I’m watching the original 2007 introduction of the iPhone – streamed via AppleTV from the upstairs iMac – and typing this post on my iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard. Which is where we’ve gotten to from what was introduced today. But a couple of things strike me:

1) Steve said the iPhone was five years ahead of every other phone out there. If you consider that Jellybean will finally clear up the touch-response UI issues on Android, he nailed it pretty good.

2) He quoted Alan Kay, who long ago said “People who are serious about software should make their own hardware.” Within the last month, you’ve seen Google AND Microsoft introduce their own hardware to run their tablet operating systems, in both cases for the first time. Nailed it again.

3) Five years on it’s easy to forget just how revolutionary this was. There was no other phone, as far as I know, that had staked itself on one big screen. My old SonyEricsson P800 was technically capable of it, but shipped with a physically-attached keypad flip and a stylus dug into one side. And it was as thick as two iPhones stacked. Nobody had multitouch. Nobody had a viable browser that wasn’t a hodgepodge of WAP and proxy browsing. Nobody had visual voicemail.

4) Amazing in retrospect that Yahoo Mail was a big feature, especially since it was the only option at launch for push email. Exchange was only supported via IMAP. For that matter, it’s remarkable to see the top left corner read “cingular” – that was long gone by the time the thing actually arrived.

5) On further review, did that split-pane email view ever make it to the production device? I don’t remember ever seeing that at all. Then again, I was busy checking the stock and seeing if we had a winner in the “which rep will demand one of these before the keynote even ends” derby. I don’t recall the flashing phone icon either.

6) Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, part of the iPhone rollout. Times have changed. For that matter, Jerry Yang as Chief Yahoo…five years is an eternity in this valley.

7) “We’ve filed for over two hundred patents and we intend to protect them.” People who bitch about the lawsuits – it’s not like we weren’t warned. I think it’s proof of how important iOS devices were to Steve that he was bound and determined not to have a repeat of Macintosh – this time, the look and feel would be protected to the best of their ability. Which probably explains Steve’s incredible venom toward Android – Steve probably saw another cut-rate knockoff with the potential to take over because it was good enough. And it may yet happen, but not today.

8) Cingular went into contract with Apple without ever seeing the device. Given that they were the only viable carrier – the only GSM carrier in the US with dual-band coverage – Apple really didn’t have a choice without making a hell of a mess for themselves selling abroad. But then again, that’s Steve. We may never see that kind of sell-water-to-a-fish charisma again (although there’s a guy down in middle Tennessee who might just catch him).

9) That exclusivity deal lasted until…when? Late 2010? A three year deal sounds about right; we suspected as much as five at the time and were pretty sure it would be at least two.

10) And the infamous clicker cut-out, which produced about a minute of awkward before Steve went into the anecdote about Woz and the TV jammer. It always warmed my heart to have Woz show up or even be name-checked at an Apple event – respect your heritage.

11) Apple wanted 1% market share by the end of 2008. By 2011, they were making literally half the profit in the entire worldwide mobile phone handset industry.

12) And Apple Computer becomes just plain old Apple. Prophetic, because the iOS devices are the rocket this company rides on now. “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been.” If you wanted a mission statement for the last five years at Apple, you could hardly do better.

Steve said this product was going to change the industry. Five years on, every new phone is a smartphone, and you can pretty much split the history of mobile into Before iPhone and After iPhone. Again – nailed it. And I know it was on the backslope of my time there – by October I was gone – but it’s still awesome to know that I was there, and it was during my tenure that the game was changed for good.

flashback, part 53 of n

In January 2006, I scooped up a SonyEricsson Z520.  It was part and parcel of migrating my work-provided phone from the old AT&T Wireless to Cingular, and the Z520 had a lot of things going for it.  It had the SonyEricsson UI, which was the best-of-breed at the time.  It had a loop antenna, so nothing to snag in pockets.  It was compact enough to go in the change pocket of my jeans, it featured Bluetooth and speakerphone both, and it was purported to have greatly improved battery life.  And despite the fact that my personal phone was the aforementioned V635, I was drawn to this one – sure it didn’t have a megapixel camera or EDGE speed, but neither did it have the Motorola problem of the side buttons constantly blipping in your pocket to change the ringer settings unexpectedly.

