Friday, 24 June 2011
Peter Falk passed away today at the age of 83. The actor best known for his role as Columbo overcame the loss of an eye to cancer as a child to build a lifetime acting career despite being told that it would be an insurmountable problem.
Columbo was an iconic role played by an iconic man, he will be missed.
Thursday, 23 June 2011
Sunday, 12 June 2011
At just over for hours start to finish it will probably go down as the longest Canadian race in history but today's Grand Prix had just about everything.
And whilst there's no disputing that Jensen Button's victory was well deserved, there have to be questions about his collisions with team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso that remove some of the legitimacy from his victory.
Last time out Lewis Hamilton was roundly criticised for his overly aggressive overtaking manouvres and Button's collision with Alonso was the equal of any of those. Made especially painful for the Spaniard as he gave Button plenty of room on the apex of the corner yet still ended up being punted off the track.
The collision with Hamilton was remarkably similar to the Schumacher-Barrichello incident last season, for which Schumacher was penalised and roundly lambasted. Button claimed not to have seen his team-mate, but having made a mistake in the previous chicane he should have been well aware that whoever was behind would be making a move. As it was we were lucky that contact was made side to side, otherwise it could have resulted in Hamilton's car being launched into the sport of cartwheel roll that can have potentially disastrous consequences.
Button has a visit to the stewards before his victory is confirmed. A 30 second penalty added to his race time would send the right message. However as the beneficiary would be runaway championship leader Sebastian Vettel it's never going to happen.
Friday, 10 June 2011
The more I use the iPad 2, the more I find myself bumping up against its shortcomings. Which is a shame because at the same time, the more I use it the more I feel that with a bit of flexibility on Apple's part this really could be the end of the consumer PC.
My argument against the original iPad remains intact. It's too big to carry around comfortably, even in a case it's a burden and putting it in a bag to carry removes the spontaneity from it's use.
Apple could easily fix this by releasing a 7" version. But they aren't going to do that.
I'll add in another problem that I've found with the iPad 2 which didn't affect the original: it's painfully uncomfortable to hold. The thin edge of the device dogs into the palm of your hand, concentrating all that weight into a small point of contact. The only solution I've found has been to ditch the Smart Cover and get a folio style case which covers that uncomfortable corner in padded leather.
On the operation side there are still shortcomings, but a lot of these will have been addressed by the iOS 5 system upgrade, when it arrives.
Glaringly, Adobe's Flash remains a sticking point. The iPad can't function as my sole browsing device without it.
Finally, the iPad 2 doesn't feel like a personal device. Whereas I'm loath to share my smartphone or Galaxy Tab with friends our colleagues, because I have an emotional attachment with them - I've no such qualms with the iPad 2.
On the other hand, it's a beautifully made piece of equipment, there's an awful lot of really high quality software available for it (iWork and Flip Board in particular) and you'll never be short an accessory.
Yet I still can't help but feel that this is going to be an device which ultimately fails to provide satisfaction.
It's not surprising though and the FIA's decision to continue with the race should shock no one.
These are the same organisations and people who were happy to defy the Apartheid boycott and race in South Africa through the worst years of troubles in the sixties, seventies and eighties...
Tuesday, 7 June 2011
Apple's draconian terms and conditions for applications aiming to appear in the iTunes App Store have never sat particularly well with mainstream media publishers, who need to own the customer relationship if they are to make a successful business of publishing.
So the recent changes to the operating terms which gave Apple 30% of ongoing subscriptions as well as app purchases was bound to provoke a response and it has duly arrived, courtesy of the FT's launch of a web app version of its daily newspaper.
This is important for the publishing industry because if it succeeds then it breaks them free of Apple's yoke (and to a lesser extent Google's) and gives them control of the interface with readers once more. Buyers 'download' the app from the website and deal with the FT direct for the subscription.
Its ironic that it comes immediately after Apple's launch of newstand which is designed to be a one stop shop for newspapers and magazines.
Other than the loss of the single point of contact I doubt that the average FT consumer will have concerns with changing from an Apple curated app store to buying from the FT website. Whether that holds true for other newspapers remains to be seen...
Apple delivered pretty much everything that was predicted at WWDC this afternoon: iCloud, Mac OS X Lion and iOS5.
The changes to iOS were surprisingly weak. Or rather the changes that didn't happen kept Apple from being able to reclaim the technology lead in the smartphone arena.
What was announced was good - notifications match what Android launched with in 2008, iMessage riffs on Blackberry Messenger and integration into the cloud was good but offers little over Google's suite. Even the automatic load to the cloud mimics Microsoft's Windows Live suite for WP7.
The decision to deliver iTunes Match seems a bit strange to me. For users who have only legitimately acquired MP3 files you're paying $25 a year to upload stuff you already own to the cloud. For users who have acquired their libraries through other means its an opportunity for Apple to collate how much illegitimate music you hold and, at some point in the future, let the music industry know how much you now owe them...
Its a very good copy of a service that mp3.com offered for years before being run to ground by the music industry. Rumours of a $150m sweetener to buy off the record companies seem pretty close to the mark, despite official denials from Apple managers.
