Goodbye, Blackberry. Hello, iPhone.

I’ve now had an iPhone 3G for 48 hours, and it’s like I’m seeing in color for the first time.

Seriously, it’s that delightful.  Oh sure, there are small nits here and there.  I’m still getting up-to-speed on typing, and figuring out which apps are useful.

But the first 48 hours of the iPhone 3G has been one user delight after the other.  Love the App Store.  Love the built in applications.  Love the feel of the phone.  Love the simplicity of synching.  Love the Exchange integration (LinkedIn has enabled it as a beta internally).

Delightful.  That’s the word.  Delightful.

As for you, Blackberry, I’m feeling the same way I did about seven years ago when I got rid of my Palm and moved to you.  At the time, there were more apps for the Palm, but the push messaging and calendar integration of the Blackberry were game-changers.  I knew then that the Blackberry would be the platform to beat in the PDA/Smartphone arena, and that was right for at least half a decade.

The fact that at just 1 year old, the iPhone platform is clearly superior to the Blackberry in 80% of its functions is disastrous for Research in Motion (RIMM).  The pace of innovation at RIMM does not seem as fast as Apple’s, and you can’t argue that RIMM has better people, more resources, or better assets to work with than Apple.

At this point, to be a Blackberry believer long term, you have to really bank that their current entrenchment with IT shops in the Global 2000 will dominate indefinitely.  But 1 million iPhones in 3 days?  This doesn’t bode well for RIMM’s growth rate in 2012.

I don’t think people realize how bad the Blackberry has become.  Sure, the messaging is still fantastic, with great features for expert users.  But the web browsing is worse than a 1995 PC.  The address book still doesn’t synch right between corporate & personal accounts.  And has anyone gotten the calendar synching to actually delete duplicate entries correctly with Exchange?  Don’t even get me started on the lack of functional Mac support.  Just last week, my Blackberry torched the 2GB MicroSD card in it.  That’s right, unreadable.  Photos lost.  No recovery.

See this blog post for an example.  18 months later and a post on how to work around terrible Mac support for the Blackberry Pearl is still a top 20 post for me… and people still can’t get it to work!

I think RIMM went after growth and market share in the consumer market, and forgot to delight their active customer base and keep ahead of the industry.

Look, I don’t pretend to be a futurist.  There are still people who swear by the Treo.  That’s fine.  I’m just one customer.

But I got my wife an iPhone 1.0 8 months ago to replace her Blackberry Pearl because I was sick of trying to fix synching problems.  Not a complaint since.

This weekend, I helped my Mom move from a full-size Blackberry to an iPhone 3G.  So far, so good.

I’d say at least 15-20 people at my company have moved to the iPhone, and they all seem extremely happy with it.  They are comparing apps, sharing tips & tricks, resolving issues, and most importantly, they are enjoying their mobile platform.

I now also have an iPhone 3G, and I’m just loving it.  It’s the first mobile device that actually frees me from my laptop almost completely.  The Exchange email integration works better than I expected.  The ability to read attachments like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF is unbelievable.  The photo application replaces a wallet of “kid/family photos”, the web browser is excellent, and the 3rd party apps are impressive.  And I know it’s only going to get better over the next few years.  I’m even thinking about writing an app or two myself.

I’m never going back.  My string of 3 Blackberry models is at an end, just like the 2 Palm Pilots, and the Newton Messagepad 2000 before it.

I’m all about the iPhone now.  The Blackberry is dead to me.

Congratulations to Mike Schroepfer & Facebook

If you missed the 39 articles currently on Google News on the topic, Mike Schroepfer announced today that he has accepted an engineering leadership position at Facebook.   Mike is the current VP of Engineering at Mozilla, and has been there for about three years.

Here are Mike’s comments, direct from his Mozilla blog.

In my opinion, of course, this is a huge win for Facebook, as they get a top-notch engineering leader to join their team.  It’s bittersweet, of course, because I’m also a huge fan of Mozilla and the team over there.  I think Mike summed it up best in his post by expressing confidence in the ability of the Mozilla team to continue to innovate and deliver on their mission and vision.

If you are curious, here is Mike’s LinkedIn profile.  You can be sure I’ll be on his case for him to keep it up-to-date. 🙂

Conéctate Conmigo en LinkedIn

Ahora en español!

I am pleased to announce that, as of tonight, you can now use LinkedIn in Spanish.  We’re extremely excited about the first beta launch of the world’s largest professional network in a language other than English.

More on the LinkedIn company blog.

