A New Site, A New Effort

So, I've heavily neglected my site for a long, long time.  I have actually been adding content, and working on projects, just not writing on the blog at all.

That stops now, I swear.  At least for a little while.

I've moved over to Squarespace.  The primary reason is that securing and running Wordpress myself hasn't proved a lot of fun.  I could do it, and stay on top of it, but in practice I don't, and bad things happen.

So welcome.  I have some new things coming to this space.

More Bad News On the Tablet Front

So, ASUS announced their two new Eee Pads today at Computex. And, they really look beautiful. Simple, clean design. Aluminum edges, thin, and according to Engadget, "neither was particularly heavy". But then there is this (from Anand):

There are two versions of the Eee Pad, a 12" and a 10" model. I'll start with the 10" first as it is the closest competitor to the iPad. The EP101TC runs Windows Embedded Compact 7 (Windows CE based) and uses NVIDIA's Tegra 2.

Windows CE? Seriously? Well, maybe the 12" will get some Android-love...

The 12" Eee Pad shares little in common with the 10" version other than the name. The EP121 uses a CULV Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and runs Windows 7 Home Premium.

Well, that's a better option than Windows CE, I guess, but we've already seen tons of tablet-style PCs. Without an OS specifically designed for a finger-friendly touch UI, the system really breaks down. Sure, certain applications that are designed with a touch interface in mind will work fine, but then you end up trying to configure the thing in the control panel, or use multiple tabs in your browser, and you start to see where the paradigm breaks down. In other words... If you need to use a stylus, then you've already failed (and there's a difference between needing a stylus, and being able to use a stylus when it suits you). And then there's this, from Engadget: "The EP121 wasn't booting at all". Oh, so it doesn't actually "run" Windows 7. It has a Windows 7 sticker on the glass. I see. Sign me up!

Switching back to the Tegra 2 powered 10" tablet, we get this (again, from Engadget):

An NVIDIA Tegra-powered EP101TC was powering on, but its Windows Embedded Compact 7-based interface was still noticeably buggy, and the touchscreen quite unresponsive. The UI certainly looked attractive enough, and our swipe motions across the capacitive touchscreen were handled admirably, but ASUS definitely has a ways to go in terms of functionality. We wish we had more impressions to share, but it looks as if we'll have to wait for a less half-baked iteration to really dive in.

It does look attractive, I suppose, but if I'm going to switch from the iPhone OS platform (abandoning all of my existing apps), I'm sure not going to do it for a Windows CE device. Not at this stage anyway. Perhaps after Windows Phone 7 comes out and matures for a while and proves itself in the market (assuming that those two OSes are effectively the same, and can run the same software, which isn't at all clear). Otherwise, I think Android is the best hope of a real iPad competitor. But this, along with news that many Android tablets are also not even close to ready, doesn't bode well at all.

Again, the hardware looks good on both devices. As far as the thinness and weight, the EP101TC is effectively the same exact weight as the iPad (675g vs Apple's quoted 0.68kg), and is actually a little thinner at 12.2mm (vs. Apple's 13.4). I haven't seen word on the exact dimensions of the 12" part, but I'd guess it is probably quite a bit more hefty and with a Core 2 Duo in there, certainly a bit thicker (and no word on if it will be a fanless design either). But hardware without the software is useless. And, frankly, if it is this early with the OSes not booting or not running well at all, then it is quite possible that those specs will change before the actual release. Again, hopefully these are just "early" looks. But Computex was supposed to be the big coming out party for the iPad competition. This really isn't a great start!

If everyone and their brother knew that Apple was working on a fancy, magical tablet for so long, and had all that time to prepare, then what the heck is taking so long? If what Apple put out was "just a big iPod touch" then why didn't you just put out a big Android tablet three days later?

Me thinks that it wasn't as easy as people may have expected.

Update: MSI apparently also showed off their Windows 7-powered WindPad 100 and Android-powered WindPad 110 at Computex (though apparently only talked about the Windows 7 version in their press conference). According to Engadget, MSI isn't even sure if they are planning to bring the Android tablet to market, and the model they showed certainly just seemed like a mock-up (stock Android only, not even remotely customized for the tablet). I can't say much else about these other than this: Wow, take a look at the cheap plastic ugly.

