January 2008 Archives

January 31, 2008

The Golden Age of the Airship: Is It Really Behind Us?

Airships inspire a certain level of awe by their sheer size, and by the way they can move. They also inspire fear for those that like to point out the Hindenburg, perhaps the most infamous airship of them all. Because they are so slow and potentially flimsy, many people have written off the airship as a method of transportation.

But is it perhaps too soon to make such an assumption? With soaring energy prices and the need to support remote regions for humanitarian aide, the airship becomes a more credible method of transportation, and here are the reasons why:

Cabin Space
An airship with roughly the same dimensions as a regular aircraft can carry a larger payload, both in cargo space and weight. Properly applied, and assuming you are not in a hurry to move your cargo or passengers (more on that in a bit), the airship becomes a very space-friendly solution. Imagine having a flight from one end of the country to the other. Instead of spending hours in cramped quarters, you could actually spend more time stretched out in comfort, even sleep in a real, full-sized bed in your own cabin! And you can still carry just as many people as on a plane. They will just be more comfortable.

Fuel Efficiency
Sure, the airship is slow, but it's fuel efficient. Most blimps currently use less fuel in an hours flight than most jets use to taxi to the runway. Of course, in a world where ecological considerations and green house gasses are a concern, imagine coating the envelope of an airship with solar panels, and using electric motors? Propulsion becomes even more environmentally sound. And, with solar power and efficient batteries, it's possible to never have to land to refuel, so long distance travel would be very possible.

Point to Point Shipping
Most airships have one thing in common: vertical take off and landing. That means that the airship can load up at, say, a factory, and then fly directly to the distribution center with a huge load. And, the shipping costs become roughly the same as maritime shipping. Shipping by boat is much cheaper per mile than shipping by road. Airships apply this same concept to the air, making inland shipping much more cost effective.

Remote Access
Canada is currently looking to airships to supply their remote locations in the Northwest Territories. Currently they are using ice roads over frozen lakes, but with the ice melting faster each year, they need another way to ship. Airships will allow them to ship the same materials at all times of the year, regardless of the state of the ice below them.

Airships can also reach remote areas in underdeveloped nations during disasters, or in areas where huge disasters completely destroy all other infrastructure (including traditional airports). Cheaper to fly than Helicopters, and able to carry larger payloads, airships can bring waves of humanitarian aide in less time than it would take to rebuild an airport, or try to rebuild roads, bridges, etc. to allow ground shipping in an area. They can land in any open field (or convention center roof top), drop their payload, and continue back to get more materials.

Why am I preaching the benefits of airships? Partly because I think they are just cool, partly because I love the idea of silently flying through the air in comfort. But also because several companies are currently working on airship solutions for the Military to deploy men, supplies, and equipment, and need the flexibility and lift power of the airship. This means that commercial and even private airship transportation could soon be within reach.

The one company that I am really interested in is Worldwide Aeros Corp, and their concept Aeroscraft ML866. It's really a hybrid craft, and not a true airship, because it's not fully lighter than air. Instead it has VTOL capabilities to a point, but requires aerodynamic lift to achieve higher altitudes. For general information, check out this PDF of their entry in the 2008 pocket guide to Business Aircraft.

Two other companies out there developing solutions are Lockheed-Martin and their P-791 hybrid airship, and the SkyCat of Hybrid Air Vehicles. Both have similar designs (which actually prompted a legal battle), and both are looking to jump into the Airship market.

There are many other airship companies out there, and each are trying to take advantage of the need for economically and environmentally friendly shipping, even if it is slower than jets over long distances.

January 30, 2008

iPod Slate Wish List: What I Would Like in an Apple UMPC

The much rumored iPod Slate turned out to be just that, a rumor. Some say that it was never to be, while others say that it just wasn't ready to be released to the public quite yet. Either way, we don't have it, which means I can still put up a wish list for the features I would like to see in such a device.

Why am I talking about this now? Well, here is hopes that it will be ready and inexpensive enough for the Christmas season (starting in October), and that somehow my ideas/wishes/suggestions will have time to be adopted. Of course, that assumes that someone in Cupertino actually reads my blog.

