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Category: Tech

January 7, 2012

Why Android is Better Off

I think this John Gruber quote on Siri explains why I use Android:

"...the whole thing still isn't up to Apple's usual level of fit and finish, not by a long shot. But I'm still glad it's there. I think the iPhone 4S is better off with Siri in its current state than it would be if Apple had waited until Siri was further along to release it."

If I had to distinguish between Google/Android and Apple/iOS, it's that each company decides differently whether or not a new feature is "ready" to put in.

Apple typically denies a new feature/product is necessary, secretly works on it for a very long time until it's polished, and then claims their solution is better than everything else out there. Sometimes this is very true (original iPhone), other times its marketing.

Google will see a need for a feature and put it in as soon as it is useful, even if it's not fully baked yet. They will then iterate on that feature again and again to make it right.

Google's approach means that people can take advantage of features sooner. It can be more difficult to discover these features because they can start so small and they get better and better in small and frequent chunks. On the downside, Google makes more missteps (Wave, Buzz, Google TV), and the ground shifts more rapidly (Android 3, 4).

Apple's approach means that new features are usually more polished and the additional fanfare helps users discover that they exist. But you have to wait a lot longer for them to arrive (notifications, Siri, cloud sync) and there are still mistakes (Apple TV, iTunes Ping, Spaces/Launchpad/Widgets/Expose mess).

It goes almost without saying that Google's approach is the web company style, and Apple's is the desktop software style: incremental, frequent updates versus major releases.

This is all just a spectrum, and Siri is one example of Apple straying a little more towards Google's side: releasing something when it is useful, but not fully polished.

So, I find Android has many more useful features *, and that's why I'm better off. YMMV.

* cloud syncing, turn-by-turn navigation, notification, desktop widgets, voice transcription, Face Unlock, Google Voice, customizable keyboards, Android Intents (apps plugging into other apps), NFC, etc...

January 27, 2010

Today's iPad announcement spurred my switch to a Google Nexus One phone

google-nexus-one.jpgTo be fair, I've been planning on switching to Android since Android 2.0 came out -- first it was going to be the Droid, but seeing the issues with the camera on that, plus the subsequent announcement of the Nexus One, gave pause to that earlier switch.

So what did today's iPad announcement have to do with it?

I was mainly waiting to see if:

  1. The iPad was a device I was interested in
  2. If it was, did the 3G options with it impact my decision to switch to Nexus One? e.g. should I wait until Nexus One is on Verizon?

I was expecting #1 to be true, especially given how poorly Apple managed the secrecy around this one. I was surprised to find myself completely disappointed.

I want my phone to be more like a computer, not my computer to be more like my phone. I'm switching to the Nexus One because it is a better computer than the iPhone. The iPad takes everything cool about a computer -- general-purpose freedom, multitasking -- and replaces it with a bill from the iTunes store. I love some of the new UI flair and experience of the iPad, but not at that cost.

Psychologically I could convince myself that this was okay on the iPhone. When it first came out, there really was no possibility of freedom on that platform, and Apple really did change that landscape. Their motivation, however, was just to supplant the cellphone company as mediator and tollbooth. It was really Android that really set things free. Unfortunately, the first release of Android was an inferior product, and I couldn't bring myself to switch. Android 2.0 is worth switching to, so at last I can say goodbye to my first-generation iPhone.

Who knows. The iPod was initially booed, but it eventually succeeded. I didn't buy one until the third generation, and I'd say it wasn't until the fourth that they really had a great product. I'm sure Apple will improve on this initial iPad offering and make it more compelling. What I don't see happening is Apple reversing their trend towards increasingly closed systems that make them tons of money. There are many wonderful ideas that you can bring from the iPhone experience to the computer, but forcing me to buy all my media and applications through Apple is not one of them.

November 18, 2008

bash complaint of the day

$ echo "!str foo"
bash: !str: event not found
$ echo "\!str foo"
\!str foo

i.e. bash requires you to escape exclamation points in double-quoted strings, but if you escape them, it doesn't unescape them for you. How long has bash been around?

