Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhones In Paradise

All the way home on the plane last night I swore to myself that I would be the only person in the world to NOT write about the iPhone today... but I guess - like trying to sleep on a plane surrounded by kids - it's impossible.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let's backup for a minute - I just got back (at midnight last night) from a glorious 10 days in Hawaii. It was for my in-law's 50th wedding anniversary, and for the first 6.5 days we had a group of 23 people there - all family. Then Brenda and I, along with our two kids - took another 3.5 days together, alone.

The trip was great - spending long days at the beach and pool, getting sunburned beyond recognition, sleeping in (until 7:00 am, yeah!) - getting our drink on after the kids collapsed into bed. It was really a great time. The resort was really nice, and even with all those family members - everyone got along great.

After the hoards took off - we were able to burn up some of my Marriott Miles at the Waikiki Beach Marriott where we were shoehorned into a tiny room with two roll-away beds and an awesome view of Diamond Head and the beach (30th floor!). We got to ride an outrigger, see the kids slammed head first into the sand by waves ("body surfing"), hang out by the pool, get sunburned beyond recognition, get our drink on after the kids go to bed... you get the idea.

I left my computer at home - and hardly thought about work at all (that's what happens when you have an EXCELLENT group of people working with you!). I only talked to the office for less than 20 minutes the entire time - and each time they had closed another 6 figure deal. NICE!

Anway - back to the object of everyone's obsession - the iPhone...

>sudo command shutdown process iBob...
>command completed successfully

Thank God for command line prompts! Sorry, but old cynical Bob had to shut down that damn iBob before he waxes eloquent about that damn iPhone. OK, we get it. It's a phone. It's an iPod. Who the hell cares? Yes, it's cool, yes, it's nice. But it's also $600! Plus a two year contract that starts at $60/month! For a phone! In 2007!

Whew. That feels better.

And while old iBob got the high points of the vacation, there were some "bumps" along the way. Let's start with ATA (All Together Atrocious) airlines. Even when travel sucks and all airlines treat their customers like crap - this company really rose to the occasion. Their stewardesses were rude, they didn't take CASH on the plane, they had just enough snacks for the first 10 rows, and I think they hand carried each piece of luggage from the plane individually to the baggage claim carousel on the back of a 90 year old donkey.

In general, I'm a fan of the Marriott folks. This facility is only a couple of years old and still in good shape. It's their "Vacation Club" (timeshare) property so you get a whole kitchen, washer/dryer, etc. No maid service (only a once a week "freshen up") - but it worked out great. They also finally got a decent restaurant (Chucks Steakhouse) - if you want to spend $40 per person per meal per day. The best bet is to go into town and buy groceries and grill your own meat and fish (complimentary outdoor barbecues with all utensels included).

BUT If you can ditch the kids for a night out - check out Azul at the JW Marriott in Ko Olina. NICE. Pricey, but very, very nice. Great food - great service - great wines - great times. If you're into sushi and sashimi - you MUST go to Roy's in Ko Olina (across the street from the JW) for lunch (preferably after a spa day at the JW!) at the golf course. The course sucks, but the sushi and sashimi with an ice cold beer is to die for.

Now, after experiencing all these nice places to stay and eat - the service is about what you expect. Pretty good, people are nice, etc. but there was one place that really stood out. Not the Marriott. Not any of the restaurants. The place we got the best service was... Enterprise car rental.

Really. Not kidding.

After driving, parking, shuttle, bag check in, 5 hour flight, 40 minutes gathering bags, 25 minutes waiting for the shuttle - I was in no mood for any typical car rental crap (I had killed off iBob about two hours into the flight).

They must have just done a special Hare Chrishna-esque training program there - because when we got there a guy greeted me, shook my hand, looked me in eyes and really wanted to know how I was doing. There were two people at the counter, I was the only guy in line - so he calls another guy over to help me. They actually found my reservation, with the car I requested (mini van), for the price quoted, didn't bullshit me about the insurances and fuel gouging stuff, then they brought the car around, turned on the air, and even helped schlep our 100 pieces of luggage in. Then, they made sure I knew how to get to the highway (no small task!).

Huh. I have absolutely ZERO to complain about.

Not kidding.

On the return trip, it was the same. The check-in chick was nice, expedient, and even though I kept the car one day longer they didn't gouge me - they printed my receipt, the bus guy again helped schlep the luggage and bam. Done. That was easy.