Interestingly Apple haven't chosen to follow a subscription model for music - as much that was announced today appeared to be about applying stronger lock-ins to the Apple ecosystem that would have appeared to be a strong motivation for offering an iTunes subscription model.
Apple fans will probably go ape for the updates but my feeling is that there were too many stones left unturned this time around and whilst IOS5 will be nice, by September Android's Ice Cream will be looking an awful lot tastier.
Friday, 3 June 2011
security breached and more than a million customers details accessed
from an unencrypted store.
This is getting pretty embarrassing for Sony coming as it does within
days of the company's promise to get it's Playstation Network back
online worldwide in the next few days.
I'm having a hard time feeling sorry for Sony though, a lot of this
damage seems to be the result of it's own actions, some very dodgy
business processes and some unfeasibly lax security for a company of
Beggars the question about the habits of the other big online stores
that we allow access to our personal data. If one company can be this
easily targeted, what about the others?
journalists and web sites that it would be announcing it's new iCloud
service and new versions of both iOS and Mac OS X at Monday's WWDC
keynote given by Steve Jobs.
That's a little bit on the unusual side for a company which goes a
little bit further than anyone else in maintaining secrecy of it's new
products. Which has inevitably led to speculation that Apple has
something else up it's sleeve for Steve Jobs to reveal in his usual
'one more thing' keynote ending spectacular.
So what could this be? There are a few options, some possible, some
On the possible side we have the appearance of an updated iPhone 4 or
possibly even the iPhone 5. It's about the right time in the products
lifecycle for Apple to be thinking about replacing it. Alternatively
there could be some updates to Apple's Airport range of wireless units
and corresponding AirPlay support. My best guess is a new Apple TV,
possibly integrated with an actual TV... which would nicely match
Apple's recent adverts for TV engineers in it's development
Outsiders for a Monday announcement are a revised iPod range - the
iPod is surely on it's way out and Apple aren't likely to be spending
much time updating it's standalone players; a new iPad would also seem
to be unlikely as the current model is only just onto the market. A
smaller 7" display iPad would certainly fill a hole in the iPad's
market, but as Steve Jobs made such a song and dance about the screen
size being wrong I'm guessing that won't happen either.
There is, of course, the possibility that Apple won't launch anything
unanounced at the beginning of next week. But it just doesn't feel
like the sort of opportunity that Apple would let slip away...
Thursday, 2 June 2011
run it's natural life and is now beyond the point where it can run as
a usable smartphone platform; Meego has failed to deliver any phones
at all and the company has seen a massive fall in both market share
and market value - a pretty sorry place to be for the company that led
the mobile phone boom for the last twenty years.
There are remarkable parallels to Apple Inc., a company who in 1997
were on the ropes, with investors calling for the company to be shut
down and it's large cash pile to be returned to stockholders; with
market analysts comparing it's products and strategy to Dell's in a
less than favourable light and even Apple evangelists talking about
the imminent collapse of the company.
Then Gil Amelio pulled off a (possibly unwitting) master stroke, in
acquiring Next Computer and with it engineering the return to the
company of Steve Jobs. Jobs took the reins of the business, launched
the company saving iMac and acquired a small business with a innocuous
looking MP3 player that it parlayed into the biggest business in the
world. A pretty good return for a decade and a half of stewardship.
Over at Nokia Stephen Elop has the task of saving the business. A
Canadian previously responsible for Microsoft Office, his first move
has been to form links with Microsoft around the Windows Phone
platform. That's prompted some questions about his impartiality but
given Nokia's financial position, Google control over the Android
platform and it's need to move forward it's smartphone strategy it's
hard to see where else he could go.
What remains now is to prove that with a modern mobile OS, Nokia's
teams of (some quite brilliant) engineers can overcome the politics
which have dragged them down to this position and deliver compelling
devices to market. If they can it could be the saving of both Nokia
and Microsoft. It would also complete a turnaround at Nokia akin to
Steve Jobs early years at Apple.
Anything less and the company's futures will be in serious question,
no matter what it's relative strength look like today.
One of the most common reasons I hear for people switching platforms is that they avoid the virus/malware/slowdowns/reboots that plague Windows.
I've had my laptop for nearly eighteen months now and spend most of my days on the internet with it, install lots of software and uninstall a lot of it too; yet I've never had a virus nor suffered from any malware and I've never had to put up with slowdowns. My laptop only ever gets restarted when Windows downloads updates so probably rebooted no more than monthly. All in all I'd call the experience excellent.
And with it being Windows I've always been able to find just the right program out there to perform any of the weird and wonderful tasks that I ask of it.
So what are these people doing who are continually running into problems with their PCs? I have a hunch. When I used to do support as my day to day role I was regularly asked to look at users home computers which were misbehaving or running slow or otherwise causing them problems.
In every case the problem was either down to surfing almost unfeasible numbers of porn websites or choosing to install software prompted by a web popup. The latter used to be a non-issue on Macs but the recent Macguard malware has done for that bit of complacency.
So for the time being the biggest reason for buying a Mac is that you need to surf a large number of websites generally best enjoyed in a solitary environment and are worried about your machine being infected in the process.
Which definitely changes my views on some of my Mac owning friends and colleagues...