Monday, September 30, 2013

Apple and Steve Jobs

I miss Steve Jobs.

Of course I didn't know him personally, and I never had any personal connection with Apple. But the world lost something with Jobs' death. His charisma. His marketing and business brilliance. And, most of all, his innovation.

Apple is still making good products. But so is Samsung, Amazon and Asus. But are they making GREAT products? The kind of cutting edge, innovative and beautiful products that make people say "wow" every time they see them?

Since Jobs died, Apple has continued to release new products, like the Iphone 5 and the Ipad 3 and 4. They are nice. But they are incremental improvements on previous models-- a little faster, a little lighter, and little brighter. And this is what all of the companies are doing. And this is the rut that Apple previously got itself into in the years that Jobs was in exile. Trying to leapfrog devices that other companies put out.

Think how different that is from what was happening until 2011. Every year or 2, apple was coming out with a REVOLUTIONARY product, that had the competition catching up for years. Forget the first Ipad, which blew the competition out of the water. (It is still better than most of the competition out there).  Think of Ipad 2. It wasn't just a little faster or lighter. It was completely redesigned, adding multiple new groundbreaking features (like Facetime) and announced in parallel with wonderful Ipad applications like Garageband. Part of the genius was pairing the hardware with great software and content and how the two worked together. There is nothing that comes even close to Itunes U, for example.

But now, it seems that Apple is treading water. They come out with new models once a year, but nothing really groundbreaking. I hear they're coming out with an Ipad 5, a little lighter and thinner than Ipad 4. Great. But its not going to make people run out and buy them. A few more years of this and they will lose their edge.

Monday, May 13, 2013

So I have switched to Android, and I am sold

Well, I switched but not entirely. I still have my IPad which I love and use a lot. And my trusty IPod Touch still sits on my nightstand, in its dock. But I recently bought an Android phone (Sony Xperia Ray) and I absolutely love it.

Physically, the phone itself is great. Personally, I think its silly to walk around with a large brick in your hand that can't easily be carried in a pocket or belt case. So all of those phones with 4 or 5 inch screens make no sense to me. Nowadays, who doesn't have access to a regular PC anyway? I still want a smartphone, but web access is only for occasional on-the-go use, and a smaller screen does not bother me. The Ray's 3.3" screen is just right. Perfect for email, typing short messages, running Waze, and occasional news check on the web. I have an old horizontal belt case that holds it perfectly. I got a silicone protector off of Ebay for $2.

Even though the android version is not the latest (it runs 2.3.4), it is every bit as intuitive and easy to use as IOS. In fact, the standard Android back and menu button makes learning to use any app easier than with IOS. And, most of all, the fact that almost every aspect of the phone is customizable (either with settings or with separate apps), without the need to "root" ("jailbreak"), makes it a joy to use. Want to change the dialer or keyboard? No problem. I love the swiping gestures for typing. It makes the small keyboard screen easy to use. Screen widgets are integrated into Android and give a tremendous advantage over IOS devices. Want a quick shortcut for turning off your Bluetooth, or a Google search? How about turning on a wi-fi hotspot? Live weather and clock widgets are also included, and many more can be downloaded. Just by tapping an icon on your home screen, these functions become far more convenient than having to navigate through layers of settings menus. Just about any function or setting can set up as a widget or shortcut. For the hackers out there, "rooting" Android provides yet more flexibility (although it voids the phone warranty), and gives you the ability to install entirely new firmwares, which are freely available. There is a slight disadvantage in that because there are different variations of android available for hundreds of different phones, there is occasional incompatibility. But the sheer breadth of available software more than compensates for this shortcoming.

The integration with Google services is seamless, so its easy to sync contacts, calendars and email. Importing old contacts from my old Nokia posed little difficulty. Using the Play store (android market) is a pleasure--its available from any PC (no Itunes!), and any app you request is instantly downloaded to your device.

Everything just works. Of course, nobody can beat Apple on the variety and quality of media in the Itunes Store, and admittedly this is a big selling point. But my phone is still primarily a phone, with occasional use for other functions. I don't buy albums or movies to watch on my phone. I do love podcasts, and there are lots of podcast apps (many free) in the Android market.

Finally, my Android phone was much less expensive than an IPhone. Intense competition and innovation keeps the prices down. I bought my unlocked Sony from an independent dealer for about 1100 NIS, whereas an IPhone would cost 3 times that.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

DebkaFile and Haaretz- for the morons out there

Periodically, out of boredom or curiosity, I still visit both the Debkafile and  Haaretz websites.

They remain on my bookmark list because years ago I used to take them seriously. DEBKAfile claims to have inside scoops on everything about Israel, security, terrorism and the Middle East. Sometimes their analyses seems intelligent, with a conservative, security oriented slant. Other times their articles really seem over the edge, like this story. Are well really stupid enough to believe that the US president would be visiting Israel if there was a serious credible threat of a chemical attack at the airport? Sometimes they just make shit up, apparently due to a Caroline Glick-like paranoia and hatred of the left and Obama.

In many ways, DEBKAfile is the Jewish equivalent of the right wing Christian WorldNet Daily. They openly promote radical right wing conspiracy theories and fear-mongering. If their analyses and predictions were true, Al-Qeeda would have taken over the world years ago, and we Jews (and Christians) would all be kneeling down to Allah in front of our Salafi Muslim masters.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is the English Haaretz website. The English and Hebrew pages for Haaretz are quite different. The Hebrew site , although decidedly left wing and whiny about anything related to the settlements and the Palestinians, represents an authentic Zionist and dovish perspective. In Israeli it is read by a small but elite group, especially for its excellent finance section. The English site, on the other hand, has a  anti-Israel, post-Zionist slant. If you didn't know you were reading Haaretz, often you would guess that you were looking at a leftist anti-Israel European newspaper.  An editorial slant is acceptable. However, the choice of news stories of leading headlines, as well as mis-translations, change the tone of a story entirely. This has been written about and documented by several observers. There is an unfortunate parallel to the doom-and gloom fantasies of DEBKAfile.  If we were to believe Haaretz's scoops and analyses, Israel long ago would have either become a shunned South Africa-like country, living in poverty due to sanctions and boycott, or a Jewish State living in bliss next to a peaceful, progressive and democratic Arab state of Palestine.

Both websites suffer from the same pseudo-intellectual and delusional thinking.