First and foremost, it needs to be very mobile. This means the form factor for the iPod would be perfect, if just enlarged slightly. This will allow for maximum portability, while still being large enough to be able to see/read/use. Also, in addition to the size, the multi-touch display would be invaluable, allowing for operation without a mouse. An iSight camera facing the user would be a must, allowing for iChat AV usage.

Next, ports. Your standard iPod doesn't have anything other than the proprietary iPod docking port, and that needs to change with the iPod Slate. Add a USB port and a micro-DVI port, just like what's present on the MacBook Air. Why? Because occasionally you may want to hook up a USB device of some sort (usually extra storage). The micro-DVI port would be necessary for presentations (i.e., Keynote). That would make this device a phenomenal seller in the business market (and education).

Now input devices. Allow the tethering of bluetooth devices, like the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard. It's thin enough to be useful for something like this, as both would be easily stored in a portfolio. A bluetooth headset would be a given, I would think, and perhaps even a bluetooth microphone alone. Why? An excellent option for people out making a quick and dirty Podcast interview. You can leave your iPod Slate in your pocket, and still record the conversation like a professional.

What about the guts? The processor doesn't have to be really powerful. Let's face it, this isn't going to be a gaming machine. The hard drive could also be small, like the 16 GB solid state drives that are already part of the iPod Touch. That keeps the price down, and gives the user plenty of storage for office work and basic recording. Want more storage? Perhaps have an upgrade to 32 GB. Anything more would be nice, but would price the device beyond overall acceptance.

Also, along with the expected Bluetooth and WiFi, have 3G/4G built into it. Not necessary, but would be really nice for those businessmen traveling, and need something compact. This way you also don't have to worry about including a slot for a 3G card. Of course, people could use the USB dongles available... but wouldn't it be nicer to have it built in? And while we are talking about it, why not have a small stand built into it, so it can stand up on it's side. Perfect for using the bluetooth headset (though this could be a third party add-on that I would pay a small amount of money for ^_^).

And finally, drives. As proven with the MacBook Air, you don't need a drive if you already have a system that can share their drive over the network. If that's the case, why worry about anything more than just the hard drive on the iPod Slate? The innovation that came with the Air can be easily adopted on the iPod Slate.

Make the iPod Slate versatile: allow standard Apple software to be installed. Granted, gaming will not be a huge priority (except for your distraction games like Chess or Cards), but iLife would be nice. I don't think people will be working particularly with iDVD, but iPhoto, iMovie (to a small extent), and Garageband would be almost an absolute must. iTunes is pretty much a given. And, if some games are optimized for the platform... Well that is just the game-maker's win, isn't it? (Hint: WoW and Second Life would be great!).

I would also like to see Pages, Numbers, and Keynote on the device. Why? Because I'm looking for a production machine that will let me write documents easily (with a bluetooth keyboard), show presentations, and let me keep track of information in a spreadsheet all in my pocket. The PocketPC has had this capability in a very limited form for a long time, and it would be a mistake to have the opportunity to improve on this opportunity go to waste.

Next, have a full version of iCal, with all the calendars, subscriptions, etc. This is what is missing from the iPhone and iPods. People that need to live in a calendar to keep their life going in the right direction need it. On top of iCal, have a full version of iChat, Mail, and Address Book installed. It's only logical, and would make it a killer device.

Here is the real bottom line: don't price it as high as the MacBook Air. This isn't meant to be a high-end sub-notebook. But it is the most advanced iPod out there. Make it between $600.00 and $900.00, and you will have it sold easily. Students will choose it over any other laptop for their school work, and then choose another machine for gaming. It's a quick and easy way to get people into the Mac platform while still letting them hold on to a PC. When that PC then dies, they will buy a Mac next, because they have had time to compare.

