Friday, April 30, 2010

The 3G iPad and a problem with the WIFI model

I received my 3G iPad today and have had a short time to play with it.  Signing up for the 3G account is simple and only commits you to a month by month arrangement.   The only noticeable difference between the 3G and the WIFI models is a Black panel at the top of the 3G which seems to be the 3G antenna. (See Photo)

Now for the problem.  In the last few days I was down visiting my daughter and son in law to celebrate the birth of their first child and to meet the young lady.  I immediately wanted to put up a website for all those distant friends who could not join us.  My son in law and my wife and I took a lot of pictures.  We sent out tons of emails to friends and family - but some of those emails seemed to hang in the hospital's WIFI but also in the home WIFI that my daughter and her husband use (I think it is Time Warner).  When I got back to my Comcast account, the emails which had hung up - went out in a flash.  I am not sure why that happened but it was annoying.

By the way, the WIFI model goes to my daughter after I have reconfigured it for her.

Times have Changed

We had a granddaughter born on Wednesday.  Within seven hours of her birth she had a webpage up with pictures for all to see.  If you are family or friends you have undoubtedly gotten the URL - if not she deserves some measure of privacy.  Yesterday was her first day on video - I will post those when I get the chance - same rules on the URL.

As frequently happens with newborns she developed jaundice and one of the current cures is called a Biliblanket (this one by GE - I am a stockholder - thanks) which wraps her in a blue light and gives her a little mask so her eyes will not be injured (hence one of her first nicknames - the Sloane Ranger - her name is Sloane).  When she is in the suit she looks a bit unreal - with a blue light cast about her.

She does not have a Facebook account - but the accounts of her are all over Facebook.  My Son in Law and Daughter had only their iPhones to communicate - so they took lots of pictures - which were the first ones up.  They are quite good.

If in two days all this can happen - think about what might happen over her lifetime!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

HP and Palm

An odd thing occurred today - HP decided to purchase Palm.  You may remember that when HP was purchasing (in my opinion for a high premium) Compaq one of the attractions was the consolidation of the Compaq and HP handhelds which were assumed to be sophisticated PDAs.   I am not sure if the HP product is still on the market.   In the end HP bought a turkey in Compaq - they have now acquired a pretty good but pretty stodgy PDA maker at (even with a 23% premium) a pretty good price and they have kicked butt on printers.  (Which is what Walter Hewlett was arguing all along.)   So after all this time - what is the net result except that HP still paid too much for Compaq?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An Early Ipad

A friend sent me a photo of his first version Apple Message Pad which was called the Newton.  I rummaged around my office and found both models of these devices.  The one in the middle is an iPhone.

The Apple Newton lasted about five years. (1993-98)  It began with the one on the left and evolved into the one on the right.  They had a black and white screen but synched calendars and notes and a couple of other functions.   Interestingly they were made in Japan.  They used flash memory cards that ran up to 16 megabytes in memory.  The later model could hold two of those.  The current iPad holds up to 64 gigabytes of memory.

The killer part of the device was supposed to be hand-writing recognition.  They used a RISC based processor and a fairly sophisticated program to discern handwriting.  You could teach it to read your writing.  I liked both devices.   As I remember them they had pretty good battery life.  (Not as good as the Ipad.)  But the handwriting recognition was chancy.  This afternoon I wrote HELLO and got 4510.

I was able to download text versions of books - I had Revolt of the Masses on my newer model.  It also had a primitive net application called NetHopper and an email application which allowed POP mail.  Palm beat it out for two reasons. First they improved the form factor.  The Newton was too large to carry in your pocket but too small to do things you can do on the iPad.   Second, they improved handwriting including development of a shorthand recognition program for handwriting that was near 100% accurate.  The Newton also had a calling possibility - although when I used it it was very clumsy.   Palm was a PDA (Personal Data Assistant - which the Newton was also).  But then smart phones began to be developed and Palm devices fell by the wayside.  

The benefit of the Newton was its portability.  Laptops at the time were in the 8-10 pound range.  This was a much more limited device but if you could add comparable software to this small device - it would allow you to not have to lug around the biggie.   The Newton was ditched when Apple was in its uncertain period.  The two CEOs after Sculley had no idea about the culture at Apple.  (I am not sure Sculley did either.)    

I have a stash of technologies that did not make it or are now outdated.   What is remarkable is how quickly the options and opportunities have evolved.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Environmentalist Folly X 9

 This is a representation of the expectations of British environmentalists for the average homeowner to separate trash.  The picture is from the Daily Mail and probably needs no further explanation.  One wishes that these bureaucratic twits could be recycled - which bin should they be placed in?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Horrible Baseball

The Rivercats ended their first home stand tonight and left the city with a 2-6 W-L record.  The last two games were endemic of the problems in this young year.  The top of the sixth included what should have been a couple of errors (they only assessed one) where three or four Cats struggled to take down an easy fly out.   Both games were lost by a score of 5-4.  Neither game showed any offense that was consistent.

