iPad 2 Smart Covers Are Not The Smartest Covers We’ve Seen

Yesterday Apple announced a follow-up to their successful iPad tablet, the iPad 2. Along with the tablet, they spent a ridiculous amount of time showing off what they call the “Smart Cover.” It’s basically a polyurethane (or leather) sheet that lays over the iPad 2’s screen protecting it from scratches and such. What separates this cover from the case they released for the original iPad is, well, the fact that this one is smart — sort of.

The Smart Cover doesn’t wrap around or snugly fit together with the iPad 2 like the previous case did. Instead, it uses an aluminum hinge with magnets inside to stick to the side of the tablet. They made sure everyone saw this at their press event — over and over and over again. Aside from the disappointment that was the original iPad case, Apple has always done a good job designing accessories for their products, and this Smart Case is no different. When you fold it closed it will automatically put the iPad 2 to sleep, when you open it the iPad 2 wakes up, simple as that. Another great feature is the predetermined folds. These folds let you set the iPad 2 up at a couple different angles. One for watching videos and video-chatting via FaceTime, the other for typing and playing games.

The covers — don’t call them cases, they’re covers! — look like they’ll be great for your screen but, there’s no drop protection whatsoever and the aluminum back will no doubt get scratched if you plan on using one. (Maybe “Smart Cover” wasn’t the best name choice) They will come in a variety of colors and we can choose between a classy leather cover or a fun happy colored polyurethane version. They’ve got a microfiber lining on the screen side that Apple claims will keep your screen clean (I doubt it will be that easy) and both versions will be available at launch, March 11th. Just like all of Apple’s other accessories, don’t expect to pick one of these up on the cheap. The polyurethane versions will cost about $40 while the leather one will set you back about $70.

The Tech of Social Networking

The Tech of Social NetworkingModern Internet-based social networking seems like a relatively recent phenomena. Yet, its roots can be traced back to basic human behavior.

Early humans organized themselves into social tribes. As technical knowledge and know-how got better, and written communication emerged, human social interaction also became more sophisticated. The printing press and postal systems supplemented the local tavern and other forms of in-person socialization.  This was the beginning of a more sophisticated type of companionship. These early technologies marked the beginning stages of releasing the bonds of people only being able to interact, conduct business, and socialize with those they could be physically present with.

The telegraph machine could be looked upon as an early form of text messaging. People could conduct business at a distance, as well as send short personal notes to friends or family across great distances.

Then Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Early telephones were not that easy to use compared to what they evolved into, but they did mark a turning point that would profoundly change human interaction and ultimately cause the acquisition of knowledge to accelerate. The wired telephone enabled new, more efficient forms of social networking and interaction. It was a business device, yet it was also a pleasure device, that enabled people to socialize in much more sophisticated ways.

In the later decades of the 20th century, phone lines began to be used for more than simply voice communications. “POTS” or “plain old telephone lines” initially enabled the early stages of Internet growth. Looking back, those early websites had a social networking component built in all along. Business and pleasure were the driving forces.

The Internet quickly became much more sophisticated. High-speed Internet access and ever-cheaper data storage converged, leading to yet another turning point, enabling technologies such as podcasting, the reliable delivery of audio and video, etc. Social interaction among people was profoundly affected yet again.

The proliferation of the modern cell phone was another turning point that developed in parallel with the proliferation of the Internet. Being able to carry around a phone in one’s pocket was a terrific convenience, and has enabled profound efficiencies in the ways people interact. Since most of us alive today lived through that profound change, we cannot fully see what a significant turning point it is, or fully know how the efficiency will impact future generations.

Today we are living through yet another profound change – a type of convergence. The cell phone is morphing into the super smart phone that puts the Internet right in our pockets. Business and pleasure are still right there, driving the need for interaction.

In a way it’s fitting that these nifty, Internet-enabled, touch screen pocket computers many of us now carry around with us everywhere we go also happen to function as telephones.

So, Exactly How Much do App Developers Make on Their Hard Work?

So, exactly how much does an app developer make creating apps for the iPhone?  The answer might just surprise you.

According to Tomi T Ahonen at the Community Dominates Brands blog, development of an app costs an average of $35,000, and income for that app in a one-year period is about $682 after Apple takes its cut.  This means to break even on the cost of development of the app in the first place could take 51 years.

