OK, so the iPad was announced and the official line from the wife is that if I am in the US in late March, I’m to pick up three of them for the house and if I only come back with one, I’m a dead man.

They will fit my usage profile with the software out of the box. My usage pattern is essentially email and web. And when you add the apps that will easily port over from iPhone (by, uh, just installing them) then the remainder of my needs will be filled. Arguably some apps will work better on iPad (like the previously mentioned iSSH).

That one issue with iSSH essentially conveys the only real issue I had with iPhone – it’s a phone. It’s not going to be the best device for everything but the iPad solves a lot of the concerns with the iPhone as a general computing device. The screen is much larger so we can see the utility of a touch interface which can accept more than three fingers. We can see the new metaphors which free people to learn new methods of interacting with their computers. There are some recent iPhone metaphors which have inspired delight – such as the drag to refresh in Tweetie 2 for iPhone, the way you can grab and drag maps in the Maps app and the dice manipulation in Rory’s Story Cubes (based on the Award winning game). With all of these apps and more – we have to wonder what the additional screen space will do for the user experience. Important to note that the iPhone is 320×480 at around 160 dpi and the iPad is 1024×768 at around 130 dpi – so text will be in theory a little fuzzier at the same point size than iPhone but as the text will likely be larger, it should be, in theory be clearer.

What else..

From MacRumors

A shared file directory is provided that will mount on your Mac or PC. This is presumably how files such as iWork documents will be transferred to and from the iPad. iPad applications will be able to access this shared directory.

This is a relatively big deal, if correct. Not only is it the way to get your docs into your iPad, I’d presume that it will sync with MobileMe’s iDisk.

And if applications running on iPad can access this directory then we’re going to see a slew of apps which will be able to use WiFi and Bluetooth to swap files. This (OBEX) is something we can’t do on iPhone but we can with the Mac and other mobile phones. Maybe we’ll see other services being pushed – other than Pages files and images.

And yes, this potentially drags iPad (and maybe iPhone with OS 4.0) into the realms of where every other mobile has been for years.

And lastly…

I have to consider what will come in the accessories for iPad. We’ve already seen the Keyboard Dock, the Dock, the leather Case, the Camera Connection Kit – but what about the third party opportunities

  • Air/Auto adapter – this is an obvious one. I’m guessing that existing adapters will work. Those folk sitting up at the front of the plane will need it for the long haul flights.
  • Extended battery sleeve – we know how good these are (with the best I’ve seen coming from Mophie) and I reckon we’ll see extended battery sleeves for the iPad as well which will add bulk but also an entire day of operation. Those folk sitting down the back of the plane will need these for the long haul flights.
  • Case with built-in keyboard – different to the case above, this is a hard case which either has a bluetooth keyboard or a keyboard with a Dock port cable attached (and a USB cord for charging). There were dreams of these back in the day for the Newton.
  • Back of headrest holster – when you’re facing an 8 hour drive from Stranraer to Southampton, you need entertainment for the kids in the back of the car. What better than an iPad loaded with 20 movies, 50 games and a GPS so the kids can see where we are and where we’re going and that should help us avoid the “Are we there yet” refrain.
  • Wall/desk dock mounting arm – you can mount an iMac on an arm, so why not an iPad? Put it beside your bed to charge overnight and act not only as your alarm clock but also your clock radio and your late at night reading lamp with built in book!
  • Camera tether – whether a tether over WiFi or Bluetooth to an iPhone camera would be possible or whether there’s a hack to get a webcam attached to an iPad via the 30 pin port and a special ‘video’ dock – I think it might be worth it. I can see why it wasn’t built in but I would also hope for a lot more data input devices to be attached by the dock port.
  • Double iPad case – establish a communications protocol and use one as display and the other as input (Thanks, Aidan). Why do you need this? WHO CARES. It’s got double the awesome!
  • Scientific Instruments – they won’t convince the crazy people who believe in Genesis but I’d love to see a sensor bank which attached by iPad tether. Why do I need this? No idea. But I’d love to see it and I’d pledge to buy it too.

