Brent's Place

Entrepreneur, information systems professional, and lifelong student, Brent enjoys cooking, curry, the Ukulele, and his wonderful family.

#technology

Apple Rumor Roundup - January 16th, 2013

This article originally appeared on KSL.com’s Tech & Gadgets section.

Two weeks into 2013 and the Apple rumor mill has already produced a grab bag of speculation. Based on the consensus of various news sources and analysts, here are the top five rumors circulating since the new year:

  • Apple gearing up for great year in China

    Apple’s CEO Tim Cook recently returned from a trip to China, where he spent considerable time in Beijing with the chairman of China Mobile, Xi Guohua.

    While no confirmed details of their meeting or discussion topics have leaked, an in-person meeting with leadership of a network with 700 million subscribers indicates Apple’s interest in expanding its Chinese market share with the largest mobile network in the world.

    Public remarks by Cook confirmed Apple also intends to expand retail operations to 25 locations in China and to expand Apple’s digital presence by deploying new servers for iTunes, App Store, and other Internet services in China. Such a deployment would improve download speeds, performance, and otherwise enable more Chinese consumers to access Apple products and services.

    Finally, Chinese web portal Tencent reported Apple plans to open research and development facilities in China. Such a move could be part of Tim Cook’s plans to smooth the approvals process for Apple products so new hardware can go to market in China in conjunction with product launches in the United States.

  • New iPads, iPhones coming sooner rather than later

    Unsurprisingly, Apple is at work on new hardware for release this year. Last year, Apple launched the iPad mini and a new “generation 4” iPad less than 6 months after the release of the 3rd-generation iPad, upsetting most reports and analyst expectations. There are now rumors circulating that new iPads may arrive as early as March and a new iPhone 5s as early as June.

    While this would be breaking the historical pattern of new device and new software once a year, a more frequent release cycle may help to smooth Apple’s sales figures and may help combat competitors with more rapid release cycles.

    June and March releases of next generation iPhone and iPad products, respectively, would be consistent with historical product launches in March as well as at Apple’s annual developer conference, typically held in early June.

  • Cheaper iPhone? Maybe not

    Sources at Digitimes and the Wall Street Journal have reported that Apple’s next strategic move to combat less expensive competitors, particular in emerging markets like India and China, includes producing a consumer variety of the iPhone.

    Using less expensive parts and replacing metal casings with plastic, these reports suppose that by bending to economic pressure to lower prices, Apple may gain significant market share where Android, Windows phones, and feature phones are otherwise more available. Such reports were refuted by Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President over marketing at Apple, who said in a recent Reuters report, “We are not like other companies, launching multiple products at once, then hoping one will get the attention of consumers.”


    Credit: CNN

    Strangely enough, however, Reuters withdrew the article, citing “substantial changes to the story.” While this does put a strange twist on the rumor of a cheap iPhone, Apple’s own pricing and track record and penchant for flawless design still dampen the likelihood of such a product ever existing.

  • iPhone sales demand halved? Probably not

    Following a dramatic series of reports and analyses, Apple’s stock plunged below $500 for the first time in 11 months. Reports emerged that Apple had cut component orders by half, citing weak demand forecasts for the iPhone 5 moving into spring and summer sales.

    These reports, originally published by the Wall Street Journal, claimed that Apple had halved display purchases from 65 million to around 30 million for spring quarter. Subsequent analyses refute the claims, citing consistent sales forecasts of 35 million iPhones for what is typically a less productive quarter anyway, not to mention iPods, iPads, and other products.

    Combined with general softening that happens prior to new product launches (like the rumored iPhone 5s), these doomsday reports are being branded as largely unfounded, so much so that the Wall Street Journal removed reference to the 65 million figure in its original article.

  • The future of the iPhone

    Eventually, someone is going to create a better iPhone, iPad, or other “smart” device that becomes indispensable, and Apple knows that this someone has to be them if they plan on dominating the next decade of devices.

    With the launch of the iPad mini, many analysts have reported that this new iPad feels like the “real iPad” — the size, the weight, the thickness is all just right.

    Jon Mitchell from Read Write Web suggests that the next frontier could be the smart watch. ”A watch could be a “phone,” couldn’t it? … It’s the phone that’s the awkward size. That’s the thing I drop all the time. If I had a smart watch and a tablet, I wouldn’t need anything in my pocket at all.”

    Many Android handset makers have concluded that the connection between the tablet and smartphone is the future; finding the balance between aesthetics and functionality is now the focus, as is evidenced by the Samsung Galaxy’s significantly larger screen size compared to iPhones and other smart phones.

2013’s rumor mill is already off to a great start. As we find out which rumors are true and which are just good stories, the future of what we put in our pockets (and perhaps on our wrists) will become clearer for Apple and its competitors.