The funny thing is, within a month at least three of my co-workers had ordered a Z520 for themselves.  Its performance on GPRS was better than the V635’s on EDGE, so looking up scores and things was perfectly viable, and it worked well with iSync on the Mac, so you could actually use it to sort of keep your contacts and calendar.  And the battery life turned out to be around four days in normal usage.  I used the phone for text messaging, for the occasional call, for my alarm clock every morning, and essentially never had to worry about the battery.

It didn’t hurt that the SonyEricsson UI had a very easy-to-use implementation of themes.  I spent many a night downloading piles of themes for the phone, most frequently related to some sort of Euro soccer team.  Tons of Celtic themes, of course, along with Newcastle and Spurs and Chelsea as I cast about looking for a squad to call my own in the Premiership. 

I ordered other phones, of course – there was a Moto L2 which I got in a vain attempt to get a signal at the desk in my new office, and some sort of Nokia flip that I got out of desperation in spring 2007 – but apart from the brief loan of a co-worker’s SonyEricsson W800i to test out the camera (which was much better as it turns out and a damn good phone all around), that Z520 was my daily carry phone for a year and a half…until the coming of the iPhone.

It dropped five years ago today, although I didn’t get mine for about a month – the 8GB model given to every employee happened at the end of July – but that was the end of my phone glee.  I’ve gotten other phones since, but the only phone other than an iPhone that I have spent money on since that day was a $20 Nokia 1112 as a backup piece and nostalgia device.  (I did get a MOTOFONE F3 as a Christmas present in 2007 and was briefly issued a Blackberry Bold when I started this job, but the Bold lasted less than two months before I dumped it in favor of a stipend for using my own phone.)

It’s hard to oversell what an amazing thing that iPhone was in 2007.  It was unlike anything else out there – just a slab of glass and steel that responded to your touch and had all sorts of bells and whistles, not to mention a legit browser and email client.  There were no apps back then, and even web apps were a bit sketch – you couldn’t even bookmark them on the phone’s “desktop”.  But it was pretty clear from day one that I might never want to carry anything else, and from that day, the phone obsession has dwindled to pretty much nothing.

Meanwhile, that Z520 was my travel phone in Europe in 2007 and 2010, and has kept my UK phone number alive for over 7 years now.  Sadly, it’s beginning to flake out a little bit, and I suspect that its days are numbered; the unlocked iPhone 4S will almost certainly be the travel device from now on.  But I’m going to keep the Z520 as a pleasant reminder of an old hobby of younger days…


Festus Ezili, who at age 15 handled a basketball for the first time and shot it into his own team’s net, is tonight a first-round draft pick…of the Golden State Warriors.

Every year I say I need to start paying attention to the NBA again. It never happens. That just changed. I got nothing but love for John Jenkins to ATL and Jeffrey Taylor to Charlotte (and I hope he does Kidd-Gilchrist in practice everyday like he did every game last season), but to have Fes in the Bay Area is unreal. For him too, I’m sure – his American home is Yuba City, near Sac – but I now have a guy from my school playing in the NBA in my town.

Wow. That just happened. I mean…wow.


I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been the best year.  Work has been all over the place, up and down (and more down than up since about March).  My health isn’t what it was, physically or mentally.  My finances are going shit-shaped thanks to E*Trade deciding that paper is so last century and the IRS not having any sense of humor about paying capital gains on stock sales.  And I turned 40, which I think I’m still recovering from.  As a result, I’ve let a lot of stuff go and am suffering for it.

No more.

Effective July 1, we’re rebooting the year.  New New Years resolutions in effect:

1) We’re going back to exercising no less than three times a week.  Either running or weights, but SOMETHING – I may be running to stand still, but I can at least slow the rate of descent.

