Tag Archives: apple

One Year with the iPhone

I’m short by about a month, but who is counting.  iHave (har har) the iPhone 3G which is the second generation iPhone.  So far, I have been reasonably satisfied with AT&T’s coverage finding only a few places where it either is not great or does not work.  But those places don’t matter.

I can’t say I’m a huge “iPhone Application” person, and I use it for phone calls, email, some web surfing, limited music, and odd amusement (like tetris…).

Of course, I need to passingly gripe that Linux hackers haven’t found a way to talk to the iPhone yet.  I can’t even get it to be recognized by a Windows VM running under Linux.  Boo!  But I have my work machine which runs Windows, therefore iTunes, and all can be as well as it can be.  I want to note, for those who might misunderstand, that I don’t hold this as a fault of the phone.  The protocol of talking to the phone is pretty clearly proprietary and Apple is at their discretion about sharing it — they choose not to, and that’s their business.  Thus far, Linux hackers have been able to keep up with the iPod protocol changes, but there is something special about the iPhone that hasn’t been figured out yet.  This digression shall now detour back to the main topic…

As a phone, it has been okay though better than any I have had in the past.  The only significantly missing feature is voice dialing which is now in the iPhone 3GS.  I find the controls to be reasonably easy to use when driving, so even though doing so is “bad driving”, it isn’t like groping around with a flip-phone or similar.  Perhaps my only complaint is the big red “End Call” button which I so often mistake for “mute”.  I suppose that is muting after a fashion…

As an email device, it has been pretty darn good, especially with the 3.x version of the iPhone OS.  The addition of being able to rotate the screen on any screen, and highlight, copy, cut, and paste text is absolutely great.  I like the full screen view, with the virtual keyboard popping up only if I’m composing a message; furthermore, being able to rotate the screen makes composing messages much better than before.

As a web browser, it is tolerable.  I think the slow speed is more a product of the graphics and script heavy sites that are built now.

As a music player, I find the quality to be better than my iPod.  I like the cover browser, so that easily entertains me when I look for music.  I recently upgraded the radio in my car and specifically chose one that works with the iPhone and the union of the two is pretty nice.

I haven’t really dug into any apps that have revolutionized my life.  So I have little to say there.

At this point, given all that, I have to wonder if keeping it past my contract (another year) is worth the expense.  While the service is for business, the cost of it still offends me.  As a device it is decent, but AT&T is making it quite pricey to make it worth the cost.

This is the kind of thing Apple does really well, in my opinion.  The iPod was a revolution in portable MP3 players, and I think their advances, particularly with the iPod Touch, have been leaps ahead of everyone else.  The iPhone set the bar for what a smart phone really should be, and everyone else is playing catchup.  I believe others will catchup, so it will be very interesting to see what is on the market next year.  Of course… it will also be very interesting to see what kind of extortion the cell phone companies will be asking for the privilege of Internet access via a smart phone.

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Why I Chose Linux

There are many jokes among some people why I chose Linux.  I’ll work backwards from least to most familiar.

I decided against Mac mostly based on price.  The second issue was hardware tinkerability (which has improved since their move to the Intel hardware).  The third issue was software tinkerability (I know there are ways to do some of what I want, but certainly not to the extent that I want).  Maybe somewhere in a distant fourth was the ability to emulate some of the Windows games I wanted to run (but I think Parallels can address that now, even down to the DirectX and 3GL rendering).  At the end of the day, if I wanted a computer that “just worked”  I would chose a Mac; it was first on the list for my wife to look at when we replaced her Windows laptop for that very reason.

I decided to abandon Microsoft because of reasons that are probably too volatile to express here.  (I’ve already made the mistake of going contrary to that intention).  I think the least volatile is cost — I didn’t like the accumulating price tag for running the OS.  Ultimately, a “Windows machine” would have kept me compatible with what appears to be the mainstream.  I did have to give up some games (which I no longer really have time for), and a few other trivial pieces of software that I can no longer remember.

I decided against *the system* I really wanted because of cost alone:  a Solaris workstation.  They are nice, but they are priced for companies, not “normal people”.  In my continuing theme of “in the final evaluation” … there is _no_ practical use for me to own a Solaris system.  I just have a lingering soft-spot in my heart for SUN workstations.

My foremost decision on Linux was … can you see the theme … it is free.  Yes, my altruistic step was selfishly financial.  Now, that was my foremost reason.  I do like the fact that I can easily choose the window manager independent of the OS.  I can’t help it, that is something I believe should be separable in an OS because the window manager is not the OS.  But I risk tangenting here, so I’ll stop there.  Probably my dead last reason was the open source factor.  It is neat; but I honestly have never directly interacted with that facet of my decision.  I have compiled a few pieces of software, but have yet to compile a kernel or a window manager.  I could compile software on Mac or Windows if I wanted to so I don’t really see that act as delving into the “open source aspect”.

One of the things I have found very nice is the support and community around the specific distribution I chose.  That was a criteria I shopped around for… so maybe that really should be my second reason.  Yes, believe it or not community support for a “free” operating system exists, and works.  I have been very impressed with the bugs I have filed and the responses I have received in addition to the questions I have posed on the forums or existing answers I have found for my questions.  I know I like to have insight into any given process, and this “feels better” than the “black box bug filing” against other operating systems.  (Aside:  I have heard good stories about Apple and Microsoft support, I have just personally never experienced the same level of quality.  As the saying goes “your mileage may vary”.)

So there it is spelled out in black-and-white for the very first time.  Cost, support, configurability, customizability, tinkerability, and open source (with “open standards” where possible).

That being said, I have run into several pitfalls with Linux; though none yet insurmountable. I’ll leave those to subjects of future posts.


Apple Makes Appliances, Not Computers

That isn’t an insult.  I mean that as an accurate description.

I like tinkering. I like to get under the hood and play.  This is what keeps me as far from Mac computers as I can get.  But that is also their strong point.

Here’s the reasoning behind my analogy.  What do you do with a refrigerator when you want one?  You go to the store, you look at the available models, you choose from the models a given company makes.  That’s it.

I just described purchasing a Mac.

What happens when it breaks?  You send it to an authorized repair shop, or back to the manufacturer to be repaired.  I was actually talking about a fridge… but wasn’t I also talking about a Mac?

They make things easy and obvious to use.  Upgrades are limited, tinkering is generally not permitted.  But what works works well, and what isn’t available on it is something you are just generally going to have to accept as a feature limitation of the appliance.

Apple make appliances, not computers.  It isn’t a bad thing, but I wish it would be acceptable for them to market themselves like that.  It makes the comparison with “PCs” (and Linux) ridiculous and irrelevant.

Apple makes some pretty darn good computer appliances.  iPhone.  iPod.  Desktop and laptop computers.  They are good at what they do operating within their defined set of use cases.  It’s a fault, and a strength.  I give them credit and criticize them at the same time.

Update:  I just reread this main post.  I’m a little surprised at my own words.  At this point I’m going to leave this here as a reminder to myself of what I’m not here to do.  While I do have something constructive I was trying to say, I think trying to reword it would only worsen perceptions.