Scott's Thoughts

1TB Laptop HDD

I’ve been hoping that SSD prices would drop and capacities would rise to a point where I could justify getting one. But a 1TB drive in my MacBook Pro sure sounds great.

Update: Turns out that TUAW reports that it’s too high for a MBP at 12.5mm. Darn.

Don’t Let It Go To Your Head, AT&T

I was recently listening to episode 1025 of Buzz Out Loud, in which they were discussing AT&T’s recent revelation that their current customer churn rate is the lowest in that carrier’s history despite recent loud complaints about the low quality of their service. That discussion pointed out that such disparity between the public conversation about AT&T’s lack of quality (dropped calls, slow network performance, no coverage in areas in major cities, missing key features due to the network) and the metrics that company inevitably uses to decide what its priorities are can only lead them to believe that their current course is a good one.

Personally, I’ve been relatively happy with AT&T. At least I’ve been as happy as one gets with a cell phone carrier, which I’ve determined is like being happy with a parasitic organism in your body: if you have to have one, you want the least malignant one you can get. Their customer service has been fine when I needed to use it and the service generally works when I need it to.

However, 3G service is worse than non-existent in my home. How can it be worse? Well, there’s enough that I get the smallest possible amount of 3G signal in parts of the house, so it causes the phone to toggle from the 3G network to the older one constantly. It’s been this way for over a year. The net effect is that I frequently miss calls if my phone is in 3G mode, and the battery runs down very quickly. Consequently, I leave my shiny new iPhone 3GS with its 3G capabilities turned off unless I’m out-and-about and using the network capabilities a lot.

I should point out that I don’t live in the boonies, either. I’m in San Jose, a respectable technology center, and only a 5-minute drive from an Apple Store or downtown San Jose. Heck, I can easily walk to either. And it’s not isolated to just my place. There are many, many spots where this happens. Nor is it my phone: I’ve had 2 iPhone 3Gs and 1 iPhone 3GS, and it’s the same on all of them. I can also confirm reports that there are places in downtown San Francisco that simply have no reception at all. Completely unacceptable.

Let’s make no mistake: the thing that ensures I stay with AT&T is the iPhone.

My point? If the conclusion AT&T arrives at when studying its great customer retention numbers is that its current level of service is acceptable to its users, it would do well to recognize that there are those of us who love our iPhones, and AT&T is just the baggage that we have to put up with to have one. (Yes, there are ways to get the iPhone on other networks, such as T-Mobile locally, but that’s even worse than AT&T, in my experience.) If we get the chance to move to Verizon, whose network coverage is much, much better than AT&T’s, I think AT&T will be shocked the next time it reviews those same customer retention metrics.

AT&T, this good deal you have with Apple over the iPhone has given you a huge boost in this market. Ignore these metrics that might tell you that you’re doing the right thing in letting network capacity lag the competition. Instead, invest all you can in making your network better than the competition and when your exclusivity over the iPhone ends, we might just stay with you. But continue to allow your network quality to lag behind what the subscribers want and deny them access to the features they should have (MMS, tethering) and I bet you’ll witness an exodus of customers the moment a better alternative presents itself.

AP Fail

The AP is apparently looking to become as popular as other industry consortiums like the RIAA and MPAA. I guess they’re hoping that by wrapping their stories in DRM that they’ll be able to leverage the DMCA against anyone who uses the content of their members in court.

I think they’ll find the written word is much harder to protect than a digital song or movie. And while the DMCA might prove a valuable weapon, the laws regarding the use of written words are more defined than their newer kin. I think that all they’re doing is proving that groups such as these are anachronisms, waiting for their inevitable deaths at the hands of a public tired of being nickel-and-dimed.

Trail Discovery: “Jack Daniels”

I know Water Dog in Belmont pretty well. I’ve ridden there for years, at times as often as four times a week, before work. I was surprised when I joined Passion Trail BikesWednesday Wride last night and we rode a trail completely new to me.

To be fair, it wasn’t in Water Dog proper, but on the other side of Hastings Drive, on the way to the jump area farther down the hill. But this trail, called “Jack Daniels” by the folks on the ride, was good stuff. It’s steep and loose and has lots of tight turns with berms. It’s pretty soft, probably due to summer conditions and obvious wear—it clearly wasn’t built as a sustainable trail. But it sure was fun, and I’m looking forward to hitting it again the next time I’m at Water Dog.

