Thursday, January 24, 2008

Retarded by design

At some point during the last decade or so a trend emerged with some companies - and 'defective by design' was the generic name for those attempts to fool the consumer into paying more for less or for nothing at all. The vast majority of those attempts were promptly punished by the informed consumers, and the offending companies are now in a constant fall. But while Sony was punished by the buyers after installing rootkits on their computers and Microsoft have long been a disgraced monopolist, one company managed to thrive by taking the precise same tactic and slightly changing it to what now is almost a trademark - 'retarded by design' - and is of course the worst monopolist of all, Apple itself.

The same company policy was visible with the latest Macworld announcements when Apple - together with the major labels, which for a long time were trying to pull this one - decided that it will be a lot better for their bottom lines to only rent you stuff - just another name for further limiting the consumer rights and making you pay again and again for the same thing. I have serious doubts that the informed consumers will fall for that, but given the rather low price there will be enough takers - however the profits will also be rather small and I also predict some nagging technical problems ahead (not to mention that what Apple calls 'HD movies' is actually something inferior to even the decades-old DVD quality).

The same 'as restricted as possible' approach could not be missing from the other Apple products - consumers were promised that the (unimpressive for anybody with any computer experience) Time Machine would work over the network - but of course that in order to get that you will have to buy some more stuff from Apple - that is somehow funny since it is pretty much the same as with Micro$oft, which the vast majority of macmorons love to hate :) (note for the fanboys - there is a free hack to do that and avoid paying the Apple tax - but I will not provide a link since you should learn to think/search for yourself).

But the absolute best example of the 'beautiful but retarded by design' company policy is the new Mac Air - which is actually the supreme design when the actual goal is to get as much money possible from your customer yet providing something that will have the absolute minimal use and the shortest possible life - 'planned obsolescence' at its best!

The MacBook Air is a LIE from the very start - not only you can see in many posts and articles that it is NOT the thinnest notebook, but the entire marketing strategy around that is only a classic play on the american obsession with thin, beautiful ... but shallow and without any value or loyalty :(

You see - unlike a PHONE the thickness of a notebook is totally irrelevant (since you will not be able to place it in your pocket anyway) - and is just a gimmick designed to cover the absence of any other major innovation. The actual value is in the WEIGHT - and that one is OK in the Mac HotAir, but there are MANY other better notebooks that are (a lot) lighter so SteveJ could not score any points on that direction so he needed some other 'catchline' for the fanboys :)

Surprisingly MacBook Air also gets 3 things right - but unfortunately for Apple the company used for the last ten years the entire power of it's famous distortion field against precisely those things when Dell and Toshiba and other were getting those right in the first place - and as a result the brainwashed fanboys have seen very, very little value in the fact that the CD is external (a feature about 10 years old in the Windows subnotebooks), the CPU is one of the Low-Voltage Intel models (which ARE more expensive for a very good reason, but for instance IBM/Lenovo was using similar models in the X61 and X61T for about one year now), and finally the screen is pretty much the ONLY thing that an Asus eeePC owner might really miss (at about 1/5 - 1/8 of the price, and actually a much easier to carry form factor).

But unfortunately the number of things that Apple got right are dwarfed by the amount of the deliberately bad decisions - the smallest one is that you can not expand the RAM but the fact that the ONLY 'expansion' that you get is a standard USB2 is something so stupid it's not even funny - other subnotebooks get a PCMCIA slot (where you can get 3G cellular coverage for instance), 2-3 USB ports, FireWire, memory-card readers (even eeePC has a SD card slot), gigabit Ethernet (try to backup your HDD over the wireless if you think you don't need it) and more ... last but not least being a battery that you can replace 'on the go' and get even 12 hours of battery life if you really need it! (in contrast HotAir customers will either send it to Apple for an expensive replacement - which is OK given that they will not miss it since the HotAir is only used to impress other morons - or more likely just throw away the entire gizmo - probably one of the LEAST environmentally-friendly notebook models ever built in spite of all the marketing speak that you will get from the Apple sales droids).

