Links Round Up for 02/20/11

Links Round Up for 01/23/11

Also, last week I launched my new website for Manifest Development. Check it out if you didn’t already!

My Thoughts on the iPhone 4 Press Conference

At the risk of starting a flame war (though I don’t think my readership is big or diverse enough to do so), I’d like to post my thoughts on the iPhone 4 Press Conference the Apple & good old Steve Jobs held today. Mostly because I like to show people (read: fanboys) that Apple isn’t any different from Microsoft, but also because I know a lot of my friends will likely ask me what I thought. Well, here you go.

First of all, Steve gave a lot of stats, which I’m not particularly a fan of because it’s easy to cook stats like that. For example, he said the return rates for iPhone 4s at AT&T stores were very low (1.5%). How were the Apple Store returns?  He says he’s gotten over 5,000 emails saying the iPhone 4 works perfectly. How many has he gotten complaining about the antenna? He also says that “a lot” of smart phones have this problem, and he showed videos of three different phones with three different OSs doing the same thing. I’d like to know how much testing they did. How many of each phone did they try? How many other phones did they try? What did they find with those phones?

Jobs said that they were sending out a software update to fix the problem, keeping with the open letter Apple HQ sent out last week. Jobs also announced that iPhone users would get a free bumper or other case to fix the problem; if they still weren’t satisfied, they can return the undamaged phone. This is great, but something is missing.

What I didn’t see was Jobs or Apple admit they’ve done something wrong. That is my biggest gripe with the press conference. They can say the antenna problem has existed on other iPhones, and that it exists on other smart phones, but certainly not to the same extent as it does on the iPhone 4. I follow the tech world pretty closely and this is the first time I’ve see an antenna issue like this crop up. There is something wrong; just admit it. What they are essentially doing is putting a band-aid on a wound they aren’t acknowledging is there. Consumer Reports straight up said they can’t recommend it because of the obvious hardware issue. If Apple can’t own up and admit to this kind of mistake, there is no way they are the good to Mircosoft’s evil.

State of Music

incubusI don’t really hide how I feel about music in our era. Most of it is garbage. Britney can’t sing, most ‘alternative’ bands sound the same and have a very lazy sound to them (Nickelback, Buckcherry, Hinder, Shinedown, etc.), and then there is Lady Gaga, whose songs are absolute crap. I mean the worst. They are stupid and make no sense. What the hell? But I digress. It’s because of the degradation of real music and the rise of club music that live concerts are suffering. Most bands suck live because everything they do is processed.

I got to thinking about this last night when Incubus was on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. I was never a big fan of Incubus until I saw the live about two years ago. The show was really great. Lots of energy and the vocals were just as strong live as they are on the CD. The band has a lot of talent and it shows. More live shows should be like that; but they are not.

A couple of examples: Britney Spears- garbage. Doesn’t really sing. Taylor Swift- her vocals aren’t nearly as strong live as they are on CD. Maybe that comes with age. Kayne West- Have you heard him do one of his new songs live? There’s a reason they are distorted on the CD. Lady Gaga- Well, I can’t actually bash her. I looked her up on YouTube and she is actually very good. Her songs are just stupid. But I’m getting off topic.

I guess the point of this rant is that music is in a sorry state. It’s partially due to the fact more emphasis is put on looks because video is just as much a part of music as the music itself, and that is a dirty shame. Now we have hot people who can’t sing or people who ‘fit the look’ but have no talent. It’s more about image than it is about the music. The other part is that with technology, producers can make anything sound good, so they don’t really need to be good. We need more people like Incubus who can put their money where their mouth is- or maybe more fittingly, put their mouth where their money is.

IE8 Bring Much Needed Improvements

Note: This was originally published in my school’s newspaper, the Aquinas.

Before you read this, there is something you should know about me. I am a web developer and a computer geek, so my bias might be palpable. To me, Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) is a much needed update. When I saw an email in my inbox from the University saying IE8 is not supported by all of the major systems here and subsequently how to disable getting IE8 in the next Windows Update, I was a little upset. I’m not saying this is completely the school’s fault, but it’s the closest thing to a standards compliant browser Microsoft has put out, so I want to make a case for it. Let’s talk about a few  important features in IE8.

This one is specifically for web developers, so excuse me while I go on a rant. IE8 now has developer tools (like both Firefox and Google Chrome), making it easier for web developers to debug websites in IE8. My prediction is that websites that were once a pain to fix for IE will become much easier to fix, which benefits everyone.

