I'm very pleased with Windows 7 and I have it on most of my home computers. But as the release of Microsoft's latest OS draws near I can't help but feel this impending sense that Microsoft will somehow screw things up ruin Windows 7. Well, Microsoft must have sensed my concern because they've deployed one of the cute kids from an earlier ad campaign to calm my fears.
You have to hand it to Microsoft, no one uses cute kids to peddle their wares better. The kid is adorable and I get a huge shock when she starts playing a video she's created mashing up the positive reviews which Windows 7 has received with pictures of bunnies and unicorns and Europe's Final Countdown. I've always loved that song—so much so that I use it as my ringtone—and I'm fascinated by the way it's used by the media. Arrested Development used it to great effect during GOB's magic act. And now Microsoft is using to juxtapose extreme cuteness with the idea of happy future using Microsoft software. Watching this ad is downright addictive.
Yeah, they're crappy phone-cam shots and they don't do their subject justice but nobody said that the expectations are high when you blog. My point with these pictures is something that can't easily be expressed without them. Typically, in a large city like Chicago, the glare from street lights obscures the night sky. But here the low-hanging, full moon in these shots holds its own quite nicely with the glare of the lights of downtown Chicago. A mere phone-cam can't do justice to the beauty of a full moon but it is a lovely sight that has to be seen for itself to be appreciated. And it can be seen every month. Just look up.
It seems that Hulu will no longer be offering Season three of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. I suppose that's not a big deal for most people. Buffy is a ten-plus year-old show and most of its hardcore fans probably already have DVDs of it. But it does remind me of the big problem with web video.
It's unreliable. You depend on a website to stream video to you—video which can be pulled at any time for any number of reasons. For example if the studio which owns it wants more money.
Now compare that to a video sitting on your hard drive. Maybe you ripped it from your legally bought DVDs. Maybe you downloaded it illegally. Maybe you bought it legally through something like iTunes or Amazon Unbox. But the point is that the video is "yours" in the sense that it is on your computer and you can control it. (Now that's not necessarily true in the case of DRM encumbered video that you can buy legally but I think you get my point.) Video on the web can go "poof" at any time.
The movie and TV industries bitterly complain about piracy but it's largely a phenomenon of their own doing. Hulu largely exists because the TV industry wanted to have a place where they could stream their shows and maintain control of them, providing users with an alternative to piracy. And yet it is still hard to find complete series of many of Hulu's shows. And pulling shows doesn't help. (It's called "Video on Demand" not "Video When the Studios Feel Like Giving it to You.") The bottom line is that until people can rely on web video to always be there, they will be tempted to pirate movies and TV.
One of the reasons why I never got an iPhone was because I could never get used to its virtual keyboard. Still, once an onscreen keyboard became available for the Pre which was relatively easy to install, it made sense to at least give it a try. And the results were about what I had expected. While the ingenuity of the Virtual Keyboard is admirable (when tap the "Sym" button, you can scroll down and enter any symbol that the keyboard is capable of entering), it is ultimately too small to use comfortably especially in comparison with the Pre's slide out hardware keyboard.
There are also other problems. While the Pre's built-in error correction is fairly meager compared to that of the iPhone, it does come in handy for little things like putting apostrophes in contractions and automatically capitalizing letters at the beginning of sentences. This does not work with the Virtual Keyboard even though realistically, you will tend to make more typos with it than you would with the hardware keyboard—disappointing to say the least.
But the Virtual Keyboard does have its uses. It's great for pulling up recently visited pages and bookmarks in the web browser which usually come up after typing a couple of letters. It's a small thing but it is potentially very convenient since you no longer have to slide open the keyboard in order to type two or three characters.
More than anything else, the Virtual Keyboard makes me miss Palm's old Graffiti writing system. A fairly simple, easy to learn set of onscreen strokes which allowed users to enter information without any kind of keyboard, Graffiti was one of the things that got me hooked on the old PalmOS. And it would be a nice thing for some enterprising developer to try to bring to the Palm Pre.
In the less than three months since its release the Palm Pre's App Catalog has grown from a little over a dozen apps to forty five. So while it's not growing as fast as its fans would like Palm seems to be moving in the right direction in terms of courting developers. Rome—and all major software platforms—were not built in a day. And for those of us who are impatient and technically inclined, there is always the Homebrew scene.
But it is the very popularity of the Palm Pre's Homebrew apps which expose a worrying concern. It seems that the Palm Pre limits the amount of space which it dedicates to storing applications. As a result, there is a limit to the number of applications which can be installed on the Pre. I have installed a lot of apps from the App Catalog and a lot of Homebrew apps on my Pre. All told, including the Pre's built-in apps, I have fifty-two apps on my Pre. And as a result, I often bump up against this storage limit and have to delete existing apps in order to install new ones.
When you consider the size of huge number of apps in the iPhone's App Store or even the Android Market, the problem with this approach is clear. There is no reason why I should be getting anything resembling an "out of memory" error on my phone when it still have three gigs of free storage space left. The original PalmOS in its heyday, had over 30,000 apps available for it and most of those apps are available for the Palm Pre thanks to the Classic emulator. So for Palm to have a limit on the number of apps that can be installed on its webOS devices like the Pre feels like a mistake which should be corrected sooner, rather than later.