16 Jan

O’Reilly Radar – The President’s challenge

All I can think is: we gave you the Internet. We gave you the Web. We gave you MP3 and MP4. We gave you e-commerce, micropayments, PayPal, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, the iPad, the iPhone, the laptop, 3G, wifi–hell, you can even get online while you’re on an AIRPLANE. What the hell more do you want from us?

Take the truck, the boat, the helicopter, that we’ve sent you. Don’t wait for the time machine, because we’re never going to invent something that returns you to 1965 when copying was hard and you could treat the customer’s convenience with contempt.

via O’Reilly Radar – The President’s challenge. Cory Doctorow has a wonderful saying “Copying is never going to get harder than it is now.” The idea that we’ll be able to go back in time and make it harder for people to get digital information/media/anything is just wrong. Businesses (hello entertainment industry) seems to ignore that fact time and time again. Businesses can either accept that getting media via the internet is getting easier and easier and try to make it simpler for consumers to get it legally or they will fail.

16 Dec

The Year of C.E.O. Failures Explained – NYTimes.com

Last spring, I taught a class at the Columbia Business School called “What Makes a Hit a Hit—and a Flop a Flop.” I focused on consumer-tech success stories and disasters.

I distinctly remember the day I focused on products that were rushed to market when they were full of bugs — and the company knew it (can you say “BlackBerry Storm?”). I sagely told my class full of twentysomethings that I was proud to talk to them now, when they were young and impressionable — that I hoped I could instill some sense of Doing What’s Right before they became corrupted by the corporate world.

But it was too late.

To my astonishment, hands shot up all over the room. These budding chief executives wound up telling me, politely, that I was wrong. That there’s a solid business case for shipping half-finished software. “You get the revenue flowing,” one young lady told me. “You don’t want to let your investors down, right? You can always fix the software later.”

You can always fix the software later. Wow.

That’s right. Use your customers as beta testers. Don’t worry about burning them. Don’t worry about souring them on your company name forever. There will always be more customers where those came from, right?

That “ignore the customer” approach hasn’t worked out so well for Hewlett-Packard, Netflix and Cisco. All three suffered enormous public black eyes. All three looked like they had no idea what they were doing.

Maybe all of those M.B.A.’s pouring into the workplace know something we don’t. Maybe there’s actually a shrewd master plan that the common folk can’t even fathom.

But maybe, too, there’s a solid business case to be made for factoring public reaction and the customer’s interest into big business decisions. And maybe, just maybe, that idea will become other C.E.O.s’ 2011 New Year’s resolution.

via NYTimes.com – The Year of C.E.O. Failures Explained. I’m not certain if business school teach that only thing matters is the profit you can make or if it is the result of something else. However, business schools seem to create an environment that rewards not making happy customers, not doing the ethical thing, not doing the thing that protects the environment down the road. One of the ways in which Apple succeeds is by releasing products when they are fully finished and not half-baked.

20 Nov

Review of the Kindle Touch

TL;DR Review

The Kindle Touch is the Kindle that I’ve been waiting to purchase ever since the first Kindle was announced. The Kindle Touch feels good in the hand and is easy to read off of for hours on end. The touchscreen is surprisingly effective. Overall my opinion of the Touch is extremely positive, with some minor reservations. If you’ve been holding off on getting a Kindle because you didn’t like the keyboard or wanted something that was easier to navigate than the old Kindle, I would recommend getting this Kindle.

Shipping/Packaging

Amazon has been making a push towards packaging that they call Frustration Free, a nice step away from the ridiculous clamshell packaging that businesses seem to love. The Touch follows in this ethos, the shipping box is completely recyclable and easy to open with a single pull.

Once you get inside the Kindle Touch has some quick instructions for both using the Kindle and to charge it before use. The Kindle includes a USB charger that when connected to your computer enables you to transfer files to the Kindle. The Kindle used to come with an AC adapter to plug the cable into the wall to act as a charger, Amazon apparently cut that to keep the price down. You can still purchase one for $10 and I would recommend it if you wanted to have less cables around your computer.

Navigation

There are only two buttons on the Touch, a power button on the bottom, and a home button that looks somewhat like a speaker grille on the center of front bottom of the device. The power button is in a weird position being on the bottom as most hardware devices I’m used to typically put the power button on the top. However, the button in actual practice works fine and once you get used to reaching to the bottom to turn off the device works well enough. I have yet to have accidentally hit the button while reading which was my largest concern with the button placement. The home button does one thing and only one thing, regardless of where you are it takes you to the top of your home screen. On page 9 of 20 pages of your list of books, it goes to page 1, in the middle of a book, takes you to page 1 of the home screen, and so on.

