Should I Buy the New iPad?

Posted: March 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

So, with all the hype surrounding the release of the ‘New iPad’ (no new name apparently), you may be wondering if you should take the plunge or stick with your old iPad 2. Here’s my view:

First off, if you don’t own an iPad, or have the original version, I’d go for it. It’s certainly a fine piece of technology and a vast upgrade over the iPad 1.

On the other hand, I don’t see the new unit being worth purchasing if you’ve already invested in an iPad 2 — unless you require it for testing purposes as we who develop for the iOS platform do. The improvements to the screen are very nice; but most people won’t really miss them should they just retain their iPad 2.

Camera improvements? Who really uses the camera on the iPad anyway? The only time I do is for video conferencing; and I am not as concerned about resolution as I am in performance, which would be decreased should hi-rez be utilized in FaceTime. The front-facing camera hasn’t been improved anyway; so that’s a non-issue.

The faster chip is nice… but most people wouldn’t miss it unless they had the units side-by-side to compare. For the majority of applications people use, the impact is going to be next to diddly-squat.

LTE? Well that’s great in theory; however, wireless network speeds in Canada at least are poor and inconsistent. Beyond that, associated data plans are ridiculously expensive; and most people use their iPads on Wifi as a result. So, again, not a big deal.

I really feel that subsequent to Steve Jobs’ death, Apple has delivered two lacklustre products in a row with the iPhone 4s and the ‘New iPad’. Siri? Really? That was available on the app store before Apple acquired the company that designed it. Sure they improved the product; but does an app justify a purchase decision for a new phone?

The improved camera on the iPhone 4s is certainly a better fit, given the number of people who use it on that platform… but is it enough to warrant an upgrade? If you had to expend $800 for a new phone (as I do, given my refusal to be locked into contracts thanks very much) would you consider that a worthwhile investment, given the minor improvements the 4s represents? I don’t, and will be waiting for the iPhone 5, which will hopefully bring a lot more in terms of innovation to the table.

I don’t expect incremental improvement from you Apple; that’s not what I pay a premium price for. I want revolutionary, not evolutionary. It’s what people expect of you… please deliver.

Dear Apple,
I know we’ve only been friends for a short time; however, I thought, in the interest of maintaining that friendship, I’d write you this little note regarding the recent changes to your App Store’s policy on updates.

Used to be, that when a developer released an update, his app was given extra exposure in the market by way of its inclusion in the iTunes section particular to the category for that app (i.e. the All Apps section sorted by its default: release date). It wasn’t a huge amount of exposure (as your app was quickly bumped down the list by others that had been released more recently), but it was very helpful, and justified the time and expense of adding new features, and generally improving your app.

Now, only new (i.e. version 1.0 or less) apps that have never been seen before on the App Store will benefit from this exposure. While I understand this is closer to most people’s definition of ‘new’, this policy will have several negative effects:

  • The quality of apps featured in this section (given their 1.0 status) will generally decrease, leading to less interest in items listed therein
  • Developers will be more incented to release new apps instead of improving their old ones, given the enhanced exposure for these titles and the lack thereof for their former efforts. This again reduces the general quality of apps on iTunes.
  • Those without a large marketing budget (i.e. over 90% of your developer base) will lose interest in developing for your platform if they can gain no exposure for their app, which subsequent its release, disappears into the bowels of iTunes, seldom to be seen again — therefore generating no revenue for either the developer or Apple. Just how much money do you think the average developer can spend on marketing anyway when their app retails for a buck?

I can clearly understand your rationale for making this move; as I am certain there were many developers gaming the system by releasing frequent, though insignificant ‘updates’ in order to maximize their marketing presence on iTunes. There should be some middle ground however that would work for everyone. Perhaps, given each app is manually reviewed, the significance of the update can be ascertained at that time, and a database flag can be set indicating its worthiness, or lack thereof, for inclusion in the section. Failing that, perhaps offer developers the opportunity to be featured within on a monthly basis. This would hopefully ensure the developer would have sufficient time to perform updates of significance, and generally improve the quality of apps on the store.

There will always be people who will attempt to game the system… that doesn’t mean you should throw the baby out with the bathwater! So again, in the interest of maintaining our budding relationship, may I suggest you rethink your policy in light of the above.

Your bud,

The Good

As you may be aware, iTunes Match is Apple’s new service which enables any iTunes user to store their entire music library in the cloud (i.e. on a web server), and thereafter access that content from any device associated with their account.

Sounds great! Indeed it is — at least conceptually. I no longer have to worry about which music to store on my iPhone or iPad; it’s all available to me on either device at any time, despite the fact that my music library is well beyond the capacity of any of my iOS powered units. Not only this, but all of my playlists and counts are automatically synced among my devices — awesome.

Beyond this (and the reason I signed up for the service in the first place), when you download that song from the cloud, it arrives on your machine as a full 256K DRM-free package — regardless of the bit rate or DRM status of your original file. So, if like me you have hundreds of songs purchased from iTunes before the advent of iTunes Plus, you can upgrade them for the price of a year’s subscription to Match… instead of paying hundreds of dollars you otherwise would. Simply delete the old version from your local store, and download the new from the cloud. You can even make a smart playlist to select all your old 128 bit, purchased files to make the job easier.

