Monthly Archives: March 2009

There’s an app for that

It is amazing how quickly Apple’s campaign to create applications (apps) for the iPad and iPhone has not only spread among software developers but also into the general population. “There’s an app for that” has evolved from a marketing push to a punch-line for jokes to a commonly used phrase.

“Is there an app for that?” is probably heard as often as “There’s an app for that.”

There's an app for that

Storefront of Apple Store at the Columbia Mall, Columbia, Maryland (Photo by Lawrence I. Charters, taken with an iPhone)

While the application explosion is extraordinary, so is the method of distribution: you can buy an application (“buy” includes free applications) while sitting in a coffee shop, or in your living room, or almost anywhere but a computer store or electronics store. There are no store aisles, you don’t have to wait in line at the checkout counter, you don’t carry your purchase home in a bag, and you don’t have to throw away the cardboard and plastic packing materials.

If that isn’t enough, there are even apps to help you shop for apps.

 

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Time traveling communications

A Web log (blog) is a form of time-shifted information. In our busy modern world, we are too busy to attend concerts, so we have iPods. We are too busy to listen to the phone, so have answering machines. We are too busy to watch TV, so have video recorders.

Most of these time shifts are scheduling issues. A hundred years ago, if you wanted to talk to Farmer Jack up the road, you walked up the road. Chances are, Farmer Jack was there and you could talk to him. Where else would he be? Going into town was an event, it took planning (horse had to be fed, saddled, shoes checked, etc., or the buggy had to be readied, horse harnessed, etc.) You had to have a reason. “Joy riding” wasn’t an issue since riding wasn’t that much of a joy; you had to have a reason to leave home, and most people worked within a few hundred feet of their home — or closer.

But today we work an average of 45 minutes from home. We are gone from home for ten hours a day or more. There is an excellent chance someone stopping by our home to chat will be met with a locked door and silent house. If they call on the telephone, they will usually be answered by an answering machine, not a person. If a sporting event is scheduled at a good time for people on the East Coast, it is probably a bad time for people on the West Coast.

Time-shifting devices help. Watch the Lakers-Celtics game “live” via a device that records the event to hard disk, then allows you to play it at your leisure. Listen to phone calls at your convenience, not that of the caller. Read your E-mail at your convenience, not that of the sender.

Web logs are another time-shifted medium. Much like a newspaper (which is not “news” by the time it is in print; many of the events documented are days old, and in some cases weeks old), a Web log can be read at your convenience. You can read it an hour after a posting. Or a week. Or a month. Or a year. Unlike a newspaper, a Web log can have longevity; a posting might be up for days or weeks or months or years, while a newspaper’s life is a short one.

While this suggests Web logs have certain timeless features, they are also severely limited. They require a level of technology far more sophisticated than that needed to produce a book or a newspaper. You need computers for hosting, computers for viewing, electrical plants to power all this, and a massive, horrendously complex telecommunications network to support everything.

More limiting yet: topics. The average Web blog — and there are hundreds of millions of them — has just one entry. The first.

Microsoft Warning Message

I found this fascinating:

Microsoft Warning Message

You bought something. We're not sure what you bought, but we hope you are happy with what we sent.

Isn’t this just the sort of thing that gives you confidence that, not only does Microsoft sell IT software and hardware, they’ve also got just a splendid handle on how to use it?