TagTechnology

Innovation-Schmovation

It’s that time of the year when the major tech companies try to flex their “innovation” muscles. Samsung tried kicking off the season early but it literally blew up in their face so they’re kicked to the curb for now. Let’s hope they get their shit together.

Google put its Fiber plans on hold and laid off more than half of its team in addition to firing off its CEO (he wrote a nice blogpost full of MBA jargon but call that Google’s exit interview). We are slated to get Fiber installed in our home very soon now but my enthusiasm is somewhat muted because you want to be assured that your utilities company is going to stick around. It’s not like your every other photo storage startup that abruptly shuts down and offers a zip file of your uploads.

Apple announced its ‘same old’ iPhone and ‘nearly same as before’ Macs minus the ports [1]. But they added a ‘Touch Bar’ that added a smidgeon of touch interface to their vaunted Mac lineup. Everyone else has skipped straight to making their screens touch-based but Apple has (rightfully, in my opinion) so far resisted. Keep the touch controls where your hands always are, I say. In fact, many of the touchpad controls are located on the Touch Bar. E.g. no longer using the trackpad to select a menu item when it’s right there on your contextual touch bar. Apple is more likely to replace its hardware keyboard with a touch interface with oodles of haptic feedback before it makes the screen with touch interface. So if you want a touch screen laptop, you’re better off jumping ship right now but empirical evidence suggests no one is in a hurry.

Microsoft, on the other hand, egged on by its new young CEO is upping the ante on innovation. It launched the admittedly cool looking Microsoft Studio, a virtual drawing board with a hinge. The video looks great and it definitely seems great to use. But…you knew a ‘but’ was coming…it suffers from the Google Glass problem. Everyone you know says they are definitely not going to buy coz it’s not for them but they definitely see the use for ‘creative professionals’. Yup, that’s what they said about Google Glass and turns out only dorks ended up buying it.

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Footnotes:
  1. Removal of the ports always causes consternation but within a year no one even remembers their anger []

Sonos and iTunes

We recently bought a Sonos system for our home. It’s a simple starter set (Bridge + 2 Play:1 speakers). I was looking for an audio system for our home to pipe music simultaneously to two or more rooms without getting too technical and by not breaking the bank. We’re a Mac-only family so AirPlay was our first option but unless you rig things up right, you can’t pipe music in two rooms simultaneously. Anyway, we heeded Wirecutter’s recommendation and took the leap for Sonos. It cost us ~$400 for the three items; add $200 for an additional Play:1 speaker.

Setup with Sonos is one of the easiest I’ve experienced for something non-Apple. You set up the Bridge by plugging it in the router and then plug in the two speakers to electic outlets wherever you want and then go through the steps via the app to detect them and create a network. No passwords, no granting of  access, etc. You can do the ‘Trueplay Tuning’ if you want to ensure music sounds good in all parts of your room. If you subscribe to a streaming music service like Pandora, Spotify (paid), and Apple Music (Dec.15 onward), you can log in and start listening to music instantly.

The only hitch was getting iTunes to work just as seamlessly. The steps were not as obvious although quite simple in the end so I’m listing them here if you’re looking to Sonos for your audio needs via Mac.

If you’re using the iCloud Music Library to sync your iTunes music, Sonos will not let you stream it directly from your phone. So if you click on the ‘Music Library’ section or ‘This iPhone’ of your Sonos app, it will be empty unless you have music files on your phone. To get around that without having to copy music files on your phone, you’ve to first install the desktop app on your Mac and let it detect your music (I hope it is also stored on your Mac or a connected physical drive in your home). Once you do that, voila! Your ‘Music Library’ on the Sonos app on your phone will show your iTunes music.

