Normal service will soon be restored.

I’ve been increasingly remiss on the updating of this blog, which I’ll hopefully remedy over the next few weeks. I don’t have any more excuses apart from the fact that I’ve been on a never end whirl of meetings, conferences (as delegate and booth babe!), training courses (run by me) and the never ending search for people to help me out. I’ve also been coming to grips with the never ending volume of innovation and products coming on stream at Google, absorbing their nature and understanding their impact on enterprise geospatial.

Google London

What no PC?

The other fact is prior to joining Google my main blog editor used to be Live Writer. I was one of the most PC people you might have known, thats PC as in Personal Computer, not the other one although I’m not too bad in that department as well (I try to minimise the HR violations). It seems that over the last year I seem to have become mostly Mac, that being until my first day at Google I had never even had a Mac or even touched one in anger for over 15 years (since I waged a one man war against them back in my days at Kingston). It turns out they are not half bad.

Mars Edit

Maybe because I secretly like having the option of a command window hat doesn’t run a horrible version of DOS, and actually have to use vi and ssh in my job! Maybe it’s also because I do most of my job in a browser these days and no longer have to have a copy of ArcGIS on my machine. Finally it’s probably the fact the the machine boots up fast, suspends without trouble and doesn’t seem to lag at weirdmoments. Sure it’s probably down to Apples bespoke hardware / software combination but whatever it is it’s been a breath of fresh air and whilst it’s made me tear whats left of my hair out sometimes, once I started to think like a Mac I’m unsure that I can start to think like a PC again (I’m sure I’m going to grow a goatee and get some thick glasses next).

So here I am having found a new easy way to write blog posts on my Mac using MarsEdit. It seems to do everything LiveWriter did without the fact that Microsoft seems to always want to update the whole Live suite all the time including the now horrible new version of Live Messenger, the Mac version from Microsoft is better.

Fast Boot, Quick Suspend

Why don't you!

Just as I find one way to edit posts another challenge falls into my lap, the CR48. Now my next challenge is to find a good blog editor that runs just in the browser and I can conquer the a new frontier. So far I’ve had good experiences with the machine. For much of what I do on the couch (as distinct from at my desk, although it’s not far off there also) is within a browser I want instant on to check emails and websites and instant off when I need to go do ‘something less boring instead’. The CR48 really does those things well, for editing text and using the ‘normal web’ it’s a lot better than an iPad, although for media consumption the iPad still has it beat, but then again that’s not what it’s primarily for.

CR48

What I like most about the CR48 is that it is something that is trying to upset the status quo of something that looks like a ‘normal computer’ acting like a ‘smart phone’. The act of doing away with storage on the device makes it instantly more controversial as people will start to get all nostalgic over defragging hard disks or performing virus scans, updating applications or managing services. It seems like many of our computers have turned into actual servers over time running background processes that seem to make the machine randomly page to disk or kick a background process to max warp (subsequently making your 2010 computer run like something purchased before modems went out of fashion).

Are we living in the future yet?

I don’t know when this happened, but it seems that between my Mac and my ChromeOS device I’m slowly moving into a brave new future when I can start to worry less about about what’s on my machine and more about actually getting things done. When most things you do are being stored in the cloud, you become much less attached to the actual machine your using, it becomes much more of a tool than a priceless piece of technology to be protected with your life less you lose your photos. Hopefully this  ChromeOS video serves to highlight this brave new world in a robust manner, hope to see you there in the near future!

Steve Jobs has my money, again.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you tell yourself you don’t want something, how much you know an item isn’t really worth the money your shelling out for it, how my you think that getting a device mainly for browsing the web on the sofa is an unnecessary luxury, in the end you end up opening the wallet and handing over money to someone who is being far to smiley in an Apple store. In fact you do this and wait in line, or in my case shambolic huddle, for the privilege. Come on, I was only there to buy a grown up iPhone, or was I?

Shouldn’t there be angels or something?

I think angels seem to turn up when Stephen Fry goes into an apple store. I’m sure they specially clean up in order to add to the glorious nature of the purchasing experience (from what I’ve read I don’t think mere mortals deal with him when he buys only UberAppleSalesCherubs, either that or it’s something they give him to drink). In my case my buying experience was less straight forward. Walk into an Apple store, avoiding blue shirted sales staff looking for till. Notice that till was absent and most of the store was full of people checking their email. Find concierge (in black shirt) who was wondering around store in a pattern created by a bad random number generator and give him name. Check email on a variety of Mac’s until I realize I’m standing in the Genius bar queue, a Genius

in the Apple store seemed to be a person who knows how to hard reset an iPod/IPhone because that’s all they seemed to be doing for people. Move to another, unmarked, area of the store to hang around with the other people who are also lost, but might be less lost than me. Check some more email on the nearest Mac. Finally my name is called and I have all of 1 minute to pay for my iPad. The guy did say usually he wold spend three years taking me through how to set up and usethe product, but unfortunately I’d used up all of his spare nanoseconds and I was on my own, fine I thought the advert had said that ‘I already knew how it worked’.

