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- I’ve been playing around with Swift, the new programming language from Apple, for a few days and I’ve been quite …
- The Supermoon over Cranberry Lake, New York, in the New York Adirondack Mountains on 11 July, 2014.
- Yesterday IBM and Apple made an important announcement about partnering to significantly growth the use of mobile via Apple devices …
As I flew from Chicago to Las Vegas yesterday to attend theImpact conference, I was lucky enough to sit on the left side of the plane in a windows seat. As the 3 and 1/2 hour trip proceeded, I used my to photograph some of the changing landscape underneath us.
The last three rather look like Mars, if Mars had water, clouds, a blue sky …
Click on an image to see a larger version.
I was 6 years old during the 1964 World’s Fair and so a perfect age to be hugely impressed by all its attractions and views of the future. Minds of Modern Mathematics which focuses on the original exhibit developed by Charles and Ray Eames., the arm of the Corporation that does science in the service of all the technological directions of the company, has now published a free app called
From the press release:
Users can click through more than 500 biographies, milestones and images of artifacts culled from theexhibit as well as a high-resolution image of the original timeline poster.
The app also includes the “IBM Mathematics Peep Show,” a series of playful, two-minute animated films by Charles and Ray Eames that offer lessons on mathematical concepts, from exponents to the way ancient Greeks measured the earth.
I first became aware of the Eames’ and their relationship to IBM in the PBS American Masters documentary Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter. The iPad app, which is available in the Apple App Store, includes, I believe, a couple of the videos from the documentary. I thought they were wonderful in the film and am looking forward to seeing the rest of them. They explain several interesting mathematical problems and concepts in playful and whimsical ways not often seen elsewhere.
Exhibits like this led many people to consider careers in mathematics, engineering, and the sciences. Coupled with the race to land on the moon, there was a tremendous amount of public support and recognition in the 60s for technological knowledge and innovation. We need to return to this, and quickly. I hope this app helps inspire students around the world to think about mathematics in new ways and to consider learning more of it.
Here’s an example of someone not “getting” the importance of the subject. When I was working on my Ph.D. in mathematics someone remarked to me that I “must know some really large numbers.” Yes, there are numbers, but mathematics is about relationships and structured systems that work together in coherent ways.
I challenge you to take a look at this app and find three things you didn’t know. If you’re pleased and impressed, recommend the app to others.
I haven’t posted the stats for browser and operating system access to this website since last July, but since I’ve been doing a lot of posting lately on mobile topics, I thought it would be useful to check the stats again. The numbers are from Analytics and are for the last six weeks of traffic.
|5.||“Mozilla Compatible Agent”||2.58%|
Browsers and Operating Systems
|Position||Browser / Operating System||Percentage|
|1.||Firefox / Windows||26.72%|
|2.||Chrome / Windows||19.19%|
|3.||Internet Explorer / Windows||13.42%|
|4.||Chrome / Macintosh||11.20%|
|5.||Firefox / Linux||5.79%|
Yes, it’s that time of year of for predictions for what we might see in the next twelve months. Being in the IT business and in a company like, I’m somewhat hamstrung in what I can say regarding the future because of confidentiality, but here’s my attempt at some prognostications that won’t be giving away anything secret.
These are my personal predictions and not those of IBM.
- There will be a huge rush to fill the developing void being left by RIM and Blackberry, and smart enterprise CIOs will focus on security and management issues first.
- Although there seem to be 1 or 2 new entrants in the mobile device management area every week, potential customers will learn that it takes more than being able to call an API to wipe a device to give you enterprise credibility.
- The differences between mobile application management and mobile device management will become clear.
- Companies that develop multiple applications will understand that some will be web/HTML5 based, some will be native, and some will be hybrid. You don’t need to support just one kind and your application platform vendors shouldn’t force you to do so.
- CIOs will realize that the connection between mobile and cloud is overhyped. CIOs will realize that the connection between mobile and cloud is underhyped. That is, your use of cloud for mobile applications may not be in the way you expect today.
- Traditional networks that support web applications will need to be reconfigured and re-optimized to support an increasing amount of traffic from mobile devices. The number of interactions will dramatically increase, their length will be shorter, and significantly more asynchronous notifications from the server side will all drive a lot of R&D.
