June 2011 Archives
June 27, 2011
Every day in the United States, 38,000 pints of blood are needed. That's a lot of blood. And up until recently, I haven't been able to give blood. But today I did, and I'm very glad I did. I haven't been able to give blood until recently because I was in Europe, specifically Germany, during the big Mad Cow scare in Britain. Because of that, a moratorium was placed on all blood donors who were in Europe during the 90's. Not that I was sad, mind you, because I'm not very thrilled to have a massive needle stuck in my arm. Still, it's something that is needed, particularly as I have type O blood, which is in great demand. So I did some checking, and it seems that the moratorium is only permanent if you lived in Great Britain. For Germany, as long as I didn't live there for longer than 5 years (and I was only there a little under 2 years), I'm clear to donate blood. So today I went down to the blood bus, filled out the necessary forms, and let them stick me with a needle. Within 6 minutes I was done and ready to get back to work. Some things that made the experience great for me was being well hydrated. I had done quite a bit of bike riding since Monday, and with the increase in exercise I'd increased my water intake. I rarely drink soda (unless I'm at home, or need a little bit of energy), so it wasn't a problem keeping away from that. And when I say increased my water intake, it was over the course of three days, not just the morning before I got stuck, so I was well hydrated. As such I didn't even feel light-headed when I stood up.But the best thing about giving blood today was the coupon for a free pint of ice cream from Baskin Robbins, which I am sure will be a hit with the family. Not only do I get to do my part to save a life, but I get to enjoy free ice cream. That's just awesome.
June 25, 2011
June 17, 2011
June 16, 2011
June 15, 2011
In the recent WWDC keynote, Steve et al had mentioned embracing the post-PC world, or using mobile devices like the iPad instead of a laptop/desktop to do your day to day work. And for the most part this is possible, when it comes to creating documents, viewing content, even creating websites and publishing them. But there are a few pieces missing that would make it possible for me to give up my PC in lieu of my iPad. So here is a wish list I have for iOS:
- iPhoto Publishing: Now, when I talk about publishing in iPhoto, I don't mean publishing to the web, or even syncing to the cloud, as will be available in the Fall with iOS 5. No, what I am talking about is creating books, calendars, and cards from iPhoto on an iOS device, and submitting it to Apple to have it published. This is an essential tool, at least to my wife, and something that is keeping her from being able to give up her PC for the iPad. I don't think this would be a hugely difficult tool to add either, though it would essentially be on the scale as Garageband or iMovie for iPad. But it's a feature I would like to see, as would my wife. It was also a conversion point for my wife, as she loves scrapbooking, but found she didn't have enough time to get pages done the way she really wanted.
- Xcode for iPad: Another feature that I would love to see, though I doubt I can expect it because of the scope, is Xcode, or at least an Xcode editor. Often I find it inconvenient to pull out my MacBook Pro to start working on code while commuting, and would find it far more useful to pull out an iPad (takes less space in cramped seating than a clamshell laptop). It would also allow for editing on the fly. Add iCloud support for Xcode or SVN support in Xcode for iPad, and it would allow me to edit my code with any device, make my changes, and then finish it up on a more robust device when I have the time. That would be very convenient.
- Microsoft Office for iPad: While I'm getting to love Pages, Keynote, and Numbers on my iPad, Microsoft Office is still the dominant office suite in the business world. Because of this, it would be in Microsoft's best interest to release a version of their software for the iPad (perhaps in conjunction with a Windows Phone 7 release?). Do I think they ever will? Nope, they want you to get a tablet with Windows 8 on it. It's a pity though, because that is a lot of potential revenue for their software just waiting in the wings.
- Video Chat for Skype: This shouldn't be that hard, and though I like the idea of FaceTime now being available through 3G with iOS 5, I'd like additional options. Of course, it could just dry up now that Microsoft purchased it.
So that's my small list. Is there anything out there that you would like to see in the post-PC world? It doesn't matter what platform, as ultimately these features could be available to all.
June 14, 2011
June 9, 2011
I like Apple products. There, my bias has been shared right up front. I don't like them because they are "Apple", and I don't like them because I live in a distortion field of unreality. I like them because they give me a stable OS (UNIX) that I don't have to compile and configure every day. It just works so I can move on with my life. So when iOS 5 and iCloud was announced, I was impressed. Now that I've had a couple of days to digest the announcements, I'd like to share my thoughts. For iCloud, this was a long time coming, and I'm really impressed with what will be available in Fall. Why? Because once you purchase something, you should always have access to that regardless of whether or not the original media had been backed up. For instance, if a catastrophic hardware failure takes out your music collection, you should be able to download it again for free. This has not been the case with any music distribution channel of which I am aware (please correct me if I'm wrong). I don't blame Apple or the distribution companies, but rather the record labels. This concept of having access to purchased material is great, and I love it. I also like the idea of the cloud being a central hub, as opposed to the processing center. Part of this is because of the lack of a persistent high-speed connection required for computing to run in the cloud instead of locally, where as file repositories and syncing do not need to be persistent. Can't get a signal? Your computer will still work, all your apps are available, and all your files are available. Let them update to the cloud later, it doesn't matter that much. This will perhaps change in the future when persistent networks are more ubiquitous and reliable, but until then let me have a local OS with cloud accessible items. So what specifically do I like about iCloud?
- Access to Purchases: This is awesome, and something I have wanted for a long time.
- Song Matching: This is nice, because there are lots of people out there who have "borrowed" or "backed up" music they haven't specifically paid for, and they now have a chance to protect themselves from the auspices of "piracy". I don't like the fact that I would have to pay to access music that I have already purchased in CD form, but from a piracy standpoint, this is a win for the record labels by giving pirates a chance to come clean without threat of prosecution.
