Chronicle Of Awesome: Speculation The Grand Theory Of Lost

LOST

It seems like just a few weeks ago; I watched the season 5 finale of Lost. It was only after the final LOST logo came on to the screen that the reality of a 9 month wait started to sink in. So, impatient as I was, I decided to speculate my way to a series conclusion. Because Lost is the best thing to happen to television since color. Lost is why cave-men painted shows on walls.

Now I’ve had 9 months to speculate on these mysteries, and for the very same reason, this post will be massively spoilerful (unless I’m completely off the mark and even then). Do not read this post unless you have seen every available episode of Lost first. Otherwise, you’ll be ruining a great experience for yourself.

Warning!  Don’t ruin this for yourself.

Still here? Okay, I trust you have, in fact, seen Lost. So read on.

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Why The iPad Doesn’t Have Multi-Tasking

One of the things discussed about the new Apple tablet, other than its lack of Flash, is its apparent lack of multi-tasking. Multi-tasking, of course, being the ability to listen to music or radio while playing Flight Control. I’d like to talk about that, because I’m pretty sure I know why there’s no multi-tasking, and if you’ll let me attempt prescience for a moment, I’m going to let you in on the secret.

Multi-tasking doesn’t work well enough yet. That is also to say that when it does, Apple will feed a system update which adds this feature; to the pad and phone alike. It’ll be just like when you all got copy and paste.

I’m an Android fellow. I cannot accept the closed platform that is the Apple ecosystem. The fact that I’d have to open iTunes to get stuff on to my phone instead of being completely unrestricted1, is something I couldn’t ever imagine settling for. Additionally, I am enjoying multi-tasking on my Android phone today; I’m listening to podcasts via Google Listen while browsing Wikipedia, and it’s a bliss I’m sure iPhone OS users will appreciate soon enough.

Even so, the Android implementation of multi-tasking is an example of why Apple hasn’t done it yet. Gruber was boggled by the need for a task killer on the platform, and frankly — so am I. Which is key to this issue. A single-tasking platform closes every app when a new app is invoked. The robo-logistics are simple: “Home” means “Save & Close”. Because this is simple, it works. Transparently, easily, and without the need to peek inside the system to see what’s running and what shouldn’t be.

Both Android and iPhone OS are pioneering new ways to interact with computers (which incidentally is why I now prefer these OSes on principle, over Windows, Linux and OSX). The new trend is to tuck away the filesystem; to whittle down all the nerdy stuff. To make it feel obsolete and unnecessary. You don’t drop your music into a folder, you drop it onto your phone and then sort it using meta information such as artist, year, album and so on. You also no longer window manage. You don’t open an app, you enter Google Listen. You don’t close an app, you press “Home”. If you were playing a podcast, it keeps playing even as you enter the browser to explore Wikipedia. If you weren’t playing a podcast, the system cleans up any stray processes for you, so the system doesn’t spend memory that isn’t needed. It’s all very elegant, and once you get used to it, closing apps feels very 1990.

Except it’s not as elegant as it sounds. Because apps themselves decide when they’re done using your battery and not all apps are good citizens. Sometimes you’ll click “home” with the intent of not going back to your game of Robo Defence. But Robo Defence isn’t sure what you want, so it’s just paused your game. Which means goodbye battery. Which means you need a task killer, whose sole raison d’etre is giving you a neat list of which apps are running in the background and the ability to forcefully close them.

I’m sure Android will get there. Development is moving at a blinding pace; in fact things may already be better in version 2.1. In the meantime, I’ll be loving my Google Listen background process. Even if it means I need a task killer. Once Android grows up, I’m saying a fond goodbye to my task killer, and I will never look back. But I’m not a normal user. I’m not one to be impressed by Apples “only launch when perfect” ideology, I much prefer Googles “launch early, iterate often” approach. I’m also smart enough to understand why Apple postpones multi-tasking until they get it right. Which is when you’ll get multi-tasking on your iPhones and iPads.

[Update]: Michael points out in the comments, that the iPhone has been able to play podcasts in the background since launch. My bad example. Please appropriate “Google Listen” with “Pandora” and my example will make sense again.

  1. Incidentally, I currently use an Android file explorer app to connect to my NAS and copy things from over the air.  

Where's Google Webdrive?

[flash width=”600″ height=”400″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/ANMrzw7JFzA?hl=en_US&fs=1&start=258″]

During Googles special Chrome OS presentation a few thursdays ago, I noticed an incongruity between the core ideology that you’ll have no files stored locally and the complete lack of a Google Webdrive announcement. I’ve embedded the above video to start at about 4:20 where the presenter is talking about data in the cloud:

I mentioned all data is in the cloud. so what does that mean? […]

All data in Chrome OS is in the cloud. So as a model, anything that you put on the machine, is instantly available to you from anywhere, so, which is something we are very very excited about.

