Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts published in January, 2010

Re: Magic Whatever

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OK, herewith my first impressions of the thing. (As if nobody else weren’t posting theirs, too… I suppose this will be mainly of historical interest to Future Me.)

The name: iPad, not Magic Whatever. It could have been worse, at least it’s short and easy to remember; on the downside, I gather there are some unfortunate connotations to the name in English, and it’s a little too close to “iPod” typographically and phonetically. One possible consequence is that the iPod touch may be phased out soon, or renamed to “iPad mini”… <insert more connotation jokes here>.

Form factor: looks reasonable to me. Pity it doesn’t fold in half, but you can’t have everything. In vertical (ebook) position, it’s as tall as a trade paperback, but wider and thinner. Not optimal, maybe, for books and watching HD video, but the 4:3 aspect size makes for a less expensive display and easy connection to a presentation projector. Speaking of which, porting Keynote was a good idea; we’ll see a lot of iPads at conferences in the future. I suppose an IR receiver/remote control pair for presenters who prefer to pace back and forth will be out soon from the usual third parties.

Display: 1024×768 at 132 dpi. Quite vanilla-basic, but it means Apple wanted to hold the price down instead of going with seriously new technology here. It also means there’s plenty of things to build into a second-generation device later in the year.

It’s not a cellphone, just as I thought. Avoids the hassles of dealing with subventions and plans, selling through cellphone companies, and all that. I suppose it signals a future for VoIP over 3G for all but the most basic cellphones. The microSIM form factor is quite new, and it will no doubt make for slow adoption in many countries; ideally Apple would have made the device accept both old and new SIM types.

What’s missing from the hardware? Camera(s): a front-facing camera would be great for chatting/video conferences, and no doubt will appear in a future version. A back-facing camera, as in the iPhone? Probably not; the iPad is too large to use as a regular camera, and remember, this is not a convergence device; it’s directed at a market gap. Also missing: GPS. Again, something to build into a second-generation iPad. The “assisted GPS” feature is less precise and, as far as I know, only works well in some cities (most of which are in the USA).

The Apple A4 chip: information is scarce on that, beyond the 1GHz clock speed. I suppose Apple published that because it’s a round number, and contrasts nicely with the 600MHz previously published for the latest iPhone. Beyond that, we can safely assume that it runs the ARM instruction set – I haven’t seen the SDK yet, but I hear gcc 4.2 is the default compiler; that it was designed by the former PA Semi people; and that its built-in GPU has been heavily optimized for the iPhone OS X. Future systems may not be bound to ARM, once Apple deems Clang/LLVM production-ready.

Software: I can follow the reasoning of using a modified iPhone OS X – all the pieces are in place, zillions of users already know the GUI, the developer SDK and the AppStore are out there. On the other hand, the iPad inherits all their problems, too. Granted that those problems are mostly on the developer’s side. For me, it means that the type of utility I like to write can’t be done; there’s no multitasking, the APIs are too closed, applications can’t communicate easily, and Apple allows no replacement or supplementation of the basic interface.

Will I buy one? Well, eventually. Just a few months ago I almost bought a 64GB iPod Touch – the 8GB one I have now is too cramped for my music library. I use it only for playing music, and in 2 years of carrying it around I haven’t thought of a single app I would like to write for myself; maybe that will change with the larger screen. An iPad would be great to have as a general book/web reading device, especially on shorter trips. Unless Apple ports Xcode to it, I wouldn’t take it on a longer trip instead of a laptop, and even so the screen is too small. The MacBook Air’s screen is already cramped for development, and in terms of volume, better to carry the Air instead of an iPad with the keyboard/dock. The Air also allows me to run Eudora to check my email; I’ve tried in the past and just couldn’t get used to it.

For general use, I’ve no doubt the iPad will sell well, and the vertical markets developers seem to be impressed. Let’s see what the future (and the next WWDC) will bring.

Re: AddLicense tool

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Posted by 0xced:

Rainer Brockerhoff wrote:

If there’s interest, I may clean up and publish the source sometime, though it uses all sort of gronky old APIs (Resource Manager etc.).

Oh yes, there is interest! icon_wink.gif

Magic Whatever

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Tomorrow, Apple will present their new product. It’s all but certain that it will be a tablet-like device, but all else is speculation.

I’ve been rereading my August 5 post here, detailing what I at the time thought reasonable guesses. A follow-up post had some lovely mock-up images (courtesy of Mario Amaya), which I still consider some of the best so far – pity they got relatively little linkage from elsewhere. Here’s a sample:

where you can see that my hunch at the time was of a folding dual-screen device, each screen having about 7″ diagonal and 1280×720 at 200ppi, 1024×576 at 160 dpi, or even 800×450 at 120 ppi resolution – this depending on the technology used and the price point the device aims at.