But if you look carefully, your ‘Imported Playlist’ folder may still be empty especially if you’re using the latest version of iTunes. That’s because iTunes no longer produces or updates an iTunes Music Library.xml file. You have to select the option to ‘Share iTunes Library XML with other applications’ in Preferences in iTunes to generate and update the file. 

yos-itunes12-preferences_advanced

Once you do that, go to your Sonos app on your desktop > Manage Music Library > Update Music Index Now and now your ‘Imported Playlist’ list will be populated with your iTunes playlists and songs. You may want to schedule future music index updates everyday in the middle of the night so all your playlist changes are reflected in Sonos.

The only minor quibble I have is that if you play your songs via Sonos now, your iTunes play count doesn’t update. Well, that’s because you’re no longer using iTunes as your music player and that can be, from what I’ve heard, a good thing or a bad thing.

All Ye Readers, Lend Me Your Ears

His impersonation of a Kenyan accent was almost spot-on; especially admirable since he was imitating his sister, Alma’s voice. Her story narrated in his voice with a Kenya accent added that extra bit of special sauce. These deft touches made listening to Barack Obama’s ‘Dreams from my Father’ an enjoyable experience.

Yes, I said listening, not reading. You see, due to a certain change in my professional status, I have to commute to Austin 2-3 times a week. Driving time each way is approximately 2 hours which roughly gives me 8-12 hours a week when I’m doing nothing but staring at the road ahead of me. There are only so many podcasts you can listen to; after all ‘This American Life’ and ‘Wait…Wait…Don’t Tell Me’ are weekly shows (warning! NPR Liberal alert) that last only an hour. I had heard, no pun intended, and read about audiobooks but like everyone else had thought of them as an unintelligent medium of reading books or rather meant for geriatric souls who had failing eyesight. But then I never had a long commute ever in my life.

First, I checked out our local library online which had a limited collection of e-audiobooks that you could download and sync to your iPod/iPhone. I even found an app OneClickDigital that let you stream your checked-out books without downloading them. I listened to my first audiobook ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ this way. How was my experience? To be frank, I loved it. Of course, it helps that Jonathan Safran Foer is an amazing writer and has an engaging narrative even for the most mundane tales.

So far, in nearly two months that included the Christmas break when I didn’t commute, I have read two books – ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ and ‘Dreams from my Father’ – and am halfway through my third, Shakespeare: The World As Stage (Eminent Lives) by Bill Bryson. In a world of Twitter, Facebook, and my RSS feed reader, this may have been my most prolific ‘reading’ periods in recent times. Admittedly, if I was reading them the traditional way, I would’ve definitely read more books in the same time but then before I was commuting, I never did, for whatever reason. Also, there is an extremely limited collection of in-app audiobooks so a wider selection is available in the physical library in form of CDs (yes, they still exist). So given my experience, would I recommend audiobooks? The answer is, with due apologies to economists, depends.

If you were not forced to sit in one place and had to listen to an audiobook, you will get bored easily. Audiobooks work great when driving because you can do nothing else but listen. But practical reasons aside, audiobooks are different in a way that you get to experience the book in a different light. Usually, they are read by the author (not always a good idea; more on that later) so audible cues, intonation, tone, pronunciation [1], etc. are just few of the many advantages audiobooks enjoy over paper books. You still get to let your imagination go wild, like you do with traditional books. I still could visualize the characters and the locations, like I would while reading a paper book. When read by a person well versed in communication like Barack Obama, the experience is manifold. The fact that he is narrating his life story adds passion to his narration and makes it more personal. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, he adroitly uses accents to add special touches to his narration. In the ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ audiobook, chapters are narrated by different people since the writing is in the first person by different characters. This helps you form bonds with not only the writing but also with the voice narrating the chapter.

On the flip side, narration doesn’t always work especially if it is done by the author who is not exactly known for his spoken word. I was quite disappointed with Bill Bryson’s narration. Bryson, I must add, is one of my favorite authors and I have read almost all of his books and I love his eclectic sense of humor. But his tone in narrating ‘Shakespeare’ could’ve been better and it almost lulled me to sleep one foggy morning.

