j.j. toothman

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Category: Tech (page 1 of 4)

Gruber Gets Us

An by “us”, I’m referring to my family.  In writing about the recent iPhone 4S announcement by Apple, John Gruber writes:

As for the argument that Apple has failed because the iPhone 4S, however nice an improvement overall, is not enough to entice iPhone 4 users to upgrade — so what? Normal people don’t buy brand-new $700 smartphones each and every year. In the U.S. they buy them on two-year contracts, and they don’t shop for new ones until their old contracts are over. So the iPhone that the 4S needs to present a compelling upgrade for is the 3GS, not the 4. And the iPhone 4S absolutely smokes the 3GS. It’s crazy better than the 3GS. 2009 3GS buyers who skipped the iPhone 4 — which I’m guessing are most of them — ought to be delighted by the iPhone 4S.

We saw the same criticism with the iPad 2 — that it wasn’t a compelling upgrade for existing iPad owners. In a way, those critics are right — the iPad 2 is not a compelling upgrade. But it wasn’t supposed to be — Apple expected iPad 1 owners to keep using the iPads they already own. Normal people don’t replace $600 gadgets annually — and they rightfully expect their $600 gadgets to remain useful and relevant for more than 12 months.

I read that and pretty much saw how my mind (and wallet) think when considering new Apple products.  I really don’t want to be an annual iPhone upgrade cycle.  So the iPhone 4S really should be compared to the iPhone 3GS in my purchasing decision making.

Similarly, there’s no way I’m dropping $499 every year on the latest iPad.  That’s just insane.  I can only hope that the next iPad product line iteration smokes the first generation iPad.  I still haven’t decided what the cycle should be for upgrading the family iPad.  My current thinking is $499 every two years seems a bit steep for what is not a critical piece of computing hardware within the household.  I imagine as Mason and Jude get older, the importance of the iPad will rise within our family.  In fact I expect them to have their own iPads as their primary computing device for school well before they have laptops or desktops.  Even when they get to the point of having to write reports and research papers, I’m thinking they’ll be more inclined to use another computer they have access to, such as at a library, instead of having their own tradition laptop or desktop.

Lastly, another great thought from Gruber is his comparison of the iPhone 4 design to the Porsche 911 design.  I think it’s spot on.

Apple pursues timeless style, not fleeting trendiness. This iPhone design might be like that of the Porsche 911 — a distinctive, iconic, timeless, instantly-recognizable representation of the product’s brand itself.

On the passing of Steve Jobs

And just like that, Steve Jobs was gone.

(Note: I rarely cross post the same piece to multiple blogs.  But in a tribute to Steve Jobs, I’m going to do so with this post.  Steve liked to say that he worked where technology met the liberal arts. His work crossed a lot of boundaries.  In that spirit, I’m going to share this on the many blogs I contribute to where the subject cross various boundaries.) 

I have always found it interesting to assess how I react to the passing of people whom I never got a chance to meet.  But despite that, they’re still people that have played a significant role in my life by inspiring me, adding joy, and impacting my life in so many positive ways.  It always takes me a while to collect my thoughts and find that proper clarity.  Clarity that helps me determine the proper perspective and context of the significance of the person the world has just lost.  As clarity emerged for me late last night, too late for me to start writing anything, I realized that the last time I felt this deep sense of loss (for someone who I had never met) was when Jerry Garcia died

Like Jerry Garcia, Steve Jobs infused a lot of joy into my life. Jerry did it with the sounds of his guitar, the songs he played, and the festive parties1 we both participated in.  Steve jobs impacted my life with technology.  Life changing technology.  As Steve would put it, it was (and is) technology infused with the  liberal arts.

I did not grow up an Apple user.  I do not have a story that involves my first Apple II. In fact, I learned computing on TRS-80s, Commodore 64s, and IBM PCs.  On those systems, I learned how to write programs in BASIC, how to operate MS-DOS, and how to launch computer games via the DOS prompt. 

Back in the 80s, my mother was involved with desktop publishing and, as you might expect, involved with evaluating Apple products and desktop publishing software.  My first exposure to Apple and the genius of Steve Jobs was the Macintosh she brought home to evaluate  The Macintosh – a personal computer with a graphical user interface that made a fun, somehow appealing deep tone announcing its presence whenever you turned it on.  Mom may have brought that home to evaluate for work, but I was the one really evaluating it.2 This only child found an instant playmate.  MacPaint.  Solitaire.  Just moving the mouse around and seeing the cursor move with you was a thrill.  It felt like…the future.

