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March 08 2012

Developer Week in Review: The new iPad and the big meh

The wacky climatology continues here in New England. We got half a foot of snow last week and it's 65 degrees today. Combine that with the unseasonable tornados Friday in the Midwest and South, and the icebox Europe has been suffering under, and you want to quote Bill Murray from "Ghostbusters": "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria!"

And speaking of mass hysteria ...

Apple announces new products. World yawns.

iPad third generationSomewhere on a sleepy little ice-covered moon in a far-off galaxy, 12-eyed alien sloths watched the live-blogging of the Apple iPad reveal yesterday, so over-hyped are Apple's product announcements these days. The big surprise this time was that, well, there were no big surprises. A combination of leaks from companies in Apple's supply chain and good guesswork meant that we've known for days what was likely to be announced, and the rumors were pretty much on the money. A 4-core iPad with 2x display resolution and a better camera, on LTE, and an upgraded Apple TV unit. It seems that the days are gone when Apple's master pitchmen can pull something genuinely novel out of the hat with no advanced warning. I can remember the stunned applause when the iPhone was first unveiled. The "new" iPad's announcement was more like "yeah, OK, cool."

That having been said, the new iPad is going to blur the laptop/tablet lines even further, as a combination of more processor power and a higher resolution display are letting more and more advanced applications make the transition to a tablet form factor. For developers, this is going to mean abandoning the mouse and keyboard as the primary way of doing things in user interface design, even for products that traditionally were thought of as "desktop applications" (such as CAD).

And yes, for the record, I bought a 64GB LTE model (black). If you're looking to trade in your old iPad, Amazon seems to be giving the best offers at the moment for used ones.

Great moments in patent extortion, the series!

Steve Jobs famously vowed that he'd destroy the Android, but recent reports indicate that Apple has decided it would rather make profits, not war. Apple is reportedly offering to back off patent litigation against handset vendors in return for a $15/unit license fee. If you combine that with Microsoft's $10/unit fee, that means that $25 of every Android sold is going to companies that directly compete against the platform.

What a great business model! Buy our product, or don't buy it, but either way we'll make money on the deal. Mind you, I'm sure Apple and Microsoft clear more than $25 and $10 respectively in profit off each iPhone and Windows phone they sell, so they'd still rather you buy one of theirs. Still, if you can't beat 'em, tax 'em!

Welcome Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi model BThe Raspberry Pi is finally here and shipping. Not surprisingly, the $35 single-board Linux computer immediately sold out. However, there's evidently a robust supply chain in place because I was able to purchase a unit for delivery in just a few weeks.

For my money, the big loser in all this is going to be the Arduino, which is cute but underpowered and hard to develop for. Given the Pi is cheaper than most Arduinos and offers networking, HDMI and USB, plus an easier-to-use Linux OS, I can see a lot of developers deciding to drop Arduino in favor of it. It will run happily on 4AA batteries and has GPIO ports available, so you could even use it in your favorite autonomous flying vehicle autopilot application if you wanted.

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November 18 2011

Developer Week in Review: Adobe sends Flex to Apache

Although Turkey Day is less than week away, things have been distinctly Labor Day-ish around here, at least as far as the weather goes. Following the Halloween snowstorm, it's been mild and sunny, T-shirt weather.

Today is when my day job company does their annual Thanksgiving lunch, with all the fixings. So, before I become comatose from starch overdose, here's a look at the week that was.

Apache and Eclipse: The Salvation Army of software

FlexIt seems as if a week doesn't go by without a major donation of remaindered code to an open-source foundation. But even recent large donations, such as Oracle's donation of Hudson to Eclipse, are dwarfed by the announcement this week that Adobe is donating the entire Flex SDK to Apache.

Considering Adobe's announcement last week that it plans to drop mobile support for Flash in favor of HTML5, this isn't completely surprising. However, the speed with which Adobe is moving to divest itself of its Flash assets is somewhat breathtaking. By shedding Flex in this way, Adobe can concentrate on building its HTML5 portfolio without leaving existing Flex developers out in the cold.

Donating obsolete products to open source is a commendable effort, and one I wish more companies would undertake. Beyond allowing developers to tinker with the code and improve the product, it also can be a valuable teaching tool (either in a best-practices or bad-example function). Unfortunately, patent encumberment and corporate paranoia make it difficult to do.


This year, Thanksgiving dinner includes Raspberry Pi

Raspberry PiOne of the reasons that the Arduino has become such a popular Maker platform is that it's so cheap; if you hose one, you're only out $20 or $30. Unfortunately, they're also pretty primitive, both in terms of memory and how you have to code them. You can buy a Beagle board or similar kin, which can run Linux, but those are fairly expensive.

The Raspberry Pi is an attempt to create an affordable single-board that can run Linux and interface to consumer-level components. The organization building it just celebrated a milestone, finishing the final cut of the first-gen printed circuit board (PCB) design. This raises hopes that the single-board computer (SBC), with a price projected in the same range as Arduinos, may be available in the near future.

The Pi runs standard Linux ARM distributions, has a USB connector and HDMI out, and if it works as planned, should become the go-to board for homebrew hardware projects. The Arduino is a nice board, and it will continue to have an advantage for those who want pin-level I/O access. It shouldn't be hard to jigger up a cheap USB-based general purpose input/output (GPIO) breakout board, however, so this advantage is likely to be fleeting.

Skynet v0.1 is now operational

People hoping for the eventual enslavement of humanity by sentient machines got good news this week. Researchers at MIT reported the development of a chip that contained 400 neuron-analog circuits. Unlike digital switches, these new circuits mimic the ion channel mechanism that is found in the brain.

The MIT team claims that the work will lead to better understanding of brain processes and the development of prosthetics, but we here at DWIR know the real truth. We have photos of Siri entering the building through a back door, and a witness claims to have seen a large man with an Austrian accent in the vicinity, looking for a student named Sarah Connor. Claims that the Tech Square parking garage control system refused to open the gate for anyone named Dave are still being investigated.


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