Olympus E-P1 Pen

The Online Photographer has a review of the new Olympus E-P1 Pen online today. I love the concept, but think that the lack of a real viewfinder is a real bummer. I love the 17mm pancake lens, and perhaps the reported chromatic aberration at wide apertures is something that can be corrected in Lightroom fairly simply.

Still, it’s wonderful to see a camera like this getting made and the bottom line is that I’m not really in the market to replace my Canon G9 yet. I think I’m going to continue sitting this generation of small(ish) cameras out. I am definitely looking forward to the E-P2 though. On top of the excellent start with the E-P1, I’m hoping to see a real viewfinder and simple refinements to the rest of what looks to be an excellent camera. Improved autofocus would be nice too, but I’d be willing to manually focus to get an otherwise superb camera.

BC Riding

Dave, one of a group of friends riding up in British Columbia, is posting pics and accounts on his blog of this year's version of the BC trip. I'm jealous that they're up there and I'm not, but what's up with that pic of Brian on those steep features? Check out that pic of his fork. His zip-ties are only 3/4 up the stanchions! I thought this was BC riding!


The Flip Will Die

According to Fortune, the built-in video functionality of the iPhone won’t kill the Flip. While they’re certainly right in the short run, I don’t think it’ll take all that long for the Flip and its ilk to die.

I have the Flip HD and have now had the iPhone 3GS for a couple of days, and the main saving grace the Flip has is that it shoots in HD and the iPhone doesn’t (yet). But the old adage that “the best camera is the one you have with you” applies here. Now that the iPhone can shoot video, I’m less likely to take the Flip with me anywhere. Yes, I still keep it in the living room to shoot a video of the baby when she does something cute, but when we leave the house, I’d rather not have to remember something else.

As the article points out, the iPhone already surpasses the Flip in functionality, other than the aforementioned HD quality. Users might like that simplicity (although I’d argue that the additional functionality is out-of-the-way in the iPhone’s interface), but I think that the “camcorder industry analysts” who believe that simplicity is what Flip users really like are underestimating the power of one less thing to carry.

Reboot…again

I have a heck of a time maintaining a blog. I blame it on the fact that my friends and I have participated in a walled garden of my own creation for many years, and when I think to post something, I think of them as my audience, and I post it there. I’d like to have a more public way to do that, and that’s what I intend this to be.

That said, I’ve started a blog before, and I’m not sure what I can do short of pure willpower to keep it current. Anyway, I’m going to try again.

I’ve set this up with the latest Movable Type and some plugins, and I’m certainly not done. It has a mostly default style, with my “action streams” (read: my updates from other sites) thrown in the sidebar. I’ll work on making this look better, but I didn’t want to wait for that to start posting here.

Using 1password in Safari 4 Beta

I got this from the 1password support forums:

To enable 1password in Safari 4 Beta:

- Quit Safari
- Locate 1Password in your /Applications folder
- Ctrl-click > Show Package Contents
- Contents > Resources > SupportedBrowsers.plist
- Root > Safari > MaxBundleVersion > Change value to 5528.16
- Start Safari

Works great for me.

UPDATE:

I didn’t mention this in the main post, but the “1P” button doesn’t show up, but the keyboard shortcuts still do. Command-\ is your friend. (Thanks, Etay.)

UPDATE 2:

There’s a new beta of 1Password that supports Safari 4 beta. Go to Preferences → Updates, make sure you have “Include Beta Versions” checked and update.

Best Picture

I completely agree with John Gruber about the Best Picture Oscar. Well, at least I agree with the premise that he puts forth--I haven't seen WALL-E, so I can't really comment directly about that, although it's definitely on my Netflix queue. The Oscars is a popularity contest, not among people who love movies necessarily, but of the movie-making establishment. This means that the process in inherently political more than a straight vote on the absolute merits of the movie itself.

All that said, I had even less skin in the game last night. I hadn't seen any of the movies that were nominated. Most of them came out late in the year, after Ainsley came along, making it hard for me to get to the theater. Either that, or I didn't care about the movie. Either way, not a lot for me on this year's version of the Oscars.

Shoryuken!

