Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone - day 1

So I went ahead and did it. And it's pretty spiffy, too. The line was a fun experience, and I picked up my allotment of two iPhones (one for me, one for a client). Setup was simple - I snapped a few unboxing photos with my iSight as I worked for the heck of it...

After that thrill was gone, I set up the new account (although they don't offer "business" account plans, I was able to work around that by using my business credit card for the account and reporting my office address), and then got cracking. Even though I live in Essex County (area code 978) I was still given a 508 phone number. Interesting. My old Cingular phone had a 978 number, and I was given choices of numbers during the manual process. That was the only strike, though - overall setup was far easier than traditional cell phone setup ever has been. iTunes rocks.

Initial sync took about 15 minutes, bringing over my iSync data, one playlist of about 200 songs (550MB) and my last 12 months' worth of iPhoto data (about a gigabyte when re-rezzed down). Re-rezzing took most of that time, and really strained the processor utilization - on my Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, it had the fans roaring for the first time since I bought this portable. Once sync was complete, I was able to pick it up and immediately be useful. E-mail setting synced automatically. In this initial release, IMAP push doesn't seem to work with non-Yahoo services, so I set timed sync for 15 minutes (the minimum). I haven't done too much yet other than experiment with the interface (slicker than I thought) and make some calls.

Voice quality is excellent - better than my previous GSM Treo 650 by far. The iPhone is almost impossibly slim (under a half-inch), but is about the same overall height and width as a Treo, but lighter as well. It feels very solid, unlike pretty much every cell phone I have ever used in my life. Because I'm paranoid, I bought some screen protectors and placed them on it almost immediately, but in the limited touching I did beforehand it didn't seem especially smudge-prone.

Bluetooth, unlike with my Treo, is a joy. My Jawbone paired immediately, and the connection has been rock-solid. In the few hours I've had it connected, my Treo would have already reset the Bluetooth connection several times. Score one for iPhone! I did have one glitch with iPhone, though - my first attempt to record my voicemail greeting hung the voicemail app - and trying to figure out how to unfreeze it I inadvertently rebooted the phone. Oops (turned out I pressed the wrong button combo - a different combo will reset an individual app, and I tested that later on purpose). The bright side, though, is that the iPhone rebooted in about 10 seconds to a fully operational state. The Treo 700p takes a minute or more.

Overall for now, this is a very spiffy little device. Quibbles - I'd like to see an LED that can be used to notify me of new e-mails without having to wake the phone up. Push support for non-Yahoo IMAP would be nice, too - my Kerio server supports it, so I want to use it. The mail client itself, though, is pretty good. The lack of copy/paste isn't a major problem so far, but I could maybe see that being an issue down the road. Also, my Jabra wired headset doesn't fit the recessed iPhone jack, and needs either an adapter to work or replacement. That's annoying. I don't really have too much else I can whine about yet, though I'm sure I'll find it - the nice thing is that given that it's Apple, there will probably be frequent software updates pushed via iTunes and most of these glitches will be addressed.

I'll probably write more about it in a week or so. For now, its nice to be off my accused Treo and on on something that actually works!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A couple more serious iPhone things

Here's the bottom line that I've learned from my year or so as a Verizon Wireless voice customer:

Yes, Verizon has the most complete network, with the fewest dead spots. They even recently seem to have closed the hole in coverage they had for years at the intersection of routes 1 and 97 in Topsfield. But it matters little, because Cingular and other GSM carriers have one key advantage:

SIM cards.

When you use a SIM card, your entire existence as a customer is contained there. Your account info, phone number, and such are dependent on the SIM, rather than on the phone. So you can go out and buy any off-the-shelf unlocked GSM phone and it'll Just Work with your SIM inserted. This is key. Verizon, for instance, has offered the same passel of "smartphones" for months now. The only two Treos they offer are the 700p and 700wx - where other carriers have completely moved on from those models. The 700 dates back over a year - meanwhile, the 680, 750, and now the 755 (for Sprint/CDMA) are out and have been for a while now.

