RSS – I am not quite dead, I am feeling better

RssI started using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) years ago – I am guessing the early 2000s. It was my primary means of staying on top of what was happening on the websites I followed. Websites that ranged from tech to toys (big boy toys) and photos to funnies.

Really Simple Syndication is a type of web feed which enabled me to easily access updates to the websites I followed. I used a variety of “news aggregator” apps to automatically check the RSS feed(s) for my favorite sites – saving me from having to go to each of the sites every day to see if there was something new.

In the mid-2000s until it was shut done in 2013, Google Reader was THE aggregator. We poured one out when it rode off into the sunset.

I think the world of RSS took a hit when Google Reader was shut down, but RSS never went away. I found other solutions to feed my addiction – I mean interest – to too many websites.

I could see what I wanted to see, not what someone told me I should see.

And now RSS is making a comeback

… anyone weary of black-box algorithms controlling what you see online at least has a respite, one that’s been there all along but has often gone ignored. Tired of Twitter? Facebook fatigued? It’s time to head back to RSS.

Space crafts phone home

DSN LogoGreat long read about the Deep Space Network (DSN), the system that talks (and listens) to all the space crafts. Started in late 1963, it has been supporting space craft 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for over 54 years.

The DSN has many vital roles, but one of its biggest is to serve as the communication link between Earth and its robotic emissaries in deep space — anything from the moon and beyond. Every image we’ve ever received from deep space, every relay of scientific data, even those famous words the Eagle has landed, was collected by the dishes of the Deep Space Network.

The DSN faces many challenges, but their biggest one might be the current funding crunch they are experiencing. It is hard to point to concrete benefits of the program, but the information we have learned about our solar systems and the amazing photos that have been sent back I think justify their budget of approximately $200 million a year.

It covers everything from maintaining the dishes to the ongoing upgrades to the antennas to paying the 300-plus people who work at the dishes around the world. For comparison, the total value of all the robotic missions currently in deep space is around $25 billion and growing.

For something really cool check out DSN Now to see the status of the satellite dishes at the 3 DSN locations (Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia) and see which ones are actively downlinking and uplinking data in real time and to which space craft. The squiggly lines are mesmerizing.

Pippen – Apple’s attempt at a gaming system

Pippen Good backstory on the game system Apple tried to build in the 90’s.

I was at Apple during this period – I was working in a large centralized Quality organization that tested most all of the hardware and software that came out of Apple. I knew of Pippen, but was not aware of the behind the scenes stuff.

I remember this coming to us for testing and we had to keep it in a secret lab (aka a conference room with the window covered). But I don’t recall the testing lasting very long or every reaching a shippable state.

WWDC 2011 Thoughts

My thoughts on Apple’s WWDC announcements

There 3 big areas that were focused on: Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud. Within the first two they focused on 10 ‘marquee’ features and 9 for iCloud. Below are my thoughts on each of the marquee features and any additional comments for that area.

LION

 • Multitouch gestures – I’m primarily a mouse use so not sure how much of these gestures I will use. I can see they would be handy when on the laptop, but if I am at home and I am doing anything significant I have a small BlueTooth mouse I use.

 • Fullscreen apps – I can see it coming in handy in specific situations – working LightRoom, do a large spreadsheet in Excel, but in general I am so used to having multiple windows open and have tools to manage my interaction with the windows.

 • Mission Control – I use Spaces and Expose pretty heavily so I am looking forward to trying this out this feature. But since I use a mouse primarily I am wondering how the experience will be. In the demos they highlighted the multi-gesture interaction.

 • Mac App store – I have not been a big user of the Mac App store to date. But the features that get my attention : ability to load purchased apps on multiple machines and auto updates.

 • Launchpad – Not really interested. I use function keys and Launchbar to open apps. Do not see myself taking my hands off the keyboard and use a mouse to go to Launchpad and then click on the app I want to use

 • Resume – The ability to have the app and/or system to open to the same state I left it in – woot

 • Autosave – Too many times I have had an app crash (or quit it by mistake) and lost my changes – looking forward to the apps I use most often getting updated.

 • Versions – The times I need to use Time Machine to go back and get a deleted file are not often, but when I need to it is really great to have that functionality. Same for versions – will not need often but when needed it will save my ass

•  Airdrop – meh. I could see using it at home once in awhile and maaaaaybe at work – but not a big motivator

 • Mail – The new features looked good but because work is still on Exchange 2003 for their backend I can’t use Mail for work. I am stuck on Entourage 2008 – which has ok Exchange support, but would much rather be on Mail or even MS Outlook 2011.