2) No more wasting money on junk food.  No stress eating or “this sucks, I deserve compensation” eating or “I really need 50 oz of fountain Coke Zero to survive Monday morning” trips through 7-Eleven on the way in.  This will simultaneously save money and improve my health.  Time to clip the water bottle to the bag again.

3) We’re back to Tuesday night shutdowns.  One night a week without killing time on the Internet isn’t too much to ask. I need the downtime, I need the reading, I need the opportunity to turn away from the allure of the glowing screen that’s always in my pocket or my jacket or my bag or my shoulder holster (!!) – Kindle and MOTOFONE F3 only.

4) Early (-er) to bed and early to rise. I need to get up in enough time to do my own first cup of coffee and bowl of cereal instead of getting sucked into parfait and a venti black every Tuesday/Thursday, and I need to be out cold by midnight instead of refreshing Twitter just one more time.

5) I think I’m set on jackets, footwear and gadgets.  Stop noodling after that shit. (Exception allowed if Nerf releases the Elite Jolt before review season.  75 feet on a pocket blaster? I’m saving a $20 just for that.)

Right.  Don’t like the way things are going, make a change.  Time to straighten up and fly right again.


Josh Marshall’s tweet summed it all up: “GM (check), OBL (check), ACA (check).”

Obama bet his Presidency on health care reform, and won – but only today did the check clear.  The other big winner today was Chief Justice John Roberts, who successfully averted a decision that would almost certainly have destroyed the credibility of the Supreme Court as anything other than a partisan entity.  The fact that so many Constitutional scholars considered that the law WAS constitutional but expected it to be found otherwise is telling – and quite frankly, after Bush v Gore and Citizens United, the Court was staring at an 0-2 count.  Maybe this is a hit, maybe not, but they fouled one off for sure.

Again, a summation of the mandate: the whole point of ACA is to make health care more affordable.  The easiest way to do this is by economy of scale – if everyone buys into the insurance system, the risk of payout is spread around a lot more evenly and premiums don’t have to go as high.  In addition, now we’re saying that you can’t deny coverage to people for pre-existing conditions, you have to cover a person’s offspring to age 26, and there’s no maximum cap to how much a person can get, lifetime, in insurance payout.  But if you have those rules, everybody has to be in the system.  If they aren’t, people can skip out on buying insurance until they need it – which means that the cost of that insurance will skyrocket because fewer people have bought into it.

For all the ranting and raving about “socialism” and “communism” by Medicare-scooter-riding old rednecks who aren’t capable of passing PSCI 238 Intro to Comparative Politics with a C+, this is actually as minimal an intervention as you could have and still have a shot at expanding coverage.  No single payer, not even a public option.  Hell, this whole concept bubbled up from the Heritage Foundation in the late 1980s and was the bulk of the GOP’s alternative to Hillarycare in the grunge era.  The fact that it took a beating from the GOP for these last three-plus years is entirely down to the oft-stated Limbaugh-DeMint objective of making sure everything Obama did would come to failure. Which in and of itself is tied to the GOP’s decision over the last quarter-century that no Democrat could ever legitimately be President…but that’s another post altogether.

The whole point of getting elected isn’t to get re-elected, contrary to what most politicians seem to believe.  The point of getting elected is to change things.  On balance, one has to think Obama has a pretty solid resume to hand in to his next employer if he’s looking for work on January 20, 2013: General Motors alive, Osama bin Laden dead, and an expansion of health care that Roosevelt, Truman, Nixon (!) and Clinton could never successfully get passed.

Well done, young man.  Now maybe the Professional Indignant Left will suck it up and get behind the guy. One thing’s for sure, though – anybody who still says there’s no difference between the parties needs to be shot dead on account of rabid dumb…

The wider world

The rule on our honeymoon was made by the second day in London: I had to stop and kiss my new bride before I was allowed to walk into a cellphone shop.  Because let’s face it, I was going into all of them.  Vodafone, O2, Orange, Three, Carphone Warehouse, I was even looking at a phone display in Harrod’s for crying out loud.  Partly it’s because I was in the market – my domestic phone of record at the time was the Bibendumesque Nokia 6620, with the Moto V180 as the hastily-acquired travel phone and a couple other random handsets floating around back in California.  I was looking for something that would combine Bluetooth, speakerphone, EDGE speed, a top-notch screen, two-day battery life and quality reception all in one while still fitting in the change pocket of my jeans.