Verizon, on the other hand, really doesn't seem to care too much about the smartphone market. They do have good Blackberry options, and are good in the consumer space, but if I want a new phone I have to go through them to get it and then I'm stuck with it.

If I did buy an iPhone (and I likely will - if not Friday then in the near future), and I decided the device sucked, I could always remove the SIM, sell the phone, and then buy an unlocked phone that I liked better. There's options in GSM, even if some aspects of the technology are inferior (I think voice quality is, in fact, better on CDMA networks).

Bottom line: Verizon is fine for people who want voice. Its great for people who want data, too (they're aggressively moving to EVDO Rev.A and they have the best overall coverage). But if you want a Wonder Phone that does it all, then it's not so much. Which may be iPhone's market opportunity in a nutshell.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

iPhone in 3 days...

Why I won't buy an iPhone:

It's expensive.
No removable battery.
Touch screen keyboard?
AT&T has a decent network, but it's not as good as Verizon's.
No 3G support.

Why I will buy an iPhone:
As much as Verizon's network is better, their multiple call interfaces and voicemail suck.
So does their Caller ID.
So does my Treo.
The iPhone is way smaller than the Treo. I'm sick of the dorky belt clip.
Battery life is better on GSM devices. I now know that. And I've never swapped a battery on my Treo during the day (I trickle-charge it in the car or on a sync cable when I need to).

Regardless of whether or not I buy one, I am going to the launch on Friday. It should be fun.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Holy crap

This afternoon, just before dinner, I saw the news that Chris Benoit, is wife, and their 7-year old son were found dead in their Atlanta-area home. That just plain sucks. Chris was a gifted performer, and by virtually all accounts I've heard he was a pretty good guy for virtually all of his 40 years of life. Assuming Occam's Razor holds true and the obvious answer is what happened, how does a good life go so far off the rails so fast? How does it all fall apart like that, and how can a child just barely older than my own son get caught up by it, too?

Food for thought. No, I don't believe in heaven or hell or any of that crud, but if there were an afterlife, Chris would be having 5-star matches with Eddie Guerrero that would bring down the house every time. And if there was a such thing as divine intervention, that family would still be alive - rendering the point moot.

Those of you with families - give your spouse and your kids an extra hug tomorrow when you wake up. Just because.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A few thoughts

Just a few things in the world at large I thought I'd comment on quickly this morning before I hit the road...

- In the local news here: Joe Kennedy's ex-wife is gloating, because she was able to get the annulment he had requested overturned by the Vatican on appeal. So this is a win for you how, Sheila? It just means that "legally" you can't move on with your life and get married again, either. So you're bitter that he divorced you. It was over 15 years ago - get over it, for Pete's sake! On another note, this annulment crap is yet another reason why I'm firmly convinced that religion in general is ludicrous.

- The Mass. Pike is thinking about implementing high-speed toll readers (good), and congestion pricing (bad). I like the readers, because it'll ease rush-hour traffic. That's a plus. However, despite my general preference of market-based solutions when possible, the idea of congestion pricing for roadways is one where I depart from most of my libertarian-leaning brethren. You see, driving isn't entirely market-based activity. Most people drive at a certain time of the day because they have to - not because they want to. Work and commuting aren't really discretionary, and the employment market has relatively little excess capacity for workers who want to change to save money commuting. Not to mention that virtually all employers don't really care what the toll prices are when they set work hours. They shouldn't - they don't pay that cost. So the burden of congestion pricing falls entirely on the workers, and they really can't do anything about it. Ergo, I'm against it.

The flip side of this is that on average traffic has vastly improved over the last decade or so - the Big Dig has made a huge impact here. There are still traffic hotspots outside of town (Route 3 southbound, Routes 93 and 1 northbound), but overall Boston itself is far easier than it was back in my commuting days - I drove through Boston as a commuter from 1992 to 1998, and I remember 45-minute delays on the Tobin Bridge and at the tunnel almost every rush hour. Those days are long gone.

