Archive for April, 2010

Mobile Banking

April 30th, 2010, 12:32pm by Kelvin

I just downloaded a Wells Fargo prog for my phone, and I’m trying to decide if I’d ever use it. Have you guys done any mobile banking? The app has an ATM finder, allows you to check balances, transfer money between accounts, and do billpay. ATM finder is a good idea, I guess, but I’d rather have that in a mapping program (Google Maps). It’s not like I’d keep a Chevron program in case I need gas.

None of the other features seem like anything I’d ever do in a mobile setting. Maybe I’d pay a bill in case I’d otherwise forget? The one missing feature is the ability to make trades from my Wells Fargo Borkerage, since timeliness is so critical in trading (SELL SELL SELL!)

Part of my App of the Week series 🙂

HP buys Palm!

April 28th, 2010, 5:11pm by Jake

Long live webOS! $5.70/share, which is a nice bump from the doldrums but well off recent highs. And looks like Kelvin & I will need to get a new hobby— damn shame, we were just perfecting those financial models. Let’s go to a reputable news source for coverage.

HP Buys Palm

HP to Double Down on webOS


Apple vs. Gizmodo

April 28th, 2010, 3:22am by Jake

Time to move this over from Twitter. [edited by Mike, see below]

# jakerome: High-tech task force that deals with massive counterfeiting operations & online threats is handling a case involving a phone left in a bar

# sbono13: @jakerome It’s not illegal to leave a phone in a bar. It’s illegal to steal, sell stolen property, buy stolen property. Fascinating story.

# jakerome: @sbono13 Do you think I can get REACT to go after whoever found my iPod on the SWA plane?

# sbono13: @jakerome I don’t think that’s the same thing. Do you?

# jakerome: @sbono13 Why not? My name was on the device & I didn’t brick it. Someone sold it, if buyer returned is buyer a crook?

# sbono13: @jakerome Are you complaining because it’s not illegal, or that REACT should not be handling it?

# jakerome: @sbono13 1) Don’t see a case against Gizmodo; 2) Any case should be handled by regular police; 3) Shield laws protect Gizmodo.

# sbono13: @jakerome I don’t understand your vitriol. You don’t think there’s anything wrong with this guy making out with $5000?

# sbono13: @jakerome Oh c’mon, you’d just omplain that regular police should be arresting murderers or jaywalkers!

# jakerome: @sbono13 They searched the journalist’s house, not “this guy’s.” And the guy did make a (half-hearted) attempt to return it.

# jakerome: @sbono13 Not to mention, couldn’t be sure it wasn’t a KIRF until they cracked open the case since it was bricked.

# jakerome: @sbono13 Check out Engadget comments. Gizmodo didn’t know what it was until they had it, then returned it. Not a crime.

# sbono13: @jakerome I’m sure this guy offered it to engadget and then gizmodo, for a price. What if he also offered it to Google or better yet, Palm?

# jakerome: @sbono13 As soon as Palm or Google figured out it was real, they’d return it to Apple. Same as Gizmodo did.

# sbono13: @jakerome No way. You think Palm could get away with paying $$ for it, tearing it down and examining it for a week, then returning it?

# jakerome: @sbono13 I think they’d have a hell of a civil lawsuit on their hands.

Catalina Marathon 2010: Better late than never

April 25th, 2010, 11:40pm by Jake

Well, life was pretty crazy in the days and weeks after Catalina Marathon this year. So don’t figure on another epic post like I put together in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Here goes: I trained hard for the race, but truth is, my secret to success has been fenced off since August. Yup, after walking up & down the dune 40 times to get in my hill training– 4000 feet altogether– for the past 3 races, I couldn’t walk up even once. Even worse, on those weekends (or usually Fridays, on my day off) I used to double up, since I could climb the dune for 2 hours one day and easily run 12 miles the next without anything but tired legs. No can do running, as the pounding of a 12 mile run makes it hard to run 12 the next day. Thankfully, our long effort to Free the Dune is starting to see some success, although it will remain fenced off with hours reduced by 80% and use destined to be cut by 90% or more. But I digress…

This year, I finally convinced my brother Aaron to run the Catalina Marathon. Also, instead of taking the boat over in the morning, we journeyed over Friday morning to Two Harbors and camped out in a borrowed tent. That meant sleeping until 5:30AM! Pretty sweet. We wandered the 1/4 mile to the start line, where we were delayed 15 minutes or more while waiting for the Avalon boat. Turns out, the Marina del Rey boat threw the rope over the wrong side of the boat, and after 40 minutes they were forced to cut their line. Whoops! Meantime, here are the Romes at the start… I wouldn’t see him again for 24 miles.

Prerace Romes

Lined up, ready to go

The race is a blur now, but I’ll sum it up: I did fine on the slow uphills, very good on all the downhills, and walked nearly every big hill. Thus, I had another 4:45ish finish, disappointing as I thought I could run at least 5 minutes faster. But man, what a race! I ran for 5 minutes will Buffalo Bill Mcdermott, saw a green Catalina that few are ever able to witness, and again met many wonderful people. Big props to Vinay for taking the boat to watch the finish again, and Sam of Operation Jack for continuing his quest for 60 marathons in one year on one of the toughest courses you’ll ever see.