So, that is my wish list. Do I expect everything to be adopted? Not at all. But I do hope that the next iPod Slate will have, at minimum, everything the iPod Touch has, but with Bluetooth for a keyboard, iWork for office work, and a micro-DVI port for presentations. That alone would be a huge leap forward for the iPod.

January 29, 2008

In Sympathy for Two Great Men of Faith: President Gordon B. Hinkley and Archbishop Christodoulos

As many of you know, this week was marred by the death of two great men, President Gordon B. Hinkley of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Archbishop Christodoulos of the Greek Orthodox Church. Both men lead their religions with a spirit of love and hope, and will be missed by their congregations.

President Hinkley was a remarkable man, and had a love for all people that was genuine. NPR has this story regarding President Hinkley, his accomplishments, and particularly his popularity with the press. There are some great quotes of his at the bottom of the story that show his love and dedication to the Gospel, as well as humor and candor.

President Hinkley represents the fourth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that I can remember. I vaguely remember President Spencer W. Kimbal's death in 1985, and the funeral that was held at the Tabernacle. Then President Ezra Taft Benson passed away shortly before I began my mission for the Church in 1994. President Howard W. Hunter signed my missionary call, and my card, and passed away while I was in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. They are all special to me, with each one having an impact on my life.

Only this morning was it reported that Archbishop Christodoulos had passed away just an hour after President Hinkley. Now, I am not Greek, but I do support the Greek Orthodox community every year (the Greek Festival is a fund raiser for the Holy Trinity Church in Salt Lake). From what has been reported of him on KUER (which doesn't have a web headline yet), he was a great man of faith, working to build bridges of understanding with the Roman Catholic Church. He invited Pope John Paul II to Athens for the first meeting between the leaders of the two faiths in over a thousand years. He loved the youth of the church deeply, and will be missed by the over 300 million members of the Greek Orthodox faith. For a great article on the Archbishop, check out this entry at the New York Times.

What strikes me as interesting is that both leaders were known for reaching out across faiths, and they both had a great love for the future generation. I think it's fitting that both should be remembered with respect and reverence for their work. If only all members of faiths could have the same belief of working together instead of trying to tear bonds between faiths apart, I think the majority of problems in the world would be solved.

January 24, 2008

UNIX Model vs. Closed Source Model: A Perspective

It seems that I get the same question every time someone finds out my OS preferences: What's so wrong with Windows? Why do you prefer Open Source to finished, polished products? These are questions that I hear a lot, and I often ask myself those same questions. Why? Why am I drawn to something that takes so much effort when I want something to work now, and work well?

Well, here are my answers. Please note that these are my preferences, and not linked to anything else in particular:

Power and Flexibility
When was the last time someone told you they could get a full-blown, running OS on a 1.44 MB floppy drive? How many people do you know have three different versions of the same program, but configured for very different tasks? The idea behind the UNIX and open source community is power and flexibility. To understand this, you need to understand the basic concepts behind the UNIX platform*:
1. Write a program that can do one thing really well.
2. Expect that the output will become an input of another program, even if that program doesn't exist yet.
3. Build for quick and early application: and don't be afraid to rebuild.
4. Build tools to facilitate your work.
*Courtesy GuruLabs, Linux Fundamentals

These concepts provide for magnificent power because every program is built to it's specific task, and built well. Add a string of programs together, and you have one powerful application. Any part of that application can be updated, changed, etc. and it will still work. Also, if you don't need to use a part of the application, you can remove it entirely. You now have a model that allows you to customize your user experience without sacrificing performance. That, my friends, is true power in computing.

Looking again at the closed source model, you have programs that become bloated by trying to become all things to all people. Granted it doesn't take a genius to set it up, but you can't customize it at all without sacrificing other portions of the program, or the entire program.

Rapid Development

Because each program is separate, and the source is open, anyone can tweak it, rework it, or completely rewrite it. If there is a problem that one person misses (and quite frankly, it's going to happen, as we are all only human), then someone else can catch it and fix it on the fly. An added bonus is migration of tools and programs to unintended completely different applications. This makes related, or even unrelated, software development more rapid.

