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Posts Tagged 'smoking the applepipe'

Why I’m looking forward to 2012: Or why a longtime Apple user still won’t be an early adopter

Let’s get this straight: my first adult computer purchase was an iMac Rev B back in 1998. I’m writing this on a black second-gen MacBook (soon to be replaced with a MacBook Pro). My 32GB iPhone 3GS goes everywhere I go, and I cannot travel without my 160GB iPod Classic. I smoke the ApplePipe in several different flavors, and I’m a daily user at that.

On the other hand, consider the specifics of what I use. I have never bought a first-generation Apple product. And, frankly, taking one look at the iPad’s unveiling this week, I am not persuaded to break my non-streak.

Look, no doubt about it, the iPad is pretty freakin’, well, pretty. It is the latest drop dead gorgeous design from the Cupertino boys, yet another Apple product where to see one with all of its smooth curves is to lust after one. The adaptation of the iPhone touchscreen interface to take advantage of a 9.7 inch screen looks stunning; that trick of using finger swipes to expand photo collections has me panting on my knees all by itself. Not only that, but if the printed newspaper is going to go the way of the Newton, then I want my digital version to look as nice and easy to read as the New York Times app demo did yesterday. That looks like something you can read with your coffee and eggs at the breakfast table.

I’m also daring iBooks to make a believer out of me. Let’s be honest — I love real books too much to be able to stomach spending a few hundred dollars on a Kindle; why would I want to spend a few hundred dollars on a dedicated device that doesn’t do the real thing as well as the real thing and has a smaller screen than the page size of the books I usually read? (There’s also the matter of wanting Isaac Asimov to be sorely wrong about the fate of print books he imagined for the Foundation series.) I’d have to get a Kindle DX to feel like I was reading a real book and not one I’d bought at the grocery store, and that still doesn’t solve my problem of compulsively wanting to underline and make copious notes in what I read. However, if the device in question is also the must-have subset of my portable music collection, movie collection, and a working productivity machine that’s even thinner and lighter than my laptop — well, that’s more than double the functionality of a dedicated e-book reader, and already with a reasonably-sized screen, for all of $10 more than the Kindle DX. Sounds like a no-brainer to me — if I’m going to put out that kind of dosh, it better do all of that.

(That said, looking at the screenshots of the iBooks interface, Delicious Library has got to be pissed right now. Probably not for the first time either, since their iPhone app still seems to be dead in the water.)

Yeahbut.

The truth is, as really and truly super-amazing-awesome all of that is, it doesn’t do anything that I’m just absolutely dying on the vine for it to do. There is not a category of device in my life into which it neatly fits; my MacBook took the place of my old Dell notebook, my iPhone replaced my cracked and cheap Samsung, and the utility of an iPod arose when I started traveling overseas. If the iPad is going to insinuate itself into my life (and not only do I grant that this may be inevitable, but I also sincerely hope that it is), I gotta have a reason. Right now, anyway, the iPad can’t replace all of those things wholesale without me giving up functionality. It can be a smaller version of my stuff (sorry, George Carlin), it can even be the version I curl up with next to a roaring fire while my wife looks on disapprovingly, but that’s all it can be as of yet — a version. Now, we may well be heading to the day when what we now think of as laptops are actually de facto desktops for all intents and purposes, and devices like the iPad become the portable working machine, but I just don’t think we’re there yet.

Besides which, I really can’t bring myself to be an early adopter of anything when it comes to teh gadgetz. 2000 was when I got my first DVD player. 2001 was when my wife and I first got cell phones. I just entered the Blu-Ray and HDTV market this last Christmas. I don’t have so much disposable income that my first thought when I see my wallet is, “Hey! What bleeding-edge device can I go out and buy today?” No, I’m one of those people who relies on the early adopters to work out the kinks for me, so that when the second, third, or fourth generation devices come along that I do buy, there are standards in place (I’m looking at you, high-def videodisc market), and there is a reasonable set of features for a reasonable price.

And make no mistake, the iPad is still missing some things. 1080p video for one, both on the screen and for output (my flatscreen HDTV has spoiled me in just over a month). A front-facing camera for videoconferencing (if not a second camera on the back). A built-in USB port, if not an HDMI port, and a SD slot.