One of the real surprises has been Corey Brown.  He had a great year in Midland but his first at bats in Sacramento suggest he still has not caught on to the rigors of AAA batting.  From .313 in Midland to .000 at home and .154 while he has been in AAA is not up to where he was expected to be.

One of the joys of minor league baseball and also one of the challenges is that the teams often do not jell until about a month into the season.   The first two games were pretty good - but then the next six were horrible. This is the first time the Cats have been swept in a series in several years.  The Cats come back on May 3 - we will see whether they come back with any punch.  There are plenty of games to recover - but these last six games - especially the last two were annoying.

The State of the Campaign for Governor

There seems to be a kerfluffle about releasing tax returns.  What a crock.  Meg Whitman has said she will if Jerry Brown does.  John Burton, the democratic party chair, is foreshadowing the fall campaign with his statement “Whether refusing to reveal how much money she has invested in Goldman Sachs or reneging on her pledge to release her tax returns, Meg Whitman continues (to) play hide-the-ball with voters of this state. Whitman should follow Jerry Brown’s lead and agree to release her returns immediately.”  (Notice Jerry Brown has not released his returns.)

While all this goes on - the state budget is in a perpetual state of deficit.  Confidence in the ability of public officials is at an all time low.  Our elected officials have almost no ability to develop solutions for any of the issues we face - the decline of public schools and infrastructure; a dysfunctional tax system; an overly generous public pension system that is probably $500 billion underfunded; a Cadillac prison system; or a raft of other issues that remain unsolved or even thought about.

It is not hard to figure out why voters look at state government and fewer than one in five find something they can trust.   This starts with the politicians but it is aided and abetted by groups like the Bay Area News Group, which has been pushing for the release but seems unable to cover anything of substance in the campaign.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thinking about our new Granddaughter

Last night I had a chance to have dinner with my mother in law, wife, daughter and son-in-law.   We are waiting for the birth of our third grandchild but our first granddaughter.    My son in law and daughter have done a lot more work on preparation than my wife and I did.  Last night my daughter showed us a picture book to welcome her daughter.  It was wonderful.  Her husband did a wonderful job in preparing her room by making it look like the room that Eloise had in the series (that was one of our daughter's favorites as a kid).

All that preparation and planning impressed me. (It did not surprise me - that is who my daughter is).  When she was born my father in law sent me a book called "How to Raise and Independent Daughter."  I read the first chapter and it was a bunch of new age psycho-babble so I never finished it.  That taught me a couple of things - first, I valued encouraging our children (we also have a son) to be independent - they took their own way to get there but  I think they did.  Second, a first secret of child rearing is instinct works.   My guess is that my daughter and son in law will understand that when they meet this new kid - soon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reflections on a Reunion

Yesterday was the first time I had seen high school friends since I graduated in 1964.  For a lot of reasons, I have not been back to the area where I went to high school except sporadically.   In any event, I had not seen my classmates in all that time.  We were brought together to celebrate the life of one classmate who died in Haiti - while helping kids in a clinic - he was a pediatrician.  Surprisingly there were a lot more males than females at the event - even though the organizer was a female. There were plenty of faces I remembered and a lot who I did not.

The high school was Palos Verdes.  It started in 1962, I was in the third graduating class.

Most of the people who remembered me asked me whether I still play the banjo.  One remembered that at one point I had said from some performance - if you don't like bluegrass would you like to hear Beethoven and then began to play the Ninth Symphony (something which Pete Seeger taught all young banjo players at the time - and one of the reasons I like Bela Fleck - because he thinks of the banjo as more than just a folk instrument).

Here are some impressions.

#1 - I sat next to a guy who was a year ahead of me in school who was a very good long distance runner.  He has been a successful realtor.  He was (and is) soft spoken.   The ones around him were also track people - I was not a very successful runner in high school but did run a couple of years - mostly in preparation to wrestle.  He reminded me that my brother, when he was at Oxy, had taken a group of runners and run them into the ground, trying to psych out some other college runners who were also running with the team.   He knew a lot about the community I went to high school in because he has lived in the community since he was young.  I lived in the community for only about 5 years.

#2 - On one side was a guy (also a track person - pole vaulter) who had a phenomenal memory - seemed to know all sorts of trivia about the track team - who had won a particular meet event - but also about the high school.  While he talked a lot - he seemed to know his stuff.  He would be great at Trivial Pursuit.

#3 - I reconnected with a guy that I wrestled with who is an accountant in Colorado.  He is raising a second family. His two kids both small were with him and his second wife.  Except for aging, he and I seemed to pick up immediately where we left off.  He reminded me of joining me in two bars where I had played bluegrass even remembered the names  - one being the Prisoner of Socrates.