- Documents in the Cloud: I already use Dropbox for this, but the space is limited for the types of files I use. but being able to edit on any device and then have it updated, ready to go elsewhere without having to specifically tell it to save to Dropbox? That's a win. I will, of course, still use Dropbox (how could I not?), but now I would no longer need to use it for documents. Here is hoping that Microsoft embraces iCloud with an Office for iPad/iPhone release, and integrate it with Office 2010/2011 or later. Otherwise, I might just permanently convert to iWork.
- PC-Free: This has been a goal of mine since the PocketPC first came out. I had an old NEC MobilePro 400 with Windows CE 1.0 on it, and I loved it. Since then I have had PocketPCs (one with Familiar installed), an iPod Touch, and an iPad, and each one I have tried to go PC-less with them. There was always something that would stop me with each one. The PocketPC didn't have networking on it by default. the iPod Touch was too small to do any real work. The iPad still needed to be tethered for file transfers. But now no more with iCloud (activation is also taken care of with iOS 5, but that is another post). We are now finally living in a post-PC world that began with those first pioneers, championed by several companies like Google, and made mainstream by Apple.
- Photo-Stream: This is awesome, because it means I don't need to worry about transferring everything to the Mac and then to my iPad for additional editing. It may only keep 1,000 photos at any given time, but archiving them on the Mac isn't the problem. Generally it's getting it from one device to another. That's now taken care of.
- Backup: Backing up your device is critical. One reason why I often didn't use a computer to take notes in college, despite being able to type at about 80 words per minute, was because of the chance of a hard drive crash. Now that the iPad is working as a great device for note taking, or recording the lecture, having a back up is critical. Having it back up to the cloud for free is even better.
- Shared Calendars: Having a family calendar that everyone has access to is something I have been trying to get running at home. To date it has meant having a Mac OS X Server running with iCal Server to get it working properly. With iCloud, it's no longer necessary. That means $50.00 less in cost with OS X 10.7 Lion, and that's a good thing.
- The Price: Free is always a good thing, but even if you are matching your music, $24.99 a year is far better for the amount of music my wife and I have than, say, $200.00 a year. And that is only if I want to bother, which I am still up in the air about. We shall see.
So that is my list of what I like. Is it all exclusive to Apple? Probably not, as I'm sure everyone else has something similar or can set up something similar with a lot of coding/compiling/chanting in binary with five black candles burning. But with Apple, it just works (those parts that are in beta anyway, we shall see what happens in Fall), and that's what I like the most about Apple and their products. I'm optimistic that there will not be another "MobileMeGate". But what about the missing features? Here are some things I'd like to see:
- Video Purchases: We have audio, what about video? I'd like to see purchases for TV and movies be available on all devices without needing to back them up. I'm sure Apple is just waiting for approval from the Studios for this one, and if it's like anything else with those guys, it will be pulling teeth. From a T-Rex. On speed. Hopefully they can reach an agreement by Fall, but I'm not sure I'm that optimistic.
- Video Files: We have Photo Stream, what about Video Stream? Can I backup my videos to the cloud when I take them, and have them sync to other devices? Nothing was said, so I guess we will have to wait and see.
- Video Viewing from the Cloud: If I purchase a TV show or movie, I may not really want to store it locally, just watch it whenever I want on my Apple TV. As part of the whole "Move away from cable" plan, this would be a huge bonus. I'd like to be able to stream my purchases from the Cloud in future. Again, just like purchase syncing, this may be like pulling teeth, but would be awesome.
- Audio Listening from the Cloud: Same as watching video, but I'd like to have access to listen to my audio I purchased without having to download it first. Streaming your audio playlists from the cloud to devices like the Apple TV would be awesome, and I would love to see it happen.
Who knows what final announcements will be coming in Fall for iCloud? Perhaps I'll get to see what I want. But for now, what I'm getting is plenty for me to enjoy the cloud with my Mac devices. Anyone else have an opinion? What do you want to see in a cloud environment for your platform?
June 7, 2011
June 6, 2011
Recently, while my wife was working with my son's teacher in his class, she was asked a question: would we mind if our son was moved up into a more advanced Autism class? The question was asked because of an influx of new students and my son's ability to get bored very quickly when not challenged enough. The only concern would be my son's lack of verbal communication.
The question may seem to have an obvious answer, but it isn't as simple as putting him in a faster-paced classroom. You see, he loves working with the current teacher and aides, one of which lives nearby. There are some classmates he has had since preschool in the same classroom, which gives him a sense of comfort and continuity. And the teacher loves having my wife and I come to help when we can.
But the benefits are pretty exciting. My son is excelling in his academics in the current class and gets bored rather quickly (and the same thing happened in preschool at the end of the year). He would be challenged more in the more advanced class, focusing a lot on his academics that he loves so much. He would be closer to home, taking only about 10 minutes to drive over to the school as opposed to 30 or 40 minutes. He would still be bussed, which is exciting for him as he loves riding the bus to school. It just comes down to whether or not his verbal skills, or lack thereof, would be a problem.
I'm sure every parent has a point where their child's education needs to make change. Some need to worry about their child getting advanced too quickly into grades higher than their age group. Others worry about their children being held back a year to repeat grades for their benefit. Still others worry about getting their children in the "right" schools to reflect better on their potential collegiate careers. Personally, I'll just be happy to see my son grow into the skills he loves so much, and if that means moving him to a closer school that will better challenge him, then all the better.
So, after a lot of thought and discussion, we have decided to let our son advance to the next level in the autism program. He will be with more social and verbal children, which could encourage his verbal development. And, of course, he will be advancing his education at a pace with which he is more comfortable. It's exciting, and places all other debates on education, insurance, and causes of autism in perspective. This is what parenting a child with autism is really about: making those decisions that will better their lives in the future.
June 2, 2011