Tag: Apple


Do you own or rent?

When it comes to computing, history has gone back and forth between what I would call the “owner model” and the “renter model”. The question is what’s the best approach and how do you determine that?

Back in the day when people like John von Neumann were busy inventing the computer to work out H-bomb calculations, there was more or less a renter model in place. Computers were obviously quite expensive and so not everyone could have one. If you wanted to do your calculation, you’d walk down to the computer room, give them your punch cards with your program written out, and they’d run it for you. Sometime later you’d get some print out with the results of your program. 

A little later, with time-sharing types of machines, you could have dumb terminals login to a central server and run your calculations that way. I guess that saved you the walk to the computer room (and all the punch cards). I still remember some of these green-screen dumb terminals from my grad school days (yes, UCLA still had these monstrosities in 1999). 

With personal computers in the 80s, you could own your own computer, so there was no need to depend on some central computer (and a connection to it) to do the work for you. As computing components got cheaper, these personal computers got more and more powerful and rivaled the servers of yore. It was difficult for me to imagine ever needing things like mainframes again except for some esoteric applications. Especially, with the development of Linux, you could have all the power of a Unix mainframe on your desk or lap (or now your palm). 

But here we are, with Jeff buying a Chromebook. Have we just taken a step back in time? Is cloud computing and the renter model the way to go? I have to say that I was a big fan of “cloud computing” back in the day. But once Linux came around, I really didn’t think there was a need for the thin client/fat server model.

But it seems we are going back that way and the reason seems to be because of mobile devices. Mobile devices are now just small computers, so many people own at least two computers (a “real” computer and a phone). With multiple computers, it’s a pain to have to synchronize both the data and the applications on them. If they’re made by different manufacturers then you can’t even have the same operating system/applications on the devices. Also, no one cares about the operating system anymore, so why should it have to be managed? The cloud helps solve some of these problems, as does owning devices from the same company (as I do, Apple fanboy that I am).

I think the all-renter model of the Chromebook is attractive, but I don’t think it’s ready for prime time just yet. Two reasons I can think of are (1) Microsoft Office and (2) slow network connections. If you want to make Jeff very unhappy, you can either (1) send him a Word document that needs to be edited in Track Changes; or (2) invite him to an international conference on some remote island. The need for a strong network connection is problematic because I’ve yet to encounter a hotel that had a fast enough connection for me to work remotely over on our computing cluster. For that reason I’m sticking with my current laptop.


A statistician and Apple fanboy buys a Chromebook...and loves it!

I don’t mean to brag, but I was an early Apple Fanboy - not sure that is something to brag about now that I write it down. I convinced my advisor to go to all Macs in our lab in 2004. Since then I have been pretty dedicated to the brand, dutifully shelling out almost 2g’s every time I need a new laptop. I love the way Macs just work (until they don’t and you need a new laptop).

But I hate the way Apple seems to be dedicated to bleeding every last cent out of me. So I saved up my Christmas gift money (thanks Grandmas!) and bought a Chromebook. It cost me $350 and I was at least in part inspired by these clever ads

So far I’m super pumped about the performance of the Chromebook. Things I love:

  1. About 10 seconds to boot from shutdown, instantly awake from sleep
  2. Super long battery life - 8 hours a charge might be an underestimate
  3. Size - its a 12 inch laptop and just right for sitting on my lap and typing
  4. Since everything is cloud based,  nothing to install/optimize

It took me a while to get used to the Browser being the operating system. When I close the last browser window, I expect to see the Desktop. Instead, a new browser window pops up. But that discomfort only lasted a short time. 

It turns out I can do pretty much everything I do on my Macbook on the Chromebook. I can access our department’s computing cluster by turning on developer mode and opening a shell (thanks Caffo!). I can do all my word processing on google docs. Email is just gmail as usual. Scribtex for latex (Caffo again). Google Music is so awesome I wish I had started my account before I got my Chromebook. The only thing I’m really trying to settle on is a cloud-based code editor with syntax highlighting. I’m open to suggestions (Caffo?). 

I’m starting to think I could bail on Apple….


Apple this is ridiculous - you gotta upgrade to upgrade!?

So along with a few folks here around Hopkins we have been kicking around the idea of developing an app for the iPhone/Android. I’ll leave the details out for now (other than to say stay tuned!). 

But to start developing an app for the iPhone, you need a version of Xcode, Apple’s development environment. The latest version of Xcode is version 4, which can only be installed with the latest version of Mac OS X Lion (10.7, I think) and above. So I dutifully went off to download Lion. Except, whoops! You can only download Lion from the Mac App store. 

Now this wouldn’t be a problem, if you didn’t need OS X Snow Leopard (10.6 and above) to access the App store. Turns out I only have version 10.5 (must be OS X Housecat or something). I did a little searching and it looks like the only way I can get Lion is if I buy Snow Leopard first and upgrade to upgrade!

It isn’t the money so much (although it does suck to pay $60 for $30 worth of software), but the time and inconvenience this causes. Apple has done this a couple of times to me in the past with operating systems needing to be upgraded so I can buy things from iTunes. But this is getting out of hand….maybe I need to consider the alternatives