Particle Debris (wk. ending 10/28) Video Skewers and Great Defense

This week’s edition starts off with the concept of “skeuomorphism.” It refers to adding “kitsch, sentimentality, and ornamentation for its own sake” to software. A good example is the leather trim in Lion’s and iOS’s Address Books. That embellishment seems, to some, as an attempt to patronise us by relating to physical objects in the real world when there is no need. How does the leather help us better utilize or understand the app? James Higgs explains it all nicely in “Apple’s aesthetic dichotomy.” A good read.

For a few weeks now, we’ve been inundated with the media coverage of the passing of Steve Jobs. Some of it is very serious and appropriate. Some goes overboard. But this one is fairly unique. It is, I believe, an unaired SNL skit that’s a spoof on The Charlie Rose show. The angle is ostensibly a tribute to Steve Jobs from guests Mark Zuckerberg, Arianna Huffington, and Reed Hastings. But the really cool part is how Andy Samberg and Jason Sudeikis hilariously skewer their corresponding characters, especially Sudeikis/Hastings. You just have to see this SNL segment. (Requires Adobe Flash. I know, I know….)

SNL skit

SNL ski: Source: Hulu/NBC Universal

I think most of us have tavelled at one time or another and suffered with hotel Wi-Fi. I theorize that awhile back, hotels found it too expensive to pull Ethernet cable, and so they came up with the brilliant idea of a Wi-Fi station on each floor. That way, when customers complained about the terrible service, (caused by the cheap 256K DSL line out of the hotel) the hotel could blame it on all the other customers. Of course, some hotels have done a better job and provide adequate service, especially those that cater to business travelers. In fact, according to this story, “iPads change economics, and speed, of hotel Wi-Fi,” some hotels that had been upgrading, perhaps minimally, are now feeling the new effects of iPad travelers.

Why pay $9.99 for a hotel movie when you can watch one free on your iPad with Netflix? It’s another example of how the iPad is not only changing our technology life but dramatically altering the economics of books, movies and now hotel Wi-Fi. I think the next iPad I buy will have 3G just because of this kind of change.

The Hal 9000 computer from the movie: “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Siri are similar interesting ways. Hal was plugged into every system of the Discovery, and Siri can leverage the entire Internet. We carry on a conversation with both. Well, maybe just Q&A with Siri. So it’s only natural that Siri makes us think about what’s coming in our technical future. How many years will it be before a supercomputer on the Internet is able, behind the scenes, to carry on an extended conversation with us that passes the Turing Test? With Siri as our front end. I’ll bet on five years.

We’ll have to wait until 2012 to get it, but, here’s a speaker/microphone combination accessory for your iPhone 4S, in the image of the Hal 9000. It’s called the IRIS 9000. It could make a great Christmas present. Regrettably…next year.

IRIS 9000

IRIS 9000

It’s official. Hell has frozen over. How did that happen? Blame it on halos.

This week, I ran across this video from 2002 that brought back memories. It’s one of those charming pieces of Apple lore that we sometimes forget about, then smile when we see it again after almost a decade. Gentle readers, I present you with… Ellen Feis. (Can you believe that Apple aired that ad? I suspect Apple is far too buttoned down today to run an add like that.)

We all familiar with the concept of Android fragmentation. It affects developers because there are so many different hardware and software combinations to support. But a related issue is OS upgrades. How current is the OS on the Android phone you bought in 2010? Can it even be upgraded?

Michael Degusta was curious: “I went back and found every Android phone shipped in the United States1 up through the middle of last year. I then tracked down every update that was released for each device — be it a major OS upgrade or a minor support patch — as well as prices and release & discontinuation dates. I compared these dates & versions to the currently shipping version of Android at the time. The resulting picture isn’t pretty - well, not for Android users.”

Check out Mr. Degusta’s fascinating color chart: “Android Orphans: Visualizing a Sad History of Support.” If Google’s Larry Page could have traveled forward in time to see this chart, would Google have done anything differently?

Finally,there are analysts and technical columnists who are betting that Apple will never come out with its own branded high definition television set. Would you bet your own company on that? Having seen how Apple has disintermediated other whole industries in a single bound, would you cover your bets? How would you do that? One way is to use Apple’s technology against it. Clever, I think.

Namely, on Thursday, DIRECTV released a new version of its iPad app that allows DIRECTV customers to watch selected shows right on the iPad. At no extra charge. (There are some broadcast rights issues that affect many of the channels. But USA and SyFy have opted in.) And top this. It supports AirPlay too. Holy crap. You have to hand it to DIRECTV — in this particular area, they aren’t just sitting around, waiting to be put out of business by Apple. It’s great offense with defense.

DIRECTV iPad app

DIRECTV iPad app. Also supports full iPad screen mode.

I’ve tried this new version, and it works beautifully. I’d love to meet the developers of this DIRECTV app. Damn, they’re good.