Friday, February 12, 2010

Natural Habitat

Have you ever met someone who is just so in their element that you are in awe of what they can accomplish, all with a smile on their face?  I'm having that experience now.  Sahil Lavingia of One Week App fame is rocking it the way all software developers should.  It's that perfect Zen coding experience.

I signed up as a beta tester for his app, Dayta, and spent a couple days back and forth with him getting his app to load on my iPod touch.  I felt like I was getting in his way, but he kept at it, and we got it working this morning.  I clicked around, got a crash, found a couple of minor tweaks he could make, and sent him my crash report and suggestions.  He emailed me back that he fixed those in an hour.  How many of you can sit down and space out at your desk for an hour?

This experience got me thinking... what Sahil has created is his own little slice of the world that plays to his strengths.  You can call it finding his passion, being in the zone, or whatever slick phrase you want to use, but he's got it.  His website is a model for how good software developers work.  He's showing constant progress, getting regular feedback, and getting into the heads of his customers.  Granted, his app is targeted at geeks that get into this kind of thing, but you can still make a decent living targeting that group.

Watching his website is like watching the making of special feature on a DVD while the moving is still being shot.  What a ride.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


As a wannabe iPhone developer, I have been following Sahil Lavingia's One Week App experiment with great interest. He's building an iPhone application this week, from scratch.

The most interesting part is that he's doing all of this in public, and asking for feedback along the way. I'm picking up a lot of useful tidbits in both his design and coding process.

And the App, it's looking pretty interesting -- data entry and tracking. Go check it out at


The Apple Store was down a few minutes ago. That usually means they are updating their products. Since I just bought an iMac a week ago, it's hard not to imagine they will be offering a new model at half the price with twice the power.

Whew! It was just an update to Aperture.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Destiny Revealed

Originally uploaded by ryandobson

I've had a curious relationship with my Mac's. Each one has been dubbed a new name. I sort of feel like Chaos Manor, in this respect. I remember reading Jerry's column in Byte, and he was always talking about some computer with a new name.

The new iMac's name is Destiny, because it's my fourth Mac, I like Stargate Universe, and I hope to turn a new corner on this Mac.

My first Mac's (a dual-USB iBook) name was "Apropos", and I just always liked running that command on Unix. The next, a PowerPC Mac mini, is named "Babylon", after Babylon 5, the best Sci-Fi series out there. Babylon is still running strong. My third, "Campbell", named after Bruce Campbell, is a 15" MacBook Pro that I use at my day job.

Funny naming, but it keeps me creative. Here's to a new Apple rising.

Monday, February 01, 2010

How to Report the News

And this is why I don't watch network news anymore...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Theme

Inspired by my wife's new blog and theme, I started looking for a new theme to use. I ended up with dailynotes from I'll probably be modifying it as we go along, but drop me a comment and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


So, iPad it is.

This is pretty much everything I asked for here. It'll be missing Flash support, but I do suppose that is the best thing for the web. I'm still a little torn on that, but this will take HTML 5 where it needs to go. Now... at a starting price of $499, I'm blown away.

I could live with a WiFi only version of this, however the no-contract pricing they got for 3G access for this is phenomenal -- $14.99 for 250MB, or $29.99 for unlimited (per month). Let me emphasize the no-contract for that. You can buy one of these, and activate 3G access for it for just the month that you want to go out and take a trip where you won't have WiFi access. That is a big selling point for me. I'm not a road warrior, so I don't need this all the time. Without a contract, this is quite tempting. And it is just a bit more expensive than one of those mobile WiFi plans -- but you get the full benefit of the coverage of a 3G cellular connection.

I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on one of these.

The Tablet

Preface: I wrote this on January 5th, but never got around to posting it. I thought I'd put it up today, just before the announcement.

I can't help but write something about all the rumors floating around about Apple's impending iSlate, iPad, iTablet, or whatever they'll call it. No one knows for sure, but there is so much speculation out there it's almost like the speculation itself will create the product.

Apple has proven that they can define a market that makes sense (I'd say redefine, but they rarely look at something like that). The iPhone has taken 'smart' phones and brought them down to the level where normal people can use them without a PhD. Honestly, if you take a look out there... only the Droid is starting to compete -- but it's still a little geeky for mere mortals. It defines a whole paradigm for mobile hand-held computing. The iPod was also a market defining product. It took a few years to implement, but they slowly and steadily took a fringe market and made it mainstream. It does take focus to build this stuff out, and when they focus -- watch out.

