Archive for the ‘ Tech ’ Category

Inspiring beyond Eras- Dedication to Steve Jobs

Clouds at Dawn, Angkor Wat
Time lapse shot on 1 Sept 2011 (c) @saumilzx
iClouds was Steve Jobs last major contribution and his final keynote.
This will impact tech and travel, two areas which are close to all of us.

On a recent trip to Thailand/Cambodia for my travel projects, I decided to go PC-free. This was the first time I went without my Macbook on an overseas trip. I did have my iPad and an iPhone 4. And the camera stuff- a DLSR (Nikon), a Panasonix Lumix with an UW case (useful in rains too).

I had a local 3G connection on my iPhone. So with Personal hotspot activated, I could use my 64Gb wifi-iPad to go online as well. I did have a USB car charger, and a Tenda mini wifi hub (in event my hotel room lacked wifi). I used the camera connection kit, to backup to my iPad.

So how did the shooting go? It was great and I have to say I did not miss my Mac. The iPhone shots (panoramic, stop motions, videos to document a locale) were transferred over to the iPad via Photo Transfer App [iTunes link]. I also used Dropbox to backup my iPhone media online, as an additional option. Although uploading media can take time, it can all happen when you sleep. You just need to check if all went well, every time you wake up:)

All in all, It was not problematic. But I was trying to accomplish Photo Steam and iCloud with manual supervision. I was always concerned whether I was backing up all right. Were there duplicates of some at the cost of omitting others. Not even one shot need be lost! After all, I did need to delete media from my iPhone every few days (a 16Gb model, I had underestimated the value of iPhone shooting, being a regular photographer).

Wait a minute… this post is dedicated to Steve Jobs and how he inspires us right? Why am I describing my experience? Because the most lasting impact Steve Jobs will have on the tech world- apart from great design, innovation, and many other things… Is that

he built products which eliminated questions from technology

which were not needed in your solution or the overall experience.

iCloud will do many wonderful things- but as I learnt the hard way, it will eliminate a whole lot of questions which were distracting me from my basic work- to shoot and plan to shoot. Mind you, cloud storage has existed for years, but you still need to monitor and keep asking yourself about the steps you followed or missed, worrying about which version was in which folder or if the latest file was on the desktop somewhere…

So the next time you see a breakthrough Apple product, you can be sure, that it will reduce or remove most, if not all, unnecessary questions from an already existing technology. Keep this in mind when evaluating Steve Jobs’ creations, we will derive inspiration for generations to come, and learn from every magical product he unleashed to conquer… just about every personal computing era of his time.

Long live Steve- many Jobs well done.
@saumilzx
Mumbai, India
16th October 2011

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iPhone nano? Yes, if price is right (Asian view)

 

Read on posterous

A smaller iPhone may be achievable with Retina technology and with a fixed set of built in apps. The size of the present iPhone 4, is also just fine but if Apple can produce a phone of the current size with fewer features, at $150 (contract free), that will rock Asia for sure, and reach out to the common man.

In Asia, the current iPhone 4, at $599 (contract-free), competes with salaries not other phones.

For the 3 entry level categories in Asia view full article on posterous

saumilzx on wordpress

My older posts (before June 2010), are now imported into wordpress. However, if you need to access the original posts they are at http://saumilzx.blogspot.com

I may still update blogspot occasionally, but saumilzx.wordpress.com is my new blog host now.

saumilzx
Mumbai, India
4 June 2010

For more, try my site: saumilzx.com

wishlist for Twitter lists and hashtags

sending @messages to Lists?, Info page for each list, @messages to #tags rather than users, following #tags rather than just users…

Twitter recently added lists as a feature to enable users to group tweets from selected persons for a specific purpose. For instance, my interests are in technology, publishing, sports and travel. It obviously helps if I can, at times, ‘listen’ to a subset of tweets from friends who fit one of the above interest areas. Also, others can then follow one of my lists, as they find a group of persons which fit a context.

I would like to know if certain things are possible or have been so from third party services, which tap into twitter APIs.

1. Send a message to @username/myTechList?

So far posting a tweet which starts with @username will only appear on that user’s twitter feed and to common friends of both. However, can I post in such a manner that only those on myTechList see a specific message? This way when I talk about say cricket, it will not be seen by those followers, who care about my views on iPhone or Macs.

Can it be done by starting the tweet as @username/myTechList? As far as I have tested it does not seem so.

2. For a List, can we have an info paragraph with an ‘about this list’ URL for that username/List page? (like the user’s biography/link field)? This is perhaps needed by users who wish to follow a list, as they have a clear idea of what the purpose is.

3. Further, there are situations where conversations about a specific #tag such as say #ConfWEB09 for a web conference may need to be ‘heard’ by searching for that tag only, rather than on a default timeline.

Can we send a message to a @#tag, rather than to @username? So if we post starting with @#ConfWEB09 none of the followers can see it in their feed but those following the conference can search and track? Of course, if there is a major development in a conference, and a user wishes that it be seen by all followers, then #ConfWEB09 can be inserted inside the post.

