Wall Street still doesn’t trust Apple’s future. The company is seen as an anomaly, it shuns accepted ways of doing business and defies categorization. Perhaps the categories are wrong.
At some point I will post something other than links to this blog. But for now, this is it. Five more for you to enjoy this week:
- Standard Ebooks – There are lots of free and public domain ebooks about – try looking at Project Gutenberg for example. The problem is that they aren’t always of great quality – because they are often scanned in and OCRd, there are mistakes and janky formatting, amongst other issues. Standard Ebooks is taking these base metals and turning them into gold by checking them, cleaning them up and packaging them nicely – and they’re still free. What’s not to like?
- Strategic Reading – just in case five links a week aren’t enough for you, Stefan Czerniawski has started a new thing in the form of a link blog – lots of links to articles with a bit of commentary. Consumable on the website, via RSS or email and highly recommended.
- Amazon’s New Customer – I linked last week to rumours that Amazon might be interested in buying Slack. Not sure whether that was just a red herring or not, because it turned out that the big acquisition that Amazon made was Whole Foods, a chain of grocery stores in the US. This analysis by Ben Thompson of what is – on the face of it – an incomprehensible deal for an e-commerce company (clue: Amazon is not an e-commerce company) is excellent and very insightful when it comes to Amazon’s operating model and long term strategy.
- Background reading list for government policy people interested in digital – a useful collection of bits and pieces to read to get a good primer in what ‘digital’ means in the context of government services, curated by Paul Maltby. Am tempted to pull a list of my own together at some point.
- A great interview by John Markoff with various folk involved in the creation of the iPhone. Incidentally, Markoff’s book What the Doormouse Said would definitely be on any reading list I produce – it’s a fantastic and entertaining history of the birth of the personal computer.
So I got my new iPhone 6 on Friday – don’t judge me, I was due an upgrade anyway – and have been using it all weekend.
Here are some early thoughts.
1. The size – it’s a bit too big. I didn’t go for the ludicrously sized plus model, but even so. This thing is a lot bigger than the iPhone 5 I upgraded from and it’s just – just – slightly too big.
I have to stretch my thumb to reach the top layer of icons and it isn’t comfy. I know I can double tap the home button to bring them down, but at the moment this isn’t coming naturally to me.
Also it’s too big to fit comfortably in the breast pocket of a shirt, every time i move, it threatens to fall out. Annoying.
Another factor with the size is that there is no way I can put one of those oversize cases that double as an extra battery on this thing, so will need to find a new way of carrying emergency charge around with me.
2. The camera – is excellent, but I cannot believe they have released it with the lens poking out of the back of the phone like it does.
There’s a lot of nonsense written about post-Jobs Apple, but this is one of those things that would never have been released while Steve was in charge. It’s ugly and means you absolutely have to put a case on this thing if you don’t want to knacker it.
3. The storage – I went a bit mad and ordered the top storage option of 128gb. When I found out everyone else was getting the 64gb model I felt a bit daft, but not now.
It holds pretty much my whole iTunes library, as well as every app I would ever want, plus a load of podcasts, and a few downloaded episodes of Peppa Pig for those moments – and I still have 30 odd gigs free. Love it!
4. Some apps aren’t working – am finding I am having a lot of trouble with quite a few apps. Is this an iPhone 6 thing or an iOS 8 thing? I don’t know.
I restored the phone from an iCloud backup of my previous one, and a fair few apps either didn’t download properly at all or crashed when I tried to open them. Deleting them and reinstalling fixed most but not all.
The Chrome browser, for instance, refuses to work for me. Hopefully they will update it soon.
5. Touch ID is something I love, and I’m surprised by that. This is where you can unlock your phone by just holding your thumb over the home button to identify yourself.
My previous iPhone didn’t have it and I was always a bit sniffy. But it seems to work really well, really quickly, and I’ve got used to it right away.
Those are just my initial thoughts and I am sure I will be able to add more about how I end up using this phone differently to my previous one.
It would be great to hear how others are getting on with theirs in the comments!
I find this stuff so you don’t have to:
- Delivering alpha performance reporting dashboards | Digital Health
- Origami – Design prototyping with Quartz Composer (free from Facebook)
- Daring Fireball: Microsoft, Past and Future – excellent read
- Splat the rat – our never ending web rationalisation | Digital Health
- The endemic flaw in the BBC’s digital transformation program – via @euan
- Queen’s Park: home of London’s first parish council
- How our workshop game confirmed all digital adoption is personal – @davidwilcox
- Health care, technology and the NHS | Tinder Foundation
- Work Place « Public Strategist – from @pubstrat
- The IC Space – “the place for Internal Communication professionals across government” via @comms2point0
I find this stuff so you don’t have to:
- emacs bites – learn emacs and lisp in bite sized chunks
- The real deal | by @helenmilner
- Citizens Advice Bureau: showing things aren’t working as they should
- Remembering the Apple Newton’s Prophetic Failure and Lasting Impact
- You can’t write an app to fix a broken system
- Creating Digital Communities report | Community How To
- A ‘report abuse’ button on Twitter will create more problems than it solves | @sharonodea
- Do Things that Don’t Scale
- RSA Catalyst Project: Network of Networks from @curiousc
- Age UK report reveals challenges of rural living
Not much I can add to these. Well worth a watch. If you can’t see them, in the titles I have linked to the original YouTube pages.
