Scott Forstall is Gone

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Scott Forstall departed Apple.

The exact circumstances of Forstall’s refusal are unclear, but not entirely unexpected: it’s widely understood that the hard-charging, ambitious Forstall is abrasive and disliked by a number of others at his level inside Apple — people like head designer Jony Ive, who allegedly refused to take meetings in the same room as him. Forstall, who had been in charge of Maps, is said to have believed that the complaints over data quality were overblown — a belief so strong that he ultimately refused to sign the letter apologizing for the debacle (the letter released to the public ended up bearing CEO Tim Cook’s signature instead).

I’m not sure how much you can infer from videos, but Forstall always struck me as creepy in Apple’s iPad promo videos. Going forward, Marissa Meyer should hire him at Yahoo to really get something going there. I’m not sure what that would be, but it would be like a new center of villans in the tech world.

Steve Jobs

I just finished reading the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs. In many ways, it struck me as a stereotypical story of the Baby Boomers. Jobs came of age in the Sixties and his adoptive father was a hard working veteran who was able to provide a middle class upbringing to Steve.

He dropped acid, loved the Beatles and Dylan and got into eastern religion. He flew to India and spent time there, then embraced strange practices such as week long fasts or eating only a certain fruit for weeks at a time. He was a vegetarian who liked going around barefoot and didn’t shower because he was convinced that his diet prevented body odor. He took a pilgrimage to India and embraced meditation. He believed that all the religions are just different doors into the same room. He spurned cheaper state colleges so he could attend offbeat Reed College, in something of a spoiled fit. He got his girlfriend pregnant and told her he was okay with her getting an abortion, then ignored his daughter for years after she was born. He was petulant and hurtful to people, excusing his behavior as “just the way I am.” His affinity for alternative therapy probably killed him because he tried fruit juices and other offbeat treatments instead of surgery, until it was too late.

His aesthetic taste was immaculate and he spurred the development of great products. He pushed people to do far more than they thought they were capable of in search of perfect products. He was a visionary. And yet his life is, like all of our lives, sad in that it ended in a death that snuffed him out and took his knowledge to the grave with him. I hope that somehow he turned to Christ in his last hours and embraced the faith that he was taught as a young boy in the Lutheran Church. There is no evidence that this happened, but who knows what prayers he might have offered in the midst of his pain?

But his life, to me, summarizes the Boomers: all religions are the same, ultimate truth does not matter as much as some sort of enlightenment (which does not impact how we act towards one another), talk the talk about materialism whilst pursuing consumerism with a vengeance, and embrace weird therapies instead of western medicine. Future historians will be able to look at his life as a template for what the Sixties generation believed and how they lived it out.


My iPad Review

Yes, I am one of the fanatics that stood in line on day one of the iPad release to get one. The line was short and it only took about thirty minutes. Here are my disjointed thoughts on ten days with the iPad:
* Heat dissipation. I don’t know where heat from the iPad goes, but there is none to the touch on the unit. You know how when you use a laptop on your lap for any length of time, how the heat is billowing out and you start sweating? The iPad seems to emit no heat and is much easier to cradle when you are reading, surfing, etc.
* The keyboard. It’s still not ideal. Obviously it is far superior to the iPhone, and when you just want to fire off a quick email or something, it works fine. But when it comes to writing stuff like this, or working on documents, it is less than ideal. I bought the keyboard docking station [which I’m typing on right now] and it make life much easier. Personally, I’d be happy with a tablet that assumes the size of a small keyboard [such as this] as a starting point and built the form-factor of the tablet based on that size, but maybe that’s just me.
* Apps. There are some great apps already, and I can only imagine what is to come. I have been drawn into the ABC app in particular, watching Flash Forward and Lost episodes in really nice resolution. I’m a little baffled as to why Safari still doesn’t tab browse on iPad, but I bet that will change. The main thing I want to see is a better reading experience for Google Books. I have lots of old books on Google Books that I plan on reading, and I don’t want to have to reload them every time I come back to the Safari session. Come on Google, [or someone]. The ESV Bible App is slick and it is the first electronic Bible that I can actually enjoy reading due to the portability of the device.
* iBooks. Yes, it is a great reader. Reading anything on the iPad is nice. Web pages are easy to read, zoom in on, and read like a book. They scroll very fast. Mail is clean and nice to read. Books on iBooks are nice as we’ve all seen. The downside for me to date is that the books *I* want are all somewhat esoteric and are not available on iBooks, or Kindle for that matter. The religious section of the bookstore isn’t too impressive right now, but I expect that to get way better too. I like reading plain old PDFs on the iPad, and that may be the primary route I go as time goes on.
The reading experience is better than any other computer platform. You can carry it anywhere and read in any position. On the floor, upside down, in a chair, the usual convoluted ways that I sit when reading a book I can duplicate whilst reading on the iPad. Not being captive to a monitor, not having to worry about heat, and having an immense battery life all make this possible. The battery goes on and on compared to a laptop – it is as good as advertised.