#4 - One of the people who got me there was an Italian  (in a school where the number of any people with a noticeable ethnic heritage was tiny).  He looks a lot like Pavarotti.   It turns out that he went to a concert in LA at the Greek Theater and was mistaken for the maestro when he drove up.   He was ushered into the dressing room and was drinking champagne until a security guy - who he described as about 6'7" Black came in and said "I think we have one too many Pavarottis in here."  But my friend had met the maestro before and so was ushered out, amazingly across the stage to his seats - and as he was walking across the stage began to get applause.   My friend always had an ability to get into and out of situations with an amazing aplomb.  Seems to be he still does.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rivercats Home Opener

The 2010 Rivercats won their home opener last night which puts them at 6-3 in this young season.  The Cats did not get started until the sixth when Corey Wimberly got hit by a pitch.  By the end of the inning we had batted around and Wimberly got a single which brought us up to six runs.  We ended the game with nine hits and a Carter home run and won by 8-4.   We used four pitchers (Wuertz came in in relief in the seventh for an inning).  Our relievers looked pretty good.  Middleton got the win but looked a bit uneven in his first two innings.

I was in Riverside for the day for a speech and had to fly to San Francisco.  I landed close to 5 PM and thought it would be impossible to get to the game at any reasonable time.  But traffic was very favorable and I got into the park by about 7:20 - and because of the opening day ceremonies I was able to see most of the game.

Art Savage, who brought the team to Sacramento and died last year during the interim, was honored and we retired #1 in his memory.  His contributions to Sacramento baseball were significant.  (Photo from my library at the team luncheon a couple of years ago.  The team luncheon is today.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A day in the life of an iPad

Today was the first day I traveled only with my iPad.   Here is how the day went:
6:45-7 AM - downloaded four documents for use in a meeting I was having this afternoon in San Diego.
7:00-7:20 AM - While eating breakfast I scanned the Wall Street Journal. (Their implementation of the platform is really well done!!)
7:30 AM - before leaving I did a map search of the location I was traveling to this afternoon.
9:00 AM - As I left the gym - I did a quick search of Email and looked at my portfolio
9:45-10:25 AM - while waiting for my flight I checked email and my RSS feeds
11-Noon - Read while on the flight a book on the Fast Ball (called High Heat)
12:30-12:45 landed and responded to an urgent email about an issue that I am working on.
1:30-2:30 - Arrived early for my meeting and used the time to surf the net.  Read and respond to email, including using the Bluetooth keyboard to draft a lengthy response to one email.  Also did some searching for a location we are thinking of buying with a business associate.
3-5:15 PM - in a meeting, checked and responded to email.  Searched the net on a couple of issues.  Reviewed a couple of email sites.
5:25-6 PM - after doing a couple of phone calls I read some more on the book.
7:20 PM-8 PM - after arriving at the airport, worked on WIFI there on a number of projects including polishing a presentation I am doing on Friday.
8:20-9:20 - Read a book on the flight back to Sacramento - this one on the economy.  The Kindle Ap needs to be upgraded.  I think the highlight feature does not work as well as on the iBook Ap - but I still have not found how to out put either to a text file.
9:35-9:45 - Quick check of Email before I left the airport (Free WIFI at Sacramento Airport).  
10:30 Arrived home - current battery capacity 48%.   From my rough estimate that amounted to a bit more than 8 hours of use during the day.

Two conclusions - First, I have adjusted the screen down a bit, which uses a bit less power - it is still plenty bright.   Second, I suspect had I pounded the Bluetooth keyboard a bit more I suspect the battery life would have gone down.  But my guess is that I was on the net for a total of a couple of hours today at various WIFI spots.

One evaluation - The battery life that was promised seems to hold up.  I have two phones (a 3G and a 3GS) both were on the verge of being out of power at the end of the day.  I spent perhaps 80 minutes on the phone today in calls and some more time playing games.   This device seems to live up to its promises and more.

Something more on numbers on the iPad

Apple announced this morning that they will delay the introduction of the iPad internationally because of strong demand in the US.  Chikita Labs has a way of estimating volume (which as of 7AM this morning was above 821,000).   It is interesting to see the numbers click up.  At this point they estimate that Californians have purchased almost 20% of the devices.  New York, Texas and Florida add another 18%.  That means 40% of the volume is in four states.

The Comments pages on Chikita are pretty grumpy.  They all criticize the methodology which is based on usage of unique internet addresses.  In essence, Chikita is polling the net and finding how many iPads register as net users.  Indeed, that may be flawed, for a couple of reasons.  First, as a mobile device, I am likely to use it in more than one place, even in a day.   But second, I suspect some people are not using the device to surf much.   One person in my office, whose son bought her a 16 GIG model, has not used it much as a surfing device.  So in one case the numbers may be artificially large and in the other a bit small.