That’s a pretty shocking figure.  And while there are some developers out there making millions, there are many more that have pretty much lost their shirts creating apps for the iPhone.

Being a bottom-line, gotta-make-money-or-what’s-the-point kind of gal, these figures are pretty shocking to me.  Why would anyone even bother to make an app, when the income potential is non-existence?  How do you pay yourself back for your time, effort, and make enough cash to fund future development so you can upgrade your app later?  Seems like a losing battle.  And it certainly doesn’t help that Apple has such arbitrary and capricious methods for approving (and disapproving) apps that are submitted.

I admit I’m not economist, but it seems to me this is a no-win for most developers.  There’s no incentive for doing it.  So why are developers continuing to work in this environment?

I do recommend reading Tomi’s other blog posts about how to monetize yourself with development, especially his entry on where the biggest potential growth is (and it might surprise you too), The Digital Klondyke, inside the Cyber Eldorado. Why YOU should go mobile now and fast.

The Ultimate Yacht Race

The 33rd America’s Cup yacht race gets under way in a week’s time from Valencia in Spain, pitting two of the most hi-tech yachts against in each other in a series of races.  The defender is Switzerland’s Alinghi catamaran and the challenger is the US’s BMW Oracle Racing, a stunning trimaran with the world’s largest single wing at over 68m – a 747’s wing is 31m.

There are some great videos on both websites and the cost, complexity and technology on these boats is simply stunning.  The winged keels, the composite hulls, everything is being pushed to the limit….and when they go past it, it’s going to be spectacular.

There’s been a fair bit of legal wrangling going on about the race but I’m glad it’s finally going to be settled on the water rather than in the courtroom.

Keep an eye on the action via Twitter and may the best team win.

Emerging Healthcare Technology

Earlier this week I attended a seminar on “Emerging Healthcare Technologies”, presented by the University of Ulster.  The content was fairly high-level but focussed on several areas that are in various stages of development but will reach the market in the next few years.

The first area was that of providing easy-to-use self monitoring devices, often with local data storage or wireless connections to the Internet. Examples shown were for heart monitoring or for blood sugar levels such as the one shown here. Much of the design focus was to get to the device to look like a gadget rather than a medical device and from the prototypes that were shown, they’re succeeding. There was also the promise of a “laboratory on a chip”, much like the one discussed here. This is a single device which can be programmed to diagnose multiple conditions and brings the potential benefit of cost reduction through mass production.

The second area was on assistive technologies, typically for those with early stages of dementia.  Imagine a house equipped with a variety of sensors, including motion detectors, fridge door sensors, sensors on cookers. Now imagine a computer monitoring this with rules based on “If the cooker is on but there’s no motion in the kitchen, alert the occupant” or If the fridge door is open for more than two minutes, remind the occupant”, with appropriate escalation procedures to 3rd parties if the problem persists. A system was also demonstrated that reminded the occupant what to do if they hadn’t done it yet, e.g. put on your clothes, brush their teeth, eat your breakfast, but it could also help with cookery by taking the person through recipes step-by-step. The interface for most of those was large flatscreens. Obviously, there are concerns regarding privacy but the purpose of these systems is to keep the individual in their own home and not moved into a residential home until their condition worsens.

The third area was that of well-being and most of us will have seen gadgets like the Nike+ running system. We can expect to see more of these systems which attempt to encourage well-being through the integration of multiple technologies such as heart-rate monitoring, GPS and social networking. The presenter commented on the relative costs involved. As it’s primarily a “toy”, it’s easy to produce a quite complex device for less than a 100 GBP. However, as soon as it becomes a medical device, costs soar with regulatory testing and approval.

Finally, a couple of small devices about the size of a pack of playing cards were shown off. They weren’t specifically medical devices, but their feature was that they were aware of each other and could communicate with each other using RF. There was a simple demonstration of the devices passing information between themselves using lights on the devices and their own relative positions. However, you could also see how a Lego-like construction system would permit units with different capabilities to be assembled easily and quickly and yet act as single device.

All very interesting and quietly reassuring for someone who might need to rely on this tech in a decade or two.

Apple, What Are You Up To?

appleWord comes today that Apple has applied for a patent for an “enforcement routine” that will force viewers to see commercials on various devices. And when I say force, I truly mean force.

