Thoughts on the new iPod. I mean iPad.

First, the name. When I first saw the live blog being updated by engadget, I thought it was a joke. The iPad? Definitely not catchy or buzzy. It’s also, in my opinion, too similar to “iPod,” if you couldn’t gather that from the title of this post. And of course there’s the association to what my sister refers to as “female products” (“What do you need to buy at the store?” “Oh, uh, female products.”). I’ll admit, none of the rumored names were catchy either. iSlate, iTablet…mehh. But iPad?? Seems a bit….vapid and insipid (it almost resembles those words phonetically too).

Sidenote: I’m going to have to agree with my friend Will Quach about people calling the iPod Touch “iTouch.” WHY? “i” and “Touch” should not appear consecutively in a name because it just sounds weird. Apple certainly doesn’t call it that. I really hope people don’t start calling the iPad the “iTouchPad” or something. That would just be…unacceptable.

Second, stuff that it’s missing that people would’ve expected. Chances are you’ve seen these deficiencies already.

  • No camera -> no video conferencing or web chatting. For a device that boasts the best web and multimedia experience “hands down,” this is somewhat eyebrow-raising. What’s more perplexing is that the iPod touch and iPhone (aka iPad Minis) have cameras that can record video.
  • No phone calling. This actually doesn’t bother me at all, since that’s what the iPhone is for. I can’t imagine using the iPad as a phone anyways. If it can use Skype or Google Voice to make calls, that’s fine with me (at least there’s a microphone).
  • No flash support. Hmm…although it doesn’t bother me personally, but it seems like an odd thing to not push for inclusion, especially since a lot of websites are powered by flash.
  • No multi-tasking. This is quite a big deal in my opinion, especially since a lot of people bash Apple for this. If they were to release iPhone OS with multi-tasking capability, that would silence a lot of critics and Apple-haters. But critics can continue to bash this device all the more because Apple didn’t include it. An interesting comment that I read on engadget: “Someone give me an iPad running webOS.” That would be pretty cool.

Apple wants to market this as an e-book reader, and they have a new iBook store and iBook app. That’s pretty nice and the visual effects are amazing. The problem is that e-book readers are e-book readers because they use E-INK DISPLAYS. The whole point of creating an e-book reader was to have a device that was easy on the eyes and could be looked at for long periods of time without strain. It’s also perfect that E-ink displays have very low power consumption which means hours and hours of uninterrupted reading. I don’t think anyone who has a Kindle or a real e-book reader will regret buying one – if they do, my guess is they bought it for some completely wrong reason. Unfortunately the iPad’s LCD display, as advanced and cool as it is, does not make it suitable as an e-book reader. It’s kind of funny how it “boasts” a backlit display. Uhh…I thought the backlighting contributed to eye strain. The iPad seems hardly more of an e-book reader than a regular computer. It’s only moreso  because of the iBook app. Oh, and I guess because you can hold it more like a book too.

They’ve also released iWork for the iPad. The new UI looks pretty awesome too (trumps Microsoft Office by far). The price for each iWork app is also quite a good value ($9.99 each). But frankly, if I had this device, the last thing I would do with it is work. Sure, the display is large, but if I want to type a document, the keyboard takes half the screen. Not to mention the touch keyboard is probably unsettling to use for typing a document. Maybe Keynote would be useful, since making cool slideshows is closer to entertainment than “work.” But Numbers? Getting me to use Numbers on the iPad would be like having me take a math test in a movie theatre. I wouldn’t bother with it at all. HOWEVER, I could see how “working” on this thing becomes an acquired taste. It could be so fun and compelling to interact with, that people might insist working on it, even if just to show it off. But for hardcore “I-need-to-concentrate” work? No way.

Those are my main gripes. Now for the positives.

I think it has a lot of “cool-factor.” Sure, it looks like a giant iPod Touch, but that’s not really a bad thing. For viewing photos and videos and browsing the web, I’m sure it’s awesome. I mean people think it’s awesome on the iPhone and iPod Touch, and having a larger display just makes the experience much better, especially with an enhanced UI. And Apple’s UI is very nice indeed.

Although the iPad may lack certain features, it seems like it does what it CAN do quite beautifully and (presumably) robustly, and that’s a major plus. There aren’t too many things that offer a truly compelling, awe-inspiring user experience along with rock-solid reliability and robustness. Certainly not compiz on linux (at least since I’ve played around with it about 6 months ago).

People have been fretting over the 1 GHz processor, chuckling at Apple’s claim that it’s fast. But honestly, this is probably a good thing. It’s “custom-designed” so the fact that it responds quickly and smoothly with no hiccups, according to engadget (at least during the demos haha), means that the custom design is probably quite innovative. In fact it’d probably be better if other companies started optimizing lower-clock-speed processors so that they can do things more efficiently without using more power, instead of racing to pack in the fastest CPU’s in their products when they come out. Oh yeah…and the iPad can’t multitask so a faster CPU may not be not critical anyways. But kudos to Apple for making a slower CPU perform like a faster one (if it indeed does run smoothly and quickly in real practical use).

I must admit I was surprised at the starting price. For $499, it’s not a steal, but I think it’s definitely low enough to quell anyone that writes Apple products off as being too expensive. I guess 3G costs extra, but I don’t even use 3G now so can’t say much about whether it’s worth it or not. But if Apple wants to compete against the Kindle, it probably has to keep the price low.

So is this product “magical and revolutionary” as Apple claims it is? From a technical and engineering standpoint, it’s probably very innovative, especially the use of that A4 chip. But as a product? It seems like a big PMP with more apps. Do I want one? Sure. Would I buy one? No. And if you buy this because it’s an e-book reader, well…you’re probably more of a snob than a bookworm.

And here’s an image for good measure.

pulled from the Apple website

Palm webOS and Mobile Apps

Now I’m not going to pretend that I’m really well-informed about the business and economics of technology (my main source of news/commentary is Engadget which is essentially just a blog), but from time to time I feel the need to ramble about random geeky things and this blog serves as an outlet for that too.

Palm has not been doing too great in the last decade. They used to be pretty popular and and famous “back in the day.” Remember when people admired Palm Pilots as like an awesome piece of technology?  But over the years Palm has seemed to be overshadowed by RIM, Apple, and Motorola, especially by Apple’s iPhone. When I saw Palm at the Cornell Technical Career Fair last year, I was actually pretty interested since I wanted to get into consumer electronics and consumer applications. I told my dad and he basically said to look for newer “on the rise” companies; he considered Palm a “sun-setting” company.

I’m not going to try to tell my dad that he is absolutely wrong in this respect, but I do think he and other people might find that they have spoken too quickly. Following in the trend set my other companies in the mobile computing industry, Palm has it’s own mobile platform OS called webOS (Apple has iPhone OS, RIM has BlackBerry OS, and more recently Google has Android). And like the other companies, Palm now has an SDK available to developers for the creation of apps. So what makes their platform special and exciting to me?

During my last semester at Cornell, I had the opportunity to develop an iPhone application as a group project (iCampus at http://iphoneapps.cit.cornell.edu/, however unfortunately it seems that no one is using it or the site is not being updated because the User documentation has been “coming soon” for half a year now). I was pretty excited about making something for the iPhone, but the truth is, getting set up is impossible if you don’t have a mac, which was/is frustrating since I don’t own one. Also, assuming you do have a mac, you need to register on Apple Developer’s Network (which is true of other companies and their own Developer networks), and then download the iPhone SDK which is circa 4 GB. Even in this day and age downloading a 4 GB file can be intimidating, especially if the Apple site doesn’t allocate a lot of bandwidth for people to download it (my group members and I had issues trying to download it, but it may be much better now hopefully). But I admit, once everything is set up and you start to get familiar with the toolset and API, it’s pretty awesome.

In short, the paramount disadvantage is being tethered to a mac.  Now my next laptop will most likely be a mac (don’t get cocky mac fanboys; I wouldn’t seriously consider it if it couldn’t run Windows), but frankly I haven’t had too many productivity-blocking problems doing work with Windows. Most of the major problems I had I cannot definitively attribute to the OS itself (e.g. hard drive failure).

Anyways, back to Palm’s webOS. They too also have an SDK that needs to be downloaded, but they ALSO provide the toolset as a web application, which means you can develop apps in your browser! This effort is called Project Ares and it’s now in Beta and available for use to all developers. Here’s a link: http://developer.palm.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1883&Itemid=56

That is awesome. Right here in your browser there is allegedly a drag-and-drop interface builder, code editor, visual debugger, log viewer, and even source control integration. WOW.

I just registered as an open source developer, even though who knows when I’ll have time to develop anything. But it looks like a lot of fun and there’s a huge growing potential for clever apps that can pull data and services from multiple sources, all thanks to the internets.

Oh, and the upcoming Palm Pre Plus (available on VERIZON w007!) can apparently run 50 apps simultaneously. How’s that for multi-tasking.

Reflection for a Sheltered Twenty-something Year Old Christian

“Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel…from twenty years old and above — all who are able to go to war in Israel. You and Aaron shall number them by their armies.”

This is the commandment that God gave to Moses at the start of Numbers. One could say that all the males who were counted had to meet two criteria:

  • Be at least twenty years of age
  • Able to go to war

Only those who met these criteria were counted; the rest were not. Israel, the chosen people of God, was to be numbered by its armies.

I’m now 22 years old, approaching 23. How many battles have I fought for the Lord and His church? Have I been a diligent Christian soldier? Am I able to go to war for Jesus? If God were to take a census of the church today, numbered by its armies, would I be counted among them? Or would I be one of those for whom the real church workers are fighting and toiling, when I should be fighting and toiling alongside them?

Of course, the absolute age and gender no longer apply to us literally, but spiritually. Are we mature in our faith? Is our faith strong enough to withstand and endure hardship like a good soldier of Christ?

A trend that I see in myself and other youths around my age is that we largely still live for ourselves. We may be very busy with studies, but the free time we do have we’d rather spend indulging in entertainment and media or pursuing our personal interests. We lack the training and discipline of a soldier, not understanding and appreciating the magnitude of labor that the true church workers are bearing for us. And sometimes we even stand from a distance and criticize with our knowledge. But what have we done? What have we contributed towards the progress of the church?

Let us no longer be sheltered by the church, but let us be one who works and fights to provide it for others. Let us be numbered among the armies of God.

On the Earthquake in Haiti

Just the night before the earthquake in Haiti, I was leading an English Bible study for two students. We were going over some of the blessings that God commanded Moses to speak to the Israelites if they would obey His commandments, and I asked them how some of the blessings apply to us today. One of the things they said was living in this country and having enough money for plenty of food and water. To generalize a little, enjoying a high standard of living and quality of life.

In light of the devastating and tragic earthquake in Haiti, I could not agree more. How could anyone look at the images of destruction and corpses and not become more aware of how blessed they are? Buildings and schools literally in shambles. Shortages of food and water. Shortage of working hospitals. Lack of established infrastructure to effectively transport aid.

Just last week there were a couple small earthquakes in California. I felt some rocking and after it stopped I said, “Cool!” People didn’t die, my building didn’t collapse, heck – nothing on my table even fell to the ground. I went home after work to see my house still standing, and proceeded to carry on as usual. Sure, we may have worries and stress from our jobs and school, but at least we can always count on returning to a standing home and grabbing something from the fridge.

What a grace of God – to be able to carry on as usual. May the Lord bestow this grace and His aid to the people in Haiti.

Solution for anyone who wants to eat decent food but doesn’t know how to cook

Thank God for Trader Joes. Yummy home-style food that’s ready after a few minutes in the microwave.

I did some more shopping today for “essentials.” At Trader Joes I bought dinners that should last me several days – blackened cajun chicken alfredo with fettuccine and chicken quesadillas. I just had half of the cajun chicken alfredo and I must say it is far more delicious than anything I could make in 10x the amount of time. I also bought this cereal that looked good and a loaf of raisin bread which is quite heavy.

Then I went on a Walmart run to pick up pillowcases (I’ve been sleeping on pillowcase-less pillows for the past two weeks), laundry detergent (everything is “high-efficiency” now, which is the marketing term for 2x concentration), a blender (next on my grocery list is frozen berries and yogurt, but the house I’m renting a room in doesn’t have a full size fridge yet), peanut butter and jelly (if you haven’t had one in awhile, they are extra delicious!), spreading knives (3 for $1.50! Yes, they are metal; yes they are made in China), “perfect pushup” (because I’m gung-ho about pushups if you didn’t know that already), and a new desk chair! And by desk chair I mean a 75 cm exercise ball. Forces me to sit straight and not lean crookedly side to side, although it doesn’t prevent slouching. One step at a time I guess. Anyways, thanks to California’s 10% tax, I blew almost 100 bucks. Guess it’s not too bad, so long as the stuff lasts/doesn’t break. We’ll see though.

Thank God, life is pretty great. Things are smooth, work is busy, I have a really nice landlady, I’ve been journaling a bit more, and many other things to be thankful for. The only downside I can see is that after Martin Luther King day, there are no more company paid holidays until the end of May.