There are two conclusions.  First, the Apple related announcements - shortages in stores and delay of the international launch - suggest this has been a very strong product launch.  Second, like the iPhone there are a group who simply want to deny what seems to be happening (and I will admit, there are a group of us who keep looking for the positives).  In the iPhone, the naysayers have been consistently proven wrong.   The initial signs - both from estimators like Chikita and from the news stories both reviewing the device and from Apple with their comments about demand - suggest that the naysayers will again be wrong.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Consuming content on the iPad

A simple way to describe it is "a delight."  Yesterday was typical.  I flew back from LA on a morning flight - read part of High Heat - a book about the fastball (in preparation for the opening home game for the Rivercats).  The books application, described earlier, is wonderful.  The print can be varied according to your tastes both in size, background and color.  The pages flip easily.

This morning I got up and read the WSJ - front page shows up well - flipping to sections is easy.  Want to find stories on things that I am interested in? No problem.  I could easily give up the print edition and never miss it again.  I wonder when the Bee will make the change.

I am from the federal government and here to help

The chart is a projection of the cash flow deficit for the Social Security "trust" fund.    Notice two things.  First, it is larger than it was projected to be even a few years ago.  Second, when combined with the pension deficits rampant in public entities, it shows that governments are not very good managers of long term obligations.

If you believed that the CBO projections on the recently passed health care bill were anything but rosy scenarios (this is not the name of a Puerto Rican economist who makes these estimates), you may now reinstate your previously suspended disbelief.
The second chart, from Taxprof blog is a simple one.  It projects the increases in income tax rate and capital gains rate over the next couple of years.  If you believed that economic growth and capital formation would help us out of the problem above. Refer to the suggestion above.

And you wonder why Thomas Carlyle called it the dismal science.  But then Carlyle also said "A man lives by believing something: not by debating and arguing about many things."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bluetooth iPad Caution

I figured out today that the interaction between the bluetooth keyboard and the iPad is continuous.  We drove from Sacramento to LA today and the keyboard was on and in a briefcase with my iPad.  When we left Sacramento it was at 100% power and when we got to LA 6 1/2 hours later - it was to 3%.  Caution - if you keep it on - turn off the iPad.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

One problem on the iPad

The iPad has a lot of neat features.  But the current implementation of Keynote has two defects.  First, I have not found a way to import themes into the iPad.   Over the last several years, I have developed or purchased a lot of themes which fit my needs.  I have not found an easy way to import those themes into the iPad.

The second problem should be solved when the operating system is upgraded - now slated for the Fall on the iPad to multi-task.   When I construct Keynote presentations I use materials from many sources.  I get images from the net;  I even use graphs from there.   I create my own graphs in programs like Excel and Numbers.  But if you want to use any of those as you are building a presentation you need to have them in your photo library.  That requires some preplanning or more likely the creation of a presentation is better handled on a laptop.

Note - some commentators have argued that the virtual keyboard and bluetooth models are not effective.  In my experience, the problem described above is a software fix that, based on the description of OS 4 which comes out on the iPad in September, will solve the problem.

The Retirement of Justice Stevens

From my view the retirement of Justice Stevens is none too soon.  Two decisions where he took a significant role are indicative of why I think he stayed too long.  The first is the 2000 decision on the election (Gore v. Bush).   In what was one of the most contentious elections in history, the Supreme Court was pulled into opining on how to count ballots.  That came about from a number of factors.  But it was incumbent that the court see its role in a narrow focus.  One of the reasons the decision came down in per curiam format was that most members of the Court recognized the very uncomfortable position that the lawyers and politicians had put them in.   There were lots of alternatives that could have extended the discussion on how to solve the election, but the Court (in my opinion rightly) concluded that the extension of the conflict was not good for the country.  It may have been the same logic that Steven's nominator (Gerald Ford) may have used to pardon Richard Nixon.

But Justice Stevens thought it was his role to throw oil on the fire.    Stevens' said in part  "Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."

He also transformed his philosophy from the Bakke case - where he was a strong opponent of affirmative action to the Grutter case where he became a supporter.  I tend to prefer justices who reason from stable principles, even if I disagree with those principles.

In 2005 Stevens penned the majority decision in the Kelo case - where he affirmed the right of New London Connecticut to take land from private land owners and redistribute it to another private land owner, Pfizer Corporation, for their private purposes but with the shoddy underlying rationale that the taking would somehow improve the economic situation of the city.   Justice O'Conner wrote a stinging rebuke of Stevens' opinion when she said (in part) 
Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.
Her conclusion, was that Stevens' decision eliminated obliterated the effectiveness of the Takings Clause in the Fifth Amendment by eliminating any distinction between public and private use.
Clarence Thomas in his dissent was even clearer.

This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a 'public use.'