The patent application indicates that the forced-advertisement will freeze a device until you indicate that you’ve actually read/responded to the ad (through the use of clicking a box or answering a test question). This technology would work on any device with a screen, including televisions, computers, media devices, cell phones, etc. The ads can appear at any time while the device is being used.

What the patent application calls the “enforcement routine” involves administering periodic tests of the user, like displaying a pop-up box within the ad, requiring a response (a button that must be pressed within five seconds before disappearing) to confirm that the user is paying attention.

These tests then become progressively more aggressive and difficult to confirm if a user has failed a previous test. The response box can be made smaller and smaller, requiring more concentration from the user to find and press to confirm they are reading/responding to the advertisement. There may be a need to press various keyboard combinations, enter a date, or type in the name of the advertiser as commanded, to demonstrate that the user is paying attention.

Of course, Apple does not think this is nefarious in any way. They are saying that having this type of forced advertising would allow devices to be sold for lower prices or even be given for free, and that to avoid the advertising, simply paying a fee should free up your device from the forced advertising.

This whole thing feels like a 180 turn from Apple’s usual business practices, at least in my mind. It certainly doesn’t endear me to Apple products and services, that’s for sure. What Apple, and many other businesses, fail to accept and embrace is that the business model is changing. This type of George Orwellian behavior is not appreciated nor desired by users. I have seen plenty of intrusive “free” services that only frustrate me and keep me from using them in the first place (“free wifi” in the airport, anyone?).

If you want me to “see” advertising, then make it compelling. Make me want to watch it. But the minute you start forcing me to watch it, you can almost guarantee that I won’t be buying whatever that product is. Like an elephant, I have a very long memory, and I will not forget. That can’t bode well for any advertiser’s long-term future.

Change the Future

The Science Museum, London, is celebrating a century of science and as part of the festivities, it asked visitors to vote for the scientific discovery or invention that most “changed the future”.  The ten objects it put forward were:

1. Apollo 10 Capsule
2. DNA Double Helix
3. Electric Telegraph
4. Model T Ford
5. Penicillin
6. Pilot ACE Computer
7. Steam Engine
8. Stephenson’s Rocket
9. V2 Rocket Engine
10. X-ray Machine

And the winner was……the X-ray Machine, beating penicillin and the DNA double helix into 2nd and 3rd place respectively.  The discovery of X-rays in 1895 by Wilhelm Roentgen started a new era of medical diagnosis allowing medics to see inside living people without relying on surgery.  Today, the descendants of these first X-ray machines can almost measure what we think.

Amazingly, the particular X-ray machine shown was developed at home in under a year by Russell Reynolds while he was still at school.  He was assisted by his father, a general practitioner, and another inventor William Crookes.

Although some doctors were quick to pick up on the new invention it wasn’t until the 1920s that X-ray machines were widely used in medicine.

Making The Modern World is a complementary web site containing over a hundred scientific discoveries which helped shape civilisation.  Worth a browse.

What inventions today will have such an impact when we look back from 2109?

Cash for Clunkers for your Computer?

A couple weeks ago I changed out my computer to a new Quad Core machine. I won’t go into details because I talked about it in a previous post called Changing out to a new computer. Nonetheless, I have been impressed with the new functionality and possible energy savings that I am getting. It does get me to wondering – should your computer be part of this “Cash for Clunkers” program?

The US did a C4C on automobiles that ended last week. Now the government is talking about allowing you rebates to change out appliances. Your refridgerator, washer, dryer and even heating – A/C units could be affected to rebates. Run on a slightly different system, you buy the appliance, then send in paperwork for the rebate. Disposal – I would guess – is your responsability.

I started thinking about the computer; It’s been sometimes referred to as an appliance. The old P166 takes a lot of power to run. Therefore, should a personal computer be a C4C?

The new machine I got was an AMD Phenom II – a Quad core machine. The Motherboard touts 140 Watt usage. Add hard drives and other items, you would want a power supply of about 450 Watts, even though usage may never take you to that amount of power. If I was to run 4 machines with that same power, they would hit about200-300 Watts each – depending on what I have installed in them. Then we have the heat factor: Let’s just say I might as well paint the wall blue and fill the room with sand because that room will be as warm as a Island day.

I have replaced 3 computers with 1. The power consumption is going to be a lot lower than before. I turn off my machines, but I know that a lot of people leave their machines running and hope that power save mode kicks in. Still, I like the idea of consolodating the machines down and saving power. By the way – I still have 2 other machines I use.

