Recently in Technology Category
March 1, 2014
I had an odd experience on Facebook the other day. It's probably the closest I'll ever come to those apocryphal tales of warriors emerging from the jungles of Asia to discover that the war ended decades ago. A friend posted about the GoTo security flaw that has afflicted Apple devices, that was fixed over the last week or so.
He mentioned, in passing, that Apple products were no longer the bastion of security they once were. Someone immediately popped up ranting about "90% marketing and 10% security by obscurity", and I thought "Really? There's still someone out there fighting the Mac versus PC war?"
Serving in the OS war trenches
I served my time in those trenches a good 15 years or so back. I valiantly fought for my beloved Mac against the overwhelming hordes of PC users that made up my friends and colleagues. I used to feel guilty about it, like it was an embarrassment from my youth, but I've sort of gotten over that. I was battling to preserve an OS that I preferred using, in a time when there was a very real possibility that it might disappear. There's nothing wrong in standing up for choice. In that, that's why today's Android versus iOS battle doesn't even feel remotely similar, because both OSes are doing very nicely, thankyouverymuch. Neither is at any risk of expiring. In fact, as a consumer, I'm rather enjoying watching two strong competitors drive each other ever onwards. It means a better device in my pocket, whichever side I choose.
This Facebook warrior that started this rambling thought process, emerging from the jungle, is coming out to find that his side, which we'll call Micro$oft for old times' sake, won. And what it won was - irrelevance. You can't dispute that Microsoft still has an utter stranglehold on corporate computing, putting a PC on the desktop of pretty much every corporate drone out there. And you'll have to pry PCs from the cold, dead hands of gamers everywhere.
If it's not mobile it doesn't matter
But beyond that? The landscape has changed, and all the interest - and sales - are in mobile devices. Poor old Microsoft is a distant third in this game, climbing up nervously even after it saw BlackBerry plummet down past it a short while ago. It's been utterly unable to turn its market dominance into PCs into amiable strategy in the mobile age, and has made the unedifying discovery that its critics were right: its main selling point was being a cheap, flexible knock-off of an Apple OS. How does it know? Because Google's cheap, flexible knock off of an Apple OS is kicking its butt in the marketplace.
The irony is that Microsoft has done it right this time. It built something fresh, original and iconic in Windows Phone. And it can't shift it in any significant numbers. Only its hardest core fans have gone for it, and its traditional buyers have gone Android in their droves. It's a pity, because like many Apple fans, I really like Windows Phone.
Never trust a fanboy
If there's any moral to this tale, it's possibly that: never take business strategy advice from Apple fanboys. Oh, and don't fight last decade's OS wars. It just makes you look silly on Facebook.
This is the first in a series of one-a-day substantive posts I'm going to try to write through March.
February 28, 2014
You know that quote you always hear?
Information Wants To Be Free.
It's not the whole quote.
Here's the entirely of it:
Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive. ...That tension will not go away
The whole quote is so much more interesting than the shortened version. And people only quoting the shortened version tell you a lot about themselves…
February 26, 2014
February 25, 2014
What do we have here? A video promoting a piece of software called Ember, starring me (and completely scene-stolen by my daughter):
This all came about at the last TEDxBrighton. Thibault - whom I'd first met when he was working with Brilliant Noise - has recently joined Realmac, and I was singing the praises of Ember to him, as I'd recently discovered it. Would I appear in a video promoting it? Yes, I said. And promptly forgot about it.
It was a fascinating insight into how talented filmmakers construct the narrative of a video like this. And it actually makes my life seem significantly more cool than it actually is. (Hazel is exactly that cute, though - and demands her appearance fees paid in Duplo).
All in all, a worthwhile experience, in the service of a worthwhile piece of software. It's probably the only advert I'll ever appear in, but I did enjoy the process.
February 17, 2014
Every time I think a proper job would be nice again...
I remember a grey slab I was issued by the tech quartermasters when I started my last proper job, packed with software designed to process ideas and thoughts into grey, bullet-pointed entropy. Then I was given a "smart" phone to match. A phone so bad, it allegedly destroyed the electronics in one of my colleagues' car when he plugged it into to its USB port.
...something reminds me why it wouldn't.
February 12, 2014
February 11, 2014
Many of you will have seen something like this when you visit my blog today:
And I'm far from alone. Here's Antony Mayfield's blog:
And here's Christian Payne's:
It's not often that I use my blog for political purposes, but this is something I feel strongly about. I've heard from people on both sides of the issue, and while I can appreciate the effectiveness of mass surveillance in proventing terrorist attacks, I still can't find it in myself to condone mass surveillance of people who have no reasonable suspicion of involvement hanging over them. Just because the nature of the internet makes this easier does not mean this is an acceptable or reasonable way for democratic societies to behave.
So, I've signed the petition against it, and I urge you to consider doing the same - or writing to your congress respresentative if you're in the US.
February 3, 2014
As I said in my last post, the disruptor can be disrupted...