The folly of Stevens' reasoning on the case came as the deal eventually blew up.  The City of New London had no new jobs and the middle class homeowners still had their property stolen by judicial edict.

Stevens may have had the longest tenure on the court but a good deal of his role has been to support encroachments of government power often without restraint.   The notion that the Constitution is "what I say it is" is nonsense.   The Court should be above politics but increasingly Stevens seems to have missed that point.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The State Chamber in the Kitchen

 For the past 40 years California has lived with Jerry Brown.  It can be argued that many of the problems that the state faces were created during his eight years of tenure as Governor.  During his tenure as a talk show host he yabbered out a number of absurd comments.   He ran for president a number of times and then served as Mayor of Oakland.  He has a long record in California politics.   During most of his tenure in those offices he ran administrations that were hostile to the business community.

Earlier in the week the State Chamber of Commerce issued an ad which presents Brown's record in an unfavorable light.   But some from the business community objected and so the Chamber pulled the ad.  Some criticized the ad as deceptive.  But Brown did oppose Proposition 13, spending did increase during his tenure, and when he left as Governor we had a huge deficit.   Brown has always played himself as a populist so one of his staffers huffed "This is a shamefully deceptive ad that distorts Jerry Brown's record of lowering taxes on small businesses and creating more than 1.9 million new jobs for Californians. The hyper-partisan attack is an utter betrayal of the Chamber's mission to represent the business community,not just one billionaire running for governor."  Notice something about the response - the 1.9 million jobs nonsense is just that (a number which no one could credibly defend) and it would be hard to deny the rest of the substance in the ad.  So his spokesmouth raises the specter of a "billionaire running for governor" - Gee I wonder who he means.

What is odd about this is not the reaction to the ad; even a rank amateur should understand that there is diversity of political opinion in the business community.  But the Chamber's board should have understood that in our current political environment, expressing an opinion will often result in grumpiness from another corner.   The ad may or may not have been a good idea - but not thinking about possible results was just plain stupid.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The President as Baseball Fan

I don't want to be critical but here is an interview that the President did with Ron Dibble, the Nationals announcer. As an alleged White Sox fan he might have know just one player from the team but here is how he stumbled through the answer - to the softball question - Who was your favorite Sox player growing up?  The President responded "You know … uh … I thought that … you know … the truth is, that a lot of the Cubs, I liked too."  Then there was his naming of his favorite park - evidently they pronounce Comisky - "Cominiskey" park.  Evidently, his ardor for the game is not as strong as he would like us to believe.

But when you compare his high and outside with my attempt at throwing out the first pitch - it turns out he is a better pitcher.   But at least I could name a couple of players from the Bakersfield Bears or the LA Dodgers of my youth.  And by the way the Bears played in Sam Lynn Park - which taught me about a ground rule double - when a Bear hit a long ball that hit the fence and then rolled through a hole in the fence.  The Dodgers, by the time I began watching them, were in Chavez Ravine, which is still a pretty good place to watch baseball.  The Rivercats play their first home game in 10 days.

The pervasive and intrusive nature of government

Live Science  has a story today about the federal government's effort to create a low fat cake and icing.  Mukti Singh, a food technologist at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) seems to be the one doing the research.  "You're getting the taste of fat in every bite that you eat, but actually it's not a lot of fat," Singh said. Singh justifies this expenditure of taxpayer money with the following logic "Everybody likes cakes and icing, so if you can have a product which is low-fat, it would definitely help."  How about letting the food companies determine when there is a market for such products? 
In case you have not read it - the Constitution is pretty specific about what it suggests Congress will do - to wit Article 1, Section 8 states - 
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

  • To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
  • To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
  • To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
  • To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
  • To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
  • To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;
  • To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
  • To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
  • To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
  • To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
  • To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
  • To provide and maintain a Navy;
  • To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
  • To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
  • To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
  • To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And
  • To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
Somehow the development of fad reduced products failed to make the list.

One more iPad joy

One of my morning routines is to get up and read email and RSS feeds and then eat breakfast. At one point I tried doing that with breakfast and a laptop but it was a bit clumsy. The keyboard and Cheerios did not mesh. This morning I tried the iPad and it was much better - a lot of RSS does not require response; ditto for newspapers. Increasingly about half of my email is dead and not responded to. In the case the iPad sets up nicely on the counter and when I need to respond I can.

I did discover one issue. The virtual keyboard does not seem to pop up when the iPad recognizes your Bluetooth keyboard is in range. As soon as I turned off the Bluetooth keyboard the virtual keyboard popped up.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The iPad as a reader

This afternoon I had a first chance to spend a half an hour reading on the iPad.  A lot of the critics have yammered "it is too heavy" or "the screen is not good enough" - I was sitting in my office and then later outside at lunch - not in direct sunlight (but then I would not read there at any point.