I have an old Apple G4. This machine has the PowerPC chip inside. When Apple moved to Intel, they touted that power and heat issues were part of the reasons why. Therefore, if you use a PowerPC G5 or Dual G5 to run your business, you might be really paying for a new machine just to keep that current computer running.

While we probably wont see a program for computers, you might want to consider upgrading that old machine in the basement. You might find that within a couple years that computer will pay for itself.And yes, the CRT should be replaced, too. You can find a 15″ or 17″ flat panel for as low as $30-$50 if you don’t want to buy new. I just bought a 15″ LCD monitor a few weeks ago at a garage sale for $5.

Do you read ALL of that email?

In this day and age, it’s easier to send a message to someone across the world than ever. I remember watching my mom write a letter to someone back before I knew about email. She would be meticulous in what she had to say simply because she knew that she had only one shot to get all her information in. After all, she wasn’t going to write an snail mail that said:

Hey. How are you?

Could you imagine the timeframe of those postal transactions?

August 24, 1978 – Sent “Hey. How are you?”

August 30, 1978 – Received “I am doing great. How are you?”

September 5, 1978 – Sent “I am doing great. Did you catch Led Zeppelin last night?”

September 20, 1978 – Received “Yeah.”

September 21, 1978 – Sent ” How was it?”

November 11, 1978 – Received “Sorry. Got busy. What were we talking about again?”

Now let’s flip that. Today, I might send an email like this:

Hey Joe. I am writing to talk about that thing #1 we discussed last week over coffee. I really enjoyed the conversation and would like to proceed further on that. What is a good time to sit and discuss it?

Also, what is the time frame for that thing #2? I am looking for new people to research to see if this is going to be a hot item.

I would get an email back saying:

Hey Jeff. The time frame will be by September 1st.

What happened to thing #1? Why did thing #1 even get skipped? Wouldn’t you instinctively respond about thing #1 and not thing #2?

I am not sure if anyone has done a study on this, but it would be really interesting to see how you process an email in your head and respond. It is definitely not like the days of yore. Then again, when I responded to a snail mail, I would have the original letter next to me – in which I have highlighted the important items to talk about.

Do we have short attention spans on email?

I would believe not. I think it’s more about organization. For instance – my desktop is a dual monitor system with a resolution of over 1600×1200. My laptop is a single monitor with a resolution of 1280×800 (and to respond to those who are surprised on the notebook resolution: no, I am already legally blind – at least that is what the eye doctor says).

Still, I have more real estate on my desktop between 2 screens. I can move one item over to screen 2, then respond on screen 1.

There have been past reports saying that people with dual monitor systems get more work done. Imagine what I could get done if I had 4 – 32″ monitors on my desktop at a resolution of 3200 x 2400? Imagine the suntan I could get, too.

You can always organize your email

There is a very useful tool out there called “Highlighter”. It’s a Firefox application for when I use Gmail, and there is a highlighter option in Office that I can use as well. I can mark out the key points so I remember to respond to them.

If I have an important email to respond to (especially one that will cover multiple paragraphs), I will look at it, then – depending on urgency – close it. I will open it back up an hour later and start my response. When I am done I will save it as a draft and come back to it in no less than 15 minutes later. With the “Fresh Eyes” I will paruse and make changes.

Don’t fall into the Twitter approach

Email doesn’t have to be 140 characters or less. In fact, I always hated an email – or SMS for that matter – that would be 2 letters – “OK”. It’s not even punctuated correctly, so I sometimes think “Oklahoma”, which then puts me into a rousing verse of the musical (It’s my MTS – Musical Turrets Syndrome – kicking in. I have done a thesis on this condition. Something I have to live with).

I am reminded of an important email I sent a while back. I inquired on 3 points and marked urgent. I got this for a response:

Yes, No, No in that order.

Am I bothering you?

I don’t expect a dissertation on each point, but come on: let’s be real here. Especially since I only have a short attention span to begin with. I don’t remember what the Yes, No, No could even mean. So I make things up:

Yes (I am cross-eyed), No (I don’t have a million dollars), No (I dance naked in the rain) in that order.

I’ll tell you, I get a little annoyed when I get those very short responses. I try not to take it too seriously, of course. I may eventually stop corresponding if I feel that I am wasting your time.