(the solution is to use single-quoted strings)

August 8, 2008

Unbricked

Brick_Breaking.jpg

Photo via bennest karate

Update: NONE of my thirdparty apps load now. They all crash on startup (fixable by redownloading each app from the app store again)

Thanks to the Apple-fu of m, my iPhone has been unbricked from its mysterious "unknown error (6)" issue. The highly technical of releasing it from its bricked state? I don't know if I should share it, but here goes:

Plug it into a different computer

Perhaps Apple is too embarrassed to publicly suggest this as a workaround, but it seems better than being telling me to piss off with an error number.

I used a MacBook Pro at work with the latest iTunes to try and perform the restore operation instead. It took awhile, but my iPhone breathes once more. Afterwards I had to plug it back into my normal computer so that the my iPhone would actually have stuff on it. The total time to perform this operation: just under four hours.

August 7, 2008

iPhone = Brick

brick.jpg

If I'm not answering your calls, I can't.

The iPhone 2.0.1 update bricked my phone. It gives me an 'unknown error (6)' every time it attempts to finish the update, so instead I have a fancy touch screen that displays a logo telling me to plug it into iTunes.

February 1, 2008

Micro-hoo

With Microsoft putting Yahoo on its dinner plate, I may have a very different reason for getting my photos off of Flickr. I viewed Yahoo's acquisition of Flickr as an overall plus; a Microsoft acquisition would be a bit of a poison pill. The same goes for del.icio.us, though my heart is less tied to that service.

My mind goes back to the acquisition of Hotmail, which turned a leading free e-mail provider into a stagnant cesspool of spam and craptacular-ness. Microsoft forced Hotmail onto MS infrastructure for political reasons. Attempting the same with Yahoo's gives me visions of datacenters engulfed in flames.

The most interesting take I've seen in How Microsoft Could Go Hostile. it brings to light the timing of the takeover bid and how Microsoft could circumvent Yahoo's anti-acquisition poison pill.

January 8, 2008

New logo for Xerox

old logo

Xerox's logo was never great, but the new logo just feels a bit... wimpy. The 'X' ball looks like they just wanted a logo for the OS X dock and the company name has swapped lowercase for uppercase.

It's a shame -- 'X' is by far the coolest letter in the alphabet. It strikes an intimidating pose when you turn your old Xerox business cards into origami:

origami x

November 2, 2007

City Cars

citycar.jpg

A friend of mine from college is working on this and I think it's quite cool: a foldable, stackable electric car. It's a little reminiscent of a grabbing a shopping cart -- the idea is that you rent these cars point to point, instead of taking roundtrips like you would with programs like Zip Car or City CarShare. Because the cars pack more densely, you can keep a greater supply of them within a city. Six to eight cars will fit in a conventional parking space -- considering that space for parking is on the order of $thousands/space, that's a lot of extra savings that the program could work with.

cities.media.mit.edu, Tech Review article has more

June 29, 2007

Not mine

unboxing

miarka's iPhone

Happy Jobs Day!

ratatouille.jpgI've happily been tracking Ratatouille's high RottenTomatoes score (94%) as well as the nibbles of iPhone propaganda that Apple has been releasing on a daily basis. I'm pretty sure I'll fit Ratatouille into my weekend schedule, but I'm still flipping a coin on the iPhone.

I tempted myself by visiting the Palo Alto Apple Store line -- it's Web 2.0 in a Line. Blogger/podcaster Scoble+son are first in line, the Zooomr folks are streaming video, and the SmugMug folks are brandishing their logos. Apparently Kevin Rose and Leah Culver (of newly revealed Pownce fame) were there to shoot some Diggnation footage. AT&T gave out some nice "I Have iPhone" shirts to those in line.

jobs.iphone.jpgMyself? I'll probably swing by the Apple Store one more time closer to 6pm to see if I'm tempted. If the reports are accurate -- that there are at least 500 units at the store -- then there really isn't much point in waiting in line, unless you really want one of those shirts.

June 17, 2007

RIP, Connect, 2004-2007

sony.connectUpdate: not dead, but more of a neglected child.