I am reading a book I got on Sunday called the High Heat - it is a book about the fastball.

Here is the simple conclusion.  The iReader feature of the iPad is an absolute delight - from page turning to resolution.  A delight!

A post to assist some critics of the iPad

Some of the critics of the iPad seem to be confused.  They argue that the iPad would be hard to make phone calls on.  That is true, there is a device for that.  But their criticism falls a bit short. Although there is an application on the iPhone to read books, and although the small screen is very clear, I find it easier to read books on my iPad and make phone calls on my iPhone.  Also, please not, I cannot carry my iPad in my pocket.  But then I cannot also carry my laptop in my pocket either - yet both devices are functional.   I find these criticisms amusing.  But then I was never much of a fan of the Swiss Army knife either.

Al Rodda

Sacramento's key legislator in the California process for two decades (1958-1980) died at age 97.  Senator Al Rodda was a Stanford PhD in history.  He was soft spoken and principled.  

He was defeated for re-election in 1980 by one of the most despicable politicians in our history, John Doolittle.  Doolittle exploited the fact that Al had not kept up with changes in the suburban part of the district.  A group of us came to him about a month before the election and he dismissed the threat that Doolittle posed.  Doolittle was the antithesis of Rodda - his legislative output was miniscule.  He was arrogant and narrow minded.  Senator Rodda was decent and thoughtful.  He took his job very seriously.

I worked with Al when he chaired the Senate Education Committee and later when he moved to the Finance Committee(which is now Appropriations).  He believed deeply in the legislative process.  His hearings were able to get to the substance of an issue.  On complicated matters he allowed both sides to present their thoughts and then helped the committee come to a decision.  That is a significant contrast to many legislative leaders today who don't bother to listen or think about much.

One other quality about Senator Rodda which I admired, beyond that deep respect for the process, was his sense of humor.  The Bee quotes one comment which typifies that sense 
"I used to call myself an agnostic humanist existentialist," he said. "Now I call myself a theist humanist existentialist."

What the iPad is not

Inevitably on the launch of a new device, especially one with as much advance publicity as the iPad, there is a round of criticism.  I have been amused by some of the initial criticism of the iPad.   Indeed, the iPad does not wash your care, burp your baby or counsel you on financial matters.

The criticisms I have seen are typified in a column in Live Science called "13 Glaring iPad Shortcomings" the correspondent comments ( I have combined some of the comments together) -
It's Awkward, heavy and slippery -  In my couple of days with the device it begins to feel right.  The screen size is wonderful for looking at things like newspapers.  Compared to most laptops it is lighter.  Compared to the Kindle (at least the smaller model) it is heavier but it does more.  I mentioned in my initial review about the weight (which is about the same as a big book) but as I have begun to use the iPad, it seems to be just fine.   I put mine in the Apple case - which has a less slick back,  I suspect very quickly there will be lots of other cases to make it less slippery (if that is a real problem - which from my experience it is not).
The writer's next three comments relate to the screen - it has too much glare, can't be used in the sun and has fingerprints problems - In my actual use I have not experienced any of those problems.  Just as with my iPhone, I carry a small soft cloth, so when I watched Wag the Dog on it - I wiped the screen off.  The stand in the Apple case is ideal for watching movies.
It does not multitask - This is a persistent criticism of the iPhone and iPod.  I may be simple minded but most of the time I don't multitask either.   Can I listen to music and do a spreadsheet?  Easy.  But can I watch a movie and read a book?  I am not sure I would want to.  The rumors on the next operating system suggest that for those addicted to multitasking there may be a solution in sight.
The browser is limited - I am not a consistent user of Safari.  I am not bothered by the lack of flash.  The ability to surf the web is pretty good.  The correspondent suggests that you cannot create Google docs on the device.  That seems to be true - although it was easy (and indeed easier than my laptop) to edit them.
The virtual keyboard stinks - I am not sure the writer actually tried to use the virtual keyboard.  I like it. It is simple and very responsive.  I have also tried the bluetooth keyboard which I like.  One shortcoming in some people's thoughts is the lack of a mouse.  Apple argues that the multitouch screen eliminates the need for a mouse.  For now I think the keyboard options on the iPad are great for how you will use the device.
There's no USB port - There is also no 9 pin connector.  Apple has chosen in its recent portable devices to limit the number of ports - after all the device is supposed to be portable.  The real issue here is can you get it to do what you want it to do?  Can it connect to a projector?  Sure in a couple of ways.  That should be the real question - can it do what you want it to do?
iPhone-only apps look horrible - This device made a compromise which I think was wise.  It allowed any iPhone ap to be used on the larger screen.  But it outputs them in the size of a phone ap.  If you choose you can double the size to make it bigger and if you do the resolution degrades just a bit.  I use the Southwest ap a lot and so put it on my iPad. It looks great in normal size.  And it works well.  I suspect that very quickly if the device is as popular as it seems to be that the most useful aps will migrate to the larger screen size and higher resolution.
The price is just too high - This one is funny.  Five years ago getting a device the size and capabilities of the iPad for ten times the price would have been impossible.   I bought the biggest model with a warranty so indeed I spent the full $1000. (with accessories including cables and case and an airplane hookup).  Compared to the less functional Kindle which is about a third, or the more expensive Air - which is a traditional laptop or the cheapest Macbook - which is about the same price - with less portability - I think the price is right.
The writer's last criticism is correct - the iPad doesn't replace anything - It does combine some functions in a very portable device - not one to stick in your pocket but one that you can carry with you and use constantly (did I mention the superb battery life?)  From my perspective that sounds like a pretty good bargain. The writer comments that the Ipad is in a class of its own as Apple proved with the iPhone - that is a pretty good place to be.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