All of these factors put together make me look at the iPad and — well, it’s not that I shrug, it’s just that I wipe off the drool after a few seconds and go back to trying to figure out which MacBook Pro I’m getting.

See, if I know Apple, they know all of this already, and they already have a detailed roll-out plan specifying which generation gets which feature. If the idea is that they have a particular price point in mind and they add features as it becomes feasible to do so within that price point or lower, then there’s no question in my mind that over the next two years or so the product will get to where it’s worth somebody like me buying it. To me, though, it’s not just a question of adding features, but also a matter of what kind of an app library is developed for the device. A couple of years’ worth of individual ingenuity with the SDK could well make the iPad a must-have for reasons I can’t presently predict.

All of this is to say, I expect that sometime in 2012, two things will happen, assuming the world doesn’t end. One, the third-generation iPad will be unveiled, and it will include a sufficient number of the features I enumerate here (the camera or cameras, plus 1080p video, will be the dealmakers for me), probably the second hardware refresh, and it will be at a price point that prompts me to launch the Apple Store app on my 1TB iPhone 6GZX and order one.

Second, rumors will start flowing about the new device secretly being worked on in the bowels of Apple. Maybe it’ll be the iPen you use on your iPad — who knows. I’ll be too busy curled up in front of the fire with my new iPad to care. End of the world or not, 2012 can’t come soon enough.

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Today’s iPhone apps for Late Antiquarians and Medievalists…

Two Greek dictionaries, two Latin dictionaries, and an Old English dictionary:

There’s a story here, but I’ll tell it in the lengthier entry I’m writing and will hopefully post tonight.

The slickest, smoothest sales job I have ever seen

Since fall of 2007, my wife has suffered with a Nokia 6126 as her cell phone. She has loathed that phone since the day she got it, and has counted down the minutes until the hardware upgrade cycle spun back around. For the last few months, I have heard nothing but, “I hate this piece of junk phone, and when I can replace it, I want the simplest, lowest-maintenance phone I can possibly find.”

Meanwhile, I decided a few months ago that I would probably get an iPhone this fall. Basically, I’m waiting for the next rev, the 3.0 firmware, and a lower-priced data plan. Also, since I can’t legitimately get a different SIM card for the iPhone, traveling with it in Greece seems like it would be rather needlessly complicated. I think I’d rather be abroad for two months with an old phone I don’t care about into which I can switch a new SIM rather than a new iPhone where I’m stuck with international data roaming charges. The whole time, whenever I’ve said I want an iPhone, Megan has just shaken her head, saying, “Never. It’s not for me.”

Thus it was that we found ourselves in the AT&T store last Thursday, with Megan telling the nice salesperson named Ryan, “I just want the cheapest phone you have that will let me make calls and send text messages.”

“Well,” he said, “have you considered the iPhone?”

I just sat back and watched, saying nothing. It seems that the iPhone answers its own question, and to actually see one is to fall in love. It took less than five minutes for her to be convinced, and then it was all over but picking out the accessories. As we left the store, she just looked at me and said, “Shut up.”

Now we just need to have her remember to set the “Push” setting to “Manually” when she visits me in Greece.

When things pay for themselves

In January of 2007, for reasons documented elsewhere, I made the switch to Mac. Well, it was sort of a switch back; the first computer I ever bought myself was a Rev B iMac back in 1998, then I bought a Dell notebook in 2003. I’ve been quite happy to smoke the ApplePipe, and will be content to do so for the foreseeable future.

That said, the one thing about my MacBook that has been frustrating has been how the plastic on the case cracks. It’s not a unique problem, unfortunately, and is a known design flaw. I’ll be getting one of the aluminum case MacBooks next time around, for sure.

On the other hand, AppleCare has made the problem go away twice now. The first time, since the nearest Apple Store is an hour and a half away, I sent it in; it took two and a half weeks to get it back, so I’m not likely to do that again. This time, I drove up to the Apple Store, dropped it off, and the next day had it back.

When I picked it up, I asked the customer service person, “Out of curiosity, how much would that repair have cost if I didn’t have AppleCare?”

“Around $200.”

AppleCare cost me about $180, as I recall; therefore, having this done twice, it has paid for itself and saved me another $220 (and keeps the machine in decent condition for when I sell it down the road). Just to be realistic, let’s go ahead and toss in $20 worth of gas — I’m still $200 better off than I would have been paying for the repairs out of pocket.