And of course the competing high-end models that are really expensive and a clear difference between a fanboy wannabe and the real upper-class have certain exclusive features - like being a convertible tablet (however I still consider the Dell one slightly overpriced, but at least that one gets the Ultra-Low-Voltage CPU versions from Intel) or some of the amazing Panasonic models which are not only packing a DVD writer in the same weight as the HotAir, but are also spill-resistant and about 5 times tougher!!!

So in the end there is only one thing that will sell those new products, and you can see it following this link :)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I call bullsh*t on Cringely's 'predictions'

First of all - when you predict that Vista Sp1 will be shipped in 2007 and you get that wrong you can:

a) admit you were wrong by a month or two - not much but still 8-16% ...


b) claim that Vista SP1 just shipped (even if it's only RC1 right now).

And no, Vista was NEVER supposed to eliminate service packs, and EVERYBODY knew that SP1 will come very soon - you were just placing the wrong date on it ...

And now let's see what Cringely could see for 2008 ... hmm at no. 8 'Bill Gates will be retiring from Microsoft in 2008' - no kidding genius, and you made that bold prediction on the 4th of January when the Internet was already full with the funny movie showing what Bill will do after retiring at CES ...

And yes, at no. 10 we have 'a 3G iPhone is coming'. Wow, that was indeed unexpected and a bold prediction :) I guess your list was a little too thin ?

At 11 - 'Apple will introduce a subnotebook/tablet computer/media player' - can you be any LESS specific ? Not to mention that EVERYBODY will get a subnotebook in 2008 ...

At 12 - 'Along the same lines look for OS X to bifurcate clearly into two lines -- Mac OS X and plain OS X (for devices like the iPhone) with Apple licensing (non-Mac) OS X to a few companies, including Sony.' THIS WOULD BE THE DAY PIGS FLY AND HELL IS ALREADY ALL FROZEN !!! But I guess that you will claim you got it at least half right - since they have a mini-OSX for the iPhone ... oh, wait, that already took place in 2007 ??? Are those the ONLY bold prediction that you can get half-right ?

And at 13 - 'Apple will build into some Macs support for the Windows API, allowing Mac and Windows apps to run side by side with no need for virtualization software except to run Linux. This fits with Apple's surprising new role as a competitor to HP and Dell for the business workstation market. But what's REALLY surprising about this is it will all be with the permission of Microsoft, which will still get a license fee from Apple, though in this case it is for just licensing the API and promising not to keep any of the APIs secret. Therefore, could the logical successor to Windows Vista actually be OS X? Only if Apple licenses Mac OS X to other companies, which I don't see happening.' Is this one in any way related to the other famous moronic prediction (about 1-2 years ago) that Apple will start using Linux/Windows for their kernel ?

And just to have my first 'victory lap' of the year - just as predicted (at 2), recession has arrived but is not yet official :)

Friday, January 04, 2008

First CoolHints and LameAlerts for 2008

First a few more words on the Asus eeePC - the product was very cool as a gift or self-gift for the end of 2007 but you need to think ahead and just accept the reality!

1. The product was initially announced at 199 US$ and it was smart from Asus to use the huge momentum for new year sales and do a decent amount of profit and get a HUGE amount of followers, but in order to keep those going NOW is the right time to start thinking about the 199$ target and implement that in less than 2-3 months! (serious competition IS coming).

2. Having a 63 MHz bus in 2008 is crappy in a 400-500 US$ product, MIGHT be OK in a 199 US$ product ! Either way power-management seems to suck :(

3. To the new eeePC fans - stop whining about bigger batteries - the 5200 mAh is already huge (and rather heavy) and there was an announcement about a 7000+ version - with something rather similar well-engineered models get 8 hours with a full 12'' screen (which is about 3 times bigger - hard to believe until you see it) and real 120 GB HDD !!!

4. A screen at least 10'' is a must for any model over the 199$ mark!

5. Ideally if you think about a model over the 500-600 US$ mark consider at least a 16 GB HDD that is somehow upgradeable. Apologists and morons that somehow believe a (cheap) SD is 'just as good or better' should first compare timings :) Also I don't see any good reason why such a model should have less than 2 GB RAM (OK, one acceptable reason - 'suspend to disk', but 2 GB RAM is still great to have).