- I'm kind of enjoying the last-minute hype boosts that Apple's orchestrating for iPhone. Monday they announced that the specs had been upgraded - the screen would be glass instead of plastic (a decision they must have made months ago, but held off on announcing until this week), and battery life was now 8 hours' talk time instead of 5. Then yesterday they announced that the "mystery" 12th application was YouTube on the phone. The hype has built to unprecedented levels, and there's still a week and a half to go - not to mention that they haven't even announced the service pricing for the darned thing yet! Cellphone industry, meet Apple. Enjoy the ride.

- This was our romantic "date night" last night: a nice dinner, followed by a trip to Home Depot where we bought a new grill (the old one had rusted out a couple of years ago) and some ant-killing supplies. I'm not sure if that means our priorities are different nowadays, or if we're just kinda sad!

(we were going to go to the movies, but we got too late a start last night to do that as well as dinner - hence the substitution)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Back in town

iPhone launch T-13 days and counting...

Vacation ended pretty well, and the last week was hectic in catching back up with life (plus, the week before Fathers' Day is one of Jane's Hell Weeks at work). I'm still jealous that David caught a fish and I didn't!

Over the next week as iPhone details trickle out, I will try and write a little more analysis. It may not be the greatest phone in history, but it is a significant event that has already changed the phone business. And I've been pretty deeply into it.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Productive trip

We're leaving in a couple of hours. I was able to make it through three of the four books I brought this week (God is not Great, Rapid Response, and I'll Sleep when I'm Dead). I'm going to start The Assault on Reason this morning and read more of it on the ferry, plus I bought three more books out here.

Everyone needs souvenirs.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Coming in for a landing

Behavior improved somewhat - still nothing great, though he's had some good stretches. Yesterday we spent much of the day on a fishing excursion out on Chappy - we went out guided on a Trustees of Reservations private tour. We started out at Wasque, but when a big seal came through the fish scattered and so we headed up to Cape Poge gut. I have pretty much mastered casting by brute force (it's a simple motion to throw and a lot less work than, say, throwing a baseball), Jane and David not so much. Jane by the end of the day was at least no longer a threat to folks in her vicinity. David, of course, needed help casting but was fine on the reel - and he was the only one of us to catch a fish, too! He brought in a bluefish, roughly 18" long after snagging it on a gill. He was incredibly happy about it, though reluctant to touch it since "it was slimy". We let it go, though I think I still have some fish blood on my sweatshirt.

That was the only catch of the day. However, one fish made David an expert and after that he was happy to share advice with all the other anglers out there. We wrapped up the afternoon with a trip up to the top of the Cape Poge lighthouse, which was also quite cool.

Today was spent trying to get in all the last things we'd wanted to do before leaving (we're on the noon ferry tomorrow). First, we went into Edgartown for a coffee and some shopping over on North Water Street (where we hadn't had a chance to go yet on the trip). Afterwards, we tried to take the ferry out to Chappy again so we could go tour Mytoi, but the morning line was pretty severe and the ferry was backed up around 45 minutes. So we went up-island instead (after reassuring David we'd be back - he really wanted to go there), and had lunch at Larsen's. While we were there for lunch, David got to go aboard a fishing boat that was loaded with flounder. He liked that. Then we headed up to Gay Head for some pictures on the cliffs (Jane's activity pick), but the fog had rolled in enough that we didn't stay long at all. Then we drove out to the beaches on the Lobsterville side, and afterwards went back to our condo for a short visit before finally going out to Chappy. We drove down to Wasque first and went for a walk on Norton Point beach (though we didn't walk anywhere near to the breach), and then went back up to Mytoi. I bought a couple of t-shirts there - mainly because they had 2007 season shirts for $5 and you can't buy a good t-shirt for that nowadays, decorated or not!

Then, after regrouping at the condo again for a short interval we went back into Oak Bluffs one more time for some shopping, dinner at Sharky's, and a chance for David to redeem his nearly 300 tickets at the arcade. He did well for toys. Finally we went for one last trip to the Flying Horses carousel and he managed to snag two more brass rings. I think the last time he rode he wasn't trying very hard - he was kind of sick of riding by then (6 total on this trip - 4 of which he snagged and two of which were given to him).