Many thanks to the good folks at the Keystone Crossing Apple Store in Indianapolis!

Anatomy of a home recording session

The two of you playing along at home may recall that in the last couple of months I’ve dropped a reference here and there to some developments about which I hope to be able to divulge more later. Well, we’re getting really close to me being able to actually say something — hopefully this week I’ll be able to say something concrete.

In the meantime, last night I recorded something related to one of these developments. I had been asked if I would be willing to read X and have it recorded so it could be used for a particular outcome Y, and I said sure, no problem. Great, came the response — are you able to record it yourself?

So, last night GarageBand and I started to get to know each other. (I have been an Audacity guy in the past, but for some reason Audacity stopped being able to export readable .mp3 audio for me, and I just haven’t gotten around to reinstalling to see if that fixes the problem.) I initially tried to record with the onboard mic on my MacBook, but the result was less-than-satisfying. Using my Sony ECM-MS907 microphone wound up being better, but then it became clear that I’d have even better results if I were able to mount it on something so that it would be closer to my mouth. The best mount I had on hand was — and this is just too glamorous for words — an empty Diet Pepsi can.

Having the makeshift studio setup in place, it took me about an hour and a half to record what I needed to record in a more-or-less satisfactory manner. Between this and other experiences recording in real recording studios, let me tell you that there’s nothing linear about it, it’s really quiltwork all around. Read this part, stop. Read that part, stop. Reread an earlier section to try to smooth out the flow into it from a different section, stop. Cut and paste this over there, snip out this second and a half pause here. Once everything was recorded and all of the pieces put together in a cohesive manner that simulated me sitting down and reading straight through from start to finish in a more-or-less (probably less) charming, personable manner, I then applied the “Male Radio Noisy” effect to try to clean up some of the fan and other ambient noise I was dealing with in my wife’s home office. I gave it a listen, and the result seemed to me to be more or less acceptable (I am making the assumption that the recipient will do some other things to it), so I exported it to an .mp3. I gave it a spin on my iPod to get a better sense of just how much noise was removed, and it was actually pretty good. I then sent an e-mail to my contact, saying, “Ready when you are.”

Eventually I should be able to tell you more about just what this is. In the meantime, I’ll say that reading your own words into a microphone in a way that’s interesting isn’t as easy as it may seem (and time will tell just how successful I actually was, if at all), and that if I were to have to do this kind of thing at home more often, I’d want to invest in some better equipment, at least. This would only happen if third parties were to ask me to (such as this particular case) — I can’t see myself independently and voluntarily venturing into something like podcasting at this stage of the game. There are just not enough hours in my life.

Mmmmm, Delicious

delicious-screenshot.jpg

Usually it’s my pal Gavin who posts this kind of thing, but hey, why not. Maybe he’ll blog about dead languages tomorrow.

Remember what I said about maybe getting Delicious Library going over the break? Well, it’s going… and going… and going. I’ve got 245 books entered in so far. Only about 6,342,351 to go.

The whole thing is pretty slick, actually. You enter books (or DVDs, or CDs) by title, author, ISBN number, or even by scanning the barcode with an iSight camera, and then it pulls the item’s data off of Amazon.com—cover, genre, publisher, series, retail value, description, etc. (all as available, of course). You can hand-edit anything you need to, you can update cover art by dragging an image onto the item’s entry, you can sort by any category you like, and so on. Other very practical features include easily being able to set up a “checkout” system for loaning out books, integration with Amazon.com Marketplace if you want to get rid of things, and so on. It will also make book recommendations based on what you have (with quick ‘n easy links to the product on Amazon.com, of course).

It’s not perfect by any means; Library of Congress or Dewey data would be nice, as would the ability to generate a bibliography, the genres imported from Amazon are not consistently accurate or useful—and it’s going to take a lot of hand-tweaking to make them useful. Custom fields would be a most appreciated feature. On the other hand, this is a version 1.5 product, and I’m told some of these things will be available in v2.0 (due within a couple of months, apparently). Also, you can easily export your Delicious catalog to LibraryThing, which does do Library of Congress and plenty of other things, enough so that it’s worth it to have both, really.

If you’re a Mac user drowning in books, Delicious Library might very well be worth your time.


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