Update 2: More bad news... The quoted 10-hour battery life on the 12" Windows 7 Eee Pad? Apparently, that isn't quite as simple as it seems either. According to Cyril over at Tech Report, the announcement was for "10 hours of battery life for the docked config". So, that battery life only applies to when it is docked into it's keyboard dock, not to the Eee Pad itself in "normal" usage mode.

Adobe CS5 Installed

Just got Adobe CS5 Production Premium installed about an hour ago. Looks pretty nice so far, though I haven't done much with it yet. Noise Reduction and HDR stuff in Photoshop looks nice. Encore still looks very Adobe-ugly, rather than Adobe-clean, but I'm sure it is fine. Good timing since I just got my new Blu-Ray burner in, and I have to burn a Blu-Ray disc for the Bangor kiosk.

There will be more of this later.

Can't wait for Episode 6, Telestream!

Om nom nom nom nom

Dinner tonight: Grilled buttermilk marinated chicken breast, with grilled Brussels sprouts. Jenn marinated. I'm grilling. EDIT: We had wheat egg noodles with butter as well. Everything was delicious. Especially the grilled Brussels sprouts, which I wasn't too sure of ahead of time. Just lightly steam them first, and then throw them on the grill on skewers. Fabulous!

Android Tablet? Ain't No iPad Killer Yet.

I've been busy both at work and at home (at home I've been reconstructing my erased hard drive), with little time for writing in-between. Frankly, I admit, the time I could have been using to write has been used for beer instead. And I'm really okay with that decision. So, faithful reader, I'm going to instead refer you elsewhere for an interesting article and make some inane comments of my own and act like this is real content. That is, after all, what WordPress is all about, right?

One of my favorite writers over at Ars has a story up today about some recent hands-on time he had with the current crop of fancy-pants upcoming Android Tablets which use the super-hyped NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor. The results?

I've been a big booster of the idea that an Android- or webOS-based tablet could be superior to the iPad in a number of key respects, so I was prepared to be wowed by the demo units. And I was kind of wowed... but not in a good way.

As one of the major sponsors of the summit, NVIDIA had a strong presence. Their booth at the exhibit hall featured three different Tegra 2 tablet prototypes, all running Android. As I poked around at the different apps available for demo purposes—a Web browser, the Cooliris-based Gallery application, an AIR-based prototype of the newly launched Wired tablet app, and a short game that involved guiding a football player down the field—confusion began to set in. The performance stank. It was a stutter-fest. Worse-than-Nexus One performance was not what I was expecting from these prototypes.

Resizing pages with the Web browser was jerky and uneven. The Gallery app stuttered a bit and generally wasn't nearly as responsive as it is on my Nexus One phone. And the Wired tablet app was just awful, running as it did on Adobe's AIR platform. If you compare the demo app to the Wired iPad app released Wednesday, the difference is night and day in terms of performance. All three tablet prototypes were a huge let-down.

He goes on to say that he spoke to some of the Nvidia reps at the event about his issues with the prototypes and they basically just regurgitated PR-speak about how the Tegra 2 was "teh r0x0rs!!11one!" The whole article is worth a read, so check it out.

Wow. That's really a bummer.

Like Jon, I'm really looking forward to see what HTC, ASUS, and others bring out to compete with the iPad later this year. I'm absolutely interested in an iPad in theory. I've really wanted a good tablet-form-factor device for a long time. Up until the iPad, though, none of them really worked out when you actually got down to trying to use them (and I've tried a number of them out). The Windows tablets available so far have been absolutely terrible (if you ever need to pick up a stylus, you've already failed). The iPad may look somewhat lackluster on paper, but until you try one out, you really have no idea what they are like to use in the real world.

However, in my opinion, the current iPad really has one major issue that I don't see Apple addressing any time soon: the file system.

I'm really fine with Apple hiding the complexity of the filesystem on my phone. Would it be nice to be able to use my media management application of choice (rather than the junk that is iTunes) to sync music, video, and images over to my phone? Absolutely. J. River's Media Center has FAR better options for managing media, converting, and syncing that media to a handheld than iTunes could even dream of handling (in fact, you can't even load my full media library into iTunes without suffering through numerous crashes and without being forced to convert many of the files to other Apple-blessed formats first). However, there is some benefit to using iTunes for the sync. It makes managing the content on the phone relatively simple and self-contained. I just use MC to sync the content I want on my phone to a folder on my hard drive, use iTLU to sync that folder to iTunes, and then have iTunes just sync EVERYTHING it contains over to the phone. At my house, iTunes is only used to sync the phones, and never really "manages" any content on it's own.

