers/
* “Google Public Data Explorer”:http://www.google.com/publicdata/home

Year end link clean up

* “Poor Halo play prompts stabbing threat”:http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattle911/archives/231642.asp. Doesn’t seem unreasonable. I’ve heard campers threatened with worse.
* “How Secure Is My Password”:http://howsecureismypassword.net/. No idea how accurate, but fun. 17 thousand years for my typical password.
* “Rich on photobooks”:http://www.tongfamily.com/archives/2010/12/photobooks-for-christmas/. I just always use the default in Aperture but perhaps I should branch out.
* “AR.Drone”:http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/12/01/ar-drone-torn-down/. Why don’t I have one of these yet.
* “Declining energy quality as recession cause”:http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-declining-energy-quality-root-current.html. An interesting way to look at things. Not sure it actually makes sense tho.
* “Now you can swap useless Amex reward points for useless Zynga crap.”:http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/30/american-express-now-lets-you-swap-rewards-points-for-zyngas-purple-cows/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Techcrunch+(TechCrunch)
* “Snoopy themed Windows tablet”:http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/11/25/onkyo-announces-snoopy-themed-windows-tablet/. Take that, Apple.
* “Spiders on Drugs”:http://design-milk.com/spiders-on-drugs-by-guillaume-lehoux/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_campaign=Feed:+design-milk+(Design+Milk). We are asking for some serious payback from spider nation some day.
* “Umpteenth article on the death of cable TV”:http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/24/internet-tv-and-the-death-of-cable-tv-really/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Techcrunch+(TechCrunch), yawn. Until I can watch HD live sports without stuttering I am captive to cable/dish. Going to be a while.
* “Charles on breaking up MSFT”:http://www.platformonomics.com/2010/10/the-baby-bills-are-back/. Good as always.
* “Habitable planet found?”:http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/09/has-a-potentially-habitable-planet-just-been-discovered.html
* “Languages you’ve never heard of”:http://gadgetopia.com/post/7105?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+gadgetopia+(Gadgetopia). In the future, we will all have our very own programming language.
* “Topologist suggests new form of matter”:http://www.kurzweilai.net/topologist-predicts-new-form-of-matter. For most of our history we’ve used the forms of matter that nature gave us. It is interesting to observe and think about what we can create as we gain mastery over atomic organization.
* “One man’s indictment of iTunes”:http://www.xconomy.com/national/2010/09/03/the-leaning-tower-of-ping-how-itunes-could-be-apples-undoing/. The thing is a giant hairball of software.
* “Exercise and aging”:http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/magazine/28athletes-t.html?_r=1&ref=homepage&src=me&adxnnlx=1290787262-FJGn2RNM8RCjxiaHpyyVDA&pagewanted=all. Crap I need to get after it.
* “Show Me What’s Wrong”:http://www.showmewhatswrong.com/. Super useful.
* “User experience of F1 telemetry”:http://www.solidstateux.com/interaction-design/the-user-experience-of-f1-telemetry/. Always impressed with the amount of money spent on racing.
* “MacPaint and MacDraw source code”:http://www.computerhistory.org/highlights/macpaint/. Nostalgia.

Why didn’t I buy VMWare stock when Paul Maritz stepped into leadership role?

Kicking myself totally on this one, “VMWare”:http://www.google.com/finance?client=ob&q=NYSE:VMW has been on a tear. Paul is a great guy, he has been hiring great guys (who wouldn’t want to work with Paul?), they’ve been acquiring lots of interesting assets.

And fundamentally they are on the right side of history. Paul has always been insightful and articulate on strategy and he says it well in this “techcrunch piece”:http://www.techflash.com/seattle/2010/09/paul_maritz_microsoft_vet_and_vmware_ceo_spars_with_his_former_self.html : “The innovation in how hardware is coordinated today and the innovation in how services are provided to applications is no longer happening inside the operating system.”

This is dead on. You can debate whether VMWare will be the primary beneficiary of this trend versus other cloud providers, but the shift is undeniable.