I have never shied away from consuming content in any non-traditional mediums. I’m not one of those ‘hold on to your paper books forever’ types. For me, the content is more important than the medium itself. I love paper books, ebooks, and now audiobooks, as long as the content is interesting and engaging. I still love thumbing through books and browsing bookcases at the local Barnes & Noble but I will not berate anyone who chooses ebooks over paper books. Everyone who wrote letters now write emails and exchange chat messages instead of talking over the phone. So why hang on to only books for nostalgia’s sake?

Footnotes:
  1. there are a few words I learned how to pronounce without being ashamed to ask []

Other Places for Conversation

It’s that time for the year again when The New York Times dusts off its archival pages and rehashes a column written when the telephone or even the telegraph was first invented. It is a column that continues to be popular even if most of its readers will go back to doing what the column laments. Technology as a conversation and real-world interaction killer; sounds ominous and even real except it never has been.

A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. He doesn’t stop by to talk; he doesn’t call. He says that he doesn’t want to interrupt them. He says they’re “too busy on their e-mail.” But then he pauses and corrects himself. “I’m not telling the truth. I’m the one who doesn’t want to be interrupted. I think I should. But I’d rather just do things on my BlackBerry.”

A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

Source: The Flight From Conversation.

People are intrinsically social animals and they seek interaction. Technology especially innovations like Facebook has made it possible now to extend that interaction across geographic borders. You need not be limited by geographic constraints to seek people that you may or may not get along with or rather just do because you have no choice. You can share as much or as little as you wish with your friends without being rebuked because chances are they are doing the same too. Even in real life, whatever that means, not all friendships are equal much less soul-baring so why hold on to this ephemeral idea that ‘real-world’ friends are the real deal.

Some of my prized friendships have been with people that I met online and nope, I did not sign up on eHarmony. My then girlfriend and now wife read my blog (when I was more prolific) and knew more about my thoughts on things we didn’t talk about in real life and then ended up talking about them. As a graduate student, I wasn’t as close to some of my classmates in class as I am to them on Facebook. Technology, in fact, has been a boon to introverted personalities like me and has allowed us to reach out to the world in ways that were inconceivable in the past. So let us cut out the sanctimonious rebuke of holding on to our communication past in which everyone waved each other hello and wished everyone good morning in person. We all still wish each other and tell what we had for breakfast except we do it with far more people and across borders. So why is that a bad thing?

Megaupload shut down

One of the largest file-hosting site, Megaupload was abruptly shut down by U.S. officials. Technically, it was not a ‘sharing’ site or as we have come to understand ‘sharing’ over the Internet since a minority uploaded files for the majority to download. The site charged users a fee to upload large files anonymously although I’m not sure how anonymous can you be if you are using a payment gateway.

Admittedly, most of the content was pirated movies, music, etc. but I’m sure Megaupload can argue that they just allow for hosting large files and do not monitor what content users choose to upload. Like the DMCA states, the copyright holders are free to file a claim and ask their content to be removed, like it is done with YouTube. But until the lawyers and judges get to parse this difference, the site will be down and is probably gone forever. But like previous attempts, the pirated content will simply move elsewhere. There are already several sites that offer services similar to Megaupload and the U.S. will have to continue playing whack-a-mole.

Instead, if the entertainment industry simply focused on enhancing convenient legal ways to obtain content and price it right, people would be more sympathetic. We recently ditched cable and subscribed to Hulu Plus in addition to Netflix and potentially subscribing to season passes on iTunes. Yesterday, we sat down to watch ‘White Collar’ on Hulu Plus and opened the app on my iPad to mirror it on the TV (since the app doesn’t offer AirPlay, go figure). However, we got a message that the episode was available on the web only so if both of us wanted to see it we had to either hunch in front of the 15″ computer screen or hook up my laptop to the TV, both inconvenient solutions. Other shows, like the Daily Show, however were available to view on the iPad. Also, we later realized that the episode was available on iTunes…for free! WTF. No wonder people turn to illegal solutions because the legal ones are so convoluted and inconsistent.

