Archive for June, 2011

iCloud- don’t ditch your computer just yet…

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2011 by jaymallow

I remember when… I remember my first iPod, sitting down at iTunes and spending hours uploading my CD’s just so I could use this amazing device. I remember when iTunes wasn’t so good at managing multiple devices across multiple computers. I remember the one time I accidentally clicked the “Do you want to add this device” kiss of death and screamed “NOOOOOO!!!” as instantly all content was erased from both my iPod and computer. I remember spending a Saturday morning re-loading my CD’s back into iTunes while mourning the loss of over a hundred dollars in downloaded content. (Cause seriously who ACTUALLY backs up their iTunes?)
Well now those memories are as quaint as the iPod classic I used to own, enter iCloud!
But before I get to that lets just briefly hit Lion OS and iOS5.
You can sum up most of what Lion now has to offer with the statement “Your desktop apps now work the exact same way as your iPhone apps.” That’s a surprisingly good thing, instant saving and the ability to exit a program without saving and then jump right back in? In one sense you want to ask why has it taken this long to incorporate these features. The file sharing app was cool as well. But the dark horse of the new OS is the integration of gestures into a desktop environment. I’m calling it now, probably within the year we will see a touchscreen iMac and the mouse will die a quiet death within the Apple universe. Also I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on Pages. Apple seems to be pulling out the stops in courting business professionals and college students. Seriously anyone who has ever had to write a paper salivates at the thought of “versions” (previous saves of the current document that can be viewed side by side). Kind of funny that the latest Pages is basically the word processor that they built for the iPad just turned up to eleven. More on the business and college aspects of WWDC’s keynote later.
Then we come to iOS. Notifications and mail stuff looked alot like Android and the photo tweaks were interesting. Most noteworthy was “Reminders” but I fear it won’t be for the content of the program but for the handwritten notes presented in the background. The ability to remind oneself at a specific time and location is great but I fear that some will lament the “false advertising”. Common Apple! Most people just LIKE jotting down personal notes and using apps that don’t work with iCal is disappointing. Especially since you now have a TEN INCH SCREEN to work with. YOU don’t even have to recognize my handwriting so long as I can… There was the integration of Tweeting, which if you’re into that I guess it meant something to you. But the real big changes to iOS were the “cutting the cord” changes. Now you no longer have to synch with a computer running iTunes to activate an iDevice. Which leads us to…
STEVE JOBS!!!! (OMG he’s like a skinny, turtleneck and jeans wearing JESUS!) (OK seriously future post on how church conferences need to look to WWDC and start distancing.) The iCloud is here folks and yes even Jobs admitted Mobile Me sucked! Great thing number one: in app synch across devices. The ability to say read up to a point in iBooks on an iPad and then later open iBooks on an iPhone and pick up right where you left off; or make some changes in Pages, Keynote, or Numbers on the fly with the iPhone then have those changes instantly appear on your desktop or iPad (or better yet ALL of your bosses devices) is brilliant and certainly worth the cost of… NOTHING? Oh yeah thats great thing number two: Zip, Zero. Nada. Totally free… (Sure Apple will have claim on our souls and even deeper access to private information but they’ve handled that well so far right?) You have to admit that having the ability to back up all of your devices, set up “push” updates and synchs, AND having 5g of data for free seems almost too good to be true. But wait there’s more… For one easy payment of twenty five dollars all your illegal media becomes magically legal! Purchase iTunes Match and the “cloud” will search through your library and match it to an iTunes “legal” copy (which then you presumably own forever and can download to whatever device you so choose). A document cloud that appears to be more seamless and immediate than Google (there goes courting enterprise again), free mail push, and even in app document synch that developers can adapt (look for a Google docs app the day iOS 5 “ships”). However my friends there is a dark lining to this seemingly silver cloud.
There is a reason to not toss out your desktop or notebook just quite yet. The fact is that iTunes on a PC or Mac is totally different than iTunes on an iOS device. iTunes (on an operating system) has ALWAYS been a glorified file manager. iTunes takes files on your computer and organizes them into albums and playlists. This is why the iTunes store doesn’t seem to always jive with the iTunes program, they’re built to do different things. On the iOS devices Apple decided to alleviate this “discomfort” and made “iTunes” a purchase only app. While the “iPod” app was “play only”. Here lies the dark side to the iCloud, right now there is NO way to manage media content on an iOS device. Try this, see if you can delete an album from your iPhone or iPad… Surprised? It get’s even more serious: for example, I don’t have any of my music or video’s downloaded to my iPad. On my iPhone (which doubles the memory of my iPad at 32g) I have music but no video. However if I CHOOSE do do so I can download a TV program to either, or a playlist to my iPad through drag and drop with iTunes. Also if I’ve watched that show, or am finished listening to the playlist I can simply delete it from the device and (with setting up the “synch” protocols) can still retain ownership. Also there is the question of being able to view all owned media without downloading to a computer or device. (Especially with the cloud as it’s quite possible to have NO device that contains ALL of your data) As much as Steve Jobs denigrates the file system in one sense there still is a need for some type of file manager in his “post PC” world. As of right now unless Apple decides to come out with an app or web portal in which to manage both devices and all our media content the day when iDevices can truly be independent of iTunes operating on a computer is still to come. (Though I’ll admit we’re getting there. And it may take something as simple as allowing you to delete from the iPod app and create playlists through “copy and Paste”)
I mentioned earlier a little of the implications for both business and college students with the iCloud. For business there is the positive of ditching an owned company server and having free seamless integration with multiple devices. I can see many small businesses looking over their options, and if iCloud works, going with an incredibly cheap option that already uses many of the devices their employees already own. Of course only time will tell wether Pages, Numbers, and Keynote will breakout into business norms, but remember the time when no one used Google Docks- year that was two years ago.
For students Apple will probably hope for a boost in iPad sales come the back to school season. I’m sure many parents in the past two years would have gladly sent their son or daughter off to school with a $500 iPad instead of a $1000 Macbook but the inability to back up data i.e. needing a computer anyway probably caused most to take the financial hit or buy a cheaper PC. Now the price range and capabilities of the iPad put it in prime place to truly be the one device needed for college. Also professors and colleges can really utilize the push aspects of the iCloud. (Want to know what assignment you had to read? Or when the next test is? Perhaps these questions will actually become ancient history with devices that can be instantly and constantly updated)
So will iCloud change the way we use devices? At first probably not. It’ll be a convenience service mostly. However what it may do is change how we manage and consume our media and data. You want to know why Apple hasn’t made a device that’s bigger than 64g for the last two years? (The Classic doesn’t count and I’m surprised they still sell it) iCloud is why. In the future we simply will not have any need to have massive amounts of memory either in our mobile or home use devices. (How many TERABYTES are we up to now?) We’ll simply download from our online library when we want our content. And who knows the future with 4g wireless promising downloading speeds that rival cable internet maybe we’ll live in a world where we just stream everything (Netflix or down the road? iTunes?) iCloud is a step. It’s a step into a world that in a few years time we may look at our clunky old iPhone 4 and wonder how we ever saw that as “sleek”. A world where there really is no computer desk in your home anymore because all your devices (phone, pad, tv, fridge, etc.) synch wirelessly and it no longer is something you even think about. But we’re not there yet, iCloud is just a step…

