sallonoroff /about /blog /blog/archive /blog/stats /search

Shiny new Apple products.

OK, so i deliberately misled you with the title of this piece. Apple haven’t, as far as i know, just released any shiny new gadgetry for us to fawn over. Sorry. The persistent rumours of an iTablet and fervent speculation about the purpose and functionality of such a device (eg. 12345etc) have worn me down however and led to me joining in with silly season. What we have here then are a few ideas of my own. There’s nothing here about this mythical tablet, these are just some concepts that i’ve been visualising in the ol’ noggin for a little while now. They’ll probably never exist in the real world but should anything vaguely similar actually become a reality, i’ll be able to trot out a link to this post and claim some sort of prescience.

The iPod/iPhone-docking MacBook (Pro)

A terrible mock-up. Obviously the real thing would rock. A terrible mock-up.

A MacBook (Pro) in which the normal multi-touch trackpad device is removable, leaving behind a iPod Touch/iPhone-shaped hole. Slip your handheld into this “dock” and while the device charges/is mounted by the Mac/etc you use its screen as your notebook’s trackpad.

All Apple would need to do to make this a reality right now is figure out how to free up some internal space for the ‘hole’. So, an internal re-design and a factory re-tool is all it’d take before this could be yours. Clearly i’ve not thought this through terribly well though, since you’d only need to have left your removable trackpad at home and have your iPhone stolen to be also left with a practically useless notebook too.

Still, i reckon it only makes sense for the two devices to play Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers when they’re together – I mean, if you’re using one, you’re not using the other, right? (Sorry, did i forget to mention that if it’s an iPhone you have docked, the phone functionality transfers to the Mac?)

The MacBook-style iPod/iPhone Dock

Sorry, no picture here but there’s no real need since this one is just a future expansion of the previous idea.

At some point in the future, the iPod/iPhone/iWhatever-It’s-Called-At-That-Time will become powerful enough to be an “everyday” computer for most consumers (some might argue it’s already there with the iPhone 3GS). It’ll have the processing power to run most apps you use day-to-day and the capacity to store every digital file you possess. Everyone will carry their life around on this thing but the problem will be (as it is now with the iPhone) that it’s too small to use for long stints. You’ll want some way of easily adding a bigger screen, a real keyboard and maybe attach other peripherals – so what better than a “dock” that happens to look a lot like a present-day notebook?

This dock thing would have no real processing power itself  (or maybe it could? – to boost the iWhatever’s performance – especially in graphics department?) but gives you the larger display, a physical keyboard, beefier speakers, USB 4.0 ports, a BlueRay2.0 drive and/or whatever is a la mode in this future world. There’d be a battery inside so can be used on move and the iWhatever used for a longer stint. Sure it’d be useless without the iWhatever attached so that’s why it might be best to think of it more as a mobile Apple display.

This really is one very much for the future but i expect you’re not convinced. No, me neither. Perhaps the next one is a bit more feasible though… Obvious even…

The MacBook DS

This is a MacBook (Pro) with a touchscreen. Not on the main display though, that one’s as normal as you might find on any present notebook. No, the touchscreen here is on the “lap” part of the laptop, replacing the physical keyboard and trackpad. Not particularly difficult to envisage but here’s a little help for those that are struggling…

My MacBook Touch. No, I can't draw straight lines. No, I can’t draw straight lines.

By default the multi-touch, haptic-feedback touchscreen would be used as keyboard and trackpad but it could become anything you want (well, anything Apple’s programmers will allow). Video-edit controls perhaps? A graphics tablet for the pro Photoshoppers? A musical keyboard? A doodle-pad? A giant click wheel? It could become anything. Not to mention that Apple would longer need to manufacturer different keyboards for different languages (or even keyboard layouts – have Dvorak if you want it) since it could all be done in the software.

Plus, with a much larger multi-touch surface there’d be a massive opportunity for new gestures, taking interactions way beyond the current pinch, rotate and finger-swipe controls.

I believe this sort of device and functionality would be possible with current technology but also that there are too many things that would need serious work to perfect, such as making a glass screen act sufficiently like a real keyboard and dealing with the impact of extra power consumption from the second screen on battery life. For reasons such as these, i don’t expect to see anything exactly like this from Apple for a while but i am hoping i’ll be able to claim my scout badge for prescience at some point in the future.

