Is it Christmas?
This is an update to a previous post of Anthony’s: If today is Christmas while you are viewing this post, click the following link:
(One day only: Is it Christmas?)
Be sure to turn your sound on, and listen for at least a minute.
Hey Anthony. I’m looking into getting a tablet pc or 2 for work. Our software just came out with an interactive program which would make it possible to complete alot of work on-site which is normally written and then entered later, including a sketcher. Do you know any thing about these? I’m hoping to spend about $2,000 or less but I need speed, size, and may even want to consider mobile broadband, if I can offer same day turn around from the field I can charge more and interest more potential clients. Send me an e-mail if you have any wisdom to spew...(on this subject only!!)
Is It Christmas?
isitchristmas.com has the latest.
Massive iPhone Price Drop
Apple announced their new iPods today, including the iPod Touch, which is basically the iPhone without the phone: same form factor with huge touch-screen, wifi internet, and web browsing. They also announced the ability to download songs and ringtones over-the-air from the iTunes store to the iPod/iPhone.
But the REALLY big news is the unexpected and unusual price drop on the iPhone: the 8 GB model that I bought for $600 a couple of months ago is now just $400. The smaller 4 GB model which had been $500 is now discontinued, but while supplies last, you can get one for just $300. Don’t expect those supplies to last very long.
Audio and Video
How do you improve on one of the greatest songs of all time? Well, you put it into the pilot episode of Miami Vice, for one thing. But what if it’s 2007? Then you make a video of a freakin’ gorilla playing the drums for the song. (If anyone can figure out how to actually download a copy of that video, let me know.)
In other audio-related news, the August 4th 2007 episode of Car Talk is hilarious. I mean generally this show is really funny, but this episode is especially good.
And what would be a post on NoDivisions without a comment about the iPhone? Let me just say that one of my favorite things about the iPhone is that, thanks to iTunes’ podcast support, I always have the 5 latest episodes of all my favorite radio shows with me -- Security Now, Car Talk, The Radio Factor, Science Friday... Sadly, those last 2 are only previews, not the full shows, which is just dumb.
Also dumb is that NPR won’t make a podcast of All Things Considered. What’s the point of that? First of all, it’s free to listen to on the radio every day. Second, it’s free to stream from the NPR website every day. Third, it’s "National Public Radio," which prides itself on being all free and open. So what are they so afraid of when it comes to making a podcast of it? It’s just another example of a clueless dinosaur media outfit paralyzed by FUD when it comes to the internet and technology -- which is especially pathetic in the case of NPR which is supposed to be all liberal and progressive and forward-thinking.
On Sunday, Kim and I went down to the Apple store in King of Prussia and I got an iPhone. Despite people lining up outside the stores for hours and even days before the 6 PM Friday launch (including Philly’s mayor John Street), most Apple stores were still well-stocked with iPhones by Sunday, and I had no problem getting mine. We walked into the store and it was a mob scene: there must have been 100 people in the tiny ~1500 square foot store. If I had wanted to check out the iPhones that were on display, I would have had to wait for quite a while, because people were three-deep around those displays.
Fortunately, I had been getting psyched about the iPhone for at least the past six months, so I didn’t need to play with one to know that I wanted to buy it. I just walked up to an Apple store employee and asked, "Do you still have 8 GB iPhones in stock?" He said he thought they did, and sent someone into the back to check; he came out with my iPhone, and I was out of the store in under 5 minutes.
No one knew for sure how many iPhones Apple was going to have available at launch, hence the thousands of people lining up 6-12 hours in advance across the country to make sure they got one. It turned out that there were plenty of iPhones, at least at most Apple stores. It was a different story at AT&T stores -- the only other place that iPhones are available -- with most of them selling out the first night. All told, the estimates are that Apple and AT&T sold over half a million units during the launch weekend.
I’m not sure why I didn’t go out on Friday night to try and get an iPhone. I guess I wasn’t 100% sure that I was going to get one right away, plus the word was that it was a hassle at AT&T stores, and the closest Apple store is an hour away from us. But then as I read various bloggers saying that it did indeed live up to most of the hype, I caved.