- While fans continue to claim world domination and keeps selling more and more iPhones and iPads, look for ‘s relative marketshare to start inching up.
- WebOS is done, but look for a new smartphone/tablet operating system to arise by late 2012 that will start to challenge RIM and Microsoft for the number 3 and 4 market positions.
- will have a serious tablet in the market by mid-2012 that will start to get some enterprise interest. The connection between that and the Amazon cloud will become clearer. The device may not be running Android.
- Apple will make changes to iOS to make it easier to support both personal and enterprise secure personalities on the same device. Yes, I know you can do this on Android today, but we weren’t talking about Android, were we?
Bonus: I will give up my Blackberry and get an Android smartphone for the first time (to complement my personal iPhone and).
Over the last 15 years of my career, I’ve seen several ideas or technology trends capture a significant amount of customer, press, and analyst attention. There was Java, XML, web services, SOA, and cloud. In and around all those were standards and open source. To me, the unquestionably hot technology today is mobile.
To be clear, I’m not talking about what happens in cell phone towers or the so called machine-to-machine communication. I mean smartphones and tablets. Those other areas are important as well, but devices are so front of mind because so many people have them.
is obviously playing a big role with its iPhone and , not to mention the half million apps in their App Store. and the ecosystem have produced even more smartphones and a whole lot of apps as well. Then there’s been the drama around HP and webOS, plus RIM and the PlayBook and outages. So we’ve got competition, winners and losers, closed ecosystems, and sometimes open ones. What’s not to love about mobile?
It can get confusing, especially for people trying to figure out their enterprise mobile strategy. They are looking for strong statements, for “points of view,” that will help them take advantage of mobile quickly but also aid them in avoiding the biggest risks. This is made even more interesting by employees bringing their own devices to work, the “BYOD” movement.
Not every employee is issued an official company smartphone and the devices they buy themselves are often better than what the company might provide. So they are saying “I’ll pay for my phone and my contract, let me have access to work systems so I can do my job better.” The recent ComputerWorld article “IBM opens up smartphone, tablet support for its workers” discusses some of what’s happening in this space at , my employer.
Next there is the whole web vs. hybrid vs. native discussion regarding how to build apps on the device itself. Should you write it to the core SDK on the device (native), stick to developing standards for continuity and interoperability reasons (web), or something in between (hybrid)? Which is faster and for what kinds of apps? Does the app cause a lot of network traffic or does it require great graphics? Are you willing to bet that HTML5 will get better and better? I’ve started discussing this in a series of blog entries called “Mobile app development: Native vs. hybrid vs. HTML5″ (part 1 and part 2). Your choice will involve tradeoffs among expense, time to market, reuse of web skills, portability, and maintainability.
What about management? If I bring my own device to work, how do the company’s apps get onto it in the first place and then get updated? Is there an enterprise app store? If I leave the company, do they zap my whole phone or just the apps they put on it? There are differences between Mobile Application Management (MAM?) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) that you need to understand.
Let’s not forget security, as if we could. A colleague of mine, Nataraj Nagaratnam, CTO of IBM Security Systems, told me the way to start thinking about that for mobile is that “a secure device is a managed device.” That doesn’t mean that all security falls under management, but rather you need to have device management to have a complete mobile security strategy. You also need to be handle identity management, authorization and authentication, single sign-on across apps, data loss protection, and all the things you need to worry about with the web today such as phishing, viruses, worms, social networking, VPN, etc. Security must be there but it also needs to be unobtrusive. Most mobile users will not know what a certificate is nor whether they should accept it.
Fundamental to managing and securing mobile devices compared to laptops is that people tend to lose their phones a lot more often than they lose their laptops. That’s a good starting point for thinking about the differences.
The Mobile Technology Preview encapsulates several technologies we’ve been working on in the labs. We’re making it available for you to experiment with it, comment on it, share your requirements for your mobile platform, discuss the pros and cons of different approaches to mobile app development on both the device and server side, and join the community to make it better.
We plan to update the Technology Preview as we add or change the feature set, ideally because of your stated requirements. In this release we’ve included
- an application server runtime that uses the WebSphere Liberty Profile of the WebSphere Application Server 8.5 Alpha (runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows)
- a notification framework
- basic management functions
- location-based security
- several samples featuring notifications, Dojo, PhoneGap, and a starter insurance app for handling car accidents.
