Sunday, July 13, 2008

OK - time to grow...

I am going to experiment with Twitter.  My ramblings will be at - most of my more interesting thoughts are one-liners, anyways.  Dunno if it'll last, but iPhones are quite well-suited to microblogging, so I might as well experiment with being a 2.0 kinda guy.

The iVerdict 2.0

So far, I'd have to pronounce the iPhone 2.0 as a qualified Win.  A full Win isn't awarded until a couple of days into the workweek when I have answers to a couple of the things I've seen.

Here's the Win/Fail count by item:

Firmware 2.0: Win.  Many operations (like using the Photo app with my 8.5kPhoto library) are faster.  Mobile Safari protects from ad pages and pop-ups better, but crashes more often on really complicated stuff.  Contacts search is huge.  This Win pretty much balances out all the Fail awards, it's so big.

Battery life: Possibly Fail.  I had push on for my Exchange-ish account (I use Kerio Mail Server 6.5 at work), but after the first day of normal usage, for some reason last night it caught in a loop or something and drained half my battery in about an hour.  I assume a bug.  Until I figure it out I went back to timed download.  If push does this regularly then battery life gets a Fail, but still no Win unless 3g life turns out good.

AT&T 3g - Fail.  3g speed rocks, but often I find myself unable to get any bars of 3g.  And the phone has some trouble switching back and forth.  Indications online appear to be that this is an AT&T issue - they had similar capacity problems the first week or so after iPhone 1.0.  So for causing the same issues two years running AT&T gets a bag full of Fail.

GPS: Win.  Works well, locks quickly, and is pretty simple.  Well-integrated with Maps.

Form factor: Big Win.  The 3g is more comfortable in the hand and slides into a pocket better.  The new speakers are clearly better.  The buttons are even better, and the headphone jack is normal.

Activations: Massive, unprecedented Fail on day 1.  Not so bad now.  Apple worked around the worst of it, thankfully, and I got mine activated without too much trouble once I made it home.

Peripheral compatibility: Win, but the Firewire loophole is now shut.  Until this model, you could use older Firewire-based chargers to charge iPhones.  No more.  Otherwise, compatibility is good.

Capacity: Win.  16 GB is mega-useful.  My old one was full.

As with the old model, expect a minor firmware update to be distributed in 2-4 weeks that fixes the vast majority of the issues I and others notice.  Despite the things I've dinged here, overall there is a lot more polish on the 2.0 phone than was on the 1.0 at initial release.  That's important.  And the App Store is awesome.  I can't even do justice to it in this post.

Friday, July 11, 2008

iPhone 2.0 in-hand

Yesterday I got my hands on the 2.0 firmware and updated my original iPhone.  I was impressed.  But today I went to get the new phone anyways.  Just for comparison's sake - last year I arrived around 3:30 PM to get the phone at the 6PM opening.  About a half-hour after the store opened, I was on my way out the door with the phone and had it activated soon after.  Today, not so much.

In today's case, the store opened at 8.  I went over at 9, hoping the line wouldn't be as bad as last year.  I was right - it was worse.  I finally got into the store a little before 2PM (!) and the actual purchase was relatively pain-free.  The payment systems at Apple were up and down much of the day and that slowed them up even more.  Apple was activating phones for people who wanted that - I just wanted to get home by then (I was starved and tired), so I got in, backed up my old iPhone (which was deactivated already) and, after a few tries I was able to get the phone activated.  Restoring took about 15 minutes, and I had to re-setup my voicemail because it was lost in the transfer.  All OK in the end, though.

UI performance is slightly more responsive than the original.  The hand feel is a little better (it's tapered now), and the volume is much better on the speakerphone.  The 3g radio is significantly faster.  You can tell.  Other than that I'm still getting the hang of it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

This just in...

If you are looking for a laptop (or any other piece of expensive electronic hardware), please don't look to get it from a foreigner on Craigslist!  Every day, I see alert messages on my mailing lists that "Amy from Manchester UK" (substitute name and European city du jour) is selling a MacBook Pro (substitute other Mac or Dell or whatever du jour) and is obviously a scammer, based on some research the intrepid poster has done.