Closed source doesn't have this same rapid development scheme. How many times have closed source applications been months or years in delayed deployment? All because they are unwilling to relinquish any perceived "profits" that might be lost by opening their core code.

Yes, that's right. the Open Source movement is more about utility than form. Function is the important tool. Sometimes this is incredibly frustrating (bad UI development), but generally the tools are excellent at what they do. Why? Because they keep to the four basic principles of UNIX development. You need a tool? Great, use it. You don't need it? You don't have to install it. How many closed source programs can boast that level of utility?

When I worked as a computer technician, I thought I knew computers. I thought I had the OS all figured out, and could rebuild a computer in my sleep. Boy, how wrong I was. All I needed to do was try to use another OS, and I was lost. Now? I can figure out pretty much any OS because UNIX, Linux, Solaris, and Mac OS have shown me how an OS works on the inside. Compiling source gives me insight on how an OS can work. Granted, it's not Windows, but I have a feeling that Microsoft will one day slap itself silly in the face a couple of times and just develop their Windowing software for a UNIX core. Ultimately, UNIX will teach you more about how a computer works than any other OS.

My crack about Microsoft abandoning their own kernel? Well, as far as I'm concerned, it would be the only responsible thing to do considering the doom that Vista has been. UNIX is not only older and more powerful, but they would in one fell swoop make it possible to regain their market share. After all, why have a virtual machine running Windows, when you can just start another windowing program off the same machine, and get Windows that way? But I digress.

Those are my reasons for liking UNIX. Notice I didn't say anything about security, because security on a computer is easy (just don't turn it on, ^_^). I didn't mention anything about greed, hate, personal curses, or maiming of anyone in the world. No, I like UNIX because it can work anywhere, on just about any computing platform in existence. Yes, UNIX and the Open Source model allows for this flexibility. Closed Source just can't cut it.

January 22, 2008

Corporate Discounts and the iPhone

Yesterday, quietly, AT&T announced a plan for corporate users to get an iPhone with their corporate account discounts. This is something that has been asked for, sought after, and finally won by the business users that wanted to utilize the iPhone (and one more step for Apple in the business market). Since the University has a corporate account with AT&T, I thought I would check it out and see what the discount looks like.

Well, it looks like the discount for the plan saves you around $9.00 per month for any plan with any phone (sans one). So you are probably thinking, "Great! I'm all over it!" Well, before you get too excited, you have to look at the iPhone Enterprise Data plan. For the basic plan (everything, with only 200 SMS messages), it's $45.00 a month. Compare that with the iPhone individual upgrade of only $20.00 a month for the same plan. So, you are being charged an extra $25.00, just because you have a corporate account.

I suppose they assume that corporate users are going to integrate more applications and utilize the data bandwidth more, so that's why the price is higher. Unfortunately, since there is no discount for the iPhone itself, this means that it would be cheaper for a business user to get a private account for the iPhone, instead of the corporate account.

Needless to say, I am disappointed. Perhaps, should the iPod Slate be announced sometime soon, or a 3G iPhone even sooner, I will rethink it.

January 17, 2008

Linux Saves the Day: Real Life Story

Many people fell that I am biased against specific operating systems, in favor of a few. Most say that because the most outspoken of both the Linux and Mac community tend to defend their position by negatively attacking the competition. As such, the "community" is thereafter labeled as zealots, and from then on out no one takes you seriously. The truth is, I feel that operating systems are like suits, you wear the one that best fulfills your goals. Case in point:

My father is using an older machine that I had built about four years ago. The processor isn't even a 1 gig processor, the memory not quite one GB. It's old, it's worn, it started to show it's age. XP has been installed on it because it was the handy OS, and it ran fairly decently... Until recently. Updates from Microsoft have made the OS unusable.

I brought home another XP install disc to use with my XP key I had at home, and my dad tried to reinstall. It didn't work, and the original XP disc was nowhere to be found. What was he going to do? I also brought home Fedora 8 and Ubuntu 7.04. Fedora wouldn't work, because the machine didn't have a DVD-ROM drive. So, he installed Ubuntu.