To be honest, I see the iPad replacing laptops and desktops in lots of other circumstances where people use screens to interact and do not have to do massive amounts of data entry. Lawyers, doctors, students, teachers, estate agents – all sorts.

Am I being Apple Fanboi Hysterical here? I don’t think so.

Compromise: pull and background

I have a deep-seated desire for multi-tasking on the iPhone (and now the iPad). I understand their reasons for not including it and I understand the tradeoffs of performance, stability and user experience. I don’t want to be bothered using an app to micromanage device resources – that smacks too much of using Mac OS 9.

Mac OS 9 About This Computer

And that’s the world you live in with Android and Windows Mobile multitasking. The resources on a mobile device are sufficiently limited that you are forced to manage your apps to maintain the best performance. That’s obviously something that Apple wished to avoid.

Windows Mobile task managertaskmanager_menu

In my entirely unscientific survey (which consists of standing about with other geeks and moaning about how we wish there was some multitasking on iPhone), I have come to consider the compromises.

Ahhhh, Push It!
Salt-N-Pepa pre-empted the Apple faithful with the refrain “Push it” when anyone considered multitasking to be necessary. This was meant to be the first compromise – notifications could be pushed from the ‘cloud’ (the new word for ‘server on the internet’) to specific installed apps on the iPhone which gave a semblance of being able to interact with more than one application at a time. You could set notifications based on receiving messages on Twitter, a server being down or anything that can be reported (for example, a GPS with sender sending a Push notification that your car alarm has activated). But – push is one way and limited in scope so rather than just demanding multi-tasking, wouldn’t it be better to consider other compromises?

Push notification

If we can push to an iPhone, what about the server setting up a pull mechanism? Essentially it’s a push designed to ‘get’ data rather than just ‘set’ data. That would mean you could have a service running in the cloud which pings your phone for a location update or a state change in a document and updates the server copy. You could obviously set the frequency, you set the amount and quality of data to be pulled and Apple can provide a simple interface. Heck – build it into MobileMe or demand a MobileMe subscription for it – I have MobileMe anyway and they use part of this already for the “Find my iPhone” feature. So – why not extend this and open a Pull API for iPhone and iPad?

MobileMe Find My iPhone

Pull puts intelligence in the cloud. It makes you want to run server-based applications which will hold your calendar, pull in your location, intelligently warn you when you’re going to be late. Pull makes a difference by putting apps in the cloud.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that I don’t need true multitasking on a phone or a tablet. iPhone (and by extension iPad) are fast enough that there’s no significant delay in launching apps at all. But I do want some apps to be ‘backgrounded’ when certain events occur rather than quitting. I might want to run Spotify on my iPhone (I currently don’t use it) while browsing the web. At the moment I can’t do this – but if Spotify could be identified as a Backgrounded app so that when I hit the Home button, it goes into the background rather than quitting (a little like the Voice Memos app) and only quits properly when something would directly conflict (like an incoming phone call) or when I tell it to quit by holding down a button sequence (the system in place to quit a running app is hold down the Sleep button and then hold down the Home button). There has to be a simple way to do it and, frankly, it’s a pain that Apple can do it with iPod, Phone calls and Voice Memo and third party developers can’t.

Backgrounded phone call

Even just having one backgrounded app would be great – especially when you’re in the middle of something like a multiplayer game – the ability to send a ‘pause’ to the other player because you’ve got a phone call rather than just kicking you out of the game! Backgrounding apps should be a toggle you enable in Settings. Apps that I would background right now would be relatively few but I would consider:

  • iSSH – for keeping alive the connections I’ve made to servers while I check something on the web (thanks to MartyMc for the inspiration on that.) Losing the SSH connection can be a pain. This will become more important on larger screen devices like iPad.
  • ‘TrafficMob’ – an as-yet unwritten app which just runs in the background on your phone, uses your GPS and records your position every 30 seconds. It then uploads this data to a server which plots the points on a map, crowdsources the lot of them and shows you when and where the traffic snarl ups are.
  • Skype – this is obvious. Skype is powerful for me because I talk to people all around the world. I can’t currently just leave it running on my iPhone because then I can’t do anything else and it’s annoying when a call comes in on cellular while I’m in Skype as it takes precedence. This needs a real backgrounding option.