One of the ways that Apple is redefining the cell phone business is that the account activation process is handled by each user individually, at home, over the internet, using iTunes. You don’t need to spend an hour in the store with some clueless salesman getting stuff set up. There were reports that some people who were already AT&T customers initially had trouble with the activation process, but for most people it was quick and easy: it took less than 10 minutes in my case.
Apple also managed to get AT&T to offer a plan that’s actually reasonable: $60 per month for 450 minutes, with free nights & weekends (and including rollover minutes), and unlimited internet access. Many (most?) other smartphone data plans are $80-$100 per month, often with only limited internet access, and severe overage charges.
The iPhone itself is amazing. It’s so thin, so solid, so industrial, the screen is huge and gorgeous, and the interface is so simple and useable it’s like a dream. The decade-long nightmare of horrible cell phones is finally over.
For me, the combination of the real internet, email, and Google Maps in a portable device is just priceless. The fact that it’s also got a cell phone, a camera, and an iPod, plus that it’s gorgeous, only make it more compelling.
The screen is about twice the resolution of most standard computer screens, which means that text as small as 5-6 pt is crisp and totally readable. When browsing the web, though, you only need to double-tap on the portion of a page that you want to read (for example the main content column) and the iPhone automatically pans and zooms that area to be full-screen, with nice large text. Scrolling up or down, and panning left or right, is as simple as dragging your finger across the screen.
There are a few things that need fixing: there’s no way to select/copy/paste text; you can’t save images (or any files) from websites; you can’t upload files to websites (the Browse/ChooseFile element is grayed out); the Google Maps app lacks the little scale image in the lower-left corner; the on-screen keyboard doesn’t always rotate into wide-screen mode, sometimes forcing you to use the narrower version of it. But all of those are software issues, and since the iPhone is a computer running Mac OS X, Apple can (and will) simply issue automatic updates via iTunes to fix them.
I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the iPhone is probably the coolest product I’ve ever purchased. I can’t put it down, and when I finally do, Kim picks it up and can’t stop playing with it.
Here are some iPhone photos including side-by-side comparisons with a couple of my old phones.
Fun From The Visitor Log
I’m #9 for the first one and #12 for the second, just behind a page titled "Cameron Diaz Sweaty Armpit."
Dilbert and Email Etiquette
The past couple of Daily Dilbert comics have been near and dear to my heart:
New Site Theme
Well it’s out with the old and in with the new here at nodivisions. The previous layout was up for 15 months, which may be the record for this site.
The new layout is mostly gray, which seems to be my favorite color, but I may try to add some more color here and there. The tagline "shenanigans and tomfoolery" is from this Apple UK ad. And on that topic: the naughty step is always serious.
Google Maps Easter Egg
Kim just sent me this one. Go to Google Maps, click on the "Get Directions" tab, and get directions from New York City to Paris. In the resulting directions, check out step #23.
Gotta love Google. The one about the moon was great too.
Watch Superbowl Commercials Online
Google has this message at the bottom of their front page:
Watch your favorite Super Bowl ad on YouTube.
Not having watched the game yesterday, I was thinking how I would have liked to have seen the commercials. Looks like Google is betting a few people feel the same way. At the moment it looks like ads from yesterday haven’t been posted yet (though there are lots of older ads) but no doubt they will be soon.
Funny Internet Searches
Here’s a couple of good ones that people have used to find me recently:
Hmm, yes... inquiring minds want to know.
(And notice how I refrained from titling this "Stupid Internet Searches" despite the flagrant abuses of capitalization and the past tense.)
Chain Letters, Email Forwards, SPAM, etc
You know those obnoxious forwarded chain-letter emails that you get
sometimes all the friggin’ time? The ones that always end with some kind of totally realistic and believable warning, like this:
If you dont forward this message to 10 people in the next 10 minutes your face will fall off and your head asplode!!1!