The installation was flawless I assume, since I received no requests for assistance. The machine just works, and works well. Where XP had failed on this older machine, Ubuntu is flourishing. Granted all the games that were previously installed on the machine now no longer work, but as my mother was rather frustrated with the wasted time in those games, it's a better all around situation without them.

So there you have it. No zealous attacks on XP, no burning effigy of Bill Gates, just the reality that the machine was getting too old for XP and needed another operating system that would work on it. Do I think one OS is better than another? Only when the other OS will not work at all in the platform that you want, or when you want some flexibility. As my father so aptly told me this morning as I groaned at his decision to install Opera, "For what I use it for, it works better than anything else."

January 16, 2008

Short Review: The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello

I'm not generally one for video shorts, though I have seen thousands (particularly computer animated shorts). I also have a fairly limited field of likes when it comes to film, with most of the movies I enjoy coming from before the 60's. That being said, I read about this animated short on various websites, and decided to give it a try.

The Animation
The first thing that actually drew my attention was the animation. I'm pretty sure it is computer animation because of the precision, but it looks like shadow puppetry. That in and of it self is really cool! Shadow puppetry hasn't been seen in mainstream US markets (as far as I know) for years. It's neat to see someone take such an artistic turn in their animation. I'm really impressed.

The Setting
The setting is in a very steampunk world. Airships, coat tails, mad scientists that would rather kill others than think logically on how to get a monster back to a city. Yes, it just screams steampunk, and as such captured my attention. The machines used for locomotion are heavily geared, and there appears to be no natural ground. All land is floating in the air (rather cool, I'd say), and makes one wonder what kind of physics governs the world.

The Story
Something I have learned from watching years of animated shorts is that the animation can be excellent, but if the story is lacking the experience suffers. Apparently the creators of this little gem understood that, and wrote a complex story that is grounded in a history as to yet explained, giving the experience a richness that is usually lacking in other animated shorts. The story could have fallen directly from Jules Verne. It's rich, has just enough reference to technology to make geeks drool, and has such an intense ending that you are left wanting more.

A quick synopsis: A young navigator, haunted by a fatal mistake in his past, has been reassigned to his old ship. The crew are on a routine mission to a new trade route when they came across a derelict vessel, with all the crew dead, and yet still in complete working order. They follow their old heading at the behest of their one passenger, a biologist, and discover an uncharted island. The adventures start there, with excitement, horror, and a discovery of just what man can do when determination overrides reason.

If you have not seen this short, which has won many awards and was nominated for an Oscar in 2006, I would highly recommend that you do. If you can't find the DVD to purchase, you can find it on iTunes for $1.99 (plus tax). It's 26:05 minutes long, and every minute is gripping. I highly recommend it.

January 15, 2008

MacWorld Keynote Reaction

Well, the speculation is over, the rumor and anticipation is done, Steve's Keynote has been delivered. There were a number of updates, and two new products, that were announced. Let me go over them one by one, and give you my reaction to each of them.

Time Capsule
Time Capsule is a new device that Apple has that combines the Airport Extreme with a backup drive already on board. So, instead of getting another drive and adding it to your Airport Extreme, you have just the one device. Very handy, very popular, very much in need when using Time Machine to back up your data. If you don't already have a server running at home that will let you back up your machine, this is a great idea.

At the time of the announcement, I was rather luke-warm about this device, since it is kind of a watered down home SAN, but it didn't really grab me. Now, I think it's something that I would like to have. It integrates with Time Machine well, so there isn't a lot of configuration and thought that needs to go into backing up your system. It just does it for you. Of course, you can save a lot of space if you only back up your Users folder, which backs up all the user folders and configuration files. ^_^

iPhone Updates
Great idea, adding a lot of functionality to the already popular phone. But I don't have a phone, and I'm not sure I will ever get a phone. Why wasn't there an option to tether a Bluetooth keyboard? That, in my mind, would have been a much needed/wanted ability for the iPhone. Perhaps in future, as new software becomes more popular and functional with the SDK.

