Friday, January 29, 2010

Links for 01-29-2010

The Obligatory iPad Post

I wasn’t going to write anything about the iPad. I spent the afternoon of the launch watching a 5 hour Webcast about the Oracle acquisition of Sun closing. And then I needed to file a piece with CNET. So, while I more or less followed the iPad details via twitter, I had neither the time nor especially the interest to do a serious write-up with so much other punditry already out there.

But I’ve been getting the usual stream of questions from friends and family so I’m going to put down a few thoughts to avoid answering the same thing over and over again. Take these in the vein of observations and preliminary assessments based on how I would probably want to use such a device. I have no interest in whether you buy one or not. As IBM’s Bob Sutor pus it: “No one is forcing anyone to get an iPad. If you don't want or need one, don't get one. Pretty simple, no?”

Price. This may have been the biggest upside surprise of the announcement—both the purchase price and the price for no-contract 3G networking: “Starting at $499.” That said, the sweet spot is probably the 32GB model with 3G at that’s $729 (or add another $100) for 64GB. Now add $29/month for unlimited data 3G networking and we’re up up a 2 year cost-of-ownership of over $1,400.

Screen. It’s LCD and to reiterate what I wrote recently: “Current LCD technology may serve for some first-generation devices but it draws too much power and you can’t read it easily in sunlight. E-paper on the other hand is currently black-and-white and is only suited for images (such as text pages) that aren’t changing quickly. This limitations lead to rather silly devices like this. There is lots of interesting work going on by companies such as Pixel Qi and Qualcomm (mirasol)—expect to see interesting demos at CES—but actual product is in the future.” An LCD display isn’t bad per se, but I think we need to get beyond them for a truly compelling device in this form factor. Apple is essentially beholden to the technology that’s available and it’s no easy problem for a multi-use device. The needs of games and video are much different from the needs of books.

Touch screen. As just about everyone expected, the iPad uses a capacitive multi-touch display. In other words, you use your fingers. This is what just about everyone expected; it’s basically a big iPhone or iPod Touch. That’s fine but it means that you can’t write on the screen with a stylus as you do with a resistive touch screen. Now, with this size of screen, applications that let you write with your finger may be practical for serious note taking. I’d have to try it and see. Dan Bricklin (yes, that Dan Bricklin) has a nifty app in this vein for the iPhone.

No camera. A no op as far as I’m concerned. Everyone has (a mediocre) one in their phone already. And how many people really use video chat—leaving aside the ergonomic issues associated with using one for that purpose in a tablet?

Locked down operating system with app store. I don’t have a particular issue with this so long as the apps I need are available. The lack of Flash in a browser is a serious limitation today; you have to have a high-fidelity browser experience in a device basically designed for browsing. So is the lack of multitasking which doesn’t bother me much in my iPhone but seems more problematic in a bigger device. I expect the more serious limitations to get resolved over time. Ultimately if you want a general purpose operating system, this won’t be the choice for you.

Real-world battery life. TBD. I suspect it won’t be as good as I would like; no portable gadget with an LCD screen has good enough battery life.

For the record, I’m a big believer in this category of device. But some of the technology isn’t really there yet. And there are certainly other gadgets, such as a micro 4/3 camera system, in the $1400 price range I would like but haven’t been able to justify the cost. Furthermore, as Tim Bray has noted, this isn’t really something that people can use to create content. Yet much of my day is spent writing and other such tasks, so I’m not sure in how many circumstances I could dump my laptop and take one of these with me instead.

Different people have different needs and will make different tradeoffs. If you routinely carry a laptop that you use mostly for browsing, reading, lightweight social media, and so forth this could be very attractive even in its current form.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Recipe: Blue Cheese Cauliflower Soup

Adapted from Gourmet, January 2003 Stilton Cauliflower Soup

I recently broke down and bought a KitchenAid immersion blender. This is great for making pureed soups because it avoids transferring multiple batches of hot soup to a food processor or blender which basically messes up lots of pots, bowls, and blending devices.  

Here's the first recipe I made with it. 


1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped

1 cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets

3 TBS unsalted butter

3 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk

4 oz crumbled blue cheese

1/2 cup light cream or half-and-half

1/4 tsp white pepper

1/8 tsp salt

Cook onion, celery, and cauliflower in butter in a 3 1/2- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion and celery are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add broth and 1 cup milk and simmer, covered, until cauliflower is very tender, about 25 minutes.

Purée cauliflower mixture with immersion blender and return to a simmer. (Alternatively, transfer to a blender or food processor in two batches.)  Add cheese, cream, pepper, and salt and cook over low heat, whisking, until cheese is melted and soup is smooth, about 1 minute.

Lower fat milk and cream can be used as desired.

