Category Archives: Rants

Why the $99 HP TouchPad is a good purchase [Updated ]

[Updated 09/16/2011]

As a WebOS fan, I’ve been following the rise (kind of), abrupt and sudden fall, and finally the launch of the now defunct TouchPad by HP.   I certainly wanted one when the product was launched, but felt them a little pricey.  Then, came the sudden announcement that the product was killed a mere seven weeks into its life.  At that point, I no longer desired one.  Then, like a great mystery, the plot turned once again.  Now, they were $99 and like an apparently very large portion of the US consumer market, I wanted one again.  I was one of the unfortunate people caught in order limbo thinking I had one, only to have my order abruptly canceled a few days later.

So, here I am.  On the outside looking in. I’m not going to use this space to rail on the shortsightedness and lack of vision by HP. That would just be too easy.  Instead, I’ve read a fair amount of articles on why you should or should not buy one.   There are a number of them out there for your reading pleasure, but I’ve especially got to thank Bill Palmer at Beatweek for his heavy handed post that thrashed the idea of buying a TouchPad altogether.  I hope that a great many people read his article.  It will make it that much easier for me to pick one up.  In response to this post, I’m going to give you ten reasons why a $99 TouchPad is a great pickup (if you can get one)

  1. By adding the Kindle App, you get more than a Kindle for less than the price of a Kindle.  Email, browser, games, etc.  That would probably be enough, but wait.  There’s more………
  2. A FREE 50GB of storage at  That’s a $19.99 value that can be shared amongst your family.
  3. Flash!   Despite what they’d have you believe, HTML5 is not yet all the way here.  So, when you are ready to lose Apple’s Interent training wheels, you can reach for ‘that other pad’ and experience the rest of the Internet.  There are a lot of well done Flash sites out there.  It would be a shame to miss some of them.
  4. It’s a great way to un-tether from your computer.  What do most people use their tablets for?  Checking email, Twitter, Facebook, surfing the web, etc.  The TouchPad does all of that.
  5. WebOS is a great operating system.  It is easy enough that all but the most dense among us will be able to start using it productively right away.  Also, despite it’s limited lifespan in hardware, HP is still actively developing the operating system.  They really want to license the os (good luck), but if need be, they will sell it.    That would be a lot more difficult if they shuttered the project and fired all of the engineers that work on it.
  6. The Android community is very actively working on a port.  For the more technically inclined among us, you’ll be able to to run Android on some dandy hardware within the coming weeks.  Where else are you going to find an Android tablet on this kind of hardware for $99?  That’s right.  Nowhere.  For the even more geeky, there is an active project that’s porting Ubuntu Linux to the pad.  Both the Android and Ubuntu projects are currently booting from a USB stick.  Therefore, you could ultimately have your choice of three operating systems on the same hardware without any of them interfering with the others.  Where else are you going to get that?
  7. You are NOT running a big risk of getting a virus.  This is just silly. Like I said before, the operating system is still actively being developed.  Any security holes that would crop up will be addressed at least for the near term, and that’s all we’re really looking at here (see note 10). Additionally, WebOS is Linux.  It springs from the same tree as the Android and is a close cousin to iOS.  While not impervious to malware, because of the nature of Unix/Linux it’s just a lot harder to pull off and there’s just less malware out there for the platforms.
  8. If you want to get your kids a netbook, this would make a nice alternative.  There is a document editing app called Quick Office that comes with the TouchPad and Picsel Smart Office should be available within a few weeks.  It’s a great machine for simple homework and research.
  9. App developers are still actively writing apps for WebOS.  It is true that many have jumped ship and some may never return, but the fact remains that HP will wind up selling about a million TouchPads before they close the books on it for good.  That’s a million potential software buyers.  Somebody is going to meet that market even if it’s only a niche.  You won’t have the volume of apps that are available for the iPad or the Android tablets, but you WILL have options.  The second part of this is, there WILL be accessories available.  This pretty much matches my point above.  A million devices is simply going to be too much for some manufacturers to resist.  Going back to the days of Palm, WebOS fans are rabid and they will buy.  With a million devices in the wild, there will be more WebOS fans.
  10. The lifecycle of the TouchPad is going to be about the same as it will be for any other tablet.  Apple already has an end of life in mind for the iPad and iPad 2.  Don’t believe me?  Ask any iPhone 3G owner how their phone is doing.  Planned obsolescence will take the iPads out every two to three years.  You’ll be tossing out your TouchPad about that same time.  The only difference will be that you spent 1/5 to 1/8 for the TouchPad (assuming you are fortunate enough to land one for $99) and probably a lot less for apps over the course of that time.