Recent software trials — Camino, Shuffler, GIT, Wisestamp, Microsoft Windows Live Sync

* Firefox is feeling increasingly bloated, maybe because I’ve got a bunch of plugins jammed in. But trying out “Camino”:http://db.tidbits.com/article/11548?rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+tidbits_main+(TidBITS%3A+Mac+News+for+the+Rest+of+Us)&utm_content=Google+Reader on the Mac, seems cleaner and lighter.
* “Shuffler.FM”:www.shuffler.fm. Eh, streaming music just doesn’t work for me. My primary listening time is while driving and I need music that I can put on an ipod or cd. When I am at an actual computer I am too busy doing other things. But I like music discovery tools and guides, I just don’t want them bound into streaming.
* “GIT for the lazy”:http://www.spheredev.org/wiki/Git_for_the_lazy. Perfect for me.
* “Terminal tips and tricks for OSX”:http://superuser.com/questions/52483/terminal-tips-and-tricks-for-mac-os-x and in general SuperUser seems helpful.
* I want to love “WiseStamp”:http://www.wisestamp.com/ but I don’t get email addins that assume you are only sending email from a browser. iPhone? iPad? OSX Mail? How can I commit to this thing if I can’t use it consistently? Sigh.
* I’m super late to “Windows Live Sync”:https://sync.live.com/home.aspx?wa=wsignin1.0 but it is very useful. I do have a quibble with the naming, once upon a time MSFT was confident enough in its products to give them simple iconic names — Word, Excel, Windows. The company seems to have lost its confidence in products and jams these crazy names on them to try to ride on the coattails of other products. Mistake.

Moving off of Matlab for numeric/image processing

Reardon abused me (not really) for still using Matlab and goaded me to look into the ImageJ world. So I am learning. Seems like I need to get smart on

* “ImageJ”:http://rsbweb.nih.gov/ij/ and the “Fiji”:http://pacific.mpi-cbg.de/wiki/index.php/Main_Page distribution
* Python derivatives like “Jython”:http://www.jython.org/ for ImageJ scripting and “NumPy/SciPy”:http://numpy.scipy.org/ for numeric/array processing
* There are a ton of other scripting language choices but seems like python covers this well enough. I don’t want the brain damage of “Clojure”:http://clojure.org/.

Other stuff to learn? I’ll have to pick up an editor and source management tool as well. The benefit of all this? Any code I write should be faster, more easily redistributable, and there is a large support community. The disadvantage? I have to assemble all these piece-parts to get something equivalent to MatLab, so more time d&*king around with software which is time taken away from research focus. And the Matlab universe has a pretty good support community too, so not clear I am trading up there. Certainly the ImageJ/Jython/NumPy path is “cooler” along a certain dimension, but do I care?

Recent Software Trials

* “Default Folder”:http://db.tidbits.com/article/11217?rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+tidbits_main+%28TidBITS%3A+Mac+News+for+the+Rest+of+Us%29&utm_content=Google+Reader — OK i really wanted to love this. But visually very funky. Ended up nuking.
* “PopCharX”:http://www.ergonis.com/products/popcharx/. This is one utility I can’t live without, and the new version with favorites is nice.

Software I haven’t tried but need to:

* “Things”:http://db.tidbits.com/article/11389?rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+tidbits_main+%28TidBITS%3A+Mac+News+for+the+Rest+of+Us%29&utm_content=Google+Reader. So frustrated with todo lists on the iphone. I want something that syncs via the cloud with outlook, ical, and has a nice iphone app.
* “Panic Transmit”:https://www.panic.com/transmit/. I am pretty happy with Filezilla but Transmit gets super raves.
* “Lightroom”:http://thomashawk.com/2010/06/adobe-lightroom-3-i-feel-the-need-for-speed-oh-and-the-most-significant-advancement-in-photo-noise-reduction-i-have-ever-seen.html. I’ve been happy with Aperture and I hate the huge morass of software that Adobe foists on you when you install their apps, but I feel like I’m missing the Lightroom party.
* “Trip Journal”:http://www.gadgets-weblog.com/50226711/new_app_turns_your_gadget_into_a_vacation_documentary.php. I’ve installed but haven’t had time to play with yet.
* “Yazsoft Sharetool”:http://www.yazsoft.com/products/sharetool/. Always am drawn to these tools that punch thru all the networking goo and let you get your files anywhere — “Homepipe”:https://www.homepipe.net/about.html is another one. But I never seem to stick with them. Something important in that statement.

Mech Eng basics on the web

Taking Finite Element Analysis this term which would be way easier if I actually had ever taken a basic course in mechanical engineering. Beams, trusses, springs, cantilevers are all foreign to me, I was learning about resistors and capacitors when the MechEs were learning this stuff.

Web to the rescue:
* “Cantilever calculator”:http://www.efunda.com/formulae/solid_mechanics/beams/casestudy_display.cfm?case=cantilever_endload#target up at efunda.
* “Moments of Inertia”:http://www.efunda.com/math/areas/IndexArea.cfm and other basics for beams of any shape
* A ton of other basic calculations up here as well: “efunda engineering calculations”:http://www.efunda.com/formulae/formula_index.cfm
* Of course Wolfram Alpha has a wealth of info as well.