That’s the brief rundown. I look forward to future versions of the device, and for Google to enter the market in the future. I think we’ll see all kinds of innovation in this market, and the need for laptops and even desktops may fade away for many home users. The world is shifting around us again.

Future Digital Conundrums

Watching the unveiling of the iPad today spurred me to reflect on some possible problems that may occur in future years of our digital age. For example, movies, books and software that I have purchased do not reside with me physically, but are located in the cloud (on a server somewhere in the ether). Assuming that Apple still exists when I die, can my descendants continue to use my Apple ID and password to access all of the accumulated music, books and software I have purchased? Will the government charge an inheritance tax on all the music I pass down via my Apple account? Can someone keep my Gmail account active so that my lifetime of correspondence can be accessed by a future family historian?

And think of the intense amounts of work that will be required by future historians. We think of the Civil War as the most documented conflict due to thousands of diaries and letters that historians must consult in addition to official accounts and government documents. But can you imagine what a future writer on anything will have to wade through in terms of e-communication to get a complete account of something? Millions of web pages, blog posts, e-mails, documents and videos. It staggers the mind to contemplate it. Perhaps they will simply give up and selectively cull the information to try and stay sane. Or perhaps our records now are less permanent unless they are printed. Take away electricity and all of it vanishes, whereas scrolls and books lasted a few centuries in the past. So maybe the staggering amounts of data generated right now will all be gone. But just think of the future historian trying to write a history of the 2008 Presidential election. How did the people see it? How did the media see it? What did the candidates think? Imagine poring through millions of e-mail with some sort of search algorithm or index. Reading texts from Barrack Obama’s Blackberry, posts from millions of common-man blogs, news articles from sites all over the world and on and on.The task seems daunting.

Steve Ballmer

I just watched the video of Steve Ballmer presenting the HP “slate” tablet PC [note that Ballmer is trying to get ahead of Apple on using the slate name]. I think Microsoft needs a new public face. Ballmer’s voice is grating, he looks like he’s mad and he dresses in a manner that looks uncomfortable and definitely not hip. Half the battle in all things technological is the coolness factor, and Ballmer doesn’t have it. Google has Brin and Page, Apple has Jobs and Ives, and Microsoft has old guys in suits who act like your Principal.

Perhaps the best move Microsoft could make is to put Ballmer out to pasture and hire a new, edgy guy from somewhere unexpected to run the company and shake things up. Because I guarantee that when Apple rolls out iSlate in a few weeks it will make Ballmer’s lame tablet presentation look awful, like it was.

UPDATE: he is more of a lunatic than I thought:


The cellphone ends gridlock?

Tonight before heading for home I weighed two alternatives – the main roads, possibly clogged with Thanksgiving traffic, or the back roads, slower, but more empty. I fired up the maps app on the iPhone and saw flashing red for the main roads. The iPhone uses the active cell phones on the road to estimate traffic. I happily avoided the mess and took the back roads home.

Could apps like this in people’s hands cut out the heart of congestion? I doubt it in on the macro level, because there just aren’t enough roads in northern Virginia to avoid systemic failure every day. But they may help to begin changing how we navigate, and might be the beginning of a solution to the most dreaded problem in all of Virginia. Update

On Friday night, Adobe updated The update merged the files of the various services – Buzzword, Presentations, etc. – into a common “desktop” that improves the ability to organize and find files. The services look sleek and I continue to be impressed by the design elements.

What I am not thrilled with in this update is that Buzzword itself has not progressed. It needs the ability to format with styles, caption tables and figures, and other common word processing features. I hope this will happen shortly. If it does, I will stop using Pages and Word altogether and go completely online. The word is that Google is also going to roll a lot of new functions into docs in 2010, so I think next year will truly see the end of needing to use Word/Excel/Powerpoint for office functions. Acrobat’s ability to import and export to .doc and other common formats makes it an almost-perfect office killer. Plus, using Minion and Myriad as default fonts rather than Times New Roman or Constantia is a massive win for geeks like me.

A Microsoft Free Zone

Since we received our new Mac, I have determined to avoid Microsoft products at all costs. I think it is now totally possible to live without Word on a home computer. I can use Buzzword, Pages, Google Docs, and as a last resort, OpenOffice as alternatives to Microsoft’s products. There are enough options out there – many of them free – to knock the Empire out of its dominant position. Hurrah!