Posts tagged tech
Posts tagged tech
I was going to stuff this into my usual trivia for the next Around the Web bundle, but it gets its own entry.
Today marks the 28th anniversary of the unveiling of the Macintosh. Here’s a video of a young Steve Jobs doing just that.
Today Apple announced their best quarter ever: revenue of over forty six billion dollars, with profits of over thirteen billion dollars. Read about it on CNet.
And today I bought my first Mac.
(There’s a real post on the way too, honest.)
For those of you thusly located, Netflix is now available in the UK and Ireland.
According to my trusty Kindle, I’ve finally finished this book (it’s substantial; hard-copy is 500 pages in medium-large paperback form with a compact font), and figured I’d fire out a quick endorsement. Short version: it’s great and anyone with any interest in startups and/or the IT industry will enjoy it.
The book is straightforward; it’s a series of a few dozen interviews by Jessica Livingston (one of the founding partners at Y Combinator) with the founders of various tech companies, new and old. These interviews are of the sort you might see in Wired or Inc; a handful of brief questions with answers generally expanded on at length by the interviewee - this isn’t a quick back-and-forth Q&A. The structure of the book means that it’s very accessible - even though it’s long overall, you can just jump in and read a particular interview you’re interested in for a pick-up-and-read experience.
The interviewees are of course the real value in the book, and they really do cover the gamut. This includes the legendary Steve Wozniak talking about the early days of Apple (practically creation myth stuff for folks in this line of work), the founding of Adobe and the stories of VisiCalc and Lotus. The book being published in 2006, it also ranges to more modern giants such as Joel Spolsky on Fog Creek’s origins, Craig Newmark (Craigslist.com), the creators of Hot or Not, PayPal, Hotmail, GMail, Del.icio.us, Firefox, Flickr, RIM (of Blackberry fame), the TiVo system, TripAdvisor, 37Signals and more. If that list of startups doesn’t have you salivating, this book ain’t for you and neither is the tech industry.
The interviews are, almost without exception, fascinating reading, and offer great insight into the origins of some of the most famous tech companies out there, not to mention plenty of valuable advice for would-be entrepreneurs. Not sure the world needs another 10-steps-to-founding-whatever from the likes of me, but in any case, some of the key themes that come through throughout the book are persistence (many interviewees emphasise that point), adaptability (several of these companies grew as spin-offs or sidelines of previous ideas), passion and belief (another oft-repeated mantra) and the importance of good partners and good hiring.
Well, there’s really not much more to say about it. If you want to know how some of the hottest companies and products in this industry got built, either for its own sake or because you want to do some building yourself, go buy this book.
Obviously this post is a plug for a friend’s business, but regardless of that, these guys are really goddamn good at this stuff. Once more of the UIs on the web are designed by folks like this, we’ll be getting places.
Noble as it is to link to other folks’ stuff, about time I got back to producing some. Anyways, I picked up an Amazon Kindle (3rd generation, i.e. the current one) some months back, and I’ve been meaning to write about the thing for a while.
One liner: The Kindle is a great piece of kit and everyone who reads books should get one, no question.
Exec summary: The Kindle is great. Nice form factor, very slim and light, feels good to hold. The screen’s very easy to read off of for long periods, regardless of whether you’re indoors or out in the sun - it’s much closer to paper than an LCD. Amazon have seen to it that it’s very easy to use, from the device itself to the book buying experience. The range of books is good, though far from all books are available, particularly with older books. This situation is improving all the time though, and there’s likely enough to keep most people going. Between its very slim form factor and the fact that the battery will last for weeks of use, it’s particularly well suited for travelling. It’s also excellent value; starting at $139 places it far below the cost of a more general-purpose tablet device. I’ve had one for a while now and read well over a dozen novels and other books on it, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
Long-winded review: I’d been considering an e-book reader for some time, and after a 5-minute hands-on with a Kindle, I headed straight back to my PC and ordered one. If you can, I’d recommend you see one in person - that certainly sealed the deal for me. The Kindle really is an impressive device in the hand - the form factor is great and feels good to hold; it’s very slim indeed (8.5mm thick) and weighs in at just 240g (for the wi-fi only version). The controls are straightforward; there’s buttons on either side of the screen for turning pages, plus a few navigation buttons and a small QWERTY keyboard for typing in searches and notes and such (not something you’re likely to do much of).
Very slim indeed.
The “e-ink” screen is particularly amazing the first time you see one. Doesn’t resemble an LCD at all - the contrast and clarity level really is getting very close to paper. It’s not backlit, and can be read off of for hours without any more difficulty than paper in my experience. The paper-like contrast levels also mean that it reads in sunlight just as well as under fluorescent light. (Note; the screen on the 3rd generation Kindle is one of the best available at present, they improved quite a bit over previous generations). The screen refresh is pretty fast (again improved with the current hardware), under half a second.
Not quite up there with paper for contrast, but very effective.