I hated it when it first came out a little over 3 years ago, so it is with a little bit of happiness that I read that Sony Connect is being closed down. I have no desire to see iTunes Music Store as the only game in town, but Connect managed to be even more anti-consumer and added a terrible interface on top of it. RIP

June 11, 2007

Personalized Rapid Transit in WV

The NYTimes has an article discussing Morgantown, WV's plan to expand it's personalized rapid transit system after 32 years of service. The system is considered one-of-a-kind: it looks like your normal tram, except you can press a button to indicate your desired stop and it will bypass any stops in between. I've been to Morgantown a couple times I must admit that the system looks pretty cool: the tracks loop over your head and are intertwined with the town's old coal industry chutes. I'll be in Morgantown again this summer and hope to get some photos -- and maybe even a ride.

May 4, 2007

Tesla Roadster talk and the TechShop

I finally got to see both the Tesla Roadster and the TechShop last night, two things I have been looking forward to for some time. The Tesla talk wasn't the most charismatically delivered talk that I've been to, but it was a talk that any engineer could appreciate. The talk was given by an electrical engineer who worked on the Power Electronics Module (PEM), which handles charging as well as transfer of power from the batteries to the engine. I don't think I've ever been to a talk where the answers to questions were so perfectly detailed to include the parts supplier and the specs, if that's what the questioner desired. While claiming to not be really able to answer the mechie questions in detail, he still came up with interesting details to please us nerds. I won't bother re-transcribing specs that are probably locatable on their Web site (and if they aren't, our speaker indicated that they are responsive to questions posted on their blog).

Most of my questions and interested related to how the lithium ion batteries would hold up over time. I didn't get quite the answer I wanted, but the salient details were: * it's guaranteed for 100K miles, though you probably get some prorated discount if it fails before that * people with lead feet (aka their market) will not get 200 miles range on the battery pack * the battery pack is rated for 500 full cycles (100% -> 0%) of charging * an HVAC unit takes care of keeping the battery pack at ideal temperatures for usage, thus prolonging the life * a separate Tesla energy group is exploring licensing the battery technology elsewhere * with their special charging unit (requires rewiring of your electricity) you can fully charge in 3-4 hours. Wall charging will take ~4-5x as long. There is a mobile charging cord that fits in the trunk.

The car itself was interesting with it carbon fiber body and Elise-like size. I managed to squeeze in the cockpit, where the notable elements were the 2-speed transmission as well as a small LCD screen to the bottom left that indicated battery life. m and I took a peek at the log book which detailed the bug list for the current firmware, which reminded me that we are in the frightening age of cars running software.

The TechShop tour was also fun. It's clear that it is not a mature operation just yet -- they are still getting in more equipment -- but they have quite a lot as it is and I could imagine having a lot of fun there. The multiple laser etchers and the welding classes are the real attraction for me. The laser etchers are more a novelty that I'd probably get over after I had imprinted every gadget I own, but the welding (and other) classes open up a whole new realm of skills that a computer science education failed to impart.

I'm stealing a photo out of m's photostream (I borrowed his camera for the shot). He has many more photos of the car.

April 24, 2007

Tesla @ Techshop, May 3

Tesla will be giving two talks at the Tech Shop in Menlo Park on May 3. The 7pm talk is already full but you can still get tickets for the 5pm talk. There are probably opportunities to see the Tesla without the $10 admission fee, but I went ahead and registered anyway.

