The Day The Music Died

“I can’t remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride…but something touched me deep inside…the day…the music…died…”

Don MacLean wrote American Pie in 1971 about the 1959 plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. Those three musicians (especially Holly) were some of the most influential of their time and their passing was monumental; probably the saddest event in the history of music.

On Wednesday when Steve Jobs lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, the music died; a much louder, more beautiful, more inspirational, far-reaching music than the world had ever heard.

What I can’t believe is how torn up I am about this. I mean, when I heard he had passed I was shocked and then re-reading all his unbelievably inspirational quotes and seeing iconic images of him I started to feel genuinely sad like a friend had died. Finally, on Thursday I went to Apple’s homepage and honestly shed a tear when this is all that was there.

Wow. He’s really gone. He was so other-worldly I guess I just assumed he’d never leave us. But in the end, the pancreatic cancer he had no way of fixing or making better (as he did with everything he ever touched) took his life after a mere 56 years. I guess I write this because I want you to know what he and his innovations have meant to me my entire life. He wasn’t just some guy to me, he was a true inspiration; a hero.

An Apple IIe was the first computer I ever used with it’s black and green screen and I fell in love with Oregon Trail and simple word/math games in elementary school. My Dad bought the first Macintosh where I first played with this new device called a “mouse” and painted the crappiest drawings you’ve ever seen with the spraycan or pencil tools in MacPaint. I remember what a huge deal it was in junior high when the school got an entire computer lab of Apple IIgs’ with their rad color screens! Yes, I was raised on Apple computers and I loved them. What Apple did for education was monumental. The long-running joke had always been that Apple computers were for education and graphic designers but where would I/we be without Apple’s contributions to education?

I switched my life over to 100% apple about 4 years ago and I’ve never looked back. As I type this on my iMac and navigate with my Magic Mouse, listening to a podcast downloaded through iTunes and backing it up on the Time Capsule which also acts as my router I’m checking a text I just received on my iPhone and sending someone an email using my me.com email address and will be heading out later with my Macbook Air to meet someone to discuss business plans. So yeah, you might say that I am a big fan of the products and services Apple offers and with good reason: they are the best.

Sadly, there had become this “us vs. them” mentality of the devout Apple users pitted against the die-hard PC folks, exemplified in Apple’s brilliant “I’m a Mac…” ad campaign. What the PC people forget is that it’s that competition with Apple that helped advance their hardware and software to where it is today. Never-mind who is “better” both Apple and Microsoft or the PC community at large are better because of Steve Jobs. Jobs vs. Gates was always played up but I’m guessing if you asked Bill Gates about the matter he’d say the same thing. If you have ever used a computer, you owe the way you interact with that computer to Steve Jobs. The invention of the Macintosh computer and the Mac OS in 1984 was the dawn of the modern computer and started us down a path we never knew possible and brought about products such as Microsoft Windows and a booming PC industry…and it was Steve Jobs who got the ball rolling.

But for me, the most important thing that Steve Jobs contributed was his passion, his dedication to accomplishing things that many believed were not possible or better yet he just did things that nobody thought of. Watch the video above; it’s unbelievably inspirational and if you thought the passing of Steve Jobs was no big deal, think again…this was one of greatest human beings that’s ever lived and reading or hearing his words gives me goosebumps. He was one stubborn SOB and many times that came off as arrogance but it wasn’t arrogance it was belief in what he was doing and maybe even a bit of frustration with the world around him who doubted him; I can identify with this more than you know. I always admired that about him and that dedication, that unwavering belief in that what he was doing was the best, was right and could be done has inspired me more than a blog piece can explain.

If you know me at all you know I’m different; I think differently than anyone I know in anything/everything I do and I’ve always looked at Jobs as inspiration because he was proof that thinking differently and believing in what you feel  and know deep inside is all you ever need to be successful, happy. The slogan “think different” will always be associated with Steve Jobs and that passion for looking at something and saying “yeah, but I want to do something different…” is what made him so amazing. He revolutionized the distribution of music, how we interact with a computer and so many other things because he thought differently. He didn’t just come up with solutions, he came up with entirely new paradigms and created things we’d never imagined or knew we wanted or needed yet here we are swiping at our smartphones or gesturing our way through a webpage like it’s commonplace. That’s the most important thing about Jobs to me: he created. He didn’t just build a better mousetrap, he created an entirely new way to trap mice you never imagined. He always seemed to be a step or 3 ahead of everyone and living in his own little world and sharing that world with us one piece at a time.