The touch screen works much as you expect in terms of navigating around. Open a book by pressing the book’s title, hold when selecting a book and you are presented with actions to perform on the book. The largest complaints with the Kindle Touch reside here. The screen on occasion is slow or even fails to respond to touches. The screen will on occasion fail to load what you want and you have to back out and re-perform the action. Sometimes even the screen will over respond and think you made multiple touches, especially while reading I’ve had the Touch jump forward several pages as opposed to just one. Considering this is the first touch screen Kindle Amazon has shipped, I’m not sure how much is based upon the hardware or how much is fixable in the software itself. All that being said the screen performs quite well most of the time and the few times it messes up haven’t detracted much from my pleasure in using the device.

Typing

Typing works somewhat shockingly well on the Touch. E-Ink screens typically don’t fit the mold of what would make sense for typing on the screen but the Touch performs really well here. I’ve been able to type fairly quickly and the Touch keeps up. While it’s far away from what I could do on a real keyboard, I feel very comfortable using the Touch to search for books, enter in passwords and notes, etc.

Typing on the Kindle Touch

Reading

The whole point of owning a Kindle is to read on it. Here is where the Touch really shows off it’s stuff. The new Pearl e-ink screen is a joy to look at. The Kindle Touch also includes a new ability to only flash the screen every 6 pages and instead does a half flash between each page being read. This makes it much faster to go back and forth between pages. One reason I held off on a Kindle for so long was the full page refresh did throw me off while reading. The half flash is a very nice comprise that makes the majority of page flips faster and less distracting. The side effect of not performing a full page refresh is that the Kindle will develop artifacts on the screen as you read. While, I’ve seen these artifacts they have yet to be a distraction especially in comparison to the full page refresh.

While reading there is minimal chrome to deal with just you and the book. To flip forward, tap the right hand to center side of the screen or drag your finger from the right side of the screen to the left. To go back a page, touch the left hand side of the screen or drag your finger from the left to the right. Bringing up the menu to search, sync, change the typeface and size of the font and other options you tap the upper 1/4 of the screen. Overall this works extremely well and the touch screen feels easier to use than the former Kindle’s buttons especially because you don’t naturally rest your fingers on those buttons making accidental taps a much rarer occurrence.

I’ve read two short books on the Kindle and it’s great. The Kindle is easy enough to comfortably hold in one hand (for me my left using my right hand to hit the screen to flip pages), for long periods of time without feeling heavy or even more importantly unlike a real book having to adjust as you get further along in a book. The Kindle is a little bit smaller than a standard paperback book but not by much, this also makes the screen hold close to the same amount of text depending upon your settings.

Summation

The Kindle Touch is a great purchase for anybody who has bought into ebooks and reads more than a few books a year. The few issues I’ve had with the Touch didn’t detract from the main use, just sitting down and reading on the device. To be fair there is a cheaper Kindle that does not have a touch screen that is also lighter that I did not review or have been able to play with. Some reviewers have recommended that one over the Touch for people who will not do a lot of typing on their Kindle. There is a $20 price difference between these two Kindles with Special Offers (on-screen advertising that is on the standard off screen and at the bottom of the home screen), or a $30 price difference between the two without Special Offers.

My initial impression of the Kindle has stayed much the same throughout using the device, overall it’s great and well worth purchasing.

16 Nov

Amazon’s cloud is the world’s 42nd fastest supercomputer

The list of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers came out yesterday with a top 10 that was unchanged from the previous ranking issued in June. But further down the list, a familiar name is making a charge: Amazon, with its Elastic Compute Cloud service, built a 17,024-core, 240-teraflop cluster that now ranks as the 42nd fastest supercomputer in the world.

Amazon previously built a 7,040-core, 41.8-teraflop cloud cluster that hit number 233 on the list, then fell to 451st. But Amazon submitted an updated Linpack benchmark test with the addition of a new type of high-performance computing instance known as "Cluster Compute Eight Extra Large," which each have two Intel Xeon processors, 16 cores, 60GB of RAM and 3.37TB of storage. The full cluster on the Top 500 list is Linux-based, with 17,024 cores, 66,000GB of memory, and a 10 Gigabit Ethernet interconnect.

via Amazon’s cloud is the world’s 42nd fastest supercomputer. I posted about this on Twitter, but it’s still a little astonding. Amazon built EC2 primarly to serve as their internal infrastructure, today a piece of it made it on the list of the fastest supercomputers in the world.

26 Oct

BBC News – Blackberry PlayBook operating software update delayed

The maker of the Blackberry PlayBook has delayed an update to the tablet computer’s operating system until next year.

Research In Motion said it expects to deliver the software in February. It had been due this month.

RIM has admitted that sales of the device are lower than it anticipated. It acknowledged customers want native email, calendar and contacts applications.

The update aims to add the features.

A company blog described the decision as "difficult", but promised the revision will allow the firm’s phones and PlayBooks "to work together even better".

