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Jean-Louis Gassée on whether Apple ever invented anything

September 5th, 2012 No comments

http://www.mondaynote.com/2012/09/02/apple-never-invented-anything/

For thirty years, the industry had tried to create a tablet, and it had tried too hard. The devices kept clotting, one after the other. Alan Kay’s Dynabook, Go, Eo, GridPad, various Microsoft-powered Tablet PCs, even Apple’s Newton in the early nineties….they didn’t congeal, nothing took.

The more effortless the results seem to be, the increased likelihood that those responsible put uniquely competent effort into the achievement.

Categories: computer, design, software

Facebook and the Hacker Ethic

February 2nd, 2012 No comments

 

Facebook logo

If the Letter from Mark Zuckerberg in Facebook’s SEC IPO registration is a true representation of how Facebook functions, and they are able to maintain the Hacker Ethic he espouses after going public, FB will be a worthwhile long-term financial investment.

In the late 1980s I read about the original definition of hacking in Steven Levy’s fascinating telling of the computer industry foundation story, Hackers – Heroes of the Computer Revolution. The 25th anniversary edition includes  a 2010 interview with Zuckerberg.

Categories: computer, software

Here’s to the Crazy One

October 6th, 2011 No comments

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

 

The misfit. The rebel. The troublemaker. The round peg in the square hole.

The one who saw things differently. He wasn’t fond of rules. And he had no respect for the status quo. You can quote him, disagree with him, glorify or vilify him.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore him. Because he changed things. He invented. He imagined. He healed. He explored. He created. He inspired. He pushed the human race forward.

Maybe he had to be crazy.

How else can you stare at a circuit board and see a work of art? Or say no to a thousand great ideas so you can say yes to the one? Or gaze at a box full of parts and imagine a bicycle for the mind?

(apologies to Craig Tanimoto)

Categories: computer

Apple’s appetite for flash memory

December 2nd, 2010 No comments

Thanks to the success of flash memory-based iPod, iPhone, iPad and now MacBook Air product lines, Apple has become the largest buyer of NAND flash semiconductors among computer manufacturers, and among the top three buyers across all industries. If the remaining MacBook models are redesigned as Steve Jobs hinted they would around flash storage and no optical drives, and further tuning improves already impressive performance, the next generation of MacBook Pros are going to sell very well.

Less expensive, much lighter, considerably faster and with a cool new App Store built in, the 2011 MacBook lineup should significantly accelerate OS X market share gains.

Categories: computer

Apple goes with USB instead of SD for MacBook Air Software Reinstall Drive

October 21st, 2010 No comments

image of MacBook Air USB Software Reinstall Drive

Apple is including an 8GB “Software Reinstall Drive” USB flash memory device with the new MacBook Air laptops introduced today.  I wish they had gone with SD instead, but since they can’t seem to justify the cost of including SD card slots in the low-end MacBooks this is the best alternative, and you can’t put a keychain/lanyard hole in an SD card.

Categories: computer

MacPaint and QuickDraw source code released

July 21st, 2010 No comments

Yay! Bill Atkinson’s source code for the original MacPaint (and QuickDraw) has finally been released to the public in the form of a donation to the Computer Museum in Mountain View.

http://www.computerhistory.org/highlights/macpaint/

In writing MacPaint, Bill was as concerned with whether human readers would understand the code as he was with what the computer would do with it. He later said about software in general, “It’s an art form, like any other art form… I would spend time rewriting whole sections of code to make them more cleanly organized, more clear. I’m a firm believer that the best way to prevent bugs is to make it so that you can read through the code and understand exactly what it’s doing… And maybe that was a little bit counter to what I ran into when I first came to Apple… If you want to get it smooth, you’ve got to rewrite it from scratch at least five times.”

Now mere mortals like myself can study the magic.

Categories: computer, software

Steve Schaffran on pre-Adobe Photoshop

February 21st, 2010 1 comment

Friend and colleague Steve Schaffran reminisces about Barneyscan XP and the pre-Adobe days of Photoshop (scroll down for the original English text):

One of the transformations, however, made my hair stand on end: it could flip a color picture from the red, green, blue color space of the computer display to the cyan, magenta, yellow, black color space necessary for exposing printing plates for printing color. That meant that a $15,000 bundle of our scanner plus Photoshop 0.35 plus a Mac II was in principle a competitor for the $1,000,000 to $3,000,000  color scanning and retouching solutions then used in the printing industry.  If we could only strike a deal, we were sure to sell some scanners.

