Innovation, hardware and Linux (in the background)

In many ways 2007 has been Apple’s year. The iPhone, the iPod Touch and the launch of Leopard catapulted Apple into the lucrative consumer electronics space. People will no-doubt disagree.  The price point of the iPhone, the lack of 3g etc…All very common complaints by pundits in the tech world. But I will defend the iPhone to all the haters. Despite the connectively flaws, it is, in my view one of the best examples of integration, innovation, user experience and aesthetics on any single device – ever.   Linux growth But this is not the point of this post. What, in my view has been an even bigger technological breakthrough this year is Linux. Yes Linux. More specifically, its emergence into the mainstream. From Dell shipping Ubuntu natively on its boxes, through to the success of the Nokia Internet tablet range – Linux is out there – running on mainstream consumer products. Its success has been understated. Most consumers, are not necessarily attracted to hardware because of its Linux core. They are simply attracted to good hardware.  But Linux is there, in the background, doing what it does best. Stability, reliability, software and – now ease of use. It has broken out of the geek kingdom and entered the real world.  The Linux purists will moan. Linux has been highjacked by big industry. It’s now out of the hands of the tech savy and now available to the mainstream. All common complaints from the Open Source extremists.   Take the Eee PC for example. What is selling the device? Not Linux – but the price and the complete package. The fact that Linux delivers an awesome user experience is a credit to how far the operating system has come.  linutop_polos.jpg Introducing Linutop Another example (less well known but hot off my press). The Linutop PC. This thing rocks. An ultra-tiny form factor computer. In a similar vain (but much smaller), than the Mac Mini, this device is BYOKAM (Bring your own keyboard and mouse)  Developed by an innovative French start up – this computer is incredible. Retailing at €280 this box is not just appealing for the Linux community but for the mainstream consumer looking for a cheap computer. I really have to get my hands on one. Check out the Linutop here.  So, hats off to everyone involved in Linux and its 2007 breakthrough into the mainstream.  I suspect this is a sign of more and even better things to come in 2008. I for one cannot wait. 

More exciting news on the Eee PC

The Eee PC is still the talk of the tech world – and rightly so. Engadget are reporting that a generous hacker has compiled a Xubuntu distro for the pocket sized laptop. It seems like it supports the native hardware….Without wanting to get on my open source soap box – this is exactly why I love Linux and the community. Equally kudos to Asus by making the Eee PC a  truly hackable machine. I really think this has to be the device of the year…..Oh did I say that?! Surely the iPhone grabs that accolade….Discussing the device with a friend we wondered whether 3g support might be possible with those popular 3G USB dongles, such as the offering from Three Given the hacks available on the device  I am sure its only a matter of time. Imagine it. The Eee PC connected to 3g on your daily commute. Popping mail, blogging, surfing and skyping on a beautifully crafted piece of kit. Could life get much better?

The Kindle – all hype and no substance

The big story of the week has to be Amazon’s move into consumer electronics, specifically the launch of their e-book reader the ‘Kindle’. For some reason the Kindle has grabbed the headlines, but not necessarily for the best of reasons.  It’s fair to say most opinion leans towards mocking the device. Critics site the obvious flaws; grey-scale screen, lack of touch screen, no wifi, limited (if any) web access and the price  – $400.  The device does have access to a cellular connection, which enables you to download a catalogue of books. But note – the books are not free. You are expected to fork out $10 or so for each one. I am genuinely surprised it has generated so much interest. I suspect its due to two things; 1) No significant tech news at the moment and 2) the Amazon angle. For years now tech devices such as PDAs, including the greatest model ever, the Psion 5MX have supported e-book readers in some form or another. I recall reading Richard Stallman’s book ‘Free as in Freedom’  in text form on my Psion many years ago. My cousin (who may wish to comment at this point)  has, for a number of years, used his HP PDA to read eBooks.    So we agree nothing new. It would seem that for some reason – tech companies and geeks are obsessed with replacing ink and paper. Why bother. I am not deliberately trying to cause a debate. But actually as I’ve said, ebook readers are far from new. They have their place. Some might choose a PDA, some might choose an iPhone, some might even choose reading the complete works of Shakespeare on a laptop. But come on. In a world of hybrid multi functional devices that can do so much and do so much very well – is there really a need for an over priced device aimed purely at a niche market with practically no additional functionality. We are in a world of convergence. The early adaptors will undoubtedly create an early sales spike (as is the case right now), but its limited use and lack-lust performance will undoubtedly cause the Kindle to flop.  I can only compare the Kindle as the ebook reading equivalent to the Microsoft Zune. Has someone forgotten ‘Audio Books’?? Come on guys – get with the times.   

