April 07, 2006
iPods vs. cell phones
It seems to be the common wisdom that
a) Apple is working on producing an Apple-branded cell phone.
b) In any case Apple won't sell many of them because it's not good at selling to the kind of monopolies that run the cellular networks. (Steve Jobs once made a similar comment with respect to set-top cable devices -- Apple could produce a super-Tivo with many other capabilities, but it would have to cell them to the monopolies that run the cable networks -- which he thought wouldn't be wise because Apple's forte is selling to consumers.)
c) People won't buy iPods when cell phone can do the same thing.
d) Therefore, Apple will be in a lot of trouble in a few years.
I am wondering, though, if there is room for something that is more than a music player -- that has better video capabilities than today's high-end iPods and also great gaming capabilities. One rumor is that Apple is working on a device with a main surface that is nearly 100% video display. When you put your thumb near where the scroll wheel is now on today's iPods, the scroll wheel appears on the screen and works just as it does today. For games, different controls could appear, attuned to the needs of the game. If they get a device like that to work really well, I can imagine it being the hottest seller they've ever produced. Seems like it would be hard to get the scroll wheel working "just right". My guess is that it would involve having a circle with a slightly different physical feel than the rest of the surface, but which is still transparent.
The question would then be, is there room for that version of the iPod and a cell phone as separate devices? It seems arguable that the ideal cell phone is a very different device in shape from the ideal iPod. With a cell phone, you really want the tactile response of physical number buttons so you can use it easily without looking. You also want it to be very small. You probably want it to be shaped a lot like the high-end cell phones of today. The imaginary iPod we're considering is completely different. It needs to be large so that you have a more enjoyable display for video and gaming. And it needs to be a flat rectangle. These really seem to be two very different devices.
It's always extremely difficult to predict the future, but my guess is that they doomsayers will be at least somewhat surprised. Certainly a lot of people will have combined cell phone-music players. But I think a lot of people are still going to be buying iPods.
Sorry for the lack of links in the above. I'm just too busy working on Goombah to look them up. Goombah is coming along very nicely, thank you.
April 05, 2006
Apple supports Windows on Macs
If you care about this sort of thing it's doubtful that you're hearing it here first, but it's such a big deal to Apple fans, such as myself, that I have to mention it anyway. Apple is introducing Boot Camp Public Beta which supplies drivers and other support for running XP on Mac hardware.
It's a good idea for the sake of increasing Mac hardware sales. But I imagine a lot of people in the Mac community are going to wonder if it also means there will be less momentum behind the development of OS X. Is it a coincidence that Apple's chief software technology officer, Avie Tevanian, has very recently announced that he is leaving?
April 04, 2006
Accounting software: MoneyDance
The OS X version of Quicken is simply too buggy to use. Accounting data is one kind of data you don't want to get corrupted, but Quicken corrupts it. See complaints on VersionTracker for details. This isn't a new thing with Quicken; it's been true for years. It's quite remarkable that they don't fix their data store.
When my accounting data became corrupted a year or so ago (which happened without a crash or other knowable cause), I gave up. I looked around for something else, and found MoneyDance. MoneyDance isn't the only accounting program that's well-reviewed on VersionTracker, but it's the only one I've seen that runs on OS X, Windows, and Linux. The fact that it's written in Java undoubtedly helps there.
At this point, I'm not aware of anything I care about that Quicken has and MoneyDance doesn't. Plus, online banking works on OS X for MoneyDance with some banks that don't support it for Quicken.
MoneyDance has been improving at a relatively rapid pace. Another important factor, to me, is the fact that it is in a unique niche due too being the only easy-to-install-and-use accounting program (that I know of) that works on all three major OS platforms. I think that gives it a competitive edge that may increase its chances of being around in 5 years, compared to its OS X-only cousins. I don't want to have to switch accounting programs again for a very long time.
Oh, and one last thing -- you can write extensions in my language of choice, Python, that access MoneyDance data. I haven't done it yet, but I'm glad to know it can be done. I assume that facility uses jython, a variant of Python that runs in a JVM.
I have no association with the product or company at all, other than being a happy user. If you use OS X or Linux and are looking for a reliable and easy-to-use accounting program, I heartily recommend MoneyDance.
Superheating and Microwave ovens
I think the following information is amusing, interesting, and potentially useful at the same time -- a rare combination.
If you heat water in a very smooth dish in a microwave, it may become heated way past the boiling point without actually starting to boil. Then when you put instant coffee or a tea bag in it... watch out. Very vigorous boiling starts instantaneously, possibly injuring you with spray.
In other words:
If one litre of water is superheated by only 1 °C (ie if it is heated to 101 °C without boiling), it is in an unstable state, and it can suddenly produce about 3 litres of steam. The rapid production of a substantial quantity of steam within the bulk of the water will cause it to boil vigorously and possibly to appear to explode. The result is boiling water flying at speed out of the container. [University of Southern Wales]
The reason it can happen:
In a microwave oven, the water is usually hotter than the container, whereas parts of the kettle or saucepan are usually hotter than the water. Further, the surfaces of some containers used in microwave ovens may be very smooth, almost at a molecular scale, whereas this is not true for kettles or saucepans.
Microwave ovens heat the water directly: the microwaves pass through the container and the water, and the water itself absorbs energy from them. In a kettle or saucepan, the container itself (saucepan) or a heating element (some kettles) is hotter than the water. The hottest points cause a small amount of local superheating, boiling is initiated here, and this then stirs the water. [same source]
See a movie of it happening and more information here.