Sunny day, sweepin’ the clouds away

It’s opening day for your WORLD CHAMPION SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS, who I will hopefully be around next week when the home opener happens. But in the meantime, it’s a bright gorgeous sunny day and the urge to have work outside today is overwhelming. Unfortunately, a bog-standard two year old MacBook Pro 15″ is not the ideal contraption for this, given its battery life (or lack thereof relative to more modern hardware; this was the last model before Apple went to non-removable long-lived batteries).

Along those lines, I’ve almost come to my conclusion on portable devices, which is this: as long as I have a work-provided laptop and a home desktop, the iPad is the only plausible option unless it becomes imperative that I have no personal material AT ALL on my work machine. As it is, my personal content resides in a separate account from my work account, and that account is FileVault locked such that all anyone could get at is a single monolithic file of gibberish. Of greater concern is making sure that’s not my primary repository for my stuff, since the Time Machine backup is a bit squirrely with FileVault-ed home directories, but between that and Mozy I could probably reconstruct myself on a new machine sooner than later.

Which means that my first job should be trying to persuade the powers that be at the office to put me on a leaner, lighter machine. I don’t think a MacBook Air is realistic for my work system, but a 13″ MacBook Pro should be eminently doable next time, especially given the firepower even the lowliest pro laptop from Apple is packing these days, and something like that would be a killer for ARD and the like. As for personal use, well, if you take iTunes contents out of the equation (and the 150 GB of space taken up by same) the rest of my stuff would also fit in a nice lean setup – in fact, 90% of what I would like to do at work would be handled by a carefully-chosen browser (the combination of Firefox and Tor would let me browse my RSS and blogs, post to WordPress via the web interface, write in Evernote where applicable, etc etc) without the hassle and inconvenience of even setting up a separate account. Let the iPhone itself handle podcast downloads (via Downcast) or the acquisition of new apps and music on the road (through the iTunes App/Music Stores) – I can always do the OS update when I get home, and since home is on 12Mbps, it’s no longer a question of “do it at work or else do it overnight”.

Which brings us back to the iPad. I demonstrated a couple of years ago that you really need a proper laptop if you’re going to do NaNoWriMo or even NaBloPoMo (although slightly less so for the latter if you don’t hew to a high wordcount requirement). But the Bluetooth keyboard alleviates a lot of that, and if you have to have a bag for the iPad (which you do) the keyboard isn’t a particularly trying addition.

“But you struggled with the netbook! How is a 1024×768 iPad going to be appreciably better than a 1024×600 netbook?” For one thing, the iPad isn’t having to prop up a laptop OS – even Ubuntu Netbook Remix is heavier than iOS, and with the iPad you’re not wasting precious space with things like a menu bar or dock or the other accoutrements of a desktop OS interface. For another, running a phone OS on an A5 processor is easier than running Linux on an Atom – despite everyone’s best efforts, the Atom is still struggalicious and can’t deliver a fraction of the video that an iPad can stream over a similar connection (although in fairness, much of that is down to the iPad eschewing Flash and forcing everything to be in HTML5 for video). Scaled-up iOS on a larger screen can’t help but be quicker than a system that doesn’t have the overhead of a full OS and a spinning hard drive.

So if I were to make a move at this point, it’d be iPad – just because if I can’t get in there and expand the RAM and storage, I’d rather spend $630 than $1100. I HAZ A LOGIC, ALSO A CHEEP.

Of course, now I will continue to get along with the iPhone and Kindle for as long as I can get away with it…but I do hear a hibiscus iced tea calling my name. BRB.

AT&TMobile and the Final Straw

So AT&T intends to buy T-Mobile USA off of Deutsche Telekom. This is the final straw in the complete Third World-ification of American cellular. Getting rid of T-Mobile eliminates the lowest-cost carrier, the most unlock-friendly carrier, the only carrier that actually charges you less if you’re not taking a subsidized phone, and replaces it with a single GSM carrier for the entire country and all the monopoly effect that goes with it.

The reason Europe is so far ahead of the US is that they settled on GSM early and enforced it. As a result, there’s separation between carrier and equipment, prepaid is a very reasonable option, you don’t pay to RECEIVE calls and texts, and you can pick up the iPhone on five different carriers in the UK alone. Hell, you HAVE five carriers, and a sheep in the middle of the Cotswolds has five bars. There’s none of this nonsense about charging $20 extra a month for the privilege of turning on tethering, nor a six-month wait for MMS to work, because there’s an actual COMPETITIVE MARKETPLACE.