 • Other things I have read are in Lion
    • Full Disk Encryption – Stayed away from FileVault for a variety of reasons but looking forward to this feature. Gives peace of mind in case laptop is lost/stolen. But will not activate this on day one. Will let others try it and report issues.

    • Group as folder – I am a bit anal (no comments from the gallery) and like to organize my files and can see myself using this feature

   • Unified buddy list and status – I was using a 3rd Party App (Chax) to give this feature but Chax was causing some crashes. Looking forward to getting this feature built into the application

    • Built-in restore partition – Allows you to repair or reinstall OS X without the need for discs – WOOT! Great trouble shooting tool

    • Safari – improvements so one bad website in one tab will not hose the complete app means less force quits of Safari. Other key feature was Reading List. I use Instapaper very heavily and do not see myself moving off of it. The built-in solutions are a great intro to the feature but dedicated tools are better (I am talking to you RSS reading)

    • Resize from any edge – small but cool feature.

Bottom line – for $30 this is a no brainer. Hell at $100 this is a no brainer (but don’t tell Apple)

iOS 5

 • Notifications – WINNING. This is one of the two features that really got my attention. Having a video/game/whatever pause when a notification came in was less than optimal. I did get really spoiled using WebOS and their notification management scheme. I will need to spend sometime with it to determine if it is as great as it sounds – but any change was an improvement over the current method of notifications

 • Newsstand – I am interested to see how this is implemented. I am moving all my magazines to digital. Some of them have dedicated apps (Fortune and Wired) and the rest of the magazines I currently have are part of Zinio. Not sure if the mags in Zinio will be broken out individually. It would be great if they were.

 • Twitter – A very infrequent user of twitter – primarily as a consumer of info, not a creator. Not sure how big of an impact this will have on my daily interaction with the device.

 • Safari – Tabbed browsing and the fact it ‘remembers’ the web page when you go to another tab are big improvements and will definitely impact my daily usage – especially on the iPad. Reading List I am not as interested in since I currently use Instapaper.

 • Reminders – I like the geolocations features but from what I have seen/read the app is pretty simple. I currently use Remember the Milk and will stick with it to see how full featured Reminders really is

 • Camera – Biggest enhancement that will affect me directly is the quick-launch and adding a way to launch camera from the lock screen. Using the volume button to take a picture sounds cool but I usually work in portrait mode so the button is on the wrong side for me (I hold with my right hand)

 • Mail – Nothing that will have an immediate impact on how I use mail.

 • PC Free – Second big feature. My current behavior is to manage my interaction with the apps and music on my device via iTunes on my Mac. I am training myself to stop always having to connect to the Mac. First step is using Pocket Casts to manage all my podcasts. Next step is to update apps wirelessly. I am looking forward to this functionality.

 • Game Center – Meh. Not a big gamer.

 • iMessage – Potential is huge here. Lot of my friends are currently on iOS devices and I am planning to move Bev and the boys to iPhones this fall when their contracts are up for renewal.

 • Other
   • iTunes sync – by itself the ability to sync purchased songs is not that big a deal to me. The ability to sync my collection to the cloud is something I am interested in. My concern is how do I sync a subset of all my music to different devices. The fact I have all my music on my Mac does not mean I want all of it on my iPhone.

   • The other question is streaming. From what I have read you can not stream music, only sync. To date I am not a fan of streaming, but it is something I would be interested in investigating.

Bottom line – Really looking forward to iOS 5

iCLOUD

 • Contacts/Mail/Calendar – Currently I am committed to the Google ecosystem. I have a me.com address but rarely use it and and not really concerned about it syncing. I am looking forward to seeing what the functionality is of the 3 PIM apps, but they would need to be really great to get me to switch.

 • App Store – I like the idea of buy once/download many and the auto-upgrade functionality. I am just now starting to investigate purchasing apps via the App Store and I can see the family starting to buy more.

 • Books – Well, I work at Barnes & Noble. Not much else to say 😉

 • Backup – Currently using Time Machine for local backup and Mozy for cloud syncing. I also have the boys both on Mozy so would have to be pretty compelling to get me to switch.

