VISION AFORETHOUGHT

Common sense analysis of this, that and the other

Archive for August 2009

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One of the most destructive forces in media history is to be canned.

The show (whose execution was an opportunity lost) has turned a whole generation of Brits into narcissistic airheads while fattening the bank accounts of plastic surgeons and manipulative media execs everywhere. All this to such an extent that the whole country has sunk so low that apart from the more enlightened types who post below the aforementioned Times story, few in power appear to grasp the station of the nation and how and why it got into such a mess.

My views on all this have been splattered across this blog feed and the Dumb and Dumbstruck or Towards Dystopia sections of Vision Aforethought for ages now, so I’ll refrain from any more pontificating.

Fight back club: Bring back honor by encouraging the next generation of youth to take an interest in science and art, with all the benefits that brings to society and their own psychological well being.

He said, she said: Marina Hyde in The Guardian

Written by Oflife

August 26, 2009 at 11:10 am

If Apple don’t launch a tablet equal or better than this…

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macpad_alex_b_@oflife

Click to enlarge

News

  • August 26 2009: Until today, in order not to be influenced by other mockups, I had not used Google to research the use of the name ‘MacPad’. It seems someone did use it and has their idea posted on Flickr. I’ll leave mine as MacPad too though for now. I wonder if any company has ever had their future products pre-empted as much as Apple has? And how many have used a brand name concocted in a similar manner to this? The intellectual property ramifications are mind boggling, not to mention the effect on internal decision making and staff morale within companies such as Apple who garner so much external forethought.
  • August 26 2009: Have modified the design slightly based on feedback and further thinking. Power button has been moved to the middle rear, although it could be positioned on an edge too.

Background

  • When it comes to tablet ‘computing’, a well conceived form factor, pragmatic use of bleeding edge technology (think iPhone/iPod Touch) and a fluid human interface will be the most important non AI based paradigm shift since the first keyboard equipped computers of the 1950s. An intuitive electronic pad will free up our creative minds for the first time since the advent of pen and paper, something made extremely frustrating with our current clunky machinery. Therefore, whoever creates the first mass market device must get it right else the reputation of the product category will be damaged, as happened with the Newton before Palm launched the Palm Pilot and restored the viability of the PDA.
  • I was in two minds whether to publish this due to the conflict of interests with my employer, the loss of some potential intellectual property and a pig headed concern that my own fantasy device may upstage the real thing. (Hopefully not!) However, I have considerable respect for some of what Apple do, and like many, believe that if anyone can and should get the tablet concept right, it will be them. (I also believe Palm and a restored Psion could pull this off too given the resources, but it may be too late, unless their value proposition is practical, affordable, and most importantly, extensible. Because smart consumers invest in a companies long term vision, not just the here and now.)
  • The ideas presented here represent a mix of my own ideas and wishes, current Apple technology – and public domain industry rumor. The latter mainly associated with the screen size, that to date, is about the only snippet of believable gossip out there. All said, I have left out some ideas and detail, for obvious reasons.
  • I first began drawing digital media pads in the early 1990s. Some of my ideas go back almost 17 years, except for the MagSafe – a fantastic Apple innovation. The first public outing of the media pad concept was in the ground breaking 1960s film, 2001 A Space Odyssey. Over 15 years ago I created a mockup of a similar potential Apple device and called it the PowerPad. I may upload it in the future sometime. (Along with many other drawings.)
  • Due to time constraints, I have not had time to perfect the above drawing. There is some inconsistency between the size of the dock base in the main drawing and the three smaller orientation views. Not to mention the background around the Apple logo still shows a (subtle) square mask where it was composited into the rear elevation.

Name

  • MacPad

A new product category, a new name? Or a return to Newton? Or even iBook?

