Reviews

Is content important? (Steve Jobs interview)

This evening I was watching Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview. Essentially it’s the longest piece of interview material that the public has really seen. I sat down, and watched it, and certain things began to trigger in my brain. (Remember this interview was done in 1995). Services that have been ingrained in us such as Facebook, Blogging, iPods, MacBook Pros, Wi-Fi, Smartphones, Cloud computing, weren’t even on the radar. To give you an idea – if you aren’t much of a technophile – this was around the time that the internet started becoming a well-known concept and tool to the public. Before I digress too much let me turn the focus back to Jobs.

Steve Jobs The Lost Interview (2012). This show was recorded in 1995, or there about.

Steve Jobs The Lost Interview (2012). This show was recorded in 1995, or there about.

“People get very confused [and assume] the process is the content.”

What Jobs was talking about here, was eventually he had recruited a few hundred people (in the early days of Apple) people lost sight of what great content (or a great product) was. One example Steve gave indicated that Xerox went under because of this. What happened? Well, they had a monopoly in the copier market. In his words “So you make a better copier or a better computer, so what?” The people that can make the company more successful were in two spheres…Sales and Marketing. Therefore, the Sales and Marketing people end up running the companies. This means the product people get pushed away from the decision-making forums, and in time the company forgets what it is to make great products.

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In a similar way this illustrates the difference between content and process. If you’re stuck in the same company for five years, as an example, you’ve become part of the process. Some of that is good – it gets things done – it helps the business continue making its money. However, when one gets absorbed by the process, you can easily lose sight of the content. “Am I producing good quality work? Does this work I’m producing mean something to me?” If you’re stuck in the process then questions like that may not even be apparent to you. Maybe it’s just a case of “Oh well, it’s a job it pays the bills. I’m not ecstatic about dragging my ass to work, but at least it’s something.” That’s a very bad rationalization for me.

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The details matter. Of course they do! If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be in the career we are in the first place. What I think Jobs was getting at is if you care about the content, you care a great deal more about yourself…and ultimately where you are going.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment or two! 🙂

Links:

 

PhilosopherPoet

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Reviews, Technology

iExplorer – An iTunes Alternative

I’ve been with Apple a while now, and there is one piece I software I continually hear people complain about…iTunes. One of the major gripes I’m heard is that it tells you “My way or the highway”. It doesn’t allow the honest bloke on the street to recover music from an iPod (whose computer has died). Another thing, what if you just needed a couple of PDFs or pictures from one App and you didn’t want to use the clumsy iTunes root? Well this software is the answer to that problem.

Another cool thing? Backing up your notes. Sometimes you want an offline copy of your notes from the Notes App on the iPad. This app will go and save all your notes as RTF (Rich Text Format) files. Once you have those you can always upload them, or back them up wherever you wish.

It gets into the nooks and crannies. Every now and again you will download an eReader, note taker, download manager, organiser, photo organiser…in other words something that will collect bits and pieces for you. If you were to use iTunes for the first time, it doesn’t give you a simple way of retrieving that info. Here, this app displays everything in a tree-structure and Shazam you can crawl into each and every app and extract your crucial information.

 

Here's an exmaple of all the different services this App provides.

Here’s an exmaple of all the different services this App provides.

Behold the Tree Structure! Here's an example of ripping photos off an iPad. Pretty nifty!

Behold the Tree Structure! Here’s an example of ripping photos off an iPad. Pretty nifty!

This a good example of saving your music collection. One client of mine had their largest collection of music stored on their iPad, and they needed it rescued.

This a good example of saving your music collection. One client of mine had their largest collection of music stored on their iPad, and they needed it rescued.

 

PhilosopherPoet

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Reviews, Technology

iTunes (The Jealous Girlfriend)

It’s your usual working day. Nothing has changed. You are composed, diligent an whittling away at the keyboard. The Boss walks in greets you with a firm handshake and says “When you have a moment I’d like to talk to you.” Now you’re ambivalent. Will you walk away with a raise or a graze?