I cannot get enough of this Youtube video that marketing put together to help welcome our Spanish-speaking members:

Congratulations to our international team for their first launch of many.  We’re excited to start learning, in production, how to better serve our increasingly global customers.

iPhone 3G Shortage Exaggerated

Apple Store is reporting that there are, in fact, iPhone 3G units out there in California tonight.

Not feeling like a drive up to Sacramento just to get the 16GB Black version though.  Emeryville has them too.  Valley Fair apparently only has white.

Just found out from AT&T the convoluted story about qualifying for the upgrade.  Here is the deal:

  • AT&T doesn’t like giving out deep phone discounts too often.  So they count months from the last “discount” you got from them.  For me, that’s April 2007, so I have to wait until December (21 months) to get another discount.
  • Original iPhone users did not get a discount on their phone.  So AT&T is happy to give them one now, in exchange for re-upping into a 2 year contract.

So, ironically, Carolyn, who has an original iPhone, qualifies for the upgrade.  I, however, with the Blackberry, can’t qualify until December 2008.  Not quite the strategy you’d want to take if your goal was displacing competitors.

Interestingly, I confirmed with AT&T that Carolyn can upgrade to the iPhone 3G, activate, then give me the iPhone 3G, activate it on my account, and then re-activate her old iPhone.

Worth it?  Not sure.  But probably… 🙂

Let’s hope I get a new iPhone before my vacation in August.

Pssst… Wanna Buy a PowerMac G5?

For sale this week on eBay:

A PowerMac G5 2×2.5Ghz with w/2.5GB RAM

All tricked out, with original packaging materials.  Only one problem…

… it doesn’t boot.

See below for the listing text, and feel free to bid on eBay:

Apple PowerMac G5 Dual-2.5Ghz Liquid Cooled Workstation
2.5GB RAM – No Hard Drive – ATI Radeon 9600XT – Airport Extreme – Bluetooth – 16x SuperDrive

This listing is for a used, Apple PowerMac G5 with dual-2.5Ghz processors, liquid cooling, and top of the line hardware.  You can read the full specs of this machine here on Apple’s website.

Before you go any farther, please note that this machine does not boot, and is being sold for parts.  The story of how this happened is a bit depressing, but read on and I guarantee you are about to be part of the deal of the year.  As they say, my loss is your gain.

I’m a former software engineer for Apple Computer, and a fairly active computer user.  I tend to demand top of the line hardware for performance, but I also strive to take care of my machines.  In fact, you’ll see that this machine is in almost pristine condition, despite regular use for over three years.  I even save the original box, manuals, discs and materials.  I’ve upgraded the hardware over the years, adding more RAM and a faster SuperDrive (16x) over the years.

One day, as I was just finishing an install of the latest Mac OS X Update, I rebooted the machine and… it hung.  It hung hard.  It sounds the boot chime, gets to the grey mac screen with the rotating lines, and then freezes.  Hard.

I’m no stranger to crashes and fixing Macs, I immediately tried booting off DVD, and external drive – you name it.  No luck.  Same symptoms.  I zapped the PRAM, reset the SMU, same problem.

I took it to the local Apple Store, and they kept the machine for a full week diagnosing it.  The good news – the power supply is good.  The bad news, they narrowed the problem to either the motherboard or the CPU unit, two expensive parts.

Now, normally, I would have ordered a new motherboard & CPU unit on eBay, swapped it, fixed the machine, and sold it for over $1000.   I then would have sold the extra good part as well, leaving just one bad part.  The problem is, with a busy day job and two small kids at home, I just don’t have time to do this right now.

So my loss is your gain!  You can buy a top-of-the-line PowerMac G5 that doesn’t boot, and you have the choice of either fixing it yourself, or selling it off for parts.   My guess is that you could likely fix this machine, put in a new hard drive, and sell it for between $1000 and $1500 today on eBay.  You also likely could sell the parts alone for over $1000, as they are extremely expensive.

To get this auction moving, I’m starting the bidding at just $0.99.  I need the money to compensate for buying a new machine.  This auction includes the following (full specs here):

  • Apple PowerMac G5
  • Dual-2.5Ghz processors with liquid cooling
  • 2.5GB of DRAM (4-512MB DIMMs, 2-256MB DIMMs)
  • Original box, manuals & discs (Mac OS 10.3)
  • Airport Extreme Card (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth (with antennae)
  • ATI Radeon 9600 XT w/128MB DRAM
  • DVI & ADC Ports
  • 16x SuperDrive (only 3 months old!)
  • 3 full-length PCI-X Slots, 1 8x AGP slot
  • 10/100/1000BaseT Ethernet
  • 56K Modem (yes, hardware internal)
  • 2 Hard Drive Bays, with SATA cables (empty)
  • Firewire-400 and Firewire-800 (IEEE 1394) and 3 USB Ports
  • Audio ports
  • Original Mouse, extra cables (DVI -> VGA, USB Extension, Phone Cable, Power Cord)
  • Original box & styrofoam!

