High Hopes for SparkleShare

I’ve been using DropBox now for a while, and I love the functionality of the application. It’s just a really great idea. I have it installed on four or five different computers, and can use it to synchronize my files among them. Beyond that, I have several people that I can share my files with that will just automatically see my updates whenever I make them.

I love DropBox.

So, what is this SparkleShare you speak of? SparkleShare is a free and open source version of DropBox. It is built by people who care about privacy and freedom. Not only can you use it however you like, you are also free to modify and redistribute it when you give the recipients the same freedoms (that was blatantly ripped off from their website by the way, so you should go read it).

What do I like about SparkleShare over DropBox?

First of all, let me say that SparkleShare is in it’s early stages, so not everything in place. I do think it will eventually beat DropBox for features. The biggest one for me is the fact that you can setup your own host. If you’re not into that kind of thing, that’s not required, but the fact that this option is available just makes me grin ear to ear. All communication between the clients and the hosts is encrypted, and the contents of the server can be encrypted as well.

Right now, I’m waiting on the Windows and the Android client to be available, and then I’m going all in on this. My plan is, SparkleShare installed on a Linux server, with my files residing on a Drobo FS. The combination of the three will lead to an extremely stable, redundant, virtually infinite storage location available to me on any device I own.

Goodbye iPhone… Hello Thunderbolt!

It’s a red-letter day at my house. Finally, after 2 long years of AT&T, our contract is over. With an expired contract comes the freedom to change carriers and get new phones. I gotta tell you, this is a day that we have been waiting for for a long time.

Two years ago, we bought iPhones. Quite literally, the iPhone was the worst phone I’ve ever owned. Today, the Thunderbolts arrived.

To say that the Thunderbolt is a revelation compared to the iPhone is an understatement. It’s blazing fast. Let me say that again. BLAZING. The screen is beautiful. It literally makes the screen on the 3Gs feel dim and tiny in comparison. The camera takes beautiful pictures, which I’ve already setup to upload in the background (utilizing real the real multitasking found in Android).

Finally, I’m free of that iPhone. I’m never looking back.

Top 1 Way iOS outdoes Android – BS

I just got done reading an article over at MSNBC on the Top 10 Ways iOS Outdoes Android. It really pissed me off. I want to do a break down of this article, and it’s stupid claims.

10. iTunes Media Store. OK, this thing is crap. It doesn’t sync wirelessly, yet the author still gives it credit for being seamless. When you buy media from Amazon, which you can from anywhere, it syncs directly to your device without having to find a computer and plugin. You  have access immediately, not after you do a time wasting sync with a computer that’s completely unnecessary. Stupid. The best thing the author can say about it is that it’s integrated. Goody for it.

9. AirPlay. First of all, AirPlay is useless if you don’t have more than one Apple device. It’s not an advantage of the iOS, it’s a limitation. It ties you to Apple products. This is a huge negative in my book, and definitely not something to call an advantage. There are other, better, more open solutions available, which he even goes so far as to mention. The fact that one kind of device will connect to one other device (which btw only like 10 people own), and only when you’re using Apple’s software is not an advantage over other services which will connect many types of devices to many other types of devices.

8. Find My iPhone. The author makes this claim: “It’s not like you can’t roll your own device-tracking setup on Android, but now that Find My iPhone (or iPad or iPod touch) is free it’s no longer the best paid option — it’s just the best.” He makes no attempt to back that up, and doesn’t even acknowledge that there are many free ways of doing exactly the same thing on an Android phone that are just as good, or better.

7. A better support system. The author has the gall to call the Genius Bar a “better” support system. I can’t say the word “genius” without heaping derision on it when I’m referring to the Geniuses at the Genius Bar. Every time I’ve ever needed to use their service, they’ve failed to resolve my problem. I’ve had better luck with the Geek Squad. To call the Genius Bar an advantage of the iOS is deluded to say the least.

6. Battery Life and Management. This is just an excuse. Apple’s multitasking is a joke, so it says that it’s a feature meant to preserve your battery. No, it’s just because Apple’s multitasking sucks. To call this an advantage is ignorant.

5. iTunes and Tethered syncing. It seems every item on this list is more aggravating than the last. iTunes and tethered syncing is an advantage??? First of all, iTunes is a POS. It’s an archaic remnant of a time when media players were the norm, and Apple needed something to compete with WinAmp. It wasn’t as good then, and it’s a catastrophe now. The author states: “Android is missing iTunes in the same way iOS is missing Android’s wireless capabilities.” No, Android is missing iTunes the same way I’m missing an extra hole in my head.

4. No crapware. This is not an advantage of the OS. This is an advantage of the vendor, and Apple’s clout over the carrier, but not the OS.

