Tag Archives: Writing

Thinking About Death

So obviously with Steve Job’s passing Death has been talked about a lot lately. Of course having such a visionary pass away is a huge loss. But closer to home our downstairs neighbor at Uncubed, Jim recently passed away.

I got back from my trip to LA and found out. I didn’t know Jim all that much, he ran the motorcycle museum below us, mostly opened on the weekends. He’d come up and chat once in a while, lend us a tool during the construction before we opened. He was a good guy, who loved motorcycles.

His kids came by shortly after his passing and held a wake in the museum, and since then it’s been closed up.

Last night I left the office and was taking the trash out and walk passed the dark windows of the museum. Now the lights would never be on at night anyway, but walking past I knew that they’d never be on again, at least not for Jims’ museum.

Death is a funny thing. I’ve been fairly blessed  in that my family hasn’t suffered many deaths. At least deaths of people I knew or had met. Great grand parents passed when I was a child. That’s changing of course as grand parents are getting older, but they’re still kicking.

But now other people in my life are passing, and it really does (as Steve said at Stanford) make you think and evaluate.

This is kind of a navel gazing post, but i just wanted to share that it’s weird as life goes on, that deaths start to occur and you really do start thinking about life, goals, that kind of shit.

 

I almost wrote this up and deleted it, but meh, I figured I’d post it just to put it out there, so that next year I can come look at it.

The Demise of Travel by Rail makes me sad

I have very fond memories of traveling from LA to Seattle by train with my mom and sister as a kid. It was part of our summer vacation, visiting friends and family. It was great. Watching the landscape fly by from the glass walled observation car. Grabbing snacks at the snack bar. Being able to get up and walk the length of the train whenever I wanted. And, watching some crappy 4 year old movie at night in the obs. car with everyone else (well a small subset of ‘everyone’).

It was great. It was slow yes, but that wasn’t the point.

It’s less the point now. With 3/4G networks and Mifi devices, time on a train can be (if you want) time spent working.

Rail travel’s worst enemy is amtrak.

I saw this article last night and it made me think of the few times in the last few years I’ve said, “Screw it, I’m taking the train, the TSA and airlines have gone too far!” Then I look up the price of traveling by train, and buy my ticket on Frontier. :(

Amtrak clearly doesn’t get their place in 2011. They’re slow. Sometimes slower than walking if you count the multi-hour delays that are all too common. When you’re the slowest option, you can’t be the most expensive. Unless of course trains are gold plated, and staffed by super-models and VC’s with money to burn, but they’re not.

Want power on your ride? you’re looking at far more money. It’s a shame. Realistically, even with it taking hours or even days longer than air travel, so long as you can work and be productive, it’s not time lost. I can’t use my laptop on airlines. I’m not short, and I almost always have that dick head who needs to be as close to horizontal as possible, no matter what time of day the flight is, right in front of me. Air travel is reading and watching videos time. I’d work on a train, even if just some of the time.

The article i linked to also points out lack of high speed rail, and I agree completely. Having traveled Italy by train when we went, it was amazing. Every stop was in the city center, near the local metro or taxis. Each train was fast or high speed. Even the rickety kinda scary train we had on one leg, zipped along and we were there in no time. It’s a shame our society can’t see past “immediate profits” and “instant gratification” to be more supportive of rail. More over though, it’s a shame Amtrak makes us not like them, and encourages us to not support them. I’m as guilty as the next person, I’d train it, but factoring in delays, and 2-3x the price of an airline ticket… it’s hard to take a stand and support something so broken.

During President Obama’s state of the union, he talked about high speed rail. I hope that becomes a reality. I really think fast reliable rail service would ease the burden on airlines and possibly help them be more profitable, and would make travel more enjoyable.

My Xoom review

I’ve been meaning to write this for a few days, and decided I just need to sit down and do it. Be aware, this review has no pics. There’s so many pics of the Xoom and the iPad out there, there’s just no need for them now. We all know what a tablet looks like now.

 

OK here’s my thoughts on the Xoom…

The short: I like it, I like it a lot. I’ve been using it almost exclusively since my friend and colleague Jeffy Houser gave it to me for my work on The Flex Show. It’s no iPad but it’s nice.

The Long version:

OS: Honeycomb seems like a great OS. Google shoulda been working on it sooner, and needs to stop dicking around trying to port it to a phone. Rock tablets, and let Honeycomb’s successor be the 1 OS for both.

It’s got some rough spots, but overall I’ve found it to be a great Tablet OS. I had a Viewsonic gTablet and tried 2.2 and 2.3 on it. Clearly neither OS was made for Tablets, so the experience sucked! But the Xoom, feels and works like a tablet should.

The widgets rock, the transitions between screens are very nice, and clean.

 

Apps (marketplace): Point, Apple. I admit, most of the apps on my iPhone and iPad, I can live without, some I never even open after installing or using once. However, right now, there are like 62 apps made for honeycomb. Not 1 is a twitter app!!

