Jason's Blog

Archive for August, 2007

Why Mac’s and OS X won’t take over

by on Aug.08, 2007, under General

Let me start off by stating that I AM a mac user.  I've got a MacBook Pro, and intel iMac, and having been using macs almost exclusively for the last 6 years.  Now, with all of that said and all of my great love of Apple and Apple products (most of the time anyways), Apple is really messing up in one VERY key segment of the market, and it's a strong reason why they won't progress into the mainstream.  Quite simply, they've got all in one systems, such as the iMac, and they've got their fancy Mac Pro towers, and on the low end they've got the MacMinis.  The trick is for most people, none of those are things people are interested in.  Let me explain:

My brother a while back asked me to price out a gaming machine for him. I looked around, and tried to convince him to go to an Apple product, due to ease of use, a number of features that were far better, reliability, amazing design, and quite simply – I won't support windows machines anymore unless I absolutely have no other alternative. SO, note to those asking for windows help from me – here's the advice I'll give now, go get a Mac.  If you won't follow that advice, here's the next and final bit of advice:  get FireFox, don't install software off the net because often you are downloading a virus/spyware (no, they don't really love you), don't open attachments you receive via email even if it says PDF or "You've won a milliion dollars" or "Naked chicks here", close yourself off into a box and disconnect your internet, and otherwise realize you're dealing with a horrible OS that drives me nuts due to how much frigging breaks in the thing. 

Anyways, off of the rant, I finally gave in and specc'd out a windows box for my brother, and it was then that I realized why Apple was going to fail.  I've known some who say Apple will fail because it doesn't have the developers, or because they're overpriced, or because windows is what the whole world uses, or any number of other reasons.  Let me tell you now, that NONE of those reasons will really matter, because quite simply, those aren't the people who drive the market, who drive innovation, who get dear ol' Mom & Dad using computers.  It's little Jimmy begging them for a game system.  It's the college kid building his own computer so he can play the latest game at full resolution with all the settings maxed out.  It's the home guy who just wants to play around and build a cheapo system that has a max'd out video card, or to customize it to his hearts content.  You can't customize the Mac's to any decent extent, and the price of the system where you CAN replace your video card puts it out of the range of any home user, or kiddo's, or people like my brother who want a gaming rig and not a processing rig.  The iMac's though beautiful don't have the greatest video card in them, and the Mac Mini's… well, don't get me started on those things.

SO, the end result, was when I was pricing out a system for my brother, with a near top of the line video card, a GeForce 8800gt, it came in under $1k.  Even adding the crappy windows OS onto that system still didn't increase the price that much, and since he had a monitor, keyboard, etc. already, the 20" iMac didn't really appeal – particularly since at that time, it had a slower processor, and a MUCH slower video card in comparison.  THIS is why Apple will fail to ever break windows.  It's not because the major University uses Exchange for mail and calendaring, it's because home users want systems they can customize, at least somewhat, which are gaming systems.  

The solution for Apple?  There's a simple solution, but I don't expect them to do this, because it would be a change of emphasis, and require a bit more mobility in development and product support. Apple needs to drop the MacMini, or turn it into a DVR type box, perhaps specialize it in some way, or make it an ultra cheap, not an entry level box, because at the price they're asking it's not all that great of a system.  Then, they need to release a "desktop" system, that's got virtually the same specs hardware wise as the iMac, but with upgradable harddrives (doesn't take much, two bays at most for drives), and an upgradeable video card with a decent selection of video cards, with a max of 4gb of memory (4 slots total available) using standard DIMMS.  I tell ya now though, Apple won't do this for one simple reason – this would kill their MacPro systems.  Though the MacPro's are truly amazing boxes, with the number of CPU's they support, etc., I DO think a lot of people buy the MacPro's just so they can get extra harddrives and upgraded video cards, and having a lower end machine where you could have that would eat into that market segment.  Of course, I also think that if they did so, that lower end market segment would skyrocket, but I'm biased obviously wink

SO, this is my "wish" from apple – a low end, gaming Mac, that can use someone's already existing Laser Mouse and 20" LCD monitor that they've been using for gaming (not to mention head sets, game pads, and other gaming devices.)  This is what drives the market, and what could drive Apple to expand their market share.  Will it happen though?  Probably not, but I can definitely hope, cause my brother isn't the only one who likes gaming machines! 

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100 Years of Boy Scouts

by on Aug.02, 2007, under General

Just saw that it was the 100th anniversary for Boy Scouts – a big congrats on an AMAZING program that has helped many kids over the years.  I remember being in the scouts during the time I lived in Hawaii and even younger, and have very fond memories.  I learned a LOT during those times, and definitely plan on having my kids (whenever that happens someday) be in the scouts as well.  Anyways, a big congrats on 100 years, and may the scouts have another 100 amazing years ahead. 

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iPhone Review, notes

by on Aug.01, 2007, under General

Well, I've had the iPhone for a while now, so I figure it's about time I said a few things regarding what I think of the phone, it's software, interface, etc.  There are some things I love about it, and some things I'm steadily coming to hate.  SO, without further ado, here's a few of those:

First, let me start out with the things I love.  