4. #tags as ‘context domains’ within twitter

So far we follow other users. Can we extend point 3, and formalize it a step further- have a concept of following a #tag. Twitter can even sell or allow users to own specific (unique) #tags.

This will be groundbreaking development in twitter- till now you followed users, now you can follow #tags? If this is done, you need not search a #tag to track conversations, it will show up on your feed, even from strangers you do not follow

As of now, you can open a column in tweetdeck to track hastags or searches. However, by formalizing a ‘follow’ this hashtag, even for a temporary purpose, will make it cleaner for those who follow you as such, but are not very keen on micro-conversations about a conference or specific topic discussions.

More later
@saumilzx

These are just some suggestions from someone who has actively used twitter since 2 months only. Its still like a beginner’s mind, as they say in zen- before habit takes over and questions do not come as naturally. Also, do not expect me to calculate any exponential impact it may have on twitter servers.


Ebooks vs Printed Books (or no reading at all?)

5 points that ebook gadgets will need to address to be viable alternatives to print.

A blog debate at nytimes about whether our brains like ebooks, has some excellent views across the history of reading, and if humans were meant to read at all.

For instance, Plato disliked reading because it was apparently a ‘new’ distractive medium. Incidentally, I just bought an audiobook of Plato’s Republic (itunes for $1.99). This is great, as the masterpiece is anyway in a dialogue form.

In ancient India, oral traditions of knowledge were the key (partially because there was no printing technology few thousand years ago, but it was about listening more than writing or reading). Sound permeates the space around and mantras had chandas (a meter of specific syllables per quarter-verse) for rhythmic renditions. In fact, letters and words represent the sound they make. So reading is about speaking sentences to yourself.

However, no one can dispute the value of a printed page, which offers parallel pieces of information. Can be distracting or can be useful as a whole, if it is a chart or a graph.

Ok, the debate is, if electronic publishing such as ebooks (with or without audio visual additions) will be viable alternatives to printed books.

Firstly, there is no reason to believe that print will be totally obsolete- just as drawing and painting are still valid art forms even after photography and film have been around for over 150 years. Now it is digital photography… So a book like a drawing- requires ‘no processing’ or rendering on a device. It just ‘works’ when you flip pages.

Now looking at it from the view of ebooks. Based on current options the readers are not quite there. Most gadgets-kindle or whatever-fall flat. The iPhone versions are crisp, but way to small to be meaningful alternatives to print.

So what enhancements are needed for ebooks to be seen as viable alternatives to print?

1. It should feel like a real book!
Yes, we need at least a tablet of 5×7 inches. Then you need a curvy-curly feel with the look of pages/binding etc. If Apple makes a tablet, they will have focused half their efforts on just this aspect. So comparing a yet-to-be-disclosed tablet vs printed books are not meaningful, because half an Apple can overhaul the current state of (pathetic) ebook renderings. … the test for this will be if a book is open on a tablet and lying on a sofa or desk, would you mistake it for a printed book?

2. Free of Distractions.
Since your book and content are electronic, you have an option to keep looking for different options because of widgets, notifications, and just our ever inquisitive behaviour of looking for updates or doing a cover flow of your virtual library.

But just as they overcame distractions in Plato’s time, they can eventually in this era. The device has to impose a stricter locking metaphor. For instance, many writing tools- such as WriteRoom on the Macs black out the screen- windows and icons- so that you can do nothing else but write. If it is a ebook gadget, such an impostion for reading will be needed. Can be done.

Such distractions are valid, for instance, on the iPod as well. Since you can access all your song albums you might tend to not listen to anything specific properly. But nobody can dispute the fact that an ipod is a viable alternative to CDs or tapes. (Of course the main difference between ipod and ebook analogy is that the way we listen to music- the speakers or earphones have remained the same, so an iPod was instantly accepted as a new technology. This is a matter of point 1, above).

3. Fixing/Flexing Book Sizes?
I can tell you that arriving at the right size for a book is one heck of a major time consuming headache (having printed photographic travel guides, in postcard size and mini-coffee table format). When you print, the sheet sizes of a press have to be fully utilized in order to save costs. This is not much of issue for novels, but for photographic books, you want a large size for impact and for convenience you need a small one (especially in travel).

So the ebook will solve this problem? Not sure!
Scalabilty of content has progressed (for sure) since two decades of desktop publishing. PDF and Postscript were invented exactly for this- to scale shapes and fonts- and to render on screen and print in a consistent manner. Safari on the iPhone displays web content brilliantly with pinch-zoom…. but wait.. is not our point 1 about a feel of the book? If you pinch-zoom-scroll then it is not like a real book!

However, this does not mean that when content does not fit in a tablet or display, you undermine the medium just because of scrolling or zooming.

But this issue of size, is where utmost caution will be needed by designers of ebook gadgets-

a) those books which can fit the display, they need to make sure the zoom options are kept off the interface and users are forced to dig in if they need to zoom, (only it they must). Perhaps revert to normal page size when powered on/off/or launched. When all is exact, let it look real!

b) When the content does not fit display, use an overall containing frame as ‘virtual’ magazine or newspaper. The internal areas can then follow conventional zoom, scroll mouseover etc.