This quote from Apple is interesting: ‘Tim Cook, its chief operating officer, said: “When I look at what is being sold in the netbook space, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software and junky hardware. And not something we would put the Mac brand on.” Note reference to the ‘Mac’ brand. While this could be a misquote or random remark (he may have meant to say ‘Apple’ brand), if the term ‘Mac’ is to be incorporated into Apple’s tablet device, this indicates a focus on OS X over iPhone OS and a possible use of the word MacBook, such as MacBook Touch or other permutation. Maybe they are working on a transportable with a removable swivel/flip out keyboard?

OS & storage

  • Next generation of iPhone OS with full OS X Snow Leopard compatibility with the exception of advanced processor intensive graphics suited to desktop (Mac Pro) applications.
  • 128GB SSD drive (upgradable)
  • Mid performance graphics chips for decent game playing and ‘being creative on the sofa’ CAD, audio visual and graphic design work
  • See ‘Connectivity’, below for MacPad I/O

Screen

  • Based on a hybrid of sunlight readable eInk / ePaper and video rate LCD/OLED or other video rate display technology. There are companies working on this and Apple have a good record of getting their hands on bleeding edge developments first. If Apple do launch a MacPad whose primary purpose is the consumption of eBooks, it will be vital they use a display technology that prevents eye strain. Anyone who has tried reading a lengthy text on an iPhone or iPod Touch (or any other none eInk pocket devices) will understand how uncomfortable this is.
  • 1280 x 800 300DPI minimum resolution to reduce the need to scroll around when viewing content or working on creative material. (Assuming 10″ diagonal.) I find zooming in and out of content a time consuming nuisance. We don’t zoom when reading (printed) books, newspapers or magazines, so we should not need to zoom with our gadgets.
  • Hybrid resistive and capacitive technology so the MacPad can be used with a stylus.  Professionals and students will be able to take freehand notes, while artists and other creatives can sketch intuitively, finally freeing up the remaining side of their minds. If the MacPad is limited to consuming media only, then it will be a sore disappointment.
  • There will be no stylus holder. This will allow people to choose their own pointing / sketching tool. It is likely 3rd parties will produce nice (real) book like covers for MacPad that will include a space for at least one pointing tool.

The MacPad dock – grab and go!

The key value proposition and what will make or break the convenience of being able to dispense with as many cables as possible and get on with being productive.

  • Wireless charging and syncing dock that gives the appearance of the first generation LCD iMac, with the difference being you can simply lift the MacPad off the docking plate and be on your way. (Note that while my dock looks somewhat clunky, in reality, Apple will no doubt engineer something more succinct.)
  • The docking plate is circular to ensure the MacPad can be rotated through any angle. (If the landscape and portrait positions where to be locked into place using guides or a square docking plate, then it will be impossible to slightly rotate the MacPad to compensate for an uneven surface.)
  • The dock allows the MacPad to act as an ‘active’ digital picture frame when in screen saver mode. All manner of ‘ambient’ information could be displayed, including photos, live video, RSS feeds, Tweets etc.

Imaging

  • On the front, a standard webcam, with one difference, when the MacPad is in portrait orientation, the camera will be to one side, so image processing software may need to compensate. (Only a use case scenario will be able to confirm this concern.)
  • A decent 5MP or better auto focus camera and Xenon flash on the rear, creating a digicam with the world’s largest ‘viewfinder’. One would look a bit silly taking pictures with it, but the large screen would be ideal for touch to focus like features and composing a difficult scene. It would also eliminate the need to carry a separate camera and then have to upload images to the MacPad each time. Why not take photos (or shoot video) and edit the content right away?
  • If the camera had a decent macro backed up with powerful image processing software, it could also suffice as a way to scan documents and photos. (AT&T and Apple have filed patents on actual displays that can see, so using a camera external to the screen may be redundant, although the inability to put your finger over a lens may cause privacy worries. Google: 1984 Viewscreen.)

Connectivity

For aesthetic and practical reasons, all ports will be located along what will be the base of the MacPad when it is in portrait orientation.

