"Open Pointing"

I really don’t know whether to laugh at this or cry. Still, if the weapons lobby in the U.S. gains any more influence over the policy makers, you’ll soon be able to book armed-to-the-teeth escorts to take you safely from the walmart cash desk to your car.

Dashboard widgets still worth using

​Its demise was predicted so many times that some people actually believe the Dashboard is already dead. Fortunately it’s not and Apple keeps including it in every release of OS X.
​Personally, I find the application very useful and not a day goes by that I don’t check one or another thing using one of the widgets I have installed, even though I don’t use many.

Mac.AppStorm​ has compiled a really nice list of useful widgets for OS X’s Dashboard. There’s something for everybody’s taste in there; I’m using the currency converter and iStat Pro. It also helped me remember the Color Burn Widget which I lost during an OS upgrade.

There are two widgets I’d like to add to that list, though:​

Loremify — a one-click Lorem Ipsum generator, and
Delivery Status — the best parcel tracking widget out there.

Oh and everybody always forgets about the built-in widgets, so; multiple weather widgets, a few world clocks and the unit conversion widget never​ leave my dashboard.

Picking up on Harry Marks’s questions regarding Microsoft’s tablet announcement

Harry Marks has a nice list of questions up on his site Curious Rat, that he was left with after Microsoft’s announcement of their new tablet computers.​

Not answering the most basic question regarding a new device of this kind, like say ” What is it going to cost?” and “How long does it typically run on one charge?” fills me with a sense of foreboding.

The thing that really angered me, though, was this:

Two separate processor architectures (Intel i5 and ARM) will give developers two separate platforms on which to build apps. Do they build for legacy Windows first, then if there’s time/resources, Windows RT? Or do they build for Windows RT and leave old-timey Windows in the past?

It show​s that (1) Microsoft still hasn’t developed the balls to say goodbye to the legacy crap that’s been holding them back for almost a decade now, and (2) these things have little chance of becoming actual competitors to the iPad.

I predict that the only software good enough to compete with iPad apps will run on the ARM tablet, which requires developers with a willingness to do the legwork on this new platform and the slightest hint of what good UI design looks like. I hope for the sake of customers and Microsoft, that Redmond will provide developers with a good SDK for Windows RT applications and even better support.

If that doesn’t happen — and I’m quite sure it won’t — we’ll end up with a Windows 8 tablet that isn’t better than a 10-year-old Compaq TC1100 running Windows XP. Why? Because most companies and lazy independent developers will stick to their guns and continue to build powerhungry, unoptimised, legacy crap that barely even runs on the Windows 8 tablet under the guise of offering “the full Windows experience”.

The only way Microsoft can achieve any relevance in the tablet/post-PC market, is if they’re willing to drag their customers and developers — especially in the corporate ones — kicking and screaming into the current decade.​

Mine is bigger! — Apple’s new MacBook Pro with Retina Display

This machine is a gigantic, high resolution, unibody middle finger to PC makers.

I had time to poke and prod this notebook for about half an hour at a local retailer a few days ago, and the above is pretty much my assessment of the device.

The new MacBook Pro on Apple.com

A few words on the — in my eyes — non-issue of repairability:
(1) Only a very very small number of people would ever actually want to attempt it; (2) I don’t care that the RAM is soldered to the logic board, because even 8 GB combined with a SSD will be sufficient for very long even for “power users” — forgive the dick quotes, I hate myself; and (3) like with the second generation of the MacBook Air, companies like OWC will probably release alternative SSD modules that fit Apple’s home brew interface in the next two months.

Now to the interesting stuff:
I’m not so much impressed by obvious improvements like USB 3, the full flash storage architecture, the insane amount of RAM you can put in them, the faster SSDs, or the dual Thunderbolt ports — although they are pretty sweet, and make me wonder just how many displays this thing can drive simultaneously :)

What I am impressed with is the amount of effort Apple put into making this machine what it is.