Back in the day, my friend Todd and I used to play Street Fighter II in just about any venue we could, usually the local 7-11 or bowling alley. Now, many years later, Street Fighter IV is out for the home systems. Despite my fond memories of SF2, I didn't pre-order SF4. The other entries in the SF series just never captured my attention like the second one did. But after reading glowing review after glowing review, and also because I was rained in for most of the weekend, I ran out and bought it. The verdict? It's marvelous. The gameplay is very similar to what I remember of SF2, but it's been completely remade with a modern aesthetic and modern specs (it looks great on an HDTV). Aside from some really hideous character fight intros, it's a pretty game, and visually arresting. The new "black splatter" theme that adorns the game and its new "focus" moves is neat. It's fun to play these classic characters on a modern system (in my case, the Xbox 360) that out-powers a handful of the original arcade machines. My only regret now is that I didn't pre-order it and also get the real arcade-style joystick, which is now sold-out everywhere. The gamepads the youngsters all use these days don't cut it for an old joystick-loving fogey like me.

GXV Unimog

This is the RV that we really need for the bike trips. No problem camping at the top of Gooseberry Mesa in this one!

(Via Squob.)

The European Airstream Bambi 422

Not that I'd trade our 25-footer for one, but Airstream has just introduced a new European-specific model, the Bambi 422.
Very cute. Apparently, it's lighter and narrower to accommodate the roads and lighter tow vehicles in Europe.

Gooseberry, Here I Come! Oh, and Moab and Fruita Too!

Dave sent an email out about this year's version of the Fall mountain biking trip about a week ago. Val and I have taken our RV (the Minnie at the time) for the last couple of years, but was figured to be down for the count because of the new baby. The trip usually starts in Vegas, moves to Gooseberry Mesa (near St. George, UT) and then on to Fruita, CO and lastly to Moab, UT. This version is no different, although it is a bit later, being at the very end of April/beginning of May.

Since joining Veodia just a year ago, I've taken a bike trip to British Columbia (North Shore, Squamish) and used the rest of my time off after the birth of my daughter. Luckily, I've recovered enough time to string together 5 weekdays off. Val was cool with bringing Ainsley along, so we're going to pull the Airstream to meet the group for part of the Fruita/Moab legs. I can't wait.

Because of the dearth of vacation time, I had written off Gooseberry. I love Gooseberry (it's certainly in my top 10 places to ride), but I've been there the last couple of years in a row and haven't been to Moab in probably 5. I used to make an annual pilgrimage to Moab, so I definitely miss it.

Then, things started falling into place for me to be able to fly out for a weekend of riding in Gooseberry. Many thanks to Dave for offering to schlep my bike out to Utah so it'll be there for the weekend and also for doing pickup/dropoff duty at the airports.

It's going to be a most excellent spring!

Renting Lenses

James Duncan Davidson, who also recently bought a D700, has a good blog post about renting lenses. I’ll have to try this before laying out cash on some of those pricey Nikkors.

New Toy


New Nikon, originally uploaded by Stmpjmpr.

Loving it so far. More soon.

Peter Moffatt – 1923 -2007

Peter Moffatt, a director of seveal classic Doctor Who episodes, died recently. He did one of my favorites as a kid, The Five Doctors.

2008 Tour de France Course Unveiled

I’m a mountain biker, but I do enjoy watching some coverage of the Tour de France when it’s going on. They just today took the wraps off of what will be the course for the 2008 edition of the race.

Ruby, Leopard and Upgrading

Today’s the release of Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard,” and it’s a big release as far as Ruby is concerned. Ruby is finally supposed to be built-in as a framework, with Rails, RubyGems, readline support and a whole bunch of other Rubylicious goodness. You can read all the details on Mac OS X Forge. I’ve been working on updating my personal projects to work with the Rails 2.0 Preview Release, so we’ll see how customizing the installation that Apple gives us goes.

As far as getting Leopard goes, I’m not planning in waiting in line to get a t-shirt, but I’ll definitely be making a stop by the local Apple Store to get my copy at, say, 9 o’clock. You know, after the lines die down a bit and I can hopefully just walk in and grab a copy.

I usually do a clean install when I get a new OS, but I just did a clean install about 3 months ago, and I think I’m going to try the upgrade route this time and see how it goes.

Update: The official Rails blog has an entry on compiling the native C extensions for MySQL to work on Leopard.

Why is this here?