And now, we have to trust that his successors can continue his legacy and maybe in a poetic way it’s fitting that Apple’s HQ is located on a street named “Infinite Loop” where Steve’s legacy will live on in perpetuity.

So, thank you Steve. From the bottom of my heart and with every fiber of my being, I thank you for everything you did for the world around you but especially for me, personally. I lost my hero on Wednesday but I’ll never lose the passion for life, the belief that anything is possible, that with hard work and dedication it’s possible for ordinary people to do extraordinary things, that I will encounter myriad people who will challenge and question what I know and believe in my heart, that life is a gift and that following your heart will never leave you astray…all things that you personified more so than anyone I’ll ever know.

October 5, 2011: The day the music died

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>It’s not a giant iPod Touch

>

So this past week Apple unveiled their newest creation the iPad. As with ALL newly unveiled Apple products there was much disappointment and bitching by the Apple haters of the world. Let’s get to the crux of what the haters are standing on.

It’s a giant iPod Touch.

That’s it. People don’t like it because they perceive it to just be a huge iPod Touch with a much bigger screen and price tag; nothing new, whatsoever. I won’t argue that from an aesthetic and possibly even current functionality standpoint the iPad is anything more than an iPod Touch, but is that such a bad thing? I mean it’s larger and allows the user to interact with, input and experience things on the device that they never could on an iPod Touch. You can edit photos on the Touch, create a symphony and draw out blueprints for your new house on the touch but would you? Why stop there. Did you know that you can compose a 500-page book on your Motorola RAZR flip-phone using the T9 text input method? I mean why do we need the iPad if these arcane, inferior devices can already do this stuff??

 
iBegToDiffer

Think about the iPod. That device was created 9 years ago. 9 years…and now it is the de facto portable music device, a name as ubiquitous as Kleenex or Xerox. The development of that device is staggering…yet people want to call the iPad a failure before it even hits the shelves? If there’s 1 thing you ever learn from this blog, learn this: people always have and always will be DUMB.

 
Hi. We’re the iPods. We’re 9 years old and we rule the world.

People also complain about the features, or lack thereof. This boils down to a huge misconception over what the iPad was going to be and a difference between certain individual expectations and what was originally planned by the people that actually developed the product.See, the haters wanted the iPad to basically be an iMac or MacBook without a keyboard; a fully functional computer that could replace your current machine. In fact, the iPad is meant to augment your desktop and/or laptop computer by providing certain mobile functionality that the form factor of a laptop cannot provide, or more accurately, provide as well as the iPad can.

Bear in mind, it was all rumors and conjecture. Apple until the actual day of the unveiling event hadn’t made 1 public statement about iPad; it was one of the closest held secrets in the history of computing and all the specs, functionality, release date and such were placed on the iPad by the public at large, not Apple. Hell, Apple even created a Delaware LLC to register certain trademarks prior to the launch. The name of that company? “IP Application Development, LLC.” Get it? IPAD.

The final complaint is that Steve Jobs claims that this product is “revolutionary” and probably the most important product he’s worked on, which when you think the thing is just a big iPod Touch makes sense. What people fail to recognize is that Rome wasn’t built in a day; they view development like the alphabet and believe that anything less than “Z” is a failure. The iPad hit like a “K” and that’s totally fine, maybe even expected.

 
Revolutionary

Think back to 1984 when Apple released the Macintosh. There were computers that were faster, had better monitors, more features, etc. That product was revolutionary and while you sort of understood that at the time it took years and years of further development to realize what the original Macintosh was: truly revolutionary. I believe in 10 years we will look back at the iPad and Steve Jobs and say “that sonuvabitch did it again.” We don’t realize that something is revolutionary until after the fact when it’s been proven; look at the Macintosh. The potential of this device (whether you think it’s a giant iPod Touch or not) is immense.

Imagine the applications in academia, where Apple decided to focus it’s efforts 30+ years ago. Think about carrying around this device and having all your textbooks on it…from every semester you were in school. Furthermore, imagine the possibilities of multimedia textbooks. Chemistry students could be reading about various compounds and have a 3D, interactive display to learn from in the classroom or wherever they may be. Music students can compose directly on the tablet and collaborate in real time with other students in schools thousands of miles away, art students can have fully interactive versions of the worlds greatest works…I mean the possibilities in academia are endless. Fancy yourself a chef? How cool would it be to have a recipe with videos demonstrating various steps in the recipe like how to tie up a roast or the correct technique for folding egg whites into a souffle?