As Steve Jobs would say, focus on providing the consumers with a seamless, enhanced, and beautiful experience and they’ll be willing to fork out their hard-earned money for your products. And yes, stop making movies like ‘Jack and Jill’.

Working in the top tech companies

The stress from keeping such secrets becomes too much for some. Jobs made a habit of personally conveying to employees the confidentiality of all-company broadcasts. Recalled one ex?employee: “He’d say, ‘Anything disclosed from this meeting will result not just in termination but in the prosecution to the fullest extent that our lawyers can.’ This made me very uncomfortable. You have to watch everything you do. I’d have nightmares.”

As much as I like Apple products, I wouldn’t want to work there.

Google does offer free food, massages, and nap time so it may seem like a fun place to work at. Unless you have a family. But it is definitely more open, no sarcasm intended.

What should I use? Whatever works for you

You should use whatever works for you. And I no longer have the patience or hubris to convince you what that should be. All I can offer is one data point: what I use, and how it works for me.

I've been leaning more and more toward such an attitude. I will offer my advice only when asked first and usually will try not to oversell people on making the same choices that I do usually because it will not work the same way. This linked post may be about evangelizing Apple products but I think it applies to all facets of life including personal opinions.

Why do we believe in a particular thing? Because it works for us and makes us feel comfortable. It may not be the case for anyone else no matter how closely you're related to them. Offer your opinion when asked; when vehemently countered, don't persist because nothing is going to make them change their mind so why waste your breath?

[Link to What should I use? Whatever works for you]

Secrets of Innovation

China and India are likely to produce many rigorous analytical thinkers and knowledgeable technologists. But smart and educated people don’t always spawn innovation. America’s advantage, if it continues to have one, will be that it can produce people who are also more creative and imaginative, those who know how to stand at the intersection of the humanities and the sciences. That is the formula for true innovation, as Steve Jobs’s career showed.

[Source: Steve Jobs’s Genius – NYTimes.com]

Walter Isaacson, biographer for Steve Jobs, ends his op-ed in the New York Times with this gem of wisdom that is often neglected by countries. India and China graduate millions of engineers every year but very few of them end up entrepreneurs and the United States is starting to make the same mistake to make up for tepid economic growth. Humanities and liberal art programs across universities in the U.S. are being defunded and eliminated because they are thought of as ‘useless’. Little do they understand that reading the classics, cultivating good writing skills or understanding basic statistics makes for a better engineer who is more likely to have better foresight and understand his consumers better. You can be a simple engineer and get by in life but to be a real creative genius like Steve Jobs or even Bill Gates, you’ve to possess a well-rounded education.

State of STEM majors among Americans

The bulk of attrition comes in engineering and among pre-med majors, who typically leave STEM fields if their hopes for medical school fade. There is no doubt that the main majors are difficult and growing more complex. Some students still lack math preparation or aren’t willing to work hard enough.

An insightful look into the state of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education among American students that doesn't bode well for the country (either “it’s too hard” or “the teachers aren’t good enough”). As things stand now, it seems likely the the high skill jobs that these majors lead to will be performed by immigrants from countries where these fields are heavily emphasized. Further, the low skill jobs are also increasingly performed also by immigrants, mostly from Latin American countries. The 'real' Americans are caught in the middle, untrained in the new economy and unable to adapt. But will they learn quick and adapt soon?

PS. India does graduate a lot of engineers and doctors but research has shown that a majority are not up to the standard that employers want so we too some catching up to do.

[Link to State of STEM majors among Americans]

Stephen Fry on Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs « The New Adventures of Stephen Fry:

It was on a NeXt machine that the British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee wrote the protocols, procedures and languages that added up to the World Wide Web, http, HTML, browsers, hyperlinks … in other words the way forward for the internet, the most significant computer program ever written was done on a NeXt computer. That is a feather in Steve Jobs’s cap that is not often celebrated and indeed one that he himself signally failed to know about for some time.