 • Documents – Outside work (where we use the MS Office Suite) I don’t do a lot of document creation – and for the few that I do create I usually fall back to Office. I am starting to experiment with other apps for note taking and drafting blog entries – for this kind of tasks I look forward to the syncing. Do not really expect MS Office to support the syncing for quite awhile.

 • Photo Stream – I am trying to use my iPhone camera more and the autosyncing is pretty damn cool. The issue is that my digital image application of choice is Adobe’s Lightroom. I like the syncing between iOS devices and the Mac Apps – but not sure how I will need to modify my workflow to take advantage of the photo syncing.

 • iTunes in the Cloud
    • Stuff I bought on iTunes – Percentage wise I have a very small number of tracks that were bought from iTunes, so syncing purchased stuff is not a big win for me
    • Stuff I ripped – But the iTunes Match function is a big deal. Having all my tracks sync’d gives me a sense of security that my music is backed up (currently I do not sync music to the cloud). Question I have is if I sync my complete library to the cloud from my MacBook Pro, how much of it gets synced down to my iOS device? Can I specify a subset?

Bottom line – I think the potential for iCloud is huge – just not sure how I will benefit from it in the short-term.


Well – that is my 2-bits on the WWDC announcement – would be interested to know what you thought was awesome and not so awesome.

Thoughts on Apple’s event

Just finished watching the event and wanted to share some thoughts.

First the streaming of the event. For the most part worked ok. But several times the feed got choppy and had hit refresh or open page. Still better to watch it live then following someones comments on website.

 – Shuffle

    • like that the buttons are back

    • would have liked to have seen it next to a current shuffle so could get sense of size

    • really like the $49 price point

 – Nano

    • Like the small size

    • would probably get this for Bev instead of shuffle. Think she would be more comfortable with the screen to enable interaction

 – iPod Touch

    • the addition of the rear camera was what I have been waiting for. The front camera is nice, but not as exciting as the rear one

    • but what is the megapixel count for the back camera. On the website it only says “still photos (960 x 720)” – does that mean it is a 0.7 megapixel camera? If that is the case that most likely kills my desire to get a Touch.

    • was expecting it would be the same design as the iPhone but ok with thinner version of current design

 – Ping

    • not sure if want another social network

    • why not leverage Facebook and/or Twitter? Definitely more full featured than if it had leveraged Facebook/Twitter

    • what happens to music social sites like LastFM

 – AppleTV

    • Like the smaller size and the $0.99 to rent TV shows

    • but only Fox and ABC – does not cover all the networks I want/need

    • Question about the “Computer” option – can I access media that is on a hard drive attached to my Airport Extreme?

    • Will Plex/Boxee run on it?

    • But the $99 price makes it an easy impulse buy.

 – Music Guest

    • WOW! Cold Play! Well – 25% of them

    • He played an unreleased song and said F@$k – woo hoo

iPhone 4 Thoughts

I have been thinking about the iPhone 4 introduced earlier this week and trying to organize my thoughts on it. For the purpose of this post I want to focus on the hardware vs iOS 4 (I plan on “reviewing” iOS when it is released).

Pros:

 – better camera/video (HD video FTW)

 – thinner – antennas around the outside of the device – way cool way to make it thinner

 – more powerful

 – cameras on front and back

Cons:

 – glass on both sides (twice as much surface to crack)

Meh:

 – FaceTime – I know that this may fall into the software category, but since it only works on the new hardware I am including it here

   – Makes for a great demo but only works between iPhone 4 devices on wifi. I think that limits it in the near term. When it can 1) work with other devices and/or video services (Skype, iChat, etc); and 2) on the carrier network – it has the potential to be huge.

Based upon the pros/cons this would be a slam dunk to upgrade. But there are 2 other factors – iOS 3 and AT&T.

 – I am currently full vested on webOS – which makes sense since I work at Palm (aka HP) ;-). My current hardware is a Pre+

   – I don’t disagree with the argument that Palm has some opportunities to improve our hardware and software, but to me webOS is more intuitive and much easier to work with than iOS 3. iOS 4 may shift the balance but that decision will have to wait until I can get my hands on the OS.

 – I have cancelled my AT&T service and I don’t see me signing back up for AT&T in the near future. I got sick of dropped calls at my house – to make/take a call on my iPhone 3G I had to go outside). With Verizon I have had no issues. (Mobile Hotspot FTW)