Can other devices (including laptops) do these things already? Sure. But can they do it as well as the iPad will? No way. I keep coming back to the original Macintosh and how similar this device is from a “revolutionary” standpoint. Apple’s ability to innovate and lead the world from a technology perspective is absolute and anyone who thinks that the iPad is a failure, not revolutionary or that it’s just a giant iPod Touch is a fool and I ask that you go back to Windows 95 or Windows ME where you belong.

Does it have shortcomings? You bet. Is it something I would buy right away? Probably not; I want to see how well it does out of the gate and where they focus development efforts and then hop on board. Bear in mind that I LOVE being on the bleeding edge of technology and have purchased the first generation of more technologies than I care to admit so maybe I will jump right in but I still think there are a few things I’d like to see Apple address and I’d also like to see if they decide to make the wireless capabilities available to other carriers besides AT&T as I fear that this is going to piss people off even more than they already are with the iPhone exclusivity. In the long run this will damper the 3rd party development efforts of this device, which is where the true potential lies.

Assuming you made it this far, you need to watch this awesome video by Parry Gripp from the band Nerf Herder. He makes all these super fun, catchy songs about the most random things and the iPad was his latest inspration. Listen to the lyrics. While they are really silly and comparing the iPad to nachos may seem ridiculous, the message is actually pretty spot on…

>Apple Magic Mouse

>

For the last few months I’ve been locked in a struggle with my wireless Apple Mighty Mouse. At first, it worked wonderfully. Great feel, great looks, awesome functionaltiy; typical Apple product.

But now after almost a year of heavy use, it’s having issues. The biggest issue is the scrollball. When it works, it’s rad; ultra-precise 360-degree scrolling. Problem is, the ball gets covered in gunk and starts to seize up. So, I can scroll up, but scrolling down does nothing as the ball fails to make positive contact with the mechanics that make it scroll. I tried a couple tricks that worked for other grumpy users but nothing lasted more than a couple days before I had to try again.

“Just clean it out, lazy.” I wish I could! In order to clean the Mighty Mouse you have to pry open the case, use a screwdriver that looks like it came from a dollhouse, then delicately remove the scrollball and sensors and clean them off rather carefully. Oh and make make sure you put it back together properly, then hope the case didn’t crack from prying it open. Never mind that by doing this you are voiding your warranty, in case you care about that sort of thing (I don’t). Long story short, it’s a total PITA.

So, Apple released a couple weeks ago the replacement to the Mighty Mouse the Magic Mouse and I was all for it. This mouse is revolutionary in that there are no moving parts. There’s no scrollball on the top or bottom, it uses a laser to track movement and the entire surface of the mouse is one giant button. Scrolling is accomplished using Apple’s favorite technology multi-touch. You simply slide your finger forward and back, left and right to navigate a document, photos or webpages. Even cooler is that multi-touch allows you to use 2 fingers to swipe left and right, to go forward and back in the browser of your choice and to navigate through photos or albums in iTunes. Very, very cool.

Cousin Itt approved…

What I think of It
Well, I’ve only been using it for a couple days but I’m completely hooked. It’s a very low-profile mouse, standing maybe 3/4″ tall and about the width of a credit card. If you place it on top of an iPhone it just barely fits in the footprint and is about 1/4″ taller. The uber-dorks that are nit-picking complain that the ergonomics of the mouse are poor if you have larger hands, but I have larger hands and I don’t have any issues. But remember, these are the same guys that play WoW, possibly attend ComicCon’s and live for shooting anything and everything down that they can get their hands on.

Your Magic Mouse is anything but magic…I find it unappealing in every way.

From a functionality standpoint, the mouse is brilliant. Scrolling is silky smooth, the multi-touch gestures to move forward and back work amazingly and become super intuitive within minutes. The button press on the surface is far more tactile and offers you much more feedback than the Mighty Mouse, which due to its very curved surface felt weak and you needed to press a bit harder or with a deliberate press at times if you weren’t in the right areas on the mouse. Magic Mouse is flat, which I’m sure helps that out quite a bit. Right-clicking is just as easy as left clicking you just have to press on the right side of the surface; easy enough.

Nothing’s perfect, so here’s what needs some work.

There’s no 3rd button. Probably my favorite functionality of Mighty Mouse was the ability to assign a function to pressing down on the trackball. I had this setup to open up Expose, which made navigating different windows very quick and easy. See, OS X is different from Windows in that each open window is not treated individually. So, when you Alt+Tab (command+tab in OS X) instead of seeing each and every open window you only see each application open. So, if you have 4 Firefox windows open, by command+tabbing to FF you simply go to the last FF window you had open. Expose shows you EVERY open window and I’d just click the scrollball and be navigating all open windows. I really miss that on Magic Mouse. So now, I’ve got to use screen shortcuts or the keyboard to perform that function and that’s a bummer.

