Archive Page 2

21
Jun
10

Using An iPhone… (but getting an Android ‘Jones’)

evo-iphone Since I stood on line that fateful Friday June 29, 2007 inside the Short Hills Mall at the Apple Retail Store, I haven’t known much else on a mobile device except for the iPhone’s OS.  After two years of owning the original iPhone, I bought a 3GS in 2009.  All in all, the iPhone has been a stable, dependable and extensible device.  Calling it a ‘phone’ is almost too limiting and reductive.  For me, the iPhone serves as my everything, do-it-all device. It’s my calendar, occasional video playback screen, audiobook, music player, shopping assistant, GPS device and e-mail tool to name a few of my uses. When I’m out and have moments where I’m waiting on line or just plain waiting, this phone makes those waits so much easier. In short, after nearly three years of steady use, the iPhone has exceeded my expectations in just about every category that matters.

If this were a talk show, Maury or Jerry Springer would be standing off in the studio audience right now, turning towards me, holding up the microphone to their mouth and asking me, “Well, why are you cheating then?”  And truthfully, I’ve pondered about this thought for some time.  And my reasoning is simple: I’m a technologist.  By definition, I’m always looking at newer, more elegant ways of doing things.  While the iPhone has been an ideal match for me in many areas, in several others, it’s missed the mark.  Here are my five key gripes with the current iPhone experience:

    • Information-Rich HUD – When the iPhone originally made it’s debut in 2007, waking the phone to a screen full of icons was acceptable.  Three years later, it’s just getting stale.  As much as I applaud the iPhone OS (now, simply called “iOS”) for it’s ease of use and application availability, at the end of the day, you will always pretty much be looking at rows of icons.   The HUD (Heads-Up Display) is very boring and not at all functional.  Just icons. And after hearing the iOS presentation at the beginning of the year, it doesn’t look like this will be changing anytime soon.  I’m not quite sure whether the interface been revised to add more functionality because doing so would require the OS to be completely re-written or because stylistically Apple doesn’t want to tamper with the iconic iPhone home screen.  Whatever the reason, the UI needs to grow beyond what I’ve been using. ‘Widgets‘ may come across as minor or optional, but they can serve an important role on a mobile communications device.

      I remember one of my first assignments as a manager.  My boss asked me to turn a 12-page monthly report into a one page, glanceable, information-rich tool that could be used to keep our client aware of what was happening in their business.  What we developed from that 12-page report (which ended up being very useful for my client) is the same simplicity that I’m looking for here.  Rather than rows of icons, why not show me the weather?  Maybe the score of my favorite sports teams?  A list of the most recent e-mails I’ve received?  That real estate on the iPhone’s home screen can be used much more effectively than it is now.

Continue reading ‘Using An iPhone… (but getting an Android ‘Jones’)’

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29
Jan
10

Musings on the Announcement of the Apple iPad

It’s been about 24 hours since the long anticipated keynote address and unveiling of the Apple iPad.  I’ve had some time to reflect on what this announcement will mean for Apple, for consumers and for my own personal use. 

Mixed Reactions
On Wednesday morning, it seemed like even the least tech savvy folks knew that ‘Apple was announcing a tablet!’.  (Major props to those sites that were gracious enough to cover this event via liveblog – it made the situation easier to follow.)  Getting bits and pieces of information and trying to digest them while on the telephone and working with customers, I found it difficult to process the facts.  A lot of what Steve Jobs says gets lost in translation in the liveblog.  I was in a room filled with tech savvy co-workers and just about everyone was underwhelmed.  While the announcement was, in fact, a “tablet-shaped device,” the details were significantly less impressive than the grandiose expectations that analysts and random tech followers (like myself) had ascribed to it.  Nobody I spoke to seemed genuinely excited and as I collected feedback (most of it unsolicited), it largely consisted of exclamations about the poor marketing behind the name and what the iPad couldn’t do.  Overall, people seemed generally confused about what makes this product offering so special.

It’s important to point out that after years of speculation about what an “Apple Tablet” would look and behave like, the expectations were almost impossible to meet.  (It was actually a bit anti-climactic to actually see and hear this announcement since it was so much fun to pontificate over the years about what such a device might be.) 

The Keynote is the Key
The key to understanding this product lies not in reviewing the specifications and comparing it to other offerings in the market.  For those who are considering the iPad, my best suggestion is to actually invest an hour and half of your time before you spend $499 – $830.  Watch the keynote and observe how Apple is marketing it to consumers.

