Category Archives: Techie

The New MacBook – Just the Beginning?

This morning, I made a comment on Twitter that the new MacBook is really meant to be a “road” or “travel” or “second” computer for people who already owned Macs. It’s probably not powerful enough or flexible enough to work as an everyday computer. 

But then, on my drive into work, I was thinking that I’d heard that before…

Isn’t that what a lot of people said about the original MacBook Air in 2008?

What’s this? A computer without a CD/DVD drive? Only a single USB port? So thin you could use it as a knife? 

What was Apple thinking?!? 

As we know now, the Macbook Air is one of Apple’s best selling line of laptops, and, in fact, now represents the “budge-conscious” side of Apple’s lineup. It’s only in the last year or so that competitors in the PC world have been able to come close to replicating the Macbook Air’s form factor and weight.

What does it mean? 

Right now, the MacBook is step towards the future. We won’t know for sure until next month, but from what I’ve read the Core M processor won’t match the performance of the Core i5’s in the baseline Macbook Air’s. It probably won’t be fast enough for power users, but it may be plenty fast enough for the average computer user. 

If I remember correctly, the first generation Macbook Air suffered from the same problem. It wasn’t nearly as fast and as the other machines in Apple’s lineup. They had less memory, less hard drive space, etc. 

But that form factor was damn sexy. 

The Air’s design elements eventually spread to the Macbook Pros: thinner, lighter machines with fewer ports and no CD/DVD drive.

Like the original MacBook Air, the new MacBook has taken some gutsy steps of its own. It’s even thinner and lighter, with a Retina display, new keyboard, new trackpad, and a single USB-C port. And, like previous MacBooks, it comes in colors!

i’ve no doubt that we’ll see Apple sell a ton of them. 

Intel is working towards moving the Core i3/i5/i7 processors to the 14nm process, so it’s possible that in a couple of generations, the MacBook may be powerful enough to meet even power user demands. It will probably replace the Air lineup in a couple of years. 

The trackpad is already in the 13 inch Retina MacBook Pro, so it’s a no-brainer that the pad will move to the other MacBook Pros.

What about USB-C? 

This is the one area i’m the most curious about. How soon will (or if) Apple will ditch Thunderbolt in favor of USB-C?  Will there be any adapters, especially since right now – the MacBook won’t be able to connect to any Apple Cinema Display. How aggressive will Apple be in moving the new components into the MacBook Pro and Mac Pro lines?

Basically, how soon will my fancy new Thunderbolt dock become obsolete?

Also, if Retina now appears in the MacBook, does that mean that the MacBook Pros will bump up to 5K displays? 

Picture that: A new, thinner 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 5k display, 4 USB-C ports and weighs less than 4 pounds? 

That would be pretty sweet.

Creating a Horizontal Scrolling Collection View Within a UITableView

A few months ago, I joined OrgSync as an iOS developer.

One of the things the developers there really encourage is sharing with the community. We’ve recently kicked off a developer blog here.

OrgSync Developer’s Blog

As part of that, I’m adding some iOS-specific posts about some of the interesting challenges we’ve looked into for our projects.

I recently looked into the idea of creating a horizontally scrolling view embedded inside a UITableView. Here’s a post about the solution I came up with using UICollectionViews.

Creating a Horizontal Scrolling Collection View Within a UITableView

The question of WWDC

This year, Apple took a different approach to selling tickets to their annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC or “dub, dub” as some devs call it).

They announced a day ahead of time when the tickets would go on sale instead of taking the traditional approach of selling tickets as soon as the announcement went out. 

With the conference selling out faster every year (last year tickets went in two hours),  pre-announcing the sale at least gave everyone a fair shot at getting a ticket. Last year, tickets were gone before most people on the west coast even knew they had gone on sale.

So, at 10 am PST yesterday, the mad scramble began. 

Two minutes later, it was over. 

Sold out. 5,000 tickets were gone.

A lot of well known developers were unhappy on Twitter because Apple’s system blocked them from completing their transaction. There were a number of complaints of people who had the ticket in their carts, but could not complete the transaction before tickets were sold out.

Apple has been reaching out to some of those individuals by phone and giving them a second chance at getting a ticket. They’re also increasing the speed of when the session videos will be available, promising that they’ll be available during the conference.