The TouchPad may be discontinued, but it’s far from dead.  It’s a limited life appliance just like all of the other tablets on the market.  Spending $99 and using the device for two years will be money in your pocket.  Two years from now, iPad and iPad 2 owners, as well as current Android tablet owners will be actively looking to replace their tablet with the latest and greatest just like you.  The only difference is, you’ll be money ahead.

To Mr. Palmer, please write a few more scathing articles.  You’ll be doing the rest of us a favor.


Screening away talent. Why the phone screen is a bad idea.

Life is just getting faster and faster.  One of the ways organizations are trying to make the job search faster is with the ‘phone screen’.  The phone screen is something of a pre-interview, done over the phone to screen out applicants who are not qualified.  While I understand the reasons behind doing this, I don’t agree with them, and I’ll explain why.

The interview is a business meeting between two parties.  The potential employer being one party and the prospective employee being the other.  You are negotiating a business arrangement.   I’ve been on both sides of the table, interviewing potential hires and being grilled by a hiring panel.  Regardless of which side I’m working from, I want to be able to look that person in the eye as I dialog with them.  I want to read their body language.  I want to get a feel for whether I want to do business with that person.  If you are looking for a job, don’t go in with an attitude of just hoping that someone will hire you.  You’ve got to have an attitude that you  bring something to the table that a potential employer wants.  You have to know what you bring to the party and be prepared to communicate to them why you in particular will solve the problem they have.  In essence, you are a business owner and the service you are selling is you.  In order to do that, you need to be able to get a read on them, and they need to be able to see the message you are delivering.   That is just not as effective over the phone.  When I’m interviewing for a position, I want to see the next place I could be working.  Is the environment nice?  Do the employees look like they are genuinely happy to be there or do they look like they’ve just had an injection of pickle juice?  Is the place well kept?  These are things that must be seen with ones eyes.

As a manager, I’ve never been a fan of the phone screen.  Again, I want to look that candidate in the eye and see what they are made of.  I want to see how they carry themselves.  I want to see how they react under stress.  I want to know the things that I can’t know in a phone call.   Often the best candidate is not the most qualified candidate.  The best candidate is the person that will best fit in the company and help solve the problem at hand, as perceived by the person doing the hiring.  The best candidate is a complex decision that involves many factors and discarding potential candidates over a phone call is a great way to ‘let the big one get away’.  Now, granted there are exceptions.  Before you spend the money to fly someone across the country (or possibly across the globe), you should do some initial homework.  A tough look at the résumé and a phone call would be wise.  Also, if you’ve got a very large applicant pool, then maybe some simple filtering would be good, but in most cases, the résumé and cover letter are going to tell me whether I want to see this person or not.

As someone familiar with both chairs, I prefer to drop the phone and head straight to face to face dialog.  Trying to establish candidacy over the phone short changes both parties.  Lets go back to using the phone in the proper way.  Let’s use the phone to set up a face to face meeting.

Apple’s Next Dominated Market

We’ve got a sneak peek into the next market that Apple is planning on redefining.  The industry giants are now on alert.  I’m sure the top level execs at CatEye, Vetta, VDO, and Mavic are scrambling to upgrade their offerings as we speak.

CatEye?  Vetta?  VDO?  Yes.   Chances are you’ve never heard of those companies, but they are major players in their industry.  They make computers, just not the kind that normally come to mind when you think about computers.  They make bicycle computers.  And this has what to do with Apple?  According to this patent filing, Apple is at least looking at entering the bicycle computer market and they are bringing some new ideas to the table.

So, what does a bicycle computer do?  The bicycle computer mounts to your handlebars and displays information.  The simplest computers give you information such as how fast you are going, how far you’ve gone, and what your average speed has been.  More sophisticated units do things like keeping track of your heart rate, telling you which gear you are in, displaying your altitude, displaying the temperature, and some even allow you to download your ride data to your computer.  All of these are great, but I’ve never really seen one computer that really pulls all of the functions I’d like to see into one unit at an affordable price.

