There are any number of reports circulating on the Apple Ipad. And some are very “spec rich”, in that they note every dimension and performance parameter so far released. Others are more “global”. I’m linking to the one on the Huffington Post, for no particular reason apart from just having one, for completeness’s sake. Those who need more detail will not have much trouble finding it.
I took a swim at lunchtime and TV in the means’ locker room had a business channel on. They were covering, live, Steve Jobs’ presentation of the much awaited New Gadget. Every time Jobs announced a feature or noted a performance parameter, there would be this flurry while various “analysts” and “insiders” pondered what it could mean. One guy noted that it was 30 mins into the speech and Jobs still had not talked price….perhaps an ominous sign. But, honest, there they were, grown men and women hanging on every word of what is, in effect, a press release-cum commercial-cum Nazi party rally. It was hard to get a good look at The Leader, but he seemed to be in better shape than last time around. Some of the back and forth on the panel was completely forgettable, but you have to give these guys some room. Remember the dictum: NO DEAD AIR! So they have to say something, and at times that something is rather banal or even foolish. I just shook my head. I guess I don’t understand the world. The Gadget has the uninspiring name of Ipad, which sounds like something you clean sinks with, or stuff into you jacket to make your shoulders like bigger. Surely Apple could have done better than that. But, Iphone, Ipod, Ipad. Or is it the other way round? I forget. Everybody run right out and buy at least two or three of these things.
This year marks the 350th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Society. The RS would go down in history simply for the illustriousness of its founders and members, even if it had never done anything: Wren, Boyle, Newton, Darwin, Banks, Davy, Rutherford, Einstein, Fleming, Crick and a battalion of others. Although not the first scientific society, it has been in existence longer than any other, and its journal The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society has the longest continuous publication history of all. Now, a commemorative volume has been issued, edited by the apparently tireless Bill Bryson. Called Seeing Further it contains interpretative essays by a number of contributors from both the Sciences (Richard Fortey, Richard Dawkins, Ian Stewart) and the Humanities (Neal Stephanson, Rebecca Goldstein). The book is abundantly illustrated. Here’s what the London Telegraph thought:
Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society
Bill Bryson (Editor). HarperPress (January 7, 2010)
Say it ain’t so! Or rather, hurry up and get it over with! What, you ask? Twitter. Yes, Twitter is said by some to be a flash in the pan, the answer to a question nobody was asking, a solution in search of a problem, etc. Twittering sort of popped up out of no place a few years ago and now everybody and his Aunt Jane are tweeting away to beat the band. Well, less so. It seems that the steady accretion of the ranks of the Twittering classes has slowed, or even leveled out, and you know what that means: next comes a curving descent downwards into zipnesss. I’m showing my age, but I never ‘got’ it. I couldn’t see the difference between that and text-messaging, which I don’t get either.
Today is the birthday of Virginia Woolf, who needs no introduction, as they say. I was always a little leery of her, for some reason. She seems all spikes and hard edges, somehow. But, the lady could write and she worked very, very hard at it, preferring to concentrate on the inner lives of her characters and how they react to events. Her later life was sad, and her mental health was always fragile. She finally took her own life by drowning.
I failed to note the passing last week of Robert B. Parker, the mystery writer, who created the character of Spenser, the Boston Private Eye, with a Code. Parker also fathered Jesse Stone, the two-fisted boozer and displaced LA cop who is trying to get straightened out as police chief of some little fishing town in New England, amid the Atlantic’s mists and fogs. Great Literature? No. The subject of a seminar in some Grad School English Dept? Maybe, but not likely. The guy could tell a story and he had Boston Grit down pat. Spenser helped me pass many a pleasant hour. Some people tell me that detective fiction is a contemptible subgenre of literature and a complete waste of time. Then they go out to play golf.
OK, you sinners, time is running out! You must repent by Wednesday, the day Apple unveils the Whatever It Is and changes the whole direction of the Cosmos. The company is coyly referring to the gadget os “our newest creation”. Even the comic strips are getting into the act….two of the strips that appear on the Houston Chronicle this morning had sly references to the campaign of puffery and phonus-bolonus anticipation. I looked at them, over coffee, but it was too early and I don’t remember what they said. I just remember that one was on the theme: I have to have it, just BECAUSE it has Apple on it and is secret. Wired magazine’s blog has another ” scoop” story on what’s known in to insiders….that means, it’s a summary of best guesses….about the Thing’s specifications. This morning’s New York Times did the same. Well, I say it’s about bloody time they unveiled it. All this hoopla is getting tiresome. Come on, Apple show it. They haven’t said boo, just looked wiser than a tree full of owls, smiled an oracular smile now and then, nodded and winked, and the industry press took it from there. Free publicity. This thing better be really, really hot, or a lot of people are going to look like smacked tookises.
