I’ll admit it: I just don’t “get” the iPad.
I mean, I have a Mac laptop and an iPhone – do I really need an oversized iPod Touch as well? I can take my laptop (or iPhone) into the living room and surf while watching TV, I can stream all the content I want, control my iTunes with my iPhone… take pictures, connect to social media, Skype and IM where ever I am – so why the heck would any rational person $500-$800 for an oversized iPod Touch?
Answer: because they’ve used one.
This weekend my buddy Edward Callaghan (from London) came to visit – and although we gave him constant ribbing about being from “Great” Britain and for kicking England’s butt in the Revolutionary war – he did bring 2 pieces of gear that I don’t own: the iPhone 4 and an iPad.
I played with the new iPhone (loved it!) and also scoffingly gave the iPad a quick test drive. I mean, it was cool and all – the screen is great, it works (literally) like a giant iPhone (minus the talking bit and camera bit) – and was nice. I wasn’t convinced it was $600 nice, but it was nice.
Then on Saturday morning when everyone (including Edward) was still asleep – I decided that I would give the iPad and extended test drive – and surf for the latest news, play some media files, etc.
Boy, was I surprised: that thing rocks!
The browsing is very fast (similar to my laptop’s speed), the screen is beautiful and bright (like my laptop screen), the on-screen keyboard is big (and in landscape mode almost as big as a regular keyboard), it has all the same pinching and zooming and swiping controls as the iPhone (although no multi-tasking yet), and there is a special version of Apple’s iWork suite that was optimized for the iPad.
I’m not running out to the store to get one (it’s always good to wait for the 2.0 version of new Apple hardware) – but my kids will be needing their own computers soon – and once they get multi-tasking – I can get two iPads for the price of a single laptop.
There’s a reason Apple sold 3 million of them in 80 days (and 1.75 million iPhone 4’s in 72 hours)…
Looks like I’ll have to dust off my “Objective C for Dummies” books and get to writing some code!
In the world of software – there is a whole set of lingo behind-the-scenes. Most software developers I know (and this is a GROSS generalization) are the type of people that are…. ehem… well… are the sort of people that regard the binary “purity” of a computer that does exactly what you tell it to be preferable to the sort of unpredictable behavior found in… well… actual live people.
[BIAS DISCLAIMER: I'm a newly minted Mac fanboy - but until a month ago I used the PC as my primary platform for 12 years]
- I’m done with “patch Tuesdays”;
- I’m done with stupid security and firewall settings that are so restrictive you can’t install software or get anything to work without having to Google for 30 minutes to figure out how to do it;
- I’m done with cryptic error messages that don’t offer any hope of you actually figuring out what the hell is actually wrong so you can fix it;
- I’m done with the need to reformat and re-install all my stuff – EVER!
So, is Windows 7 the spawn of the devil? No, probably not. It’s probably a really useful and good update to the aging XP.
So I was doing some surfing this week and I came across a product called Runtime Revolution. They claim to have some software that will:
Create outstanding applications yourself with a programming environment you can quickly understand. Achieve immediate results with a visual, drag-and-drop interface builder. Use English, the language you already know, to describe program logic. Deploy powerful cross-platform solutions without the huge learning curve of other development environments.
Well – being the geek that I am – I checked out their tutorials and videos, etc. I was looking at it and looking at it – and it seemed VERY familiar… turns out it is – it’s HyperCard!!
Yeah, really, HyperCard! What the?!?
It seems that the passion for the product never died – and those Scottish coders (whomever they are) have been updating the products GUI capabilities while keeping all of the easy-to-use goodness and SmallTalk-based language basically intact.
The idea is that you can create extremely rich GUIs in a way that MUCH easier than Flash, AIR, OpenLaszlo, etc. This thing runs (and can be edited) on Mac, Windows and Linux (Unix). It creates double-clickable applications for any platform – AND (using a browser plug-in) will work in the web – all with ZERO code changes!
Here’s an overview of the features:
- Author on your favorite operating system – Studio is available for Windows, Mac, Linux or Unix.
- Create standalone applications for any platform with native appearance and behaviours
- Fully-featured, English-like programming language with 1596 commands and functions
- Extensible with code libraries and compiled externals you write yourself or obtain from third parties
- Ability to automate system functions and “office” applications
- Embedded web browsers.