The Mobile Technology Preview is available for Android devices.
I plan to use the tech preview from time to time to illustrate some of my discussions of mobile in my blog. I encourage you to try it out, track its progress, and influence its roadmap.
Employee: “I lost my.”
Corporate security: “Why are you telling me?”
“I had company documents on it.”
“But you had the mobile security package installed, right?”
“I would have thought the company president would have known better …”
With the BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device to work, movement rapidly picking up steam, more and more employees are taking their smartphones and tablets to the office. This can be a boon to the CIO’s office if it no longer needs to foot the bill for those fancy new devices, but opens up all sorts of security problems.
The great thing about the current generation of phones and tablets is that they are so usable. Even forgetting apps, having mobile browser access wherever you are gives you access to information and processes that can help you do your work more efficiently and in a more time sensitive way.
Of course, being so convenient and light, it is also easy to lose them. This is why you can’t just tell your people to use their phones for work. You need to manage the access and resources they have, and be able to shut it down or delete them if the case arises. This could because because of a lost or stolen phone, but also because the employee should no longer be able to get to company data. There are levels of security access and people who are former employees should have no access at all.
All of this is on top of the security problems we already recognize and handle on laptops, such as phishing, viruses, and data loss protection.
And now a word from my sponsor …
announcing the Hosted Mobile Device Security Management service. Capabilities in the new mobile security service include:is today
- Configuring employee devices to comply with security policies and actively monitoring to help ensure compliance over time
- Securing data in the event that a device is lost or stolen
- Helping to find a lost or stolen device – wherever it is
- Protecting against spyware and viruses
- Detecting and removing malicious and unapproved applications
- Monitoring and tracking user activity
- Enabling more secure connectivity
And now back to me …
Seriously, this is a big but I believe containable problem if you take the necessary steps to understand the security exposures of employee devices in the enterprise and take steps now to provide the necessary security. Many people are familiar with the security and management capabilities of RIM and Blackberries, and they are now asking for the same level of comfort for iPhones, iPads, anddevices.
If you don’t have a security policy in place for mobile devices in your company, you should start putting one together and implementing it now. Think about how many devices will need to be supported, what kinds, to what they will need access in terms of processes and data, and what you need to do when something goes wrong.
An employee need to understand that if he or she wants to use that cool new tablet for company work then he or she will need to live by the rules and policies set down to protect the organization’s assets. There’s a spectrum of possibilities between “you can’t use your own to device” to “you can do whatever you want.”
As an industry we’re trying to help companies move from the first situation to something in the balanced middle that provides the right level of security while maintaining the convenience, usability, and power of the devices.
- Press release: “IBM Unveils Mobile Security Service to Protect Sensitive Corporate Data”
- Press release: “IBM X-Force Report Reveals Mobile Security Exploits to Double in 2011″
- All Things Digital: “IBM Launches Service to Secure Smart Phones at the Office”
- TechCrunch: “IBM Debuts Mobile Security Service For Smartphone And Tablet Use In The Enterprise”
- InformationWeek: “IBM Launches ‘Bring Your Own Device’ Security”
I’ve seen and heard a lot of discussion about how people build applications for mobile devices. While there are literally hundreds of thousands of apps out there for, , Blackberry and other smartphones, I can’t help but think the majority of these are one-off efforts. In this series in the blog, I’m going to tackle some of the issues with developing mobile apps, especially for enterprise use, and along the way propose some ideas for making the process easier and more repeatable.
I’m going to start this series by discussing the basic concepts of how you might develop an application for a smartphone or a tablet. I’m scoping it at this high functionality level and not looking at feature phones, at least not right now. I’ll use Apple as my primary example, but things are similar for other devices and mobile operating environments.
If you have an Apple Apple’s developer website and contains almost everything you need to start creating apps. Like any software you plan to use, make sure you read all the legal terms and conditions before you agree to them. If you work for a company, make sure your manager and local attorney also agree that you can use the SDK. This goes not only for Apple, but for , Blackberry, , or any other SDK provider.or an iPhone, many of the apps use the native software development kit, or SDK. It is available from
Most native apps on Apple devices are written in Objective-C, an object-oriented language. If you’ve developed software using C++, C#, or Java, Objective-C might take some getting used to. If you are comfortable with SmallTalk, however, it should seem much more familiar.
