Sunday, May 30, 2010

Black Coffee

My standard coffee order is light and sweet.... way way too much milk and sugar (or, nowadays, Splenda).

Today, there was no milk in the house, so I'm having my coffee black and really enjoying it. It may have something to do with the method of preparation, which involved freshly ground beansand a French press (one of the nice things about getting married is being given all these cool kitchen gadgets I'd never buy on my own. The Rabbit Wine Opener Tool Kitis also the balls).

At any rate, I'm enjoying the bitterness, which is something I'm in the habit of producing rather than consuming. It's a nice change of pace.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Netflix Diary: Brothers

Going to completely parrot Mr. Manley's Netflix Diary meme and generate some blog posts from my incessant moving watching.

If you've seen the trailer, you know what's up with this film. Good son Toby Maguire goes off to war leaving behind wife Natalie Portman. His perpetual screw-up brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) starts to nose in on Portman after Maguire's chopper is shot down in Afghanistan and he's presumed dead... or is he?!?!? It's all melodrama that I could take or leave at the end of the day. Certainly more smartly observed melodrama than one might expect, but melodrama nonetheless.

What really surprised me was the difference in quality in Maguire and Gyllenhaal's performances. I've always thought of them (and countless other actors of their generation) as basically interchangeable. But even though he had much less to work with here, I thought Gyllenhaal absolutely smoked Maguire. His performance was pleasantly understated and he communicated a lot while doing very little. Maguire's role, on the other hand, called for a certain gravitas that he just wasn't able to pull off. You can tell that Maguire just doesn't have it in him while Gyllenhaal, much to my surprise, does.

Still, they're neither of them Mare Winningham.

iPad Reflections, Week 2

I am left a little more disenchanted after the second week of my iPad experiment than I was after the first. Further observations:

  • There is a noticeable dearth of quality iPad-optimized applications in the App Store. No iPad optimized Facebook (though AIM for iPad with its Lifestream feature is a decent alternative). Similarly, no Blogger support (either an app or a version of the Blogger web client that works on the iPad).
  • The Gmail iPad interface is quite well designed but performs poorly. The Inbox doesn't refresh properly half the time when you navigate back to the page and often gets into some weird loop where it keeps redirecting until Safari finally barfs.
  • Not really great for using on a bus. It's just hard to use without sufficient elbow room, so if there's anyone next to you, you're constantly clocking them in the ribs or contorting your body and fingers into odd positions.
  • The heaviness bothers me more and more. It really makes the difference between a go-to device you can use at will and something you have to dedicate yourself to using, and it's really not functional enough to rival something like a laptop if you're going that far.
  • I've fallen into a nice pattern of leaving my laptop in the office and carting the iPad home with me at night to do email, web and document reviewing at home at night. It's nice not to have to lug my MacBook home every night, but there's no way I would attempt this if there wasn't another real computer at home that I could use in a pinch.
I'm left wondering if there is an audience I would recommend this to. It can't replace the utility of a laptop or the use-it-anywhere quality of a smartphone for the road warrior. It certainly does not replace anyone's primary computer (laptop or desktop).

Perhaps it's an alternative to a smartphone for someone who does a lot of note taking or media consumption in situations where the ultra-portability of a smartphone is not important (e.g. college students, frequent coffee shop patrons). I could see where a dumbphone plus iPad is better than a smartphone for these folks. This is allegedly the market for netbooks, so in the final analysis, the iPad may just be a netbook killer. I'm just not in that demographic and never 'got' netbooks anyway, so while it's an occasionally fun toy, I'd get along just fine with only my laptop and smartphone.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

iPad Reflections, Week 1

I've got an iPad. Well, not exactly. My company has an iPad. We're a gaming company and it's becoming an influential platform for games. So we got one. And it syncs with my computer, so possession being 9/10 of the law, it's been mine for the last week.

Before we got one, it just seemed like a tweener to me. There's space in the world for a device that fits in your pocket, can be used anywhere in any position, connects to the Internet, plays music and makes phone calls (smartphone). There's space in the world for a robust productivity device that has to be carried around in a bag and used in a constrained number of positions (laptop). I'm skeptical that there's room in the world for a media consumption device that has to be carried around in a bag, offers a lousy content creation experience and has to be used in a constrained number of positions. It's why I (and Steve Jobs, kind of) don't get netbooks.

After a week, I still believe all that, it's just that I don't think the iPad really meets with that description. I'm not convinced it's a useful device yet, but here's what I've observed so far.
  • It's heavy. Much heavier than you think it will be. Much heavier than a Kindle. When you hold a Kindle, you think "It's almost like there's nothing there. This is way better than a book!" When you hold an iPad, you think "Wow, this is really heavy. If I've got to hold something like this to use it, I'd almost rather sit down at a desk with a laptop."
  • Consequently, you can't really hold it with one hand. You can hold it with two hands. You can rest it on one forearm and operate it with the other. You can rest it on your lap. You can sit semi-recumbently on a couch and use your knees as a little stand. But you can't hold it with one hand for any extended period of time.
  • The landscape keyboard is really good. Amazingly good. I'm able to do a sort of half touch typing / half high speed hunt-and-peck thing with it sitting on my lap or a flat surface and type almost as quickly and accurately as I can with a physical keyboard.
  • The portrait keyboard is crap. The device is too big to hold it like an iPhone in portait mode and thumb type. Utter waste. They'd be better off with the big landscape keyboard and then a portrait keyboard the same size as the iPhone one offset to one side of the screen or the other so you could thumb type with one hand.
  • Note taking is the killer app. Because the landscape keyboard is so good, I've been brining it into meetings instead of a laptop or paper notebook. It's unobtrusive and with software like Evernote (which still needs work in the iPad version... no formatting, really?!?!?) syncs to the cloud. I could very easily see this becoming the device of choice for, e.g., college students to take to class and have a desktop or laptop back in the dorm room.
  • No multitasking? Seriously? I know it's allegedly coming, but being able to jump back and forth between, e.g., Evernote, Safari and Mail is going to be key. It feels hobbled without it.
  • $500 for the base model seems reasonable, but $830 for the top of the line with Wi-Fi and 3G?And AT&T 3G at that (at least in NYC)?  No way.
  • Not directly an iPad comment, but the Incase Neoprene Slip Sleeve Plus for iPad is a piece of garbage. I don't know how this product got greenlit. I mistakenly brought it thinking it was the zippered version. Instead, you slide the iPad into it from the top and then have to fold a flap over maybe the top 10% of the device. This is impossible to do without getting your fingers caught, pushing the wake button so the screen turns on or dropping the thing (and frequently all three).
The provisional verdict is that it's much more useful than I thought but maybe not useful enough. I strongly suspect I'm going to tire of it after another week. I'll keep you posted.