Buffalo Bill McDermott


Look familiar?


You've got Irish luck

Atop Pumphouse Hill!

So at mile 24 I saw some idiot running up the hill (it’s all downhill from Mile 23 on– you don’t need to trust me, see for yourself) towards me. It took a few seconds to realize that it was Aaron. He had finished in 3:34:stupid, and after a 10 minute cool-down turned back ran up the hill to drag me to the finish. Well, not quite drag me as I ran quite well the last 3 miles– 8:28, 8:35 & 8:45 after averaging 11 minutes/mile– and managed to snap a blurry pic as I raced to the finish. You can check all my splits on Garmin Connect. Suffice it to say that despite walking Pumphouse Hill, I really got my butt kicked on the rolling hills from 18-22. Next year, I’m not walking anything until my legs insist on it!

So catch some more pics on Flickr, I leave you with a few more. Already looking forward to 2011.

Post-race Romes Epic

Pyslent Book of the Month: Daemon

April 8th, 2010, 9:11pm by Kelvin


In preparation for our get together next month, I’m hereby resurrecting the Pyslent Book Club, which will be held in person for the first time! The second book on our long, but distinguished list will be Daemon, by Daniel Suarez. Daemon is a techno-thriller about the computerized events that occur following the death of Mathew Sobol, a programmer who developed the worlds’ most popular MMORPGs. It’s not the most well-written book and the character development is somewhat flat, but I thought it had a geeks-will-inherit-the-earth vibe that you’d all appreciate.


iPhone OS 4.0

April 8th, 2010, 4:55pm by Mike

iphone4.jpgFor the second time in a week, Apple has let me down a little. First it was the iPad (which I’m kinda sick of talking about), now iPhone OS 4.0. I’m a big fan of the iPhone, and I’m glad for Apple that they included some of what they did (they had to in order to stay relevant in today’s market), but I didn’t see anything that made me eager for 4.0, compared with a jailbroken 3.1.2. Rather than run through all the things they announced, here are my quick thoughts on some of what they announced:

  • Multitasking: They had to put this in, and quick. I haven’t seen videos, and it’s a little hard to tell from Engadget’s live blog, but it looks like it’s an OK implementation. Not exciting (looks like all you see is the icon of what’s running, compared, for example, to the Pre, where you see a miniaturized, live version of the app). It looks like this (the apps in the dock-like part are the running apps).

    An interesting quote from Steve Jobs during the Q&A, related to the thinking behind UI design at Apple:

    Q: How do you close applications when multitasking?
    A: (Scott) You don’t have to. The user just uses things and doesn’t ever have to worry about it.
    (Steve) It’s like we said on the iPad, if you see a stylus, they blew it. In multitasking, if you see a task manager… they blew it. Users shouldn’t ever have to think about it.

    I think that Apple is usually right when they want to hide details from common user, but it’s on things like this that I wish they had an “advanced user” switch, where you could see the guts (like Terminal in OS X). What if you have an app hang? How many apps can run at once? If not infinite, how is it decided which apps get closed?

    As for the APIs themselves, the background location is pretty nice for nav systems, and VOIP backgrounding brings VOIP up to the level of cell network phone calling (which is already backgroundable), but not terribly exciting. I could swear that there was already a sort of “fast app switching” where the app state was saved before closing. Task completion sounds like a good idea — up/downloading big files can be started, then finished in the background.

  • Mail: They announced multiple Exchange accounts and a unified inbox (for multiple email accounts), but I’m not excited about either of those, personally. I would love the “view by thread” option, and it may be the thing I’m most excited about.

  • iAd: Nobody is going to be psyched about ads, no matter if the guy selling them is wearing a black mock turtleneck or not. I know this wasn’t an announcement for the general public (it was specifically a developer preview), but as a user anyway, I was a little insulted that loading my phone up with ads is a feature. It won’t take long before developers realize they can make more money with Apple-style ads than they can simply selling their apps: I predict app prices will drop, but all apps will be ad-laden. Not too excited about that future.

  • Social network for games: not interested.

Other thoughts:

  • It would be great if the VPN support included the SecurID system that my company uses.

  • Some features (e.g., multitasking) won’t run on a 2-year old phone (has to be 3GS or newer), guess that’s the obsolescence limit these days.

  • I HATE the 3D dock, as much as I hate it on Mac (where it’s disabled)

  • .

What did you guys think?

In other news…

April 7th, 2010, 12:58pm by Mike

In non-iPad related news, there was just a basketball tournament, which traditionally means that several of us make a $10 bet (or several bets in units of $10) to try to pick the eventual Final Four champion.

In case you weren’t watching the tournament, this was one of the most unpredictable in a while. Sure, Duke ended up winning, but the Final Four consisted of a #1, #2, and 2 #5 seeds. There were some crazy bracket-busters at the start, with the other #1 seeds going out in the round of 32 (Kansas), Sweet 16 (Syracuse), and Elite 8 (Kentucky). The Ivy representative (Cornell) made it to the Sweet 16, and even Cal managed to win a game before losing to the eventual champs.