The only things I have taken out are the hard drive and the keyboard.  Everything else is included.

Please feel free to ask questions. I’ve attached pictures to help show the quality of the machine, case, full SKU label.

Please bid with confidence – I have over 800 positive feedback, and I am a former Apple employee *and* a former eBay employee.  I will take care of you and your purchase.

Shipping. Shipping is a flat $35 through USPS Parcel Post.
Payment. I accept payment through PayPal only.  Please note that I cannot ship the machine until PayPal releases funds, which can take 3-5 days if you pay with eCheck.
Return Policy. If you are unhappy with the purchase for any reason, I will accept returns within 7 days for a full refund.  I will refun 100% of your payment upon receipt of the machine back to me in the original condition sold.

No iPhone For You!

Wow.  So I guess I made a rather serious tactical error.

You see, I refused to wait in line for three hours last weekend for an iPhone 3G.  I figured, I’d let the dust settle for a week or two, then replace my RIMM Blackberry Pearl (and yes, I am so very eager to never own a Blackberry again I can’t tell you.)

Problem.  As of Saturday, there are no more iPhones in California.

In fact, going State by State, it seems like there are no more iPhones in the US.  Some news outlets are reporting that no new iPhone 3G stock will be available stateside for 2-4 more weeks.

Very very sad for me.  But I guess, the punishment for being too good for a three hour wait maybe a three week wait (or more).

Oh well.  This will give me the added time I need to write that virulent post on why I’m ready to say goodbye to the Blackberry forever.  Too much time.

If anyone finds a way to get a 16GB Black iPhone 3G in the Bay Area, let me know.  Thanks.

The Self Organizing Quantum Universe

I’m a big fan of distributed systems – complex networks of an extremely large number of independent entities governed by simple and transparent rules.  Not surprising, really, that I work professionally on next-generation products and services based on the Internet, one of the most successful man-made distributed systems in existence.

As a result, it’s not surprising that I found this article in the latest issue of Scientific American compelling:

Scientific American: Using Causality to Solve the Puzzle of Quantum Spacetime
A new approach to the decades-old problem of quantum gravity goes back to basics and shows how the building blocks of space and time pull themselves together
By Jerzy Jurkiewicz, Renate Loll and Jan Ambjorn

Here is a quick synopsis:

  • Quantum theory and Einstein’s general theory of relativity are famously at loggerheads. Physicists have long tried to reconcile them in a theory of quantum gravity—with only limited success.
  • A new approach introduces no exotic components but rather provides a novel way to apply existing laws to individual motes of spacetime. The motes fall into place of their own accord, like molecules in a crystal.
  • This approach shows how four-dimensional spacetime as we know it can emerge dynamically from more basic ingredients. It also suggests that spacetime shades from a smooth arena to a funky fractal on small scales.

I’ve been following modern cosmology theory fairly closely for the past 15 years, and I found this approach compelling and refreshing in a number of ways.  It may not be an effective path towards resolving theories around quantum gravity, but there are clear reasons to give it due consideration:

  • The modeling techniques will be extremely familiar to anyone with an advanced background in modern computer graphics approaches and theory.
  • The idea that a few simple assumptions will self-aggregate into the universe that we see around us avoids the never-satisfying anthropic principle fallback.  (The anthropic principle is effectively a circular argument that says, “Well, the universe is this way because if it wasn’t this way, we wouldn’t be here to ask the question.”   It’s about as intellectually satisfying as the movie 10,000 BC.
  • The simplicity of the model scores favorably with Occam’s Razor vs. other competing theories of quantum gravity and string theory.
  • The model is based on the insight that causality (related to the 2nd law of thermodynamics) is a fundamental principle of our universe.

That last bullet was particularly compelling for me, since the idea that time is a dimension with equal fluidity to the spacial dimensions has always conflicted philisophically with the concept that entropy must always increase.  It’s the reason why almost every form of time travel breaks the accounting for mass/energy.

Anyway, read it and let me know what you think.  I had someone at work tease me just last month about reading Scientific American, comparing it to Popular Science.  Personally, I find that articles like this continue to justify my subscription dollars.