This is the same feeling I got on my way back home today. I checked the software updates, saw there were a few to go. Before I left I cast my eyes down the list and saw…iTunes 11. The long awaited, anticipated, supposed-to-change-everything piece of software. My drive home felt a bit like waiting on the chair outside the Boss’s office.

Before I get into some of the awesomeness of iTunes 11, let me get a few things off my chest about the previous versions. The good news is I’ll be writing a follow-up article on iTunes 11 and it’s greatness. There are a few reasons why many mac users (i.e. that means you use it daily, it’s not your weekend toy) find iTunes tedious and even painful at times.

itunes 10

Aesthetics: When iTunes hopped from version 9 to 10 the sidebar was suddenly desaturated. All the vibrant colour in the Music, Movie, and Podcast Library icons was lost. It sounds like a giant knit pick, but when you are weeding through your music on a daily basis, a small highlighted icon can go a long way.

Media Organisation: Many people purchase Music, Movies, Apps and tons of other bits from the iTunes Store. I pretty much only download Apps. The reason for not getting music there, is my taste in heavy metal (my preferred genre) is rather eclectic and not mainstream. Now if I did – in theory – buy everything through one portal then my music would be far easier to organise. Why? Well, because iTunes would do it all for me. I wouldn’t have to touch a thing. In reality we have the odd CD we’ve bought, or an album or two we’ve downloaded (because iTunes wasn’t selling it at the time). Plus we have bits and pieces gathered from different parts of the internet. This makes it difficult to organise.

Then there’s the other charming element when you’ve amassed all of your .avi movie files, iTunes shakes her head and says “Please come back when you have mp4 files, my dear.”

It’s not just a media player. This next part confuses the crap out of most people I meet. iTunes allows you to sync your email contacts, transfer word docs to a compatible app, back up your apps, sync your calendar.

The iPad is a great business tool. The iPhone is one of the most reliable phones I’ve encountered. Yet I don’t like the way iTunes tries to control everything like a jealous girlfriend. For example, if you want to send contacts to the iPad. Logic tells me that I would go to my contacts app and then click a button that talks to my iDevices.

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Where to now?

Apple developers need to decide, is iTunes a media player or a device manager?

At the moment it’s both, which makes things clumsy for the newbie. During it’s genesis iTunes was a music player. Period. It didn’t play video in a hurry and it worked well. Then video compatible version hit the market, later on the iPhone and it’s Apps joined the fray. Very little was done in re-working the way iTunes handles its media and devices. In recent years only the colour and (to some extent) the layout of the interface has changed, not much else.

A good complaint is only as valid as its feasible solution. So here is what I propose…

Redesign / Bring back iSync (or something similar)

I blogged about this great App earlier. The developer blokes need to rework this piece of software so it handles “any sync related aspect” of the iDevices.

Sync is a clipped version of the longer word ‘synchronise’. A better way to look at it is think of creating a mould. Pour the contents of your computer’s media, into the same surroundings (or framework) and you’ve got them ‘synced’.

So ultimately you’ll have iSync that handles any sync, transfer, managing of data, and then you simply use iTunes as your Library Player. This will result in iTunes being far more watered down, but then at the same token, less memory hungry, smaller to update (in terms of bandwidth). If iTunes sticks to being more of a player and less of a manager, then we’ve won half the battle.

 

Side Note: For the wise-guy who’s about to open his mouth about iTunes 11…just wait. Keep your eyes on my RSS feed (or email subscription). There’s a review coming soon…

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Reviews, Technology

How to Spot a Fake iPhone 4S (revised)

I’d like to give you a few tips, if you are looking to buy an iPhone 4 or 4S abroad. Maybe you want to buy it through a friend or website selling second-hand products? I’ve often seen people pay either the full price (or very close to the retail price) for iPhone knock-offs. Here I will attempt to educate the ignorant and clear up the details.