An Objective-C application is developed using the traditional write-compile-link-run-debug iteration, though the Apple XCode environment is quite powerful and makes this loop straighforward. Nevertheless, it is not a whole lot different from what programmers did 10 or 15 years ago. Objective-C is not a scripting language, is not interpreted, and on mobile devices you need to do your own memory management.
That said, when you create an app with a native SDK, you can use the very best and most powerful features on the device. You can optimize your app as much as you want and you have maximum control. This is very important for many software engineers. The app will be as functional, as beautiful, as secure, as bug-free, and as fast as you and your team can make it. It may also take you much longer to develop the app because you need to do all these things yourself.
Yes, the SDK makes your life easier, but it is still the case that when you go the native route you need to do more of the basic development yourself.
Here’s another important issue: if you write an app using a native SDK directly, you will essentially need to completely rewrite it when you use native SDKs for other devices. I say essentially because you may be able to write some of your apps non-UI program logic in C++ and re-use that for Apple, Android, and some other environments. There are some additional but similar tricks available.
To be on the safe side planning-wise, if you decide that you need to support multiple devices and you are using the native SDKs, assume that you or someone else will rewrite the app as many times as necessary to get the broad support you need. It is not uncommon to develop the first app for the iPhone and then outsource the creation of versions for other devices based on the original reference implementation. This can be expensive and time-consuming because you need a lot of people to get this done.
For some apps you will need to go the native SDK route for the reasons I stated above. If you do not have extreme requirements for look-and-feel, device functionality, or performance there are some other choices.
In future entries I’ll look are extending the native approach with libraries, something I call, oddly enough, “Extended Native.” I’ll also discuss the pure HTML5 web approach, and poke at the strange middle ground between Native and HTML5 called “Hybrid.” Tools that target multiple devices such as cross-compilers can also work, and I’ll get to them as well.
Next up: HTML5
TheWebSphere Developer Technical Journal is a great resource for the latest technical news, advice, and details about what’s happening within the WebSphere line of products. Yes, this is kind of a message from my sponsor, but there is no buy button. Don’t tell sales.
One of the things that I’m doing now that I’m back here in IBM WebSphere is looking around at the resources that are available for the products in my portfolio. There’s quite a bit between the product pages, as you would expect, but also developerWorks. The articles, forums and blogs on developerWorks provide significant resources for those using all IBM products, not just WebSphere. That said, they do have a large section on WebSphere itself.
Here are a few articles in the June edition:
- What’s new in WebSphere Application Server V8
- Garbage collection in WebSphere Application Server V8 – Part 1: Generational as the new default policy (I’m a sucker for articles about garbage collection)
- Putting it all together: Mobile application services and Dojo
- Case study: Tuning WebSphere Application Server V7 and V8 for performance
- Using the WebSphere Application Server Feature Pack for Web 2.0 and Mobile to view web application usage patterns and other analytics data
- Bigger, better, faster elastic caching
If you wish, you can download this entire issue in PDF format. I download such documents and then use DropBox to read them on my .
I just finished reading The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi and I have to say it was an excellent, excellent novel. It happens to be science fiction because it is set in a future Bangkok after most of the petroleum reserves have run dry and gene-ripping monopolies have tried to corner the market on “calories” while unleashing plagues that have destroyed the competition, but it’s a great human story as well. Highly recommended.
Like many of the books I’ve read recently, I read the e-book version on theapp on my .
Next up I might tackle one of the books on my Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Reading List, or I may go back and work on A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. What’s most likely I think, is that I’ll go steampunk for a few days and read Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. Yay, zombies.
I’ve updated my list of Hugo and Nebula award winners for novels to include 2010. For the Nebula, the winner was The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. This book also won the Hugo, though it was shared with The City & The City by China Mieville.
I just finished reading Mieville’s book on myvia the app and it is quite good. For the first half I thought it was definitely a scifi book but by the end I wasn’t sure. There are certainly intentionally unexplained mysteries that keep it in the category, but as the author states in an interview at the end, it is a crime novel at its core.