PS. It looks like is quite good at this sort of foresight caper. Take a look.

There are only 10 types of people…

Dear Reader, a couple of jokes for you.

The first one goes like this…

A man flying in a hot air balloon suddenly realizes he’s lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts to get directions, “Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”

The man below says: “Yes, you’re in a hot air balloon, hovering 30 feet above this field.”

“You must work in Information Technology,” says the balloonist.

“I do” replies the man. “How did you know?”

“Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct, but it’s of no use to anyone.”

The man below replies, “You must work in management.”

“I do” replies the balloonist, “But how’d you know?”

“Well”, says the man, “you don’t know where you are, or where you’re going, you expect me to be able to help. You’re in the same position you were before we met, but now it’s my fault.”

And the second one like this…

A physicist, an engineer and a programmer were in a car driving over a steep alpine pass when the brakes failed. The car was getting faster and faster, they were struggling to get round the corners and once or twice only the feeble crash barrier saved them from crashing down the side of the mountain. They were sure they were all going to die, when suddenly they spotted an escape lane. They pulled into the escape lane, and came safely to a halt.

The physicist said “We need to model the friction in the brake pads and the resultant temperature rise, see if we can work out why they failed”.

The engineer said “I think I’ve got a few tools in the back. I’ll take a look and see if I can work out what’s wrong”.

The programmer said “Why don’t we get going again and see if it’s reproducible?”

If you laughed at these, then you may enjoy this collection of IT-bod jokes.

Via @rands.

Secondary display. On a camera.

Here’s a very interesting move in the point-and-shoot digital camera market by Samsung – they’ve only gone and announced cameras with two screens. Yes, the TL220 and TL225 feature a small LCD panel on the front of the camera in addition to the typical “viewfinder” LCD on the rear.

front and back screens

I think it’s smart move that’ll no doubt go down a storm with the narcissistic MySpace/Facebook crowd. Imagine the time they’ll save in taking arm-out-above-themselves-at-a-quirky-angle self portraits! No need to take 50 shots in the hope of getting one lined up correctly or to limit their posing opportunities by standing in front of a mirror. No, now there’s a little screen to help them get just the right amount of cleavage first time, every time.

Indeed, Samsung even admits in the press release where they drew the inspiration for this new design from:

It has become more common for the photographer to switch roles and become the subject of his or her photo, especially given the rise in popularity of self-portraits or profile pictures for use with today’s popular social networking sites.

But it’s not all about teenagers taking self-portraits, because in “Child Mode” these cameras are parent-friendly too:

In Child Mode, the front LCD plays a fun animation to capture a child’s attention while taking their photo.

However, another feature that’s bound to be well-used by mums and teenage daughters alike is the “Beauty Shot”:

Samsung’s Beauty Shot feature lets you remove all the imperfections on your subject’s face such as wrinkles, blemishes, and moles. Simply select one of two editing options to even out skin tone and complexion.

At last, we needn’t look like ourselves!

Beyond the gimmicks though the specs seems pretty good: it has 12.2 megapixels, a 4.6x optical zoom, can shoot video in 720p “HD” and that rear LCD display is actually a touchscreen – complete with haptic feedback (ie. it’s meant to feel like you’re pressing buttons). Plus it’s fairly compact to boot. Not bad.

This is definitely an interesting evolution in compact cameras and very similar to an idea i had some time ago – a detachable control panel/viewer on a camera. That is to say, the rear section of the camera would pop-off at the press of a button (similar to how the controls of a car stereo pop-out) so you could control the camera remotely, albeit only over short (bluetooth-radius?) distances. Wouldn’t that be great? Useful for those shots you need to take at arms length and also those portraits you would currently take on ‘self-timer’ (No more pics with Dad caught running into the frame). Basically, we’re talking about the swivel-screen on a camcorder taken to it’s most flexible extreme.

It’d probably go something like this…

a shit depiction of my camera concept

Clearly i’ve ruined any opportunity to patent this now by sharing it freely with the world, but maybe if some manufacturer in the Far East does make it one day i could convince them to give me one (a camera) for free?

Just one small hurdle to overcome before this would ever become reality though – low-power, miniaturised, wireless video transmission.

On game pricing.