This post is a re-working of the previous post I did which caused a lot of debate (partly because I supplied a few incorrect details.) I have broken it up into two sections namely Hardware and Software differences. I’ll refrain from showing the fake I was handling, but rather talk about the nuts and bots of it all. Before I go on… there are two definite ways to spot the difference:

  1. Does the iPhone in question plug into iTunes and transfer information seamlessly?
  2. (Provided you are certain you have an original iPhone with you at the time). Compare the response time of both retina displays. This is everything from the loading time of the applications, the response time of the Home Button, and the fluidity of the applications moving when you slide your finger to the left or right of the screen.
    • A simple example I often use is to display a picture (in the photos app) on each phone. Hold the both phones in portrait view (not necessarily at the same time), then briefly rotate each phone to the landscape view (i.e. turn it from a vertical to a horizontal position.) What you are looking for is the time it takes each picture to spin from portrait to landscape. For the most part the phony iPhones take a lot longer due to the software being different, and most likely the design of the three-axis gyro is pretty poor.

NOTE: For the sake of additional confusion, when I refer to the iPhone 4S I am also talking about the iPhone 4. Both phones have a few differences if you look with the naked eye. When it comes to the physical look and feel of both phones (putting the retina display and 8 megapixel camera aside) they are identical. Put it this way… if I were to turn off both the 4 and the 4S and place them down beside each other. There is only one small give-away that tells you which is the 4S and which isn’t. If you know the answer to this fact, please post it in the comments field. I want to continue to stay on the initial topic.


Hardware Differences

Micro-SIM Tray

Surprise surprise. The iPhone doesn’t take an ‘old size’ SIM card. This means you have to trundle off to you mobile (cellular) service provider and get a new and smaller SIM card. Don’t be a self-righteous ninja and cut the SIM card you already have, to fit into the smaller tray. Not many people get it right, and also if you do you are more likely to jam the SIM tray and cost yourself more money. In my experience it takes far less time and frustration getting the correct size SIM card, than dealing with a home-made MacGyver job that won’t last forever.

If the back of the phone (the part that isn’t the screen) unclips and allows you to insert a SIM card, it is definitely a fake. The iPhone 4S has a micro-SIM tray on the right hand side of the device that pops out (Assuming that the phone is facing you head on with the home button – the round one with the square on it – being at the bottom of the screen).

Rear End

This is the part of the iPhone that is directly behind the screen. With certain counterfeit models, the back of the phone will have a small rectangle showing the size (in Gigabytes). You will never see this on an iPhone 4S. All iPhone 4 and 4S models don’t tell you the hard drive size. The only two ways to tell is to look on the back of the box it came it (provided the box isn’t counterfeit aswell), or go to Settings > General > About and this will tell you the capacity of your device.

Packaging

If you do get an iPhone from a dubious source (i.e. not from an Apple Store, or an authorized reseller) then you need to scrutinize the packaging. If the owner of the phone only hands you the phone, insist on examining the box it came on.

I’ve done this myself out of interest’s sake, and often some telltale signs emerge. The box may say iPhone 4S, and even have the picture of it. When you turn over the (phony) box you will even see someone has had time to print the specifications.

Turn it over again and carefully examine the picture. Often if it’s a hasty job done by a laser-jet printer the image will be slightly pixelated and blurry. Upon looking at the specifications again look at the sharpness of the font. Check the alignment of the information on the rear-end of the box. A few times I’ve seen that the information has been printed out, but whichever tried to fake it, stuck the serial number, model number, IMEI number, etc on skew.

Universal Dock

If you’ve owned any iPod in the past you’ll notice it’s the fat piece that plugs from the bottom of the device into a docking station or into your computer. (The cable that plugs from the bottom of your iDevice into the USB port of a computer is sometimes called a Sync Cable. If you are familiar with the one end of the Sync Cable, then you may be familiar with the port on the iPhone I’m talking about.) Take the iPhone 4S you’re about to buy and make sure it fits into a docking station. If you’re unsure about this, ask a friend for a iPod cable and make sure it plugs into the bottom of the device.