After having written www, Berners-Lee noticed that there was a NeXt developers conference in Paris at which Steve Jobs would be present. Tim packed up his black cube, complete with the optical disk which contained arguably the most influential and important code ever written and took a train to Paris.

It was a large and popular conference and Tim was pretty much at the end of the line of black NeXt boxes. Each developer showed Steve Jobs their new word-processor, graphic programme and utility and he slowly walked along the line, like the judge at a flower show nodding his approval or frowning his distaste. Just before he reached Tim and the world wide web at the end of the row, an aide nudged Jobs and told him that they should go or he’d be in danger of missing his flight back to America. So Steve turned away and never saw the programme that Tim Berners-Lee had written which would change the world as completely as Gutenberg had in 1450. It was a meeting of the two most influential men of their time that never took place. Chatting to the newly knighted Sir Tim a few years ago he told me that he had still never actually met Steve Jobs.

(Via Shared by Roshni Mohapatra)

So very awesome anecdote and the far-reaching influence of his innovations that sometimes even he (Steve Jobs) wasn’t aware of.

May the Crazy One Live On…

My first Apple product was, like most PC owners, an iPod but the real Apple experience was when I got my first Mac. In 2009. Yup, I was very late to the party. The iPhone followed soon after and then the iPads, the Apple TV, and even the AirPort Extreme. People often mistake my love for simplicity in design, be it architecture (my major in a previous life) or technology, as fanboyism. I wear that badge with honor. But I never bought Apple products because I was in love with Steve Jobs. Actually, before buying a Mac, I had never heard a single Jobs famed keynotes. You could say I was living in the anti-reality distortion field.

I bought and loved Apple products because they just work and Steve Jobs philosophy, as I later discovered, emphasized just that. Breaking the shackles of complexity from computers and making users feel at ease was his underlying design principle, be in in hardware with a single scroll wheel or in software with the simple yet robust Mac OS X. Although the cult of Mac is derided and mocked relentless on any web forum, the sense of community is strong even if its growing by the millions every year (23% market share compared to less than 5% ten years ago). I remember my sense of puzzlement when I first got my Mac. As an avid Windows tinkerer, I had to unlearn all that. I still remember Supremus’ advice which he in turn had received from his Mac-using colleague:

When I got my first mac, my colleague had told me that I would go through 3 phases. 1st would be when I would get find myself comparing everything to windows and find things annoying with mac (ex: 2 button mouse, no way to expand apps to occupy full screen real estate etc). 2nd phase would be when I’d gloat over the fancy gui and tastefully done aesthetics and how everything fits together in OS X. The 3rd stage he told me was when I’d start looking *beyond* the beautiful UI and start knowing how the operating system has been designed, and that is when I’d appreciate OS X fully.

I went through the stages exactly as he described and if you are a recent convert or are planning on becoming one, I ask you to keep this in mind (although some things like “expand apps to occupy full screen” are now better than in Windows). As Supremus describes, it is hard to explain and has to be experienced firsthand with an open mind. If you think that the Mac is a toy then you haven’t yet delved into the wonder of AppleScript and Terminal which I’m no expert by any means. I have been proven wrong enough times by a work colleague who whips up a tweak that does things I have not thought possible on a Mac or any other platform.

As John Gruber put it succinctly, that Steve Jobs greatest legacy is not any particular Apple product but it was Apple itself. The company that he founded is instilled with this philosophy of providing the best user experience there is. Things may not be as ‘open’ or convenient or even have the latest top-of-the-line specs but the whole is always going to be greater than the sum of its parts. I hope this philosophy remains strong at Apple for as long as it can and although the domineering presence of Steve Jobs isn’t around anymore, we can only hope that his lessons have seeped in deep enough. Like all things, Apple may eventually fade away and be replaced by yet another innovative company but all I can hope is, that company would be guided by the same principles that Steve Jobs proved were so pivotal in creating a lasting and wondrous consumer experience.