There was an article in the Guardian yesterday about how we’re probably going to see increases in the price of computer games since the cost of games production is increasing massively. The next chapter in the Call of Duty series, Modern Warfare 2 (AKA COD6?), was an example used as it’s RRP has been set at £55 – about £15 more than typical RRP for console games – and the games company folk are on record as saying they’d see prices go as high as £70.

Now, i’d be very surprised if anyone but diehards would stump up £55 for a game, let alone £70. Yes, Mr Games Company, you might have had success with higher-than-usual prices for Rock Band et al but with those the consumer knows they’re at least getting additional peripherals. Everyone i know who has pre-ordered Modern Warfare 2 has done so via websites offering the game for £40-45 or, in other words, about what they’d normally pay for a game.

Hiked up prices aren’t a new phenomenon though. When i was a kid, you were either in the Sega MegaDrive camp or the SNES camp. I’m fairly sure they sold pretty evenly (at least working from memory of who had what at school) but then the SNES games started selling at £50-60, while MegaDrive stuck at around £30-40. And what happened? The kids with MegaDrives continued getting new games, while the SNES lot saw a distinct drop-off in numbers of games they received come Christmas and Birthday time.1 It couldn’t and didn’t last though. When the PlayStation came along, where’d the RRP get set? £40 or thereabouts.

I like to believe that the consumer will, in the long run, show the games industry that £40 is the magic figure. That it is the most we’ll pay for a tape, cartridge, disc or download, no matter how much they have to fork out on development. Remember, we buy games to have fun, not to keep some company afloat.

No, i reckon the only way developers will make the extra money they seek is through something they’re already doing – Downloadable Content. There are very few games now that don’t have some sort of downloadable add-on. The current Call of Duty game, World at War, for example, is now upto it’s third Map Pack (each being a collection of “levels” for playing the multiplayer games on) – something console gamers will pay about £8 a pop for. Consider that Map Pack 2 had something like a million downloads on the XBOX360 and we’re talking £millions in additional revenue for something that PC gamers can download, and even create themselves, for free.

Yes, the money lies in over-priced game add-ons, not in over-charging for the games themselves.

  1. Of course, 10 year old Me was a MegaDrive fan so maybe my recollection is a little biased. 

Search online for.

Ah, the humble HyperLink. The URL. The Web Address. Call it what you will, it’s a modern day marvel. A simple string of characters that point you to something or other. Something or other that you’re interested in, be that a webpage, a photo, a video, a song, a piece of software, whatever. Oh, and that little ol’ URL doesn’t just point you in the right direction – this thing is an address – it points you exactly at what you wanted. So why then do i keep seeing adverts which suggest that i “search online for…” the product/service name? What’s the bloody matter with these marketeers? Rather than including an address on their advert that will take the potential customer directly to whatever they want them to see, they instead suggest searching the web for some choice word or phrase that may take them where they intended eventually. That same potential customer may actually come across things the advertiser doesn’t want them to see, such as a competitor’s website or a bad review of the product or service in question. Worse still, there’s always the chance they’ll never find what they were meant-to at all.

If a company can afford avertising then they can certainly afford a decent, memorable domain name (even, much as i hate them, one especially crafted for a particularly ad campaign). I see zero need for the extra costs of trying to ensure that your site is listed at the top of the results page for every search engine, when in fact you can never guarantee it, however good your “SEO” experts think they are.

I had thought there would be lots of discussion of this topic on the web but was able to find surprisingly little. There were just a couple of blog entries, here and here (twice) and these both, disappointingly, seem quite happy with the trend. The latter is particularly dismissive of URLS, insisting they’re “difficult to remember and poorly understood”. Maybe i’m a proper trainspotter when it comes to URLs then? I do hope not. It’s not that hard, is it?

To the layman, the URL is easily broken down into three parts: the doubleyou-doubleyou-doubleyou-dot, a brand or slogan and the end bit. Four parts if there’s a slash something on the end_._ And no more, since no sensible marketeer would start going down into sub-directories. So, just four (4) things for Joe Public to remember. Piece of piss, even for a true imbecile, since the typical Human brain  can remember 7 things (that’s why telephone numbers are never more than 7 digits long). Plus, WWW is now practically a given, so ordinarily you only need remember 2-3 things: the brand or slogan (domainname), the end bit (TLD) and possibly a slash something (directory).  =  (apple) + (.com) + (/macbook) = (o2) + ( + (/iphone)

Again, is that really so difficult?

I know i’d always rather be given the phone number than be told to search the phone book.