6. If you take a look on the forums you will see that almost half of the users (OK, of the most vocal users) have installed XP but it seems most of them never heard that XP needs 800*600 - if you can read you will find that on the XP starting page so stop whining on how the problem is in XP. (and just as a note - OSX has just the same problem from the very first dialog). That being said the 800*480 screen is still usable in XP once you get the 'virtual 800*600' video driver (but you should always be very frugal with screen space - including tray/taskbar space).

But all the above are just nothing compared to the next huge CoolHints for Ubuntu and Firefox:

a) the next Ubuntu 8.04 is supposed to have Long Term Support and be the next 'gold standard' for Linux distributions - but no matter how much better it will be inside, people will always first see the LAME BROWN - just drop the brown or at least provide 1 OTHER theme (ideally DARK BLUE) that should be ALWAYS available (even on the mini-CD, micro-SD or whatever else); also I know that there are some people there very strict about licenses, but I believe that ndiswrapper and all the 'firmware cutters' are perfectly GPL and SHOULD BE ON THE LIVE CD !!!

b) I understand that FireFox creators were just too eager to get to the 3.x level which somehow is unconsciously associated with the 'first stable/hugely popular release' (thanks to Microsoft of course) but now there is NOTHING else more important left than to JUST FIX THE BAD SINGLE-THREADED MODEL (and whatever else makes JavaScript to suck big time in FireFox) and ADD A SIMPLE WAY TO START MULTIPLE INDEPENDENT FIREFOX PROCESSES !!!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Predictions 2008

This year I will start with the non-technical part and only then go to the technical predictions.

1. Huge problems ahead for the more progressive US presidential candidates - with a very large probability of one being assassinated or dying in very strange conditions - the probability is directly related to their commitment to progressive values (and resistance to the military-industrial complex) and IMHO the 'risk order' goes like most likely = Kucinich (which was on a hit list before), Ron Paul (very, very likely given that unlike Kucinich he has no competitor of general-election-value - meaning not a religious nuts or 9/11 war monger - in his party), Edwards and also Obama (which is surprisingly low-risk-conservative lately but race might play here an extra role).

2. US recession will become official and will deepen.

3. Stock adjustments - AAPL under 100$, MSFT and GOOG down, also I don't see DELL going in the right direction if they keep doing stupid marketing choices.

4. Currency and oil-price problems.

And now let's get to the more technical part.

5. Nothing interesting from Apple - maybe a subnotebook but eeePC has already taken all their steam so they'll be left only with the fanboys willing to pay 1500-2000 US$ for a slimmer version of eeePC. The iPhone SDK will be a disappointment and the full iPhone v2 will be VERY late (maybe not even in 2008) since it might be possible to see a lower-end mini-iPhone or similar.

6. The 'Google phone' will not be a huge hit but will capture a defensible position on the market.

7. Almost all the big hits will come from less-established players (but not necessarily small - think Asus, but I am quite afraid that in their case the peak was reached with eeePC and now 'managers' will take over 'enthusiasts' with very poor results - but I hope they'll do better than Dell and prove me wrong). Also keep an eye on other companies in the same area - Sager, Clevo, maybe even Lenovo!

8. There will be an interesting battle in the OS arena with both Vista and Leopard getting better, but the largest growth will come from the other major player and 2008 might become 'the year of Linux' - and I will personally wait with a lot of hope for the next Ubuntu and Mandriva versions!

9. AMD is not looking good - they have totally missed so far the trend towards notebooks and now might miss the next trends , which will be ...

10. Overall 2008 will be the year of the subnotebooks and advanced mobile phones - but with a recession starting and with a rather saturated market 2008 is not the year to try to 'cash-in' as luxury items (as for instance Dell is trying) but instead is the year when the smartest players should go for the 'best value' range and gain market share and more important - followers ! (that is also the reason why it will probably be 'the year of Linux' - since that is currently the most solid and more-intelligence-less-instinct-driven community , but for a company to succeed in appealing to that segment they really need to have a good hardware product at a decent price).