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The iPhone 4S: Getting it Wrong Big Time

Apple unveiled its new iPhone model yesterday – the iPhone 4S with a faster processor, better camera, unified model for GSM and CDMA, and a voice navigation system, Siri to make communicating with your phone much easier. Yet the overwhelming consensus in the tech circle was that of disappointment; some even going to the extent of declaring the demise of Apple.

Apple is known to never release any hints of its upcoming products let alone detailed specifications. Heck, Apple wouldn’t even tell anyone if the new phone would be called the iPhone 5. People and notably, tech pundits merely assumed so. Gawker has an excellent roundup of tech stories leading up to the announcement showing how big tech sites supposedly with inside sources in Apple got it wrong big time. Sites like Boy Genius Report had outrageously funny ‘exclusive’ rumors that the new model will be exclusive to Sprint, the third phone carrier added by Apple to carry the iPhone. Most tech blogs were almost certain that the new phone will have a brand new form factor although otherwise sensible journalists like Farhad Manjoo had suggested that the current design was the epitome of cell phone industrial design (by the way, he was disappointed in the new phone too)[1] . I’m all for contemplating what the new iPhone will look like but to suggest with near-certainty, as some tech blogs did, about any new design was stupid. MacRumors even went to the extent of developing a prototype of this allegedly new design and several case manufacturers in China went ahead and released cases based on the ‘new’ tear-drop design. So naturally when Apple finally released their new iPhone and all their rumors were found to be baseless and insanely stupid, the tech blogs had nothing else but to bemoan how disappointing the new phone was. So as the logic goes, these tech sites come up with some insane rumor about the new iPhone with no substantiated evidence and when they are proven wrong, feign disappointment and blame Apple. Remember, in all this time, Apple hasn’t said anything or released anything about the new iPhone.

I was never a fan of tech rumors but at times, it can be fun. However, this time around, it was crazy as wannabe sites tried jumping on the bandwagon trying to outdo each other by proposing an even atrocious rumor.The rumor game is getting so out of hand that even mainstream publications like Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, etc. started referring to the new phone as the iPhone 5 whereas during the previous iteration, the iPhone had progressed from an iPhone 3G to iPhone 3GS. So there was even the lack of precedent to the naming convention. Further, people were disappointed that it was the 4S and not the 5 although when told about the enhanced hardware and the upcoming OS, they agreed it was definitely a worthwhile upgrade.

And yes, I’m getting the iPhone 4S simply for the reason that my 3GS is now two generations old and my AT&T contract suggests, I’m eligible for an upgrade. I’m not into the specs game and simply want a phone (I use the word loosely since I hardly use it for talk) that works and syncs well with other devices that I have.

Update: Jason Kottke explains why the lack of a newness cognitive jolt that usually accompanies Apple announcements is necessarily a bad thing. Also, his conclusion is exactly what I mention as a reason to buy the iPhone 4S. Stephen Hackett at 512 pixels adds, “most US customers are stuck on two-year contracts, so why release a brand-new iPhone every year?” Valid point that contradicts most people who believe that Apple wants fanboys to buy a new phone every year.

Footnotes:
  1. Notice how the sedan in car design hasn’t been improved upon much given certain affordability and efficiency standards. There is a reason why the Toyota Camry 2011 doesn’t look a lot different than the Camry 2008 []

The Joys of 3D Ultrasound

The ultrasound technician flipped a switch and there he was, a hazy light brown hue, in 3D; moving around ever so gently. At first, he had his hands covering his eyes but a little nudging later, he moved them aside. The placenta made it a little blurry but there was no mistaking clear facial features and even signs of hair on his head. We held our hands and joked about whose facial features our son had inherited. We, or rather I, were hoping he get my wife’s nose (if you’ve met me, you would know why) and the nurse hesitatingly agreed that he may have; although quickly cautioning us that facial features have not yet full formed and may not even until couple of weeks after the baby is born. The ultrasound technician moved the sensor around for 10-15 minutes trying to capture every angle and profile of the baby. He seemed reluctant a little but soon relented to give us some great views of how he was faring inside.