The notion of two largely co-located but politically separated cities with serious sanctions for “breaching” the borders is a very clever one and the core idea on which the plot is based. It’s strong enough to allow sequels to further develop the implications.
I started Bacigalupi’s novel today while on the treadmill. It is intriguing but it’s far to early to report anything intelligent.
While the list only contains award winners, I do read other books in the category. However, to the degree that the list provides a compelling reason to read the best books by a broad selection of authors, I think it’s a good motivator and guide.
This last week was my son Will’s Spring Break from school, so he and I took a 1750+ mile (2800+ km) road trip from our home in upstate New York, USA, down south to Tennessee. Over several blog entries I’ll highlight where we went and what we did. This is the first entry in the series.
April in upstate New York can be very warm, or very cool, and very dry, or very wet, sometimes on alternate days. It’s the real transition month from winter to spring. It’s not quite either, though, so in order to try to guarantee some warmer weather, my 14 year old son Will and I decided to get away by driving down to Tennessee. I had never been to that state except for a brief stopover in an airport almost 30 years ago, and Will had not been there at all, so it seemed like a good destination.
To sum up what we were looking for: warmth, bar-be-que, and new experiences.
Our plan was to leave last Saturday and spend a week on the road. Unlike highly scripted trips where all flight arrangements and hotel reservations are made in advance, my idea of a road trip is to make one or two essential reservations, plan a rough route, do enough research so you can get to the good things along the way if the mood strikes you, and then take off.
Having your own car and the flexibility to bring along anything you want is a big plus. Having a smartphone and anmakes it easier to be spontaneous as well.
Several years ago my daughter Katie and I took a road trip to Hibbing, Minnesota, to see where Bob Dylan grew up. We both agree that it was one of the best vacations we ever took.
Here was the rough plan for the trip:
- Leave on Saturday and get to Pigeon Forge, TN, by Sunday evening.
- See Dollywood on Monday.
- Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Tuesday.
- Get ourselves farther west to Nashville by Wednesday night and spend two days there.
- Start driving home on Friday, getting back on Saturday.
I don’t like to drive more than 500 miles in a day, and since the distance to Pigeon Forge from our house is 758 miles (1220 km), I knew it would be a two day trip. Though I planned to leave around lunch on Saturday, the weather didn’t cooperate and I was nervous about driving into the heavy rains and high winds that were left over from the destructive storm that launched tornadoes in Oklahoma and North Carolina.
I set a decision time of 4 pm to figure out if we would leave on Saturday or wait until Sunday morning. By that time things had cleared up considerably and we left a bit after 5 pm on Saturday evening. A Sunday departure would have compressed the trip quite a bit.
How far did we plan to go? As far as we could. Because of this, I did not make any hotel reservations for the night before we left. I’ve found that I can usually find a Hampton Inn or other suitable hotel along the way. The downside is that depending on the day of the week and what might be happening in a particular area, we might not get a hotel when we are ready to stop. If that happens, we have to keep going until we can find a vacancy. I won’t accept anything but a non-smoking room, so that lowers the odds a bit.
The usual route is to head west toward Buffalo, head southwest toward Erie, PA, on I-90, and then pick up I-79 to drop straight south. I modified this a bit by first going south to I-86/Route 17 and then picking up I-90 north of Erie. This is a bit longer but cuts down on the truck traffic. Just as we got on I-86 it was clear that there had been a recent blow down of trees so we were right to have left later than we had planned.
We got to Erie around 7:30 and I pulled into a restaurant parking lot to take stock of where we were. I felt that I could do more driving even though there were plenty of hotels along Peach Street, I-90 Exit 24, in Erie. The problem was, and is, that I don’t really like that area. It’s extremely busy with a lot of traffic and feels very artificial to me. Here’s an example: there’s a business right off the highway that advertises “fireworks, pepper spray, stun guns, and sugar-free fudge.” That’s no place in which I want to spend a lot of time.
I used my iPhone Hampton Inn app and discovered that there was a hotel with a non-smoking two bed room another half hour down the road. The receptionist said there were plenty of restaurants in the area and, anxious to get out of Erie, we got back on I-90 and merged onto I-79 south in a few minutes. We stayed in Meadville, PA, and had a very nice dinner at Montana’s.
We got up early on Sunday morning and drive the 572 miles (921 km) to Pigeon Forge in about 12 hours. It was a long day on the road.