Duh!  They're all scammers!  Craigslist is a wonderful thing, but has rapidly become the scammer's medium of choice.  I won't use it for the same reason I won't eBay - it's just not worth it to me.  I don't feel like trying to judge character to save a few extra dollars.  I've only sold a couple of things via eBay, and those times I had my friend Rob (an eBay nut) sell 'em for me - and the last time we did so we dealt with a jerk in CA who was trying to rip off my old iPod.  Screw that.

If you're looking for a used sofa within driving distance, Craigslist is awesome.  If you want a laptop, go to the vendor directly.  If you want to save a few dollars, there's a web store called Amazon that I hear is pretty good.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

iPhone Reloaded

So here's the scoop.  Unlike last year, when I really didn't make up my mind that I would get an iPhone until the morning it came out, I already know what I'm going to do this time.  I'm going to get one.  In fact, I will get one fairly early in the day Friday (I won't wait for the store to open, but soon afterwards).  I will do it because a large number of my customers want to buy them, and I'll need all the expertise I can get with it.

However, I'm also quite happy with the one I have now, a year later.  Here are the reasons that make sense for me to upgrade:

- Starting over with a new battery.  A year after buying the first one, I'm sure the charge capacity will start tapering off in the next few months.  Li-Ion batteries are like that.

- 3g.  Fast Internet is good.  And Metro Boston has pretty solid 3g coverage.  In fact, most of the East Coast has good coverage.

- Better voice quality.  This is nice.  The existing model is pretty good for a GSM phone, but it can always be better.

And why I really would rather keep the current one:

- Cost.  Why buy a new one?  And the plans are a little more expensive.

- All the coolest new software features are free with the 2.0 software update that comes out Friday as well.

- 3g is fast.  But you pay by giving up battery life for it.  Only 5 hours' combined talk/net time, compared to about 8+ when you use EDGE (still supported, by the way).

- Now that the iPhone is in a traditional subsidized model, you are locked to the phone for 2 real years - not like the old one where you buy the phone and that's it.  Plus that makes the purchase more of a pain in the ass - now I have to actually do the contract in the Apple Store.  Blah.

Personally I'd rather buy it for the $499 that the 16GB model would cost unsubsidized, activate at home, and then get a credit back or something for the $200 subsidy amount by buying it at Apple.  Or buy at AT&T the same way, and get a rebate check or something.  Whatever.  One of the great things about iPhone 1.0 was that it let you take the annoying cellphone store paperwork and crap out of the process.

Either which way, though, in the end iPhones are a money-maker for me because for my clients Apple can do no wrong.  Which is nice.  Plus they make cool stuff.

Plug-in cars - why gasoline isn't dead yet

Yeah, this is not my typical topic, but with all the hype around electric cars lately (gas at $4/gallon will do that), I'd like to point out exactly why the internal combustion engine as we know it isn't dead yet, and may not die in the foreseeable future, either.

It's a simple bit of everyday math. I can pull into a gas station and fill my car with about 20 gallons for gas in 3-4 minutes. Maybe less. That 20 gallons of gas will give my Honda Pilot (I bought it about a month ago to replace my trusty Kia) enough fuel to travel between 350-450 miles, depending on the kind of driving I do. Or a full day on the road, realistically, assuming I am on a long trip of some sort.

On the other hand, even assuming twice the battery performance of today's battery packs, I will at most get about 250-300 miles out of a charge, and the car will have to be substantially smaller to do that. Plus I will need to charge the car for at least an hour or more to charge an empty battery - not the several minutes that it takes to fuel up.

Now granted that electric cars are far gentler on the environment in almost every way (batteries usually have a decent load of toxic metal in them), especially because from an infrastructure perspective it is far more efficient to simply get power from the grid than it is to transport large vats of gasoline in trucks and tankers. No-brainer there. But if electric cars could take a full charge in about 5 minutes or so (maybe even 10) and then provide sufficient power to take a small crossover SUV-ish vehicle (like a Honda CR-V or maybe a Chevy Equinox) for 300 miles, that's the point when they will rule. But for now fossil fuels are still a far more effective way to get power to a vehicle.