In the bracket pool, we didn’t do all that hot. There were 298 entries (including the fake ones), and here’s how the pyslent crew fared:

  • Lance: 170, 191
  • Jake: 235, 243, 278
  • Mike: 246

For comparison, Dick Vitale finished at 247. I beat him, and I watched less than 1 hour of college basketball this year. Go figure.

The big surprise to me was that my dad finished 10th! Still, he only picked 4 of the Elite 8, and 1 of the Final Four. Looking forward to next year, even though I could probably go ahead and just flush my money now.

10 Minutes With the iPad

April 3rd, 2010, 7:26pm by Mike

ipad-launch.jpgAs everyone knows, today was launch day for the iPad, with lines at many stores (though not big lines at most places, from what I’ve read), and lots of people were at least interested in seeing what all the hubbub was about.

I was with Adam when I visited the Apple Store today, and he wasn’t in the mood to let me have any extended time with the iPad. But I was able to play with it a little bit and make some first impressions.

  • First, it is whatever you thought it was before you saw it. If you came to it thinking “it’s just a big iPod touch,” then that’s what you probably saw, because largely, it is. If you think it’s a revolutionary device for some specific application (web surfing on the couch, book reading, etc), it’s those things, too. Much of this is because we already knew so much about it. It was announced and demoed 3 months ago, and large parts of iPad are pretty much what the iPhone has been for the last 2.5 years.

  • The thing that’s different of course, and goes some way to making this a “revolutionary device,” is the screen size. Basically, the iPod touch has been made to have a display the size of a netbook, and that opens the doors to lots of possibilities. Movie watching will be cool. Apps have a lot more real estate to deal with. It’s big enough to actually read books and magazines.

On to the specifics…

  • It just has to be said, the keyboard is pretty bad. Even though it is about the same size as a netbook or laptop keyboard, I found it nearly impossible to type on. The thing is, with the iPhone’s soft keyboard, it’s so small that there’s no way to touch type as you do on a computer — your brain realizes that this is a different mode of text entry, since you’re using your thumbs (the fact that the keyboard is laid out in a familiar way makes typing much faster, along with good auto-correction and predictive key sizing). But on the iPad, there are a couple of things wrong:

    • First, the keyboard has no tactile feedback. Again, fine for me on the iPhone, but not when you’re using two hands to touch type.

    • Even if the keyboard is the size of a standard keyboard, it’s not a standard keyboard as far as keys. For example, there’s no apostrophe key, which kills me (I use one in nearly every sentence I type, it turns out).

    • Bottom line, it’s bigger, but it’s the iPhone typing experience, made bigger. It has great auto-correction (which is necessary). On the iPhone, you can type quickly be exploiting the auto-correct (e.g., intentionally misspelling contractions), but when typing as usual, with two hands, I can’t do that, mentally. If you want to do any substantial typing, you’ll want to look into the keyboard dock or use an external bluetooth keyboard (with some sort of iPad stand).

  • Web surfing is as good as they say. It really did feel like something new to have a device this size have a very natural way to surf the web. For example, on the iPhone, loading the 5-columns wide NY Times web page basically just shows the page layout — the text is too small to read until you start zooming in. On the iPad, you can actually read the headlines and the excerpt of article text, which makes it feel much like the newspaper.

    Still, I think they could have gone a little farther with some little things — like why does the address bar stay visible all the time, unlike on the iPhone, where it disappers once the page is loaded?

  • Native iPad apps look stunning on that big, bright screen. Anything you do on an iPhone, after the developer ports it to the iPad, will feel one million percent better. However…

  • You need native iPad apps — iPhone apps won’t do. I was hoping that the NY Times app that was demoed at the announcement would be available. And the demo iPad I had today had a NYT icon on the home screen. When I clicked it, the iPhone app launched (Joanie’s comment when I told her this story: “Did it then crash?”). The pixel-doubling looked absolutely terrible, as bad as you might fear. On the other hand, native iPad apps looked stunning. So you’d better hope that even if the developer of your favorite iPhone app isn’t doing anything drastically different for iPad, they at least recompile to allow font replacement so their apps don’t look terrible.

  • Finally, maybe important only to me, is that it can tether with ad-hoc wifi networks. Steve Jobs tersely answered “no” when asked whether the iPad would allow tethering with phones. I tested it with MyWi on my jailbroken iPhone, and it worked great. Makes me wonder whether there’s any reason for me to get the 3G model, since I can’t imagine using an iPad in a situation where I both didn’t have wifi and didn’t have my cell phone. (One reason would be GPS, which isn’t on the wifi version.)

The bottom line for me, today, after 10 minutes (realizing that this will definitely change over time): Apple did a great job with the iPad hardware, and there’s no question that it’ll be great for consuming media. One of the big unknowns was how it would be for creating (documents, emails, presentations, etc), and my answer to that question right now, is not that great. I didn’t have time to really try out the apps, but typing more than a little was painful.

All this being said, it’ll be great for what I’d use it for. And when that’s not enough, I have a netbook.

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