Here are some notes on that portion of the trip:
- We just skimmed the Pittsburgh area to the west, so I still can’t say I’ve been to that city.
- Driving through West Virginia is: turn to the left, turn to the right, go up a hill, go down a hill, repeat 5000 times.
- West Virginia would have been more pleasant if a truck hadn’t lost its cargo and forced all traffic to a single lane. We lost 45 minutes because there was no way to go around it. I was very patient, if I say so myself, but with such a long day I didn’t need the delay.
- We got off the highway to go to a little bar-be-que place near Clendenin, WV, only to discover it was only open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday’s. The Bob Evan’s Restaurant where we ate lunch wasn’t much consolation.
- When we exited West Virginia via a very long tunnel on I-77, one that I found rather unnerving to drive through, we ended up in Virginia. Somehow that surprised me, but there’s an awful lot of Virginia that is just as far west as West Virginia. This was a failure of mine to read the map more carefully than just noting which interstate highways led to others.
It was dark by the time we left I-40 in Tennessee and drove the 30 minutes south on Route 66 to Pigeon Forge. The man at the check-in desk at the hotel said we were lucky that we had not come the previous day because traffic congestion from a car show made the trip on the local road take 3 hours instead of 1/2.
The main attraction in Pigeon Forge is Dollywood, the theme park that Dolly Parton bought into in the 1980s. However, from the highway south through the town it is hotel after motel after restaurant after go cart place after attraction after … . Imagine mini Orlando meets mini Las Vegas. Also imagine a lot of road construction.
Whatever: we had gotten to our destination with a week’s worth of vacation in Tennessee yet to come. But that’s a tale for tomorrow.
The Entire 2011 Road Trip Series
With iPad 2 in the US on March 11, a lot of people are probably wondering if they should buy an for the first time or get a new one.‘s announcement yesterday of the availability of the new
There are many articles out there that cover the news of the new device and purchase considerations. For example:
- New York Times: “Jobs Returns to Introduce a New iPad”
- CNET News: “What you need to know about the iPad 2 (FAQ)”
- Scobleizer: “No apps, no sale: iPad 2 vs. Motorola Xoom vs RIM Playbook vs HP TouchPad”
- ZDNet: “Apple iPad 2: Why I’m hitting the Amex again”
Here are some things to think about if you already own one:
- What are you going to do with the old one? Can you give your older model to a family member or friend and have them think you are truly generous rather than just trying to justify a purchase? They will probably be able to live with it either way. Consider giving it to someone with children or to a school.
- Have you had the old one long enough? I got my iPad 1 at the end of April, 2010, so it would be less than a year if I got a new one. That’s pretty soon as far as devices go. Of course, my birthday is in May …
- Do you use your old iPad a lot? If not, what is so wonderful about the new one that will cause you to use it enough to justify the purchase? Check out the new apps like GarageBand that Apple will introduce on March 11 and see if they tilt the scale toward a purchase.
If you do not have an iPad, here are some considerations:
- They really are very cool devices and with 65,000 apps there is a lot you can do with them. As Scoble talks about in the article above and I discussed in the blog entry “Tablet wars: Those with the most and best apps win,” do not underestimate the health of the app developer ecosystem and the size of the app marketplace.
- Check out the competition, particularly the Galaxy Tab and the Motorola Xoom. Look at the features, compare the hardware, the number of apps, and the costs. Don’t be overly impressed with a device having an SD card if you don’t know what an SD card is. I think 3.0 will be quite cool, but you might want to let the dust settle a bit and wait a few months to get a device that supports it and has many apps. By this I do not mean multiple editions of Angry Birds.
- Windows tablets? Seriously, get real. That ship sailed and sunk, twice, and in my opinion will do it again, repeatedly. Move on.
And some final words for anyone considering getting an iPad 2:
- Really consider getting a 3G model, though it will add monthly charges and increase the purchase price. I love that I can grab my iPad and have Internet and Web access almost anywhere.
- Buy a model with more storage than you need today. Many of the hottest new apps will operate on multimedia files like photos, audio, and video. Those get big, very big. If your budget allows it, get the 64Gb model.
