February 28, 2012

An Unexpected Post - Out In The Dark

My friend Michael Mayer just finished making this film.
Come check it out!

The Einstein Word Processor

It was December 1991, and I was ecstatic. You see, my military service in the IDF was in the Nahal. At the time this meant that a significant part of the service was not in the IDF itself, but in some Kibbutz.
So by December 1991, my 'real' military service was over, and all I had to do was stay at the Kibbutz for several months, and teach kids from junior high schools about the expulsion from Spain (which happened in 1992, so in 1992 we 'celebrated' 500 years).
So we prepared to teach them, and we planned tons of fun activities, and we had to write them down on a computer. This was the first computer I had to use since my high school days (1986) and the Commodore 128.
THE word processor to use back in the day was Einstein writer (see picture above), naturally the computer itself ran on MS-DOS.
I don't know why I knew this, but I knew that before I write anything at all I should read ALL of the help file <Alt H>, so I did.
Never regretted that one.

February 23, 2012

Let Me Start From The End

But first let me explain this picture. When Ehud Barak was the Prime Minister of Israel (1999-2001), he was well known for saying to anyone who spoke at a meeting to 'Start from the End, or Start from the Bottom Line'. I think this exemplifies his somewhat abrasive, but sometimes useful way of thinking, but we have not gathered here to talk of Ehud Barak.
So my 'Start From the End' goes something like this. Last Saturday, I wanted to upgrade my (legally bought) Windows XP to an (illegally downloaded) Windows 7.
I had no problem downloading and installing it. But it ruined my access to the partition of Ubuntu Linux  (11.10) I had.
So no problem. I re-installed Linux, which was a good thing, because I had a zillion partitions, and asked it to install itself on all of the hard drive.
Big mistake. As far as Microsoft is concerned. the shiny new win 7 would not install itself on a partition that is not NTFS. 
Thus, for the first time in something like 17 years, my main computer does not even run Windows.
That tells you something about what I think of Microsoft products right now.
But still, I think Microsoft made some great products over the years, and I have used many of them. 
Let the upcoming series of posts be some sort of a Eulogy to this great company.
And once again, let me Start from the End: I think Microsoft made more great products over the years than Apple has.

February 14, 2012

Trying to Assess the Role of Apple as a Company

I started this series of posts with my review of the Steve Jobs Biography. Walter Isaacson, the writer of the biography, was indubitably impressed with Steve Jobs as a person, and with Apple a a company. While I am also impressed with certain accomplishments of Jobs and of Apple, I don't think that all of the inventions that Isaacson mentions in the biography as world changing really are.
For example the iPod never really made it from where I'm standing, and the iPad is an OK tablet, but I doubt that it will be a major tablet in say five years. The role of Apple and Jobs in portable music players as well as in tablet devices is of innovation and popularization for sure. They are the first company who really made money on these things, but ultimately they are not the ones making most of the money on them.
The same goes for the mac computer and the mouse aided Graphical User Interface (BTW, Malcolm Gladwell makes some really interesting points about this story). They made the macs, but the person who really popularized the Graphical User Interface is none other than Bill Gates. I doubt he'll get a fancy book after he dies, and maybe that is why I plan to discuss my life with Microsoft Computers starting next week.
So What is Apple's greatest product? I think it's the Apple ][, the computer that started the Personal Computer industry, and embraced open technologies!

February 8, 2012

Apple and Foxconn

While in my younger days I was a student of Economics, and all that interested me was economic efficiency, as that would surely increase Justice and Equality in the long run, now I am not so sure that efficiency in the be all and end all of all things economic.
Apple has gotten a lot of fire recently for the conditions of its workers, especially in the Foxconn factory in China. I think that if one consumes any product, it is certainly a legitimate interest how the workers making this product feel, how many hours they work in a day etc.
I also think that China is probably very happy to have the Foxconn factory, and that overall Chinese people including the majority of the workers in the factory are happy working in it. I hold these opinions after reading some articles about these issues, but your mileage may vary.
Furthermore, for some reason Apple is being criticized for the working conditions in Foxconn, and yet other US tech companies are not. I find this very weird.
So far I think that This American Life have managed to show the most complex and interesting picture of this story.
Having said all that, I think that the picture painted by the Steven Jobs Biography, of Steve Jobs as a 1960's hippie is plain ridiculous if he had known half of what we know about Foxconn, and if he didn't know, he had no excuse for not knowing.

February 3, 2012

Personal Good News

I'm sorry, that I did not post on time this week. On the excuses side, I now have a newborn son!
The above picture is for illustration purposes only, I think I'll let him decide when to upload pictures, which should take at least a week or two.
He is healthy, happy most of the time, and weighs a bit more than seven pounds. His mother is also fine, though the birth itself was not the easiest thing in the world, probably it was harder for her than it was for me.
I think I'll have more to say about the birth itself in a future series of posts about science, but that would probably take at least a few months.
Anyway, next week I hope to be back on schedule, and keep discussing Apple, and soon we'll get to Microsoft...