And if something does come in, some notification or call or anything – give me the choice to continue what I’m doing rather than divert my attention.

NOVA with overlaid Push Notification

I’m sure that the talented software engineers and designers at Apple have gone through dozens of permutations trying to find the right one. I just hope that something like this makes it into iPhone OS 4. They’ve already got the UI down, it’s now the engineering challenge of making it work.


Screen shot 2010-01-26 at 10.13.20

Fraser is absolutely right. What’s stopping you?

When I was being consulted on a funding programme recently, it was made clear that funding would not be available for capital (hardware and software) purchases. My response –

“Everyone already has a computer or access to one.”

So, to start your company, what do you need? Sound off in the comments!

think + collaborate globally – innovate locally

Screen shot 2010-01-22 at 09.45.13

Alex is right to highlight this. We discussed (on Twitter) the merits of open systems (open data, open health, open innovation) and seemed to agree that openness creates opportunity but it requires individuals to provide innovation.

Code4Pizza is a local group I’ve started to get folk working on projects which are ‘open’. By open, I mean that anyone can contribute, anyone can benefit and as an additional bonus, the projects will generally have a public service value slant. The current project, OpenTranslink, is the result of several months of work by a group of people to get the timetable and route data (most notably, Mark Bennett from the DFP who is part of the team reponsible for OpenDataNI)

Taking the OpenTranslink project as an example. When you travel to a new country, one of the most impenetrable aspects of their culture is their public transport system. This is difficult enough when the native language is not a barrier, but very difficult when the language is different. Nearly every region is developing a suite of apps to run on iPhones, Android phones and Blackberry phones which carries the bulk of their public transport data. I’d wonder – however – if data from other regions shouldn’t be included in “Transport’-type apps.

You innovate with your technology and your design – but from then you just plug regional data into it. Differentiate based on your innovation but you collaborate across regions to provide a seamless experience for the foreign traveller.

In essence – once the clever chaps doing the OpenTranslink data visualisations, API, application logic and interface design are finished, what’s stopping them doing exactly the same for London buses, bus systems in San Francisco, trams in Lyon?

Skype on iPhone: a complete arse

  • Can’t use over 3G. This is a complete arse. I get an excellent 3G connection most places I go to, I never use over my minutes and therefore I’m hardly going to abuse it. So, Apple, O2, what the fuck?
  • Lack of Push Notification. It would be lovely if Skype would implement this so that when someone contacts me on Skype, it tells me and gives me the option of answering. As an outgoing-only solution, it’s a complete arse.
  • Lack of multitasking. Why is this a problem? Two words: Incoming call. When someone calls my mobile number, the frontmost application quits. This is okay if it’s music or a game I’m playing but it’s a complete arse when I’m mid-Skype. Also means you can’t do anything else when in a call.

A workaround for some of this?

  1. First of all, get a MiFi (a 3G router). I have one from Three (3) and it means we have WiFi everywhere. Three don’t give a damn about you using Skype over their network.
  2. Consider an iPod touch (or put on Airplane mode and then switch WiFi on). This will remove the annoyance of an incoming call.
  3. Leave Skype running. Constantly. This may mean getting a second iPhone. Or alternatively just use your bloody computer.

Cost of Living…

David sent me this link: How much do top tech companies pay?

This prompted a discussion about the costs of living in Northern Ireland compared to Cupertino and the realisation that there’s a normalisation needing done. But despite it not being linear, I still reckon that Northern Ireland gets a raw deal here.

