Hi all, I’m fresh off of the range having let the lead fly for about 6 hours. My friends and I are sufficiently prepared for any zombie attacks … how about you? For my sanity, let’s just assume that answer is a resounding YES! (if not, you might want to befriend a Republican and get them on speed dial immediately or figure out whether you prefer salt or mustard on your brains). This, of course, has nothing to do with the post topic today unless you take into consideration that that I was cleaning my weapons last night while my mobile computing device was happily being upgraded (foreshadowing).
As a professional IT Architect, I’ve spent most of my professional career designing and consulting on large computing systems. To grossly simplify this landscape, there are really two defined camps in this space. One camp puts forth the mantra of interoperability is king with a nod to Best in Breed. The other camp preaches the tight integration card with a willingness to reduce capabilities at a gain of simplicity. The challenge is to mediate between these ideologies and come up with the best solution. For years, the Best of Breed camp enjoyed big success riding the benefits of reduced vendor lock in and the ability to pick and choose the best answer for each specific need. This all started changing about 10 years ago when the complexities of integration and the inability for vendors to deliver on open standards (I’m speaking to you SUN). Suites and proprietary solutions found their weak spot in the system armor. Since then, the Best of Breed roar has become more of a whimper and the vendor suites have become as sweet as they sound. There is one place where this battle raging … probably the last real battleground for this argument. Any guesses where that is? If you guessed the mobile computing field, you are dead on… and the players? No need for extra power to the synapse – Android vs Apple.
I am on the Android side of this colossal tug of war. As of such I am barraged with the “It Just Works” sermons from the other camp. Apple is so great because everything just works, my Apple products are a gift from heaven because they just work, I did not even have to do anything special to get this new feature functioning because it just works. Hell, Apple is so cool I’ll immediately go out an buy the next version even though it doesn’t really provide me much more value, but I know it will just work even better than what I have. Wow, I have to hand it to Apple, their marketing arm is amazing. I can see how this would be so appealing based on the quirks and idiosyncrasies we encounter with their competitors. Clearly there is room for improvement in the other devices, but what is the price of that discomfort over the benefit of not being held captive to a vendor that essentially limits your freedom on what can and cannot run on YOUR computing device? To me, that price is $100. I can say that because we bought an HP Touchpad during their fire sale. A quick mod of the kernel and we had swapped out the WebOS for Android! Linda now had a fairly functional tablet device she could use for her photography business and (gasp) Facebook. The downside of this is Linda had to put up with the quirks. Not a big deal for me, but I can understand the annoyances of not everything working all the time but some of that is due to bad programming – take for example the Facebook app requiring a location indicator before it will run – this was solved with a fake GPS app, but again, it took some effort to figure out what was wrong.
Flash forward to last month when I decided to breakdown and get Linda an iPad HD. Her photography business was doing well and figured switching over to that platform would work out for her… and we all know .. it just works! Eventually this showed up in the mail:
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64Gs with the cellular option. The very first task was to get it loaded up with the Apps she has on her iTouch. To do this all we needed was a quick connection to our wireless internet and we’d be good to go… oh no. For some strange reason it refused to connect. Our iTouches connect up just fine to it as well as both our PCs. Maybe a quick look at the Internet will show what we did wrong. Jump on the Windows PC, hit the Internet without issue and there we were met with link after link of other consumer problems with Apple Wifi. Wait a minute, the whole story line is “It Just Works” and yet I’m reading on the Apple site about things to try and fix the problem including the quite hilarious option to turn up the brightness on the screen. Nothing appeared to fix it even after changing all the settings on the wireless uplink (including the entire security mechanism) — nope, no luck. On the other hand it was working fine with the Verizon Hotspot (when we were forced to use).
A week later we took the new iPad with us to Wisconsin on a photography shoot. To help pass the down time we took an educational DVD with us on how to shoot big game in Yellowstone National Park. I had already watched it, but wanted Linda to view it. Since the packaging said it was iPod enabled it seemed like a great opportunity to check out the concept of watching videos on the iPad. After the day’s shoot we were relaxing at the hotel and decided to watch the DVD. Of course we can’t just put the files on the iPad directly, instead we have to start up iTunes, move the files over to iTunes and then let it transfer them to the device. This is an uber-annoyance but apparently this is a tradeoff for things just working. iTunes was loaded, the DVD was loaded and now just need to copy the iPod folder on the DVD to iTunes. Ummm, iTunes refuses to accept the dropped on files. Apparently this device doesn’t understand .mp4 extension which I thought was one of Apples supported platforms A couple more attempts resulted in the same bad results. I am now officially 0-2 on the concept of “It Just Works!” Granted, there re plenty of things that did work correctly, but if you are going to hammer me with reasoning of it just works it better damn work.
There is a bright spot in all of this (well, for me, not my brother). I did download Flowers HD which looks great on the new iPad and now that I can practice I’ll once again rule the high scorers list in the family.
The other surprising bonus was pointed out by a friend of mine. To go along with the iPad, I also bought Linda the camera accessories so she could simply plug in adapter in and view her photography pictures directly from the SD card (let me re-phrase that – Apple forced me to spend more money for functionality that should already be available!) It appeared to work by requiring the images to be imported into the gallery which did not seem that efficient but did work. Turns out that the Wii keyboard (which we own) will work as an external keyboard by putting the USB receiver into the Apple USB camera adapter. Now that is also something that did just work. Note, the Air Stash product my brother turned us onto works a lot better with the iPad – it creates a hot spot for the SD cards and allows us to view it directly off the card rather than importing them – SCORE! Now Linda can simply take the JPG card out after a shoot, stick it in the Air Stash and put it in slideshow mode for potential customers.
The best part of all this is she gave me the TouchPad to use. Having an Android phone already, all of my apps were immediately uploaded (free I might add) to the tablet and all seemed to perform great. In order to benefit from the latest code base and hopefully address a quirk encountered on our corporate wireless network I decided to upgrade from Cyanogenmod CM7 to CM9 (Ice Cream Sandwich). A quick look at an online video (recommend those uploaded by reverendkjr) reminded me of the process, a download of the required configuration files, copied those files to the HP (by the way DIRECTLY USING USB) and executing the load command from the PC was all that was needed to complete this task. Rather than wait for it, I went to clean the rifles. On return, sure enough, I was the proud owner of this.
Guess what, it kept all my app settings and a quick check of the wireless, email, apps stores and a couple of installed apps all confirmed that “It just Works”. The result of all this .. Linda is happy with her condom wearing computing tablet and I’m happy with a tablet that I control even it if exposes me to a few errrr, quirks, yeah, quirks.