Friday, March 30, 2012

Thank You Palm - A Reprint from 2010

Feeling a little nostalgic today, I have decided to pay homage to a great company that put itself up for sale 2 years ago.  A company that started a revolution and literally became one of the first companies that changed the way in which I look at the world.  As I did in 2010, I will say it again, THANK YOU PALM. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Bloomberg is reporting that PALM has put itself up for sale. What a sad day this is if the rumors are true. I remember the early days of Palm and can reflect back on a time when this company really ruled the handheld market. What a difference a few years make. A misstep here, a faulty product launch there and a lagging Operating system brought this company down. Even with a sensational product like the PRE, the company did it all too late.

I shed a tear for this company. I personally tried, by starting this blog, to contribute to the Palm blogosphere and my requests for updates and additions were more out of love for the company that was and the company that I wanted it to be. Who can forget the day that they set their eyes on the Palm III ? It was a thing of beauty. Or the slider on the Palm V? I actually had two of them. That was innovation ! Palm really showed how to build a platform that was sustainable and profitable. Almost every physician that I knew had a Palm Pilot. It would go off in meetings. We would beam our cards, notes, addresses and files to each other. We would scribble our thoughts with various types of styli.

One day when I started a new job many years ago, I remember my partner suggesting that some salacious activity was going on between myself and an attractive looking drug rep. She had a Handspring (keep the puns to yourself, this is G-Rated :)), and she had all of the latest games and new software available. Not worrying about viruses at the time, I would always welcome the additions. She would beam these to me on her monthly visits. It turned out that her fiance was a developer, so I would get a lot of "free" programs and test them. My partner only heard "beaming" and other terms during the lunch breaks and always made sly comments. Well it wasn't too long before he joined the party. Not only that, but he became an advisor to Epocrates within two years. So much for salacious activity :).

Those were the early days. Along the way I met some wonderful people in the Palm hemisphere. A few developers and of course Sammy McLoughlin from PalmAddicts who remains steadfastly one of the staunchest supporters of Palm. He is also a very good guy. He was single handedly responsible for putting this blog on the charts. Again, it stemmed from my love affair with Palm. Apparently just about everyone on the Palmaddicts blog had the same love affair. This same affliction led to a meeting with Ryan Block and Peter Rojas during one of their whirlwind Engadget meetups. They offered great advice. All of this, because of PALM.

Of course my departure from Palm land happened in spirit in late 2006. I was becoming very much removed from the over promising and under delivering, not to mention the poor hardware that lacked innovation and kept on crashing - THE LIFEDRIVE. But on a day that I worked, but kept hitting F5 while surfing Engadget, I could not believe what happened next! If I was spirtitualy removed from Palm in late 2006, I was mentally divorced on that morning in January. Steve Jobs presented the iPhone and it appeared that this was the answer - a solid state device that was a PIM, small computer and a phone WITHOUT A STYLUS. I welcomed it, not only because it was brilliant, but because I thought it would put some fire into Palm. What happened next made the spiritual and mental break a complete physical one. It appeared that Palm was in panic mode! The rest of course is history.

But I prefer to remember the good times. The CASL Basic days, the NSBasic days along with programs like Smartlistogo and Handbase. Literally these small apps changed the way in which I lived. They served as organizing points and the Palm devices really stressed the things found in "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People" by Steven Covey. Prioritization and historically recording facts; dumping the Franklin Covey address books and the never ending desk, wall and hand held calendars. Palm was it! I remember being in a small town and people crowding around me to look at my Palm V. I fondly remember in 1998 seeing the first Palm device at a dinner meeting when someone asked for my address. Yes, I needed that. It wasn't a want.

Now they will be no more! I am really going to miss this company. I will miss their once superior innovation skills. But really, despite the misses, I want to go on record to say THANK YOU PALM for all that you have given us. You changed the world. You were one of the true innovators, where many emulated/copied/plagiarized/
stole from you in the name of competition, you remained true to your calling - Innovation and simplicity.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Still waiting for THE Apple TV

Currently I have two Apple TV2's.  I picked up the "hockey puck" style device the first week it came out and considered it a work of wonder.  The idea of having no on board hard drive or "Mega Memory" didn't faze me.  Netflix adoption was the key and I was satisfied with the idea that on any given friday or saturday, sitting with my family, we could order a movie from Apple's large library of new releases or find a movie or show on Netflix.  Along the way, we suddenly noticed that we wanted to re watch some of our older movies and actually watch a few of the movies that were given to us for birthdays and holidays.  We rarely used a DVD player thus saving a copy of the movie on the computer was beneficial.  But it became cumbersome.  Add to that, the idea of converting formats for older films, the whole thing became burdensome.