It’s clear that the e-book has crossed the line from being a pet thing of the “early adapter” geeks to becoming a viable, even red-hot, commercial propostion. This time around, companies involved are determined to avoid the SONY trap; relying on the merits of a superior technology to let them run the market, while neglecting the matter of what to do with this technology. Amazon’s Kindle is available in a variety of sizes and a new version is coming out as well. Beyond this, Amazon will throw open product development so that outsiders can create “apps” for the K, sell’em and split the take. So, a Kindle apps store is in the offing. Publishers moan that Amazon frog marches them into drastic discounts for their new releases, a practice they detest. So, on the principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, publishers are seeking to make nice with Apple. You will recall, because I’ve written enough about it here, that Apple is about to launch a super-duper reader in slate or tablet format, and execs have been jetting back and forth to meetings with publishers in order to strike a bargain for content. Word is that Apple is much more tractable on pricing than Amazon, and is even willling to let publishers set their own price for tablet-based books, magazines and other materials. The Great Revelation is scheduled for the middle of next week, and we shall see what we shall see. Personally, I think it’s smart of Amazon to branch out into the third-party development sphere, taking a leaf from Apple’s book, with its app store inventory of over 100,000 items for the Iphone. And I think it’s smart of publishers to end-run Amazon, but they need to be careful. Price counts, a lot. Casual readers are not going buy books via Apple at twice what Amazon is charging, just to say “ooo, aah” at the Tablet experience.
Some of the critical energy expended on the Google vs. China match is being refocused on the incidents which led to the discovery of widespread tampering by persons unknown (but strongly suspected of being connected to the Chinese security services).
The shift concerns some worries that whoever it is that has bored into Gmail, may have done more than read things they were meant not to read. Much more worrisome is the prospect that the crackers have deposted their own software in some crucial part of the system code, and that this gadget would allow them not merely to enter, but also to control the program.
Google is unhappy about it all, and so are the CIOs at the 30-odd other companies that were also attacked. There are many, many thousands of lines of code in the management programs of all large concerns, and they will all have to be checked to see if there is something in a place where it ought not to be. And digging it out won’t be easy and there’s no assurance that only one such critter exists. But, it’s probably better to have it all come to light now, than later. In fact, the Chinese may have made a rather poor bargain, in having such an important break-in revealed in exchange for some rather unimportant info on some dissidents, or even on the Dalai Lama, whom they regard as a major pest. It makes you wonder in whose ponds they have been silently fishing. Today’s New York Times has a story on this:
Here’s Technology Review’s take:
The Consumer Electronics Show this year was big on new electronic document readers, and we have been reviewing some of them here. It’s all rather a glut, like binging on fruit cake at Christmas and then feeling sick at the sight of even one raisin or candied cherry. So, I laid off a bit, but folks have been sending me tips about new products, so I’ll open the package again and take one more small nibble.
There is a reader called Skiff, which is big… a full 11″, and looks very good in the PR photos. It does not use glass, is thin, light and promises a good reading experience. It’s also good on battery life. So they say, anyway.
Lenovo offered an interesting concept: a hybrid laptop with detachable slate reader. It’s called the IdeaPad U1 and is really too units bundled into one package. You make use of one or the other as needed. It’s getting some buzz and here is a site to look at:
Ray Kurzweil, a cutting edge kind of guy if ever one lived, has offered the BLIO software which converts any laptop, netbook or cell phone into a COLOR reader. It sounds too good to be true, but that’s what they tell me. Information about agreements with content providers is preliminary, but Baker and Taylor, a big book distributor for libraries, is mentioned as a partner.
The original Google Book Deal, aka The Deal, has been substantially modified. And that’s putting it mildly. Due to a large number of objections and counter-arguments, Google and the plaintiffs in the digitization suit have come to a new agreement. The American Library Association(ALA) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) have cooperated on the production of a quick reference guide to the provisions of the revised agreement. It’s called: A Guide for the Perplexed Part III: The Ammended Settlement Agreement, and it’s available as a PDF from the ALA web site. Go to to this site and look in the sidebar on the left side:
The author is Jonathan Band, a legal consultant engaged by the organizations to help foster understanding of the new Deal, by reducing it to more manageable form and eliminating some legalese. Eyes have been off the ball on the settlement, which at one time was the biggest thing ever, but matters are still proceeding and changes have been made to suit the DOJ and other interests. One big difference is the elimination of foreign books from the purview of the project. I feel like Billy May, the now deceased, but still ubiquitous pitchman for all kinds of products:”Here’s how to order now”…..