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Life With The Touchpad


So, we’ve had more than a week to play around with our HP Touchpads now, and the end result is I’m even angrier than I was before about HP destroying Palm. The Touchpad, while by no means perfect, is still a really cool little device. It does most of the things we expect of it. It’s nicely designed. It’s fun to use. It shows… Promise.

In the past few days I’ve spent a lot of time browsing on it. I’ve cleared through email, edited Word and Excel documents, played Angry Birds with Mathias, watched movies, and caught up on my YouTube subscriptions. The Touchpad has handled all of those tasks extremely well, too the point that the lapsed web developer in me started wondering if I could write apps for this thing. (I installed Homebrew, started reading some of the developer documentation, and then told myself to stop. Because, you know, I probably have better things to do than write applications for a dying platform.) Importing movies from DVD was a pain in the ass to figure out, likely because HP didn’t want to make it easy (“Use the HP Movie Store!”), but now that I know how to do it, it’s a snap. Doing so can allow the special, if somewhat melancholy, irony of watching Pixar movies on a Touchpad.

Many of the common criticisms of the Touchpad are valid. It can be a bit laggy at times. The number of apps available is pretty small, and the quality of those apps sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. But it’s just good enough, in that unique HP way, that one could image how it could be perfect with a few tweaks. HP seems to have a gift for coming up with great ideas and classy designs, only to cheap out on the build or materials, or push out the product before it’s fully baked. The Touchpad is a case example of trying to swing for the fences, but doing so with a wiffle bat, because, you know, plastic is cheaper than wood.

It’s a true clutching failure from the jaws of victory kind of situation. With a better build quality, a moderately lower price than the iPad, and a clear Microsoft-style commitment to the platform (to encourage app developers), HP could have had a competitor on its hands. It could have started off as the Hyundai Genesis of the tablet world—not the leader, but a legitimate competitor that forces people to take the product and the platform seriously. Instead they put out an Elantra—a fine, car, sure—and priced it like a Mercedes. The results were completely predictable.

Maybe Léo Apotheker has some of his friends and relatives short-selling HP stock. That seems as reasonable of an explanation for this fiasco as any.

Posted in News at 1:10 am

Goodbye Palm


It’s been a crazy and somewhat depressing week for fans of the former Palm and WebOS. I was going to give my thoughts as to the real reasons WebOS is being killed, but Gruber pretty much covered that. A related PreCentral thread summed it up even more succinctly:

If Mark Hurd didn’t like dining with escorts and expensing it, WebOS would still be alive.

Ok, labeling Jodie Fisher an “escort” may be a stretch, but philosophically speaking, that’s the nut of why the best non-Apple mobile operating system just bit the dust.

And, HP’s pleas to the contrary, WebOS’ future looks dim. With no new hardware coming out anytime in the near future—the Pre3, which is just starting to trickle out in Europe, is already a half year old at launch—and WebOS developers are clearly looking elsewhere. A new manufacturer deciding to use WebOS would be faced with a declining base of users and a moldering app ecosystem. It wouldn’t be the case of a new manufacturer taking over the ecosystem has much as being forced to reboot it.

Even the “reboot” would be unlikely, as HP is saying they don’t intend to sell WebOS, only license it. But who would it benefit to take up such a license at this point, after HP had done so much damage? If HP was serious about keeping WebOS alive and giving it a future, they would have had a licensing arrangement in place with a manufacturer before killing off their own hardware.

I don’t know what HP could have done to screw this up more than they already have, aside from maybe giving away the Touchpads while at the same time announcing they’d be turning off the App Catalog, the HP Movie Store and Synergy-related cloud services on September 1.

Best Buy Switcheroo

If I were a HP stockholder—and thank god I’m not—I’d look at what is happening right now as an intentional effort by HP to destroy shareholder value. They’re acting like a US version of RIM—an organization that is trying to bring the Crazy, and trying to bring it in a big way. There is an almost active disregard of their user base here, but they probably don’t care, as they see themselves as going full-enterprise. They looked at their WebOS users, those-long suffering, exceedingly patient folks who loved and saw remarkable potential in the software, and told them to go jump off a cliff. Because, you know, they won’t need us anymore anyway once all they do is consulting and big iron.

I was one of those folks who spent a stupid amount of time over the weekend trying to get a $99 Touchpad, and it’s looks like we’re going to get one. We’re getting it for a pretty specific purpose, though—a mobile movie-watching device to keep our preschooler entertained while traveling—and are practical about the future of WebOS… Of which there is none.

Posted in News at 6:18 am

Enough About MJ


So, I’m pretty much sick and tired of hearing about Michael Jackson, and dread the “human interest stories” about the fate of his kids and his estate that I’m sure we’ll be assaulted with over the coming weeks and months. While I fully recognize that he played a huge part in pop culture history, and essentially acted as an informal ambassador of the United States (right alongside Coca Cola and McDonald’s), I think we’re at the point there are more important things to talk about.

So, CNN, and whoever else is still hammering on the story, for the sake of humanity, please stop.  (Anything new in Iran these days?)

~ ~ ~

One of the reasons I may be a bit more insulated from—and annoyed by—the grief around Jackson’s death is that I never really liked his music that much, and hence never understood what all the fuss was about. I was in grade school when Thriller came out, and despite not liking his music at all, finally relented to some friends’ requests and watched the video on MTV. (We didn’t have cable back then, so I had to watch it at a neighbor’s.) I was pretty unengaged from the start, and then the zombies happened. You know what? I never liked zombies. I wasn’t scared by them or anything, I just thought they were… lame.