Unlike many other product unveilings, Apple devoted almost the entire hour and a half to explaining just one product.  (The keynote is long – if you can’t watch the entire thing, check out just the first 15 – 30 minutes of it.  (It’s available now on the homepage at Apple.com or via iTunes via podcast.)  But for the benefit of those that will only read this, I’ll do my best to share Steve Jobs’ sentiment.) 

The most critical piece of information during the keynote was explained in the first 15 minutes.  Steve showed a slide with an iPhone on the left, a MacBook on the right and and empty space in the center.  He talked about the thought that went into deciding whether there was room for a product between those two devices.  The philosophy he outlined was, ‘If we’re going to announce a product in between these two offerings, it has to be better than the phone and better than the MacBook at some things.’  He then hypothesized about whether the netbook fits in this category.  (He actually put the word “Netbook” in the empty space between the MacBook and the phone.  He explained that the company’s conclusion on netbooks is that they aren’t better than laptops or phones at anything.  He dismissed them as “slow, cheap laptops”.  It was only after going through this explanation that he unveiled the iPad that almost everyone has seen by now.

Continue reading ‘Musings on the Announcement of the Apple iPad’

22
Jan
10

Downloading Nancy: Review

vlcsnap-2010-01-22-00h50m37s8 Maria Bello has one of those familiar faces.  If you saw her at an airport, you might stop her and say, “I know you from some television show or some movie, but I can’t quite place where.”  I’ve seen her in roles here and there – looking at her filmography, I’ve seen her in Payback, Thank You for Smoking and a few other roles, but admittedly none of them were particularly notable.  When it comes to Downloading Nancy, there’s no mistaking the fact if she didn’t have a signature film, she does now.  Despite a great all around cast, this is her film.

Bello is undoubtedly among the most attractive leading women in film today.  And while I’m not quite sure exactly what it was that attracted her to this script, one would assume that she must have felt the need to make a statement.  This is one of the most visceral, difficult-to-watch-yet-hard-to-turn-away-from while at the same time thought provoking and challenging films I’ve ever seen.  Ever.  Gone from Bello is the beautiful smile and naturally attractive features and replacing them are all the physical signs of a person who has no regard for her appearance and appears to be unashamed in her quest to do harm to her body.

To say that Downloading Nancy follows the life of a woman during “a difficult period in her life” would be a gross understatement.  The title character has been married to her husband Albert (Rufus Sewell) for fifteen years.  The director craftily provides glimpses into the past revealing how the marriage reached this point and we witness some of the worst evidence of neglect.  I’ve always listened to abused women on television declare that “he hits me because he cares about me”.  While I’m no closer to believing the validity of that statement and that mindset now than I was an hour and a half ago, I must admit that I understand a bit more the spirit of a person making that statement.  Albert barely acknowledges that his wife is even in the same room with him.  In on scene, he gets up from the dinner table and walks all the way around the table to get the salt and pepper shakers – a trip that could have easily been saved by simply asking his wife to secure them.  Rufus Sewell usually fits comfortably in the role of the villain in films and that baggage works to his favor here.  It’s painful to watch the neglect that he shows his wife.

There’s no other way to say it – Nancy likes to hurt herself.  She carries a box of razor blades around.  She takes advantage of almost any opportunity when she’s alone to inflict pain upon herself.  This extends beyond self-infliction and we learn that she connects with others online, sharing what she can’t share with her husband.  I have a pretty strong stomach for on screen violence or graphic content and I have to admit that the mere suggestion of what Nancy is doing – whether I can see where her hands are going or not – made me immensely uncomfortable.  This film is to our era what Star 80 was to it’s day.

Continue reading ‘Downloading Nancy: Review’

14
Dec
09

Humble Pie: Review

Humble Pie It’s not an odd thing for a film to affect me emotionally.  Anyone who knows me knows that it happens all the time.  But there’s something exceptionally affecting for me about Humble Pie.  As I mentioned in my Facebook impression, I so wish I couldn’t relate to the events in this movie.