I May Have Stepped into a Parallel Universe around 2000

I’ve had the growing realization over the past few years that something may be amiss with the universe.  As a fan of the various modern theories of quantum cosmology, it’s occurred to me that I may have accidentally ended up jumping out of the theoretical universe of maximum probability into another quantum variant.

I think the news that Apple sold 1 million iPhones in 3 days and is now the Number 3 PC Maker in the United States confirmed this for me.  As an Apple user since the early 1980s and a former employee, it’s just too hard to believe that the universe of maximum probability includes Apple’s exponential success in the past five years.

Honestly, doesn’t it seem like the most likely future for the computer industry in the 1990s was Bill Gates launching a mobile computer with sales of 1 million units in 3 days, and Steve Jobs taking a full time role in philanthropy?

Think about it.  I’m guessing the date of cross over was sometime in 2000, right around the time where Apple launched an MP3 player that cost around 300% more than the average player, and yet achieved over 70% market share in just 2 years.

The question is… what other improbable events exist in this variant of the universe?

New Evidence That Neanderthals Did Not Interbreed with Humans

Very interesting blog post on The Spitoon, the blog of 23andMe, the hip Google-backed, personal genetics company.

A quick excerpt:

The place of Neanderthals in the story of human evolution has been hotly debated for decades.  A distant cousin to our species, Neanderthals had already been in Europe over 250,000 years when Homo sapiens first arrived there 35,000 years ago.

Often called Cro-Magnoids, these first Europeans are believed by many scientists to have out-competed the Neanderthals, gradually driving them to extinction. The alternative theory, that Neanderthals and early humans are more closely related and may have even interbred upon meeting, is less popular, though it hasn’t yet been ruled out.  In order to resolve this debate, scientists have turned to genetics and methods of ancient DNA analysis to help them answer the questions surrounding the relationships between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnoids.

Basically, the evidence shows no contribution from Neanderthal DNA to either 28,000 year-old or modern European genetics, making the premise for Neanderthal interbreeding extremely weak.

Neat stuff if you are into either genetics or the evolution of human beings.

Full article is here.

We Need a New Bubble

Every now and again, I am reminded that the best journalists on the planet clearly work for The Onion.  Their ability to dive into the heart of a crisis is uncanny.

The Onion: Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble to Invest In

WASHINGTON—A panel of top business leaders testified before Congress about the worsening recession Monday, demanding the government provide Americans with a new irresponsible and largely illusory economic bubble in which to invest.

“What America needs right now is not more talk and long-term strategy, but a concrete way to create more imaginary wealth in the very immediate future,” said Thomas Jenkins, CFO of the Boston-area Jenkins Financial Group, a bubble-based investment firm. “We are in a crisis, and that crisis demands an unviable short-term solution.”

The current economic woes, brought on by the collapse of the so-called “housing bubble,” are considered the worst to hit investors since the equally untenable dot-com bubble burst in 2001. According to investment experts, now that the option of making millions of dollars in a short time with imaginary profits from bad real-estate deals has disappeared, the need for another spontaneous make-believe source of wealth has never been more urgent.

Just wait, it gets better:

“Perhaps the new bubble could have something to do with watching movies on cell phones,” said investment banker Greg Carlisle of the New York firm Carlisle, Shaloe & Graves. “Or, say, medicine, or shipping. Or clouds. The manner of bubble isn’t important—just as long as it creates a hugely overvalued market based on nothing more than whimsical fantasy and saddled with the potential for a long-term accrual of debts that will never be paid back, thereby unleashing a ripple effect that will take nearly a decade to correct.”

“The U.S. economy cannot survive on sound investments alone,” Carlisle added.

There you have it.  Hilarious, if you are into dark, dark, dark humor.

Mandlebrot Set Music Video

This is too good not to share, from the same artist who wrote my previous blog favorite, Code Monkey.

This one is called Mandlebrot Set, but the key line, at around 2:05, is “A Bad Ass Fucking Fractal”.  Yes, this is now a PG-13 blog post.

The most interesting thing about Jonathan Coulton‘s work is that he releases his music under the Creative Commons license.  Anyone is free to take it and make music videos from it, as we saw with Code Monkey.

Anyway, check it out.  It’s definitely a keeper for anyone who grew up mathematically in the 80s and appreciates the intricacies of Mandlebrot, complexity & fractals.