The difference on a phone is that I'm using my phone mostly to consume content on the go. I'm listening to music and podcasts, viewing the occasional episode of Breaking Bad synced to the phone (or, more often, using AirVideo), listening to podcasts, looking up recipes on Big Oven or AllRecipes, reading email, and browsing the web. I don't, very often, use it for creating content (unless you count the occasional text message, tweet, or brief email as "content"). When I do actually create something "real", it is mostly notes in the Notes app (or occasionally things in Evernote). To get files onto the phone if I need them, I just use Dropbox (or AirSharing if I need something larger than I want to dump into my free Dropbox account). Either way, I generally don't really need to save this content out, re-edit it on my computer, and then round-trip the documents back to the phone. It just isn't an appropriate device for that type of use very often. Therefore, the closed and inaccessible file system really isn't A Big Deal.

On the iPad, I think it would be an entirely different situation. The iPad form-factor would open it up to being used as a content creation device as much as a content consumption device. I'd want to be able to open Word or PowerPoint documents up on the iPad, edit them, save them, and then edit them some more on my desktop machine, then put them back on the iPad, and so on and so forth. Even more, imagine a Tablet version of Illustrator or Photoshop? How about a tablet friendly audio editor, or a video editing suite that can round-trip with Final Cut? While these things are all possible with the iPad's locked-down file system, each application handles things a differently, and there are many ands, ifs, and buts when you get right down to it. Want to choose what application you want to use to open up one of those files in your Dropbox? Better hope the makers of Dropbox thought you might want to, because if not, you're out of luck. Since there's no filesystem, you can't just browse the files on your iPad in a "finder" and then choose what app you want to use to open them. You can't edit a document in one app, and then switch over to another app to tweak it further, unless support for that exchange has been specifically built into both of the apps by the developers (and then you can't come to rely upon this capability, because version 2.0 of one of them might break this support).

Look, I understand that complex file systems confuse novice users. But someone explain to me why can't we just have a simple shared "My Documents" folder, that is accessible via traditional USB-mass storage means on your computer and then let all the apps on the device play in this space? You can hide all the other complexity of the file system, but let us have this one special folder where we can easily stash our stuff. For a device in this "space", this feature is a must-have, not a "would-be-nice-if-it-did". Having each and every app vendor completely re-invent the wheel while stuck inside of their own little storage fiefdom is absolutely not a viable long-term option.

I had (and still have, really) great hope for someone to make a good Android-based competitor to the iPad that will fill this need for me. But, the clock is ticking, and this early look does not bode well for the revision 1.0 of the competitors. It looks a lot like the first ones out of the gate will have a very HTC G1 kind of feel, and that isn't a good thing at all. Here's hoping that Stokes saw only a cross section of some of the worst examples, or that the improvements over the next 3-4 months will be dramatic beyond belief, but somehow I doubt it. What concerns me the most is the implications this report has for the timing of the release of the final products. By the time we get something competitive actually shipping, January will probably be just around the corner, and with it, the announcement for the iPad HD or 2.0 or whatever. And say-what-you-will, but Apple is probably going to come on strong with the next rev of the iPad. They are taking this market very seriously.

So, like Jon, I still have a lot of hope for the Android Tablet future, but this isn't really a good start at all.

PS. Oh, and no. Chrome OS is not really what I want at all. Again, I want a content creation and consumption device, and not everything can or should run inside a browser.

I Am Not a Smart Man, But I Know What Erase Means

Note to Self: When using a disk cloning utility to save your system image so that you can wipe the drive and set the partitions up in a more sensible manner, it is best not to save the backup to a partition on the drive that you plan to erase. If you do this, you may accidentally delete said image when you proceed with the repartitioning process and not realize that the image has been deleted until you are ready to restore it. Ugh... Not a brilliant move.

There Was a Dream

"And it comes in black and it comes in whiteAnd I'm frightened by those who don't see it."

It reminds me very much of Jacob's Ladder. This is not a bad thing.