Humble Pie is a completely fresh and uplifting look at a life considered by many to be ordinary.  Hubbel Palmer wrote and starred in the lead role.  Hubble plays Tracy Orbison – an early 30s supermarket worker living in a somewhat quiet midwest town who happens to be overweight.  The reason why Humble Pie struck such a chord with me is that it deals with being overweight in the accurate way that I and others knew and have known life to be and not in a fictional “Hollywood” sort-of way.  The “Hollywood” way would be to poke fun at his weight in a Nutty Professor or even Shallow Hal kinda way – then justify it with a moral at the close to remind people that it isn’t important ‘that these people don’t look like us – the key is what’s inside!’.  Sadly, little is ever done in these films to convince the viewer that their lives are remarkable.  I love Tracy’s character.  He lives amidst a mother who makes him feel as if he’s the biggest liability she has in life.  Tracy finds comfort in the relationship that he has with his sister, but being that she isn’t overweight (and, in fact, almost no other characters in the film are overweight), it’s very difficult for him to find anyone who can relate to his situation.

Tracy finds hope in life through his job at the supermarket.  And this is the beginning of what makes his spirit kinda awesome.  There’s nothing particularly exciting about his job.  But for eleven years, he works consistently and comes across as a pretty dependable person.  When he finds out that he’s being promoted, his reaction to the glimpse of sunshine in life has to make you smile.  Tracy really begins to find hope when he discovers an actor (William Baldwin) in a local performance of a play and identifies with the way in which he commands the stage.  Tracy discovers that the actor teaches a local acting class and decides to sign up and follow what he feels is his new purpose in life.

If you watch this film and are or have ever been overweight, there will be more than a few moments that I would imagine have drawn a laugh from some crowds, but will draw upon some pretty dark moments.  This film inspires hope for those who persevere.  No, there’s no montage where Tracy gets a workout tape and changes his eating habits and begins to exercise.  And no, there isn’t aren’t any makeover scenes or other significant life changing events happening here.  But the film did leave me with this: that despite how cruel some of his family, his friends, his co-workers and just random people he encountered were to him, his attitude remained even.  There were so many opportunities for him to just flip a table or punch a wall (or a person).  And theatrically, he would have been completely justified.  But through it all, he just plays this overweight, gentle six-foot beautiful spirit who’s trying to make the best of a situation that he doesn’t find particularly limiting.  It’s the behavior of the people around Tracy that makes life uncomfortable.

As mentioned, there were a lot of situations in the film that I truly wish I could not identify with.  I watched with incredibly mixed emotions.  There’s a script that I have been slowly writing that was trying to get to the heart of some of the things that I would imagine that Hubbel experienced and successfully wrote about in Humble Pie.  And there are a bunch of things in my yet-unfinished script that weren’t explored in this film.  But this film deserved more attention and I hope it finds new life on home video.  Having lived through some of the things that are in the film, it was painful but therapeutic to witness them onscreen.  But it’s all worthwhile if you watch this slightly over one hour and a half film.  There’s a poem that Tracy reads that was so moving, I had to listen to it twice.  If you’ve never experienced disappointment, this probably won’t resonate with you.  But for those who live lives that are less than ideal, persevere and endure, holding on until (as my Bishop would say), ‘they feel their help coming’, this poem is a beautiful way to end the film.

Humble Pie isn’t the story of every heavier person’s battle to live in a world where they are constantly reminded of their physical differences.  But this is a great film to watch and get a glimpse of some of the difficulties that life can impress upon you and the pain you can endure when you try to camouflage yourself among the masses, hiding under dark, loose fitting clothes.

14
Dec
09

Paper Heart: Review

Paper Heart Netflix thinks he knows me.  He’s always making these recommendations based on other films he’s known I’ve seen.  “If you liked Gone With the Wind and you also liked One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest… well, heck, you’re gonna love this one!”  There’s something inherently mechanical and artificial about any system that tries to guess whether or not you’ll like a film.  Well, whatever the reason, somehow Paper Heart landed in my recommendations list.  And I’m starting to think Netflix knows me better than I know myself.

Describing Paper Heart is a difficult task.  The Netflix description had some word in it like “faux” or “mockumentary” that tipped me off to the fact that this wouldn’t be a completely sincere account of what was to come.  It starts Charlyne Yi as herself.  Who the hell is Charlyne Yi?  Well, she plays this musician/comedian who doubts the sincerity of ‘love’ as a true feeling and decides to couple with a crew to shoot footage in search of a deeper definition.  The real draw for most people is the presence of Michael Cera.  Cera is an immediately recognizable actor for anyone who has been paying attention to the young semi-independent movie scene for the past three years.  He’s probably best known for his work in Superbad and Juno and strangely here he plays… well, himself.