One more iPad Comment

My son fooled around with the iPad today and said he would not like one for his roles as a student at this point. He was concerned about two issues.  First, he thought the virtual keyboard and note-taking in class would not work well for him.   Second, he was not sure that the books he needs for classes would be available in this format.  The second issue is a matter of time, the first is a matter of preferences.

I am planning to take the iPad on a trip that starts in about 10 days and use it as my laptop.  That will be the acid test about whether the new format is as promising as it looks.

Ipad - Applications of Note

This is the second post on the iPad.  The first thing you should know is that applications on the iPad are a bit more expensive - although there are plenty of free ones.

Among the applications on the iPad are new versions of Keynote (Apple's excellent presentation software), Pages and Numbers (writing and spreadsheet).   Those are $9.99 each and well worth the investment.  It is unclear to me how much of this device will be for content creation.  I think with these three it will be a lot more than most writers think it will be.  In addition to the three Apple applications there is a new version of Evernote - which is like an electronic diary.

The implementations of the Calendar, Mail and Contacts are as well done as they are on the iPhone with some enhancements brought about by the larger screen.  For example, the mail program splits the screen in such a way that you can quickly see you list of mail and individual messages at the same time.   The calendar ap is a lot less crowded than it is on the phone.

iPhoto has some new features that allow you to see all your photos in high resolution.  The screen is excellent.   I have chosen to limit the number of photos that I travel with and not to group them into sets - they are all in one set.  Had I grouped them - they would show up as stacks.

The Wall Street Journal has updated their application for the iPad and it is excellent.  There are two features that I especially like.  The first is the opening page - this looks like the front page of the print edition.   At the same time the ap allows readers to see recent issues.  The ap also allows you to save articles and sections.   I have not looked at the other newspaper implementations but if they are as robust this could well be a device to use with your Cheerios in the morning.  Currently, the pricing on this ap is a bit upscale - about $4 per week or $18 per month.   To be able to get the WSJ anywhere might be worth the price but for it to be entirely worthwhile pricing may have to be adjusted.

The iPad also lets you use iPhone applications.  They show up on the screen at about the same size as they are on your phone.  You can also double their size - although that makes them a bit grainy.

The iPad-first comments

There is a lot to say about the iPad which I have had since it was delivered a few hours ago.  The screen is beautiful.  The operations are quick.  Set up was relatively easy (although I have one comment there).  In short, it is as it was advertised.

Set up - I have a lot of Apple devices - an iPod or two, an iPhone and a couple of computers (laptop and desktop).  There was one problem with the initial set up and it related to how much I wanted to put on this device.   I have 30,000 photos and 10,000 songs on my desktop.  In addition, over the last couple of years, I have accumulated more than 100 applications.  As I see how I will use this device, I am not going to use all those applications.  But I had to go through and deselect all of the ones I did not want to use - sort of a pain but you only have to do it once.

Books -  One of the most talked about new features of the iPad is Books - which is a bookstore.  When you view this on iTunes - it is pretty clunky.  The night before I got my iPad I tried to search for a book and it was a horrible process.  When you get your iPad you get it with a copy of Winnie the Pooh.  But as you use the ap on the device it is elegant.  I had heard about a book on the fast ball (called High Heat) and wanted to read it before the Rivercats start to play.  You can search for books in a number of ways and like the search function on iTunes, you then get a series of suggestions.  You can vary the text color and size and background.  Ordering books is as easy as on the Kindle.

There is one other thing about this which is smart.  The Kindle application has been updated.  I think Amazon was smart on this.  You can port all your Kindle content to the iPad.  It comes with the same features (bookmarks and notes - I have not figured out how to export that content for other uses yet) that you would get on the Kindle.

When this market matures, it is likely that Amazon will continue to be dominant in offering content.  At the same time the cost of books, because of competition between Apple and Amazon, will continue to be reasonable.   As I commented a few weeks ago I think the providers under pressure here will not be Amazon or Apple but the also rans.