- Verizon or AT&T? Verizon has better coverage in upstate New York where I live, so I would probably go with that. AT&T has worked pretty well for me, I must say, but I would probably bite the bullet and switch.
I just linked to an article over on PCMag.com called “Top Tablet Comparison: iPad vs. Xoom vs. TouchPad vs. PlayBook” that compares the in-the-market with 3 possible contenders that have yet to be sold. The article very correctly discusses which of the tablets are likely to get the most applications (“apps”) built for them.
Personally, I think the market will end up supporting two top contenders: the iPad and the best tablet that runs3+. Then there will be a strong #3, but with far less marketshare than the top two. Though it is really too early to make a fact-based prediction, I would not be surprised if that #3 eventually was a WebOS tablet from HP.
may be #4, but after that all other contenders will have share lost in the error term. That is, something, but so small that the top contenders’ share and revenue will dwarf it. Put yet another way, share so small that executives at the companies will ask themselves why exactly they are in the market at all. I think will not be a significant player here.
I also believe that the dominant tablets will end up being in the 10 inch form factor and not the smaller 7 inch one. I’m not looking for a bigger smartphone, I want something that has decent real estate with which to work and read.
Aside from the variations in hardware, the quantity and quality of the apps will differentiate the contenders. I think some of the vendors are now saying “Wellhas 15,000 apps [or whatever] but we have 15 REALLY GOOD ONES.” Pretty dumb.
Recommendations and ratings help separate the wheat from the chaff when deciding which one of the one hundred similar apps for a given activity is really the best, but I really think recommenders should be required to state how closely they are related to the app developer. (I’m joking, but some of the 5-star recommendations are really content free.)
It is not easy to write apps for these devices, so the quality of the developer programs will also help determine which hardware gets the most and best apps. This does not obviate the need for developers to support the most popular devices in order to support themselves. However, a bad developer program creates a lot of frustration and bad will. Apple has a very good one andappears to have a decent one, but less warm and fuzzy for people starting out.
An important factor is how much code can be shared across implementations on the different devices. For example, if you stick with Objective-C from Apple, it won’t help you with Android. Conversely, Java for Android won’t give you Objective-C. Cross platform kits like Appcelerator Titanium may help you, but I have no personal experience with it.
My philosophy would be to factor the app into a UI front end written in the main language for the device, then have most of the core logic in an engine written in C++. The advantage to this is that you may be able to put a simplified front end on the backend that is then used to drive a test suite on a desktop or server where it is easier to automate such things.
Devices that make it too hard to get high quality cross-platform apps written for them will die off unless they already have massive marketshare or can get it because of successful linkage to other very strong products. Developers will follow the money as well as the platforms with elegant and productive development tools and programs.
Math apps for tablet devices like theshould teach you how to structure a problem and its solution so you become better organized and capable of learning more advanced topics.
As I continue to ponder math software for tablet devices like theiPad, I keeping coming back to the core problem of what the user interface (UI) should be. For the record, I’m not thinking about early education math apps, so no counting leaping frogs or dancing princesses in my UI.
Rather, I’m thinking about the type of homework my 8th grade son does in math, with a continuation on up into high school and college. The work is not just computation with numbers and symbols, but can also include graphs. It needs to allow text so the student can explain what it going on and what the solution is.
For many years, students have used very sophisticated calculators from TI and others. Therefore, some apps try to emulate that UI model.
Classical computer algebra systems looked much like operating system console windows where the user would type in an expression or command, press enter/return, and the result would be displayed. So the process is: read an expression, evaluate it, print the result. Repeat. And so on.
Systems like this eventually evolved into ones where popup windows contained graphs and text could be included. The most sophisticated systems included notebook interfaces where all sorts of information could be placed on pages organized into sections. One page might look like a piece of graph paper while another could resemble a legal pad.
There are also dependencies among computations and graphs. For example, I might say “take the result from step 3, square it, and add 2″. You could also build a spreadsheet-like model where these dependencies are made much more explicit and the functions available go far beyond the floating point functions most spreadsheets provide.
So my model of the ideal math UI for a tablet is closest to a notebook that allows easy and flexible formatting of text, computations, graphs, and tables. Also, the math output should be displayed beautifully with subscripts, superscripts, integral signs, matrices, and so forth. If you know TeX, that’s what I mean.
