Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Stupid Economy

A year after I posted the “with and without stimulus” economist projection, it’s interesting to see how things have actually panned out.

What expert economists said they expected:

What actually happened:

You can see that the projection was that we’d peak at around 8% unemployment, with the stimulus that was proposed. A much smaller stimulus was put into place, and it peaked about 10% instead. But, the projections also said we’d see see a plateau and reduction in unemployment right around the beginning of 2010, and we did. So, it’s been a bit worse than projected, but it’s turning around right on schedule. Of course, it’s still too early to see if this plateau is done and we’re actually recovering, or if we’re just going to plateau until the end of 2010, which would be what was projected to happen without any government intervention. That would suck.

Netflix Blows Off iPad

Fans of the unfortunately-named iPad got another piece of bad news today: Netflix won’t be on it.

So, not only can’t you get any Flash-based web sites (um, most streaming video including Hulu), you also can’t get Netflix (the biggest streaming video supplier).  I know Apple really likes having their own little walled garden, but this is getting silly.

iWhat?

Apple finally announced their much-anticipated tablet computer yesterday, and I still can’t quite figure out what the market is for this device. I’ve spent many hours working on various small computing platforms, and many more hours ruminating over what usage model the tablet computer world is looking for.

I’m one of those strange people who don’t have a cell phone.  It’s not that I don’t see how convenient they could be. I just don’t have a reason to own one. I can’t take it to work (security-crazed high-tech area that forbids almost every piece of 21st-century personal technology), my commute is less than 15 minutes, and I don’t really spend much time on the phone to begin with. Not to mention, cell reception in this town, based on calls I’ve experienced, is sucky at best.

But, even without a cell phone, I’ve been using lots of small computing devices. I had a Palm III, a Sony Clie, and I currently have a Nokia N770.  My beautiful bride has a netbook (also known as the Netflixbook).  I also have my home desktop computer and my homebrew DVR, for non-portable computing devices.  I’ve owned a computer since 1980, and I think I understand how people use them and for what purposes.  But I’m absolutely mystified by where a mass market for a tablet is, at least for something that costs more than $200. I didn’t even buy the N770 until it was clearanced for under 150, because I couldn’t justify the expense of a $300 portable to myself.

Let’s see what the iPad brings, compared to Kat’s netbook (an Asus Eee 1000HE):

  • The iPad has wifi 802.11n.  So does the Eee.
  • The iPad has a 9.7″ screen, at 1024×768. The Eee is 10″ and 1024×600.
  • The iPad has 16-64 GB of solid-state storage. The Eee has 160 GB of hard drive space.
  • The iPad weighs 1.6 pounds; the Eee is 3 pounds.
  • The iPad runs its own special version of the iPod OS, and only works with programs from the App store (or jailbroken eventually I’m sure). The Eee runs Windows XP, with all that it implies.
  • The iPad has 10 hours of hyped battery life. The Eee has 9 hours of hyped battery life. The realities are always different from the marketing, but usually assume 70% of hype for real life.
  • The iPad has no keyboard. Eee – keyboard.
  • The iPad has available 3G data for an extra $130 and monthly fees. Eee has similar capabilies available (we don’t use 3G any more than we use voice cellular service).
  • The iPad will display multimedia and ePub books, but not Flash apps. Eee can do all that AND Flash.
  • The iPad has no camera. Eee has a webcam.
  • The iPad has no USB ports. Eee has three.
  • The iPad has no VGA connector nor Ethernet nor any other standard ports. Eee – yep, got ’em.
  • The iPad can’t multitask with non-Apple applications. Eee – yay for multitasking.
  • The iPad costs $500 for 16gb and no 3G, up to $830 for 64gb and 3G.  The Eee cost under $350.

I’m sorry. I don’t know who wants these besides fanboys. It runs the same OS as the iPhone, but doesn’t have a camera or the ability to make voice calls. It costs more than an iPod Touch or a netbook, but the only thing it seems to bring to the table is a big screen for your iPod. The reason tablet PCs haven’t taken off, even though Microsoft and others have been trying for ten years, is because they are a solution to a problem very few people have.  For the “vertical market” segment, tablets are big business; that market itself isn’t all that large, but it’s a niche and it can be exploited by standard Windows or custom Linux machines. It isn’t likely to be broken into by a giant iPod, and it certainly seems the iPad isn’t aimed at professional markets but at consumers. Consumers with an extra 700 bucks for a device with a very constrained media-consumption experience. I’ve been amazed at a few things over the years, and if the first-generation iPad is a huge success for Apple, it’ll be another one of those things.

All that said, if someone comes out with a cheap handheld computer with keyboard an a real OS, I’m buying it.  Obviously, I’m not Apple’s market. But, who is?

Banning the Dictionary

Thank you, California, for finally diverting some of the “oh no they didn’t” attention from Texas. Menifee, a town in Riverside County, has decided to pull the Webster Collegiate Dictionary from their school library, because it has definitions of terms like “oral sex” and the poor children just can’t handle such things. Seriously, didn’t everyone flip through the dictionary looking for dirty words, just because you could? Our children are not so delicate and easily bruised, people!

Is Menifee in the 909?

Support the Troops

A student at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee was walking home from work when four men pulled him into an alley and forced him to lie face-down with a gun to his neck. They took everything from his pockets, but when the gang leader looked in the victim’s wallet and saw an Army Reserve ID card, he told his accomplices to give him his stuff back. “The guy continued to say throughout the situation that he respects what I do and at one point he actually thanked me and he actually apologized,” the unidentified 21-year-old victim said. “The leader of the group actually walked back [and] gave me a quick fist bump.” Police note that 10 minutes later, the gang robbed another man, who had a Department of Corrections inmate ID in his wallet. They didn’t give him his wallet back.

Gross Soda Fountains

When I’m on a road trip, or even just going to the park with The Boy, I grab a bottle of soda from a convenience store. I know that the fountain drinks are cheaper per ounce, but I justify this by telling myself I don’t actually need a half-gallon of any drink, and they seem to taste funny at times. There was this Arby’s my coworkers and I went to in Arizona – I’m sure the Mountain Dew was laced with some sort of detergent there.

Anyway, there is now a study which makes me glad I’ve been avoiding fountain drinks: they’re laced with bacteria. 48% have some form of coliform bacteria in the beverages. So, I’ll just keep getting my bottle of Vault and leave the e.coli for someone else. Ew.