The Times Reader (RSS) by Dustin Macdonald on Mac OS X – does a brilliant job off fitting dynamic content within a look of a newspaper, with headlines and articles flowing into allocated columns. The overall newspaper look is of fixed size, but content flows in, and then details can be viewed (as in RSS summary and full page etc).

I would also love to see what I have mentioned in a earlier blog- to dock an ipod touch into many CPU-less tablets of various sizes

4. Annotation and scribbling as if it is paper.
A lot of avid readers love books because of the ability to mark, highlight and scribble notes on the pages. The digital medium should do this better than print (Preview, the default Mac viewer already does a basic job), and if openURL is adopted then referencing other books in a collection will just take research and referencing to new levels.

Also, for touch based devices the disadvantage of accurate scribbling an annotation has to be addressed! see tweet

5. Text to speech cannot be ignored.
Audio books by real people narrating a story is great. But Text to speech (TTS) has made huge strides. Alex the new voice introduced in Mac OS X Leopard was is an indication of how natural it can be. So listening to text rendered by a computer should not be underestimated. My first podcast on a famous cricket match after Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 was using TTS.

We may be in for an era of listening and reading to go hand in hand. Both are after all sequenced forms of communication. I do it all the time, rather than print. Relaxing my eyes and saving trees as well!

Saumilzx
Mumbai
16 Oct 2009


iPhone vs Android is like Mac vs PC?

So the buzz is that Android sales (OS for handhelds, from Google) may tip the iPhone by 2012? Sounds like a Mac vs PC debate. Well sort of, but the Mac debuted in 1984, when PCs had already been pushed by IBM with DOS. However, Apple was in the Personal Computing business earlier than the PCs and was already the pioneer to beat. So there is some similarity here, but this time

1. The iPhone is already in by a few years, so developers have invested in this platform. Legacy is what dictates the future more often than creativity (unfortunately), but in this case Apple has both.

2. Buying apps from a store which guarantees one-click download, no silly forms each time you buy something for $0.99 and ensuring -what you pay for you will get for sure. This is what the iPhone App Store has achieved.

This however, does not mean that things cannot change. We live in a world where you cannot predict technological breakthroughs (in price or paradigm).

Now getting to the heart of the debate-

3. iPhone and Apple products are proprietary as have always been. Android is open source based on Java, and will run on various hardwares (like Windows on PCs), whereas the iPhone/Mac OS run on Apple products.

My view about this open/close issue has always been that Apple never lost out to the PC for this fact, but had more to do so with Macs in 1984 were way ahead of their time for most programmers to learn a GUI and event driven model, when all they could do was write print commands on a black screen. 1984, User friendly = developer demanding, and the Mac was always the second choice for those learning computer programming.

However, today Apple has done a brilliant job in making sure that developers get all the resources to learn and build for their platforms. User interfaces and GUI libraries are object oriented with tools/support from all over the web. So there is no reason a developer who wants to do just simple things -like a report or costing for internal use, needs to stay away from a platform which demands sophistication (the DOS printouts were not WYSIWYG, but useful enough to output as rows on a dot-matrix).

Being ‘closed’ will not dictate the future of iPhone, though Android will get market share being licensable to third parties. Personally, I’d care less if Android has more numbers in 2012, as many handheld devices will do many trivial things for which an iPhone or smart PDA will be an overkill.

In fact, this time it may be a win-win for all.
The generic devices running Android are truly open (unlike generic PCs which had a proprietary Windows on top). The world always needs many generic tools which can be tweaked- which Android can be right for. The world also needs nifty gadgets which have everything consistent and designed insanely right. This can only happen when a platform is closed and developers see the same API but things can be fine tuned inside. Apple will deliver that-as proven time and again. 68K-PowerPC-Unix-Intel, yet the Mac is not that different in experience!

4. So the key for Apple is to keep an eye on development ease and productivity- if someone comes out with a radically easier way to code (you never know!) and programmers can build something in minutes instead of days, Apple can adopt/promote it.

Apple had missed the boat with Hypercard in the ’80s (hypertext links in a stack of cards, leading eventually to the web/http) and then with Applescript ’90s (GUI Scripting/Recording has by far been the most productive non-programmers tool- but Quickeys and OneClick were needed!).

ObjectiveC may not hold up too long when Java and Ruby are languages that most programmers talk in. The good news is that they are ahead with Ruby support on the Mac.

Win-win for all? We will need to wait a bit longer. I had the same hope in last year’s blog article

@saumilzx
Mumbai
10 Oct 2009

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Scalable iTablets!

We can have tablets from 5×7 inches (personal) to 2 feet (tables at work/library/copy center) if required. Scalable iTablets! They only have logic for touch and display and if feasible networking.

iPodTouch 64Gb has more speed and space than Mac minis and iBooks just few years back… It is slimmer than iPhones, so if docked into tablets, overall thickness will be acceptable.

To begin with Apple will (if) roll out tablets which are monolithic… but it will be really disappointing if we cannot have touch/display devices for various purposes but which use the CPU/Data consistently from one source- your iPod….

@saumilzx
Mumbai India
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