Yeah it’s an experience, not a particularly good one, but an experience nonetheless. Next time I order by post, impersonal but it saves on the aimless wondering.

But my other device isn’t an iPhone!

I used to have an iPhone, I used to think it was good. I didn’t pay for it, I managed to be in part of my previous organisation where iPhones were becoming a right (the rest of the company was left to languish with nothing or old Nokia’s, I’m unsure who was worse off). I used to use iTunes for organizing my music, movies and applications. I could even dock it in a few stereos I had at home. I have a Nexus One now, I used to think the iPhone was good but I don’t miss it any more. Transitioning from the iPhone to the Nexus was a bit of a harrowing experience, I spent a month cold turkey using an old Windows Mobile handset, an HTC S710, it reminded me what a mobile operating system would look like if I ever ended up in purgatory. I used to look at my iTunes library and my new mobile device and think, hmm what now?

This taught me a valuable lesson.  Never back only one horse, because if a better horse comes along, let’s call it an ‘open horse’ for the sake of argument, you will never know what your missing. You will never know that life might be better backing the ‘open horse’ until you’ve tried it. That there are companies out there that might produce software that run on any horse. Because if your not on the ‘open horse’ then you have to stick with the other horses, let’s say they are iHorses, and if you ever want to get onto the ‘open horse’, the other one has bolted with your music, movies and books and you’ve forgotten to shut the door.

Ok enough of the equine analogies already.

I <3 Kindle

Having lived with my Android phone for two months and enjoyed the wonders of an iTunes free life (come on you know you can do it) my first download from the Apple App Store was the Kindle application. Why Kindle and not the ‘magical’ iBooks application, well for one thing I could now read any of the trashy novels I download when I’m not tethered to my iPad, which might be quite a lot as both my Wife and Daughter seem to be eyeing it up. I might even be able to read them on my PC (you know I still have one or two) which still thinks an app store is somewhere you go and buy games.

Amazon know how to do book rentals, their apps run on most platforms (that anyone cares about) and you can download the titles again and again from archive. This is a killer function for me and something that has always created annoyance with online music purchases. The whole cloud idea has been the fact I can store data away from my device, if it dies, I can just re-sync and everything is there, over the air without the need to dock into an even more expensive computer to do so.

It’s the reason why I now use Spotify for my music rather than just having useless CD’s cluttering my house that I no longer listen too, my boredom threshold is high and my music tastes horribly mainstream, Spotify checks the boxes for me and like Amazon allows me to listen to trashy pop without the evidence lying around embarrassing my family. Sure there are times when having the physical product is excellent (usually when giving gifts 🙂 ) but like many other people I’m feeling that more and more physical products are moving to an online existence only and whilst part of me mourns the time when I had 15 floppy disks to install software onto an unconnected machine, it’s only a small part and I’m trying to rid myself of it.

When was the last time you loaded data?

Do you know, most of the people using spatial information in applications never even bother to load any spatial data, using esoteric formats beyond CSV or KML. They never had to build a gazetteer, they never had to choose the colours of the basemap? They never had to worry about scaling or wondering about upgrades or downtime, server management and patches. Most of them never even had to pay.

Google and Bing Maps (mmm balance!) both provide the Kindle and Spotify equivalent of GIS (look I used the G word!), there are applications and app stores being provisioned based upon both where existing functionally can be easy combined into a bespoke applications, again often without much installation worries. Like most people don’t care how Spotify and Bing work, most people don’t care how Google Maps works, as long as the API is stable and the maps are fast. Sure like physical books there are times when you need to run on-premise applications and actually get your hands dirty loading spatial data, but they are increasingly becoming more niche.

In the era when digital books will soon sell more than physical books I wonder how long before access to larger and larger data sets will be online rather than on-premise. When the ‘change only update’ will be a thing of the past and you will have only the ‘changed’ data. Sooner rather than later I hope, until then I’ll be happily playing with my iPad enjoying the excellent spatial applications that run on both it and my Nexus.