I ended up holding off on a purchase – partly because the dollar was struggling against the pound and we’d just paid for a wedding, but also in anticipation of a forthcoming Apple phone.  Which turned out to be the ROKR, a rebranded Moto E398 with an iTunes-compliant player in the software.  I shook my head and ordered the Moto V635 on the spot, the phone that had drawn my attention everywhere from Kensington to Bath to Edinburgh.

When we went back in 2007, I did take a curious look at the MOTOFONE F3 (which ultimately came to me as a Christmas present) but I wasn’t looking at phones otherwise.  In fact, I donated that V635 a week before heading out of the country – because the iPhone had landed.  It had a real web browser, none of this WAP-stack nonsense, naturally it handled iTunes playback, its email was superior to anything on any other phone not made by Research In Motion – and it basically brought an end to phone glee.

Now that my iPhone 4S is unlocked, I’m dreaming of the Cotswolds again, so I looked at the SIM-only plans out there now.  Three – which started life as a 3G-only provider and was running in a weak fifth place in 2005 – offers a plan on a rolling one-month contract with 300 minutes (outgoing only, remember), 3000 texts, and unlimited data – for all of £15 a month.  Under the circumstances, I can’t fathom using anything else, although there are plans from Orange or O2 that offer unlimited texts, 1 GB of data, and some minutes above and beyond the usual top-up for £25-30, and I believe my current Virgin Mobile could be switched to a pay-as-you-go setup that includes 1 GB of data and unlimited texting with every £15 top-up.

I say all that to say this: there’s really not much out there in the way of alternatives for somebody with an unlocked iPhone in the United States.  You can roll the dice on T-Mobile and hope you spend your time in the parts of San Francisco where they lit up 1900Mhz HSPA+ coverage, but otherwise you’re back to the best speeds 2006 has to offer – and damnably, most of the GSM-based MVNOs in this country are backboned by T-Mob.  The one exception seems to be Straight Talk, a WalMart-based MVNO that offers unlimited everything for $45 and appears to have AT&T as its backing network in some areas.  But then you’re giving up visual voicemail, for one, and the configuration process for data and MMS appears to be less than smooth. Factor in the presumed move to a work-provided Verizon iPhone sixth-gen when it ships, and the juice ain’t worth the squeeze – looking at cost savings of less than $20 a month.

But there’s almost no 4G to speak of in Europe, so an iPhone 4S is ideal for an all-purpose travel phone.  Which is good, because my tiny Sony Ericsson Z520 is starting to flake.  More on it later…

I give up. Here’s the tech post of the day.

The Nexus tablet is real. Made by Asus, 7 inches and $199 – which is interesting inasmuch as Google appears to be aping the most successful Android tablet of them all, the Kindle Fire.  They’re pushing this as a cheap-and-cheerful consumption device with a pure Android experience in 4.1, aka Jellybean.

This, with Google Play, is apparently meant to put Google on par with Apple and Amazon in terms of offering media and a means to use it – selling music, selling books, the like – and also to give them control over the widget. No more relying on Samsung – this is Google’s own gadget with, presumably, Google’s own schedule for updates.  One less party making decisions – well, two actually, because no cellular carrier to worry about.

This, to me, is the first sign that Google gets it.  Android tablets were a big bag of hurt, the Chromebook is an overpriced joke, and unlocked Nexus phones were far too expensive to be viable in the United States – but here’s a $200 device that lets you get in on Android and the entire Google ecosystem, presumably with more flexibility than the Fire (which is pretty much dedicated to consuming media and maybe gaming).  This is something that I’m looking at and wondering if it’s worth an investment, given that I still haven’t had a chance to work with Android in any meaningful way.  At the very least, I’m going to be banging the drum in the Friday meeting that we need to get a couple of those in the door ASAP.