Average income in Cupertino is $123,320 (US average is $76,893)
Average income in Northern Ireland £17,366

Average house price in Cupertino $880,000 (US Average is $259,566)
Average house price in Northern Ireland £156,857

Average house price divided by average salary in Cupertino: 7.13 (US Ave 3.37)
Average house price divided by average salary in Northern Ireland: 9.03


Income Tax rate in Cupertino: 9.3% (highest bracket)
Income Tax rate in Northern Ireland: 20%

VAT/Sales tax in Cupertino: 8.25%
VAT/Sales tax in Northern Ireland: 17.5%


Seems to me that we pay a higher percentage of income on housing as well. Considerably larger – Cupertino just normalises the US average to be almost as bad as Northern Ireland.

Now, adding in utilities (I spent a shitload more on heating and lighting here I bet). Can’t comment on TV/Cable but I spend about $100 a month here on Satellite TV (that I don’t even watch). Everything I buy (and have bought) in and from the USA) seemed cheaper.

Northern Ireland has salaries 20% below the UK average and a standard of living around 20% below the UK average. I reckon that Northern Ireland people live in relative squalor and we just get on with it. And we get on with it because there’s no choice.

Northern Ireland’s culture has been artificially frozen since the 1960s. We haven’t progressed significantly in any way. We have a local government whose level of corruption seems to be the envy of politicians worldwide. We have two microcultures that still, after everything we’ve been through, mistrust and want to hurt the other.

Holiday plans in June: Roaming Data

In June, the family are going on a cruise around the Mediterranean. The ship is the Royal Carribean “Independence of the Seas” which can hold nearly 6000 people. (3/4 of it are passengers).

RC Independence of the Seas

We depart from Southampton on 19/6/2010 which means driving down from Belfast the day before.

Ports of Call:
Gibraltar (22/6/2010)
Villefranche, France (24/6/2010)
Florence, Italy (25/6/2010)
Rome, Italy (26/6/2010)
Sardinia, Italy (27/6/2010)
Cadiz, Spain (29/6/2010)
Lisbon, Portugal (30/6/2010)
Vigo, Spain (1/7/2010)

Arrive back in Southampton: 3/7/2010

So excited 😀

Of course, my concerns are going to be the ability to get adequate data connections while abroad. Last time we went on a cruise for the Honeymoon, I managed to send a lot of data (most of it at £4 a MB but some of it at £6 a MB) but this year I intend to be a little smarter about it. Maxroam is still around €3.40 a megabyte which is cheaper than O2 but still not the sort of price that I want to pay for mobile data.

In June 2008, T-Mobile decreased their data roaming costs to £1.50 a MB but as they’re merging with Orange, who knows what will happen.

The Register reported in February 2008 that:

Five operators across Europe have banded together and agreed to cut wholesale data rates to €.25 per megabyte. The agreement should reduce customer prices over the next 12 months

but I’ve yet to see a single reasonable decrease as a result.

So, I went and had a look;

Carrier Web Page Costs
Three EU Roaming £1.25 per MB
Vodafone Roaming Around 20p a MB
(£4.99 for the first 25MB per day)
O2 International Roaming £3 per MB
Orange Phone Abroad £2.55 per MB

and at first look it would seem that Vodafone have it down. I’m going to have to go and talk to Vodafone now that my O2 contract is at an end.

Does anyone have anything to add here? Are you getting a great deal from your carrier for data roaming?