You can catch more than a big marlin in Mauritius

Off-topic I know – but I read an interesting article on Mauritius today. The growth in HIV and AIDS along with drug use has been the major news on Mauritius lately. This story goes into a bit more detail than most.  So for those that think Mauritius is an African shinning beacon of hope – think again. I only hope the Government of Mauritius wake up and smell the coffee before its too late Read the article here 

What podcasts I’m listening to

In a week of pretty much zero tech news, I thought I’d take a look at podcasts I’m listening to and watching. So, in alphabetical order:

  • Apple Phone Show
  • Ask a Ninja
  • Buzz out Loud – CNET
  • CommandN h.264
  • Cranky Geeks
  • Daily Breakfast
  • Farming Today (I know – but it has sentimental value)
  • Fr. Geek’s Video Podcast
  • FT Digital Business podcast
  • The Future of Business
  • Geek.TV 
  • The Mac Observer’s Mac Geek Gab
  • Mac OS Ken
  • Mac Roundtable Podcast
  • MacBreak Weekly
  • MacCast 
  • MacCast Loop 
  • Mahalo Daily
  • Meditation Oasis 
  • The Meditation Podcast
  • Meditation Station
  • The Merlin Show
  • Monty Man’s Blog (an early pilot podcast I produced and hosted) 
  • National Geographic Video Shorts
  • Net@Nite
  • Pray Station Portable 
  • President’s Weekly Radio Address
  • The President’s Weekly Radio Address (The Comedy version) 
  • The Ricky Gervais Podcast
  • The Ricky Gervais Show 
  • The Saintcast Catholic Podcast
  • Screencasts online – Mac Video Tutorials
  • Smartphones Show
  • Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at D5 Conference
  • This Week in Tech (TWIT)
  • Today in Parliament
  • Typical Mac User Podcast

According to iTunes, as of today this collection includes 166 items or 3 days of content and approximately  5.22GB of data. Note to self……..I need a longer commute 

Singing the Asus Eee Pc praises

eee_open.jpg Well it certainly feels like the blogosphere has fallen head over heels for the Asus Eee PC. There was an interesting discussion last week on Leo Laporte’s TWIT podcast about the new Linux based UMPC. Overall there was genuine excitment about the potential of the laptop. At £229 it is really a steel. From my perspective – it certainly looks hot. I would have liked to have seen from the outset a slot for an HSDPA sim card for mobile connectively – but hey, for the money we can’t have everything. Besides, I understand that ASUS are working on a compatible card that slots right into the unit.  There have been a number of reviews out there – but I discovered an excellent account by Ars Technica a couple of days ago….  An iPhone beater  – possibly not. A big seller – possibly. A hit amongst geeks – certainly.  Check out the review here  

Apple iPhone is not the only fruit.

Phew. I made it through the first 12 hours of the Apple reality distortion field. The frenzy and buzz that surrounds the launch of the iPhone is still in full force. But I have decided I won’t get one and here are my five reasons why. 1. I’m still in contract with Three for five months. An obvious show stopper.2. The iPhone is awesome – but not for a power user. Sounds a bit arrogant I know. But the iPhone is without a doubt the best overall consumer cellphone on the market. From form factor to software, from touch to web implementation this system rocks for the masses.But my requirements make the iPhone significantly under spec. I require 3g (and wifi), I require third party apps (now), I require Skype, I require an IM client, I require full mobile computing. I absolutely require full web experience and now blogging on the go. I simply do not want to compromise on my technology.  3. The price is not right. As a free marketer I believe for the spec., the iPhone is set at a price I am not willing to pay. It simply costs too much for too little. 4. Mass appeal: Yes I admit it. I am a slightly snobbish uber geek. I tend to loose interest when a device enters the realm of spotty teenager. 5. 18 months is too long for me. I am not prepared to suffer an 18 month contract. Tech moves on – and so will I in that period.  Make no mistake. The iPhone rocks – big time. It is fantastic and I genuinely believe it will change the cellphone market for the better. But it’s not there yet. It comes painfully close to being the greatest mobile device in consumer history. But not yet.  So my solution. The Nokia n810. 

Leopard – awesome

I have been running OS X 10.5, better known as Leopard for about two hours now. My first impression – awesome. I opted for an upgrade install rather than a clean install or install/archive.  My first impression is that this os X rocks. The installation was painless, took around one hour. Once installed, Spotlight took a further thirty minutes or so to index my data. I am discovering new features all the time. But what stands out so far is a feature I didn’t actually think would be that impressive. I was wrong. The ‘cover flow’ in the finder is fantastic. I can now look browse through mini documents across my harddrive. Clearly this came across from iTunes . Very impressive. 1764199440_0d25464eb3_m.jpgSecondly, Front Row has had a major makeover. It is now basically an Apple TV! Yes that’s right. I can stream content from across my network through to it. A major step. Think of the possibilities……A server or even a NAT could be installed on the network. It would only have media on it. I could then call it up on any Mac running 10.5…… All this so far….I’ve not even begun with Time Machine yet 🙂    

The Nokia N810 Internet Tablet – the iPhone killer

Now everyone knows I am an Apple fanboy. I admit it. However, I must confess that the iPhone falls far too short for my requirements. The cost, lack of 3G and the endless struggle for third party apps means it fails to scratch my itch.  Perhaps most significantly the lack of IM and VOIP makes it a  non starter for me.

Nokia N810 Now,  I did consider the Nokia E90 communicator as the holy grail. An all in one device that pretty much covers all the requirements. However, it has limitations. A screen that, whilst big, falls short when trying to render the latest 2.0 sites, along with other sites.

Well it looks like my wait is over. Nokia have released the latest in their line up of Linux based Internet tablets. The N810 covers all my requirements (bar mobile telephony). Quite simply, the spec is awesome. Go check it out here . I want one.