Friday, 29 January 2010

You could argue that one shouldn’t complain about a product before it lands in your hot little hands, but a common theme over the past few days among the pundits on the web has been the newly-announced iPad and it’s apparent lack of openness. as Alex Payne comments, “Apple has decided that openness is not a quality that’s necessary in a personal computer. That’s disturbing.”

While I think the iPad is a cool device, and that it will be useful, and that I will likely buy one… I have to agree with Alex. He’s right. That’s an interesting and complicated place to be: I want to and probably will use an iPad to do good things, and make valuable use of it. But there’s a big part of me that won’t like it too much.

The risks of closed platforms have been debated for some time, in many venues and over a variety of companies, platforms and systems. Lots of catchy terms like “walled garden” and “black box” are used to describe essentially one thing: Vendor-provided ecosystems that you can only interact with they way the vendor allows you to.

It’s why the iPhone “hacking” community has been so active, and so popular. Everywhere I see teenagers and aducts with iPhones that have been “jailbroken” so they could run third party apps and get around Apple-instituted limitations, or unlocked so they could drop in a T-Mobile SIM card. The numbers are staggering when you look at how many iPhones have been modified. And I think we all know that the same community will step up and take the same approach with the iPad. After all, “it’s just a big iPod touch,” as they say. Well, whether you look at it that way or not, the software is a common denominator for sure.

Apple needs to step up and find a way to work their garden so the walls can at least be lower. There must be a healthy balance between truly closed, which is what we have today. Apps can’t be installed on the iPhone unless Apple sells and approves then (unless you jailbreak your device). Allow multitasking and background application activity, in the very least. Some restrictions are simply unacceptable.

The closed nature of the device – and I call it that purposefully – foretells the possible future, one where consumer devices replace computing systems. The iPad may have a computer chip in it, but so do my clock radio and televisions, and those are devices – not computers. If I can’t have unfettered access to the computer, it’s a device in my mind. When I was a kid we used to get into the guts of the computer, physically and programming-wise. We were able to make them do whatever our little hearts desired. That might be something good or bad, smart or stupid, broken or functional. But we learned and we created, we discovered and we built.

The iPad is a design feat (with a fat bezel, but still a cool design). The OS is another design usability marvel. The ecosystem built around the devices is popular, usable and works. But it stifles creativity, choice, flexibility. Are we at another of these inflection points, where things like common-person usability and “it just works” are acceptable trade-offs for flexibility and capability?

My hope is that Apple will step up to the plate and make some hard choices that benefit their customers’ bigger-picture needs. It’s the right thing to do, and would add some traction to what otherwise appears to be a deceptively  slippery slope. I can envision a software switch (which would be set to the “safest” mode by default) that a device user could manipulate to “lower the garden walls” electronically as a matter of choice, with the potential consequences clearly spelled out (and I should point out that this would be a useful enterprise capability as well, should they wish to properly and securely enter that space someday).

Choice. What a concept.

Ready – Set – Comment.



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Apple | Mobile | Tech | Things that Suck
Friday, 29 January 2010 11:38:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Apple is taking the covers off a new “tablet” style device today – called the iPad (link to Apple’s new product site, with video) - in a much-hyped announcement. I rely on my iPhone in so many different ways nowadays that I have a hard time thinking what work and life would be like without it. I could manage just fine, but things would change substantially.

One of the things I do a lot with my iPhone is pilot-related. I have a number of apps on the iPhone that I use to help me look at aviation weather, airport information and diagrams, radar images, current wind and weather conditions, electronic charts, and a whole lot more.

iphone-ipad But the iPhone is a small screen for a lot of the information. Much like small GPS devices in the cockpit are convenient yet too small to offer the best experience, the iPhone doesn’t provide the best format for some content.

Here are the iPhone aviation and pilot apps I use most often:

  • ForeFlight Mobile – worth every penny and more, this is an amazing app for planning flight, filing your flight plan, lot of maps (VFR/IFR/street/weather/clouds), electronic airport information, weather info to the max (including closest station winds aloft) and much much much more.
  • CoPilot – I use it mostly for the terrific weight and balance calculator and graphing portion of the app. Also for some speed/distance/fuel/etc. calculations (all of which I always verify manually). If ForeFlight had all this included, it would be terrific.
  • AeroWeather – Probably the app I run most often. One tap on the screen and I have an instant one-screen view (very well laid-out) of the weather situation at each airport I care about, arranged the way I want.
  • TWC (The Weather Channel) – Not an aviation app, but it has a good 10-day view of the weather that tends to show the most pessimistic look at what’s forecasted, which is nice for pilots. We need an aviation-specific app with a long-term view like this one has (within reasonable predication limits).

http://c0581892.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/apple-tablet-keynote_033.jpg

Enter the Apple iPad. Half and inch thick, 1.5 pounds and a 9.7-inch display. And it can run ALL iPhone apps out of the box, pixel for pixel with a border, or via pixel doubling in full-screen mode. A new SDK lets app developers take full advantage of the screen real estate and resolution.

And, there’s 3G service for $14.99/month for 250MB of data, or $29.99 for unlimited data - from AT&T. Free AT&T WiFi hotspot use with those accounts, too. But, the iPad 3G models are unlocked, so choose your GSM carrier. Prices for iPads start at $499 for a 16GB WiFi only model (with options of 32GB and 64GB storage), and 3G models for $629, $729 and $829. WiFi models available in 60 days, and 3G versions in 90 days.

Now, granted I am predicting the future a bit here, but hopefully ForeFlight and a few other iPhone apps on the new tablet will – assuming they all take advantage of the new display capabilities in updates – be the most perfect in-between device option for the private pilot.

Grab a copy of the latest AFD as an eBook? There’s an app for that.