- Powerful libraries for manipulating Internet protocols, XML, compression, encoding/decoding
- Your very own User Space with 10 MB free space to share your stacks online.
- Integrated connectivity for ODBC, MySQL, PostgreSQL SQLite and Valentina databases**
- Flexible chunk expressions, regular expressions, arrays, and sorting functions for manipulating data
- Complete printing and reporting facilities for professional output
- Ability to run as CGI process on web servers
At it’s most basic: it’s an IDE. You simply drag your control to the form (”card”) and then attach code to any one of the 1,000,000 events that are exposed. There is a full even hierarchy – so while you can attach a script to an individual object – you don’t have to. You can attach it to the card (form) or the “stack” (application).
You have 100% FULL control over EVERYTHING in the entire GUI:
- Windows including: modal, non-modal, palettes, stay on top, min size, max size, drag and drop events, title bar controls
- Alpha masking
- Custom button appearance
- Geometry editor – for telling it how to resize individual elements when the form is resized
- Support for custom radio buttons (and checkboxes)
- Grid editor
- Rich text, inline html (WITH images), list boxes, data grids (with icon types, auto-sort, drag column order, etc),
- Graphics containers – including QuickTime containers and image containers that support multiple graphics formats as well as built-in graphs
- Native vector graphics that include gradients, splines, polygons, boxes, ovals, lines, text, etc.
- Full visual menu editor that works for popup menus as well as application menus
- Tab controls
- Scrollbar objects
- Web browser object
- Groups of objects that can be dragged, edited and moved at runtime – including nested groups that all work independently of each other
- Dialog “sheets” and slide-out “drawers” (Mac OS only)
- Main window can be a CUSTOM SHAPE – based on a background image(!)
- Named property “profiles” – for defining any (or all) of an object’s properties and then switching them out (live) at runtime
In short – it’s an extremely rich GUI builder that exposes all the events and types of things that you could ever want when building an application.
Yeah, but what about the code?
The coding language is an offshoot of SmallTalk – and is English-based.
put the height of field "Text" into myVarput the width of image "My Image" + 17 after field "Values"if item 1 of the location of me > zero then beepset the loc of button "OK" to 32,104set the name of field "Old Name" to "New Name"select after text of field "New Name"
Yeah, it’s fairly verbose – but very straight forward. You can do anything you want – including working with arrays, calling external plug-ins (written in C), pass events to individual objects, create functions, etc.
Oh yeah, and it’s object oriented (all the properties of objects inherit the properties of objects higher in the hierarchy). For example – if you don’t specify a background color for a field – it will take the background color of the card, or stack.
Yeah, but what about SQL stuff?
It supports ODBC – but also has native (direct access) connect to: Oracle, MySQL, SQLite, PostgreSQL, Valentina. It has a built-in query editor and you can “bind” field objects directly to database columns – so you don’t have to write your own SQL for inserts/updates/deletes – it’s all handled automatically.
Of course, you can also run your own queries and get your own datasets and do stuff with it (like you can in any other coding environment) – and you can dynamically change the binding on a field object at any time (at runtime).
You can create databases and table (and alter their schema) ON-THE-FLY – and you can programatically create new objects and bind them to your new table(s) at runtime(!!).
OK – so what’s missing?
- Automatic data broadcasting
- Native HTML/CSS browser implementation (you have to use a browser plug-in)
- Multi-developer (SVN/CVS) support
- Runtime fees (the “Media” edition is free, “Professional” is $249 and “Enterprise” [allows native connection to Oracle] is $499). There are ZERO other fees.
This thing sounds VERY cool – and sounds like it will be a welcome addition to my toolbox!
So, I’ve had this old P.O.S. Linksys router for about 3 years (it replaced another Linksys router I had for 4 years), and it was on the way out.
I had to “reset” it 3 or 4 times a week (unplug/re-plug) – and I was just done with it. So, I was in the market for a new router.
I’m absolutely LOVING my Macbook Pro (some people have accused me of being an overzealous fanboi – which I am) – so I thought I’d give the Airport Extreme a try.
Now, I’ve set up a few routers in my day – and it’s not pretty. There are 1,000,000 arcane settings – so I had screen shots of all the router settings, my ISP settings handy and had poured a nice glass of wine – knowing that I was in for a long night.
I unpacked the router, installed the software (< 1 minute!), plugged the Ethernet cables in, plugged it into the wall (there is no on/off switch) and it sat there and the one indicator just blinked yellow (rather than going green).