We don’t write like we used to. We know that whatever we miss we can send in another email a couple minutes later. No 40 cent stamp required (or whatever it costs to send via snail mail). The art of communication is blindsided by 140 character tweets. Not to say that 140 character tweets are not an art form of their own.

Don’t use the Mobile Device to respond

A screen of 240 x 120 cannot be any better than 1280 x 800. Add to it a smaller keypad, and in some cases, a numeric keypad used to respond. I seem to still send email responses on my iPhone that are a couple paragraphs, but other times want to just send out a fast reply. No “O.K.” response though.

I suppose any email response is better than no email response (Gus, do you realize I send you email on a business nature? Tell me if you are alive at least). Then again, I might just send out a snail mail for old times’ sake.

Anyone have an address I can send a letter to?

Changing Out to a New Computer

I told myself a long time ago that I would only upgrade my main computer if a new one could triple the performance. It would be so I don’t sit and waste money every year just to buy a machine that was a few MHz faster than the previous one. I know I can get by with an increase in RAM, an updated hard drive or new video card.

This machine was 6 times better.

The kicker was that I was trying to do video on the old machine and it would take forever. I was sitting there waiting for items to load…. and load…. and zzzzzzzzzz… huh? oh. It’s still loading.

WARNING – GEEKY STUFF AHEAD: The new machine is an AMD Phenom II 945 with DDR3 support. The processor is a Quad-core – 3.0 GHz processor. It has a 6 MB L3 Cache. With the AM3+ board (The M4A78T-E from ASUS), this machine  will power through what I need. With the 2 PCIx slots (yes, I said 2) for the connection of ATI’s CrossFireX technology, along with the build in dual video support and HDMI support, this could easily become a fully functional home theater.  I even have a USB. Firewire AND eSata port on the back, so it can connect to my favorite storage drive and back up data.

WARNING – ENVIRONMENTAL STUFF AHEAD: The best part about this proc / board combo is that it runs at 140W. Add a hard drive and DVD RW: You are looking at 190 Watts to run this computer. My other machine took almost twice as much to run. I have a 450 W power supply which will be perfect for this.

I am also not a high – end gamer, so those of you looking for better frame rates and overclocking will probably be laughing at this.  Still, if I want to change out the heatsinks, double the power supply and put in 2 high end dual graphics cards to build a computer video wall, then at least I have the computer to do it.

The best part is I might be able to knock 3 computers down to 1 (if I wanted). I will most likely have 2 in the end, though.

Being that I have had the previous machine for 3 years now, it has complied with the George Carlin comedy skit and accumulated a lot of “Stuff”. Even half-way through it’s use I reloaded XP because of a hardware crash – yet there still seems to be a lot of data I have to account for.

Therefore it’s a slow process of loading and configuring, then bringing over the large amount of data. The last machine was still running all EIDE drives; 2 of them were on a EIDE controller in which I striped the data amongst the two disks. The 320 GB was perfect for 2006, not so much for 2009. Therefore, 4 – 500 GB SATA drives are in order.

Yes, I said 500 GB drives. Why? Well simply put, even though I read that Terrabyte drives are reliable, tech friends say they see too many RMA’s on the drives. While I do not have to worry about petabytes of data just yet, I want to make sure my machine will survive for a while. When I see the repair requests go down, I’ll get a TB for an external drive.

Once I have all programs loaded, then I will set aside time to bring over the big programs. Changing data. My websites – for example. That way I don’t have mismatched data across 2 computers.

I still have a long ways to go before I am done swapping out the machine. I might even have a hard time trying to find the software and reg keys I used so long ago. By the end of the week, though, the switch should be complete. Then comes the fun chore of….

Backing Up:  I did it before I started moving data around and I will do it when it’s all complete. Acronis will get the task of imaging the drive. I will also use an external to back up all data on a regular basis. That way, if any major failure occurs, I can restore ASAP.

Operating Systems: Right now, it’s XP. Windows 7 will have it’s own partition, as well as Ubuntu. The system comes with ExpressGate – a quick loading OS for easy Skype, web browsing or media playing. But will I Hackintosh the system? Well, the board comes with ATI graphics. There is a version out there that does let you use ATI, so I’ll have to see about that.

So not only could this replace 3 of my computers, it could also replace my TV. It’s really interesting to see how far we’ve come with technology. Yet the real question is: “Where will computers be when they triple this new system?” One can only drool right now….