Friday, January 29, 2010


Soapbox time, folks! This is a bit of a departure for me here on the ol' blog, but I wanted to get this off my chest. :) If you're not really interested in Apple computer stuff or technology in general, no prob. I'll keep blogging like usual, but I wanted to say a few things about the generally negative reaction to Apple's new iPad device.

Leading up to the announcement of the iPad, the internet was buzzing with all kinds of news, hype, leaked photos, and plenty of outright speculation and conjecture. But now that it's been officially announced and we've all seen the coverage, or better yet, watched the Keynote itself or at least some of the hands-on demos, many people have formed their own more-or-less informed opinions on Apple's "magic" new device. So far my own reaction is fairly positive, but I'll get to that in a minute.

First off, I need to address two issues that seem to be raising the most controversy in the popular media regarding the iPad, the first being its name. Within hours, nay, minutes, of Steve's announcement, teh internets were squawking about the name. "iPad" was a stupid name, and borderline inappropriate for casual conversations, so spake the masses. Why not something like iTablet? MacTablet? iSlate? Anything but iPad!

Oh, how quickly we forget the lessons from tech history. Let's step back a bit to 2006 when the Nintendo Wii was announced. Leading up to the official press announcement, the Wii had was bestowed with the codename "Revolution." It was clever, daring, and indicated a shift for Nintendo, a company traditionally seen as one that catered to families and children with colored consoles and kid-friendly games. But Wii? People liked the technology, but hated the name. It was met with well-nigh unprecedented ridicule and scorn throughout the internet and mainstream press, and many claimed the name of the console would lead to its demise. The worst part, though, was the onslaught of sophomoric jokes and halfhearted attempts at humor at the expense of the Wii. Even Matt Casamassina, one of IGN's most prolific Nintendo standard-bearers, said the Wii made him think of urine, and that was one of the kinder things that gaming pundits said of the console's name back when they first heard about it. It was like the entire gaming press took a giant leap back to junior high, making fun of the weird kid in class with a funny-sounding name.

Fast forward to 2010 and the Wii is doing just fine. In fact, it has consistently outsold its rivals, the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, every month since its launch. And the name? All concerns about it have faded into obscurity, and no one thinks twice anymore about Nintendo's once-oddly-named console. The same goes for all those kids we knew in seventh grade who had funny-sounding names. We grew up, and so did they, and hopefully we are now a little wiser and can get past the whole name thing.

My point? The same will happen with the iPad. Right now people are having a seventh-grade-level heyday with the name of the product. For people to malign Apple's latest creation simply because of its name is short-sighted and downright silly. If you have some real criticism to offer, then fine. But if all you bring to the table is a few jokes about its name, then please leave the discussion. And in the meantime, remember that the iPod was also maligned because of its name when it was first released, but people have moved on from that as well.

The second issue that needs some perspective is that of the iPad's capabilities--in short, what it actually does. And to get the needed perspective, let's take a brief trip back to 2001 and the introduction of another Apple gizmo, the iPod. Nowadays the little-mp3-player-that-could is not only ubiquitous, it has entirely changed the way we approach music. Remember making a mix CD for a trip? Remember buying an entire CD instead of picking and choosing songs at will for 99 cents each? Remember *not* having thousands of songs at your fingertips? But back in 2001, people hated the iPod. It was too limited, it didn't support enough music formats, it only worked on Macs, and on and on. Come to think of it, pundits also predicted the failure of another of Apple's devices that changed the world, the iPhone. Some even refused to give the iPhone a chance and branded it a failure long before it was even released. But Apple understands the concept of user experience better than any other technology company, and as time passed it was clear that despite the limitations of the iPod and iPhone, the devices sold like gangbusters because they were simple, easy to use, and actually did have plenty of features that people enjoyed.

With that in mind, would everyone who is currently criticizing the iPad who has actually used the device please raise your hands?


My point exactly. Very few people have seen the iPad in person, much less used it. And those who have used it are pretty darn positive about it. Sure there are legitimate gripes to be had: the lack of multitasking, the lack of a camera, no actual keyboard, no USB or other readily apparent connectivity features, limited battery life compared to the Kindle, no Flash support for the browser, and so on. But let's remember the iPod and iPhone and their laundry list of limitations for a second. But would anyone deny that these devices have not only been entirely successful, but single-handedly altered our perception of their entire respective device categories? No, I don't think so.

And so at the end of the day, I have to give Apple the benefit of the doubt on this one, simply because history demands it. Not every one of their products has been a success, and several were honest-to-goodness failures. But to dismiss the iPad because of what it can't do (rather than giving Apple credit for designing a device that actually does do quite a bit) or criticizing the product because of it's name doesn't really help the discussion at all.

Time will tell, and that's all I ask. Let's wait until the iPad is released before we start calling it a failure.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

At the cabin

Last weekend was our annual trip to Camp Moses Merrill, and while in and of itself the trip might not be especially noteworthy, this year just happened to be the ten-year anniversary of our little outing. And in all those years only three people have been there every year: my friends Evan, Brian, and myself. That's not to say we will always be attending (Evan has a daughter, and everyone has new obligations and other considerations as they grow older), but it's cool that we have been able to make it every year so far. And this year was, like every year, a really good time and a great way to spend a cold January weekend.

