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Where content meets technology

Dec 13, 2012

Mobile App Stores

As I have mentioned before, Apple has done some things to shaken my loyalty. I am at the point where my next phone will not be an automatic iPhone purchase. I have friends and colleagues pitching alternatives pretty hard. Out of curiosity, I looked up the availability of my favorite mobile apps on the Windows and Google App Stores. Here is what I found.

App Android Windows Phone
Any Password Manager
(like 1Password)
Yes: LastPass Yes: LastPass
Evernote Yes Yes
Google+ Yes (duh) No (duh)
Kindle Yes Yes
Any Exercise GPS
(like Garmen)
Yes: RunKeeper Yes: Mobifit
Mint Yes No
(by Flixster)
Yes Yes
(or InstaPaper)
Yes Yes: MetroPaper
RememberTheMilk Yes Yes: Milkman
RSS Reader
(with Google Reader Support)
Yes: Google Reader Yes: nextgen Reader
ServerDensity Yes No
Any SSH Client Yes: lots Yes: Token2Shell
Tripit Yes Yes
Twitter Yes Yes
Yelp Yes Yes
YouTube Yes (duh) Yes

Overall, I was surprised by the number of apps on the Windows Phone store. The screen shots looked really nice too. However, I think that the combination of Mac + Windows Phone would be challenging. If I was a Windows user, the Windows Phone would be a pretty attractive option.

One thing that I find limiting on the iPhone is that Safari is locked down and doesn't accept plugins. I assume that Android doesn't have this issue because it gives you different browser options. Does Windows allow you to install mobile IE plugins/extensions?

Nov 08, 2012

The Case of the Mysterious Redirect

Like most technical people, I have many development environments running on my local workstation.  I use a configuration of Apache virtual hosts and my /etc/hosts file to keep them sorted out.  It normally works great but yesterday I solved a vexing issue and  I thought I would share.

The issue was that whenever I hit a specific development environment, it would redirect me to my blog (http://www.contenthere.net) with a path that was based on the location of the Apache doc root.  I hadn't used this environment in a while and so a lot of things could have caused the problem.  At first I thought it was a DNS issue.  Then I was certain it was an Apache configuration issue.

After trying all sorts of things, I realized that I had accidentally saved some .htaccess file to the root of my home directory.  The doc root of this particular development environment (which was inside my home directory) didn't have its own .htaccess so Apache traversed up the directory structure to find one and applied the rewrite rules within it.  Deleting this file made the problem go away.

I suspect that I accidentally copied the errant .htaccess file from a server by double-clicking on it in my FTP client.  I had no idea that Apache would behave in that way.  I spent ages searching through Apache configurations and the doc root.  I looked into issues that might have been caused when I upgraded to Mountain Lion.  But I didn't look in the root of my home directory until I searched for all of the .htaccess files on my machine.

One thing that I learned from troubleshooting (in addition to .htaccess behavior) was about DNSMasq.  It allows you to create wildcard entries like .dev, which saves a lot of effort editing the /etc/hosts file.  Pretty cool!  So it wasn't a total loss of time.

Hopefully someone will learn from my experience.

Sep 27, 2012

Apple, you might be losing me

I am a huge Apple fan. I have a MacBook, an iPhone, and an iPad.  I love the aesthetic of Apple's hardware and the software. I update software religiously.  I don't mind paying the Apple premium because I believe in the superior quality.  I suffer at work for eschewing the corporate standard platform and using my own machine. I get goaded into arguments by Apple haters.

Apple probably shouldn't have any reason to worry about losing me as a customer. Yet, I feel my own loyalty diminishing. Not because I lust after some other products; but because Apple has been doing many things to annoy me recently.  I regularly toy with the idea of leaving Apple for what I think are inferior products. That feels like a big deal to me. I know that I am just one insignificant customer and Apple is a huge and insanely profitable company. But if a customer like me is starting to lose his loyalty, perhaps Apple's dominating position may be at risk.

Here are the reasons why I could see myself jumping off the fanboy bandwagon.

  • Patents

    Apple's litigious behavior is getting downright embarrassing. Instead of being great, it looks like Apple is trying to milk profit out of prior greatness. Apple customers get so excited about what Apple is going to do next. How long can that enthusiasm last when Apple stops innovating?

  • Environment

    They changed their decision after public outcry, but I question the values of a company that decides to pull out of EPEAT to save money when they are already wildly profitable. I also don't like how they make all of their products disposable by making the batteries non-replaceable. The battery is always the first to go on any piece of well built mobile gadgetry.

  • Authoritarianism

    Apple has been steadily closing their ecosystem. At first, we were told that it was for our own good. But now it is clear that the primary reason is competition and those moves are at our expense. For me, the biggest frustration is Apple's childish attacks on Google like pulling Maps and YouTube. The latest releases have been trying to get me to use Facebook and I hate Facebook. Apple makes it really hard for me to use the services that I like like Google+, ReadItLater/Pocket, etc.

  • Low Wages

    I know that Apple can get away with paying ridiculously low wages to Chinese factory workers and American retail associates, but that doesn't mean they should. Again, corporate values matter to me.

Apple is a brand company. They are able to charge a premium from the brand affinity they have built over the years. But their recent behavior is really pushing me away. My strategy now is to make this Mac last until a good enough alternative emerges. Obviously Apple isn't worried. But maybe they should be.