I also thought that allowing the screens to fold back-to-back would give us a nice videogame mode, and using it vertically would allow it to be used as my favorite reading device – a mass market paperback. (It would also have the exact dimensions of one of those.)

My main ideas here still stand: the device would be aimed at the ebook, portable videogame, and portable film-viewing markets, with a secondary use of web browsing, email and the usual stuff done on a netbook.

Of the thousands of speculations published elsewhere – I regret not having had the time to bookmark more than a few – a quite well-reasoned one is one by Channeling Design. The conclusions are mostly quite different from my own, though; well worth a read.

In the months since I wrote about this, some interesting new screen technologies and devices have been talked about: AMOLEDs, Mirasol, Skiff, Pixel Qi, and so forth. For an ideal tablet, we should have 200 ppi, color- and video-capable, readable in direct sunlight but with low-power backlighting, touch sensitivity, video camera built in between the screen pixels, and a surface that is both hardened (like Gorilla Glass) and smudge-rejecting. Of course, it should also be extremely thin.

The puzzle is, essentially, which combinations of these properties have been deemed necessary and economical for a generation-1 device. I don’t doubt that Apple (meaning, Steve Jobs) has both the cash and the persuasion ability to buy the entire output of one of those manufacturers for a year or so; perhaps even to convince them to hide the fact that their display has progressed beyond the prototype stage.

Regarding the rest, I have mostly negative reasoning to offer. I don’t think the device will be an iSomething; there’s already too many of those, and none of the proffered names seemed convincing (except iBook, which has been used in the past). A Magic Something would, perhaps, pick up the trend of the Magic Mouse, and signal a departure from the iPod/iPhone/iBook era.

I also don’t think it will be a cellphone – meaning, a device sold and partially subsidized by cellphone companies – the iPhone already fills that niche quite well. It will have a few wireless connections of course, but not all of them, and that won’t be its primary function. I also expect Apple to pitch the device for functions that can be done by iPods, iPhones or MacBook laptops, but it will be at its best doing things that aren’t done well by any of those; reading ebooks is the obvious one here. (As an analogy, consider that when the iPod came out, you already could play music on Mac laptops and desktops with iTunes – it just wasn’t their primary function, nor was it convenient to do so in the context the iPod was aimed at.)

The device will run “OS X” in some new incarnation, but it won’t be the iPhone OS X nor the Mac OS X – though it may, perhaps, run apps for the iPhone in emulation mode.

That’s as far as I care to speculate before the announcement… after all, part of the thrill is actually seeing the magician pull the rabbit out of the hat. icon_wink.gif

Re: Developments

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The new iMac (27″, i5, 8GB) has arrived and is awesome. Most everything is now transferred to it and working; I had to merge my Home folder from the Time Machine backup I did of the old iMac I sold in September, before our Asia trip, with things I did in the 4 months on the MacBook Air that has been my only machine since then.

Small glitches:

– connecting an external monitor over MiniDP works, but (for me) it flickers distractingly every 5 minutes or so. The dreaded main display flicker is absent, though.

– the enclosed Magic Mouse is great; I loved the scroll-by-touch feature. Alas, after 1 day of click-intensive work, my hand started to hurt, so I’ve gone back to my el cheapo Pleomax mouse. Maybe I’ll try again later; my guess is holding the thing between thumb and little finger is straining some never-used muscle. It also has surprisingly sharp edges at those points.

I’ve also gotten my old Core Solo Mac Mini back and am setting it up. It still runs 10.5.8, so I’ll finally be able to debug running stuff on Leopard again.

Re: Developments

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If any of you still read this after nearly 50 days without posting, I’ve been tempted to do this:

Click on the comic to see the original at (via

In other news, my trusty but overloaded MacBook Air proved unable to cope with serious developing (or even the usual mixture of stuff I do when procrastinating working on other things). Less than half an hour (often much less) after I connect to the Internet over either USB/Ethernet or WiFi, connect an external USB drive, an external monitor, or whatnot – much less all of these at once – the fan turns to full blast and soon thereafter the dreaded “kerneltask” begins to use 99% of both CPU cores, slowing typing and even mousing to a crawl.

Closing the Air for 10 to 20 minutes usually but not always allows resuming work for another short time, but sometimes a reboot is necessary. Must be global warming icon_cry.gif

Anyway, my new iMac 27″ quad-core i5 with 8GB of RAM (squeee!!!) is due to arrive tonight and all should be back to normal Real Soon Now™.

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