Enter Apple.  Looking at the patent filing, we see a lot of features that will rely heavily on a GPS.  Features like wind speed, path completed, expected future path (?????)  and a bevy of location based features will use this.  Along with those, we get a decent list of somewhat standard features including speed, distance, time, altitude, elevation, incline, decline, heart rate, power, derailleur setting (what gear you are in), cadence, heart rate, power, and pace (average speed).   This feature list is quite exciting.  Wind speed is something I’ve longed for, but hey Cupertino – what about the equally important (to cyclists) wind direction?   Cadence is interesting.   Shimano offers this in their higher end components now.  It’s not measured however, it’s calculated.  You have to enter your gear sizes when you set up your computer, it then calculates the gear combination based upon how fast you are going and how fast you are pedaling.  I would have to assume that Apple would follow a similar approach.  Power and heart rate are another story however.  To get power information, you have to install either a crankset or a rear hub equipped with a strain gauge.  The computer then interprets the data from the strain gauge and calculates how many watts of power you are producing.   The same applies to heart rate data, which is read from a special sensor, usually worn around the chest.  The good news is there is a standard for communications.  The ANT+ protocol is supported by a number of power and heart rate meters.  All of this data would come close to the grail of cycling information assuming the data can be downloaded by a real computer for analysis.  It appears that the data would be displayed via the iPhone or iPod Touch mounted to the handlebars via a custom cradle.  That makes a good bit of sense, unless you crash.  Since your handlebars frequently take a good portion of the impact in a crash, putting your only means of communication so close to the impact zone seems a bit scary, especially if you are hurt or your bike becomes unrideable in the crash.   But, for the most part, these features excite me as a cyclist.

Now, on to the things that do not excite me.  It would seem that the people at Apple do not ride their bicycles the same way I ride my bicycle.  In fact, it doesn’t even seem close.  While I ride with my head down and the gas on, it would seem that Apple people are much more social.  It would even seem that they are trying to bring a Facebook like experience to the bicycle.   Much of the patent document is spent explaining how the data from one bike can be seen on another and made available to a group.  I don’t know how they plan on organizing that, but I don’t really want to be spending a lot of time navigating other people’s data while I’m busy trying to dodge things like broken glass and dump trucks.  What’s even worse is the call for text, voice, or video from one or more devices.  So, we are in an all out blitz to tell people to put their phones down and stop texting while driving, but Apple thought this would be a fantastic feature for the bike?  Really?  That’s just scary.  Considering that FaceTime requires a wifi connection, how do they plan on pulling video off?  What about battery life?  Currently, I use the MapMyRide app to track my ride via my iPhone.  It uses the GPS and it rapidly drains the battery even with the display off.  How does Apple plan to bring all of these features together and keep your display powered for even an hour ride, let alone a nice 50 miler on a Saturday morning?  External battery pack?  Another thought that I am loathe to consider?  iTunes.  Assuming that the brains of the entire operation is an iPhone/iPod Touch, all of the ride data would have to come through iTunes.  Having to manage all of my rides via iTunes makes me wonder if the whole thing would really be worth it.  I’m begging you right now Apple, if you bring this product to life, give me a different app to manage my bike rides.  Don’t make me go through the pig we call iTunes!  The document lists some other fluffy features like locating the nearest bike path or finding other riders.  Chances are, I’m either already on the nearest bike path, or I already know where it is.  You see, some of us actually research where we are headed before we go there.  Locating other riders has a component of neat to it, but I have to go back to the navigation issue.  Do I want to be working through a bunch of screens while I am screaming down a road?  Probably not.

The big question assuming this all comes to production is price.  I can get the bulk of the features I like in the Garmin 705.  With the required add ons, it’s going to set me back around $650 from Garmin.   That’s a load of cash and I’m sure quite a bit of it has to be wrapped up in the display.  Since what Apple is proposing here would seem to be handled with some custom sensors, custom mounts, and software it should be able to be considerably lower in price than Garmin assuming you bring your own display unit (iPhone/iPod Touch) with you.  So, what does Apple need to do to make this something I want?  Make it affordable.  Otherwise, I might as well buy the Garmin.

I’ll continue to pour through the very long patent filing.  In the mean time, there are a couple of drawings on CrunchGear you can look over.  What do you suppose they would name this thing?

To Have or Not To Have. What Ownership of the iPad, or Lack Thereof Says About You.

I was reading an article on Wired Magazine’s website today and just couldn’t pass this one up.  This will officially become my first post dropped into the rant category.

According to a study by consumer research group My Type, iPad owners are ‘selfish elites’, while iPad haters are ‘independent geeks’.  Since I am neither an owner or a hater right now, I guess I’m neither of those.

Check out the full story here, then let me know what you think.