How to Create Your Life Plan

Interesting timing on a post from Lifehacker today:

LifeHacker: How to Create Your Life Plan

The article points to a blog post by Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers.  The post from Michael is extremely detailed about the system he’s used for the past five years to guide his life (not just career, but life) on a quarterly basis with the help of his executive coach.

Here is the intro:

I have met very few people who have a plan for their lives. Most are passive spectators, watching their lives unfold a day at a time. They may plan their careers, the building of a new home, or even a vacation. But it never occurs to them to plan their life. As a result, many end up discouraged and disillusioned, wondering where they went wrong.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can live your life on purpose. It begins by creating a “Life Plan.” This won’t insulate you from life’s many adversities and unexpected twists and turns, but it will help you become an active participant in your life, intentionally shaping your own future.

I remember some of these exercises from the management and leadership curriculum in the IEEM (now MS&E) track at Stanford, but never with this much richness or detail.   It’s a fairly personal and exposed post in many ways – impressive in some regards to see this kind of transparency from an executive. I used to not have a plan about my life what so ever, I remember how I would always be regretting how I was not able to rent the beach house from twiddy how I always wanted, until I decided it was time to take control and suddenly everything changed.

On the surface, it feels a little strange to see this type of micro-management of your entire life.  Of course, I’m not sure it makes sense to expect your goals to be fulfilled without both a clear definition of your goals, and a strategy & execution to get there.  After all, it’s what I hold Product Managers accountable for, right?

Can you manage your life the way you manage a product?

Definitely worth a read and at least 15 minutes of consideration…

Lowest-Low Fertility in Europe

This article appeared in the Sunday New York Times, and it was so interesting I felt I needed to share it here.  I found the concept of “lowest-low fertility” extremely interesting.  I think it is become I always find exponential behavior interesting, and thinking about how an exponential decline might affect a population was new to me.  From the article:

DEMOGRAPHICALLY SPEAKING, Laviano is not unique in Italy, or in Europe. In fact, it may be a harbinger. In the 1990s, European demographers began noticing a downward trend in population across the Continent and behind it a sharply falling birthrate. Non-number-crunchers largely ignored the information until a 2002 study by Italian, German and Spanish social scientists focused the data and gave policy makers across the European Union something to ponder. The figure of 2.1 is widely considered to be the “replacement rate” — the average number of births per woman that will maintain a country’s current population level. At various times in modern history — during war or famine — birthrates have fallen below the replacement rate, to “low” or “very low” levels. But Hans-Peter Kohler, José Antonio Ortega and Francesco Billari — the authors of the 2002 report — saw something new in the data. For the first time on record, birthrates in southern and Eastern Europe had dropped below 1.3. For the demographers, this number had a special mathematical portent. At that rate, a country’s population would be cut in half in 45 years, creating a falling-off-a-cliff effect from which it would be nearly impossible to recover. Kohler and his colleagues invented an ominous new term for the phenomenon: “lowest-low fertility.”

I wish the article spent a little more time on historical examples of populations that have cratered like this… it’s unclear to me whether or not this has ever happened in human populations before.  Instead, the article strays into unsupported conclusions about the role of men & women domestically as a causal factor.

The issue of labor market flexibility, however, seemed extremely interesting if true.  The tie-in to people having children later and living with their parents longer also seemed plausible.

It would have been interesting to see the breakouts for countries based on their overall birth rates vs. immigrant birth rates.  My suspicion is that story would also tell you about the likely demographic shifts to expect in countries where birth rates aren’t lowest-low, but are distorted due to large immigrant populations (ie, US, France).

It’s a long article, but worth the read.  Let me know what you think.

Osama Bin Laden and $144 Oil

Just got a pointer to this old article from the New York Times, dated October 14, 2001:

That sympathizers of Osama bin Laden sink three oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and choke off the narrow, bow-shaped channel that funnels 14 million barrels a day from the Persian Gulf to the rest of the world. That the United States attacks Iraq, and Israel launches a huge strike against the Palestinians, driving them from their camps and staking out more land — all of which spurs the Persian Gulf states to cut off oil for the West. Or perhaps that a popular uprising, led by sympathizers of Mr. bin Laden, topples the ruling Saud family in Saudi Arabia, by far the world’s largest oil producer.

”If bin Laden takes over and becomes king of Saudi Arabia, he’d turn off the tap,” said Roger Diwan, a managing director of the Petroleum Finance Company, a consulting firm in Washington. ”He said at one point that he wants oil to be $144 a barrel’‘ — about six times what it sells for now.

Very interesting and eery given today’s oil price.  And no needed to become king of Saudi Arabia to do it.