Software Differences

Retina Display (screen)

The term ‘retina’ display you’ve heard a lot of if you’ve been researching or just following Apple products in general. This is a fancy way of saying that the clarity and sharpness of the resolution is ultra high, and mind-blowing. The screen on the fake iPhone 4S is smaller in physical size.

I found that the interface wasn’t very responsive to my finger. I haven’t included a picture of the interface, but I found it took at least 3 seconds before the interface responded to touch. (This was an experience of a poorly thought out replica.) Take time to play with the applications. The apps should launch pretty much 0,25-0,5 seconds after you’ve pressed it. Less technical people would call this instantaneous.

Camera

If you can, also test out the camera. Remember the iPhone 4S has both. Test them. Take a picture. View it. Make sure you can zoom in on it about halfway, without the picture being distorted or grainy. If you’re smart you’ll email that picture to yourself and examine the quality.

Keep in mind that this article contains many technical aspects and gestures the seller may not allow you. Whenever I’ve bought something shitty, most of the time it’s because I rushed into it. Check and double check all the details of the phone.

Apps

Sometimes people leave apps and other personal information on their phones. This is tiresome if you want to start using it, and Aunt Maggie keeps popping up in your contacts. If you have already discovered the iPhone is authentic, ask the previous owner to wipe the iPhone clean.

There are two easy ways to do this.

  • Plug it into iTunes and click Restore (under the Summary tab).
  • On the iPhone go to:

Settings > General > Reset (located at the very bottom) > Erase All Content and Settings

Conclusion

Do your research. Many mistakes are made when the consumer fails to look into a product enough. This is most essential when it comes to technology. You don’t want to be stuck with a toaster that’s talking to you in an Middle Eastern dialect, it’s about time you use Dear Google or RTFM.

PhilosopherPoet

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Uncategorized

Apple should bring back iSync

So my iPhone 3GS is officially history. I took it into some Apple technicians, and he mournfully told me the logic board (kinda like the backbone of the device) was no more. It didn’t respond to charge or to a new battery being inserted. Now that I look back at it, he did it with that solemn empathy that would filter out your eyes when telling a relative that their little doggy was run over by an ice-cream truck this morning.

Anyway thankfully my flatmate leant me her old Nokia E63. Which is a great phone, only I feel like a gorilla trying to control a typewriter (after the ease and fingerless pressure) of the iPhone’s retina display. So now I had all this contact backed up on my Macbook (thankfully), and desperately needed a way to transfer them back onto my MacBook.

I did a little research and found out that there’s a few ‘nifty’ pieces of Nokia software out there. Although after trying there Multimedia Transfer App that failed after a the first few launches, and some other generic software (the name now escapes me)…I decided to kick it the Apple root.

I read on a few forums that iSync worked perfectly well with sending data across from non-iPhones to a Mac. Only problem was I was running Lion, and iSync had been discontinued…grrr. So after a few grumpy days of looking around for a Snow Leopard Mac (i.e. the OS version just before Lion), I found one lurking around at work. All I can say is sneaker-net never fails. Mac. USB. Ten Steps. USB. MacAwesome.

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So I got iSync whirring like a beast in my little machine, along with the correct plugin from the Nokia website. And Eureka! I now had people to talk to on my phone’s address book again. Not only I was thrilled with getting my contacts back, I was mightily impress with the slickness of iSync. It was easy to use, it picked up my phone, plus when it starts working you see this aluminum whirring wheel telling you stuff is safe.

So app developers and/or Apple developers in general, tell the people in the ivory towers that iSync is a worth while program for Lion. Perhaps with the supersonic boom of the iPad, and the swarm of iPhones Apple overlooked this feature since that assumed 90% of Mac users would have iTunes tucked into their dock like the Ten Commandments. Or maybe the sexy Mountain Lion will solve this hiccup?