Which the US doesn’t have. And hasn’t since Cingular ate the original AT&T Wireless. When there are only two national carriers with multiband coverage (850 Mhz and 1900 Mhz) and they use incompatible standards (GSM and CDMA), you have all the negative effect of monopoly while perpetuating the illusion of consumer choice. Sure, there’s Sprint still sticking it out with their one 1900 Mhz coverage band and CDMA hardware, but for all intents and purposes, national cellular service has been reduced to the two worst carriers in America. (And don’t start on Verizon’s network; their coverage was predicated on keeping analog up for YEARS and is technologically inferior in terms of data speed and voice/data use, at least until LTE is deployed widely.)

In fact, once LTE is more widely deployed, you might – MIGHT – have a competitive environment. But not for the foreseeable future. You can buy your nice new iPad 2, but if you get one for AT&T, you’ll have to sell it to buy the Verizon one if you decide you want the other carrier. In fact, with Verizon and Sprint both on CDMA, you can pretty much count on always having to buy a new phone when you change carriers from now on. Which is just the way they like it. Enhanced lock-in, more than ever, and you can expect ever-increasing carrier control on things like Android add-ons (hint: there’s a reason the Google prototype phones were only available on T-Mobile, and you can forget about OS upgrades if the carrier doesn’t want you to have them and you don’t want to hack your own handset).

I deeply resent the way modern America makes me sound like a fucking bong-watered granola shaver hippie, but it’s long past time for somebody to hit Corporate America in the ballsack with a two-by-four. We don’t have a free market, we don’t even have a regulated market, we have a series of monopoly and monopsony effects. AT&T or Verizon. Comcast or AT&T. DirecTV or Dish. XM or Siri–never mind. Third. World. Country. Remember when you could get DSL from somebody other than the phone company and had three different GSM carriers to pick from nationally? And when was the last time one of these awesome mergers and great business deals actually resulted in more capacity or a lower bill? Anyone? I’ll wait…

I believe the term of art with the kids these days is “FML.”

Apropos of nothing

I know people HAVE to be getting tired of this, but I need to put it down just to be aware for future reference: the AT&T iPad 2 is not carrier-locked. Meaning you can take it to the UK, get a micro-SIM card from any phone company, pop it in and get yourself some data service.

I’m just sayin’…

Just for my own amusement

Since I haven’t done this since the move to WordPress, I thought I’d break out the ol’ Apple Wireless Keyboard and see what happens when attempting to blog. It would be nice if the phone were in landscape mode, but no matter; this seems to be fine (even if I am habituated to hitting the space bar twice to get a period and space to continue).

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued by that Nokia C3-01; the design of it is interesting as far as having a traditional phone keypad plus a touch screen. Makes for a familiar interface while simultaneously getting rid of a bunch of extraneous keys. It’s the kind of thing that might have kept Nokia relevant if it had come out three years ago. As it is, the camera is reportedly inferior to the iPhone and the ability to just use the iPhone as everything else means that $130 would be better spent on topping up the existing burner phones on Orange and Virgin.

(Insert your own joke about “you should be used to not using the iPhone as a phone by now”. Now piss off.)

Seriously, though – 5MP camera with autofocus (and geotagging), 720p video camera, and the functions of the iPod Touch for media consumption and Wi-Fi internet access? All you need at that point is the cheap £10 candybar phoe and a pre-paid SIM for calling in reservations and receiving Twitter updates (when you can receive texts for free you’d be mad not to set up Twitter direct to the phone and make it your anywhere communication). Plus of course this fine keyboard for strategic blog-typing purposes, much faster and simpler than you can churn out on a glass pad.

Something to think about.

Shopping Leads To Revelation

I have had the strangest urge in the last couple of days to spend money. Actually it may go back longer than that, in this particular bout of commerce glee, but it was pronounced yesterday while watching the nightmare unfold around my bracket. I found myself again looking at the bags from posts prior, reconsidering netbooks, telling the wife “It’s like if i focus enough on the iPad 2 it’ll magically do what I need it to.” I legitimately brushed through the various Nokia and Sony Ericsson offerings for unlocked phones on Amazon. I even found my mind drifting back to outerwear options.

And then, this morning, I saw an article on Boing Boing about people who travel ultra-light – either just what they have in their pockets, or what they can fit in the travel vest and jacket, or maybe a light daypack, and everything snapped into place for me:

I’m trying to outfit myself to go back to England and hike down the Cotswold Way.

It all makes sense now. Less than a month ago I bought the hiking boots and the drawz you can wash in the sink and dry overnight. I’ve already got things that could work for outerwear that combine for warmth and water resistance. God knows I have an overwhelming desire to pack light, certainly no more than would go in, say, a compact messenger bag or my roll-top backpack. Now I just need some way to keep up with RSS and blogging from the UK, which notionally means putting the phone in airplane mode for the duration, and all of a sudden you’re looking at a Nokia C3-01 for under $150 unlocked or trying to find some way to unlock an iPhone 4 running iOS 4.3 or wondering if the Kindle’s 3G data works abroad and how tough it is to set up post-by-mail or whether it would be worthwhile to splash out on a 16GB iPad and hope it’s not locked and…

You get the idea.