3. A bigger and better variety of apps. I always find this one amusing when I hear iOS users use it. It’s the same argument that Windows users have been using against Mac users for decades. The only difference is, for Android and iOS, the condition is temporary. Android will have more apps than iOS in short order, and then iOS users will change to saying quality over quantity. And when that argument falls through, iOS users will switch to the “We don’t need that” argument. It’s all be said and done before. It failed then, and it fails now.

2. A well-designed, intuitive user interface. Let’s be clear here. Apple didn’t design a user interface. They made an icon grid. The same interface that’s been present on every single GUI since Xerox invented it. That’s all. Androids UI is customizable, and it’s much more functional with the inclusion of movable icons and widgets. Apple’s UI is limited and static. Again, to call this an advantage is delusional.

1. Consistency. This is another “advantage” that always makes me laugh. iOS users think that having the same IU as every single other person that has an iOS device is an advantage. It’s a limitation. Someone else has decided what the best thing is for you, and doesn’t let you say otherwise.

This article really raised my ire when I read it. It seemed like every “advantage” listed came straight from Apple’s marketing department, and required zero thought by the author. Too often, that’s the kind of thinking that I see from iOS users and Apple fans. It literally makes me ill. I can say that the iOS does have one advantage over the Android though. It definitely has more BS.

Linux: It Just Works

Recently, a friend of mine and I were discussing his phone and his desire to buy the iPhone 5 to replace his Android phone. Personally, think moving from an Android to an iPhone is a mistake, but that’s not really the point of this particular posting.

During the course of the conversation, the phrase came up “It just works.” I’ve heard this phrase countless times over the years to describe one OS or another, and it’s always seemed weird to me.

For something to “just work”, the task that you’re trying to perform has to be within the subset of tasks the device is inherently capable of. For example, if I were to want to browse the web, in today’s day and age, pretty much any computer or smart phone I picked up would “just work”. They all come with built in web browsers and networking capability. So the claim “it just works” could apply to any of them. A secondary, counter example would be, if I were to want to dig a hole in my back yard. Now, short of using the case as some sort of digging device, none of those devices could claim to “just work”.

What this really boils down to is this: Whether a device “just works” or not is subjective to a particular persons needs.

For me (and I’d go so far as to claim most people), what I need in a computer is simple.

  1. I need a word processor. This doesn’t have to be Microsoft Word, or Lotus something or other. To often, people get tied up in names. I’d be willing to bet that Open Office or LibreOffice can perform most if not all tasks required of an average user.
  2. I need a spread sheet. Again, it doesn’t  have to be a particular brand name, and again, Open Office or LibreOffice more than meet the needs of the majority.
  3. I need access to the Web. Linux supports Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and other web browsers. All are capable of browsing the vast majority of the web.
  4. I need to view graphics. I have a digital camera and two kids. I want to see video and images of those kids on my computer. Linux more than covers these bases, and does so with ease and style. No issues there.

So, when it really comes down to it, Linux does all the things that the average person requires from their OS. On top of those things, it’s easy to use, stable, and close enough to being virus free that it makes the Mac look like a cesspool of infection.

Based on those facts, I think it’s safe to say it.

Linux:  It just works.

Microsoft bought Skype – Damn it

I have no idea what this is going to mean for the Linux, Android, and even Mac versions of Skype. I just don’t see this is a good thing no matter how you look at it. Here’s a collection of links. I’ll be watching this pretty closely. I’m already starting to look for alternatives.

Is the iPad 2 Great?

I just finished reading a post over at ZDNet by David Morgenstern. The article started with the question, “Why can’t they just say it’s great?” The “it” in this particular case is the iPad 2.

Morgenstern quotes Edward Baig of USA Today:

As Apple unleashes the latest object of desire, a slimmed-down iPad 2, it makes what was already a splendid slab even better, even if the overall upgrade is relatively modest. Apple didn’t boost the screen resolution or bump up the storage. There’s no iPad that can take advantage of nascent high-speed 4G cellular networks. The external speaker is mono. No SD card slot or USB, either.

He also notes that Joshua Topolsky of Engadget referred to the iPad 2 as “iterative”.

The problem that Mr. Morgenstern has with these two reviews is neither of them bow down and worship at the altar of Apple. What he wants is for everybody to “just start out with the fact that the iPad 2 rocks and go from there.”

The problem with that is, the iPad 2 does not rock. Mr. Topolsky was right in his statement that the iPad 2 is an iterative release. There were hardly any changes from the original model other than a speed bump and the addition of a couple cameras. For this thing to “rock”, the original iPad would have had to “rock” first, which it didn’t. The original iPad was a cop out. A hack. A glorified iPod.