  • Exhibit 1:
    The retina display. Many people expected this, still, 2880 by 1800 pixels is simply incredible for a 15.4“ notebook panel. From what I’ve read, Sharp builds them and I’d love to know for just how long Apple has reserved — read: bought-up — all production capabilites for this component.
  • Exhibit 2:
    Cooling vents that not only serve to let cool air get into the device, but also work as stiffening elements for the body of the notebook; making it even more robust without making it heavier and thicker.
  • Exhibit 3:
    Fans with asymmetrically spaced blades and an improved airflow architecture that reduces noise. I would’ve suspected that this was born out of necessity, because the internal components needed to deliver the level of performance the new MacBook Pro offers, are going to produce a lot of excess heat. But accounts by Jim Dalrymple and others suggest that it’s very hard to get the notebook to even audibly spin up the fans, let alone become warm.
  • Exhibit 4:
    The battery. Not only has this machine enough juice to run for seven hours, depite its power hungry innards — due to past experiences I believe Apple doesn’t overstate this number — it’s also packed neatly and symetrically into the notebook and at the front of the casing, probaly giving it a nice centroid, comparable to a Lotus Elise ;)

Not even a day after the announcement of the machine, I’ve seen reports by blithering idiots, neckbeards, trolls and New Media Douchebags deriding the new machine for being;

  • Made by Apple — which is bad because Apple is _evil!_
  • Too expensive — GAAAH! Apple TAX! GAAAH!
  • A disappointment, because it doesn’t have feature X, Y & Z.
  • Not trumping every weird-ass gamer laptop on the planet based on specs.

To all of these numbnuts I say this: I triple dog dare you to find me a laptop that;

  • is built half as well — we’re going to figure out how to quantify this
  • has the same or a better display,
  • as well as proper OS and application support for the insane resolution,
  • has the same or a better runtime on one charge,
  • and compares well on the remaining specifications.

All for the same or a lower price in the coming six months — hell, I’d be willing to give you a year. If you can manage this, I’m going to bake you cookies, write „Apple sux!“ on them and send them to you.

Quick app recommendation: CheatSheet 1.0.2

​CheatSheet is a nifty little application that lets you quickly review all available keyboard shortcuts for the application that is currently in the foreground. Any keyboard shortcut that is listed in the menu of an application will show  up in an overlay, sorted by menu item.​

I haven’t been using it for long, but for these moments when you simply can’t remember that one shortcut, this app might come in handy​. Give it a try, it’s free.

Link over at Macworld​

Proposed ‘seal of questionable quality’ for Apple rumour sites

I found this on Dribbble a few days ago and felt that it should be instituted as a seal of questionable quality for sites that create or propagate unsubstantiated rumours about Apple and other technology topics.

Every site that has a questionable record with Apple and technology rumours, whose writers lack journalistic integrity or the balls to stand behind what they’ve written, boast of exclusive reports, confirms fantasy products, declares unannounced products as delayed, buys stolen property for a story and speaks only of “sources”, should have this picture permanently and visibly branded on every page.

Decline of the “Bullshit Company”

​Earlier today, Harry Marks posted an article on his site rebutting an argument made by Jim Cramer of CNBC. Here’s the quote:

When the smoke clears off this miserable Dell quarter, people will realize that Apple’s behind the destruction of the laptop,” Cramer said. “And with that destruction comes a world of hurt for just about everyone, save Apple.

Harry Marks replied by saying:

It’s not a matter of the iPhone and iPad obsoleting the laptop. Apple’s success isn’t just with iOS devices, it’s with MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros, too. What Apple has done is obsolete poorly-made computers, poor shopping experiences, and poor customer service.
​Apple isn’t destroying laptops, it’s making its customers happy. What are the other guys doing?

​He hit the nail square on the head. The other companies aren’t only not doing anything, they’re not even thinking.