The film opens with Yi holding a microphone in Las Vegas and asking passers by about their definition and idea of love.  While this may not have been the intent, the insincere reactions that the passers by give to Yi sets her up to be a sympathetic character.  As you see her attempts to be taken seriously, you’d have to be heartless not to sympathize with.  She’s a 19-year old female of Asian decent, but let’s just say that she doesn’t possess ‘conventional beauty’.  After you spend a few moments with her, you sense that her mannerisms are quite odd – leaning heavily towards geeky or nerdy.  The fact that she identifies herself as either a comedian or a musician is strange considering that she didn’t seem to take the music that seriously and her comedy even less so.  All this said, I really grew to like Charlyne Yi.  Her beauty manifested itself in her freeness of spirit.  For me (as is the case with most people) a beautiful or ugly spirit drastically either enhances or detracts from your physical beauty anyway.  I liked Yi’s personality so much that I’m hoping her role in the movie was close to her real life persona.  It would be nice to think of how the world would be if there were more Charlyne Yi’s in it.

(It’s difficult to review this film without giving details about how it unfolds – so if you’ll trust me, I’ll try to give you a flavor for what hooked me without revealing the heart of the film.  However, if you just want to see this thing, stop here and check it out.)

The film develops with Charlyne subtlety and repeatedly (but not begrudgingly) expressing how she probably won’t ever experience true love.  To say she’s pessimistic about her love life is an understatement.  There’s even a shot of her parents on film trying to uncover the mystery of her love life.  To the viewer, it should be pretty obvious why she isn’t with a beau.  She has a strange and almost ‘performance-actor’-ish kinda personality.  As if she’s just kinda making it up as she’s going along in life.  What makes her likeable in the film is the genuine feeling she gives when she smiles.  Throughout the film, she finds small opportunities to create fun for herself.  She’s not overly concerned with her appearance.  (In fact, she’s not concerned with it in the least.)  She strikes me as a person who would randomly utter the most unpredictable and strange comments.  And it’s with this free-spirited approach that she and fellow filmmaker Nick Jasenovec set out to interview people about their definitions and ideas of love.  The feeling that the mockumentary seems to give us initially is that there really isn’t any script or even a storyboard for how the film will build or conclude.  They’re just kinda making it up.  That is, until Michael Cera steps on the scene.

Continue reading ‘Paper Heart: Review’

21
Nov
09

Here’s what’s going on at the Microsoft Store!!

19
Nov
09

Early Droid Impressions…

I’ve been dying to get my hands on the Motorola Droid and recently I spent some time with it and wanted to share some early (as early as 20 mins of use can buy me) impressions:

  • The shape is rather uninspired.  I passed right by the phone… In a way, it’s an unfair assessment.  The iPhone is recognizable, but for the most part it’s a big screen and a curved shiny back.  At the same time, other touch screen devices appear to have some personality.  (The new HTC HD2 comes to mind.  That seems to be the kind of sleek, slightly wider screen device that geeks lust over.)  The overall feel of the Droid, however, seems to be a bit… well, the word ‘uninspired’ keeps coming to mind.
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  • The phone definitely has a heavy feel to it… very study.  When I held the Pre for the first time, it felt kinda cheap.  This isn’t cheap.  This is a big metal slab.  But not too heavy.  Just heavy enough.
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  • The most disappointing thing about the phone (and I was really surprised) is the keyboard.  It’s really bad.  It’s the opposite of ergonomic.  Keys have almost no feedback.  The placement is kinda weird (this seems to be due to the shift of the keys over to the left to compensate for the directional pad.)  I was really amped about this device, largely due in part to the fact that I’m excited about Android.  But I was hoping this would give me an iPhone like experience, only with a physical keyboard.  My early experience with it really left a lot to be desired.
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  • It’s really snappy once you get into Android.  It”s as responsive as my iPhone and the interface feels like a whole different world.  I can get used to this!
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    Really that’s it.  Just wanted to get out some early feelings after touching the phone that is depicted in ads as being shot out of bomber into a midwestern city, disturbing all of the common folk.  But now that I had the chance to play with the phone it’s been brought down to earth a bit.  I am pretty sure in 2010 that I will own an Android at some point.  But the Droid will not be my gateway drug.