Event Details and Tickets

April 11, 2007

Fun videos

Kodak shows that it has a sense of humor about its dinosaur status -- originally produced for a conference via Scoble

ps3.strata3d.2.jpg

The Strata 3D plugin will make you oooh and aaaah over Photoshop CS3's new 3D features (Extended Edition only) via John Nack

February 14, 2007

D-Wave: It's hard to demo quantum superposition

I went to the D-Wave demo of the "first commercially viable quantum computer." That's a heavily qualified statement, but it basically means that they were able to take a 16-qubit quantum computer and hook it up to a molecular structure search, a seating chart constraint optimizer, and a sudoku puzzle solver. The cool aspect of what they done is that their software is designed to optimize SQL, so you don't really need to know anything about the adiabatic quantum computation. Their software will take the SQL program, convert it to a graph, and load it into their quantum computer. The best solution is lowest energy state of the quantum computer. Due to the physical nature of the computation, the second-best solution is the second-lowest energy state, etc... Their goal with this sort of model is to either:

  • Get a more accurate solution in the same amount of time as a digital computer
  • Get a solution of the same accuracy but faster than a digital computer

Of course, their current prototype is about 100x slower than a current digital computer, so it will take awhile for them to transition from proof of concept into realizing those goals.

D-Wave's near-term vision for their technology seems to be an Internet service by which data can be sent to a quantum computer and a solution returned. This would in effect be a "quantum computer co-processor" for digital computers. They were very clear that quantum computing is not a replacement for digital computing; rather, it enables new efficiencies with respect to certain types of computation in finance, biology, chemistry, security, etc...

I went to the presentation to see the demo, but I was a bit let down by it. In retrospect, I should have expected to be: what they currently have is un-demoable. Their prototype is 100x slower than a digital computer, so it can't perform any type of new computation that would really knock our socks off (e.g. cracking a 1024-bit RSA key). Regardless, it is very difficult to demo computation. The only thing left to show would be the actual quantum computer, which in publicity photos looks absolutely beautiful. But there was no way they were going to transport a massive, liquid-helium-cooled quantum computer to the Computer History Museum. Given all this -- the no-show quantum computer, no demonstrable new application -- it pretty much leaves the rest of the demo to a question of belief. It would have been nice if they could have brought parts from previous prototypes, a mis-fabbed qubit, anything that could have taken their Internet-based demonstration and made it more physically grounded, but I complain because I like toys.

I've posted some videos in the extended of the molecular search demo. As I've already said, there's not much to see, just much to believe.

Continue reading "D-Wave: It's hard to demo quantum superposition" »

February 9, 2007

Don't know if it works, but it's purty

D-Wave promises to "make computer history" when they unveil their quantum computer at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View on February 13th (register to attend). They claim that they will be able to do 64,000 calculations in parallel using their 16 qubit prototype. Heck if I know what that really means or if it really works, but I'm interested enough to check it out.

via gizmodo

January 23, 2007

Computer World and Slashdot pseudo-fame

The project that I am ~1/300th of made it to the front page of Slashdot. My personal experience with Slashdot is that I generally cringe when I see anything on the front page I am closely familiar with. I cringe with newspapers as well, but its a different sort of cringe. Both have gross generalizations, but Slashdot usually adds in an element of techno-hysteria.

I can't entirely blame Slashdot for the cringe this time around, but they did manage to select this single paragraph in ComputerWorld's five-page article to quote:

"Later in the program, Holland says, PAL will be able to 'automatically watch a conversation between two people and, using natural-language processing, figure out what are the tasks they agreed upon.' At that point, perhaps DARPA's PAL could be renamed HAL, for Hearing Assistant That Learns. The original HAL, in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, tells the astronauts how it knows they're plotting to disconnect it: 'Dave, although you took thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.'"

A HAL joke? Forty years of evil AI and we're still going back to 2001: Space Odyssey jokes?

November 18, 2005

Lost in Translation

The same person responsible for distracting me with various puzzles is also working on a portable English-Arabic translator for US troops: Wired article on the project. Such a technology is clearly important and could save lives, but I find the goal of translating troops amusing. I spent several of my formative years living next to Marine barracks. Are there really enough phrases in Arabic to cover the various ways that you can insult someone's mother? Perhaps, but you do you translate the insult literally or do you choose a comparable Arabic phrase with an equivalent level of insult?

January 11, 2005

Best SSIDs

Slashdot | Best Wireless SSID's You Have Seen?

Hmm, my personal favorites (b/c I was there when they were chosen) are "Network Not Found" and "Network Disabled". I was in a meeting where we were instructing someone how to connect to our wireless network, and the Windows status message popped up saying, "Connected to 'Network Not Found'," at which point he said, "It's not working."