Many of the apps for the Xoom, are stupid, so being available doesn’t really do much. Thankfully google does a better job at upscaling than Apple does, so phone apps, mostly don’t look like ass on the Xoom, assuming they work

Say what you will about Apple and the iOS Store, the Google marketplace is pretty much like Dave Chappelle predicted. Amazon has cleaned up the mess a bit, but they’re not there yet.

I’ve been pretty happy with the Xoom app wise, not really missing most iOS apps. Here’s the ones I miss and why.

  • OmniFocus – I’ve invested in their offering. It’s on my iPhone, iPad, and mac. Making todo lists, etc is nice when they’re shared across devices.
  • Flipboard – I’ve got Pulse, and Newsr but Flipboard and Reeder were my goto apps and I do miss them. NetNewsWire too for that matter. My iPad was mainly remote desktop, and news reading.

That’s really it. There’s a few others I’d like to have on the Xoom for sure, but if any combo of those three apps made it to the Xoom I’d be cool.

 

Ecosystem: Win, Apple. Obviously lock in is a big part of this picture, and Apple certainly gains nothing by cooperating, but not having a viable iTunes replacement is a huge loss for the Xoom, and android in general. There’s DoubleTwist which is ok, but nothing remotely close to the awesome experience Apple offers. I will give Double Twist props for the over the Air syncing. Apple, really you shoulda figured this out already.

But yeah I STILL haven’t gotten any of my pics onto the Xoom. There’s not USB host support yet (fail) and Double Twist does music and sorta, video only. Even the Dropbox app doesn’t support saving an image from dropbox to the local storage. I could do some wifi FTP stuff, but that’s just too much work as far as I’m concerned.

Other Tablets: Apple needs competition, so does Motorola. But more importantly, if Google hopes to make some headway against Apple, with Tablets, they need to have more devices out there. Motorola did a good job with the Xoom, but I think someone can do better.

Plus if they (Motorola and Google, etc) hope to get developers interested in building apps for Tablets, there needs to be more devices out there to run them. I suspect part of the reason there’s only 63 apps is that many developers don’t want to waste their time, if there’s a chance the OS could change or google could scrap it entirely (GoogleTV anyone?)

 

So verdict? If you’re ok not having many apps right now (the main ones are there. Evernote, a nice VNC app, tweetdeck sorta works, Firefox, dropbox, etc), and can survive without iTunes-like desktop love. The Xoom might be a fun device for you. The OS is certainly more computer-y which I like, but it’s definitely an easy device to use. Easy as an iPad, no. Easy enough for a non moron? Yes.

Like I said, i’ve been leaving my iPad at home the last two weeks, and am surviving quite well. I haven’t gifted my ipad to Nicole yet, so I have the option to go back, but honestly, with an iPhone, not sure I will.

In Which i disagree with @elleinthecity, Borders closing, not the end of reading.

I love books, just ask anyone who knows me. I read a lot. I still have a wall of paper books I re-read from time to time, and I have my Kindle (and of course the various iOS Kindle apps!). Books are as a big a part of my life as anything else is. I thank my mom for bribing me to read and do book reports in exchange for new GI Joes.

It makes me truly sad that we’re losing Borders, that Powell’s had to lay-off some of it’s employees, but the reality is, it’s 2011. Books in their old form are making less and less sense. Publishers of course refuse to see this truth. Neither can places like Borders who chose to ignore eBooks.

Reading isn’t dying, books are. Paper books to be specific. Don’t get me wrong, that makes me sad too, i love the feel of a book in my hands. But time’s they are a changin’ and the smart money isn’t on fighting the future, it’s about embracing it.

Remember The Warehouse? Tower Records? They’re gone, music isn’t. Remember Hollywood Video? Blockbuster? They’re gone, movies aren’t.

It’s the same thing, every single time. Over and over again, we see posts like (not surprisingly written by someone in Publishing) this bemoaning the march of time, the march of technology as the greatest sin ever to be committed against society.

Publishing needs to see the writing (pun intended) on the wall, and adapt. Fighting this forward movement, is like fighting the tide. Just ask the CEO’s of Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, Tower Records, et. al. Don’t fight your customers, don’t make adapting to the future something your customers have to make a “us or them” choice.

Yes a street without bookstores is a sad street. Let’s not be melodramatic either. Book stores like Borders will go away, used book stores, classic bookstores, will thrive, as they always have. Publishers, should be embracing technology, making people WANT to buy eBooks.

How does iThoughtsHD have this and Apple doesn’t?

One of my biggest complaints with the iPad is it’s complete lack of usefulness for content creators. I understand, creators are not Apple’s biggest market, or even a group the ever seem to care about, Shoot, they make “Consumer electronics” LOL.

Still there’s so little that would have to be done to make the iPad SO incredibly awesome for creators, and open doors left and right. I know it’s possible, iThoughtsHD (iTunes Link), a great mind mapping app has already done it!