Apple isn't immune to missteps, though. I think AppleTV is one of them. It just seems to be missing something. I think it's missing that true Apple focus to make it happen. Apple doesn't dominate that market, and it is a crowded market. Of course, when Apple came out with this product -- it did more than the others. It's just that it seems to have withered on the vine since then. People want it to do more, and Apple stubbornly sticks to the same story of "it wasn't meant to do that". I'm hoping for a surprise here, but I'm just not too sure.

The time is right for something new in the space between the iPhone and MacBook. Netbooks are creeping into this territory, but Apple doesn't want to make a crippled MacBook. It's time for a new interaction model to cover what people do in this space. I'm probably not the target market for this, but let me try and speculate what I'd do with it.

Watch videos. I will occasionally go out to the car at lunch or on a plane to watch a show or video podcast on my iPod touch. Sometimes I'll take it up to bed, but usually when I'm home I'll use my MacBook to watch videos online. Neither of these experiences work well for me - I'd prefer a screen size between the two, and an interface that doesn't get it the way -- something closer to the iPhone OS works well for this.

Read books. I've been reading a PDF book lately on my MacBook, and it's just not ideal. The interface just gets in the way. I've also tried several e-reader apps on the iPod touch, and it is okay for a few lines of text, but my hand gets tired and I have to keep my eyes too close to the device. I've used the smaller Kindle, and it's great for the books that they distribute, but you need the bigger one to really enjoy a PDF on it, otherwise the text is just too small. If the iSlate incorporates some book-like e-reader functionality, it would have to be comfortable to hold and have an interface that doesn't get in the way. I'm not fond of any of the 'standards' out there, so I'd like this to be an open-ended sort of application.

Compose messages. Email, Blog posts, and Twitter updates come to mind first here. I don't enjoy writing emails on the iPhone. It's better than others, but for anything more than a screenful, I'd just rather have some space to edit with. The laptop is great for this, but I will often get distracted with other things while I'm supposed to be writing -- I've had to resort to tricking myself with apps like WriteRoom and OmmWriter to keep myself focused on the task at hand. I honestly can't imaging touch-typing on an over-sized iPhone, so I don't quite know how they'd solve this one for me without a keyboard or a pen. If they do pick a pen (an odd choice, considering how most pen computers have gone out of favor), I'm not sure I'd enjoy it as much since my handwriting has become so poor from lack of practice. Either way, the task itself is something that I'd like to do on a tweener device like this.

Browse the web. The big time suck that it is, and probably my worst addition. I want the full web, though. As much as Flash annoys me for being a proprietary plug-in that mostly just sucks through my CPU, I'd still prefer it to be on a device of this class -- if only just to let me access the multitude of free web videos out there that rely on this. HTML 5 just doesn't look like it solved that video problem yet. Some online apps still require Flash for some of their more graphical widgets as well, like Mint's charts.

Casual games. Maybe just a little bit. I don't game much anymore, but I like a few games on the iPod touch. I'm trying to get through Monkey Island again, because I loved that game growing up, and I open up Pocket God every now and then. The rest seem to be seasonal for me, depending on what mood I'm in.

That's it. Anything more than that, and I'd say go get a MacBook. It's not much, but it's a big portion of my day that could be moved from either the iPhone or the MacBook. Other stuff would be great, but I probably wouldn't use any of that in my purchasing decision.

Notice how only two of those really would require network access? And only one of those needs constant connectivity. I think this device could get away with being WiFi only. There's enough free WiFi out there to make that convenient. With the size of a tablet, you're not going to be walking around holding it and networking -- it's more of a sit down and use it device.

Now, let's consider price. I think it's got to fit between the high-end iPod touch and the MacBook. You could have a high-end model that encroaches on MacBook territory, but there needs to be at least one model that's usable in between the other products.

The real fun with Apple is how are they going to get there. There has to be some software magic to pull all of this together into a new platform that doesn't make you feel like you're missing something from the MacBook, or that too much has been crusted over the iPhone. I agree with the others out there that there is going to be something different about this platform that makes it feel different enough to be it's own device.

As a developer, I want Apple to use the same development platform to make this happen, and I want some sort of App Store.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Journalists Need Retraining

I find this article amusing: Cut This Story!. Basically, journalists have added too much subjective flourish to their writing for color, and they're missing the point of what it takes to compete in Internet-time news.