  • ExpressCard slot to allow the latest wireless technology (HSDPA/WiMax/4G etc) to be installed locally to suit the distribution territory of the MacPad. IE, a WiMax module would be suited to some American University campuses until becoming more widespread. Is WiMax the same as 4G? Ah, it all depends on who you ask!
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • Ethernet port
  • 2 x USB ports along the base of the MacPad when in portrait orientation (These will be replicated on the dock base, along with a 3rd USB port.)
  • Firewire 800 port
  • 1080P (1920 x 1080) resolution Mini DisplayPort video out, so the MacPad can act as ones only ‘computer’ by connecting it to an external large screen (>20″) display. Rumor has it the Apple MacPad will act as an input device for their other Macs, so, like the 2G iPhone, one may still require two mainstream Apple products, in particular for power applications. See below for comment on two different tablet devices being prepared by Apple.
  • Stereo audio in and out (The MacPad will make a fantastic audio visual editing tool when on the road, although I am not sure MacPad V1 will posses the power to handle HD video editing)
  • Stereo microphones either side of the webcam or rear camera
  • Twin headphone socket (one on each bottom edge of the MacPad)
  • SD card slot (only if the MacPad is devoid of an auto focus camera)

Operational controls

With smart guestures able to perform most tasks when the MacPad is awake (or even snoozing?), mechanical controls will only be required for a limited number of features. And let us hope that Apple steer clear of touch buttons, they really are useless in practice – unless backed up with effective haptic feedback.

  • Volume & mute
  • Battery check (on one edge?)
  • Power/reset botton. Should require quite a lot of force in order to prevent accidental activation while in the hand, or mount it on the ‘spine’ of the MacPad.
  • Mechanical shutter release for the auto focus camera
  • Manual screen orientation rotation control, so you do not have to rely on those over sensitive internal sensors that anyone who owns a smart phone with know can be a nuisance!
  • Display On/Off to conserve power during audio playback (This is not a high priority feature as it could be achieved through software.)
  • Sleep LED On/Off to finally be rid of the (human) sleep disturbing pulsating LEDs common on Apple laptops and other gadgets. (Pulsating sleep LEDs do light up a bedroom!)
  • DPad for those who hate touch screen gaming controls. Thing is, where to put it. A corner? That would spoil the aesthetic. I don’t think this is going to happen.

Misc

  • Almost as thin as a Nokia E71 smart phone, and ultra light weight. (With the MacPad being designed for long term hand held use, a fatpad will induce fatigue.)
  • The MacBook name (or Apple logo?) will be opaque and located in two positions to allow for the portrait and landscape orientations. The motion sensor will ensure only one MacPad word illuminates at any one time. Note that Sony did something similar with one of their rather swanky digital photo frames.
  • Long life battery similar to the latest MacBook Pro machines. It would be really fantastic if Apple could develop a solar charger for all of their mobile products.
  • Pop out stand for use when away from the dock. (Not shown.) This will need to be cleverly designed like those on the rear of some digital picture frames so the MacPad can be positioned in portrait or landscape orientation using the same stand.

Comments

  • MacPad will mark the beginning of the end of the low to mid range laptop. And about time, because creative brain liberation is long overdue!
  • As some have suggested, chances are there will be two tablet devices, one designed as a content reading/game playing device (a large iPod Touch/eBook), while the other even larger tablet (like the MacPad) will replicate the functionality of the smaller device as well as offering power user functionality – some of which I have hoped for above.
  • By its nature, a tablet form factor device is going to be in contact with bare skin and/or ones lap area for a lengthy period of time, therefore no area of the MacPad should get hot, an issue that probably held it up, along with sourcing a decent display technology.  “Oh, and one last cool thing.”

*Keyboards use both sides of the brain, restricting the creative process.