I can even imagine Garmin or some other aviation GPS software/hardware maker offering a iPad app for sale, rather than selling a device with the software. The possibilities for flying – after accounting for very necessary safety and quality requirements - are great.

Anyone else think they might want an iPad for their aircraft cockpit?



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Apple | Mobile | Tech
Wednesday, 27 January 2010 11:46:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 05 December 2009

I have had (SORRY - ALL GONE!) two Google Voice account invitations for anyone who wants one. First come, first served.

If you want to know what Google Voice is, check out their videos that do a good job of describing what it does and how it works here. For now it's available by invitation only, so you can either get one from someone who has extras, or you can sign up for an invitation from Google at this link.

I'll update this post when t The invites have all been taken. I'll post again if and when I have any more available.



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Tech
Saturday, 05 December 2009 10:55:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 26 November 2009

I spent the afternoon and the better part of the evening with my friend Dave the other day. We're close friends of ten years, both pilots and generally good buddies. We spent the day keeping each other company and - although we only briefly spoke about it - supporting each other through the anniversary of a difficult, life-changing day. It's so hard to believe it's actually been ten years - Both an eternity and a blink of the eye, all rolled into one. So much has changed in that time, yet so much seems the same.

Life can make remembering the good stuff difficult, if we let it. My son died suddenly the day before Thanksgiving so many years ago. He was 15 years old, and Dave was his good friend in high school. While much has happened and changed in both our lives in the intervening time, there's a slice of us that was sort of put on hold back then - almost as if one dimension of time simply stopped still while others kept on moving along. We both miss Brian, but we're also thankful for the times we had together.

So, the Thanksgiving holiday is always a bit of a rough time for me - one with mixed and conflicting feelings. Every year, however, I purposefully try my best to remember what this holiday is all about and to reflect on all the things in life for which I am truly grateful, and there are many. One of the ways I accomplish that is by writing and re-writing these words annually, adding to them and making them paint a picture of life at the time. I do this partly for me, and in no small part for others who might be feeling much the same way and just happen to run across this. So in some ways I'm repeating myself here, but that's what it's all about really - to keep looking back, reflecting on progress, changing and growing as we move forward.

Life's not perfect, and from the depths of the desperate situations and experiences that substantially change us - often things that we would never wish to have happen again, to anyone - we are destined to learn and grow, and hopefully to become better people in the end. I know I have experienced that over the years, and my life is quite different as a result.

Not too long ago some friends of mine impressed upon me the importance of adopting an "attitude of gratitude" in life. What they meant - at least in part - was that the place where you focus your thoughts is pretty much where you'll end up, and that being grateful for what you have - rather than obsessed or angry about what you don't have - is a good thing. For the most part I think they're right. This time of year I tend to think about a lot of different things, some difficult and some pleasant. But every year I try to take some Thanksgiving time to remember that even though life is crazy and our time is often too-short, there are so many things in life for which I am grateful and give thanks.

So, ultimately this message is supposed to be about what I am thankful for. About gratitude. So let's get to that.

This has been an amazing year for me. So much has changed in my life. I am thankful for Laura, my new and amazing wife who somehow understands me and has truly changed my world for the better. And for Megan, Nick and Sam, three of the greatest kids one could possibly hope for. I only hope I can be what they need me to be. They mean so much to me and I love them all very much.

I am also grateful for our many terrific friends, my (now much larger) extended family, my job, our home, my goofy dog, and now another goofy dog. I'm thankful for flying and wakeboarding and skiing and concerts and so many special things we get to experience. I'm grateful for doctors who fixed my damaged body a few years ago and for people who cared enough to put their lives on hold and help me when I needed it. I often wish I was better toward those who have been so good to me, and I strive to find ways to both give back and pay forward. I truly appreciate them, and am thankful they are a part of my life.

There are many, many people in this world much better than me, and a few of those good people I've had the privilege to know personally. I am thankful for them, even if I don't or can't always show it when it counts. I only hope in the future I can be more more worthy of their qualities.

Thanksgiving doesn't have to happen just one day a year. We can - and should - remember these things every day. But in a busy world of hurrying to get from here to there every day it can be easy to forget, so a little reminder never hurt anyone.

I'm grateful for my life - all of it. The people in it, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, and for all the possibilities of the future - whatever those may be. I've been lost and found again. Even though I'm not sure how or why, I think I've come out of it all at least a little bit better of a person. At least I hope so. Our experiences and what we do with them when he times get tough make us who we are. I've been very fortunate in so many ways, and am truly thankful for that.

As they say, "With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."

Yes, it is.

Happy Thanksgiving.



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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Thursday, 26 November 2009 09:47:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The other day I went flying in the plane with my friend Dave. We went a few places, including the avionics shop at Aurora and an early dinner at the Mulino Hangar cafe. Then we flew around Mt. Hood as the sun was going down. It was a calm, clear and beautiful day, much improved over the recent rains. You could see all the mountains clearly, from Sisters and Jefferson to the south, to Adams and St. Helens to the north, and even all the way up to Mt. Rainier, clear as a bell. We climbed up to about 10,000 feet and I steered the aircraft while Dave took a few pictures.

Hood3 Hood1 Hood2



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Photography | Random Stuff
Thursday, 26 November 2009 09:40:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 25 September 2009

One of the upcoming online summits at BrightTalk is the Cloud Security Summit, which consists of a bunch of web conferences on September 30th.

You can visit the summit overview and schedule page here.

Lots of topics around security, legal issues and compliance in the context of cloud computing. Good stuff. Recently on RunAs Radio we have have had a couple discussions where cloud computing came up, too.



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IT Security | Tech
Friday, 25 September 2009 16:36:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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