The first in an occasional series of posts written by prominent geeks working in and around government, talking about the tools they use to do their jobs.
Who are you, and what do you do?
I run Helpful Technology, a little two-person digital engagement agency that helps mainly public sector and not-for-profit clients get good value from digital. We build websites, do training and consulting – sometimes with our good friends at Kind of Digital. Right now we’re really into the unusual mix of online consultation and social media crisis comms (thankfully, rarely together). We’re moving to a Proper Office in September, but for now I’m mainly home-based.
What hardware do you use?
I’ve been an Apple boy for 20 years, which is saying something as I’m 32 now. My main workstation in the home office is a 15″ MacBook Pro (late 2008) hand-me-down from Dave Briggs, souped up with 6GB RAM and a 128GB SSD from Crucial. It’s plugged into a Dell 22″ display with a 2048×1152 resolution, mainly so I can see Twitter better.
On the road I use both a MacBook Air 11″ – possibly the best computer Apple has ever made – and an iPad2 3G on the Three network. If the MacBook Air had a SIM card slot and I felt less like a oaf for using a laptop on a commuter train, I might retire the iPad altogether. Still, carrying the pair of them still feels lighter than lugging a big laptop around. That I’m surgically attached to an iPhone goes without saying.
The other core elements of my kit are a 3G Mifi device (again, on the Three network) and a WiBE, a bizarre-looking tub-like device which amplifies 3G signal in weak spot areas and is like a mobile wifi network hub when you need several machines online together. It’s a lifesaver for training or social media crisis exercises on client sites.
Maybe the favourite thing on my desk though is an Anglepoise 75 lamp – it’s beautiful and has lovely movement.
And what software?
Given the range of things I do, it’s a real mix. Most days I’ll have Echofon, Transmit, Textwrangler, Terminal, Spotify, Chrome, Photoshop, Powerpoint, Mail and Evernote open. Evernote in particular is the beating heart of my setup, linking up todo lists, notes, URLs and draft texts like this one, across two Macs, an iPhone and an iPad. Dropbox is pretty core to the setup too, as a shared drive and extranet that never puts a foot wrong. I’ve never quite got into IDEs like Coda, though one day I might. For occasional screencast recording, I use ScreenFlow.
Adobe Fireworks is a relatively new addition to the setup, but an amazing design tool for everything from wireframes to full-on design. Sequel Pro is my tool of choice to handling MySQL – it’s a lovely UI to MySQL and makes import/export and building new database structures a breeze. I’m getting slowly into version control, using Tower as the acceptable face of Git. For cross-browser testing, I’ve got four – FOUR – virtual machines set up in Parallels running Internet Explorers 6-9.
What would your dream setup look like?
When I went freelance, I went from a PC-only Internet Explorer 6, Windows XP, Outlook world to Firefox/Safari, Mail and Mac/iOS world overnight – that’s the lovely thing about working for yourself (along with taking client calls in pyjamas). So it’s fair to say the dream setup is pretty much what I have now. I’m hoping the next few years bring iPhones that can actually make voice calls; rock-solid, always-on mobile broadband connections; the death of old web browsers; and web app experiences even closer to desktop apps – but for now, I’m not really complaining. I’m just happy to be living in one of those early 90s Apple commercials.
If you would like to feature in a GovGeek setups post, drop me a line!
I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.
- cpsrenewal.ca by Nick Charney: Mapping Internal Policy to the Hype Cycle – "I've been thinking a lot this week about how organizations issue policies to govern the use of new and emerging technologies."
- The BBC Micro can still teach us a lot – "The BBC Micro taught a generation of teenagers the joys of programming. It's time to re-engineer such a revolution"
- Amazon v. Apple « LRB blog – "Readers might be revelling in the lower prices they find on Amazon, but if the books they’re buying are ever less worth reading, it doesn’t seem much of a bargain."
- What is Dart? – O’Reilly Radar – "Dart [is] an open-source project that aims to enable developers to build more complex, highly performant apps for the modern web."
- MIT App Inventor – "To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a professional developer. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app's behavior."
You can find all my bookmarks on Pinboard.
The iPad is great for some things, but hopeless for others. I’ve had one since its launch in 2010 and I use it every day. It has a terrific battery life, springs instantly to life when opened, is robust and portable and, when fitted with a sim card, provides good connectivity on the move. One could, I suppose, try to write a book, edit a movie or build a big spreadsheet model with it – just as one could, in principle, dig the garden with a teaspoon. But you’d be mad to try. The truth about computing is like the truth about steeplechasing: it’s always horses for courses.