Those of you who know me know that I regularly post in a walled garden with a few close friends and also recently started a blog with my wife. Why another place here? Am I really lacking for an outlet? No, not really. But there are times when I’d like to write something viewable by the world-at-large and perhaps isn’t really relevant in a blog with Val. So, I decided to start this up. I’ll try and post here and if it doesn’t work, I’ll kill it off. We’ll see. :)

iPhone First Impressions

OK, I’ve had the thing for 4-ish hours now, and have run through it pretty well now. Here are some first impressions:

Likes

  • God, everything is fluid. The thing works just like the videos, and nothing on the phone is startling. Everything melts, fades, sweeps off-screen, or into the next. The interface is beautiful.
  • It really does feel like OS X. The sounds for new mail, messages…they’re all the same (by default) as on a Mac. The little fading status things from the Mac (like when you change the Mac’s volume or screen brightness) are identical (obviously smaller) on the iPhone.
  • Setup was an absolute breeze. Plug it in, answer a few questions, and the iPhone connects to the AT&T network and tells you that it’s on a few seconds later. In fact, I got my first call on it (from Pramod) a couple minutes after starting the process.
  • The screen is stunning. If you thought the video iPod had a good screen, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
  • I had no idea that the touchscreen was going to be this good. The swiping and gestures you can do really work well.
  • Safari is amazing on the thing. The effect of zooming in and having the screen not only resize, but adjust the apparent resolution is great.
  • OMG, Google Maps is freaking great!
  • Stock and Weather widgets are nice…in fact, a little nicer than the counterparts on the Mac.
  • Cover Flow is really impressive on a phone.

Gripes

  • It’s a little bigger and heavier than I thought it’d be. It’s a bit taller, a bit skinnier and a bit thinner than my video iPod. The upside of this is that it doesn’t feel fragile.
  • It doesn’t come with a case. Now, I don’t use an aftermarket case for my iPod (or the clear plastic things Mike and Don use), but the little slipcase that came with it. I’d have liked one like that for the iPhone.
  • It came with a cloth to clean the surface, and you’re gonna need it—it’s a fingerprint magnet for sure.
  • I have my wifi network set up to filter clients on MAC address. The MAC address on the phone isn’t where I expected it to be, although I found it after hunting around a bit.
  • It doesn’t work with all accessories that have an iPod connector. I just don’t understand this, although I read that they may fix this with a software update. It doesn’t work with my car adapter, which charges an iPod and gives it a line-out. The iPhone will charge on it, but not play through the line-out.
  • The headphone port is sunk into the top, which only allows narrow plugs to insert. I have to do more investigation on this, but it doesn’t allow the Monster Cable headphone jack I have in my car in.
  • Possibly related to the last point, the headphones that come with the phone are tripole, like the video adapter cable for the video iPod, probably because of the switch to control music that’s built-in to the cabling.
  • Related to the last bit, the iPhone won’t put video out to an external source with a video iPod cable.
  • Not really a gripe about the phone, but the Bluetooth headset that is made by Apple for the iPhone doesn’t have anything that wraps around the ear to hold it on. That probably means that I’ll go with a 3rd-party one. I’d like to use the Apple one that has a dock for both the phone and the headset together. They didn’t have this available in the store, so I’ll wait till it comes out to see how it feels.

Misc Observations

  • It’s the first non-special edition iPod that I can think of that wasn’t available in white. All the accessories that come in the box are still white, though.
  • Speaking of accessories, it’s the first iPod I’ve bought in awhile (maybe since the first couple) that came with a dock, power adapter and usb cable in the box. Other than a Bluetooth headset and a case, there aren’t many accessories you could want right now.
  • It actually doesn’t feel like an iPod in iPod mode. This isn’t a knock really, but the controls are so different (no scroll wheel, different menu system) that it really comes across as a different beast.
  • I could probably, with the exception of the not-working car adapter mentioned above) use this as my primary iPod. I set the iPhone to get several playlists that I listen to most frequently (mostly Smart Playlists whose content changes fairly frequently), the 3 most recent unlistened episodes of the podcasts I listen to and TV shows I’ve got. (That really boils down to The Office, which I bought to watch during the couple of flights I’ve taken recently and today’s line.) Even with all of that plus the contacts and such that are naturally synced, I’m only half full. I’ll probably move more music over once they get a new version of my car adapter out.
  • I haven’t played with photos on it yet, but that’s not the iPhone’s fault. I don’t use iPhoto, but do use Aperture for photos. They recently updated iTunes to be able to sync Aperture photos with an iPod, but this never worked for me on my old iPod, and fails on the iPhone with the same error. It’s got to be a problem with the installation on my MacBook.