Meanwhile, the changes to Android for Jellybean look interesting, if a little creepy in spots.  Improved voice dictation and search are always welcome, but “Google Now” trying to use your input and search history and whatnot to find stuff FOR you without asking?  Little too Minority Report for me at the moment.  Wonder how well it’ll work in practice.  Of course, the real question will be how quickly Jellybean gets out to a world where Ice Cream Sandwich still has single-digit adoption among Android devices – thanks to the carriers, the old saw about “Nexus shows you what you’ll have on next year’s high-end Android phone” will almost certainly continue to hold true.

As for the Nexus Q…you know, the new gadget that does for $299 what the Apple TV does for $99 and Roku does for $69…well, Google still hasn’t figured out television yet. Give them time.  Third one’s the charm…


The “Bowl” “Championship” “Series” is dead. It will be mourned by exactly nobody, save maybe Big East fans who miss having a free seat on the starship because Miami was good in the early 1990s. Everything worked out about as well as could be expected: 4 teams only, no automatic berth for conference champions, and absolutely no role for coaches or their assistants aside from what they can do on the field.

Four is the way to go. People will yell for eight so the poor Big East and Mountain West can have a free-roll, and then they’ll cry for sixteen because the Sun Belt and Conference USA champions somehow deserve the same crack at the title as the Big Ten or PAC-12 champions, and everyone will get orange slices and a participation ribbon. To hell with that. Schedule up, schedule hard, and see if you make the cut. In fact, having no automatic berth for winning the conference – and not enough seats to accommodate all the former BCS auto-qualifiers – will increase the pressure to separate from the rest of the pack. God willing, that means an end to I-AA opponents and extra credit for going out and facing significant foes from other leagues.

Four is also good because it means that two of the former BCS bowls will be free to make their own deals. Hopefully this means an end to 5th-ranked PAC-12 teams being sent to the Holiday Bowl so Pitt can get their ass pounded out. More top-10 matchups on January 1, fewer sad-sack mismatches because some barely-top-25 team won their nubbins league.

See, the BCS was a misnomer in every respect. “Bowl” because eventually it created its own floating title game separate from the bowls so more teams could get a bite of the pie. “Series” because nobody played more than one game. And “Championship” because it only made a matchup of a notional 1-2 and used its other four bowl berths to create matchups hobbled by the Rose Bowl’s devotion to the Big Ten and the insistence that winning an eight team basketball conference was as worthy as running the table in the SEC.

No more. When was the last time there was a legit #5 team contending for the national championship? Never. (You shut up, 1977 Notre Dame, you got a gift.) If you’re not in the top 4, you’re not really deserving of a title shot. Maybe now some of these big time bowls can mean something again.

Make no mistake: if you love college football, today is as big a win as could be had without blowing everything up and going to 1989 rules again. And 2014 will arrive just in time for Vanderbilt to meet Cal in the first round in Pasadena…

Okay, one MORE techie thought

Money quote from John Moltz, the Jon Stewart of Mac pundits:

“[A]s someone who lived through the technology world of the 1990s I just think it’s kind of amazing that in 2012 you can write an erudite piece titled “Microsoft’s developer problem”.

I was there – hell, I still have a copy of Ken Auletta’s “World War 3.0” lying around somewhere. And looking back, now it can be said with confidence: winning the browser war was the worst thing that could have happened for Microsoft.  We’ve got IE, they said, we own the Internet.  We won.  

And while they sat back fat and sassy on their WinXP/IE6 desktop monopoly, Google ate their lunch on search. Then Apple ate their lunch on digital music. Then Friendster created social networking, MySpace drove it mainstream, and Facebook ate Microsoft’s lunch in the social space.  Then Google ate their lunch in webmail. Then Apple ate their lunch in consumer smartphones. Then Google ate everything in consumer smartphones that Apple didn’t eat. Then Amazon ate their lunch in digital publishing and bulk cloud computing. Then Apple ate everyone’s lunch in tablet computing.  Then Google sailed in with the world’s new favorite default browser.

