Link

$17,000 Apple Watch on Scott Adams’ Blog

Scott Adams sums up the Apple Watch in his Robots Read News web comic.

Hilarious!

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The Google Chromebook Sells Out!

Google’s latest iteration of ChromeOS hardware has very impressively sold-out almost as soon as it went on sale.

The new hardware is attractive for a number of reasons: it’s thin, it’s light, it features a lot of the latest technology like Bluetooth 3.0, USB 3, and dual-antenna a/b/g/n wi-fi (and we know there’s a mobile-wireless version coming soon too).

The coolest feature though is that it does not run on an Intel processor, but rather the Samsung Exynos 5 – an ARM A-15 processor like the kind found in smartphones and tablets! The A-15 is the latest iteration of the ARM design; and the Exynos 5 is a powerful chip with minimal power consumption – so no fans and longer battery life on a thinner, lighter battery.

About 90% of what I do my computers is web-based, such as e-mail, news, blogging, and even working with documents and spreadsheets on Google Drive. So a Chromebook would fill just about all my requirements. The only thing I’d be scared to try is managing my photo & video library or touching up my photos. There’s certainly no reason why a Chromebook couldn’t handle that and software like Aviary proves it possible but I think it will be awhile before we see digiKam ported to a Chrome App and there’s a truly comparable option.

What I can’t wrap my head-around though is why?! I have nothing against ARM-based computers or living my life on-line. But what I don’t understand is why we need another platform? At this point Android is a viable option for a netbook operating system. Chrome (the browser at the heart of ChromeOS) even runs on Android. An Asus Transformer is basically a Netbook running Android. Any Android tablet matched up with a Bluetooth keyboard is basically a netbook.

Even Microsoft with the launch of their Surface tablet and it’s choice of keyboard covers has basically said the netbook market was killed by the tablet market!

I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep repeating it as long as I have to: WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER PLATFORM!

Apple offers developers the burden of iOS and OS X. Google offers the burden of Android and Chrome. Microsoft offers the burden of Windows (in it’s many iterations) and Windows 8 new paradigm and Windows RT (all of which multiplied by the burden of traditional libraries or newer .NET libraries). And then of course there’s the waffling RIM that burdens us with the old Blackberry and the promise of BB10; and a flurry of other platforms like Firefox OS, Sailfish, and Tizen.

It’s not surprising that RIM and Microsoft are having trouble attracting developers to their app stores – developers are all sick and tired having new platforms dropped on them like a ton of bricks and being told “if it doesn’t succeed it’s your fault because you didn’t write any killer apps for it!

So why didn’t Google put Android on this hardware and call it a Nexus NB (for netbook) or Nexus K (for keyboard) or Nexus RT (for Kiss-our-ass-Microsoft)?

As a Chromebook my only interest in purchasing one would be to wipe-out ChromeOS and install ARMedSlack. If it was running Android though I’d be perfectly happy to leave it as is!

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

Waxing nostalgic about keyboards

When I first learned to type it was on a type writer! A manual, slam-the-keys type writer. After writing a paper on one of these things your finger muscles positively bulged and your wrists were sweating. It was a cardio work-out!

Then came computers and the venerable IBM keyboards. You know the ones, that were more likely to break the floor than break themselves if they fell off the desk. The clack-clacking (no dainty clicking on those keyboards) was the soundtrack to a generation of programmers.

Of course there were other keyboards but the standard was the off-white, weighed-a-ton IBM keyboard.

I’ve gone through lots of keyboards in my time since I got into computers. Whether I was programming or writing a paper, there was always the keyboard.

Don’t get me wrong, the swype-style keyboard on my smartphone is amazing – when it’s not censoring what I type – and I can’t believe I once thought I had to have a hardware keyboard on my phone to be productive.

But as walked around a local electronics retailer recently I noticed all the laptops on display had horrible keyboards! And for that I blame Apple! If there’s one thing I hold against them it’s how their popularity has driven competitors to copy their look even when the end-result is horrible functionality.

The laptop I type this on has a chiclet style keyboard (actually this was the type of keyboard first seen on cheap personal computers like the original Sinclair and Atari computers). It drives me nuts! It just doesn’t feel right. Of course it allows the keys to be smaller, which is fine if you have small fingers.

But my fingers are not dainty! I can’t hit the ESC key without hitting the F1 (and often F2) keys at the same time. And don’t get me started on that arrow pad that looks like it belongs on a game controller.

I have a Logitech wireless keyboard at home and full-sized keyboard at work. But by the very nature of laptop I’m not often sitting at a desk with it. Why can’t all the keys on my laptop have a decent size, that can comfortably hit with my finger while touch-typing. And not suddenly end-up in a help-page or refreshing the web page that contained my expertly crafted and witty oration on some else’s pathetic commentary.

So I challenge someone out there to defy Apple and make a laptop with keyboard that looks like a keyboard, sounds like a keyboard, and doesn’t jam three keys into the space where only one belongs!