There are still a lot of developers left out in the cold, though.

How do they fix it? 

One option, some argue, would be to provide a lottery system. In a way, they’ve kind of already done that. 

If they make it more organized, then how do you determine who qualifies for the lottery? Do they add qualifications to it above just having a developer membership?

One thing they could do, I think, would be to offer a 1 day pass. The one day pass would basically only allow people into the first day of sessions, which would cover the keynote and the overview sessions. 

The firehose of information usually doesn’t get turned on until day 2. 

They may have to scale things up for that first day, but it might eliminate some of the people (like press) who buy tickets and only attend the first day of sessions.

Another option. They could scale up the conference. I saw someone mention that JavaOne hosts 20,000 in Moscone. 

That sounds easy, right? 

Apple sends 1,000 engineers to the conference and makes them available to answer developers questions. Right now, that’s a 5 to 1 ratio of attendees to engineers. If you scale things up to 20,000, then that ratio goes up to 20 to 1.

Okay, then, someone argues – send more engineers. 

Assuming Apple has the manpower, that means they could be pulling more guys off major projects. They may be able to mitigate that to some extent, but I don’t know if they have enough manpower to keep the 5 to 1 ratio.

It’s more than just the engineers, though. What about sessions?

Even when I went in 2009, some sessions were impossible to get into. I’ve heard that the problem hasn’t gotten better, and that’s with only 5,000 attendees.

How much harder will sessions be to get into when you have 10,000 or 20,000 people trying to get in?

They could repeat sessions, maybe. But, there again, you’re pulling engineers away from labs to present multiple times.

Okay – how about this? Let’s host multiple WWDC’s either in San Francisco or regional ones around the world.

The major challenge there is that now you have to pull engineers off for additional weeks to attend multiple WWDC’s. If you host it outside of San Francisco, now you have to spend the time and money sending developers to location X. 

Certainly, Apple could afford to do that. Can they afford to take engineers away from their projects for the additional weeks? 

Here’s another thing for you to think about? I may be wrong, but I thought I had read something in the stories about the new “mothership” headquarters in Cupertino being large enough to host WWDC there. 

Could they scale the conference up and host it at the “mothership”? 

While I would love for Apple to do something to allow more developers to attend WWDC, there are no easy solutions. 

 

Han Shot First (aka The Madness of King George)

Last week, there was a great disturbance in the geek world. Millions of voices suddenly cried out in anguish, and were silenced.

George Lucas had done it again.

Continuing his revisionist history of his own films, Lucas announced last week that he had always intended that Greedo shot first in that pivotal scene between Han Solo and the bounty hunter in the original Star Wars.

Star Wars fans everywhere, of course, went ballistic. I saw a number of stories that came out over the next couple of days showing “proof” that no, no, Lucas was wrong. Han shot first.

Honestly, though, this has been brewing since the “Special Edition” came out in the late 90s. It’s even spawned a couple of “Han Shot First” t-shirts.

Most Star Wars fans have seen the clips. The original version of the movie clearly shows Han shooting first. Lucas, not happy with this, tried to tweak it in the “Special Edition” of Star Wars in the 90s. The updated version shows Greedo shooting first, with a badly edited image of Solo jerking his head to the side, then returning fire.

But in the end, why does it matter?

Yes, it takes away some of the initial “unscrupulous” tones that defines Han Solo in those first scenes. Those of us who have seen and/or own the original movies can enjoy the movie the way we remember it. At least, we can enjoy it until Lucas seeks and destroys every last copy of the original movie.

But, in the end, Han Solo is still a smuggler, and he’s still a mercenary. Even with the scene altered in the Special Editions, the story of Han Solo over the course of the three movies is unchanged. He’s still a scoundrel in the beginning. He’s still a hero in the end. He still gets the girl in the end.

Give the man credit. The original Star Wars movies created a universe that captured and continues to capture the imagination of millions over the last 30 plus years. The universe spawned six movies, numerous video games (including the current big MMORPG – The Old Republic), a cartoon series, and dozens of books.