I think a good policy would be to reply to those emails with this message:
Thanks for the warning! Now, if you don’t delete my address from your address book in the next 10 seconds, the internets will burn down and you’ll never have email again!1!!
Apple Delivers the iPhone
They have done it. Apple today unveiled the iPhone, which is actually the fulfillment of two long-running Apple rumors: it is the "true video iPod" because the ~entire face of it is a screen, and it is the iPod + cell phone as well. It also has a 2 megapixel digital camera built in. On top of all that, it actually runs Mac OS X and includes the Safari browser and an email client supporting POP and IMAP, and it runs on cell networks as well as wifi connections. This thing is a huge dream come true for many, many geeks and Apple fans alike.
Some of the coolest features:
-multi-touch screen allowing you to operate the iPhone using 2 fingers at a time, so you can pinch/stretch items like photos and windows to zoom them
-orientation sensor so when you turn it sideways, the display automatically shifts
-location awareness built into the integrated Google Maps application
-ambient light sensor to save power by adjusting display brightness; proximity sensor to automatically shut off the display when you move the phone to your ear
...and many more.
Of course they would have gotten abysmal battery life (and would have had to make the thing too thick) if they put a hard drive in it, so it’s all flash-memory based. This is better anyway, but the cost of flash memory means that for now the iPhone is only available in 4GB abd 8GB models, for $499 and $599 respectively, assuming a 2-year contract with Cingular. In a year or two when there is a ~40GB model available, I will be all over this.
Oh, and Apple: please, please release a Linux version of iTunes!
Intermediate Destinations on Google Maps
Google Maps now supports intermediate destinations when mapping routes, or "multi-point directions" as they call it. This is really cool; now they just need to add the ability to specify a point/destination by simply clicking a spot on the map.
Now I just need somewhere to go...
Browser Upgrade Stats
Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7 in October, and started pushing it out via Automatic Update in November. But this is a phased push, i.e. not everyone will get it at the same time, and some estimates say that it will take months before everyone gets it. (Of course you can avoid the wait and just get it manually if you want to.)
Here are the percentages of my visitors who’ve upgraded to IE7 (and those who’ve upgraded to Firefox 2, which was also released in October), broken down by week:
20061008-20061014: IE6 34%, IE7 04%, FF1.5 40%, FF2 03%
20061015-20061021: IE6 32%, IE7 04%, FF1.5 40%, FF2 04%
20061022-20061028: IE6 34%, IE7 05%, FF1.5 26%, FF2 16%
20061029-20061104: IE6 35%, IE7 07%, FF1.5 23%, FF2 19%
20061105-20061111: IE6 34%, IE7 05%, FF1.5 23%, FF2 21%
20061112-20061118: IE6 33%, IE7 06%, FF1.5 22%, FF2 25%
20061119-20061125: IE6 35%, IE7 08%, FF1.5 17%, FF2 22%
20061126-20061202: IE6 32%, IE7 09%, FF1.5 19%, FF2 25%
20061203-20061209: IE6 30%, IE7 10%, FF1.5 18%, FF2 26%
20061210-20061216: IE6 30%, IE7 11%, FF1.5 15%, FF2 27%