Then back to the horror of ATA (and the oversold flight, and the rude stewardesses, and the 1 hour wait for bags, etc), etc. etc.

I'm tired from my vacation. I need a break.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Apple Hoses Down Safari for Windows

Steve Jobs is a very smart man, but sometimes he believes his own hype so much that he says really stupid things - like: "...Safari will ship secure..." That's almost like daring every lonely geek in the world to take pot shots at your beta product. Perhaps that was the desired result... but I think not.

So all the hackers in the known universe who are already good at hacking IE and Firefox could not resist this juicy target. In fact, just hours after the announcement and availability of the download, Errata Security researcher David Maynor found two potentially serious security issues and then proceeded to put screen shots up on his blog. Then there were others - like Tom Ferrris a hacker who routinely finds bugs and problems with Safari and OS X and also happens to publish a blog.

Apple's stepping up and trying to fix them - in fact they fixed 3 of them today - and then putting out public beta 3.01. The interesting thing here is that that they are not denying there are bugs and vulnerabilities. On Windows. They are, however, claiming that those vulnerabilities do not exist on Mac OS X.

Ummm... yeah. Right.

What the hell else are they going to say - we're bringing out the iPhone and it leaks like a 1972 Camero with a sunroof? I don't think so.

So, they'll do their best to fix the stuff - and hose off the already crap-filled reputation of yet another browser for Windows. Perhaps they should just buy the Opera folks...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Linspire Licences Soul From Microsoft

It's one of those "aw, too bad" moments in computing history. Linspire announced today that they would be licensing fonts, video codecs and some IM crap from Microsoft for their upcoming Linspire 6 distribution due out in early July.

"Ummmm - who cares?" you're probably saying. In the big scope of things - Linspire will go the way of NEXT and Be OS, it will become a niche player and then will just disappear altogether... BUT - boy, they had some balls back in the old days.

This was the Linux distribution company that first called themselves "Lindows." Nice.

They were getting press like mad, and flipping "good ol' Bill" the bird in the media.

Then in 2004, being the biggest software company in the world, Microsoft grew tired of being poked - and, of course, called in the lawyers. At first, the little Lindows company resisted.

Then, Microsoft, being the biggest software company in the world, did something so EVIL that it finally caused Lindows to change their name and to also get some free MS technology to distribute. The evil that Microsoft pulled out was not red, but green. They agreed to PAY Lindows $20 million.

Being ballsy will only get you so far, apparently.

Now that they're buddies again, Linspire (the fantasic, dynamic new name they came up with - "Hey, it starts with an L!") they had the brilliant idea to include proprietary stuff (MS stuff, drivers, etc) in both their Freespire Linux OS product (open source, community based) and the Linspire Linux OS product (pay for).

Ummmm... I guess that's one way to go. I can't imagine that open source Linux customers are looking for a bastardized, 1/2 Linux 1/2 Microsoft hybrid OS. On the other hand there are many other Linux distributions out there that are MS-free... so maybe there are IT managers who want "open source lite" to appease the big brass and bean counters, but who secretly are Sith Lords.

You never know.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The "Real" Plan Behind Safari For Windows

OK, OK, so like the rest of the world - when Safari for Windows was announced - I let out a HUGE yawn. Then I thought "Ummm... safari is crappy on the Mac, why would it be good on Windows?" Followed by "Hmmmm... Steve Jobs is a smart guy - so why waste money and time on a stupid browser for Windows?"

Then two things occurred to me:

  1. iPhone Development. He's trying to get non-Mac companies to build applications for iPhone and since they can only build browser-based applications - they need a way to create and test them without buying a Mac. Smart!

  2. Take over the world. Now, this one is a bit of a stretch - so hang in there - but if Steve made his own browser, and he built his own virtualization software (rumored to be in development) - he could then just ship an OEM version of Windows Vista that was tweaked for the Mac.

The iPhone development thought isn't rocket science - by giving people a Windows version of the browser that's on the iPhone - it will help to ensure that more people develop cool software for it - thus making more people want to buy the thing.

The "take over the world" part - once I got to thinking about it - makes total sense. I would venture to say that at least 50% of people with MacBooks are running Windows on Parallels. This means that they have to buy the virtualization software, buy a copy of Windows, install and configure everything - and then "give away" 1/2 of their system to run it.