Apparently I’m more dialed into this than I thought. Some combination of the changing sunlight and longer days, coupled with rain and gloomy overcast, reinforced by trains and capped off by a desire to get AS FAR FROM MARCH MADNESS AS POSSIBLE* have all combined to put me back in the (British) Empire State of Mind. Now I just need a shit-pile of vacation time and a bigger shit-pile of money. (If you don’t think the wife could work remotely from down the pub, well, you don’t know her company’s business.)

I know it’s been less than a year, but I find myself wanting to get away again without dragging any extra people around. I think the two of us are due for another extracontinental getaway…


Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and Anchor of Gold present: the five stages of Commodore fandom

(cross-posted from Anchor of Gold)

1) DENIAL. “This isn’t happening. We can’t possibly blow another double-digit lead. We can still make this happen. We’re not going out like this again. I don’t care what Obama picked. It’s gonna be different this year.”


3) BARGAINING. “All right. Just let John hit a three here, and I’ll go to Friday prayers at the mosque AND Sabbath service at the synagogue AND Mass on Sunday morning AND I’ll go to brunch with Tom Cruise next week.”

4) DEPRESSION. “I hate basketball. I hate March. I hate everything. I wish I was dead. Just keep drinking this Guinness. You gotta die of something. I can’t take it any more.”

5) ACCEPTANCE. “Hey, isn’t Sonny Gray on the mound today?”


iPhone test again

This isn’t going well. It took a good three or four tries to fill in the subject line.

I set the iPad next to my bumper-equipped iPhone 4. If the iPad 2 is actually thinner than the unclad iPhone 4, that could be an absolute gamechanger in terms of ergonomics and weight. How it will type in the lap is open to speculation.

I notice that autocorrect seems to be a bit better – of course as soon as I type that it goes south. The next sentence is all uncorrected. Typing with my thumbs is not the best way to go and it’s a damn shame that the thing won’t spas out now that I’m trying to make it go bad. Siiiiiigh.

Anyway, there’s that. Keyboard test later.

More mobility notes

It seems like my default mode in testing things is to chirp about mobility computing. So here I am at the train station, typing away on an iPad in the WordPress app, thinking about the device i’m using. My first thought is that I need to go take a look at the new iPad 2 tomorrow. If it’s actually thinner, lighter, more ergonomic, faster, and has the same battery, I should give it a spin.

My second thought is that an iPad – especially a thinner and lighter one – would be a plausible addition to a bag with my work laptop and be a suitable companion if I were to decide the laptop shouldn’t have personal material any longer. It doesn’t solve the ESPN3 problem, obviously, but if i can type like this, it might still be broadly feasible for blogging. Again, i don’t think 3G is necessary for most things, and I can get by on 16 GB since the ipad is unlikely to have media other than books and movies.

Next step is to attempt longer form blogging in WordPress on my iPhone with the keyboard and without. Again. Being in WordPress is enough of a switch to require another pass. (This app is a real drag in terms of keyboard response right now, so i don’t know if this is broadly feasible.) I do get the March Madness app, though, so i have all the streaming media I need for a while. ESPN3 won’t be a problem until this September…


Could be worse. Could be a LOT worse. Still, to all accounts, Richmond is better than a 12 – more fruit of what some are calling the worst field picking in the shot clock era – and so Vegas has this one as a draw, and once again Vandy is the fashionable pick to go down in the first round. I can’t really kick about that after last year. Or 2008. Like it or not, we have a reputation as choke artists in March, thanks to a sub-.500 record in the SEC tournament and 1-11 in season finales under Stallings – and two first-round exists in 3 years as a freakin’ 4 seed.

It’s down to four things: is Andre Walker healthy, is John Jenkins healthy, is John taking good shots, and does everybody show up. This has largely meant “Jeffrey Taylor” but his explosive performance in the SECT suggests that maybe he’s finally flipped the switch.

One thing’s for sure: unless we cut down the nets in Houston, I am going to wake up three weeks from tomorrow wishing it was Midnight Madness already.

And we’re off

NFLPA decertifies. Lockout imminent.

Basically, the players want to keep going as is. The owners basically want the players to give them a billion dollars – that is not a typo, a BILLION – for no other reason than they want it. The league is not in trouble, teams are not in trouble, income and viewership and attendance are at their highest levels ever, but the owners want some more money. In short, this is a shakedown job.

If you side with the owners in this, you’re basically siding with the notion that management can do what they like with your salary and benefits, and you can lump it, because you should be grateful to have a job at all.