The Bad

If your tastes are somewhat outside the norm in terms of popularity (e.g. I am a huge jazz and classical music buff), and your library is large, the process is going to be quite lengthy. It took nearly 24 hours to index my library and upload the content it didn’t already have a match for in the cloud — and I have a 50 megabit Internet connection. If you have a bandwidth cap from your ISP, this can get very expensive indeed!

Unfortunately, the iTunes interface doesn’t allow you to choose whether you wish to simply stream the music to your device when you listen to it and discard the file remnants thereafter; if you listen to it, it now resides on your unit. While I can see some advantages to this strategy (such as incurring less bandwidth costs from everyone’s perspective), what eventually happens is that your device fills up, forcing you to turn off “Show All Music” in the iPhone’s settings, and manually delete albums one at a time in order to free up space for apps etc. You can’t even bulk delete by selecting them when your iPhone is connected to iTunes via USB cable!

I’d much prefer the choice to stream or store. Otherwise, they should implement a mechanism which would allow the user to set a cap on iTunes storage and have it automatically delete the content having fewest plays when you reach that threshold and attempt to add more… seems simple to me.

The Ugly

So, let’s say you’re out and about and want to listen to something stored in the cloud. Well, assuming you’re not at a location which offers free wifi, you’ll have to use 3G. That’s fine; you have a data plan, right? So you’re strolling down the street listening to an album when suddenly you notice it’s skipped a song. Hmmm. That’s strange. So you go into iTunes and try to play that song… denied. Apparently it’s too long and has hit up against the iOS 3G bandwidth limit. Really?! WTF.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m an avid classical music fan, and generally movements last a wee bit longer than a standard 3 minute song! This greatly decreases the utility of the service for me. Hey Apple, it’s my bandwidth, how about a choice? If I know that I am going to consume substantial bandwidth (perhaps by a warning dialogue or some such mechanism) and I agree to that proposition, shouldn’t I be permitted to?

All in all however, I’m impressed with the service so far; and given it is new, will cut them some slack while they work the kinks out. I’m certain user feedback will drive change, and over time use of iTunes Match will be as ubiquitous as iTunes itself.

So today I pushed a button out of habit (Sirius has changed all their channel numbers from those I had programmed in on my car sat radio) trying to tune in CBC on Sirius. I landed on a channel where three women were engaged in a live discussion about sticking a variety of objects up their butts… WHILE they were occupied in this activity. They even had a segment where they tried to guess what had just been inserted in their posterior.

If this is what passes for entertainment now, I seriously want to fill out whatever application needs to be filed to apply for membership in another species.

“Pastor” Mike Stahl recently posted on his (now ‘by invitation only’) blog that he was thinking about creating a national atheist registry in order, I suppose, that folks would be able to protect themselves from Satan’s evil minions on earth by being aware of their neighbour’s near-criminal lack of belief in god.

Says Mr. Stahl (verbatim):

Now, many (especially the atheists), may ask “Why do this, what’s the purpose?”Duhhh, Mr. Atheist for the same purpose many States put the names and photos of convicted sex offenders and other ex-felons on the I-Net – to INFORM the public! I mean, in the City of Miramar, Florida, where I live, the population is approx. 109,000. My family and I would sure like to know how many of those 109,000 areADMITTED atheists! Perhaps we may actually know some. In which case we could begin to witness to them and warn them of the dangers of atheism. Or perhaps they are radical atheists, whose hearts are as hard as Pharaoh’s, in that case, if they are business owners, we would encourage all our Christian friends, as well as the various churches and their congregations NOT to patronize them as we would only be “feeding” Satan.

Frankly, I don’t see why anyone would oppose this idea – including the atheists themselves (unless of course, they’re actually ashamed of their atheist religion, and would prefer to stay in the ‘closet.’).

So, apparently atheists are pretty much the same as sex offenders, criminals, and devil worshipers — and need to be kept track of to limit their exposure to decent folk. Well, sign me up Mike! I am quite happy to be put on a list that demonstrates clear opposition to such a twisted world view as you seem to possess, by way of my inclusion.

I’d really love to understand how the simple non-belief in a supreme being merits such suspicion and disdain. Would pastor Mike also care to put me on a list stating I didn’t believe (despite the movie providing obvious evidence to the contrary) in Thor? I mean, come on — he’s got that funky hat and cool hammer after all… How can you not sign up to worship someone who controls the elements and once lived in city only reached by crossing a rainbow bridge? You’d think at least the gay community would be following him in droves — oh but they’re evil too… I forgot.

Frankly I don’t much care about what people use to help them get through the day and deny their own mortality. And hey, if you want to whisper to imaginary beings in hopes of gaining favour in the imaginary afterlife, fill your boots. However, I do care when I see crackpots such as pastor Mike are becoming more representative of the normal spectrum of voters particular to the United States. Any country that has a presidential debate solely on the issue of Christianity, and where the greatest smear campaign against the front-runner was to suggest he was a ‘secret muslim’, has a serious credibility deficit among the thoughtful of other nations in terms of that country’s espoused belief in freedom of religion — guaranteed by a constitution additionally seen as holy writ by its purported adherents.

Freedom of religion is fine… freedom from religion is the loftier goal, and one well worthy of pursuing.

Here we go again…

Posted: August 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

Well, I deleted all my previous postings and decided to start fresh here in Nanaimo. British Columbia is beautiful — the people are warm and friendly, and hopefully I’ll have less cause for complaint as a result.

View from my balcony