June 21, 2004

Free GIFs

The patent covering the algorithm used in the GIF format expired yesterday last week in Japan, UK, France, Germany and Italy. While this may not seem like big news to everyone, it was a huge problem when Unisys started enforcing this patent a couple of years ago. A lot of software (especially free software) stopped having the option to save files to the GIF format, which really sucked if you were doing Web design on the cheap. It also lead to numerous gif burning campaigns..

The patent is still active in some other countries (Canada), but I hope that the GIF format will start appearing in free programs once more.

More info

Update: heavily updated with correct info after better reading of post thanks to bp.

February 16, 2004

Simplified photo sharing

another link for bp:
Wired News: Share That Photo: Hit Save

November 13, 2003

Cool Inventions of 2003

2k3 still has two months left in it but the "Best of" articles are already hitting the Internet. These are some of my favorite items.

Continue reading "Cool Inventions of 2003" »

Getting closer to wireless power

It would be great in the future if every table had one of these contactless charge pads in the center. Then you could just set your gadgets in the middle while you enjoyed your cup of coffee or typed your meeting notes. Maybe they could even keep your cup warm.
KoKoRo: A technology of Contactless battery chage from Epson

November 12, 2003

Sydney Bristow did it

This sounds like it's straight out of an episode of Alias:
Globes [online] - Steadicopter's prototype pilotless helicopter stolen
(via /.)

November 11, 2003

There was a time where everything I owned was Sony

Forbes.com: The Pride That Killed Sony

Personal complaints: their DVD players are boring (Gateway sells a more interesting player), their laptops haven't improved since they used to be bleeding edge, Toshiba makes a cooler TiVo (w/ DVD recorder), the PS3 and PSP are way off, even Apple has a cheaper price point, their MP3 player line is stagnant and user-disfriendly, memory stick is almost as fragmented as all of the other flash memory types combined (Memory Stick, MagicGate, Duo, PRO), their wireless technology is absurdly overpriced...

October 22, 2003

Dell = Sony?

Now Dell is trying to pull a Sony it seems. In addition to announcing it's first LCD TV, Dell is now planning on selling their own DirectTiVo. I'm mostly excited about the latter because there's so much uncertainty about the future of DirectTV + TiVo, and this puts more confidence in the relationship continuing. These announcements come on the heels of Dell announcing a Dell-branded music service, mp3 player, and home-centered PDA.
Dell turns on satellite TV | CNET News.com

October 20, 2003

Sony restructuring

Sony expected to cut upto a tenth of its global workforce

Here's a hint: layoff the music execs. Even Rio has better music players than you.

October 6, 2003

Finally, real SCO news

After months and months of news hypothesizing what the merits of the case actually were, SGI went through the effort of comparing the two sources trees and has narrowed it down to "200 lines of code," all of which is gone, and most of which is of questionable lineage/ownership/copyright.
ITworld.com - SGI compares Linux, Unix source code

September 24, 2003

Do I still get an employee discount?

AMD has released the consumer version of the Sledgehammer/K8 processor. Maybe I should have taken a couple extra weeks to do another quick internship there so I can get a discount :).
- AMD unveils details of its 64-bit chip | CNET News.com

July 1, 2003

Gateway becoming Sony?

I thought I'd post this because I grew up buying Gateway computers, and I think it's really cool that they're finally heading in this direction (after some lukewarm attempts with the Destination PC). Gateway is now selling a "Connected" DVD player, which includes an 802.11b connection and can stream content from your PC. They also have the Media Center PC, which comes with a 42" plasma screen (yum - though TiVo would be much nicer than Media Center). This interview on CNet with Ted Waitt indicates that they are probably going to lauch more products in the consumer electronic space.

These aren't the most ground-breaking products, but I'm optimistic, especially b/c they don't have a music group tying down their innovation (Sony "Home of the Walkman" still doesn't have a competitor to the iPod). Also, unlike Apple, you won't have to earn $100K/year to outfit your home with their products.