iPod Touch Updates
This was very much needed. It's about time! The update will be welcome for everyone that want's to have the functionality of the iPhone without wanting an actual phone. For the first time, I am seriously thinking of getting an iPod Touch. Course, if you already have one, the extra $20.00 seems a bit steep. Why charge for the upgrade?

iTunes Movie Rentals
We all knew this was coming, particularly since a lot of studios have been rather loose-lipped about the whole thing. It's a good move, in my mind. There are a lot of movies I have ripped into MP4 format that sit on a DVD somewhere, never to be watched. All the DVD's that we have purchased and have only watched once... It's a good move. And the price is about what I expected. The HD rental idea was pretty cool, though I wonder what the download rate would be.

Do I think it will change the industry? Not really. I think it will be more popular, easier to manage, and more natural for people because of their current use of iTunes, but ultimately the industry is too young to say that it will be changed forever by this announcement. But it does make using the current industry more simple to use. ^_^

Apple TV Take 2
Yes! It stores it's own media! Yes! The upgrade is free! Yes! This was the real announcement for me. The Apple TV had so much potential, but it felt like those of us using it for so long had been pretty much left out of the loop. It was great for sharing media from my wife's Mac, and still will be. But now we can rent movies to it easily, watch them, and have the movie automatically delete once we've watched it. Also, video podcasts can be downloaded and watched without having to use another machine. This was a great idea, and I'm glad Apple went with it. ^_^

The price drop was also nice, though not significant enough to warrant another purchase of the 160 GB model (yet). Yet again, price begins to drag on my wants, reminding me of the needs that are more pressing. Oh well, perhaps soon.

Macbook Air
The rumor was pretty strong on this one, and I thought it would be something similar to the Eee PC by ASUS. The devil was in the details, depending on the type of drive, size, and features it carried. It turned out to be the same, much the same way a Honda Civic is the same thing as a Mercedes Benz. Here are the points:

1. Size: It's perfect for what I want. I need something small, easy to carry around in either a backpack, briefcase, or even a portfolio. That's why I wanted an iPod Slate to begin with. Something like that would have been perfect, and they have given me basically a Slate with the keyboard attached. It's nice and compact, if wider than I would have wanted (in comparison to my 12" Powerbook).

The thing is, I don't really need a 13" screen. I can deal with a 8" screen (I did with my NEC 120LT for a couple years, and it was great!). So the screen size isn't actually a benefit for me. It could be, if I needed to see something that big, and the resolution is right where I would want it to be. But a small screen I can live with.

2. Weight: Great weight. I like small laptops that are lightweight. My 120LT that I had for years was 2.2 pounds. That was perfect for running around. This gives me the ability to write documents, show presentations, carry my movies/TV shows with me, and having a full OS that will work with the classes I teach. And it's all in a small form device that is about the same size and width of a 30 page document (estimate only). That I like. It's perfect particularly for any instructor in Distance Education, who want's to have the power of a full-sized laptop, but save on space while traveling.

But how does it compare to the Eee PC? The Eee PC is lighter by a full pound. So even though the weight is great for the Macbook Air, it's still not the lightest option out there.

3. Drive: This is what concerned me the most. Solid State drives have a limited number of writes before it fails. Granted, pretty much everything could have the same, but a solid state drive is more limited. With a full OS writing to it constantly (log files, caching, deleting, etc.), it can fail rather quickly.

I had mentioned before in a previous post that if such a thing were to be developed, it would be nice to have an iPod Classic drive in the machine. And that's what they did. It's not really fast (4200 RPM), so don't expect to be gaming heavily on it, or producing video with Final Cut Pro. But it will do the job, and potentially last longer than a Solid State Drive.