When building a mind map, like many tools on the iPad, you can save off to the cloud somewhere, box.net, dropbox,etc. Unlike many apps, and all Apple apps. You can load from cloud.

It’s that easy. They did why didn’t/hasn’t Apple?

I caved, and paid $10 for Pages. Complete waste of money. I edit a lot of pages files. Sponsor packets,etc. All the time. I’d love to pull one up on my iPad, edit, and without having to think about plugging into iTunes, copying the files out of iTunes back to my iDisk where they live, overwriting the old one.

Pages, and most apps, come kinda close, you can access the file, pull it in locally, make edits, but then you’re stuck, the document is trapped in the iPad and iTunes.

Why not make the iPad apps (at least the Apple ones) more connected to Oh I dunno, say Apple’s own cloud services. iWork.com and mobileMe. Some of us (still) pay for mobileMe hoping it’ll mature and actually be useful. I have no idea what iWork.com is for, but it seems like it’d make perfect sense to tie the iWork iPad apps (maybe the new iLife ones too) to Apple’s own (though dropbox, et. al. would be nice too) services to extend their usefulness.

Please Apple here my plea! The iPad is great for games and consumer shit, hook those of us who create up! It can’t be hard, a third party did it! You can too!

Amazon and Publishing are killing eBooks with 1000 cuts.

My Kindle, which I love and carry with me everywhere I’m likely to be reading, is dying. It’s dying a slow death from a thousand cuts. I used to buy a new eBook from Amazon almost weekly. Sometimes I’d buy 3-4 at a time to have at the ready. Now I look thru the $0.00 section, and the $.99 self publish section (Shout out to Christian Cantrell. Go read his stuff. Yes, that Christian Cantrell from Adobe, LOL. He writes awesome Sci Fi Short stories)

Looking at these screen shots, what incentive is there for me to buy the eBook version. Bear in mind, I have free shipping with Amazon prime. Though even with shipping, if I wasn’t in a hurry, regular shipping doesn’t cost much, and is often free if I’m in no hurry.

So really where’s the benefit of buying an eBook? Less than $3 dollars savings? Really? Over a paperback in two cases?! The middle book isn’t released yet, should we guess how it’s paperback price will look compared to the Kindle price?

This is such a huge fail, and it’s Amazon, and the Publishing Industries’ to share. They’ve both taken what was IMO a promising start to revolutionizing publishing, and forced it back into 1980.

I know Amazon lost (way to stick to your guns and fight for your customers) and caved to the publishers, but now rather than use their new found power (i’m talking about the publishing companies) to find a reasonable balance in price and deliverable, they’ve run the price right back up to where it makes no sense at all for the consumer.

It feels like they’re trying to kill ebooks, by making them not worth the price. Way to be green publishers.

Green? Yeah green. By making eBooks so unattractively priced, the Publishing industry in encouraging our continued attack on the environment. Maybe they hope earth will choke on green house gasses before they have to come to terms with technology and the changing landscape of publishing? If we’re all too busy gasping for air, we won’t notice that books are to blame. (Yes that’s over the top, but illustrated my point)

On top of this completely retarded pricing, that more or less incentivizes me to purchase a dead tree copy of all three books, each eBook is DRM’ed. Each of these are listed with Text-Speach disabled. So not only am I paying an outrageous price for my eBook, but the publishers are telling me to fuck off, I get no actual features that make an eBook great. And of course, I can’t use the eVersion outside the kindle.

So I pay pretty much the same price for paper or eBook. Yet with paper I can sell the book to a used book store, loan it to n number of friends, give it away, keep it for the next 30 years, etc. Where as with the Kindle version (this is aimed at you completely Amazon) I can’t loan it out, I can’t sell it, I can’t gift it, I can’t have my Kindle read it to me while I fold clothes, and should the Kindle platform die, I can’t even re-read it. Where’s the incentive in buying the eBook version?

Amazon, you came so close to crushing it. Really, you were right there. the Nook, sucks, IMO. Most of the other craptastic devices being crapped out every other day, by mostly no name vendors stand no chance at ever being anything more than Marginal. You were the market leader. Now… my Kindle is full of things I’ve downloaded off the web. Not pirated content, tho that’s an option, but content i can get from free from sites like instapaper, the Calibre desktop app, etc.

Sorry Amazon, I’m not giving you or these lame ass publishers money. It only encourages this terrible anti-consumer behavior. One of both of you will learn, and it appears it’s gonna have to be the hard way, for you and consumers. Way to go.

Authors; Tery Brooks, John Scalzi, George RR Martin, Jessica Livingston, John Birmingham, et. al. Stand up, you’re impacted just as much as consumers. It’s not 1980 any more, times change, help your publishers figure that out. If I could pay you all directly, for an open, DRM-free eBook file, I’d do it in a heartbeat!