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X Men First Class has real Class…

Posted in Randomness on June 5, 2011 by jaymallow

X Men First Class is a stunning success for the simple fact that like the Star Trek re-boot it actually pulls of what could have been a disaster. Like Star Trek the preveous series of films in the X Men franchise had hit the bottom of the barrel. As well, X Men comes up against three of the possible pitfalls that come into modern comic book movie adaptation.
First is the presentation of characters: Too many movies simply give the costume, the “superpower”, show some flashy effects; and presume as fans that we’ll simply fall over ourselves because Wolverine, or SnakeEyes, or Deadpool are there live on screen. Even the great Sam Raimi was forced into this by the studio in Spider Man 3.(“Lets have Sandman, AND Venom, AND the Green Goblin!)
Secondly there is the “Nolan” effect: This is where “gritty” automatically equals “real”. Batman works in a “gritty” world because it suits the character, not so other franchises.
Thirdly there is the presumed sequel. Marvel’s movies are dangerously walking this fine line as each of their movies are more and more a setup for Avengers than origin movies in their own right.(You could argue that Iron Man 2 wasn’t so much a sequel to Iron Man but a prequel to Avengers.) We’re given the barest introduction to the character(s) and just as things get established the credits roll.
Given the propensity in Hollywood and even the history of the X Men franchise towards these failures the fact that X Men First Class mostly sidesteps these and gives a great character driven, “bright”, and fully formed movie is commendable. Consider this for a moment, the opening scenes are exactly the same, shot for shot, with the original X Man movie. That in and of itself could have spelled disaster from the start. However this movie “owns” that sequence and makes it work.
What really underscores the excellence of this movie is the outstanding acting by Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy as Eric Lehnsherr(Magneto) and Charles Xavier respectively. Fassbender seethes with anger and wrath as we’re introduced to the adult Eric who has become a Nazi hunter searching for the shadowy Sebastian Shaw who developed Eric’s mutant power in a Nazi concentration camp through inhuman torture. McAvoy on the other hand exudes compassion, and surprisingly, a bit of “coolness” as a swinging sixties ladies man. These two are thrown together as they attempt to thwart a new plot of Sebastian Shaw to ignite a third (nuclear) world war.
It must be noted that the setting of the movie in the sixties is one of the main ways this movie works. The era itself lends the brightness of the sexual revolution, civil rights reform, and “groovyness” yet also presents an ominous backdrop of real threat. This allows for some truly funny sequences in the “recruiting” montage (including an absoulutely spot on, unexpected, and hilarious cameo), as well as communicating the excitement of discovery as these characters discover they are not alone.
Another honorable mention has to be Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Mystique. Her transition from loyal “sister” of Charles to consort of Magneto is surprisingly nuanced and also offers a window into Xavier’s blindspot’s and incredible nievete’.
As much as X Men First Class is bold to both re-establish characters and give obvious nods to the first three films perhaps the boldest decision is that Magneto actually emerges as the hero/anti-hero of the movie. Surprisingly Eric ends up being both absolutely right and even a little justified in retaliation and his hatred of humans, and Charles is shown to be astonishingly, dangerously optimistic.(ironic that someone who can supposedly read minds could get that so wrong) Even as the movie ends Charles appears to be a little more wiser and dare I say it paranoid.
All this isn’t to say X Men First Class is a perfect movie. There are times when the movie descends into cheesiness and the “evil mutants” certainly fall on the “superpower is character” cheat. (even January Jones’ Emma Frost isn’t presented as being anything more than a collection of “assets” one of which is telepathy) But again it succeeds in infusing the excitement of the original X Man film with great character performances. It also gives a well rounded story that if this was the only “prequel” it would be fine. But let’s hope this is only the beginning, and we get to see these characters again…