Just starting to look thru iphone and ipad apps as well. Wolfram ALpha I already have, there are several civil enginnering apps as well — Statics, Civil Engineering Calculations. May try some of them.

iPad apps — first week likes, dislikes

So here is my first week of good and bad apps, I have spent way too much trying things out. My motto — “Buying iPad apps so you don’t have to!”

These look good and I actually use them:

* “iAnnotate”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iannotate-pdf/id363998953?mt=8. As “previously discussed”:http://theludwigs.com/2010/04/the-ipad-and-pdfs-conclusions-for-now/, the user interface is byzantine, but it works largely as promised — i’ve read and annotated close to 100 pdfs now. One commentor says it dies on large PDFs so not perfect yet.
* “WordPress”:http://iphone.wordpress.org/. Really a much better interface than the iPhone version. It is not bugfree, a lot of people including me are having problems with copy/paste. But nice.
* “Evernote”:https://www.evernote.com/about/download/iphone/. Solid effort, works well.
* “Wolfram Alpha”:http://products.wolframalpha.com/ipad/. Now that the price is no longer insane, this is a great app to have. I wish it failed a little more noisily when the wifi connection was lost, but still good.
* “Pages”:http://www.apple.com/ipad/features/pages.html. Nice looking and adequately featured.
* “Kayak”:http://www.kayak.com/news/creating-kayak-ipad-app.bd.html. Nice extension of iPhone app.
* “Tweetdeck”:http://www.tweetdeck.com/desktop/. I find the portrait display to be a little odd but in landscape mode does a nice job of using screen space.
* “Weather HD”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/weather-hd/id364193735?mt=8. Doesn’t display nearly enough forecast data, but it is beautiful. The night scenes make me feel like I am getting forecasts for a moon of Jupiter.
* “NPR”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/npr-for-ipad/id364183644?mt=8. I’m not a major NPR junkie but a lot of useful info in here.
* “Bloomberg”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bloomberg/id281941097?mt=8. Don’t know if this is the best stock app but it is free!
* “Soundhound”:http://www.appsforipad.net/soundhound-ipad-song-recognition/. Nice looking and faster than Shazam.
* “Minigore HD”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/minigore-hd/id364238135?mt=8. Beautiful, my timewaster of choice on the iPad.
* “Statsmate HD”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/statsmate/id351404712?mt=8. Might all be available in Wolfram Alpha but I find this useful as a way to quickly get stat table info.
* Apple’s calendar app. It looks beautiful.

Close but…

* “Papers”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/papers/id304655618?mt=8. I really really wanted this to work but I cannot get Web of Science access to work via UW proxy. Sigh.
* “Kindle”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000490441 and “iBooks”:http://www.apple.com/ipad/features/ibooks.html. Both look fine and I am glad I have them, but I will still do most of my reading on the Kindle, better battery life and easier on the eyes and lighter.
* Apple’s mail app. OK it works and in landscape mode has a nice message list, but not much else featurewise.
* “Marvel”:http://marvel.com/news/comicstories.11835.download_the_official_marvel_comics_ipad_app. Beautiful and I could see using this, but difficult to figure out what to buy/try.
* “Crosswords”:http://www.standalone.com/iphone/crosswords/. Looks nice but fatally fatally fatally flawed. Won’t download the NYTimes daily puzzle here on the west coast at 7pm the previous evening when it is available. Pisses me off. I will stay with 2 Across even tho it is lo-res because it downloads at the right time.

Kind of a waste:

* Apple’s Contacts and Maps apps. All this new screen space and nothing notable feature wise. Yawn.
* The iPad store. I use this a lot but boy does it need work. With a kajillion apps, it is hard to find what you want, hard to remember what you’ve already mentally discarded, etc.
* Numbers. Does not have enough spreadsheet functionality to be useful.
* USA Today. No depth.
* Twitterific. All this screen space and I get one lame list.

Never used — what does that say?

* Apple’s iPod and iTunes apps. I just don’t use this as a music consumption device.
* Apple’s Notes app. This one is so lame compared to so many of the other billion alternatives.

No shows: Facebook, Byline, Tripit, RTM, Echofon

Signs of strain at Google?

OK the missteps that Google has made with Buzz this week are well chronicled. They jammed a product out without really thinking it through.

That doesn’t hit me that much as a user. But today using the iphone map app I am getting continuous errors — here is the map of “drugstores near my current location”:http://twitpic.com/13st7z. Not unique to me, I’ve heard of this from many folks today.

And I’m looking at the ESPN boxscore page for “Purdue/OSU right now”:http://espn.go.com/ncb/boxscore?gameId=300480194 and first the google toolbar tells me it is in Portuguese, and now in Catalan, and asks if I want a translation.

One wonders if Google is spreading itself a little thin.