Some Alternatives to Northwestel’s Internet Shortcomings

Like an aging porn star, Northwestel just can’t keep it up.

And by “it”, I mean that which is most important.

And in Northwestel’s case it is the internet. (So get your mind out of the gutter, already.)

Yet, despite the fact the current incumbent constantly flubs it like a clown in a circus, in the itsy-bitsy market of the Great White North no hoser would be fool enough to directly compete.

So it’s up to we citizens to seek alternative means of accessing the environment we all now live, work, shop, and socialize in, to fill in those gaps when Northwestel suffers from what I shall henceforth delicately refer to as Internet Dysfunction (ID for short).

It might surprise you just how many alternatives there are. Continue reading

A Recipe for Dirt-Cheap, High Quality Phone Services

You just got a new North American toll free phone number.

It has an unlimited North American long distance plan.

When someone calls, it hunts for you in a manner that you define. First it rings your iPhone, then your Blackberry, then your anachronistic landline, then your computer.

If it can’t find you, you can tell it to look for someone else, like your assistant or partner.

If it can’t find anyone in the end, it takes a voicemail message and emails it to you.

It offers all those annoying “PBX” services that the big companies use: press 1 for this, press 2 for that, etc, so you can integrate it into a multi-user environment and look all big business (assuming you aren’t to begin with).

In other words, it does everything you’ve ever heard that a telephone service can do, and then some.

And it costs you $15 a month.

A dream? Well, yeah, but not yours. It’s actually the dream of quality, easy-to-use voice-over-the-internet finally realized.

And here’s how to put it together yourself, super-cheap and super-fast. Continue reading

Microsoft (and HP, and Adobe) still don’t get it

So, I was watching this video co-produced by HP, Adobe, and Microsoft yesterday…

…and I was struck by one thing: they still don’t get it.

And by it, I mean the iPad specifically, but in a more general sense I mean humans.

Like, check this screen shot:

This is how Adobe, HP, and Microsoft imagine that you want to edit photos on a mobile device.

The problem is, there’s hardly any photo on screen to edit. Look at all that surrounding interface! A browser bar, a browser tab bar, a massive tool panel, scroll bars (that aren’t even required!), and then big, fat, black bars on either side of the photo.

There’s more interface here than photo!

For comparison sake, I snagged a screen shot of Adobe’s Photoshop.com Mobile iPhone photo editing app:


Like, oh my gawd — it’s a big photo!

Not as if that makes sense or anything; I mean, filling the screen with the photo you’re editing and kicking the interface to the curb?

Even though these two screen shots demonstrate the exact same application – Adobe’s Photoshop.com – they clearly demonstrate the difference between Apple’s approach to mobile computing and the approach that just about everyone else is taking.

While it’s true that Adobe is responsible for the user interfaces in both screen shots, it’s important to examine the constraints that they experienced in designing each.

For the interface demonstrated in the first screen shot, on the HP device, Adobe was limited only by what its own proprietary media platform, Flash, could do. In other words, that’s Adobe’s version of an ideal mobile photo editing environment.

In the second screen shot, for the iPhone app, Adobe had to conform to Apple’s iPhone human interface guidelines. That’s why such a different app was produced.

I think of it this way: there are two parts to every sentence in the English language, the subject and the predicate. Apple’s mobile philosophy focuses on the subject – the person or thing which the sentence is about. In most cases that would be the person using the device or the material on the device they’re dealing with.

The other guys focus on the predicate aspect of mobile computing. They focus on the aspect of the situation that modifies the experience of the user. In most cases that is the software or the device itself.

So if I write a sentence like, “Sue edited the photo on her mobile device,” Apple would be concerned with the primary subject, Sue.

On the other hand, Adobe, Microsoft and HP would clearly focus on the mobile device and its software.

The result in the latter approach is an overabundance of technology. In the first screen shot, there’s definitely too much interface. The app has decided not to consider the needs of the user and instead just sort of pukes out everything it’s got in terms of functionality, cluttering the screen with a distraction of visual detritus.

Apple’s iPhone, on the other hand, provides the user with what he or she wants, as he or she requires it. Toolbars disappear off-screen when they’re not required for use. They don’t hang around to distract in perpetuity.

In many iPhone apps, there is literally no interface. Consider this screen shot from the acclaimed iPhone writing app, WriteRoom:

That’s it. Just you and your writing. Nothing else.

Compare that to Microsoft’s take on mobile word processing:

I’ll skip past the horrid green skin and just point out that, even on a miniscule screen, Microsoft believes you need as almost as much interface as subject area. And that’s just wrong.

The point of the matter is that, as Apple continues to release revolutionary new devices, first the iPhone and soon the iPad, competitors continue to miss the point. It isn’t about the device at all. That’s why Apple’s physical design is so minimalist, and it’s why they don’t pump the tech specs in their ads.

It’s about friction. Apple is all about reducing the friction a person experiences when they interact with a technological environment.

Until the other guys figure that out and quit drowning us in over-designed user interfaces and dramatic device forms, Apple’s just going to continue kicking their collective ass.

Life after files and folders

It’s silly.

We still use this rigid system of files and folders on computers almost 4 decades after it was conceived of in a lab.

Even back then it was only a moderately good concept. Better options existed.

But like the combustion engine, it’s a bad idea we seem to be stuck with.

Fortunately, the end is in site.

What I call the “library model” of document management is gaining traction. It’s the electric engine of the computer industry. Continue reading

9 reasons the stylus sucks

Four recent events proved to me why the Tablet PC’s pen-like stylus is a rubbish idea.

Last month my old Newton MessagePad 130 was returned to me. I played with it for a while. My son played with it for a while. Actually, he just got mad at it for a while. We both thanks Steve Jobs for killing this platform. The Newton has many flaws, but chief among them is its dependency on a stylus.

Last month I also bought a small stylus-ish thing for my iPhone, the pogo. It cost me $30 at a London Drugs in Vancouver. After playing with it for a while I realized: the iPhone doesn’t need a stylus. If it’s so cold outside you don’t want to take your gloves off to use your iPhone, then you shouldn’t be using your iPhone (the device is only officially supported down to 0˚C anyway).

Finally, Bill Gates complained that the iPad sucks because it doesn’t have a stylus. Yeah. Because the Windows-based Tablet PC that depends on a stylus has done so well. Pretty much whatever Gates says in regards to the tablet/iPad platform can be tacitly disregarded. He’s clearly out to lunch.

Anyway, it all got me thinking about why the digital stylus is, for general use, the dumbest idea since the seedless watermelon. And I’ve put together 9 reasons describing the stylus’ failings. Continue reading

Microsoft’s Creative Destruction

As they marvel at Apple’s new iPad tablet computer, the technorati seem to be focusing on where this leaves Amazon’s popular e-book business. But the much more important question is why Microsoft, America’s most famous and prosperous technology company, no longer brings us the future…

One word answer: Ballmer.

Lose the schoolyard bully CEO, establish some proper forward-thinking leadership, and the company will pick up again.

Yes, it’s as simple as that.

via Op-Ed Contributor – Microsoft’s Creative Destruction – NYTimes.com.

McAfee Says Microsoft Flaw Was a Factor in Cyberattacks

McAfee said that after examining the malicious software code used in the attacks, it believes a vulnerability in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser was an important pathway for the attacks, which were directed at Google and more than 30 other companies…

Germany has actually issued a notice that the entire population of the country should stop using all versions of Internet Explorer immediately. That’s how bad this is.

via McAfee Says Microsoft Flaw Was a Factor in Cyberattacks – Bits Blog – NYTimes.com.