Not limiting this to the tech business, I believe we might be witnessing the decline of “Bullshit Companies”; companies that are trying to bullshit their (potential) customers in many different ways: By pre-announcing products that might never see the light of day, by making promises they won’t even attempt to keep,  by adding asterisk after asterisk and footnote after footnote in order to shroud the truth about what they are trying to sell and last but not least with bad customer service.

Apple being the one of the forerunners here (and a gargantuan at that), I’m starting to see more and more “Non-Bullshit Companies”, companies that seem to work by a very simple business principle:
Here’s what we offer. We believe it’ll make your life easier in this and that way. Nothing more nothing less. This is how much we want for it.

Among other things the wild success of social funding platforms (like Kickstarter) illustrates where things are going:
​If you have an honest and good value proposition, people will pay for it. Not out of the goodness of their heart, but because they know they’re going to get something out of it.

Here are a few examples of this, that I’ve noticed around me lately:

  • A new bus company has started to take advantage of the fact that the Deutsche Bahn (Germany’s predominant railway company) isn’t properly serving the population of the region. They set up a bus route covering the major cities on the way from Luxemburg to Frankfurt Airport. Their prices are good, the service is executed well and they know how to communicate.
  • A local beer garden, situated in one of the most scenic spots in Trier​ (with everything from a great vista, large meadows to football and beach volleyball courts) put up a sign telling customers that they could use its accommodations and bring their own food, as long as they buy their drinks here. You have no idea how uncommon this is and I’m sure that this was not the case last year. I should add that their beverage prices are very decent and the service is excellent, which only adds to the positive impression. This tactic has gotten them a lot of good will from guests and from what I have learned their food sales haven’t declined and overall business seems to have improved.
  • How funny it may seem, my cellphone operator o2 Germany is ​on this list. The company has many flaws and does plenty of things wrong, but they offer a post-paid plan that is as simple as it can be, not forcing me into a long-term commitment, while having per-minute and data prices that are decent even compared to prepaid plans.

Customers are smarter than most companies think and those still believing that trying to fool customers is the way to go, are going to realise that “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me." will turn into "Fool me once… FUCK YOU!" more quickly than ever before.

People don’t begrudge companies for making money (not even for making boat loads of it), they just hate companies who are trying to do so by making false claims and essentially ripping people off. Only those businesses that are trying to make money without feeling the need to scam customers will prevail long-term and prosper. These are the companies that will get the money I earn.

SMS doesn’t need to die

Yesterday John Gruber linked to an article over at the New York Times, which stated that Facebook’s messaging system, Apple’s iMessage and similar services are slowly reducing usage of SMS around the world. He said:

It’s hard to think of a technology that more deserves to die than SMS.

​I have to disagree with that. SMS might be a limited standard in terms of what can be transferred, and as the link in Gruber’s quote shows, the average cost for a SMS is incredibly high in the U.S.A. (even more so over here in Germany). Still, the service is useful, because 1. it is universally compatible with almost all types of cellular networks around the world and 2. because it’s fairly reliable due to the fact that it works when a data connection (needed to send any kind of email, iMessage, Facebook message, etc.) cannot be established. More info on SMS here.

The problem​ is—as it is so often—greed by the carriers. A simple network-inherent, ubiquitous functionality is marketed and sold at a premium, with nearly no price decline over the last ten years.
SMS doesn’t need to die, carriers should just stop charging customers for a fairly limited service that costs them close to nothing.

My blogs have a new home!

Hi there,

I recently set up my new website mangochutney.me and moved my blogs to the new site.

If you like what I post, please bookmark these new URLs and add the appropriate RSS feeds to your feed reader:

The new site is hosted with Squarespace’s version 6 beta, which means that there might be some hiccups and smaller changes in the weeks to come, but from here on out, I’m going to use it full-time. Every now and then something will still show up in the feeds of my Tumblr blogs, but this will only be done to backup longer pieces.