Now, if Apple came up with their own virtualization (or licensed one, or used an open source one) - and pre-loaded Vista - they can tweak it however they want. They could replace the default browser with Safari, Windows Media player with iTunes, Windows Movie Maker with iMovie, Windows Photo Gallery with iLife... then they would only need to port Mac Mail and they're all set.

They could even include custom drivers, tweak the settings, add the Apple logo everywhere inside the environment, etc.

That's a machine that I would definitely buy...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Privacy Is Overrated

I saw yet ANOTHER news story with some guys whining about Google Street View as an invasion of privacy.

Really. Not kidding.

It's nice to know that people who have nothing to do all day but bitch about stuff like this (and he was VERY serious) are looking out for the greater good of mankind. Not only that - they have also created some "citizens watchdog group focusing on privacy rights" - and most of them either live in the middle of no where - or they are ex-big city people who now live in the middle of no where.

It doesn't cost a lot to live in the middle of no where - thus these people can:

a) afford to get annoyed at something that is trivial;

b) form an official sounding "watchdog" group to protect others from an imagined evil;

c) keep speed-dialing the media until they either send a reporter or a news crew - depending on how annoying they are on the phone

These people are complaining that because you can see people in windows (gasp!), people walking on the street talking into cell phones (alert!), people in cars (the horror!), people in a public park (for the love of everything holy - NO!)... basically you can see everything you could if you were walking down the street on the day they photographed it.

What's the big deal? You could do the same thing with a cell phone and a flickr account.

So - if you're an anti-social physcho, living in the middle of no where, and you want to help people - there are a lot of other causes you can take up. Get over Google Street Views - there are bigger fish to fry.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Gears Flash In the Silverlight of the AIR

I've been reading along with the rest of the world, about all kinds of "new" technology that is being billed as "The Next Big Thing." No, not Web 2.0 applications. Not handheld or mobile applications. Not even iPhone applications.

According to Google, Microsoft and Adobe - the Next Big Thing is - desktop applications.

No, really. Desktop applications.


If you're as old as dirt like I am, you remember these things called "mainframes" that would run "programs" that the user could "interact" with via "dumb" terminals. You know, green screen and yellow screen applications. This provided the IT guys with total control over the data so there would be a minimum of SUD (Stupid User Detected). And all was well in the land.

Until the next Next Big Thing: personal computing. Now the everyday slaves could free themselves of the IT taskmasters and they could store their own documents on their own hard drives - completely separate from IT control. They used "desktop" applications rather than shared application (that only ran on the server) - and thus they were the masters of their own destiny.

Until the next Next Big Thing: the Internet. The pendulum swung back the other way: big-ass servers and data that was saved "virtually" - so the user wouldn't have to worry about silly things like back-ups, viruses, etc. and they could share or collaborate with a single click.

And that brings us back to the new Next Big Thing: desktop applications. While we all love web applications (, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, etc.) - there's only one thing wrong: it's that pesky "having to be connected" thing.

So, although nothing has actually shipped from any of these vendors - they all have really, really spiffy names for their new technologies:

Silverlight by Microsoft - This gem is said to be a "Flash killer" and basically it looking to dethrone Flash like C# tried to rip off Java. It's made for interactive web applications - but will require a plug-in (just like Flash). It's expected sometime in the summer (of 2007 - or at least it will be the summer of 2007 when they announce it will be delayed to mid-2008).

Gears by Google - Allows you to run web-based applications (in a browser) while you're not connected to the Internet. The theory here is that you will have an open-source database (SQLite) on your machine and the web application will run connected to this database and will "silently" synchronize with the "main" back end database when you're connected. This technology will require that developers enhance (and in some cases re-tool) their existing web applications to take advantage of Gears. ETA: Later in 2007.

Flash and AIR (formerly "Apollo") by Adobe - Flash, we all get. AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime - nee, "Apollo") is like Gears in the sense that you can write offline applications with a local SQL database (also SQLite) - but you don't have to be limited to using a browser. You will have your own interface space (like Flex, OpenLazlo or Flash) and can connect the to web (or not) and store data locally for offline access (or not). AIR was just released in BETA today.