And in 2011, Microsoft woke up, looked around, and realized that while they were enjoying their overwhelming ownership of the desktop space, the world had moved on from desktop computing.  And Microsoft was in exactly the position they’d reduced IBM to all those years ago: an aging public utility providing a commodity computing experience. 

Look at the list: Google search, the iPod, Facebook, Gmail, the iPhone, Android, Kindle, EC2 and AWS, the iPad, Chrome.  Microsoft’s last big leap was Windows XP, and it’s been a decade since they had even a partial share in the Next Big Thing.  That’s why the push for Windows 8 is so overwhelming, and why it’s meant to be more or less the same OS from your phone to your tablet to your “ultrabook” to your desktop – this is Microsoft’s last chance to make Windows a necessary part of the computing experience.  They need Win8 to be the bridge that carries the desktop monopoly back over to mobility computing.

Bing didn’t make a dent. Windows Phone 7 was Palm Pre-like in its impact. They ignored the iPad for two years.  And they let Google steal a march on IE and Office with their own lighter, leaner, free products.  Microsoft is swinging for the fences now because if they don’t, they may never take the lead in computing again.

And as a veteran of the 1990s, I’m just fine with that.

In the city

I could do it.

I sort of did do it, for seven years in Arlington, but despite being inside the Beltway, on the Orange Line, and situated such that I drove less than 2000 miles a year (and that mostly to ride around listening to Eddie Stubbs or Redskin games), I don’t know that I could really qualify my time in Northern Virginia as “urban living.”  And where I live now is resolutely suburban, despite the light rail and the highly walkable downtown and the fact that I’m on a 100% rail commute most of the time.

But the bug bit me in New York City (of course) and was aggravated by a weekend in San Francisco. We generally get to occupy the condo of some friends whenever they’re out of the country, a phenomenon I have come to think of as the “MUNI-break”, and there’s an above-average chance I will be living most of the week of the 4th of July in that 2 BR unit hard by AT&T Park.  Even just those two nights – we arrived lunchtime Saturday and I got on the train for work at 7:15 this morning – were enough to hit the nerve.  We walked at least five miles on Sunday, including things like taking in the Pride parade and the Aquarium of the Bay, not to mention hiking the long way up Telegraph Hill.  And then there was a quick cab ride to the Mission for dinner with friends at a very foodie-friendly establishment with excellent cocktails. Once I figured out which pillow was for my head and which one for my knees, I slept pretty good, and after all there’s a Safeway at the corner of the block open ’til midnight for strategic provisioning.

It doesn’t help that Team Black Swan East will become Team Black Swan North in a little over a month, having finally landed a place in Pacific Heights – probably about the size of my 1BR in Arlington, but ideally suited for their needs.  Which in turn makes me think about having stuff, and paring down stuff – and hell, if I’m honest, we could probably get by all right in that old Arlington place to this day.  So much depends on going out versus cocooning and what your preferred approach to the evenings and weekends is.*  The caveat being that as I stop being in denial about how old I am, I’m more instinctively inclined to cocoon.

Da Wife is fond of saying that she wants her cake and to eat it too – and our present living situation is certainly desirable and would probably be attractive if the shoe were on the other foot and we were sick of city real estate and city prices.  And the day may come when my willingness to walk anywhere and everywhere is diminished exponentially (and it may come sooner than later).  But I suspect that for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be wrestling hard with the idea that maybe, just maybe, we could be cut out to live up in the city for good.  And I intend to milk it hard and get it out of my system as much as possible while it’s free.



* Honestly, at this point, I expect them to go to the city on Sunday and start house-hunting just on inertia and force of habit.  Guys, stay home, curl up on the couch with Osgood and get into my bottle of Booker’s if you like.  You’ve earned it. =)