My Thoughts on Apple’s Product Announcements

Because I’m sure you’re very interested in what I think… OK maybe not but this is my site so I’m going to post my thoughts anyways.

The new iPod Shuffle… meh. I never really found a use for a device that randomly plays from a selection of songs. Don’t get me wrong I have my music players on shuffle most of the time but I also have the ability to listen to songs in order when I chose.

The new iPod Nano… meh. It’s a tiny touch screen device. Of course the touch screen means you can no longer have it sitting in your pocket and skip songs by reaching in and clicking the button.

The new iPod Touch… kind of neat. A full iPhone without having the phone internals or the nicer rear facing camera is a novel idea. It would be a good references platform for anybody wanting to develop iPhone software but no wanting to buy the phone and accompanying contract.

The Apple TV… bleh. I’m not a fan of paying $0.99 to rent a television who and $4.99 to rent a new release movie. Likewise the steaming support is most likely only going to support the few formats that iTunes does which are few and far between. The ability to stream NetFlix is pretty cool if you don’t already have an Xbox 360 to do it.

iTunes 10… meh. Social networking for music? Man I wish somebody would have thought that one up before.

Overall I wasn’t impressed with anything announced. Everything was evolutionary (nothing wrong with that granted) except the Apple TV and that was ruined to me the second they said it was going to work on a rental only model. I will say if I ever decide to start developing iPhone software I may get an iPod Touch as reference hardware but I don’t see that happening anytime soon (if ever).

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Unless you’re the National Rifle Association (NRA) apparently. The Gun Rights Examiner has a piece talking about how the NRA is taking credit for the recent McDonald vs. Chicago case that incorporated the Second Amendment. The case was bankrolled and petitioned to the Supreme Court by the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) but the NRA seems to ignore that fact when they talk about it. Both the NRA and the SAF had a case to bring to the Supreme Court and the head honchos of judiciary chose the SAF case. The NRA then petitioned and were granted shared time in the SAF case.

Needless to say in the NRA-ILA article that the Examiner was talking about didn’t both to mention SAF once. That is pretty dickish if I do say so myself. I think it’s about time I went and practiced my other privilege of being a member of the NRA, complain to the organization when they aren’t doing what they should be doing.

Impressive Sony E-Book Reader Update

With all the posts I do about Amazon’s Kindle (of which my new one should arrive today) and Barnes and Nobel’s Nook I often forget to even mention Sony’s lineup of e-book readers. This is mostly because Sony’s line has had a major drawback, it requires syncing with a desktop computer using their software that only works on Windows. The only time I run Windows is via a virtual machine. Some time ago Sony introduced the Reader Daily Edition that included 3G capabilities allowing you to untether from your desktop but by that time the Kindle already had a solid foot in the door.

Today Sony announced some impressive updates to their Reader lineup. Namely all three models now have touch screens, E Ink Pearl (the same screen used in the new Kindles), and the Daily Edition now supports Wi-Fi (because everybody else was doing it). But one major speed bump lies between Sony and relevance, price. The Reader Pocket Edition, their cheapest device, comes in at $179.00. At this price it includes no connectivity options except tethering it to a computer. For $189.00 you can get the Kindle with both 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity and for $199.00 you can get the Barnes and Nobel Nook with the same. The only Sony Reader with connectivity options (both Wi-Fi and 3G) is the Daily Edition which comes in at $299.00.

Of course Sony can point to their touch screen but that really doesn’t enhance the experience enough to justify the massive increase in price. E Ink displays are slow meaning you aren’t going to get instant feedback when you do something that requires the screen to change. Even with a touch screen you’re not going to be able to scroll down through a book on the Sony Reader as you can with your web browser on a smart phone. If you try to flick the page down the entire screen will take a noticeable fraction of a second to refresh. It’s not that big of a deal really but it means the addition of touch screen controls really isn’t going to add anything over the hard button controls the Kindle uses. The Nook has the second LCD touch screen that avoids the Sony Reader’s problem as LCD’s refresh faster than the human brain can notice making it appear instant.