Oh crap. Here we go…
I guzzled some wine, then opened the configuration utility. It showed the device, so I clicked on it and it asked if I was setting up a new network, was extending an existing one, or replacing an existing router.
I told it I was replacing an existing router – and it had a list of all the previous connections. It told me to pick my old one – which I did – and then clicked “Continue.”
I was so busy gathering up all the screen shots and print outs – that it took me 5 minutes to notice the software said: “Airport Extreme configured.”
I clicked “Continue” and the router restarted in 20 seconds. It glowed a fabulous green and the Macbook just automatically recognized it (it even kept the old SID [network] name).
BUT – there was a problem. The network was wide open. So, I re-launched the configuration utility and clicked “Continue” a couple of times to get to the security settings. I chose the security protocol, entered a password and the router restarted itself again.
Then the Mac asked for the new password – which I entered – and BAM – connection was made.
So far, so good. I had expected as much – Apple router + Apple hardware + Apple OS = easy.
BUT – there was another problem. I have a few PCs here – as well wireless printers, iPhones, etc. I knew the iPhone and the printer were going to be OK – but I was really dreading getting the XP computers to connect to the new network.
After a healthy swig of wine – I tried the first one… changed the security protocol, entered the new password… and prayed.
IT WORKED. The first time.
Next was the 2nd XP machine. Same thing! Then the iPhones – easy. Then the printer – a snap.
I installed a new router with almost ZERO configuration, added a Mac and 3 PCs, 2 printers and 2 iPhones to the network in 20 MINUTES (not HOURS, minutes!).
The Airport Extreme was about $75 more than a new Linksys would have been – and I was careful with the packaging in case (probably) I had to return it… but I have to honestly say – I have never in my 20 years in working with computers – have had such an absolutely painless router install.
Now, that’s the way it SHOULD be!
Well, Microsoft is supposed to launch a limited preview of their upgrade to Office – called Office 2010 – sometime today. I didn’t pre-sign-up for an access code to check it out – because, quite frankly, I really don’t care.
Curious, yes – caring – no.
I read an overview on TechCrunch and they menti0ned that Microsoft was going to come out with a FREE version of Office on the web – in direct competition with Google Docs.
The good news is that it’s rumored to have the same crappy and confusing “Ribbon” user interface as the desktop version (!), and although it won’t have as many features (of course) – it will still allow you to actually create… wait for it… TEXT DOCUMENTS IN THE “BROWSER”! Whoo hoo!
Oh, and they’re also going to give away this spiffy new version of Excel that allows you to actually do simple spreadsheets – again – IN THE “BROWSER”! Wow!
Jeez. Are they kidding?
I mean I know that they hate Google and everything – and Google must have gone up their a** 100 miles when they announced the Chrome OS last week – but really. A free Office Suite? 4 years after Google did it? 4 years after Zoho and all the rest of the OTHER 1,000,000 players who have free word processing, image processing, spreadsheets and presentation software?
If anything, Microsoft’s delay in giving away the goods has allowed all these other players to get people used to NOT using Microsoft’s Office tools (in the browser). They have all made it easy to import and export their browser-based documents for consumption by Office orOpenOffice or PDF or whatever it is you use on your desktop.
They allow multiple authors to collaborate in near-realtime, support version control, and permission-based security. Oh yeah, and these “other” productivity tools run in any browser you might have lying around – NOT just in IE.
They also (for the most part) have open APIs – that allow developers to tie these applications into larger workflow applications – or to combine the data and create custom mashups. I’m sure that Microsoft will have some APIs as well – but it will be interesting to see whether they extend to the desktop version as well.
In some ways, it’s cool that the 800 pound gorilla is getting into the free online business apps market. Maybe that competition will force Google and the other players to up the ante and create some truly innovative features (and enhance some of the stuff that’s in there now).
I’m not sure what their business model for the free web versions is (other than the typical Microsoft FUD-factor)… because if you’re not using Office now (or have an old version that meets your needs and you’re using some other online tools as well) – what will make people jump to the online versions?
The other big question is – how long until someone creates a virus or worm that will infect the Active X components that will surely play a part? Will they run on other browsers? Will users of other browsers need to install anything? Will users even CARE?
Will YOU use the free Office tools when they finally ship (late next year)?