No matter how many pictures you have seen of this amazing technology that is simply referred to as 3D Ultrasound, you cannot be prepared enough to see your kid in almost-lifelike colors. Weeks of seeing the dull black & white images of the ultrasound that the OB/GYN office lets you see, makes the 3D ultrasound a delightful treat. It is like going from the silent movies to the talkies. Mind blown. We had seen pictures of this seemingly new technology. We asked our doctor and she assured us that it was not harmful to the baby and we should do it if we wanted to. It wasn’t prohibitively expensive so we made an appointment with a lab in Houston and drove down one weekend when the baby was 30 weeks old (best times are between 28-32 weeks).

We received a series of photos on a CD including two 5 x 7 printed ones and video, set to music, of the entire session recorded on DVD. We uploaded the photos and video online and shared them with our families who were equally blown away by the images considering that in India, you aren’t allowed a ultrasound to prevent gender determination tests. For obvious reasons, I cannot share them here but the link to the pictures of generic ones above should give you a good idea. If you are pregnant or planning to be, you should definitely get a 3D ultrasound done even if its just for the coolness factor. This is something you cannot go back and do.

Now we wait for two more months to see how things finally turn out.

Why They Write About Apple

"When one writes about Apple, it nearly always appears to the reader that they are either a massive fanboy or a massive hater. There appears to be no middle ground when discussing Apple and their products. Even simple news reporting comes across in one of the two mentioned camps. Our research shows that most bloggers skew towards massive fanboy which helps drive pageviews even further.

When the blogger posts his or her Apple story, it’s like an alarm goes off across the Web. If the story is deemed as a fanboy story, the haters swarm and leave comments regarding the author’s fanboy status. Naturally after the haters swarm, the fanboys must counter-attack the haters in the comments. This leads to even more pageviews because comments are where the pageviews multiply. Each comment leads to at least one additional pageview and typically the commenter will return multiple times to the blog post to see if anyone has replied to him or her. This “pageview compounding” is what makes Apple so wonderful to write about"

Exactly. You see so many tech blogs writing about Apple when clearly most of them care less about the brand, the company, or its products. But the pageview factor dominates what most tech blogs will write about. It is an intensely competitive field with blogs like Gizmodo going to the extent of buying stolen property for a scoop on Apple. Others are bound to emulate. Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration is one of the bloggers who has stayed true to his original style and continues to produce the genuinely helpful posts in the tech world. No wonder Lifehacker links him every alternate day. They should in fact hire him and compensate him for syndicating his content. Elsewhere it is just a mad rush to get pageviews and one look at the comments is enough reason to believe what this article talks about.

[Link to Why They Write About Apple]

eBooks on the iPad

Guest Post by Ash

A big reason that I bought the iPad was so I could read e-books. A lot of people who are on the fence about getting the iPad and have talked to me about how I like mine, seem to be confused about how to buy, read and store e-books on the iPad. The many iPad reviews on tech blogs also haven’t gone into this much. I hope this post helps iPad owners and iPad fence-sitters learn about using the iPad as an e-reader.

In essence, the iPad reads any and all e-books in the ePub format. The high-resolution, LED-backlit screen makes for crisp text, rich illustrations and vivid colors. There are a number of apps out there that can be used to read eBooks. Here are the most popular.

iBooks
The iBooks app is developed by Apple and is their much publicized e-book reader. Through the iBooks app, you can buy books from the Apple iBookstore (accessible through the iBooks app on the iPad and through iTunes on your Mac or PC). You can also buy a book from pretty much anywhere else e.g. Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Powell’s ebooks etc and read it in iBooks.