Still the addition of a touch screen E Ink display is pretty cool and I have to had Sony some credit on that.

On the Iraq War

Well the Obamessiah gave his speech that the United States has officially ended combat operations in Iraq. Now everybody is stating that the war in Iraq is over, but with all this talk about combat troops leaving one thing has seemingly been overlooked. We have quite a few of those mercenaries [sorry that’s the politically incorrect word now] private contractors over in Iraq at the moment:

Estimated number of U.S.-(taxpayer)-paid private contractors in Iraq: More than 180,000, again undoubtedly an all-time high. That figure includes approximately 21,000 Americans, 43,000 non-Iraqi foreign contractors (including Chileans, Nepalese, Colombians, Indians, Fijians, El Salvadorans, and Filipinos among others), and 118,000 Iraqis, but does not include a complete count of “private security contractors who protect government officials and buildings,” according to State Department and Pentagon figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Even though we only have 50,000 “non-combat soldiers” in Iraq there are over three times that many mercenaries employed by the United States still sitting there. That seems like a lot of personnel to have in a country where we are no longer performing “combat operations.”

Personally I don’t call that a mission accomplished (again?) but a sly way of claiming the war is over while still keeping the country occupied.

Assange Shouldn’t Fly

A short while back I mentioned there was in interesting situation involving Julian Assange the founder of WikiLeaks. Rape charges were brought against him and then dropped almost as suddenly. It appears that the rape charges have been reinstated as well as the charges of molestation. Mr. Assange has stated the previous time these charges came up that he believed this to be a smear campaign and I actually find myself believing him.

It seems awfully convenient that these charges materialized so shortly after WikiLeaks posted confidential documents related to the war in Afghanistan. Fuel has just been added to the fire with the whole dropping of the charges due to lack of evidence only to have the charges brought back on the table. In my last post on this subject I mentioned the book Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. One thing that book brings up is that a favorite way for the CIA to assassinate somebody is by sabotaging small personal aircraft. I’m just going to state that Mr. Assange would be wise not to get onto any small personal aircraft in the near future.

Rail Mounted Power

This is a neat idea that doesn’t seem to actually solve the problem it’s designed to. The Firearm Blog brought to our attention the Rifle Integrated Power Rail (RIPR). It’s pretty simple, a battery that provides power to rail mounted accessories through the rails. It seems like a novel idea since you’d no longer be required to carry additional batteries for every accessory on your rifle.

Of course there’s also the major downside; if the RIPR fails all of your accessories go down. This seems to eliminate and advantage considering the following:

We’re not that worried about a RIPR battery going tits up. You would of course carry spares with you. We’re more worried about the plug-in unit/rail (into which the RIPR battery is inserted) failing. If that goes down, you’re done–unless you have spare batteries for the individual accessories, of course.

So now you carry additional RIPR batteries as well as batteries for your individual accessories. That seems to add weight to both the rifle and your load out. Convergence is good in some situations and not so hot in others. Having a small portable computer in your pocket that can make phone calls, listen to music, browse the Internet, and act as a GPS navigator. The reason such devices work well is because losing all of those functions is a nuisance.

Convergence doesn’t work so well when redundancy is critical. For instance a RAID 5 array on a server prevents a system from dying if any single hard drive fails. RAID 0 on the other hand means your entire server will die if any single drive dies. The reason servers generally use RAID 5 is because having the entire system go down if a single drive fails is not acceptable. Once the system is down anything that relies on that server is now useless. The same would go for the RIPR, if it fails every power-using accessory on your gun dies. If these accessories include a flashlight or some kind of night optic requiring power your rifle is now pretty useless in the dark. Personally given the size of the RIPR and the fact that you would still need to carry batteries for individual accessories I feel it’s a solution in search of a problem.