It’s also the most secure version of IE with pop-up blocks and a site scanner to protect the user from harmful sites. To put this in perspective, this scanner is an improvement on IE7’s scanner; IE6 doesn’t have a scanner or pop-up blocker, and is overall grossly outdated. I mention this because security is presented in theaforementioned email as a priority, yet by disabling the IE8 update users are left with a less secure browser.

I mentioned earlier that IE8 is the most standards compliant version of IE. What that means is a web developer needs to hack their sites less in order for it to work properly in IE8. I’ve seen this first hand, as many of my sites work without me making any additional fixes. This is not necessarily the University’s fault, but the fact that the tools we use on campus break in a better browser is unacceptable. If anything, support for arcane browsers like IE6 should be stopped. However, even if the site breaks in IE8 it has ‘compatibility mode’ which is essentially IE7, so the user should be able to run any site in compatibility mode and have it work. If it doesn’t, the site is substandard.

My point is this: there should really be no reason, whether you’re an institution or a developer, that the latest version of a browser like IE is not supported. Beta and early versions of IE8 came out in March 2008 and it went official last month. For the sake of their users, both parties should have check on support of IE8 a long time ago to make sure they were ready for its release.

In Defense of Facebook


Let me start off by saying this: If you’re having trouble adapting to Facebook’s changes, you are going to have problems in life because in the whole scheme of things, this is nothing. When Facebook did the first major redesign of the site, there was mutiny; this is despite the fact that they offered the new version months before it went live to get feedback and help people adapt to it. This reinforces the fact that people are too wrapped up in themselves to realize what’s going on around them. Now, a second, relatively minor update to the homepage and friend feed and people are up in arms. And we were warned last week of this, with a diagram explaining the changes! I’m here to say the things that Facebook can’t say because they have to deal with PR: Don’t be such an idiot. Grow up and try it out before bitching.

If people actually took ONE minute to look around and check out the changes they would see they are much better, more organized, and more informative. You’re friends’ status updates are front, center, and updating live. To the left: options on feed filters- networks, and the ability to change between status, photos, links, events, and whatever else could update the friend feed. Anyone who says they can’t find anything didn’t take the time to look. To the right, the random popular stuff going on with your friends that used to be in the middle, and the day’s events right on top. A much better design choice in my opinion. On the profile, you now have three choices: Just you, Just your friends, or everyone. Simple. Let me repeat that: Simple. And then there are the people complaining it looks like Twitter.

Twitter is great. Why not borrow ideas from them? Especially because the statuses are updated MUCH more than just about anything else on Facebook. Why wouldn’t you want that stuff front and center. That would be like CNN not putting their breaking news on the homepage because Fox News already does.

All-in-all, you’ve got more information right in front of you. I’m already sick of reading status updates like this: “I F—– HATE NEW F—— FACEBOOK.” To me, that says you’re really F—– stupid, and are opposed to any kind of change, bad or good. Like I said, if 80% of the people complaining took more than a microsecond to look at the new design, they will see it’s much better. My friend Dan is the only one who gave me a valid complaint; as it turns out, he actually thinks before he speaks.

iPod Shuffle: So Small, So Complex

Image courtesy of Apple
Image courtesy of Apple

With all the news in politics happening lately, I’ve almost forgotten why I started this blog: to talk tech. It’s what I know best. Well, here you go: My thoughts on Apple’s newest iteration of the iPod Shuffle.

I’ve posted thoughts on Apple and their precious iPod before, but this is pretty baffling. This shuffle is the smallest it’s ever been at 1.8″ tall and 0.3″ in thickness. That’s smaller than a key, which is pretty cool. However, when you need a guide to controlling the thing, there is a problem. 1 click to play/pause, 2 clicks to go forward, 3 clicks to go back. Other controls to traverse through playlists. I mean it’s cool that it talks to you and all since there is no screen on the device, but there is actually nothing on the device.

Right- the controller is actually on the headphones, and that is where my main problem lies. This new shuffle is limiting you to using Apple’s proprietary headphones or paying extra to buy an adapter to use your own. You need an adapter to use different headphones for your own mp3 player.

Apple touts all of this as innovative- small because it should be small; convenient, easy-to-use controls. But nixing a back and forward button is not innovative- it’s making something overly complicated and saying it’s innovative because no one has done it. And believe me, there is a reason.