While the presenter only demos bookmarks, tabs and notepad documents as being data you can currently store in the cloud, the phrase, “anything that you put on the machine” tickles my interest. We know that in Google Docs, you can store your documents, spreadsheets and presentations. You can also upload PDF files. Using Picasa Web Albums you can store your photos. If you sync your Google Chrome bookmarks these will also be stored in a special Google Docs folder. So that’s documents, pictures and bookmarks. Well that’s certainly something, but it doesn’t take much imagination to notice the shortcomings: I’d be surprised if Chrome OS won’t allow you some kind of access to music or video1.

This deafening webdrive silence can be interpreted in a number of ways. Either Google will eventually launch a music and video service which lets you purchase videos that are stored online, or Google will launch a webdrive which lets you upload your own music and videos to playback in Chrome OS. Or both. Either way, this is quite an undertaking, and probably explains why Webdrive hasn’t launched yet. I’ll bet you Googles o’s that between now and Chrome OS launch day, we’ll be either a store or a webdrive richer.

  1. Perhaps even netbanking authorisation files, though one may assume Google will push for file-less access methods for this.  

Conjecture: What To Expect From Google Chrome OS [Update: In The Ballpark]

Google_Chrome_icon

Google is showing off their Chrome OS at an event later today. Because I find it infinitely fascinating to see what kinds of rabbits the folks at the Googleplex pull out of their hats, I’m going to convert my anticipation into wild speculation:

  • The grand idea is to make Chrome OS to PCs what Android and iPhone OS is to ultra-portables.
    Update: Pretty much right.
  • When you log on to your system, you’re also logged into Gmail, Calendar and so on.
    Update: Kinda. Your session from last time is restored.
  • Like with Android, Chrome OS will be able to use custom designed interfaces, like HTCs “Sense” UI.
    Update: Too early to tell, but probably not.
  • There’s going to be an App Store. Duh.
    Update: Totally missed the mark on this one. NO app store; websites are the apps.
  • Chrome OS will be branded like the Chrome Browser in a deliberate attempt at blurring those oft cited lines between the web and the desktop.
    Update: Pretty much.
  • The look of Google Wave is a strong pointer — if not exact replica — of Chrome OS’ UI look.
    Update: Nope.
  • A significant part of the demonstration will involve showing how fast Chrome boots and gets you online. The plan is, no doubt, to respond as quickly as your phone does.
    Update: Almost. The goal is to get Chrome OS to launch as fast as your TV does, and certainly faster than you can make a sandwich.
  • Like Apple when they launched the iPhone, JavaScript is the SDK. The question is whether Google has tricks hidden in their sleeves. We’ve heard about WebGL, various sandbox type apps and even their new “Go” programming language. Perhaps something unique will materialize. Perhaps not.
    Update: Perhaps not far off the mark, but still too early to tell. For now, websites are the apps, with upcoming APIs for OS notifications, panels, GPU and CPU acceleration and local storage. But no mention of any new programming languages.
  • Chrome OS will run Android apps. Possibly: vice-versa.
    Update: Nope. No Android apps. No binaries at all, in fact.
  • The plan is to not go head to head with Windows or OSX in the immediate future. As with all other “launch-early, iterate often” Google products, Chrome OS will woo devices that are smaller than laptops but larger than phones and grow from there.
    Update: Pretty much. Google will specify hardware requirements which range from “this netcard” and “no harddrive only solid state disks” to “the keyboard has to be full-size”, the result being some really nice netbooks at the end of next year.

The event starts in ~three hours at which point you can catch a webcast.

Bit.ly Is The New Digg (And The New Delicious)

After having seen more and more URLs shortened using the service, just a few days ago I joined Bit.ly myself. Now I see why the service was able to raise 2M in funding and how they have the potential to outperform both Digg and Delicious.

[zenphoto src=”bitly.png”]

Bit.ly is, at its core, a URL shortening service. You paste a URL into Bit.ly, press “shorten”, and you get a short and Twitter-140-character-friendly URL which redirects to your pasted URL1. The kicker is that if you register with Bit.ly, you get to archive all your shortened URLs publicly or privately. That, and stats; whenever someone clicks your shortened URL, it shows up in your Bit.ly backend. Sounds simple? Possibly, but simplicity is not a simple thing.

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  1. For shortening, it’s not even the “best” service out there, as sites such as Is.gd or Tinyarro.ws offer far shorter URLs. Examples: http://is.gd/sjhZ (17 chars), www.➡.ws/셚 (10 chars).  

Conjecture: What To Expect From Indy IV [Update]

The one series I’d wished Lucas had made six of instead of Star Wars is finally premiering its new installment this sunday thursday. Because it’s a formula movie, here’s conjecture as to what we can expect. Hopefully that means spoilers. Sunday we’ll know. Well, I won’t until later on. But some will.