And that’s pretty much what I thought about the video. And the album. And those stupid fucking white gloves some of the kids were wearing. I’ve stayed pretty much of that opinion ever since, although I did think it was kind of funny when his hair started on fire, but only because he wasn’t hurt.

So, do I think it’s sad that he died?  Of course.  He had a strange life, and had to put up with a lot of things that no human being should have to deal with, but in those regards was nowhere near being unique.  If anyone’s death should’ve gotten attention over the past week, it should’ve been for the man who’s actions contributed to thousands of lives lost in the Vietnam war, and then potentially saved as many through his work at the World Bank.  But did you hear much about Robert McNamara? Of course not. There was a pop star to talk about.

Posted in News at 11:15 pm

Death of the News


Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

So the Rocky Mountain News is dead. Now that the important deaths are finally happening, I suppose we should keep a close eye on Seattle, San Francisco and Detroit.

I wonder if we’ll still have quality, long-form journalism a decade from now. Newspapers–and I’m talking about their content here, not their format–have long provided the bedrock upon which much of the rest of the media stands. While I’m sure at least some national news organizations commonly thought of as papers will survive, on a local level I’m worried that many cities and even some states will lose the kind of coverage upon which our democracy depends. While there are great independent media and citizen journalism-style operations out there, I doubt they’ll ever be able to match the depth and resources brought by many local newspaper organizations–even with those newspapers in severely weakened states.

My favorite newspaper in the Twin Cities isn’t the Pioneer Press or the StarTribune, but the Southwest Journal. These organizations live in an ecosystem, however, and to a large extent the Journal only makes sense in context of its larger brethren. The Journal would be incomplete without the presence of the Pioneer Press or the Strib, just as City Pages would lack an “edge” (if it still has any) without the dailies. If the big ones fail, they could take the small ones with them.

Even with the Strib in bankruptcy, we’re extremely lucky to have to major dailies, even if those dailies are complete rags compared to what they were just a decade ago. The merger of the Milwaukee Journal and Sentinel is still kind of fresh for me, and while the Journal Sentinel isn’t a bad paper, and has produced some excellent journalism, it has never come across as competitive or scrappy in the way the Sentinel or the Journal once did.

The business model is the problem, but I don’t think anyone has a tested idea of how to fix it. Sustained long-form journalism requires a lot in the way of resources, but the newspaper business draws an inordinate amount of its income through advertising that has more or less been replaced by cheaper (and often more effective) methods. I’m hoping the Detroit Free Press’ decision to cut back home delivery and focus on their online edition four days of the week works out, although the paper’s decision to wall off much of their archives behind a paid gateway suggests they’re not really ready to go all-in.

Ultimately, what may be needed is a major paper that’s willing to drop the burden of, well, paper, and become an online-only news source. If someone can make that work, there may still be hope. If not, don’t look to other forms of media to pick up the slack. If there’s no money in it, why would they?

Posted in News at 11:35 pm

Yes We Did!

Posted in Journal,News,politics at 10:00 pm

Greetings to Our New Aeroflot Overlords


I don’t really have time for this tonight, but I kind of have to rant.

While it wasn’t unexpected, I’m still kind of annoyed–well, ticked, really–about the Northwest/Delta merger, both for rational and irrational reasons. While the Atlanta and Detroit hubs are likely safe from any service cuts, there’s definitely a potential for service reductions at MSP. While it’s unlikely MSP will lose its hub status, a reduction in overall flights, especially direct flights, seems likely regardless of whatever PR is currently being spewed from either company. It wouldn’t be surprising for us to see a cut in international flights as well, with more emphasis being put in the Detroit and Atlanta hubs for those kinds of services.

The fact that we can fly direct pretty much anywhere in the United States is one of the great privileges of living in the Twin Cities, and without that we’re one step closer to being the proverbial cold Omaha. (Or St. Louis after the TWA/AA merger, for that matter.) And, really, if NWA has to merge with someone, couldn’t they go with an airline that at least knows a little about customer service? Continental, perhaps? Nooo, we have to get stuck with Detla.

I’m still a bit ticked about my last Delta experience, which included disabled airplanes, parts being flown to the Twin Cities from Atlanta, a late arrival for a connection in Cincinnati, zero help from staff in finding alternate flights, a connection from hell at Hartsfield and a skanky, stick-floored Delta-booked hotel room in Tennessee. Delta fucked over my trip in enough ways that I decided to take a ten-year break from them, about five of which are still remaining, but it looks like I may soon have no choice.

That said, I can’t by any means say that my history with Northwest has been pleasant. Decrepit planes, poor customer service, comparatively high prices… I don’t think I’ve had a single NWA trip in the past decade that didn’t have some element of stupidity attached to it. We all know Northwest is one disheveled mess of an airline, but you know what? It’s our mess of an airline, that weird, slightly psychotic member of our Minnesota family we still care about even though it hasn’t been nice to us in a long, long time. Northwest has been here since the 1920s, and now we’re faced with the prospect of our “hometown airline” being based in… Atlanta.

Since I seem to be in the “irrational reason” category now, so you know what else? Delta’s airplanes are ugly. UGLY. Seriously, NO WHITE AIRPLANES. Yes, NWA discarded one of aviation’s greatest logos with the newest design, but overall the look of their planes still kicks Delta’s Wonderbread ass.

So, in whole, less service, more transfers, and uglier airplanes. Lose, lose, lose.

Posted in Journal,News at 10:08 pm

Hey Rudy!


Buh bye. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Posted in News,politics at 11:08 pm

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