In praise of Apple’s iBooks reader

Posted by steve | Apple Software and Hardware | Tuesday 13 July 2010 8:30 pm

As I’ve posted before, I was recently given an iPad. And I am very impressed with this device. The screen is fabulous and the speed is fantastic. I am fortunate enough to have an iPad 3G with 64GB memory thanks to my lovely wife, Melissa.

I originally began to use it for my regular web surfing and to watch movies. And with the really great battery life I have been seeing and high portability, the iPad is excellent for that. However I never expected the free Apple book reader application iBooks to be so compelling. I have already read 2 books and have several in process.

The other day it hit me that I have already begun to utilize books differently. For starters, Apple makes it so easy to find books and purchase them that it is difficult to resist adding several at a time to your personal library. I’m sure that’s the general idea. But here is what surprised me. First some background. I tend to, when purchasing real physical books, select hardbound over soft cover. And I also tend to treat the books with great care. I never write in my books or fold pages over.

With the iBooks app that all changed. Besides the fact that I can carry around a library of books effortlessly, I now routinely highlight and annotate sections of the ebooks. The app makes that easy and, just as importantly, highlights are simple to find because they are all indexed as you create them. Here is an example from a recent book I completed reading.

That feature alone is pretty neat.

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iPad – pretty nice

Posted by steve | Apple Software and Hardware | Tuesday 6 July 2010 11:01 pm

Melissa surprised me with an early birthday gift. I came home from work today and discovered an iPad 3G 64GB waiting for me on the kitchen table.

Just started playing with it tonight. Damn this thing is fast. The display is crisp and amazing.

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More than just scaling manufacturing at risk

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Friday 2 July 2010 9:44 pm

Yesterday, Bloomberg News published a piece by Andy Grove – the co-founder of Intel Corp. He makes a passionate and reasoned case for how the U.S.A. is making a mistake by outsourcing much, perhaps all, of our manufacturing base. Read the article here.

This excerpt hits a nerve that applies to more than just manufacturing:
Not only did we lose an untold number of jobs, we broke the chain of experience that is so important in technological evolution.

I see the same thing happening in software development. While it is thought true that less expensive developers are available offshore, that’s not necessarily the same thing as saying developing offshore is less expensive. The “chain of experience” gets lost somewhere in the translation. Never mind the literal loss during translation back and forth to English. Some of this gets resolved by training, mentoring and patience.

But who really believes that patience and longer term investment is given credible support today? Just because a developer knows the pertinent technology employed to accomplish your business goals doesn’t mean they understand what you are trying to do. That comes from years of experience.

I’m an “agile software” enthusiast, and there’s a saying often quoted in my world. “Do the simplest thing that could possibly work.” Those are sound words of advice. However. Just like anything else in life, you can carry this to the extreme that you lose sight of the real goals. Software development is all about 2 things:

  1. Deliver solutions for your customer
  2. Maintenance

Don’t lose sight of that 2nd one. I once worked for a very smart company president who used to say “The first order of business is to stay in business.” If you only focus on what you need right now, and don’t understand what you really need right now, you will add considerable software debt. Now I’m not talking about writing software frameworks with extensions for the future that are over-reaching. We all recognize that when we see it. What I am talking about though, is if we just focus on fixing this problem really quick so I can get onto something else, we are not doing the right thing.

As anyone who has worked in the software development world long enough knows, it’s a delicate balance.

That balance is even harder to maintain when you’ve sent all your knowledge home and asked some folks overseas to help you stay in business. The imbalances Andy Grove mentions say it all. Who’s going to stay in business, the guy with all his business knowledge contained in another company’s people?

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