We decided to do two things differently this go-round: we went from Friday evening to Sunday evening, and we also had actual meals instead of frozen pizzas by the dozen. While that might seem kind of insignificant, it actually helped immensely. A weekend of junk food and frozen pizzas can be nice, but knowing that actual meals were being prepared (Evan kind of doled out the food duties to various people, and everyone was responsible for a lunch or dinner) was a welcome change from simply wondering if anyone would want to split the last four-meat Red Baron after sledding. Als, in past years, most people left Sunday night and the handful who hung around until Monday morning were left with cleanup duties. This time, there were almost least a dozen of us still there on Sunday to do the cleanup, which made everything go a lot smoother.

New things aside, we had a great time watching movies, playing cards and board games, watching the Vikings/Cowboys game on Sunday, and of course much time was spent on the sledding hill (with more than a foot of snow on the ground!) even though most of the snow tubes were shredded by the end. So thanks to everyone who showed up again this time, and hopefully we can all make it again next year!

Before heading up to the cabin last Saturday I also got to go out to breakfast with some friends from college, and it was great to see them again. We keep in touch on facebook, but it's always nice to see people and catch up in person. So mega bonus on that. :)

Here at home things have been much warmer this past week, and today we will probably get to go for a walk without hats and gloves on, what with the high being forecast in the mid-50's. Not too bad, I say. :) Maybe we'll snag a garden hose at the hardware store and give our car a little wash, too. It sure could use it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I mentioned a few weeks ago that one of our projects here at home was to mount the TV above the fireplace, which we completed right before Christmas break. It wasn't too hard, actually, except for deciding which mounting hardware to use in the masonry. My dad, my brother, and two guys at Lowe's all gave me some very good suggestions, and in the end I used a combination of a few of their ideas. It looks pretty nice up there, and when augmented with a nice fire below...well, it's tough to beat an evening at home with a good movie (or video game) and a fire blazing. And thanks to our ample supply of firewood on the back porch, we'll probably be set for the rest of the winter. :)

Since getting my Xbox 360 a month ago I've had a great time exploring lots of things in the world of video games that might be old hat to many, but brand new to me. And now that I have Xbox Live, which I got from my wife's parents as a Christmas gift, it's like a curtain has been pulled back on an entire world of new things to experience. One of those is a trivia game called "1 vs. 100" where you play against other people, often numbering in the thousands or tens of thousands. It's not unlike other video game trivia experiences: a question comes up with three answer choices. You have a few seconds to choose, and the press of a button locks in your answer. At the end of the round, the person with the highest score wins. But something about playing against real people, rather than the computer, gives the experience a whole new dimension. It's fun to see how many people got a question right, or who got fooled by a tricky one, or how your score compares to thousands of others around the country. One of the downsides of Xbox Live is the cost: $35 for a year of membership. But if that membership includes experiences like "1 vs. 100," I'd say it's well worth it.

One thing that's been the topic of many an online discussion forum lately has been the weather, and I would almost feel remiss if I did't mention it here. It's been very cold here in Oklahoma the past week or so, but every day my wife and I would check the temperatures in different locations and see that it was always much colder up in Minnesota. And to be honest, I never liked this kind of weather when we lived up there but I do appreciate having been through five years of bitter winters now that we live in a warmer climate. I feel as though we have earned our warmer weather. :) Forecasts are predicting warming trends across the midwest this week, but there should be plenty of snow left on the hill at Moses Merrill this weekend. Awesome!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Ringing In

I don't know that I've ever been much for New Years parties. I think in college I might have gone to a few, but mostly on New Years I can be found at home with just a few people as opposed to a giant party somewhere. It's not to say I don't like the giant parties, but somehow I just never really got on board with the whole New Years Celebration thing. It seems like kind of an arbitrary event to celebrate, but then, over-thinking these kinds of things isn't really the point. Anyway, this past Thursday evening my wife and I celebrated the onset of 2010 with her parents and a neighbor friend who lives down the block from us, and we just chatted about things in town, had some sparkling grape juice, and a few snacks to boot. It was a really good time, even though the whole thing was pretty low-key. So far 2010 is doing great, but it's a lot like 2009 except maybe a tad colder. Hopefully things warm up soon around here, but whatever the temp is, at least we're not in the 15-below weather of Minnesota. My hats off to y'all up north...

Speaking of celebrations, we spent Christmas down up in Lincoln, and even though we were just with family, it was pretty gigantic. :) We made it to the 3:30 Christmas Eve service, and it's a good thing we chose the earlier one as many churches around town cancelled services that evening and the next day. Later that night there was something like 16 people over at my parents' house for dinner, photos, presents, and prayers. Most were family members, but there were a few friends over just for fun. All in all, a great time and certainly my idea of how to celebrate a given occasion.

After spending the past few days with my wife's mom and stepdad, who came down for a visit just following our return from Lincoln, it's about time to get things around here back to normal. We started taking the Christmas Tree down last night, and tomorrow it's back to work as usual. In some ways it's kind of nice to be back to a routine, though, and as the days are now getting progressively longer, it's a good sign that something great (i.e. Spring) is coming soon...