…then someone will! 😉

alexb_macbook_macpad_aug26_2009

Mr. Blurry using his MacBook white to make a MacPad black. Sadly, for all its wonders, the otherwise still impressive Sony Ericsson K800i cameraphone does not allow the flash to be forced ON. A Panasonic TZ7 or LX3 may tempt until a flash equipped iYouKnowWhat is introduced by you know who…

Apple and the Apple logo are registered trademarks of Apple, Inc.
MagSafe is a trademark of Apple, Inc.

Written by Oflife

August 23, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Reason No. 23 to stop biting ones nails

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Ability to remove a microSD card from a mobile phone – and re-insert it snugly.

Bite back club: Dip fingers in battery acid every morning.

Written by Oflife

August 21, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Posted in Gigglespace

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Proud to be British!

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Written by Oflife

August 20, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Crime, Dystopia, Ethics, Oil, Politics, Society

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UK unemployment: Bring back apprenticeships

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One or more skills is a priceless lifelong asset, therefore an apprenticeship is the perfect antidote to tough economic times. Young people still living with their parents and therefore devoid of major living expenses gain invaluable work experience, while struggling employers save on costly hirings until things improve and/or their apprentices are skilled enough to become worth something to the company.

I not only enjoyed my apprenticeship that ran in parallel with college, but it provided a skill set that was useful to my early employers and has since proven invaluable almost daily on both a personal and career level. Taking an interest in something is a proven way to earn a living and self respect – reducing the personal and social problems that can break a society.

Note the socialists posting on the BBC News website who suggest that HM gov should PAY the unemployed! Huh? When will these people learn that just as sustainable energy is good for you and the world around you, so, being a self sustaining human being offers the same benefits. Don’t take, make!

Related, this article from the Guardian attempts to imply that Mrs. Thatcher was responsible for unemployment in the 1980s. Wrong! (I know, I was there.) She took Britain out of the stone age and triggered the creation of the service and technology industries that are what powered the next boom and the brands that are surviving the current downturn because they are run by very savvy managers who get it. Mrs. T arrived in a time of mass unemployment caused by industries and unions engaged in obsolete concepts. The way she has been demonised by the BBC and others over the last few years is appalling. She had honor, was completely uncorrupted, full of common sense and significantly more intelligent than any of the current political class. Her somewhat cold persona may have been due to the fact Mrs. Thatcher was a scientist and so took a fairly rational approach to issues that others may have dealt with more compassion.

Fight back club: Bored? Disconnect from the social net, stop watching ‘reality’ TV, hit the library and teach yourself trade and professional skills – after all, who is going to build the gadgets, buildings, solar farms and space ships of the future? If you’re Mr Grumpy in Frumpton, write to your MP and suggest the government support apprenticeships. They worked here in the 1980s and work in Germany, a country teaming with technical talent and, therefore, desirable and increasingly eco friendly automobiles. Not to mention some of the most advanced solar technology in the world. So, go make it so!

Written by Oflife

August 12, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Food security

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With regards to this issue,  a year or so ago, I recall reading about huge greenhouses located somewhere in southern England. They are able to produce top quality fruit and veg – some of which would normally be imported. This not only guarantees a reliable food supply no matter the weather conditions outside, but reduces the carbon footprint too.

(Will add a link to the article when I get time to find it again.)

What is incredible (but not surprising, considering the types of people who enter such markets), is how bio fuels crops are being allowed, despite their dubious environmental benefits and of course, the fact they occupy land formerly used for food production.

Aeroponics technology being developed by and for space agencies to grow food in space during long journeys is already starting to produce offshoots – no pun intended! – down here on Earth. See Fight Back Club, below.

All said, most of the predictions made over the years appear to warn us that fresh water supplies will be the problem, not so much food itself.

Fight back club: Get an allotment or a Power Plant aeroponics technology mini allotment! Avoid anything powered by bio fuels, a source of energy that is, to put it bluntly, even worse than our current major source of liquid energy.

Remember folks, solar is the way forward, so if you get a Power Plant, plug it into that solar panel you purchased from Maplin.

Written by Oflife

August 10, 2009 at 10:56 am

Posted in Ecology, Environment, Society

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