The fact that once an e-ink display is “set” it doesn’t take any power to maintain the image leads to the Kindle’s very impressive battery life. I have the wi-fi only version, and this will easily last three weeks of regular use between charges. Very handy for holidays and travel, and you’re unlikely to ever be stuck without power. It does take a while to charge (several hours), but when it’s such an infrequent occurrence, that’s not a major issue.
One big advantage for devices dealing with text-based books instead of music or video is that text takes very little space, and compresses very well. Without much ado, the Kindle holds around 3,500 books, which is a pretty substantial library. The small size of book files also means that even over a weak connection, it takes seconds to download an entire novel once you’ve purchased it.
The Kindle was first launched in the States, and if you’re based in Ireland, you actually still purchase it from Amazon.com, and likewise your books are purchased from that version of the site, in dollars. Amazon make this all very smooth - they handle delivery and taxes and such, and in my case at least, the device was delivered within a few days. At $139 for the current 3rd-gen wi-fi version (plus shipping and such) it’s very good value indeed. If you’re in the UK, you can buy the UK version, and UK books, from Amazon.co.uk in Sterling. The 3G version of the Kindle contains a SIM card that’s already been fully configured by Amazon and rigged up with local networks - it works as a roaming US mobile phone, effectively, but Amazon take care of the charges and details, you just use it transparently either at home or overseas in a pretty wide list of countries.
Also renders pretty good grayscale graphics.
Using the Kindle day-to-day is very straightforward - you have a Home screen listing your books, you can navigate around, read books, organise them into categories, and other basic functions. You can purchase books from the device itself with Amazon’s 1-Click ordering system (via wi-fi, and optional works-everywhere roaming 3G), or on the main Amazon website for download to the device later. Either way, Amazon make the experience as smooth as possible. You can also transfer non-Amazon PDFs and e-books in .mobi format to the device. (If you want to read technical books, papers and the like, there’s also the larger but more expensive Kindle DX, whose bigger screen is probably better suited to that). It’s all cloud-based, so your books stay attached to your account, and can generally be downloaded to any device (there’s Kindle reading apps available for the iPhone, Android and PC), synchronises your reading position between devices, etc.
The range of books was one of the things holding me back from picking up an e-book reader, but the catalogue is pretty extensive and getting better all the time (Amazon now shift slightly more e-books than they do hard-copies, which can only help). Of what I read, I’d guess about 50% of my current wish list is available for the Kindle, which is more than enough to keep me going. New releases are generally coming out in Kindle format as a matter of course, it’s mostly existing stuff that still has to catch up. I’d suggest taking a search around the Kindle section of Amazon.com to see how well-represented your own tastes in genres and authors are.
There’s also publisher, region and licensing messes of course - when browsing from Europe, you’re getting access to a smaller range of books than are available from the US, which is pretty annoying. Books also appear to occasionally disappear from the store (though not from your account if you’ve bought them) as publishers row with Amazon and their partners. This kind of bulls**t will hopefully work itself out eventually as the publishers see the writing on the wall and Amazon beat them into shape. Pricing is OK; books I’ve looked at are usually cheaper than their hard-copy equivalents, but not by much. Works for me.
In addition to books, you can also access a range of newspapers and magazines on the Kindle (either one-off editions or by delivered subscription), though I haven’t tried this myself. Other features of the Kindle include the ability to adjust text sizes, spacing etc to suit your own needs (rendering any book large-format print if you want it that way), and also a reasonably effective text-to-speech reader that will read a book aloud for you (sometimes disabled for particular books due to publisher issues). There’s a basic web browser on the device, though I don’t see anyone using this regularly, it’s not really what the tech is built for.
In summary, after putting several thousands of pages of novels and other books through the Kindle in various circumstances, I’d highly recommend it to all and sundry. It’s of particular benefit for commuting and travelling - as many books as you want in your jacket pocket, plus with the 3G version you can immediately buy and download more from pretty much anywhere. Saves a deal of dilemmas and suitcase stuffing, particularly for the more avid reader or those fond of thousand page epics. This is great tech and everyone should have one.
Some more interesting bits and pieces;
Some interesting tech and other stories recently plucked from my myriad feeds and sources;
Haven’t bothered with this myself yet, but it’s pretty easy to add some paying ads to a Tumblr blog using Google’s AdSense (just don’t expect to make much money off it).
You just need an AdSense setup (sign up with your Google account), and then paste some of their HTML into your template, which again isn’t too hard. Whatever money you make from it can be retrieved from Google by cheque, bank transfer, etc. It’s well tooled and heavily customisable, all pretty straightforward. Just bear in mind a) don’t mess with Google by clicking around your own ads, they don’t like that - see their T&C. They don’t like porn around their ads either incidentally, so best keep your hardcore blog separate… b) as with any income, there may be tax implications, seek professional something something.
How-To Geek have another of their fine tutorials with all the details here.
Well, this for instance;
Should work in any modern browser, particularly well on iPads apparently. If it doesn’t, you can at least read about it here;