  • The Paramount logo will fade in and become—most likely—a mountain.
  • We’ll meet men … top men.
  • Because this is Indiana Jones in South America, expect to see huge CG Maya/Inca/Aztech ruins and lots and lots of yellow metal. That’s all there is to see in South America.
  • Indy will encounter snakes. And hate them.
  • Indy will be slapped on his face by at least one woman.
  • Because this might be the last Indy, expect a meaningful ending. Probably involving a reunion either between starcrossed sweethearts or—like Star Wars—between father and son.
  • The ground when seen from aircrafts, will look like a composite of pictures, planes and red lines tracing a map.
  • Because this might not be the last Indy, expect someone to be positioned as the next holder of the proverbial reins, in this case, hat and whip.
  • Bad guys’ heads will explode. Or melt.
  • The music score will be better than that of any other recent movies.

Because comments hold potential for spoilers, you won’t be allowed to. Normally you would. Not today. Because this is Indy.

Flash And Quicktime: Not Sitting In A Tree

In a recent piece, News Flash: No Flash, John Gruber writes that he finds it unlikely for Flash to appear on the iPhone any time soon. He’s right, as usual, but he’s got a few details wrong.

The single most popular thing people use Flash for is to watch YouTube videos, which you can already watch a subset of using the native Mobile OS X YouTube app. In short, is the lack of Flash keeping people from buying iPhones and iPod Touches?

Right, but wrong. Video is great, but the coming battle won’t be about video. I dare predict that Apple has a dirty secret in their pocket, a secret that’s ready to explode. A secret that’ll bring them head to head (more so) with Adobe, Microsoft and Mozilla. Possibly even Sony and Nintendo.

Flash and the future of Flash, is not only about video. Sure, video was what really got Flash to the mass-market via YouTube and the likes, but the true future of Flash relies upon a new Adobe technology called AIR1. AIR is something we’ll see quite a lot more of in the coming year. The idea is that HTML is too limiting for web-apps such as Google Docs, Flickr, Twitter and so on. Yes, it works, but could it work better?

Enter Flash. There’s good Flash and there’s bad Flash. For the last decade or so, we’ve mostly seen bad Flash. YouTube was the exception, so much that in mainstream terms, Flash is now about video, when in fact that’s only a tiny subset of what Flash does. Flash does RSS, HTML, app-scripting, fullscreen, video, mp3 and graphics with advanced filters including scalable vector graphics. Theoretically, you could rewrite Gmail in Flash and AIR to make it an offline application with functionality rivaling that of other email apps such as Outlook and Thunderbird. Did I mention Flash does games as well?

Of course this is when you should splash yourself with cold water, smell the coffee and so on. There’s a real good reason why only video has really succeeded for Flash. The bulk of the reason is lack of usability (and accessibility), the cherry on top being that Flash is really CPU intensive. But Adobe is working on that. Real, no-bullshit hardware acceleration could possibly solve many of the CPU problems that plague Flash and AIR is making headway with regards to usability and accessibility.

As such, I believe the next great Internet battle will surround offline applications. Adobe has AIR, Microsoft has Silverlight and Mozilla is positioning both Firefox 3, Mozilla Prism and Mozilla Weave. The purpose of each of these frameworks is to allow people to create widgets, applications, games, music and video that you can take with you offline and even to your cellphone.

Apples website shows no trace of Flash, even though it could be used for their videos, hardware presentations and interactive website elements. Things might even work slightly better than it does now. So why doesn’t Apple just use Flash? Because Apple wants in on it.

Apple makes widgets, applications, games, music and video. Right now you can take your music, video, and most recently, your games with you offline and to your iDevices. As Gruber mentions, the iPhone even has a great amount of really good HTML/CSS/JavaScript powered applications. The iPhone even does YouTube video without the use of Flash. Apple wants you to know that you really don’t need Flash, because their big dirty secret is that they’re going to position Quicktime as an alternative to Flash/AIR and Silverlight.

Think about it. Really get it in there. Quicktime is a widespread plugin. Maybe not as much as Flash, but spread enough. Add to that Apples hardware accelerated Core Animation technology, and you’ve got graphical prowess that matches that of both Flash and Silverlight. Combine that with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and you’ll get video, music, games and applications through Quicktime. All of it, stuff we thought would be on either Adobes or Microsofts turf once the dust settled. With portable games, Apple might even face off with Nintendos and Sonys handhelds2.

Keep thinking about it. Apple has been real quiet about iPhone application SDKs. Very few games have been released. People are supposed to write applications using web-technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript). Why all the secrecy? Could it be that Apples engineers are hard at work combining Core Animation and Quicktime into a lightweight browser plugin? My prediction: yes. Count on it. In 6-10 months, Apple will unveil the new Quicktime, a browser plugin for Windows and Mac that brings Core Animation to the browser. Build your websites, movie-microsites, games, web-apps and play your videos directly in Coretime! Oh, and there’s one more thing. Once you’re done building: take it with you to your dashboard, your iPods and your iPhones.

  1. Not coincidentally, AIR is RIA a spelled backwards, RIA for Rich Internet Application  
  2. That said, they’ll probably go after Nokias NGage platform first and we all know how that’ll play out. Spoiler alert: Nokia doesn’t stand a chance.