Course, if you want speed, the 64 GB (compared to the Eee PC's max of 8 GB) will definitely give it to you...at a cost. That cost? $999. yep, the 4200 RPM PATA drive was a good choice. ^_^

One thing it can't do is boot from a USB drive, unlike the Eee PC. Of course, I could be wrong about that, but that is a huge bonus with the Eee PC. Sure the SSD drive may die on it after a few years, but you can still boot from either a USB drive, or an SD card. Therefore, you have a device that can outlast the SSD drive installed, as well as have multiple versions of the OS for the machine.

4. Peripherals: The Macbook Air was built to be wireless, and use wireless devices. Sure, you can have an external, USB powered Superdrive ($99 extra), or another USB device, but that's it. It doesn't even have a Firewire port, as you might expect. The Micro-DVI port looks interesting (almost like a 400 Firewire port??), but if you lose your adapter you are sunk. No one else will have one that will work with it, unless they have the same machine.

The wireless technology is what you would expect from Apple: 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1. There was a guess that it would include either UTMS or WiMAXX, but neither came about. I wouldn't mind WiMAXX... I like the idea and the technology. Perhaps in future incarnations of the Macbook Air as the technology begins to catch on. We will see.

The Eee PC has three USB ports, and an SD card slot. Great idea, but SD cards are easily lost (particularly if you are as disorganized as I am). But then, the USB ports could easily make up for that. Wireless is the standard 802.11g, which most people support.

5. Design: Quite frankly, the Macbook Air has a killer design. It's sleek, it's fancy, it's impressive. It will turn heads, and be the kind of tech status symbol that many people feel they need in their lives. Personally, it's not as important as a number of other features, but then I still like to have something that looks as good as it performs. The key there is as good as. I don't want something that looks fabulous, but totally bomb in performance. It still needs to do what I want it to do.

The Eee PC doesn't look as nice, but the ability to boot from any Linux distro at any time, while keeping your home folders on the main drive is pretty slick. The geek factor goes up pretty high at that point. Of course you can always tri-boot the Macbook Air, you just don't have the flexibility to move based on new storage.

6. Price: For those (two) of you who have followed my blog, you know that I pride myself on my Scottish heritage. It's in my Blog's name, I show it every April 6th (national Tartan Day!), and I try to show it in my purchasing of devices. I'm very wary of paying a load of money for a new thing just because it is "shiny". I want to have made an informed decision, and gone with the lowest bid.

Now, that doesn't mean that I automatically look at price! I look at quality, life expectancy, and multi-tasking my purchases. if it does one thing really well, but I can't do anything else with it, then I generally leave it be (unless it's under a dollar ^_^). So with high prices comes high expectations. If I can do the same thing with a lesser-priced device, I will go with the lesser priced device. It's simple rules of economics.

The Macbook Air is priced at $1,799.00, with an Education discount of $100. Good price? It hurt my wallet. I want the thing, but that's a bit much for me to muster. I need a new laptop, and I really would like it to be a Mac. It makes a $999.00 Macbook look a lot better. After all, it's just a little thicker, has more features, and weighs just two more pounds. I just can't put it in a Portfolio while on the go.

Course, the Eee PC is priced around $400.00, which makes it a much better purchase. I could purchase two and still have it be less than a Macbook.

Anyway, that's what I thought of today's MacWorld Keynote. All in all, they were all really neat. But I don't think I will be getting a Macbook Air today. Perhaps, if more is known on how it performs with Target Disk Mode, and other support features, I may change my mind and try to talk my wife into letting me get one. Perhaps...

MacWorld Keynote Today! Anticipated Ultra-Thin Macbook Expected

Yes, the highly anticipated Keynote is scheduled for today, with high expectations for Apple to announce new and wild releases. The one thing that I really wanted, the iPod Slate, looks to not be one of them, according to Apple Insider. It seems that the PDA/UMPC is still not ready, either from a design or market standpoint. Instead, all weight has been thrown behind the new ultra-mobile Macbook, which is expected to be priced at $1,500. Wired's Gadget Lab has a post regarding the new device, but doesn't mention pricing or availability (but it will soon be made public, if real).