Henry Taylor, writing for the MediaBriefing:
Design and business title Katachi magazine is an example of doing it yourself if the tools aren't available to you. Founder and editor, Ken Olling, spent 3 years creating Origami Engine - InDesign-inspired software built purely for touch experiences:
We started with the idea of a magazine but very quickly realised there wasn't anything out there built for touch. InDesign is a great product for print but it's the wrong tool for the mobile medium.
Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite, which sits atop InDesign to produce tablet editions is a clumsy process that creates clunky results. This, coupled with resistance from some customers to the shift to a software rental model though Creative Cloud, makes it feel like the chink in InDesign's armour...
Many of us of a, um, certain vintage will recall the days when Quark Xpress ruled the desktop publishing roost. Stephen Hackett charts its fall:
The application that once enjoyed upwards of 90% marketshare is now regulated to the sidelines. Looking back, the app's demise was long and slow, giving the company lots of time to change course.
It didn't, of course. And that allowed Adobe to get InDesign into pretty much every publisher out there.
Quark was a notoriously slow and uncommunicative company back then - but its software made publishing so easy it was hard not to love it - until they really fell behind. The disruptor can be disrupted...
January 31, 2014
Talking about your first Mac is A Thing right now. It's because it's the Mac's 30th anniversary, and everyone's getting terribly excited about the whole thing.
I can't claim to have been a Mac user for 30 years. I think, in fact, it's about 23 years. In mid-1991, I was in the process of taking over Cub, the student magazine of Queen Mary College, London - then known as Queen Mary & Westfield - and the office looked very much like this:
That's a Mac Classic there. And yes, that's me using it. And yes, that's a beard. And an ashtray. That rather dates it, doesn't it? I wasn't a smoker - never have been - but many of the staff were, and they quite happily smoked on the office.
I think that Classic was actually our second Mac. The original one was a SE/30 which didn't have a hard drive. Using it involved swapping floppies with the apps and the data on them. That was quite an experience. Still, on that tiny little screen, in that cupboard of an office, using a probably-dodgy copy of Quark Xpress, we managed to get a 20 page student magazine out every fortnight during term time.
Those two little machines changed my relationship with computers. I'd had a ZX81 and a ZX Spectrum, but they'd never been more tha glorified games machines. At the Felix magazine office, the Imperial College student magazine I'd worked on before switching degrees, the serious kit was operated by professionals. With that tiny little box, we could do pretty much all of that - and more.
It made me realise that technology could widen access to publishing - that it could enable it, in fact. And that was the first real step on the journey to where I am now.
But dammit, that screen was tiny.
January 16, 2014
A long time ago, I used to say that the magazine wouldn't be truly dead until we could read a computer in the bath.
It was funnier back then, because we were still largely in the CRT era, and the idea of lugging a huge TV-like thing into the bathroom was more like the cartoon idea of suicide than it was anything practical.
Time passed, as it does, and the world changed. We got flat screens, and laptops, and finally the iPad ushered us into the tablet era.
But I still wasn't reading magazines in the bath. What sort of an idiot would take hundreds of pounds worth of electronics, and sit with it in a tub full of water?
When John Lewis sent me a waterproof case for the iPad to review from their pretty wide selection of iPad accessories, I couldn't help but laugh. (I normally say "no" to these kinds of things, but, y'know, John Lewis.) Time to read the web in the bath?
Now, I'm not a frequent bather. I shower every day, but parenthood and consulting don't leave a lot of time to lay around reading in the bath - but I got some time over the festive period. I'm not a fool either. It looked pretty safe, but my precious (oh, so precious) iPad wasn't going into that thing straight away. Let's try it with something cheaper like, ooh, my Kindle Fire:
Lovely little device, the Kindle Fire. Responsive, fast, a pleasure to read on. A real enhancement to a long leisurely soak with a book. And much, much cheaper to replace than my iPad if this all went wrong. Two or three times in the tub with not trace of moisture getting into the bag, and I was ready for the big one:
Now, it's not perfect. The responsiveness of the touch screen is noticeably reduced by the giant waterproof sheath you've put around that iPad of yours. The headphone socket can be a little fiddly, but works fine. These are all quibbles, though. It does exactly what you want it to do - allows you to use an iPad safely and comfortably in a water-drenched environment.
Apple's latest adverts have shown people using iPads in all sorts of environments. Funny how it's a nice, sunny day in most of those images, isn't it? Leaving aside the bathtub use case, this actually turns the iPad into a device you can take into all sorts of environments with you safely - and extends its range as a journalistic tool, as a result.
And, my testing proves that you can now, indeed, read a magazine in the bath on your iPad.
Print is doomed, I tell you, doomed.
December 21, 2013
It was really a make-it or break-it moment, the stakes were high, and I knew it would be success or failure on a global, public stage. At the time, I was exhausted from very little sleep, emotionally drained, in a daze, jet-lagged. At the same time, I was fueled off executing off a researched plan, working with a team, a bit of French coffee, lots of adrenaline, and hope that everything was just gonna somehow work out.
That's a hell of a way to place a huge career (and, thus, family) bet on a vision of what social media could be - rather than what it is now.