You need to have some way of saving the contents to disk or for export, and be able to load documents that you or someone else worked on previously. Here you might be a teacher and a “someone else” might be one of your students. So the interface should allow the sharing of documents with others. For extra credit, tie this into a learning management system like Moodle or Sakai.
So we can think of lots of functionality this fancy interface could or should have, but the primary purpose is to help students or those doing the work structure and organize what they are doing and how they are doing it. It’s to get the problem solved but also to learn a logical way of doing it.
Math homework should not look like chicken tracks on a page. Those pages have lines on them for a reason. Text and lettering should be neat. Students should be able to explain in English (or their own language) what is going on at each step. The environment should help and encourage the student to answer the question that is asked. Where units like feet, quarts, meters, or km/sec2 are needed, the UI and system should allow them and enforce their correct use in computation.
Math is not about solving one particular problem enough to get credit and then moving on to something else. It is about learning how to think and recognize patterns. There are computational skills involved and those must be mastered, perhaps with help from calculators or apps, but the goal is getting to the moment of clarity where a problem and its solution makes perfect sense. The system should not do all the work for you, but it should train you in the techniques and how to avoid stupid mistakes.
Different UIs may be better for different people, but the best ones help you master the material in an organized way and enable you to synthesize the new material with what you already know. This then becomes part of the foundation on which you will layer more math, physics, engineering, economics, or perhaps just life.
I finish my survey of what I blogged about in 2010 as I look at the final three months of the year.
Just as the third quarter of 2010 started with the buzz about October with the news of IBM shifting its open source Java efforts to OpenJDK. Oracle, the new steward of Java after its acquisition of Sun, was in the news a lot this year regarding open source, but I’ll let you find those stories yourself if you are not already aware of them.switching to as its defaults browser, the final quarter started fast in
On the sailing front, the boat finished its season a bit early as the headstay cable shredded. This spring I need to replace all the fixed rigging, but that’s a 2011 story.
I continued tinkering with the blog itself as I replaced the WordPress theme I used with a slight variation of one of the default ones provided with the software. I finally got fed up with Atahualpa, all its options, and the instability of the theme from release to release. When I finished the work to put the new theme in place, my wife confessed she never really liked the old one, something that might have spurred me to action a bit earlier.
One feature I did like in Atahulapa was the rotating header images. This doesn’t mean they spin around, it indicates that each time you view a page the theme will randomly select an image for the topmost section. I showed some code to implement this feature in a subtheme of TwentyTen.
In November I gave a keynote at ApacheCon in Atlanta called “Data, Languages, and Problems”. It was a fun talk to give and the research for it brought me back to an earlier part of my career, before Linux and before most of my involvement with open source. Every time I look at the Software Foundation I’m amazed by the incredible work being done there.
I occasionally do a blog entry about cooking and on Thanksgiving Day I posted an entry on considerations when making apple pies. Two words for you: apple jack. In the pie crust. Ok, that’s six words. But try it.
In early December I started to get the sense that news about open source was slowing down and I and then several readers offered some suggestions why that might have been so, if it was indeed the case. While it may just have been an end of the year occurrence, it will be interesting to see if and how things pick up again in 2011.
I looked again at math software for the iPad and decided that not that much had changed since my first review in July. That’s a bit like saying that the news is that there is no news, but I’m curious if downscaled versions of or will be released for the tablet in 2011. Of course, they’ll need to charge a lot less than they do for the desktop editions, so that might be giving them pause.
After speaking with several customers and partners on the topic, I posted a blog entry about open innovation. It’s clear to me that some very good work is being done by several visionary companies, but it also seems to be a field fraught with jargon and an imbalance between marketing and technology.
Just for fun, I published a piece about the basic ideas behind predictive analytics. I didn’t hear too much from readers on that one, though my sister said she found it useful in conversations about the travel industry. It’s a fascinating field with business implications as well as social and ethical ones.
I ended the year with some comments on predictions for open source made for 2011 by other people. While we wait to see if efforts started in 2010 turn out to be wild successes or spectacular failures, I can’t wait to see what gets announced that will be truly disruptive.
That’s what is always most intriguing to me as we start a new year: what will happen that we just do not expect. I hope for you and the rest of us that those surprises will be happy ones and lead to great new opportunities.