 

PhilosopherPoet

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Technology, Thoughts

Pulling the plug on ignorance

How do you explain the internet to someone? Or even something as simple as email? It’s been so engrained in our culture and our lives, to actually step back and look at the milestones is a sobering effect.

A few weeks back I was dealing with a lady of 77 years of age, let’s call her Margret. Her family was intent on getting her an iPad. The reason being she lives in a small old age home and needs to contact her family via Skype. Obviously a few people in the family are tech-savvy, and managed to gather together enough money to buy her one. I thought it was a great token of kindness, because now not only can she Skype (i.e. call her family abroad) but also she has access to tons of applications and data at her fingertips (on the internet).

So I activated her iPad and showed her how it all worked, and while I was setting up her Apple ID, the first thing that I asked her was, “What is your email address?” She gave me a blank look. I explained that her for an account of any kind we’d need an email address to get her account going. I told her that she would be able to write letters to her family instantly, that’s the best explanation I could give without overwhelming her further.

I felt sorry for her, and the way technology frightened her. It’s really a marvelous thing once you get your head around the basics of the iPad. Due to various circumstances, she was probably given the opportunity to learn (how to operate a computer) but felt too scared and inferior, and shied away from the opportunity. Now her family had dosed her with a bucket of water by thrusting an iPad in her hands.

This leads me to two topics :

  • Why are we so afraid to learn?
  • Technology is the key liberator of our time.
The Fear of Learning

When we start to learn it pushes out right out of our comfort zone into the realm of ignorance. Most of the time if you want to learn…you have to be receptive and be prepared to listen. Many people hate that feeling of vulnerability, and feel insecure (sometimes evening getting angry).

One of the better qualities in a teacher is patience. This is something that has poisoned many of us against certain subjects, since we had one cantankerous and moody teacher and scowled and berated us when asking a dumb question.

Learning is also a process of stumbling.

A wise old woman, who is a homeopath put it to me in this gentle way, “I’d rather die a failure than never having tried.” Progressing in life is simply trying new things. To get better at something (i.e. more skillful), you simply have to try. you may not succeed straight away, but that’s ok. Do a little bit at a time. Once in a while we will stumble and fall. Make mistakes, maybe even injure ourselves…but then like my good friend said at least we won’t be dying a failure.

Once you’ve tried enough times, you explore on impulse.

Learning (as a teacher and pupil is a exciting and intoxicating feeling), once you’ve got the hang of the initial trying, you will goad yourself into finding new avenues. My father (who is a seasoned, and powerful educator) put it to me this way. “Learning is just about being curious.” You don’t have to be reading an entire library of books, or have ten degrees behind your name. Just get excited and your curiosity will teach you to explore and gain a deeper understanding.

Wrestling with the wires

The more I work in IT (either by myself, or by helping others), I’ve come to realize that it’s more than a skill. It’s a language and a tool, if you don’t embrace it immediately, soon it will fall away “like sand through your fingers”. If that didn’t make sense, allow me to use another example.

If you’re having a casual days with a few friends, then suddenly someone asks you “Hey let’s go to that pub I told you about?” The only catch being there are five people (including yourself), yet only two motorbikes to get you there. Now you’re stuck. Well, unless you’ve an wild caveman living in isolation…technology will always be this functional tool we require to alleviate the logistics we encounter.

Getting in a car the first few times, is darn nerve wracking. Once you’ve got the knack of it, you wonder how you managed without it. This is the dilemma I faced a while back with Margret. I had to rewind my thinking only a decade or two, so she could understand the advantages of embrace this digital beast we all face.

I’m glad that she tried, otherwise she would just be a failure, a figure, a statistic even. Perhaps embracing the depths of the unknown, and wrestling with it…will be the greatest challenge us homo sapiens face?

PhilosopherPoet
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