RIM’s shares closed down 7.5% on the news.

via BBC News – Blackberry PlayBook operating software update delayed. Who could have guessed that people would want native email, calendar and contacts apps?

23 Oct

Marco.org – What’s Next for Apple

It’s painful for me to see the sad state of consumer electronics. People are so shamelessly ripped off by low-rent retailers to get such low-quality products.

One of the reasons people get so emotionally attached to Apple is that the entire experience, from walking into the store and buying something to using it at home, is so starkly different that there’s a strong feeling that Apple is saving us from the Best Buys of the world.

via Marco.org – What’s Next for Apple. Too true.

17 Oct

My Dinner With Android – Four months with Android: reflections, grievances and some tenuous metaphors bundled up into a weighty tome

If I could simultaneously re-experience my first time using iOS and my first time using Android, I don’t know how the two instances could ever reconcile. iOS feels like technology that’s years ahead of Android just through polish and design. And while a lot of Android users have told me that stuff doesn’t bother them, I can’t get over it. Why choose the tool that feels worse?

via My Dinner With Android – Four months with Android: reflections, grievances and some tenuous metaphors bundled up into a weighty tome. That pretty much sums up every bit of experience of Android I’ve ever heard.

04 Oct

Ars Technica – iPhone 4s out October 14, beefier specs, same body

Apple announced the next iteration of its iPhone, the iPhone 4S, at an event today in Cupertino. The phone’s body and screen are virtually identical to the iPhone 4, though it receives some significant internal spec bumps and a virtual "intelligent assistant" named Siri.

Like the iPad 2, the new iPhone 4S has a dual-core A5 chip clocked at 1GHz that is meant to deliver graphics up to seven times faster than the iPhone 4. Infinity Blade 2 was demonstrated on the handset; it’s an iOS exclusive that will be available December 1. Another feature migrated from the iPad 2 is screen mirroring, which can be done with the iPhone 4S either via AirPlay on an Apple TV or through a wired connection. The new handset will carry the same retina display as its predecessor, and will no longer need separate GSM and CDMA models; instead, the handset will be a world phone, with both systems included.

The camera on the iPhone 4S has been bumped up to 8 megapixels and now has an additional backside illuminated sensor that lets the phone gather 73 percent more light per pixel than the iPhone 4’s version, which should help with low-light photos. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior VP of worldwide product marketing, also noted that the camera will capture pictures 33 percent faster than before, with half a second between shots, and will be able to shoot 1080p video with image stabilization.

A new software feature that may be exclusive to the iPhone 4S is Siri, an "intelligent assistant" that answers questions and responds to commands by pulling up the appropriate app (it’s named for the similar app Apple bought in 2010). Scott Forstall, senior VP of iOS software, demonstrated the app by asking the phone "What is the weather like today?"—Siri pulled up the forecast. The command "wake me up tomorrow at 6AM" made the phone set an alarm for that time.

Siri can also send e-mails and text messages, make calendar entries, and take dictation in apps that normally require keyboard entry. Apple did not mention whether it will make APIs available for developers to integrate Siri into third-party applications.

via Ars Technica – iPhone 4s out October 14, beefier specs, same body. Nice bump to an awesome phone. Siri looks really interesting.

27 Sep

gdgt – Oh, one more thing about the Amazon tablet: the second, better version is coming very soon

Yesterday I posted about how the Kindle teams used the RIM PlayBook to get a color e-reader product out the door (gdgt.com­/discuss­/the­-amazon­-tablet­-will­-look­-like­-…). I stopped short of saying they’re rushing it out the door, but by all accounts I’ve heard that it was indeed delayed. (It doesn’t seem like much of a secret now that Amazon seems to have been trying to get a Kindle tablet out a little earlier this year.)

Well, this delay to get the "stopgap" Kindle tablet out in time for the holiday season this year may have pretty serious consequences for early adopters and holiday shoppers: my sources tell me the second-gen Kindle tablet (or Kindle Fire, as it’s now been dubbed) will be out in Q1 of 2012 — yes, that soon. That was always the plan, but the delays of the v1 product have messed up Amazon’s release cycle.

And what’s worse, the second tablet — which Amazon didn’t just take more or less off the shelf from ODM manufacturer Quanta — seems to be the device Amazon really believes in.

Granted, in the hardware world there are often delays; timelines shift and cascade, strategies change, and launches get rejiggered all the time — so this true 2nd-gen Kindle tablet may be pushed back, too. One can rarely say with certainty that a product will get out on schedule. But if all goes according to plan, it looks like you’ll be seeing the second Kindle tablet not too long after you take the plastic off your first. If it was my money, I’d hold out a bit.

via gdgt – Oh, one more thing about the Amazon tablet: the second, better version is coming very soon. I think I’ll hold off on Gen1 of the Kindle Tablet, if Gen2 is going to be coming out that soon.