Jane's planning to get up early tomorrow and let me sleep in for a few in order to get most of the packing and cleanup done. We have to be out of here by about 10. Should be home if all goes well (the mid-day weather is a little dicey tomorrow) by 3-ish.

At which point re-entry into normal life begins in earnest.

You know, if I could really grow this company of mine to 10-20 people, I could probably buy a place here and commute back to home during the summers...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Next day report

Better. Not great, but better. He made an effort, especially this morning, and we rewarded him appropriately. We went fishing for a while on the Edgartown/Oak Bluffs bridge until thunderstorms arrived and chased us away - no fish (of course), but very wet clothing! We went home to regroup and dry off, then went into Tisbury and had lunch at Zephyrus once the rain cleared up. After some wandering around town, we went back and got David to take a nap, after which we drove to Oak Bluffs for a walk around the cottages and supper. We tried letting him stay up later tonight - it's pretty much going to be policy the rest of this week to get him taking a nap at some point during the day in the hopes of better behavior overall. He's not that predictable, except to predict that he'll be unusually nasty when he's tired.

Tomorrow's agenda - more fishing in the morning. Afternoon activities TBD. And Thursday
we'll probably go out oversand to Cape Poge for - you guessed it - fishing! David's kind of obsessed with fishing, and it's harmless and fun so why not?

In other news, The Santa Rosa MacBook Pros were announced as I expected. No major changes other than the graphics chipset, and as most sources predicted the 15" will now use LED backlighting for better environmental goodness along with lower power usage and better brightness. Me like. The 17" now has a full HD resolution version available as well - so for those of you who edit 1080p HD on your laptop you can now play in Final Cut land. I'm actually leaning towards scaling down to the 15" again the next time I buy a laptop.

Also, the Santa Rosa chipset is full 64-bit, so you can now use a full 4GB of RAM in your MacBook Pro and have it addressed. Woot! (the original Core Duo was 32-bit, and the first generation Core 2 Duo was 64-bit internally, but used a 32-bit chipset). Expect an iMac redesign next week at WWDC along with more about the mini's fate perhaps - current rumors have the mini being canned.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Downhill slide

We arrived on the island around 1 on Saturday. Other than a key goof-up (the wrong keys were left for us, but fortunately that was rectified about 10 minutes after we made it to the condo), day 1 went fine. Jane and David went swimming right after we arrived, we had a very good dinner at Sharky's, and everyone went to bed tired pretty early in the evening after playing down at South Beach for a while.

Day 2 - Nice morning (a drive up-island in the morning with lunch at the dock), with a grumpy afternoon punctuated by a nap before we went back to OB for dinner. A lot of whinyness.

Day 3 - meltdown. Awful behavior all around, from breakfast on through the evening. After breakfast in town, we came back home to watch movies (quite a few have been provided here for us) and wait out the rainstorm. David's been foul, complaining that we won't play games with him and that he misses his cat. Finally, after the rain passed we went back into town for a walk and to get some stamps - when he went strolling out the door against my orders at the post office we finally decided enough was enough for the day, went back home, and confined David to his room until supper.

I'm hoping for better tomorrow, but I'm not overly optimistic. We've had a lot of this sort of trouble with him lately. Fortunately, there are some well-regarded babysitting services here that we can turn to for a break if he becomes unbearable. This vacation will be fun, dammit!

More seriously, what we're trying to do is mix in a decent number of the kind of stuff he enjoys (outside play, exploring, bookstores, and anything water/beachfront) with the slower-paced stuff we like to do. Today was really tough, though, because the weather held us back. I think the improved forecast will help some but he's really going through a tough stage right now. We're demanding more maturity from David than he wants to give, and eventually one side will break. We're counting on it being him. You don't need to be an adult at 5, but you can't be a toddler anymore, either. We'll get there.

And my business seems to be taking care of itself fairly well in my absence. Also a plus.