The Jackboot of Corporate Democracy

Via John Cole... After the oil rig explosion in the Gulf, Transocean appears to have engaged in a deliberate scheme of isolation, sleep deprivation, and intimidation in order to extort signatures out of the workers. After being pulled out of the sea after the explosion, the workers were held on the ships offshore for 36-40 hours, denied access to phones or radios in order to call loved ones, drug tested, deprived of sleep, and then told to sign on the dotted line "or else". From the Guardian UK:

By Davis's estimate, it took 12-15 minutes to get from the rig to the work boat, but it would take another 36-40 hours before they were to return to shore – even though there were dozens of boats in the area and Coast Guard helicopters airlifting the most severely injured to hospital.

Some of the men were openly furious, while others, like Davis, were just numb. He says they were denied access to the onboard satellite phone or radio to call their families.

When the ship finally did move, it did not head for shore directly, stopping at two more rigs to collect and drop off engineers and coast guard crew before arriving at Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

The company was ready for the men then, with portable toilets lined up at the dock for drug tests. The men were loaded on to buses, given a change of clothing and boxes of sandwiches, and taken to a hotel in Kenner, Louisiana, where finally they were reunited with their families.

Lawyers say the isolation was deliberate and that Transocean was trying to wear the men down so they would sign statements denying that they had been hurt or that they had witnessed the explosion that destroyed the rig.

"These men are told they have to sign these statements or they can't go home," said Buzbee. "I think it's pretty callous, but I'm not surprised by it."

Davis had been awake nonstop for about 50 hours by that point. He signed. Buzbee says most of the men did.

This statement seems to corroborate a story told previously by Christopher Choy, another Deepwater Horizon rig worker:

Choy, a young roustabout on the rig, was handed a form to fill out, asking what he'd seen. "They came on there, and they gathered everybody in the galley on the boat and handed out ... papers and stuff saying, '[These are] statements. You need to sign these. Nobody's getting off here until we get one from everybody.' "

But when Choy read the Coast Guard form, he didn't like what he saw. "At the bottom, it said something about, like, you know, this can be used as evidence in court and all that. I told them, I'm not signing it," Choy says. "Most of the people signed it and filled them out. I just didn't feel comfortable doing it." Choy shared his story at length with NPR and the PBS program NewsHour, in one of the most extensive interviews from a survivor of the April 20 rig blast.

The Coast Guard acknowledges it kept the men on the water in part so its investigators could get statements. But Choy says he thought the man who gave him the form said he was a lawyer with BP, the oil company. BP says it had no investigators or lawyers there.

It would be reasonable that the Coast Guard might want to interview the workers and get statements about the explosion and what was going on. Heck, someone from the government needs to be investigating at even this early point! But this doesn't quite sound like an investigation. This sounds like a corporate ass-covering maneuver with the Coast Guard looking on and providing a convenient excuse for the suits to hold the workers there and browbeat them into silence and indemnity. Then they were all drug tested, with those obvious implications (if you piss dirty, then obviously this was all your fault), and denied the ability to contact their families? Then, before they were allowed to go home, they had to go in front of Transocean lawyers yet again and have signatures demanded of them? Again from NPR:

But before they could go home, there was one more form and one more attempt to get the survivors to give information. At the hotel, there were representatives for Transocean who asked Choy to initial a line that said: I was not injured as a result of the incident or evacuation.

Choy had seen men with open wounds and burning flesh. He knew 11 of his friends were dead. He felt he was among the lucky ones.

Exhausted and just wanting to get home with Monica, he signed.

This is not only obscene, but it is criminal! Anyone involved, the actual lawyers or any other employees at Transocean (or BP or any other involved corporation) should be investigated and charged with Unlawful Restraint at the very least (and perhaps Kidnapping or Criminal Abduction). If the executives of the company knew about it, and surely they did if this level of thing was happening, then they should be charged as well.

Even if it is only Criminal Restraint, the penalties of which are often fairly light (fines and no more than 6 months in jail), it would send a message that this sort of corporate ass-cover is not acceptable.

Heck, with all of the hints of criminality surrounding this tragedy, they should indict the entire corporations (Transocean and BP, from what it seems so far) as criminal enterprises and prosecute them under RICO (which has predicate acts of extortion and blackmail).