What Would Steve Do?

I think the best way to honor Steve Jobs’ legacy as a visionary is to refuse to be content.

Why was the Mac such a success? Because of user discontent with computers at that time – and the existence of Macs is why Windows 95 was such a revelation to me, and why I love Windows 7. The same applies to music players, to handheld PDAs, to phones, to tablets. I love my Blackberry Bold Touch and I lust after a Kindle Fire, but they wouldn’t be worth lusting after if not for the iPhone and the iPad.

Discontent drives innovation, and stagnation creates opportunity.

I think that Steve Jobs understood this more deeply than many of the users of his devices. He created user experiences from start to finish – but he was always pushing the envelope. The intensity of Apple users’ fandom is testament to the value of those experiences, but it also in a sense created the same stagnation that afflicted the technologies obsoleted by Apple. It was Jobs’ genius that he refused to be content, even though his products created contentment.

Jobs created the iPad out of nothing, but suppose he hadn’t? Apple aficionados would still be happily using iPods, iPhones, and MacBooks. If some other manufacturer had created the tablet, Apple’s users would have dismissed, pointing out the many advantages of their elegant Apple products over such ungainly eyesores. Apple users have always been content with what they were given. Steve Jobs, alone, pushed the envelope, innovating not out of discontent by Apple users but by the discontent of everyone outside Apple’s fold.

That was a mighty burden and a challenge for Jobs, surely – one that I suspect he needed to maintain his creative output. After all, he could have easily milked the supply of loyal Apple fans endlessly without any real innovation at all. But it was his eye on the rest of us, still using Windows and Blackberries and Android, that pushed him onwards. It was our discontent with Windows 95, with our StarTacs, our Handsprings, even our mice and our monitors, that were the inspiration for his innovation and it was the stagnation of Microsoft, Logitech, Motorola, Samsung, etc that gave him the opportunity.

I think that without Steve Jobs, Apple risks that same stagnation. It’s already happened, in a sense, to the MacBook line and the iPod. And that’s ok, because Apple raised the bar, and could easily continue on autopilot on its existing product line and customer loyalty. It would then fall to another company to exploit that stagnation, and keep the engine of innovation moving forward. That’s Steve Jobs’ true legacy.

Are you content with your iPad? I’m not, even though I love it. And I think that there’s already signs that the next round of innovation is upon us. What better way to honor Steve’s legacy than to stay hungry for the next better thing, rather than the next same thing?

wanted: used mac mini for iPhone app development

I’m throwing in the towel on getting my hackintoshed Dell Mini to work. It’s just too hard to get things going on it.

All I want to do is run the development environment, so if anyone out there has a Mac Mini they are looking to closet in favor of the new hotness, please let me know. Much appreciated…


UPDATE: It occurs to me that the AppleTV boxes are only $100. Do they run OSX under the hood? Is it posible to hack these to install the development environment?

Space Shuttle Program coda: There and Back Again

STS-135, 7/21/11

But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.

He drew a deep breath. “Well, I’m back,” he said.

Chrysler, Toyota, and the reliability doctrine

We are trying to decide between two new minivans and are finding ourselves torn, over the issue of “reliability”. I’ve posted a note at Facebook asking for feedback, and wanted to reprint the note here to get your all opinion.

Let’s discuss reliability of cars. We are trying to decide between a 2011 Chrysler Town and Country and a 2011 Toyota Sienna. Toyota has a massively better reputation for reliability than Chrysler, but we liked the T&C more. Do we play it “safe” and get the Toyota? Or is the reliability of the Chrysler probably comparable, and there’s just no data?