Links for 01-28-2010

  • New DivaBlog: Assimilation begins...Oracle Censors Blogs.Sun.Com - "As part of this next phase of assimilation...Oracle recently made available the new rules for blogging. If you work for Snoracle starting now, you must obtain your manager's permission before each public posting that relates to work. In theory that means before every tweet. "
  • Animated stereoviews of old Japan ::: Pink Tentacle - Recreating stereoviews with animated GIFs.
  • 441 – Sense of POPOS: Secret Spaces of San Francisco « Strange Maps
  • For The Love Of Culture | The New Republic - I sometimes disagree with certain aspecys of "free culture" but this is a long and thoughtful piece by Lessig and is worth a read, via @stshank
  • McNealy's bittersweet memo bids good-bye to Sun | Deep Tech - CNET News
  • 3D TV | - "But of course, we realize that we're kind of missing the point here. Manufacturers know there is one ready-made market for this device: technology early adopters." The thing is that this is actually a fairly straightforward assessment of how things stand.
    "This is a group of people for whom the main benefit of their technology purchases is the act of purchasing itself. They enjoy shopping for and researching the latest technology, possibly as an artifact of the hunting instinct that thousands of years ago gave them a sense of satisfaction from slaying a woolly mammoth. The early adopters love the rush of waiting for the new toy to hit shelves, they love the smell of new plastic, the sight of styrofoam blocks and black cables bundled together with twisty ties."
  • Bubble Wrap celebrating its 50th birthday - U.S. business- - "Mostly, they like the sound it makes when they destroy it, piece by piece, which largely explains the appeal of Bubble Wrap, the stress reducer disguised as package cushioning that maintains an inexplicable hold on pop culture... Like many innovations, Bubble Wrap initially was conceived for an entirely different purpose. According to Aurichio, a New York City designer approached inventors Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding in the late 1950s with a proposal for creating textured wallpaper."

If We Still Used Punch Cards

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Links for 01-26-2010

The Presidentials in Winter

I took this photo during a recent Appalachian Mountain Club trip to Harvard Cabin that I was helping to lead. This picture is taken from Imp Face on the other side of Route 16 from Mount Washington and the Presidentials. (Mount Washington itself is on the clouds and may be off-frame to the left in any case. You're seeing Mount Adams and Madison here.)

Presidentials from Imp Face

Monday, January 25, 2010

Links for 01-25-2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Links for 01-22-2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Links for 01-20-2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Links for 01-19-2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Links for 01-15-2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Links for 01-12-2010

Video: Exciting Developments in Digital Cameras

I'm still fine-tuning some of the technical details with these videos. However, Episode 2 gets into some of the current photography trends that I find particularly interesting:
  • The embedding of location information (geo-encoding)
  • The shift towards emphasizing improved noise characteristics and low-light performance
  • Micro four-thirds

Monday, January 11, 2010

Links for 01-11-2010

Friday, January 08, 2010

Links for 01-08-2010

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Links for 01-07-2010

Monday, January 04, 2010

Links for 01-04-2010

  • Because I Can: Gmail pisses me off - "It's not your place to decide how people use their email, and it's certainly not your place to presume a decent search feature eliminates the need for a basic sort functionality." Agreed. Sort by name is a good way to go through a big lump of inbox and eliminate, say, daily status reports from XYZ. This can help eliminate a fair amount of mail in advance of more detailed handling.
  • Perspectives - MapReduce in CACM - "I like MapReduce for a variety of reasons the most significant of which is that it allows non-systems programmers to write very high-scale, parallel programs with comparative ease." This seems a key point that efficiency arguments sometimes miss.
  • Data Mining: Text Mining, Visualization and Social Media: The Mathematics of Modern War
  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Killer Tips » Lightroom and the New Year - "2. Delete more photos - One way to help wrangle your Lightroom experience is to simply have less photos in your catalog. I've got over 10,000 images in my catalog from 2009. You know how many made it to my portfolio or were sent off to the people I was photographing? Less than 1000. That's 9000 photos that really don't serve much of a purpose. A smaller photo library makes it easier on everything - you, your storage devices, and your computer." I agree. As with Gmail, there are a lot of hidden costs in saving absolutely everything. You don't need to treat storage space as precious but you should be aware that more digital stuff clogs up the works in many ways.
  • Freelancers’ ethics | Analysis & Opinion | Reuters - More on the ongoing contretemps about freelance bloggers and ethics guidelines.
  • Dynamist Blog: The Collapse of Professional Journalism, Cont'd - Good piece from Virginia Postrel that lays out the case pretty well for why it's not practical for newspapers to hold freelancers to all the same standards as in-house staff. (Which is not to argue that there need be no standards.)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Videocast on Trackballs

With some free time over the holidays, I decided to spend some time doing something that I've been interested in for a while but never got around to doing anything about: making and editing some videos.

This is my first effort at a videocast style of video. The green-screen work is imperfect. I may give it another try with different clothing. Alternatively, I may decide to just shift the shots to a location in my house with an existing background, such as a bookcase, that works.

In addition, I threw the title sequence together pretty quickly. If I decide to keep with this, I'll do something different. However, I wanted to get something out there.