Rant over. Carry-on. Nothing more to see here.

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

Instagram vs. Lightbox vs. PicPlz vs. Aviary and More…

Ever since the bombshell dropped, that Instagram had sold out to Facebook, a lot of us have been looking for an alternative.

Now the sell-out may not be the end of the world as we know it, but we expect in a very short time that Instagram will change their terms of service to read All yur pics iz mine! and we’ll be forced to share on Facebook primarily. That may not happen. Facebook might simply embed Instagram as the built-in camera on their smartphone apps and leave the rest of us who don’t Facebook to use a stand-alone Instagram like we do now. But is that really why they invested a billion dollars to acquire Instagram!?

Some of the alternatives that have been mentioned include: Aviary, Flickr, Hipster, Lightbox, Magic Hour, MOLOME, PicPlz, Pixlr-o-matic, Poctos, and StreamZoo.

A search on the Google Play store for “photo filters” or even just the Photography category reveals more than 1,000 results! Granted they aren’t all Instagram-like apps, but reading through the first few pages reveals that there are a lot of choices. More than we can possible review here, sorry.

So for your consideration, here are some alternatives to Instagram. Not an exhaustive list, but the list I am considering. They aren’t all drop-in replacements for Instagram, but the ultimate result is the same: sharing fun, quirky photos.

Lightbox

This was the first Instagram-on-Android app that I tried. It worked really well, and pretty much works like Instagram. The most interesting twist for Lightbox is the camera is interchangeable, so if you prefer another camera app you drop that in, or you can use Lightbox’s camera independently of Lightbox.

PicPlz

This is what I first switched to after the sell-out announcement. It too works pretty much like Instagram, in fact pre-dating Instagram in it’s creation. The interface is not as intuitive though – it sounds simple enough: one touch effects. But you end up with a long list of combinations when in fact having a few separate toggles and lists would probably be faster. The coolest thing about PicPlz is that it integrates the Aviary tools so you can go beyond effects and actually edit your photos on your phone.

Hipster

This one actually sounds cooler than Instagram and represents something I’ve done on family vacations: I use my phone to send personalized, custom e-mail post-cards. The Hipster app takes this simple idea, builds-in a camera, filters & effects, and makes an entire community out of it. You can flip your post cards over and see more information about the photo.

Flickr

Perhaps not one you’d expected to see in this list, the Flickr app actually works perfectly as an Instagram replacement – it even has a built-in camera to go with the filters & effects and sharing. And it has the added benefit of the power of Flickr once you’re back at your computer. So everything you share ends-up in your Flickr account, the same place you share the photos you take with that hefty DSLR – no integrating multiple sites into your workflow or directing your followers all over the intertubes.

Aviary

This is another odd member in the list. Aviary revolutionized online media editing (not just photos) and has a suite of tools anyone can integrate into their apps (either mobile or web based). But this isn’t an app, in fact this is a sharing plug-in that allows you to add filters & effects (and a whole lot more) to your photos before the final step of sharing them via your favourite service (ex.: TwitPic for Twitter). Even though Aviary is free, there are add-ons (filters, lenses, stickers, etc.) available for purchase.

Pixlr-o-matic

This is the big-daddy of filters and effects. There are so many it would overwhelming, but they’ve thoughtfully included an effects manager so you can decide which ones show up as your initial choices. Obviously the coolest thing about Pixlr how much you can do with your photos (84 effects, 287 overlays, and 193 borders), and their interface is solid and well thought-out so it doesn’t have be overwhelming. This is app will have you playing with the same photo for hours if you’re perfectionist.

What’s missing? Something Native!

Especially from Google, that has PicasaWeb, I would have expected something like the Flickr app. Between Google+, PicasaWeb, Google Docs, Blogger, and the upcoming GDrive they offer at least four ways to store and share your photos. But the mobile experience is horrid (PicasaWeb synchronization is either all or nothing, Google+ auto-uploading is unreliable, third-parties filling the gap aren’t really an integrated solution).

And Apple too, known for their outstanding media software, should be leading the way rather than leaving the way for others to build a billion-dollar enterprise!

In conclusion

After trying all the aforementioned apps on my phone, a few more in an emulator, and visiting a few web sites (but the apps didn’t make the cut) I can say one thing for sure: there are a lot of choices!

My current, likely final, solution is using my built-in camera and embellishing the shots I want to share on Twitter (via TwitPic) using Aviary. The Aviary tools are very powerful, though typically I’ll just crop and add a filter, if I need to there’s a lot more I can do. And I’m really tempted to buy the Viewfinder effects.

The other thing I’m adding to my workflow, that I discovered while researching this article is QuickPic. This replaces the default gallery and makes working with the photos (and videos) on my photo much easier, including opening them in Aviary and sharing them.

Happy snapping!

Cross-posted on 2FatDads