  • The interface:  GOD IS IT GORGEOUS.  I mean, of all the mobile devices I've ever owned, it is drop dead gorgeous.  The way things zoom, slide, pan, or how opening an application sorta glides into view, it's just amazing to look at.  I love how much attention to detail there is.
  • The internet:  This is the first phone/pda I've ever owned where the internet is actually usable on the device.  My old Treo 650 worked for browsing the net the same way a unicycle works for getting one to and from your job.  It's annoying, often doesn't work very well, if it rains your hosed, and honestly, it's a measure of last resort.  The iPhone is like riding a BMW to work – it's comfortable, smooth, and enjoyable in almost every aspect.
  • The hardware:  The whole thing is solidly built, difficult to damage, scratch resistant, etc. etc. etc.  It has some amazing specs and support for such a small form factor.
  • The weather/clock applications:  I've used a number of different clock applications on PDAs.  Let's just say this is the first set of applications that have wowed me.  I used a program called bigclock or something like that on the Treo, and a number of other applications that are out there to try and do alarms and time tracking.  The clock application is the first of them that seems to work, REALLY well, and does exactly what I want and need.  A simple example – yesterday I needed a reminder to do something later that night.  In the past, I've just given up and created a calendar entry, even though that really wasn't what I wanted, and made me jump through more hoops that I wanted.  I can use the clock to set an alarm for later that evening, doesn't repeat, is easy to setup, can be custom labeled, etc.  ABOUT FRIGGING TIME someone did this as well as Apple did.  The weather widget is very similar in my view – it's the first weather app that I've really enjoyed – it's simple, fast, and gives me the exact information I want.  My only wish now is if I could somehow combine the two a bit, so when an alarm goes off, the weather opens and displays the info, similar to TreoAlarm.  But, we'll see what happens in the future.
  • The iPod:  Simply put, I've had an iPod for years and years and years.  Actually, I've got a 2nd gen 40gb iPod up for sale if anyone's interested (it even had the battery replaced recently).  I've always loved having all my music with me whenever I travel, but it has been a headache to have multiple devices to carry, such as pda, phone, and music player.  I've managed to get down to the Phone with integrated PDA, and a music player.  I think finally, for most purposes, I'll be down to just one device for the majority of times.  Sure, with the limited storage, I can't fit all my music onto the device, but it works more than well enough for a lot of the times where I'm just wandering around.  And, the headphones being compact are relatively easy to bring along (although, still trying to find a case that takes the phones along, protects the phone, and does this in a way that doesn't interfere with my movement or actions.  The case I've got has a holder for the headphones, but snags too often on my clothes).
  • Video Playing: The first time I watched a video on the iPod Video, I thought hey – that's actually not too bad quality and viewability.  Let's just say if you thought the Video iPod was ok, the iPhone will blow you away – it's gorgeous, and actually has an amazing screen, making watching videos (particularly wide screen videos) definitely a doable task.  It's no comparison to a TV, but for times where I'm on the go, or in random places without a laptop (not often I'll admit), this is something that would work more than well enough for me for watching video.  Add to that the YouTube support, and it's one heck of a video player.

Now, those are the big things I love, and they're all great things.  But, there are some major gripes too about this device.  Let me go into just a few of them, and let me also say this – I really do wish I could have waited 6 months to see what software updates were available that might fix some of my issues, but for right now, the iPhone though amazing in many ways, is really a crappy device for most uses, and I'd recommend against getting one, until at least SOME of these issues are fixed.  For an example of other requested changes, take a look at a Macworld article where they talk about some of these.  And, having looked at their annoyances, here's some of mine:

  • The Interface:  Yes, I mentioned this one above, but it's also a major gripe.  I love the interface, but it also can be somewhat buggy at times.
  • The Internet: Yet another plus and minus – no flash, no java, no plugin support, and let me tell yas – trying to go to a page that's a bit on the "heavy" side can be VERY problematic.  i.e. I crash the browser problematic.  The iPhone just doesn't handle large pages very well at all.
  • Crashing the system.  After about a week of use, I noticed that the system was going slower and slower and slower.  To the point where I could get it to answer phone calls or do much of anything with any decent speed.  I eventually had to power the whole thing off and start it up again.  I think this is why they don't want non-apple apps created, due to REALLY poor memory management (I'm guessing memory management, it could be something else, but it's danged annoying).
  • No 3rd party applications.  This annoys me to no end, because frankly, the web browser doesn't work all that great for a lot of things.  Sure, some games run in it, but getting things like SSH, Remote Desktop Connection, or other work applications working is a ROYAL pain.  The web is NOT the most optimal development environment for such things.  There IS a need for custom, thick applications – anyone who says otherwise hasn't tried doing anything that requires graphics.  PARTICULARLY since there's no java plugin, a decent SDK is a major MUST HAVE for this thing to be anything other than a web browser in a small screen.
  • The external connector for audio:  The recessed connector, though great for some things, royally sucks if you're trying to use standard cables.  It's recessed, so most plugs won't go all the way into it, making it very difficult to use a lot of standard headphones, audio connectors, etc. etc.  There ARE adapters, but this is one annoyance that should never have been an annoyance, and just speaks of rather poor thinking in my view.  I can understand why they did it, as it makes the iPhone more aesthetically pleasing but it makes it less pleasing for actual use in real life.
  • Sound levels:  The speaker phone is pretty well useless, honestly.  Connect an external system, you'll have better luck, but oh yeah, external stuff is a pain due to that recessed connector, URGGHhhh.

Overall, the iPhone is a GREAT device.  Don't get me wrong, I love the convergence of devices into one centralized device, as it's a lot less to carry around.  Further, the size and weight are phenomenal, but it's got a ways to go. My only hope at this point is software updates fix a ton of the issues I've seen.  A simple easy one would be a way to customize the thing, even if it was simply a bookmark on the main screen so I could jump to a specific web page (i.e. install a game this way, direct link to other applications, etc.).  Now, it's a waiting game to see if some of my gripes are fixed with future updates. 

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