Don’t get me wrong, it sells really well. Apple’s best product has always been their marketing. They always manage to fluff up their products to the point where it’s just assumed that they’re going to be the best thing on the market, and so it doesn’t really matter if they are or not.

So, I guess in answer to Mr. Morgenstern’s question, why can’t they just say it’s great?

Because it’s not.

Ballmer’s Really REALLY Afraid

In an article by Bloomberg today, it was revealed that Microsoft is forking over more than $1,000,000,000 to Nokia to have them make Windows 7 phones. That’s 9 zeros there folks. Despite the fact that Microsoft has handed over (or is in the process of handing over) an extremely large sum of money, it doesn’t seem to be reversing their fortunes any.

Steve Ballmer must be very afraid of Google and the Android platform. VERY.

Honeycomb Apps…

Today a good friend of mine asked me what apps can be loaded on the Xoom. That’s actually an interesting question at this point, since the Xoom is still new. I did a little bit of research (when I said a little I mean less than 5 minutes), and I found some interesting numbers.

According to one source, Honeycomb had 16 applications on the 25th of February. I’ll be pretty frank on this. 16 applications is L-A-M-E. No one is going to buy any device that only has 16 applications. The trick about that particular number is that the Xoom, which is effectively the first Honeycomb based tablet, was released on the 24th. So, at that time the Xoom and Honeycomb were a day old. Puts that in perspective.

Then, in comes Apple. On March 2nd, Apple announced the iPad 2. Now Apple is really working hard to dismiss their competitors, and they didn’t pull any punches with Android. According to the Apple presentation, Honeycomb had 100 applications. 100 applications is pretty lame too, but again, we’re talking about an Operating System that had been released for a grand total of 7 days.

It’s impossible to argue that Honeycomb has a large number of applications at this point. What makes things really interesting is that on the 3rd of March (one day after Jobs’s pompous presentation), Google expanded its Fragments API to applications running older versions of Android. What this means is apps that are compatible with Android 1.6 and higher can tap into Fragments to create apps that work on larger-screened devices like tablets. This makes it trivial to move your app for a handheld to an app for a tablet. The Android market is growing by leaps and bounds, and it has been shown to be growing faster than the App Store.

What this means is this: Gloat now while you have the chance Steve. It won’t be long before you hear that familiar whooooshing sound of your competition passing you by. It should be interesting to hear you try to explain why the number of applications available for a device doesn’t matter after the numbers for the iPad fall behind.

Hands On with the Motorola Xoom

Today I had the opportunity to get my hands on a Motorola Xoom. My time with it was fairly limited, and the device wasn’t connected to a network of any kind, so keep that in mind.

At first blush, the device is fast and intuitive. Applications fire open as fast as you need them. There are some complexities you don’t see with the iPad, but I write those off to the fact that the Xoom has functionality that the iPad lacks.

All things aside, I think the thing that sells the Xoom more than anything else is the desktop widgets. There’s nothing like them on the iPad, and the functionality that they add is second to nothing. The fact that I can scroll through my emails without ever opening the email application saves so much time. Having a picture of my son in a frame on my desktop where I can always see it. Priceless. And really, should have I have to open up the weather application every time I want to check the weather? Seriously? With the desktop widgets, I can just put the weather on my desktop, and it’s there all the time. The iPad has nothing like it.

The other functionality that I really liked was in the web browser. I didn’t get the opportunity to play around with it on the web, but I love the fact that the Xoom displays web sites like they appear on a desktop. We’re not dealing with a phone here people. I also love the fact that the browser has tabs at the top. I haven’t spent a lot of time with the browser on the iPad, but I know on the iPhone the browser is limited to 8 pages. For me, that’s almost a deal breaker. There’s no such limit on the Xoom.

All in all, I loved the Xoom. I’m waiting until the 4G model is standard because I just don’t want to have to ship the device back to the company. As soon a the 4G model is out, it will be mine.

Pwn2Own 2011 is coming! Place your bets…

The Pwn2Own 2011 contest is right around the corner. It’s going to be March 9th, 10th, and 11th. It looks like Linux will be not participating again this year with the exception of Android. Maybe that’s because it’s a foregone conclusion that it won’t be Pwned. Who knows.

Android is in the mix this year in the mobile category. Here’s the contenders:

  • Dell Venue Pro running Windows 7
  • iPhone 4 running iOS
  • Blackberry Torch 9800 running Blackberry 6 OS
  • Nexus S running Android

My predictions are they will fall in this order:

  1. iPhone 4.
  2. Dell Venue Pro
  3. Blackberry.
  4. Android.

I really was torn about 3 and 4 (but 1 and 2 were easy). Blackberry has been shown to be fairly security aware. I guess time will tell.

What are your predictions?