I have no idea why Lucas continues to tweak the original movies and is now content to sit back and lash out at his fans over the universe that he created.  It sucks that he seems to feel the need to change what’s already been done. It makes me think of Michelangelo taking a look at his statue of David and deciding the statue “really need some pants.”

As we all have seen, the second trilogy of movies were simply not the same. Lucas had full control over these movies, and there was simply no one there to provide any opposing viewpoints to any aspect of the story.

I could go into detail, but I think there’s a set of videos that cover it very well.

You have to get over the serial killer “it puts the lotion in the basket” voice of the narrator, but the epic Phantom Menace review along with his equally long reviews of the sequels by RedLetterMedia are worth watching. He picks apart the movies in great detail.

Red Letter Media – The Phantom Menace Review – Part 1

Warning: There are seven parts to this review, roughly 70 minutes total.

Even better, if Lucas tampering with Star Was wasn’t bad enough, Red Letter Media has an equally great review about the last Indiana Jones film.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Review

Even if you have to sit down and watch these videos one part at a time, they’re great to watch. If you’ve ever wanted to learn something about writing a story, these videos go into great detail about what’s wrong with the story in all of these movies.

The best news about Lucas that Star Wars fans can find solace in is that he’s talking about retiring from making movies altogether. Since fans continue to bash the last three movies (Episodes 1-3), he’s not going to bother to make the last trilogy (Episodes 7-9).

I think most Star Wars fans can live with that.

 

Can Apple Survive Without Jobs?

Steve Jobs, that is.

The answer is, of course it can.

But, you wouldn’t know it based on the flurry of activity this week in response to Apple announcing a) that it would no longer participate in MacWorld, and b) that there would not be a “Stevenote” this year. Instead, the keynote will be delivered by Phil Schiller, Apple’s marketing guru.

Since then, there are numerous stories talking about the “end” of Apple, that Jobs is stepping down because of health issues, promises of protests at the keynote by Apple fanatics who feel slighted by the non-appearance of Jobs, the stock immediately takes a dive, etc.

We all know this and shouldn’t be surprised by this. Never before has a company’s health/success been directly tied to its CEO.

Just look back at October’s announcement of the new Macbooks and Macbook Pros. There was almost as much press about the fact that Jonathan Ive played a big part in the presentation as there was about the notebooks themselves.

Apple understands this, and this week’s announcement is simply another step in getting the world used to the idea that Apple can thrive without Steve Jobs at the helm.

What about MacWorld? Can Apple survive without it? All Apple has to do is hint that it might be scheduling a press conference, and the world will be buzzing about what they might announce. So, yeah, they’re gonna be fine, and they can be free to announce products when they’re ready instead of sticking to an arbitrary schedule.

Can MacWorld survive without Apple? Sure. The big guys aren’t attending, so what? Transform MacWorld into a conference that gives the thousands of smaller third party Mac and iPhone software developers a chance to show off their goods.

Regardless of Jobs’ health, there will eventually come a day that he wants to step down as CEO. What he will do after he does step down and who will take over as CEO is beyond speculation, but Apple certainly isn’t going to shrivel up and die without him.

Tempted by the Fruit of Another (iPhone)

Yeah, I’ll admit it. I was going to buy an iPhone 3G today.

I was going to buy one at first. But, then, when it turned out AT&T decided to up the rates to compensate for the cheaper phone, I had second thoughts. Plus, what I really wanted was a phone with 32GB of storage like the largest iPod Touch.

So, I’ve gone back and forth for a few weeks now about whether or not to buy one. I was leaning towards not getting one, and had just about decided not to after spending yesterday playing with the 2.0 software and downloading/buying my first iPhone apps.

But, then, this morning, I thought, “what the hell.” I can offset the new AT&T rates with my corporate discount. If the lines aren’t too bad, maybe I’ll stop by and pick one up.

How bad could the lines be, after all? Many of the naysayers have been saying the new iPHone won’t sell. Don’t buy one. It’s missing the same lame features that only a few pundits are desperate to have (which they bitched about last year). Everyone that wanted an iPhone in the US already has one. No one will upgrade. It’s still to expensive. And so on…

So, I thought, I’ll drive by the local AT&T store and see how bad the line is. If it’s not too bad, maybe I’ll stop and pick one up.