Later impressions:

  • It needs an RSS reader. Safari doesn’t have its built-in RSS, but I want NetNewsWire. I hope they open 3rd party development soon. There have been solid rumors (backed by accidental screen shots uploaded to Apple.com) that Apple has RSS support coming pronto. Still, gimme some NNW.
  • Oh, one other thing that made the whole thing super easy to get started with: it imported absolutely everything you’d expect it to, before the first use. Contacts, bookmarks, mail settings, everything. A little tweaking (for instance, to set up automatic email checking) was all that was necessary. Good stuff.
  • One more niggle: the dock connector is “sticky” in that if you lift the docked iPhone, the dock comes with it, and is in there so tight that you pretty much need two hands to undock it. It’s not the dock itself…it’s that way on my old iPod dock too. The iPhone connector is just a snug fit.
  • Nice thing: when you select a playlist, you can choose to play the tracks in random order, without having to globally set the iPod to “shuffle songs”.
  • I got an iPhone-to-regular headphone adapter so I can use the iPhone in my car now. Not perfect, but it’ll hold me over until a new version of the Belkin with the line out comes out.
  • I bought the Jawbone Bluetooth headset. It looks cool, comes with many sizing features, and has a loop around the ear. I don’t know if it’s good or not, but it’s certainly got style to match the iPhone.
  • I bought a slip cover for it, so that it’s got some padding while in my back pocket (where I normally stash my phone). I prefer that to a case that’s on it all the time because I want to see it in all its glory when I pull it out. ;)

The next day:

So I went to the mall today and had a chance to use the iPhone out on the road.

  • EDGE is slow, but not unbearably so. If I were using it for extended browsing it would get annoying, but that’s not what I think this thing is really about. It’s a far better broswing device than any phone I’ve ever seen before.
  • Connection-handling is beautiful. You just never have to pay attention to the cell network for data—it just handles it automatically in the background.
  • Filling out forms (say logins) is very easy. Double-tap to zoom in to a form, and it’s clear as day what’s going on.

Compared to my previous phone (a Windows Mobile 5-based Cingular 2125):

  • Contacts, calendars and their management is better on the iPhone, but only because the software is so damned smooth. I used the excellent Missing Sync for Windows Mobile to keep things in sync on the 2125, and it was good, but this is invisible and seemless.
  • The 2125 had one-touch dialing (possible since it had a real keyboard), but the “favorites” on the iPhone is very nice. I’d give the total usability edge to the 2125 for hot-keyed contacts, but give the edge to the iPhone for finding anyone else in the phone book.
  • The home screen of the 2125 has a nice “Agenda” view that has your next upcoming meeting and such on it. You have to click on the calendar app to get a “List” view, which is similar but better, but it’s not on the front page as soon as you turn it on.
  • Alarms, which I use constantly on the 2125, are far superior on the iPhone. The iPhone supports multiple alarms with different rings, snooze settings, etc. Very nice.
  • Sound quality. The iPhone is superior to the 2125 in every respect around the quality of its sound so far. The speaker can be turned louder, and it sounds better. I don’t have particularly great hearing, so I tend to have my phone’s speaker turned rather high. I don’t have the iPhone maxed out, while I always did have the 2125 as high as it would go. I’ve called Val both with the handset and the headphone mic and she’s said that both were superior to the 2125 from the other side of the phone.
  • The iPhone is a pretty good speakerphone so far, but I haven’t stressed it much. The 2125 was fine, but it was nothing to write home about.
  • The email and SMS apps are hands-down, 200% better than anything the 2125 can do, even without counting the input superiority of the iPhone. Counting it puts the iPhone in a completely different (and unfair, given the size difference) league.
  • The iPhone has no Bluetooth modem mode, while the 2125 has a good one. I tend to use that mode to check news and email, so maybe the iPhone is good enough at those things to make some of this up, but this is a definite big “plus” in the 2125’s favor.
  • WinMo is an open platform, which is a nice win. That said, I’ve uninstalled every app I’ve ever put on the 2125 with the exception of GMail Mobile, because they uniformally sucked. GMail was pretty good, but the GMail mode on the iPhone’s mail app is far superior.
  • The iPhone can’t pair with a computer with Bluetooth, which means that you can’t use the Address Book on the Mac to dial a contact wirelessly. That would be minorly nice. In fact, mobile Safari can dial a number if you click it on a webpage, and it would be nifty if they’d make it so that if you click one on the Mac, it would start the call on your iPhone.

Answering a friend’s question about the whether or not the iPhone was “pocketable”:

I think so. I carry my phone in my back pocket, and have been doing the same with the iPhone. I bought a wallet-like case for the iPhone, and it feels like a thin wallet in my pocket. I wouldn’t want the combo in my front pocket, though. That said, I don’t like most phones in my front pocket…even the fairly small 2125.

Scott Hill, elsewhere on the web: