If I were a tech pundit, here’s what I would write about the iPad

January 27th, 2010

iPadI’ve decided to stop waiting for someone to ask me my thoughts on the iPad.  You can say all the chirping crickets inspired me to do this unsolicited.

The iPad…

…is about consuming media, not producing it.

You know that old line about having two ears and one mouth means you should listen twice before speaking once?  The iPad is the same, but in reverse – it is all mouth (or, in this case, 9.6″ OLED IPS screen) and not so big on the input capability.   It’s got scads of real estate to deliver those books, movies, newspapers and videos which means it belongs in the the comfy chair that His Steveness sat in for the presentation.  But will also work in the board room?   Not likely.

The iPad doesn’t replace a laptop (or even a netbook) unless its owner also hauls around that extra keyboard because the onscreen virtual one seems sure to frustrate.  It gobbles up half of that luscious real estate and gives no tactile response.  Even worse, if you’re accustomed to resting your keys on the keyboard while typing, (i.e. you’re normal)  you’re going to have to learn to do the iPad ten finger hover.

All this means that it’s going to live in the den, kitchen or living room. But the workplace?  Not as likely except for digital finger painting studios.

…is kind of like the first iPhone.

Remember that first iPhone, with the shiny aluminum back?  It was a wild and first-ever of its kind and many buyers leapt at the chance to own one.  Discriminating buyers, in contrast, wondered why that first release used AT&T’s slow poke Edge network.  Others wanted to know why there wasn’t a GPS. And the software developers wanted to know why there wouldn’t be onboard third party apps.  Soon afterward Apple released the iPhone 3G which cleared all these things up.  These were not technical bugs, they were strategic bugs.

The iPad’s missing parts are a camera that allows for video conferencing, an OS that allows for multitasking, and a built in keyboard that feels like a real keyboard. When those kinds of features show up, then it’ll really be dressed up and ready to party.  Frankly, I’ll wait till then and in the meantime, thank the early adopters for showing Apple the way.  (Important note: I’m not at all cynical on this “release” “fix” “repeat” approach to R&D – I think it’s great.  But in this case, I’m not ready to be the guinea pig.)

…has won the (price) race to bottom.

Most Apple-watchers were stunned at the low price point.  This hints that Apple was targeting the “oh-why-not-just-get-it” crowd who doesn’t care about all the extra gillygags Apple could have packed onboard.  The “gotta-have-it-at-any-costers” who would have justified a $1,000 (or more) price tag will buy it too, and they’ll wonder why it doesn’t also do their dry cleaning, because they would have happily paid for the feature.  Where does this leave Apple?  To hurry and bulk up on those missing gillygags because I don’t see the price dropping any further.

…marketing team believes Any Press is Good Press:

“iPad?” Really?   You mean formalizing the way that Chicago people already say iPod?  How about less than six hours until there were multiple pages of iPad jokes.

Okay, that wraps up my attempt to be a tech pundit.  Back to my regular job.  Thanks for reading.

River’s First Year – in less than five minutes

January 27th, 2010

On January 24, we wrapped up River’s first year.   Here’s what the year looked like, played out in 105,000x regular speed.

(For full screen effect press the Picture 1 button above)

Oh, and if you like the music, you can buy it on iTunes.

Tea Parties just got more expensive at Starbucks

January 16th, 2010

I love tea.

I drink a lot of it.  And mostly one flavor from one brand – Tazo’s China Green Tips, which is conveniently available at most grocery stores and Starbucks.  One of my favorite Starbucks hacks has been to buy a box of tea at Starbucks, ask for a free cup of hot water, and voilá, I get a robust (two-bag)  cup of tea for $0.40.

(It’s a hack because the cost of the drink nearly quadruples to $1.50 if the baristas put the tea bags in the same cup of water.)

But this week, it all changed.  This week Starbucks replaced their regular Tazo teas with a new “full leaf” Tazo line.

Check out this three-way consumer fail:

Old China Green Tips
New China Green Tips
$4.00 / 20 bags = $0.20 each
2 bag drink  = $0.40.
$6.90 /15 bags = $0.46 each
2 bag cup = $0.92
Easily recyclable box 130% price increase!
“Thanks for the fancy aluminium box”

Value fail.

They raised the price by 130% and put the tea in an aluminium box.  What am I supposed to do with that?

So you’re probably wondering what makes the new tea bags so special?  Perhaps they’re bigger?  Maybe they  come with little silver dollars attached to them? Nope.

Old China Green Tips
New China Green Tips
2.0 grams each 1.8 grams each
Recyclable bag 10% less tea!
“Thanks for the nylon bag.”

Nope.  The only difference to the bags is that they are nylon, and the “flag label” is no longer folded around the top for the tea bag.  This means that the baristas are forced to use tongs when they make customers’ teas whereas before they could pinch the paper and avoid touching the submersible, business part of the tea bag. Convenience fail!

But what about the tea you ask.  Well, it is different.

Old China Green Tips
New China Green Tips
2.0 grams each 1.8 grams each

The new tea “leaves” look more like little twigs or blades of thin grass.  The old tea looks more like ground pepper.  If this eureka fact is supposed to make it all worthwhile, I have some bad news for Tazo/Starbucks: I can’t tell the difference.

So Howard Schultz – if you’re reading this – please know that I think you made a pretty big Tazo-Uh-oh, and I plan to limit my tea purchases to the grocery store and toting them with me to your stores.  (Kind of like your Via idea.)  But thanks for the free water!

Sunday Props: The Wireless Light Switch

January 10th, 2010

So we’ve had a little inconvenience for the last…  …five years.

The lights in our kitchen, living room and dining room are all on one switch, and that switch is up one flight of stairs.  It’s true that all of those rooms are actually just one space here in our loft condo.  And it’s true that we could have hired an electrician – but that’s not the point.

The point is, I spent $25 and bought a gimmicky remote lightswitch and I love it.

Wireless Light Switch

Wireless Light Switch

Installation takes about forty seconds; just plug a hockey-puck sized gizmo into the outlet that you want controlled and plug the lights into that same hockey puck.  Then put the battery (supplied) into the remote switch.

And if you’re feeling punchy,  you can even “install” the light switch anywhere you want.  We debated sticking it to the refrigerator door (just because that seemed funny).  Instead, we hid it under the cabinet.

New lightswitch secured to underside of cabinet.

New lightswitch secured to underside of cabinet.

Surprise, extra feature:  It has a dimmer too!

$24.95 from ThinkGeek.com

The Stay at Home Dad Workout

January 3rd, 2010

As seen from the top 100 viral videos of 2009.

Misdirected email: Interesting, or just plain sad?

January 1st, 2010

Today an email came in from someone I’ve never met, addressed to my gmail account and one like this: XRush@XXXXcorp.com  <details omitted>.  I couldn’t help but read it.  You’re welcome to join me… Read the rest of this entry »

Radio Flyer!

December 23rd, 2009

Though he won’t be eligible for a driver’s license for about 16 more years, River is now the proud owner of a new red car, thanks to Santa (a.k.a. GeeCee and Poppy)!

Since we are going to be in Hingham for Christmas Eve and Christmas, we decided to play elves a few days early and assemble the car tonight. Happy Solstice, River!

Because it’s our first pre-Christmas toy-assembling, we decided to take lots of pictures and laugh a bit, aided in large part to the Radio Flyer’s Chinese origins.

The first thing we noticed as we opened the box:

The car is Chinese, from Dong Guan. Sounds suspiciously like Don Juan…Will this car help River get all the ladies?

Dong Guan

Or will he need to have perfectly coiffed (photoshopped?) hair like the kid on the box?

But on to assembly.

Luckily Rush and I “speak Ikea”  – that is, we can interpret language-less, pictogram instructions that come with this sort of thing.  Unfortunately,  Ikea must have hired away all the good pictoram talent because these instructions had a number of flaws.  For example, when they wanted to show an enlarged drawing with a magnifying glass, the artist failed to draw the part the critical part that was to be enlarged.

Do you know whats supposed to be inside this circle? We didnt.

Do you know what's supposed to be inside this circle? We didn't.

It also came with some unforgettably useful operation instructions.  (Translated from Dong Guanese and snarkified by Sarah and Rush in italics):

  • “To ensure safe performance of this car….”
    How does one define the ‘performance’ of a foot-powered wooden car?
  • “Make certain that anyone who uses this car has been fully instructed in its operation.”
    Have you met my 11-month old?
  • “Never ride the car at night.”
    …he goes to bed at 6:30 and even he wasn’t fooled by those headlight stickers.
  • “Never ride the car in wet weather.”
    It _is_ a convertible.
  • “Always wear shoes when riding this car”
    My son can’t walk yet.  Shoes?  What are they?
  • “Ensure that an adult has followed the assembly instructions.”
    Is that a question that River is supposed to ask every time he ‘starts’ the car?
  • “Do not ride this car near … …cars and other motor vehicles”
    I guess this means no joyrides on Storrow Drive?
  • “These instructions are valuable.  We suggest you keep it with other valuable papers.”
    To-Do:  Take Radio Flyer instructions to bank safe deposit box.  Yeah rightWhat they forgot to include:
  • “Warning, decorative steering wheel is not very responsive.”
  • “Do not operate vehicle unless you’ve had both naps.”
  • In the end, it works great!

    Thanks Poppy and GeeCee

    OSSPMC 2009

    December 20th, 2009

    Regular readers here will remember the annual winter sailing adventure I take with my friend Tim.  The first year we did it, his Beetle cat was a bit leaky, so we nicknamed the trip the Off-Season, Semi-Permeable, Micro Cruise.  (“OSSPMC”) We’ve followed the first trip with ones in 2005, 2007, 2008 and again this year.

    Read the rest of this entry »