Heh…

There were at least 50-100 people standing outside the local AT&T store in McKinney at just after 8 am. On the way to downtown Dallas, I could see at least 100 folks outside another AT&T store in Allen.

So, okay, maybe some people wanted the phone after all. But, Apple & AT&T have their act together, so it should be smooth sailing for everyone to buy a phone. Maybe I’ll just swing by an Apple store on the way home from work and pick one up then.

Right?

During the day at work, I saw the initial reports of people having major problems with getting their phones activated. In fact, if you were unlucky enough to try to update your original iPhone to 2.0, you were now equally screwed. The Apple/AT&T system that iTunes used to activate phones couldn’t handle the load.

But, by mid-afternoon, things were looking up. One of my co-workers who bricked his phone before lunch was back in business, and another who spent the morning in line was able to activate hers. So, I thought, I’ll hit an Apple store on the way home and pick one up.

I walk into Willow Bend and saw people walking out the door with their new iPhones, and didn’t think anything of it. Once I got closer, I was not surprised to see a line in front of the Apple store. But, the line didn’t stop there. It wound around the elevator/stairwell couch area like it did last year. So, now there are several hundred people in line just like last years launch. The problem was, this line wasn’t moving.

So, I thought, let’s see how long the line takes to move…

Thirty minutes later, I had moved less than ten feet from where I started. An Apple store guy finally made an appearance, so I asked him how long the wait was. He said to order some pizza and get comfortable. I pressed him, and his best guess was that it would take at least two hours to get into the store from my place in line.

Thanks, but no thanks, I said. I stood in the lines last year, and although it might be nice to have the 3G and the GPS goodness of the new phone, I was not about to spend the night standing in line for it.

So, now I’m home a little disappointed that I came home empty handed without a nice shiny new toy to play with.

I don’t really “need” the phone. My iPhone has all of the 2.0 goodness of the new one. The GPS and 3G are “nice to haves,” I told myself. And, there are a lot of other things I would probably be better off using the money on instead of another new gadget.

Does that mean I won’t be in line first thing tomorrow? Maybe…

Macbook Air – My Brief Love Affair

I’ll admit it… I was weak.

Like a middle aged man suddenly forgetting all about his wife and fantasizing about spending time with the young, gorgeous 20-something girl that has shown an interest in him, I was tempted by the seductive thinness of the Macbook Air.

Sure, my Macbook Pro and I have been through a lot together, but still, there was something about that “thin” goodness that appealed to me. I tried to rationalize why I needed one, and for a while, I was able to resist.

But then, I wandered into an Apple store and touched one…

In all seriousness, if you’re a road warrior and are considering purchasing a “thin and light” notebook, you really owe to yourself to go to an Apple store and look at one. The pictures/videos on the internet simply don’t do it justice.

It’s simply an amazingly thin and surprisingly sturdy little machine, and it had to be mine…

Continue Reading →

Love/Hate the Macbook Air

Let’s face it, we mac users are spoiled.

For years, Apple has created laptops that have been a marvel in both design and engineering. Both the Macbook and Macbook Pro overall have changed little over the years because they are just that well designed.

Even the competition has finally realized that design makes a difference and are putting a little more thought into the look of their machines.

Late last year, the rumors started floating around that Apple may release a subnotebook. Everyone started dreaming up what that could be. A lot of folks wanted Apple to bring back the 12″ Powerbook: a machine with all the power of the MBP in a smaller package.

And, if Apple were any other computer manufacturer, like Dell, HP, or Lenovo, that’s exactly what they would have done.

Continue Reading →

Something to Ponder: Randy Pausch ‘Last Lecture’

This has been making its way around the intertubes. Carnegie-Mellon has been doing a series of lectures called the “Last Lecture,” where speakers would talk about whatever subject they thought important if this was the last presentation they would ever give.

One of their CS professors, though, is dying, and this is his last lecture.

Randy Pausch Lecture

The video is nearly two hours long, but you’ll want to set aside enough time to sit through the entire thing.

Yeah, I know, there are probably a lot of other things you could do with that time, but you won’t regret it.

Should I Stop?

I suppose this is meant for the married folk out there, but funny for all.

If you’re ever wondering when you should stop playing that game, here’s a nifty flowchart that should help you.

Decision Matrix

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