Past that, no gripes. It’s assumed that Apple will be releasing updated software in the future so that various other multi-touch functions can be used such as pinching or 3-finger swiping and it would be cool if that functionality was available right out of the gate but not surprising they opted to do it later down the line. Haters are having a field day with this one; what a bunch of tools.

If you have a Mac and can run OS X Leopard or Snow Leopard, this mouse is totally worth it. If you’re a PC user, you better read up on what functionality works on the mouse and what applications are supported as this is most definitely an Apple targeted product.

The Verdict

All in all, this mouse is rad. With no moving parts I’m not concerned about the scrollball getting gunked up, which honestly is the ONLY reason I left the very capable Mighty Mouse. I love the looks though I don’t work in an architecture or design firm so that’s not as important to me. It fits my hand, the functionality is top notch and I’m looking forward to using this mouse from now until Apple releases their next mouse 🙂

>I’m a New Soul

>Well, being a tech geek, it’s only fitting that when I get my newest piece of bleeding edge technology I present it in the best way possible: a proper un-boxing. See, whenever the big tech blogs like Edgadget or Boy Genius Report get a new piece of equipment they meticulously open the box and show you the new toy in all it’s glory.

So, here’s my very first un-boxing of my new Macbook Air! Oh and as for the title of this post, if you’ve spent any amount of time in front of a TV over the past 6 months you’ll know what I’m referring to


Nice box!


Nice box, propped up on nice foam corner protectors!


Designed by Apple in California


Extreme close-up!


A place for everything and everything in its place…


Wow, that’s subtle… I love it 🙂


Newest addition to the new Apple stable

Overall, I must say that Apple’s stuff is expensive but you can tell that they cut no corners with anything, packaging included. The box was nicer than any consumer electronics product I’ve ever bought, maybe ANYTHING I’ve ever bought. The way everything was fit perfectly in it’s respective bin and obviously hand packaged let you know this was no slouch product you bought.

The MBA is rock solid and stupid-lightweight; pretty unbelievable if you’ve never picked one up. The power adaptor, cords, manuals, DVD’s and such probably weigh as much as the MBA itself, no kidding.

I’ll post up my own little review of the MBA at a later date but I just wanted to post up my first geeky unboxing. For now it’s on to task #1: getting it to play nicely with the Windows-based network (or maybe it’s the other way around!) I have setup in the house so I can install software from the Dell’s DVD drive.

STOKED!!!!

>The Apple-ification of Bryan Mills

>Well, as eluded to in a previous post, it’s time for an upgrade on my computing technology. In a radical departure from the past 12+ years of my life, I won’t be going with a Dell, In fact, I won’t even be going with a Windows-based platform.

Yup, you read it right: I’m ditching Windows in favor of Mac. I saw this coming for a while now and the time is just right from an operating system, hardware and design point of view. I’m making the switch for 2 major reasons:

1. I’m not as much of a “power user” as I once was or think I currently am. Back 5 years ago I was stoked to rip open a case and replace HDD’s or video cards or RAM or what not, like tinkering on a classic ’67 Camaro or something; Fry’s was a great place to go and look at all the fun new stuff for your computer. Then I got to wondering why my computer was like an ’87 Honda Accord or Scion and I was constantly pimping my ride and having to change the components all the time to get the results I wanted.

I’d hack into the OS and make little changes so things would run smoother or more to my liking, install any # of utilities that would add functionality missing from Windows, update virus software and deal with isolated threats every few months and so forth. Now, I’m over it. Why mess around with it? Why not just have something that works without having to throw all the bells and whistles at it? Why not just use a machine that does everything you want and more without having to ala carte your way there and mess everything else up in the process?

2. I want something that plays nicely with others and just works. Period. I made excuses for why Macs sucked in the past and touted the benefits of PC’s and Windows until I couldn’t talk. Now, I’ve started to ask myself: why do I need to defend something so much and why don’t you ever hear the Mac people quite as loudly as the PC guys? Well, I’m beginning to see the light and realizing that PC’s just aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and the software I need to run is widely available and maybe even more impressive on Macs, especially since all new Macs are built on Intel architecture and chips.

