Friday, October 7, 2011

Thank you, Steve.

I didn't plan on writing a blog post about Steve's passing, but after a couple days I feel like I'll regret it if I don't. So here it is…

I only ever made it to one Macworld …the 2007 launch of the iPhone. I had no idea how significant that keynote would become at the time. I just figured I'd become one of a relatively small percentage of people carrying a great phone. I definitely didn't expect the overnight revolution of the mobile industry. But that's what took place, and I witnessed it first-hand.

That's the closest I ever came to meeting the man who shaped the majority of the tech/professional part of my life. 

I revere the experience.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Re: AT&T vs. Free-Tethering

So, AT&T is getting ready to kill users unlimited data plans if they are caught tethering. What I want to know is if they are also targeting users NOT on the unlimited plan? My guess is no, and I haven't seen mention of it in any of the forum threads I've read thus far. What you DO see is a bunch people arguing the same thing over and over, "Data is data, no matter how it is consumed. AT&T charging an extra $20 to spread the data around is robbery." While I don't find the need to tether myself, I am sympathetic to that argument with one exception …the $30 unlimited data plan. I'm not saying there shouldn't be an unlimited data plan, or that it should cost $100 a month. I'm just saying I can look at the situation through AT&T's eyes and the move doesn't make me upset. The phrase "Unlimited Data" was a great marketing gimmick back when data usage was scarce, and I think $30 was quite a bit to charge for it a couple years ago—people simply couldn't go through that much data. Now that everyone is video chatting and streaming movies and audio, things have changed and with all the network problems I can see why AT&T killed the unlimited plan. I think that's their call, and if they want to enforce the no tethering rule on that plan I think they have the right to.

Now, back to the other plans… can anyone confirm that AT&T is planning to enforce the no tethering rule on anything other than the unlimited plans? I am betting no, which means you could simply drop down to the $25 2GB data plan and free-tether to your heart's content without AT&T giving a damn. Why? Because the system can no longer be abused by heavy data users, and that's all they really want.
  • 2GB = $25
  • 3GB = $35 (the $25 plan + a $10 1GB overage charge)
  • 4GB = $45 ("Legal" tethering plan, or the $25 plan + two $10 1GB overage charges)
  • 5GB = $55 …and $10 more for each additional GB
That doesn't sound too terrible to me. If you are a free-tethering and using more than $30-worth (2.5GB) of data at their new rates I think AT&T is well within their right to force you off the unlimited plan. Go throw your hissy fit and move to Verizon (not that their plans are any better). If you are free-tethering on the 2GB plan and they've warned you that they're going to bump you up to the $45 plan if you don't stop …that's when I'd call shenanigans.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Original iMac HD vs. OWC FW800 SSD

My first generation white 24" iMac has been running extremely slow lately. I'm not sure if the internal HD is on it's last leg or if I'm just getting accustomed to the SSD speeds at work. In either case I'm trying to get another year or two out of my iMac before I upgrade and I figured the only way to do that was with an SSD. Unfortunately replacing the internal HD in this particular iMac is a pain in the ass. I'd pay someone to do it for me if it wasn't already out of warranty and I had some sort of guarantee it wouldn't crap out on me in a month …but that's not the case. So I decided to test an external FireWire 800 SSD solution instead (115GB OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Mini). I know that a FW800 connection is nowhere near as fast as the peak throughput of an SSD, but the main benefit you get with an SSD is crazy fast random access speeds. I figured that would help significantly speed things up even over a FW800 cable. The video below shows the results. The FW800 SSD is on the left, my old HD is on the right. YouTube screwed up the speed of the video upon upload, but I thought it being sped up might help keep your attention. The stopwatch is running on my iPad under the screen. I shot both videos with my iPod Touch, then I played them back simultaneously and shot my iMac's screen. Crappy, I know, but I've got other things on my todo list.

In case what is happening in the video is unclear, the SSD was over 5x faster. (0:51 vs 4:48). I don't know how bad off my original HD is (it's over 4 years old and I'm sure a new HD would fare better), but I can easily say the SSD is a no brainer …even when throttled over FW800.

Here are some benchmarks from the drives themselves. Open the images in a new tab to view full size.

Original HD – QuickBench: Note that the sequential reads/writes are much higher than the SSD in this test, but they seem to be lost in the large file test below.
Original HD Benchmark

OWC FW800 SSD – QuickBench:
OWC FW800 SSD Benchmark

Original HD – Large File Test:
Original HD   Large File Test

OWC FW800 SSD – Large File Test:
OWC FW800 SSD   Large File Test

Original HD – Xbench
Original HD   Xbench

OWC FW800 SSD – Xbench
OWC FW800 SSD   Xbench
If you have an old iMac I highly recommend this upgrade. If you have any questions/comments you can ask below or hit me up on twitter @zwei.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Google, it’s a bit late to pull this crap.

So Google just announced that they are dumping h.264 HTML5 <video> support in Chrome. Apparently they want you to believe this is the just another step towards that daisy-fresh “100% open” utopia of the future. Hell, they may actually be blind enough to believe it themselves. They have decided to put their weight behind their own WebM codec with the hopes of it becoming relevant, but in reality this move will probably do very little to help. What it’s going to do instead is throw a wrench in the creation of the HTML5 <video> standard, and it’s going to throw a lifeline to Flash. The first consequence benefits no one, but the second benefits Google by keeping a key differentiating feature between iOS and Android relevant in the eyes of consumers.

Unfortunately for Google, none of this matters. It’s simply too late in the game to change course. Apple has over 100 million iOS devices in the wild, and regardless of a HTML5 <video> standard, Apple is going to support h.264 <video> (as will Microsoft), which means web developers are going to support h.264 <video>. Not to mention the fact that WebM doesn’t support hardware decoding—something critical in the mobile web space (where HTML5 <video> is most relevant). Even if WebM does gain hardware decoding, nobody but Google is going to waste their money encoding and hosting two versions of the same video. Why? Because Flash supports h.264 so users can be served the exact same h.264 content, albeit unnecessarily wrapped in a Flash container. Way to shoot yourself, and your users in the foot Google.