The Top 5 Dream Jobs #top5dreamjobs


On his top five dream jobs

  1. NME journalist, 1976-1979
    Get to meet the Clash, Sex Pistols, Chrissie Hynde, Danny Baker etc. Get loads of free records – good ones too. Go on to host my own quiz show or something
  2. Producer, Atlantic Records, 1964-1971 (approx)
    Get to meet Aretha, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke etc. Get loads of free records (probably) – good ones too. Make piles of money.
  3. Any kind of musician (apart from classical or rap)
    Speaks for itself. But I’d have settled just for being one of the Memphis Horns – I’m not asking to be Hendrix or Jagger or Otis Redding
  4. Film director
    Again, any kind, although preferably not German or silent.
  5. Architect
    A surprise entry at number 5, I know, but I used to be quite good at technical drawing at school

So, inspired by this, I’ve decided to write my top 5 dream jobs, not limited by time travel or qualifications:

  1. CEO of Apple Inc, 2017-2022
    Someone has to take over from Steve at some point and I reckon I could do it. It would also be one of Apple’s most challenging times as we introduce a new iWidget, buy Adobe and have to fight off Google and a newly revitalised Microsoft. Finish up by leaving on a high note with Apple as a worldwide carrier and get on my yacht and sail away on my 50th birthday.
  2. Futurist and Author
    Get to swan around conferences dispensing visionary wisdom to adherents. Probably pop out a couple of novels and have one or two optioned into movies. Spend a lot of time talking to interesting people and turn down those TED folk once or twice.
  3. Serial Entrepreneur/Investor
    Start and sell a couple of businesses and then spend the rest of my days helping other people get started. Get to hang out with the cool kids in San Francisco as well as prove that you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to make a splash in the Digital sector.
  4. Technology Journalist/Writer, 1970-2000
    Get to watch all of the technology giants take off. Get to meet cool people from some of the most innovative companies during the birth of Silicon Valley and the web. Attend all the big conferences and renew my sense of wonder when someone gave me a computer I could carry with one hand.
  5. Film Director, Writer and Producer
    Writing and directing my own films and helping others do it too. Success would be nice – in order to finance the projects I consider to be art. Maybe even get to be interviewed by Apple during one of their product releases talking about how their new iWidget has improved my day.

So, what about you? Top 5 Dream Jobs?

Curtis Peugeot of Newtownabbey: idiots and time-wasters

I got one of those “The sender didn’t pay enough postage” leaflets through the door on Wednesday from Royal Mail and so I dutifully tripped down to collect it. The bill for the trip was seventeen pence for the unpaid postage, forty pence paid for parking and a pound to the Royal Mail for handling it. This obviously doesn’t count the cost of my time: which is pretty much the most valuable thing I have.

The end result – fucking junking mail from Curtis Cars (Peugeot) of Newtownabbey.

Curtis Cars are idiots
Curtis Cars are idiots

So, for 17 pence, Curtis Cars (Peugeot) just bought themselves a page on my blog describing how annoyed I am.

The lesson here – either just email your junk mail (and get filed like the Viagra and 411 scams) or do the right research and put the right amount of damn postage on the envelope.

So, I’ve called them and asked them to take me off the mailing list. They have offered to re-imburse me which I’ve declined. Apparently it was a mixup with the postage blah blah blah I don’t care.

An alternative route to Funding.

The State of Funding in 2009 was a blog post I put together a few days ago.

It’s not meant to be definitive and there are other ways to get funding.

I think we should recognise the efforts of one local entrepreneur who managed to energise a local MLA into seeking funding for his startup from two local property developers. This sort of ad-hoc business angel network should be taken as an examplar. Never before have I known a local politician to take the plight of startup entrepreneurs so seriously. Would it be that other politicians would follow suit and assist us in the building of an incubator and seed fund for startups.

So. I mentioned yesterday that a small group of interested do-gooders are opening an incubator and starting a fund.

We reckon that businesses will stay in the Incubator for 6 months – 1 year and then will be able to graduate to other premises (for example CoreBelfast or many of the Serviced Offices around the province).

The fund is going to be made up by interested do-gooders. It’s small amounts individually but it only takes small amounts to get a startup off the ground. We’re going to talk to some ‘professionals’ about the legals of this obviously (recommendations welcome)