PC’s are fine machines but without constant monitoring, upgrading and general diligence about maintaining the status quo, you find yourself messing with viruses, software incompatibilities, driver updates, missing .dll’s; the list goes on. At any given time I have about 50 processes running, maybe 10 of which I intend on running. You’re probably asking “why not just find the processes and kill them or disable them through the Services application in the control panel?” YOU’RE PROVING MY POINT!! I don’t want to dick around with all that crap anymore! It’s onerous, at best, impossible at worst and I’ve done my time; it’s time for a new change.

So, with all that said, in a few weeks time we will begin the “Apple-ification” of my stable of computers and technology. “What are you going to get” you ask? Good question! Let’s go in chronological order…


MacBook Air
The laptop is the 1st to go. My Dell Inspiron 2600 has served me well for almost 3 years now and I have no hard feelings towards it; been to Indonesia, Europe and all points in between. It will go to a good home, no doubt, but it’s being replaced with Apple’s newest piece of technology the ridiculously small/thin and sexy MacBook Air. I don’t do much on my laptop but browse the web, word processing, occasional spreadsheets and PDF stuff for work and chat. I don’t need a massive screen, incredible processing power or optical drive and care more for portability, battery life and usability/compatibility with all the peripherals I use. The MBA seems to be the perfect fit and being the newest and most talked about laptop in a decade makes it right up my alley 🙂


Apple Time Capsule
This one is still up in the air. I am looking for a backup solution as well as a more powerful router and print server and this fits the bill on all accounts. At 500GB, it will also serve as not only backup but probably a NAS (network accessible storage) device for both myself and Katie who can both store music, movies, photos and other documents for immediate retrieval on any of the desktops or laptops in the house. I may opt for an external HDD and an Apple Airport Extreme base station instead if I can find a good deal but it’s pretty hard to beat the Time Capsule since it does everything I need in 1 convenient device.


24″ iMac
The new Mothership of my technology armada. I fell in love with the design of the new iMac the second I saw one in person and the display on the 24″ is probably the most gorgeous display I’ve ever laid eyes on. The machine is powerful, sleek and capable of doing everything I could ever want and more. It’s a pretty radical departure from the mini-tower desktops I’ve always used but since I’ve no desire to look under the hood and tinker with the guts of my computers anymore, the iMac will be great. Working with the MBA and the Time Capsule, this should be an awfully impressive team. But wait, there’s more!!


iPhone 2.0
When the iPhone debuted almost a year ago, I knew this device would change the way people view mobile phones but I was disappointed that it lacked several key features someone like myself needs, namely operation on a 3G network and ability to play nicely with Microsoft Exchange Server, which I rely on heavily. Well, it’s widely predicted that in a couple weeks Apple will be unveiling iPhone 2.0 with those 2 additions and more. I’m due for a new phone (BlackBerry Curve is approaching it’s 1-year anniversary) and since I’m going all Apple, I figured the new iPhone would be the icing on the cake. Katie has her own iPhone and loves it. Going to Forever 21 isn’t that bad when you can sit on her iPhone the whole time and browse sports scores or play games 🙂


This photo is ironic because the desktop I currently use is the same one shown above…

So, everything should be coming together in the next couple months and once it does I will be 100% Apple technology. Every call I make, document I produce, email I send, MP3 I download, blog entry I post and spreadsheet I print will go through an Apple device. I never thought I’d do it, but I’m about to become a full-fledged Kool-Aid drinker.

But is that so bad? These devices are easily some of the best in their class or the gold standard and they work amazingly well and play extremely nicely with one another. In Apple’s perfect world, everything is built to work with one another. Laptop, desktop, phone, storage, router; they build all of those devices and for them to work their best they’re to be used in unison. Problem is, that rarely happens. Somewhere along the line the chain is broken and Apple has to work with a device that’s not Apple and maybe in some way the perfect world isn’t so perfect anymore; same could be said for any software/hardware manufacturer.

Apple is unique: it is both a software and hardware company. The bum steer for Microsoft is that no matter how good their product is, it has to work with a 3rd party and that’s where the fun begins. If MSFT manufactured their own hardware, things would be a lot different and maybe the utopian world that Apple paints would be reality for Microsoft, too.

I’m pretty stoked that I won’t have X devices from X different manufacturers all trying to work together and none of them doing it 100% right. Instead, I’m hoping that the “perfect world” that Apple wants each and every one of it’s customers to operate in is indeed perfect I’d I’ll look back at the mid-90’s to present day and laugh at all the follies and frustrating days had on Windows-based PC’s and sip my chai-tea macchiato and queue up some U2 on iTunes while researching alternative fuel sources for my Prius. OK, I won’t go that far, people; you have my word…

The countdown has begun to Technology Life 2.0… I’ll keep you updated.