Categories: computer, Friends, software

Google Japanese IME

January 16th, 2010 No comments

Google Japanese Input product icon

I’ve started playing with the Google Japanese input method first released last month. Even in beta it is stable and fast enough to use as my primary IME, and the dictionaries built from Google’s search index seem to work well. When I tried inputting my name, the first suggestion it offered after typing 「じょえ」 was French chef ジョエル・ロブション (Joël Robuchon), something that would never have happened out of the box with Kotoeri.

 

Categories: computer, Japan, software

Google server hardware revealed

April 3rd, 2009 No comments

CNET reports on Google revealing its once-secret server design at a data center efficiency summit held this week at Google HQ in Mountain View. The intriguing difference is that they have a backup battery on each 2U server unit and 12-volt-only power supplies that force additional voltage conversion to take place on the motherboard.

That adds $1 or $2 to the cost of the motherboard, but it’s worth it not just because the power supply is cheaper, but because the power supply can be run closer to its peak capacity, which means it runs much more efficiently. Google even pays attention to the greater efficiency of transmitting power over copper wires at 12 volts compared to 5 volts.

Google began publicly advocating for simpler, standardized 12-volt power supplies back in September 2006 when data center engineers Urs Hoelze and Bill Wiehl published a white paper on the topic titled High-efficiency power supplies for home computers and servers.

Why then do power supplies continue to be built to produce multiple voltages? The answer is simple: because the standard never changed, and because the actual
voltage needs of many chips in a computer change every year as they become more energy efficient themselves.  But the changing voltage needs of chips are now met
by voltage regulator modules (VRMs) that computer manufacturers put on their motherboards. These VRMs take one of these voltages (say, 5V) and transform
them down to the actual voltage needed (say, 1.7V) making multiple voltage output capability of power supplies unnecessary.

The battery on the motherboard acts as a distributed, on-board UPS and is there to keep the server running during power sags or for the several minutes it takes backup power generators to come online after a power blackout. Velcro is used to fasten components that are likely to fail most often like the SATA hard disk drives.

1,160 of these servers are then crammed into a standard freight shipping container making for an inexpensive, modular approach to managing air flow and data center expansion.

Google managed to keep many of these details secret since 2005, an Apple-under-Steve-Jobs level of discipline. Google Japan employees I’ve spoken to refuse to divulge where Google’s Japanese data center is, or even acknowledge that there is one on the islands at all.

The full presentation will be posted to YouTube shortly. In the meantime, here is an attendee’s shaky video of a portion of Google’s presentation, including exterior and interior shots of a very spartan data center, an employee riding a kick scooter to get to a service point, etc.

This presentation represents the latest public move by Google to convince the IT and consumer electronics industries to standardize on DC power components. As Lee Felsenstein pointed out in a 2006 New York Times article about Google’s 12-volt DC power supply simplification proposal,

“I imagine a standard low-voltage distribution system inside buildings having alternate energy supplies like solar,” said Lee Felsenstein, the designer of the Osborne 1 and Sol personal computers. “Google’s proposal would make that a practicality.”

…and Larry Page exhorting vendors at CES 2006 to standardize on AC adapters:

Another example : these are the power adapters just lying around our office. I’m sure most of you have things like this under your desk too. It’s a real hazard. You could electrocute yourself – if one in a million adapters catches fire and you have a thousand adapters, it starts to be an issue. And it’s also a big hassle for the manufacturers because every one of those devices now has this thing that’s in the box that’s specific to a country. And so they have to repackage the boxes and maintain stock for different countries. It’s just silly, and also really inefficient, because guess what? They are sort of subsidized by the devices you buy, so people try to provide the cheapest ones possible. So they all suck power.

In a rational world, these efficiency concerns along with the inevitable growth in point-of-consumption power generation over the next decade would result in a new world-wide standard for on-premises DC power, a modern denouement to the War of Currents. It’s already happening for low power devices with the proliferation of the 5v/500mA USB connector.

Categories: computer, energy

Keeping the Gary Kildall Story Straight

December 20th, 2008 No comments

CP/M author and personal computer pioneer Gary Kildall was flying his plane to visit a customer in Oakland when IBM came visiting in 1980, and flew back in time to take part, as planned, in afternoon negotiations that fell apart because IBM was being completely unreasonable:

IBM did not want to pay royalties on each copy of the operating system that it sold. It wanted to rename the product, which would upend Digital’s marketing plan. And IBM wanted Digital to sign a nondisclosure agreement that protected IBM’s intellectual property but left Digital’s extremely vulnerable.

Cassidy: There’s more to the story of software pioneer Kildall – SiliconValley.com

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Categories: 17, computer