You would think that such an experience would create an Apple fanboy for life.  But it didn’t happen that way.  The main computer in the house remained an IBM PC.  That’s what got me through high school papers and college applications.  Attending the University of Vermont meant having a PC as well.  And so it went for me.  Developing early computing proficiencies that do this day have me primarily working primarily on a windows machine.  Nevertheless, the windows machines were life changing and would not be the same without Steve’s innovations with the graphical user interface.  I use computers every day.  Personally and professionally.  I can manipulate, absorb, and produce information in countless ways.  Ways I never would have imagined as a 13 year old boy.  If Steve doesn’t evolve personal computing with the GUI, I’m probably not writing this blog post right now. Or working in the job I have right now.  Or living in the house I am right now. Thank you, Steve

No, Steve Jobs didn’t start impacting my life with his own life altering inventions until the iPod came out. That was the first Apple product I ever owned. When I got one, my music collection was already spinning out control.  Having to select 10 CDs to take with me in the car or to work was not only hard to do due to having to think ahead about what I might want to listen to 4 hours from now, but also time consuming.  The iPod changed everything.  I could put the bulk of my music and have it at my fingertips for any moment. And it was the size of my wallet.  So small that it was easy to misplace. I once wrote that if my house was on fire, I would first make sure my family was safe then see if I could run back inside and grab the iPod. It was a device that infused my life with a constant soundtrack.  Thank you, Steve.

And Apple and I went from there.  The iPod was a gateway drug device. The iPhone. I can’t even tell you how much the iPhone has changed my life and so many others.  All this information from every corner of the globe.  In my pocket.  Thank you, Steve.

The evolutionary device of the iPhone, the iPad has once again shown me the future.  All I need to do is watch my kids with an iPad.  It’s just like when my Mom brought that Macintosh home.  I  have given my kids zero instruction with an iPad. They are three and five years old and they can both find a movie on Netflix, browse maps, play Angry Birds, and launch apps to help them learn spelling, math, and music.  It is the future.  My kids thank you, Steve.

They also thank you for Pixar. And the most impressive family friendly animated films the world has ever seen. 

The inventions of Steve Jobs continue to infuse the life of this family.  A family slowly morphing into an Apple household.  My wife now has a Macbook Air.  A machine so impressive that I myself have thought of ditching the windows laptop and purchasing one. 

It is perfectly natural, that I learned about Steve Jobs on his invention.  An iPhone.  I then used the same device to connect with friends on Twitter and Facebook.  And then used an iPad to read news stories and coverage of his death. His legacy and impact will be felt for generations to come.  It is hard to sound full of hyperbole with Steve Jobs.  He was the Einstein and Henry Ford of our times. He will be missed and there will never be another.


  1. aka Grateful Dead concerts 

  2. Looking back, maybe that was Mom’s plan all along.  To see how a 13 year old boy can grasp the Mac with zero instruction and guidance. 

It’s iPhone Announcement Day!

It’s nuts how psyched I get by day of Apple’s press conference to (presumably) announce their next iPhone – or as I like to refer to the iPhone, Apple’s gateway drug.  There’s no question that a couple of years ago, the iPhone was THE phone.1 Before I had an iPhone, our household was void of any Apple products.  We were a technology family knee deep in Windows products. But then Keturah and I both got our iPhones and over time more Apple products have creeped into our lives. We bought the first iPad when it came out, the slowly lost control of it when our kids discovered it and quickly became proficient with it.2 Keturah bought the Macbook Air this past summer and I have to admit, it’s quite a nice machine.3 Even I’ve been browsing Mac Mini listings on Craig’s List with the intent on setting it up as media server in the living room.  Lastly, we’re in a new house and it’s only a matter of time before I fill the rooms with sound via Apple Airplay.4

So yes, I’ll be following the announcement online today and yeah, that sounds awfully silly.  But what can I say?  The iPhone was a life changing product that hooked me.

 

Some final random thoughts:

  • My iPhone 3GS is absolutely crawling to the finish line. I’ve pretty much pushed that device to its performance limits.  It’s either that or it senses it’s about to be passed down to a five year old and is rebelling.
  • I’ll still buy an iPhone 4S, but for some stupid reason of vanity, I want the new phone to be an iPhone 5.  I decided that I was going to put myself on a two year upgrade cycle with the iPhone5 I’d be even happier to be on the upgrade cycle that involved major product advancements instead of the feeling of iterative steps that the iPhone 3GS was and the iPhone 4S would feel like.
  • I really want NFC technology to be in this thing.  I’m ready to speed up the death of the plastic credit card.
  • The 64GB iPhone rumor doesn’t make sense to me in an era when Apple wants to be pushing iCloud.  Maybe I’m not understanding Apple’s iCloud strategy, but it seems like if content is stored in the cloud and streaming from the cloud, devices would need less storage not more.
  • An even crazier rumor is the one that the iPhone 5 is exclusively coming to Sprint.  In this scenario, it is speculated that an iPhone 4S comes to Verizon and AT&T while the iPhone 5 version drops only on Sprint, then the other carriers in early 2012. First, if this happens I’ll be pissed.  I’m not interested in switching to Sprint.  Since moving away from San Francisco, I’m actually pleased with AT&T iPhone performance.   I would expect some Apple fanboy revolt if this played out.  Actually, the only way it might make sense is a 64GB version of the new iPhone came out exclusively on Sprint.  Here’s why that might make some sense.  Apple has probably done enough research to realize that a 64GB phone isn’t necessary, especially with iCloud becoming a reality.  At the same time, they know some consumers always fall for the “bigger is better” type specs.  Their big questions are how much such a phone would actually sell?  Can they actually price it way higher? So instead they hedge their bet by getting Spring to pay $20 million to carry the iPhone and can up that price by giving Sprint exclusive right to sell an iPhone version (where the only difference from Verizon/AT&T versions is that is has more onboard storage)  they’re not actually sure anyone truly wants. If all that’s true, what a move by Apple.

  1. Even with all the Android phones out there now, it still feels like THE phone. 

  2. Actually, when we get the new iPhone, our old iPhones are being passed down to the kids – to be pseudo iPod touches –  and we’re hoping to bring the iPad back into our control. 

  3. Ordered on the first day it was available. 

  4. I tried doing something similar in the old house with DLNA. And let me tell you, that tech sucks. Never worked smoothly. Haven’t tried Sonos yet, but hear good things 

  5. Dropping a few hundred on a new phone every year just seems silly. 

The AT&T dropped iPhone calls problem. Definitely an SF thing.

I’m sure that no one will be surprised by this, but my opinion of AT&T iPhone service has changed dramatically since I left San Francisco. My iPhone is even more of a workhorse than it was before.  And it’s performing like a champ. I’m doing numerous 60-90 minute conference calls on my iPhone on a daily basis.  Once I did an hour long conference call while on the Acela from New Haven to New York.  During these calls, I’m putting my iPhone through its paces by surfing the Web, accessing info on the Evernote App, or other things sucking up the data stream.  And my call’s aren’t dropping.

Yes, this has resulted in heavy voice usage and the amount of minutes I’m using is skyrocketing.  This month, I would have been the victim of heavy extra charges on my bill if not for AT&T sending me a text message alerting me that I’m way over and I should change my data plan to compensate.  Thanks for taking care of me, AT&T!  I was especially pleased to find out that I could retroactively change my plan back to my last billing date.  Overage charges be gone!

It will be interesting to see how things change when I’m in metro Boston full time. 

Footnotes in blog posts

You may have noticed that I’ve started including footnotes in my blog posts.1

Know this: there’s a really good chance I’m going to grossly overuse these.

I haven’t done this in the past. Why start now?  Well, in whatever writing I’ve done2 whether its a business email, a message to my friends about the current state of the Red Sox3, or a letter to my grandmother, I’ve find that my mind wanders as I write.  Make that as I type4. I go off on brief tangents which I would often include in parentheses.  And it really broke up what I was writing into this distorted flow. Lots of sentences would start with stuff like, “But anyway, as I was saying…”

But there were a couple recent external influences in my current reading materials.  First, there’s John Gruber’s FANTASTIC blog, Daring Fireball.  I’m really enjoying his deep analyisis and long-form writing.  Most recently, his coverage of the iPad and the Apple vs. Adobe WWF cagefight.5.  I’m getting close to saying with full confidence that John Gruber is to tech blogging as Peter Gammons is to baseball writing. 

The second element is that I’ve started reading Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball.  In the foreward, Malcolm Gladwell of all people shines light on SImmons’ use of footnotes, mentioning “Oh, and read the footnotes.  Simmons is the master of the footnote.”  He’s right.  The footnotes are a must read in this book.  If you don’t read them, you’re going to miss out.

Ok, so we’re at word count of around 330 and I’ve got 5 footnotes.  See?  Told you I was going to overuse these.

Last thing.  Wondering how I’m generating the footnotes in my posts?  It’s a plugin called WP-Footnotes and more information can be found here.


  1. See? here’s a footnote now! 

  2. And to be clear: I am NOT a writer 

  3. current state: not too good, but it’s only April 

  4. I gave up handwriting pretty much anything other than my signature a few years ago.  Even letters to my grandmother.  The art of handwriting is being a sacrificed in the computing age.  But that’s probably another post 

  5. one of these companies has to be The Iron Sheik, I just haven’t figured out which yet 

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