June 30, 2003

802.11 News

- Nothing like typing on a keyboard while chowing down on a greasy Big Mac and Fries (coming to a SF 101 McDonald's)

- Now that Linksys has updated their 802.11g drivers to match the spec, you can finally get your 802.11a/b/g card and surf in bliss

June 12, 2003

802.11g Official

IEEE approves 802.11g standard

Exoskeletons

KoKoRo is back with a vengeance, and it looks like I'm one step closer to having my bionic exo-skeleton:

powered suit photo

KoKoRo: Powered Suits!

June 6, 2003

Sony Exec Interviews

I read an interesting interview with the Chairman of Sony, Nobuyuki Idei. The interview is three months old, but sound bites are interesting. March 2003 interview with Idei (Sony Chairman). Among the more interesting points: * The Sony-Ericcson joint venture: "They don't care about the mobile phone business, they care about the base-station business," and also "Sony made the joint venture with Ericsson because we want to be covered by their IP patent umbrella" * Frustration at the Sony Music division * Platform strategy: (1) continue promotion of Microsoft's long-term PC roadmap, and (2) Common Linux-based platform for PlayStation, home server, and TV (joint venture with Panasonic and Philips) * On Apple: "Although [Steve Jobs] is a genius, he doesn't share everything with you. This is a difficult person to work with if you are a big company. We started working with them, but it is a nightmare. We have the exact type of guy like Steve within Sony. His name is Ken Kutaragi"

Also I found a two-month-old post on Joi Ito's blog where there were some brief notes on a discussion with Ando. Joi posted an interesting quote from Steve Levy:

He startled everyone by speculating that in the long term, given the nature of Internet copying, record labels may not have a future. "When you have a problem like this," he says, sighing, "I really wish we were a simple hardware company.

May 27, 2003

Vampire Ether

At long last, photos of some early ether (2.94Mbit).

photo

The way the story was retold, the researchers at PARC couldn't figure out how to tap the coax cable with the right impedences (they didn't want to have to cut the cable). One of the researchers suggested looking at a cable parts catalog and they came up with using the vampire taps you can see in the photo.

BTW - Metcalfe prefers calling it 2.94Mbit Ether rather than 3Mbit ether because the rounding error is greater than the speed of ARPANet at the time (if I got my facts right).

May 22, 2003

It's Ethernet Day

They're celebrating Ethernet's 30th birthday here at PARC. Celebrations begin in 10 minutes but I thought I'd post some photos of some original ether.

Continue reading "It's Ethernet Day" »

May 21, 2003

Tomorrow is Ethernet Day!

Tomorrow is Ethernet's 30th birthday! Celebrations will be held at PARC, with both Boggs and Metcalfe attending. I'm tempted to bring some wirecutters and cut myself a piece of original ether. CNET already has an
interview.

May 9, 2003

Wired: Sony Civil War

This is an interesting Wired article on why my favorite electronics company is forced to make terrible mp3 players: full text.

It's slightly dated, but especially relevant given Apple's new music store and Sony's failures with Pressplay. Apple has it a lot easier, though, because nearly everyone who buys an Apple:
- uses iTunes
- if given the choice of mp3 player would buy an iPod
- is used to Apple controlling their entire digital life


Sony, on the other hand, makes PCs, and OpenMG is a terrible music player when compared to the best-of-breed PC applications. Thus, being forced to switch over to OpenMG or RealOne just so I can buy music online and transfer tunes to my Network Walkman isn't a great user experience for me (as I own a Sony mp3 player, I speak from experience: it's sloooow to transfer songs with the unnecessary mp3->ATRAC re-encoding).

April 22, 2003

Opteron released, benchmarks galore

Opteron released, benchmarks galore
- summary: Opteron spanks Xeon in some cases, hurt by lower Mhz
- most benchmarks don't take advantage of x86-64 with more architectural registers
- Opteron lags in SSE2 applications, excels in Java Web apps
- i.e. workstation apps (audio/video) in Intel's court, server apps in AMD's court.
- Itanium 2 looks threatening