A big plus for the iBooks app is that it reads DRM-free books. So you don’t have to necessarily buy books. You can search and download e-books from sites like esnips, rapidshare, filestube etc. This is great if you want to read pulp fiction, but not necessarily buy and own potboilers. That how I get my bodice-rippers, i.e. romance novels (as an aside, romance fiction is the largest share of the consumer market, 13.5 percent in 2008).

iBooks Store iTunes Books Sync

To add a book you’ve bought online or obtained in some other fashion, follow the steps below:

  1. You buy a book online and save it to your PC or Mac.
  2. If the book is not in an ePub format but in some other ebook format like .lit or even .pdf, convert it to ePub using free converters (like Calibre).
  3. Open iTunes and add it to your library. The book will now show up under the “Books” section of your library.
  4. Connect your iPad to your computer.
  5. When the iPad shows up on your iTunes library,  click on its books section, and select the sync button. The iPad will now sync with your iTunes library and books in your iTunes library will transfer to your iPad library (you have the option to sync all books, or sync selected books). Done!

When you disconnect your iPad, the books you added will now show up inside your iBooks app. The iBooks library can be viewed as a simple sortable list or as books on a bookshelf.

iBooks Library iBooks Book Shelf

You tap the right or left side of the screen to move to the next or previous page. You turn a page slowly by dragging from right to left. You can go to a different part of the book by visiting the table of contents and tapping a chapter.  The portrait view shows a single page of the book, the landscape view shows two pages. You can touch and hold any word to look it up in the built-in dictionary or Wikipedia, or you can search for it throughout the book and on the web. You can use the Bookmarking feature to highlight text and refer to it later. You can also use VoiceOver (the screen reader in iPad) so it can read you the contents of any page.When you’re finished reading, iBooks bookmarks where you left off.

iBooks Table of Contents iBooks Portrait Mode iBooks Landscape Mode

The advantage of book syncing over iTunes is that you can store your entire library of eBooks in the iTunes library on your Mac or PC, and only keep those books you’re currently reading, or want quick access too, on your iPad. The one improvement I’d like to see in this area is syncing over the cloud i.e. syncing your iPad to the iTunes on your computer over wireless internet so you can transfer books to and fro without necessarily connecting the iPad to the computer.

Kindle
Through the Kindle app, you can purchase eBooks from Amazon, as well as access eBooks that you may have already purchased through Amazon. I cant say much more about this app as I haven’t used it since I don’t have a Kindle Store account.The advantage of the Kindle app over the iPad app is that Amazon appears to have the best prices and the best range of new books vs. the Apple store.

You can change the font color, font size and background color. You tap on either side of the screen, or flick, to turn pages. You can add bookmarks, notes and highlights by tapping and holding a word. You can change the font color, font size and background color. A plus for this app is that Amazon Whispersync automatically syncs your last page read, bookmarks, notes and highlights across all your devices, so you can pick up right where you left off no matter what device you’re reading on.

Wattpad
Wattpad is an eBook community where people upload novels, short stories, fan fiction, poetry, essays and more. They’re either material written by the uploaders themselves or material downloaded/obtained from elsewhere. The Wattpad app lets you search their material by genre, keyword or wattcode (a unique code assigned to each of their files which is useful if you’ve found the file on the Wattpad website and want to access it on the iPad). Once you’ve found the book on the Wattpad app, you can read it and/or save it to your Wattpad library.

As with all other eReader apps, you can change the font type, font size, font color & background color. You also have an orientation lock, which prevents it from switching between landscape and portrait if you tilt it slightly. You tap the right or left side of the screen to move to the next or previous page. While reading the book, you can turn on auto-scrolling where Wattpad automatically scrolls through the text, from top to bottom. You can adjust the speed of this automatic scrolling. I don’t like this app much because the text is all formatted the same, which makes the material feel less like a book.

Wattpad Search Wattpad Library Wattpad

Stanza
Stanza is another great app for reading eBooks on the iPhone and iPod Touch. However, they haven’t come out with a iPad app yet. I’ll update this post with my take once the app is released.

Nook
Barnes & Nobles has announced that they are designing a new B&N eReader for iPad. Again, I’ll update this post with my take once the app is released.

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