With that in mind, I picked up a second ATV2 device with the intent of modifying it completely.  I looked around and considered Firecore, but decided that this would be better if I did the whole modification myself.  I was able to keep the installation nimble, using up very little memory and installed only the programs that I needed.  XBMC became the go to product.  With XBMC, there were issues that were eventually worked out, including the intermittent playback issues of movies encoded in Apple's .MV4, the defacto for the AppleTV.   However, I was able to watch other movies from my NAS server without problems.   More importantly, I did not need to have a computer on to stream movies to the Apple TV.  A simple NAS drive with AFP or SMB protocols did the trick.   Surprisingly, I was even able to play back 1080p MKV files without problems or hiccups.

Along the way, the family decided that it would be good for my psyche to pick up an old BOXEE device.  They got it on the cheap and I was a happy camper.  Something else to tinker with.  Although the software was not as refined as the Apple TV, I was impressed by its ability to stream anything and everything with impunity.   It was even able to Airshare and 1080p was the defacto setting.  Without a doubt, Boxee, with its 150+ apps was a winner and I found myself watching less and less of the Apple TV.  However, my wife and kids still loved the ATV hockey puck.  Whether it was the hacked version or the unadulterated one, they went back to Apple's simplicity - the one remote control with its minimalist buttons.  Everything about it was better for them.  And to be honest, the UI was just simple to use.

The New Apple TV Apps/Home Page
So imagine my dismay last night when I updated the ATV2 (vanilla device, not the hacked one) and saw what appeared to be a very close cousin of the Boxee UI. Additionally, imagine my dismay at the finding that one can only select two screen sizes - Standard and 720p.  The ATV2 has the A4 chip, the same chip found in the iPhone 4, which by the way can also handle 1080 p videos without a glitch.  The new ATV3 has the new A5 chip which is supposedly the reason why it can handle 1080p.  However, as many of the hackers have already proven, the A4 chip found on the current ATV2 can handle 1080 p without problems.  This begs the question - Why is 1080p only allowed in the new Apple TV and not the current model?

The Boxee Apps Page
Additionally, why is Apple skimping on the Apps?  Boxee has 150+ Apps, including the Wall Street Journal, Netflix and Vimeo which are found prominently on the ATV iOs 5.0 .  These incremental adjustments may be making way for what I believe is an inevitability.   I believe that this is an incremental upgrade in the grand scheme of things.  It is a move akin to the iPhone 3G to 3GS.   There is really nothing in the new Apple TV that would warrant a major purchase.  The hardware serial numbers or markers are probably preventing 1080p downloads from Apple's servers.   And this again must mean that Apple is planning on making the hockey puck obsolete within the next 12 months.  Obsolescence is always started and concluded by Apple and not by its competition.  If the reports are true, expect the next great release of hardware to be a real television or a totally revised Apple TV.

Still waiting for an Apple device that reads from a NAS drive without iTunes.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's Crazy Time Again....AppleTV and iPad.

It's that time of the year again folks.  The time when the blogs go crazy about Apple gadgets. It would appear that Apple has conquered the calendar to coincide with earnings reports.   March for the iPad, October for the iPhone and September for the iPod.  Of course all of this is subject to change, but it would appear that the company is on track to release several major updates on time.

What I would not be expecting is a new APPLE TV.  Let me expand on that.  I am expecting an APPLE TV device, akin to the Apple TV Hockey Puck device, but I am not expecting an actual television as some have postulated.  Unfortunately, since some (to coin a phrase from one of my twitter friends) eeeeejits will assume that a real AppleTV in the form of a television is coming out, this may do crazy things to the stock after next wednesday.

But short term aside, let me express my desire for the new AppleTV, something that I am a lot more interested in than the new iPad, which I really do not need right now:

1.  Expansion of Codecs.  I've said enough about this one.
2.  Some break away from iTunes dependence so that we can read files from a Nas Drive.
3.  1080 p.   The 720 p videos are very poor when compared to the Boxxee.
4.  More on board Ram.
5.  More video "apps."   I would love a Premier League package and more access to Indy films.
6.  Cheaper cloud storage.
7.  Access to other cloud servers.
8.  Some real time use for that USB slot.   Perhaps local file reads without iTunes, for movies?

As for the iPad, I will be interested to see if, apart from the incredible screen being reported, the company announces more amazing things for this device.   Stay tuned.....