Well, there you have it - the Next Big Thing - desktop applications that let you work, GASP!, without being connected to the almighty Internet! Wow. Great idea... again.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Problem With Paradigms

I've worked with a lot of different software tools and operating systems in my time. I started with the Apple II (that just turned 30 years old - OUCH!) and AppleBasic then moved on to typesetting software, various green (and yellow) screen applications, MacPaint, HyperCard, SuperCard, FileMaker, BBEdit, Lasso, Oracle Forms & Reports, ColdFusion, ASP, JSP, Dreamweaver, GoLive, RealBasic, Servoy, Windows 3.0, Macintosh, Linux, Mac OS X, Vista, etc.

Each time I've tried a new tool, I've had a challenge in that each new tool has it's strengths and weaknesses. And, depending on how much time I spent in the previous environment, the new environment invariably "sucked" at something.

Well, at least it sucked from my perspective. It was only different the way that I viewed the new/different/changed/enhanced functionality - as compared with what I was used to - in other words, my paradigm.

Whether or not the feature/bug/way of doing things actually sucked - is open for debate. All I know is that from my perspective, at the time (usually the first time I try to do something and it's not obvious - or not obvious to me) - it does really suck.

Over time, I usually have found a way - usually by reading the manual (there were no online "forums" at that time), looking online for examples/code and finally by just trying stuff until it worked.

Those were the "old days." The days before "open source" and "free" software. The days where RTFM (Read The Fu**king Manual) was the default.

Ah, how times have changed.

Some people who have grown up in Internet time have a whole different paradigm as to what software is, how it "should" work and the fact that everything (especially their pet feature) "should be" included at no charge.

While I can understand their sentiment; I have spent many, many, many extremely frustrating hours figuring something out that over time (and blood, sweat and tears) became obvious once I understood the software better.

To me, that's part of the fun of learning - and once I've mastered that task/feature/bug I have an intimate knowledge on how the software works. For others, it's just a reason to bitch.

I found this post that my wife, Brenda, posted on a forum just today. I think it sums up the problem with paradigms:

"I would like SOMEONE out there to fix my mini van. It does not look or act anything like a Dodge Viper. I USED to drive a Dodge Viper (before I had children) and I switched to my Dodge minivan because it was a better tool for my current life/job -- but it does NOT run nearly as fast, nor does it look as COOL as my previous tool. Also, I do want to keep the roominess of my minivan and the ability to haul around 50+ children at the same time (plus soccer balls and dance clothes) - but it should be sleek looking and have a 400HP engine. I do not want to pay for any upgrades and it MUST BE FIXED NOW by someone.

I would also like to point out that it should be open source. Its ridiculous that I have to pay for a car in this day and age. Its all about corporate greed and those damn Americans. (Forget about my greed, hey, I NEED to keep MY money)."

DAMN! You go, girl! [sorry, that was oldBob 8.0]

iBob 1.0 Alpha Bugs

Now I know what it must feel like to be a MacBook Pro running Windows in Parallels.

Right in the midst of my iBob 1.0 re-programming, I find that from time-to-time I'm still getting the blue screen of death (oldBob 8.0). The good news is that now, my iBob side can just shut down that process and keep humming along...

...until some know-nothing, Prius-driving, Whole-Foods-shopping, fair-trade-coffee-drinking, mac-user calls and starts giving me crap about something they know nothing about - and I just want to tell them to go fu*k themselves....

[blue screen of death]

Sorry folks. That was - according to the blue screen - an "assertion error 504 - Bob is melting down about nothing" error.

Luckily the iBob process was able to shut the old behavior down before it got out of hand.

There's still some bugs - but at least the overall shell is pretty much working.

Stay tuned...

Monday, June 04, 2007


Those of you who know me know that I've always been sort of a "glass half empty" kind of guy. Well, I've decided that those days are all over.

I'm going to re-invent myself. I'm going to become a kinder, gentler, new-and-improved me. I'm going to become huggie, squishy, lighter, and more well-rounded.

In short, I'm going to become iBob.

Since we already have everything else in the world that starts with "i" - I thought I would just brand myself as an iBob.

I'm ready to dump the old interface, wipe the hard drive, and start over. I will now be the ideal fashion accessory in addition to being the source of all useful information.

In fact, I've already lost weight, am going to the gym, have (basically) stopped smoking, I drink water (mostly) after dinner, I'm in bed (in general) at a decent hour all to prepare myself for iBob 1.0.

I'm going to test out iBob - before the public unveiling. I'm going on vacation in a couple of weeks to Hawaii with my extended in-laws and family to celebrate my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary. If I don't crash (1 in 956,211) then I will officially roll out the iBob for public consumption.

Watch this space...
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