Consumer Reports is probably the least biased source, and they did rate T&C “very good” but did not give it a Recommend (same as iPhone 4, but I digress). However, CR’s reliability score is based on surveys of existing CR subscribers, who skew towards owning Siennas. So, sampling bias is a problem (and CR had admitted this – see:


btw – the Toyota is $5k more expensive, but has AWD. Both the Sienna and the T&C are full redesigns. The latter has a new pentastar engine which is the same as the one in the CR-recommended Dodge Ram pickup. The Sienna has nicer 2nd row seats, but the T&C has blind-spot detection and cross-aisle detection. T&C has a better powertrain warranty (100k vs 60k) and Sienna gets ranked first by all the car review sites.

I’d be happy in either van, frankly. I’d like to solicit opinions from *all* of my FB friends – what do you think of Chrysler reliability? Should we get the “safe” van or the one we actually liked more?

Would really appreciate feedback from everyone on this.

I’m also inviting comment over at Dean’s. I will update this post with various links to comparisons and data.

APOD got screwed

I was very eager to see the latest APOD, a timelapse video of the night sky where every frame was digitally rotated to make the sky seem stationary and the earth rotate. Unfortunately, the video was served with a copyright takedown notice by one Nicolas Fabian Bustos Vargas, who appears to be a PhD at the Chilean observatory in question. Here’s the video linked from APOD and here’s the claimant’s video channel at YouTube, where the raw footage is from.

It seems that Bustos took the original video and Jose Francisco, another astronomer and “visual artist” processed the footage to make the video linked from APOD, without permission. APOD and its users are caught in the middle, and it’s a shame.

my next phone: the Blackberry Bold Touch 9930 aka Montana

Blackberry Bold Touch 9930 (Montana)
RIM just made it official – the 9900/9930 will be released this summer. It’s a Blackberry Bold with a touch screen, so we get the best blackberry keyboard, the latest blackberry OS, and touch goodness in one package. Assuming it comes to Sprint, I will be grabbing this as soon as my current contract expires in June. And if it skips Sprint and goes to Verizon, I will follow. This is the King of Bberry, with a quad-band radio so I can continue to use it abroad. There’s no other device for worldwide travel that comes even close. My recent trips to India were with unlimited data and otehr friends picked up local BIS SIM cards to get unlimited voice. Meanwhile, my poor friends with iPhones were paying rapacious fees to AT&T for roaming on the megabyte. This alone is reason enough that I’ll never go iPhone, and that’s before you put the crack addiction of BBM into play.

In related news, RIM also announced video chat and a true Facebook app for their PlayBook tablet. The IPad still doesn’t have a native Facebook app, I should note. I think that a Playbook+Montana combo is a real synergy winner here.

Here’s the promo video of the 9900/9930 from RIM:

and a hands-on video via Crackberry.com –

Filco Majestouch mechanical keyboards for sale at Amazon

Filco is a legendary manufacturer of mechanical keyboards, which for some reason stopped making them. So, finding Filcos for sale (especially new ones) is an opportunity indeed. Looks like a UK-based outfit called The Keyboard Company has a stash of various models that they are selling via Amazon. I’ll list the models available here, but note that availability on all of these is pretty limited so there’s no guarantee they will be in stock.

(Reminder – here’s my earlier Cherry MX primer on the differences between each type of switch in terms of linear vs tactile response)

Here’s the manufacturer page – Filco Majestouch keyboards on Amazon.com

And here’s the current stock. All of these support full N-key rollover. Prices range from $140 to $180.

Full-size 104 keys:

Filco Majestouch - Blue MX, 104 keys

Filco Majestouch - MX Red, 104 keys

Filco Majestouch - MX Brown, 104 keys


Filco Majestouch - MX Brown, tenkeyless

Filco Majestouch - MX Blue, tenkeyless

Filco Majestouch - MX Black, tenkeyless

Filco Majestouch - MX Red, tenkeyless

30% off Alienware M14x, and Dell paid me for a printer

Well, my earlier skepticism about the M14x aside, I’ve pulled the trigger on a nebula red model with the following specs:

  • Intel Core i7 2630QM 2.0GHz (2.9GHz Turbo Mode, 6M cache)
  • 4GB Dual Channel DDR3 at 1600MHz
  • 14.0 High Def+ (900p/1600×900) with WLED backlight
  • 1.5GB DDR3 NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M using NVIDIA Optimus technology
  • 500GB 7200RPM SATA 3GB/s
  • Slot-Load Dual Layer DVD Burner, DVD+-RW, CD-RW
  • Soundblaster X-Fi Hi Def Audio – Software Enabled
  • Intel Advanced-N WiFi Link 6250 a/g/n 2×2 MIMO Technology with WiMax
  • Internal 60GHz WirelessHD Transmitter
  • Internal Bluetooth 3.0

Image gallery from Laptop Magazine:

Yes, I’ve abandoned Thinkpad and have been seduced by Alienware as I predicted. I started at the website and configured it as above, for a total of $2071, including 4 year basic warranty. I also had added the external Vizio kit for Wireless HD. Then I called in to Dell to see what kind of a deal I could swing. My rep’s name was Eric Morales and I gave him my EPP number for UW (hoping to get 2-3%), and agreed to use a DPA account (another 3%). I also mentioned the Farmer’s discount of 21% that runs until April 28th.

Eric put me on hold and went to crunch the numbers and he came back with 30% off and free shipping! The only downside was that they were out of the Vizio kits, but he could still include the internal wireless transmitter. No big deal there – it’s on Amazon for about the same price.

At this point my total with tax was down to 1494.26. That’s $400 off! (after accounting for the wireless kit). The total includes the Orion backpack, I do need to lug this thing around after all.

This is when my rep blew my mind by saying he could add a wireless printer/scanner … for -$6. Dell would pay me six dollars to take the printer in other words.

(obviously, I agreed)

Bottom line: just confirmed my M14x for $1486, which includes the 4 year warranty, backpack, bluetooth, upgraded audio, wimax, and wireless HD. Ship date 5/13 arrives 5/18 (I’ll call may 1st and see if I can get NBD).

Some thoughts btw on the cpu, gpu, ram and hdd:

If you look at Anandtech’s review of SNB mobile chips, you see that the base option (2630QM) is an OEM part and the upgrades (2720QM, 2820QM) are retail chips with minor baseline frequency advantage (0.2 or 0.3 Ghz). Not a great value unless you’re intent on overclocking. All are 4/8 core with HT and the same TDP.

further, the upgraded chips support DDR3 1600 memory, whereas the baseline supports DDR3-1333. However, the only RAM available for the M14x is DDR3-1600, which will get downclocked to 1333 by the 2630 anyway. So if you choose the 2630, there’s no point in paying for more 1600 RAM – it’s better to get the 4GB they give you, and then upgrade to 8 or 16 GB with 1333 modules for cheaper off of NewEgg.

With respect to the GPU memory, paying for 3GB is a waste of money with the GT 555m. If it were a 460 GTX like on the M17 it would be a different matter. But the 3G ram upgrade is a pure profit play by Dell. Avoid. 1.5 GB is plenty.

Finally, the base HD of 500GB is decent, but I do want to go SSD eventually. But the cost of $600 for the upgrade is nuts, especially since the M14x only supports SATA2 (3 GBps). Better to pay $200 for 128 GB SSD on Newegg; all I will put on the laptop is the OS, apps, and games – I’ll use Dropbox to sync whatever data and or files I need for work from my desktop. Even if I wanted a 256GB SSD, by the end of the year these will be at $400 due to all the new SATA3/6GBps drives coming out.

Bottom line: performance wise, the low-end configuration for the system core is perfectly defensible, and frees up budget for the bells and whistles (wirelessHD, wimax, bluetooth, and most importantly 900p screen).

My sales rep was Eric Morales (Eric_Morales@DELL.com, 1-800-695-8133 x4167526) and I can’t recommend him highly enough. Am really happy with this deal and will be doing business with him again.