One final initial comment.  This device is heavier than a Kindle (1.5 pounds versus 10 ounces).  That may take some getting used to - holding a 1.5 pound book may not be as easy as holding the Kindle - but based on screen resolution, color and text flow I expect a lot of people will enjoy reading on the iPad.  I also expect Amazon will release a new Kindle - perhaps about the time that Apple releases the iPad 2 - which will have a lot of the reading features.  I think there is still a robust market for a more focused device like the Kindle.  

John Dvorak argued in a column today that the iPad would not save the publishers.  I think his general conclusion is both right and wrong.  The publishers who embrace this new medium will do well - those that don't will not.   Dvorak tried to argue that the iPad is not a game changer - from my few hours with it - I think that conclusion is far from certain.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Perhaps we will finally lose our national embarrassment

The Senator who does not want to be called Ma'am is running for re-election and at least in the first phase she seems to have a problem.  Polling shows her to be down by one point in a matchup with Tom Campbell and Carly Fiorina is only one point back.

She was in Sacramento this week and made the following comments - "You know, this is a big state," Boxer said. "It's got 38 million people, almost, now. So every six years when you run, they have a lot of other things on their mind. They haven't been following everything I've done for the port. They haven't followed everything I've done for kids and crime, fighting crime, and so on. So I've got to get out there, and I'm not worried. I'm excited."

When talking about the health care changes she supported "Overall, I think people will be pleased," Boxer said. "My opponents want to repeal it. So in this election, there's going to be a very clear choice, and the people will decide."  Note to readers the CBS poll seems to interpret feeling differently than Senator Boxer - according to their latest readings 55% of voters nationally dislike the healthcare plan.

Boxer has been a lightweight during all her time in the Senate - besides the odd comment she made to a flag officer (about being called Senator rather than Ma'am) her legislative record is so small as to be unnoticeable.  During her several terms in the Senate while she has yabbered a lot on leftist causes her out put remains below 5 bills that she authored.  Perhaps voters will finally wake up.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


This is a clear statement of how cap and trade would work. Clarke and Dawe are two Australian comics, worthy of Swift.

Public Ponzi Schemes

In the middle 1980s the then treasurer of Michigan, Robert Bowman, went around the country preaching the virtues of the Michigan Education Trust.   The MET was created after some private experiments in pre-paid tuition plans that would supposedly would help families save for college.  Bowman claimed that the MET would guarantee that for a small investment now, families could be assured of having the money for college in the future.

Bowman was an original snake oil salesman.  His proposal was picked up by Tom Hayden who was then a member of the California legislature.  In one hearing on Hayden's proposal Bowman claimed that he was so good at investing Michigan's pooled money fund that he could produce safe and secure investments that produced a good 8-10% more than all the other state pooled funds.   At the time I went to Jess Unruh, who was California's Treasurer at the time, and asked him about Bowman's claim.  Jess, who was a very good state treasurer (and whose pooled money fund was earning about half what Bowman claimed he could earn) looked at me and said Mr. Bowman was engaging in some "fanciful" talk.

Almost all of the prepaid plans offered in the states have turned out to be ponzi-like structures.  That is because there is no relationship between the projected future value, the investment vehicles and the people making the decisions on pricing.   California, at the time, had some of the lowest public university fees in the country.   But since then they have risen smartly as the state has lurched from one deficit to another.  The internal rate of return required to meet those tuition increases would have had to be monumental.   Fortunately, California did not go for Mr. Bowman's snake oil.   The problem with these schemes is like a lot of other promises made by politicians, the future value comes due after the politician has moved on.  As states have experienced the deficits of the last couple of years which have combined increases in tuition and lower returns on all investments, some have had to make the choice of robbing Peter (in this case student aid funds for needy students) to pay Paul (the investors who relied on the prepaid guarantee to plan for college expenses).  Inside Higher Education had a story about that dilemma.

Mr. Bowman left the Treasurer's spot in 1990 and since then has served as a corporate director for such economic powerhouses Blockbuster and World Wrestling Entertainment.  (Interesting that at least for those two Mr. Bowman has continued to work in areas where fantasy is important and bankruptcy has been present.)

There is one prepaid plan that seems to work.  That is called i529 - which serves a group of independent colleges and universities.  In that plan the relationships and the risk sharing a clearly defined.  Independent colleges that participate agree to take the proceeds from the fund for a unit of tuition (based on the initial asset value).  If investment returns do not reach the internal rate of tuition increases the college or university still has to accept the amount in the fund.  If they exceed the amount in the fund, the investors have exchanged certainty on tuition charges in exchange for giving up some potential future returns.

While many commentators have yammered about the allure of false promises that the financial markets have offered in recent years, few have understood that the same kinds of promises are often made by politicians.   In the political arena, the victims of the false expectations are not only the investors but the taxpayers too.