It has all the features I am looking for in a notebook replacement (like the iPod Slate), because it is thin, highly portable, and has a full version of the OS. It's also rumored (or more like wildly guessed) to have 3G built into it, either through UMTS or WiMAXX (or both). It's a great little device, but my total conversion will come at price (assuming everything about it will be true). Make it the least expensive Macbook, and I'll be sold. ^_^

So, until then, I am counting down to the keynote, while working to prepare for various classes I am teaching. It's fun to guess at what Apple is going to release, but even more fun to learn what really does get released. Until then, it's business as usual (with just a little bit of high expectation ^_^).

January 10, 2008

Wanted: Video Game Programming Teacher for Youth Program in Summer

Today I am stepping away from my usual discussion points to post up an ad. Our Youth program (part of Continuing Education at the University of Utah) is looking for someone to teach a class on video game programming. This class, in the past, has been taught in Dark Basic, but we can be flexible if someone would like to try another platform. These are the requirements:

1. Can Teach: This means that you have in the past taught before, and can teach. That means you recognize when someone is having trouble (deer in the headlights look), can help people on an individual basis, and can communicate your points in such a way as to allow students to build upon each of the steps.
2. Get along well with children: The students will range in age between 13 and 18. Most generally tend to be in the jr. high range. There will be a maximum of 16 students, so things can get a little rowdy. This class is also very popular, usually running at a beginning and an advanced level.
3. Have a Take Away: The students in the end of both the beginning and advanced course would need to have something completed, and can take home.

The class usually runs an entire week, just 3 hours a day. Something advanced like Java would probably not be a good choice, because of the time constraint. The class is not meant to be a video game design course, just a programming course. Also, if you choose not to use Dark Basic, the software would need to be fairly inexpensive. Free is always good. ^_^

If you have any questions regarding the class, interest, pay, etc., please give Claire Turner a call at 581-7226.

January 8, 2008

Mac Rumors Abound: What do I Expect?

Well, it's that time of year again. The media is all a buzz with the coming of new and potentially life-changing devices from Apple. What will it be? A cure for global warming? A chip to interface your head directly with the internet? Flying cars? The wild guesses are running rampant. But, beyond all the hype, what is it that I think Apple should release? Here is my wish list (note, not predictions):

Lots of people have been talking about this, and the potential for an iPod Slate , which would be a replacement for the Newton, have full OS installed, and the ability to tether bluetooth keyboards and mice. All in all, I think it's a great idea. But doesn't the iPhone have a bluetooth antenna installed? Why not just enable tethering there?

Course, a bigger screen would be nice, but still small enough to be portable. It needs to be a fully functional machine, with all the abilities of a fully fledged Mac, but be small enough to fit in a portfolio, at least. And, most importantly, it needs to be well priced. If not, then the Eee PC sounds like the best bet for me for my next replacement notebook.

Why something so small and no notebook? Well, I don't need a lot of real estate for the classes I teach, nor the classes I hope to teach. I need something mobile, because mobility is a big deal when you are teaching all over the state (and get offers outside of the state). I also need the flexibility of being able to have a full machine that boots quick (or wakes up quickly), has access to all my files (via networking), and can be used anywhere. So, one last thing I would like in a UMPC from Apple is a 3G chip on board, and not an external device.

A Home Server
I am planning on setting up a home server anyway, once I can afford the hardware, but wouldn't it be nice if Apple set up a home server device for me? It would be configured pretty basically, but allow me to also configure it in a more advanced way if necessary. I want the ability to run simple file sharing through the device, with some web services, collaboration services, and even NetBoot if I can get away with it. If necessary (and if the price is right), I would be willing to purchase more than one server device, each configured for a specific duty. As it stands now, I am looking at getting a bare-bones Mac Mini, and running the server off of it.

And, well, that's about it. The number one thing I want is a reasonably priced UMPC that is priced like a PDA, but works like a Mac. As mentioned before, I can work without one by using a Linux-based EeePC or the OLPC machine, but I really am hooked on the Mac. It does the job for me, it's easy to set up, and I teach the platform. The server I can set up myself, if I need to. The UMPC would just be really nice. ^_^
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