20061217-20061223: IE6 27%, IE7 13%, FF1.5 16%, FF2 27%
20061224-20061230: IE6 28%, IE7 11%, FF1.5 15%, FF2 29%
20061231-20070106: IE6 27%, IE7 13%, FF1.5 14%, FF2 28%
20070107-20070113: IE6 25%, IE7 14%, FF1.5 14%, FF2 29%
20070114-20070120: IE6 25%, IE7 13%, FF1.5 14%, FF2 31%
20070121-20070127: IE6 24%, IE7 13%, FF1.5 14%, FF2 30%
20070128-20070203: IE6 27%, IE7 13%, FF1.5 13%, FF2 29%
20070204-20070210: IE6 26%, IE7 17%, FF1.5 12%, FF2 29%
20070211-20070217: IE6 26%, IE7 16%, FF1.5 10%, FF2 33%
20070218-20070224: IE6 28%, IE7 16%, FF1.5 09%, FF2 30%
20070225-20070303: IE6 25%, IE7 17%, FF1.5 10%, FF2 32%
20070304-20070310: IE6 27%, IE7 15%, FF1.5 09%, FF2 32%
20070311-20070317: IE6 26%, IE7 17%, FF1.5 09%, FF2 33%
20070318-20070324: IE6 25%, IE7 17%, FF1.5 08%, FF2 35%
20070325-20070331: IE6 26%, IE7 17%, FF1.5 08%, FF2 32%
20061008-20061014: IE6 44%, IE7 01%, FF1.5 15%, FF2 00%
20061015-20061021: IE6 48%, IE7 01%, FF1.5 14%, FF2 01%
20061022-20061028: IE6 53%, IE7 02%, FF1.5 13%, FF2 02%
20061029-20061104: IE6 49%, IE7 02%, FF1.5 10%, FF2 05%
20061105-20061111: IE6 43%, IE7 03%, FF1.5 09%, FF2 07%
20061112-20061118: IE6 43%, IE7 04%, FF1.5 11%, FF2 08%
20061119-20061125: IE6 41%, IE7 05%, FF1.5 08%, FF2 08%
20061126-20061202: IE6 38%, IE7 06%, FF1.5 09%, FF2 09%
20061203-20061209: IE6 40%, IE7 06%, FF1.5 08%, FF2 11%
20061210-20061216: IE6 39%, IE7 09%, FF1.5 08%, FF2 12%
20061217-20061223: IE6 34%, IE7 11%, FF1.5 08%, FF2 10%
20061224-20061230: IE6 34%, IE7 08%, FF1.5 08%, FF2 12%
20061231-20070106: IE6 35%, IE7 09%, FF1.5 09%, FF2 13%
20070107-20070113: IE6 35%, IE7 10%, FF1.5 07%, FF2 13%
20070114-20070120: IE6 34%, IE7 08%, FF1.5 06%, FF2 13%
20070121-20070127: IE6 28%, IE7 14%, FF1.5 07%, FF2 14%
20070128-20070203: IE6 30%, IE7 10%, FF1.5 07%, FF2 14%
20070204-20070210: IE6 31%, IE7 13%, FF1.5 07%, FF2 13%
20070211-20070217: IE6 33%, IE7 14%, FF1.5 07%, FF2 15%
20070218-20070224: IE6 36%, IE7 13%, FF1.5 06%, FF2 14%
20070225-20070303: IE6 34%, IE7 13%, FF1.5 06%, FF2 14%
20070304-20070310: IE6 36%, IE7 10%, FF1.5 06%, FF2 14%
20070311-20070317: IE6 34%, IE7 11%, FF1.5 05%, FF2 15%
20070318-20070324: IE6 29%, IE7 13%, FF1.5 06%, FF2 17%
20070325-20070331: IE6 34%, IE7 11%, FF1.5 05%, FF2 13%
Relatively slow uptake thus far; or maybe it just seems that way to me, because the world can’t be rid of IE6 soon enough for me.
In other visitor-related news, earlier this week NoDivisions passed 200,000 visitors and Encodable passed 150,000. They’ve been averaging ~200/day (ND) and ~600/day (Enc).
I’m doing some updates to this blog application to make the archives page more search-engine friendly (and to improve the chances that searchers who arrive at my site will find what they’re looking for), and in the process I’m coming across some of my older posts. One of those is "Googlism" and it’s pretty funny.
Microsoft released the Zune today. This thing looks totally sweet, but unfortunately it only comes in a 30 GB capacity. I only have about 70% of my music collection copied onto my computer in MP3 format, but even that is 32 GB, already larger than the Zune’s capacity. That would leave me a) no room for my existing collection, b) no room for future expansion, and c) no room for any photos or videos at all.
Once they release a new version with an 80+ GB hard drive, and with the ability to access the internet wirelessly (it already has wireless hardware, but only to connect to other Zunes -- lame), then I’ll really be excited about the Zune.
Public Service Announcement
If you’re using Internet Explorer -- which you shouldn’t be, because you should be using Firefox -- then you should upgrade to the new version (7) that was just recently released. You can get IE7 from microsoft.com.
Internet Connection Problems
Sometime near the beginning of this week, our internet connection got really slow. Web pages either wouldn’t load at all, or they’d take 2 or 3 minutes to load. Sending email took forever. Uploading data happened at 1-8 KB/s instead of the normal 50 KB/s.
I called the cable company and they said they could detect signal problems getting to our modem. They said they would be able to send someone out in 2 weeks (!!) but it was likely a problem with a splitter on the coaxial cable: the splitters sometimes go bad and then the signal gets severely degraded. The idea of a splitter dying sounded ridiculous to me, given that it’s an entirely passive device with no electrical or moving parts, but I figured I’d take the splitter out (thus temporarily disabling the TV’s signal) and connect the cable directly to the cable modem.
Unbelievably, the internet was back to its good old speedy self. Still in denial, I put the splitter back, but now the internet still worked fine. So apparently, either the splitter or one of the cables involved has a bad connection or a break somewhere, and moving stuff around must have bumped it back into good contact. For now I’ll just have to keep an eye on it and maybe go jostle the whole mess around once in a while to see how the signal is affected.
Groove Salad, Business, and The Secret to Charcoal Grilling
Wow, quiet times around here, no? I know it’s time to make a new post when I get one of those "are you still alive??" emails from my mom.
I’ve been extremely busy with work, which I’m extremely thankful for. July was my most profitable month to date, and business -- both sales and custom work -- seems to be steadily picking up. Don’t get me wrong: my income is still no match for my student loan bills, but I’m making way more money doing web programming than I was making as a PC technician.
A couple weeks ago, Dan imparted unto me the secret to grilling with charcoal. My problem has been that the coals are always too cool to put a nice charred exterior on meats, yet ironically I still can’t avoid making things more dry and well-done than I’d like. Dan’s tip was to spread the coals out unevenly (after they turn gray, of course), so that they are just a single layer deep on one side of the grill, but stacked up on the other side. That way one side of the grill is extremely hot and puts those nice grill-lines on your steaks, but you can move them off to the other cooler side after that.
To wrap things up, I’d like to say that Groove Salad on SomaFM is a great internet radio station. They call it: "A nicely chilled plate of ambient beats and grooves." It’s largely instrumental, and on the occasional vocal track, I usually enjoy the vocals too. I listen to it pretty much all day every day.
I have just completed a redesign of JeanniesPhotos.com:
Click the image to see the screenshot full-size, or just visit jeanniesphotos.com.
I may still need to tweak the text to improve the readability, like the photo-set names when they are on top of the grass at the bottom of the image.
Well it’s the middle of the night and I can’t sleep, so what better thing to do than post about the new layout for moredifferent.com that I finished last week:
Click the image to see it full-size, or just visit the site to see it live.
Dreamhost Web Hosting
Bytemark’s virtual machine setup with full root access has been pretty cool, but it’s also been fairly buggy: for the past few months, it’s been a weekly occurrence (sometimes more often) that the system becomes unresponsive and needs to be forcibly rebooted. They also only offer 4 GB of space and they cost about US$250/year.
Dreamhost on the other hand offers over 20 GB of space (and growing weekly) for only $97/year. I’ve had the random outage here and there with them, but even when that happens, they are the ones who fix it, whereas with Bytemark, having root access to your own VM, you need to do the full-time system administration. While I enjoy that at times, and am even pretty decent at it, my focus is on web programming so the admin issues can get annoying.
So anyway ND will probably be inaccessible at times over the next few days as the DNS changes propagate. This also means my @nodivisions email accounts will be intermittently unavailable during this period.