I think ultimately plug-in hybrids will be the best answer, maybe eventually fuel cells as well. But the combination of power from the grid combined with easy chemical generation will give us the best overall flexibility, plus maximum compatibility with the existing infrastructure.

On the other hand I'm one battery generation away from buying a Segway. When they can get a range of about 30 miles (they're good for up to about 20 right now) and recharge in a half-hour to 80% capacity I will jump onboard and do most of my local travel that way. Add a 6-foot retractable power cord so I can top off wherever I am easily and all will be well with the world.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Back intact

My family returned to me last night, ending (once again) my bachelor days.  It wasn't a bad week without them - I worked all five weekdays (including the holiday), went to a cookout, had fun at the NASCAR race up in New Hampshire, and cleaned the house pretty well (considering).

With them back, we spent the day doing Family Stuff.  Breakfast together at IHOP, and then after we spent an hour or so together with the Globe, we went for a walk into town and even took time to go to the movies together (we saw Wall•E, which was terrific).  That represents two movies in one year for me (last month Jane and I went to see "You Don't Mess With The Zohan", also enjoyable, though not brilliant like Wall•E was).  It's a modern-day record.

Work is lined up to be slightly slow the next few days, but between iPhone 2.0 and a bunch of customer projects starting next week we're going to be really busy from here on in.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

It's gonna be a long season...

Swept by the Rays. Ouch.

More seriously, this years' Sox are an odd case. Definitely a team in transition. There's a very good crop of starters coming aboard from the minors (Buchholz and Masterson), Beckett isn't quite up to his '07 form but still the best starter on the staff, and both Matsuzaka and Lester have made huge strides. Plus Wakefield is still Wakefield. They've upgraded at their backup catcher position, have the same infield as last year (for a change), and still have arguably the best closer in the game today. Plus this year we're finally getting a taste of what JD Drew can do - he was just player of the month for June.

Why are they in trouble, then? Well, first of all the injury bug. Dice-K missed a few starts, Bartolo Colon is on the DL now with back problems, and Beckett missed the first couple of weeks and isn't quite back to form. Combine that with Mike Lowell's stint on the injured list and the 6+ weeks that Ortiz will have missed by the time he comes back, and that's a lot of consistency gone. But there's more.

First of all, Lugo is a huge weak spot. He is hitting better right now than he did at this point last year, but at this point last year he was below the Mendoza Line. You can't suck more than that. Combine mediocre offense with horrid defense and he's a huge liability. You can take a weak-hitting shortstop if he is a vacuum in the field, but not when he just sucks.

The biggest problem this year though is the combination of a slumping Varitek (every year he has a longer offensive slump - this year he looks more overmatched than ever) and a middle relief group that has just been awful as a whole. Each one has had a good streak, but as a group they've been horrid. The best thing I can say about Mike Timlin is that he's rehabbing in the minors. Manny Delcarmen seemed like he was going to make The Leap this year, but he's regressed. Craig Hansen just may never quite get there. And Hideki Okajima seems to not have the command he did last year - he used to be able to hit spots with his fastball and use it to set up his offspeed stuff. He isn't doing it this time around.

The Sox have so much offensive firepower that they can't help but stay in the race (even assuming 0-for-3 perfomances every night from Varitek and Lugo), but I don't think we'll be spoiled with another Series this year. I hope to be proven wrong, though.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

This is my life

I'm home working this week while Jane and David are off at the beach.  So that said, here's my swinging bachelor life today:

Leave my last work stop just about 5 in a raging thunderstorm.  Dash to the car, soaked through (in only about 50 meters' distance).  Drive to the market and buy some fish.  Cook dinner.  Do some remote work and catch up on e-mails.  Read paper, watch some TV.

I noticed a pesky fly that got into the house and was buzzing around.  But I didn't see him for a while.  I also noticed that the floor in my home office is kind of dirty.  As I sit down to check the news before bed, the fly zips by me a couple of times.

So I decide to multitask.  I have a Dyson vacuum, legendary for its power.  I go and get the vacuum, plug it in, and start cleaning my floor.  Right up until the fly settles for a moment on the outside of my wall lamp.

That hose pulled him in just like that.  Bang.  And I have a clean floor.  This is bachelor multitasking.