On Anarchists, Hacking Legal Code, and Gits

Note: The first bit of this post may be a bit technical - please bear with me as I try my best to explain what is, in my opinion, one of the best-kept secrets in the technology world. Hopefully I can communicate what GitHub could mean to management styles, governments, citizens, and making the world a better place in general. If you’d like to skip the technical stuff, just browse down a bit to the “End of Technical Stuff” comment below.

In recent conversations I’ve found myself bringing up this certain company an awful lot: GitHub. They recently landed $100 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz. Yes, that is correct: $100 million in funding from one venture capital firm, also the first investment capital they’ve taken since inception. Pretty impressive, especially when you look at how much they’ve accomplished so far. Before diving too far into this, however, let’s explore what GitHub is all about.

Read More »

HTML Emails are almost as bad as printers

I’m oft quoted saying that the worst thing to try and get working in the tech world is a printer. There are so many points of failure (driver, network connectivity, ink, paper, jams, mechanical failures, present zodiac configuration, etc.) that bring a printer down that they are the bane of my tech support existence. Fortunately, I’m more of a programmer and not a tech support guy, but when duty calls and someone needs a printer fixed, I am inclined to just tell them to go get a new printer and throw out the old one (Ink is cheaper that way, anyway).

HTML Emails are almost as bad as printers.
HTML Emails are normal eMails that are structured like web pages internally. Instead of just a bunch of letters in the email, it includes layout, content, and styling information to make really nifty looking emails. It’s not an attachment, it’s what you actually see when you open the eMail. I’m really excited for the day when HTML is a first-class citizen in eMail browsers, letting you run javascript and display images (Granted, we’ll need to have security bulletproof email readers, but I’m an optimist). For now, though, there isn’t any standard means of formatting and displaying an HTML eMail - it’s still an evolving element of the internet.
As it happens, Google (you may have heard of ‘em) has this thing called GMail (You might be using it). GMail does not support HTML eMail very well. Most mail clients - From Apple Mail to Windows clients and all sorts of stuff in between on all platforms - support HTML. You can render pages in the email, and it looks pretty good. Unless it’s in GMail (and some other clients). You’d think Google would find this kind of thing second nature - but they don’t, sadly. Yeah, I’m afraid GMail doesn’t let you use a lot of the markup available in CSS and HTML, stuff that’s necessary to make really good looking messages.
For the time being, I’m having to improvise to make good looking HTML messages.
For the future, I think everyone that cares should take a look at www.email-standards.org and read up on their efforts to standardize eMail clients across the board. They even keep track of clients and where they fall short with automated testing. It’s a start, and I hope it goes a long way.

Tech Startup Guide Presentation

I recently gave a presentation on Bootstrap Startup Technology Resources for the Web Startup Group at BYU. I’ve attached my slides for anyone to check out. Enjoy!

Startup Tech Guide

There are good people in the world

Sorry for the misleading title - if you’re looking for something sentimental, this isn’t exactly it - I’m evangelizing a development platform I’ve started working with today.

This is a quick post, as I’m about to fall flat on my face from tiredness. But, this is worth the few extra minutes online tonight:

Appcelerator.com produces the Titanium platform and SDK. Titanium lets developers build native apps for desktops, mobile apps, and the web using just HTML, CSS, Javascript, and PHP/Ruby/Python. Basically it’s my dream come true, since I believe that HTML, CSS, and Javascript can be taught to Jr. High School students for sure!

Build a Node.js Server on Amazon EC2

So I’ve started working on deploying a Node.js app to the Amazon cloud. Here are my notes if you’d like to give it a shot.

The Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform is really awesome,  in that they give you a free-tier for a year to get started,  then it’s pennies after that depending on what you use. I’m told that for a simple server it’s about $15/month, which isn’t bad all things considered. Here is the un-annotated guide to getting a Node.js server up and running with all the nice trimmings.
  1. Go to console.aws.amazon.com and set up an account. You link it to a credit card, btw - so far, I’ve incurred $0.44 due to some things I’ve overlooked like unused IPs I’ve provisioned and database severs I’ve set up before realizing how “expensive” they were (Since, you know, .05/hour is so bad - then again, if you weren’t careful, that could rack up quick - word to the wise for amateurs like me is to keep an eye on your usage and your bill for the first couple of days after you’re set up to see what’s costing you and where you can cut back).
  2. Visit https://console.aws.amazon.com/ec2/home?region=us-west-1#launchAmi=ami-cba1fe8e to get a 64-bit Ubuntu server image and follow the installation instructions.
  3. Make sure the security group you set up allows at least port 22 and port 80. Download the SSH identity file, save it somewhere safe (I use ~/.ssh to keep things simple).
  4. Look at getting an elastic IP address and assign it to your box so you have a static way to access the server. They’re free once they’re assigned, if you allocate but don’t assign an address it costs.
  5. Log in via SSH: ssh -i <identity>.pem ubuntu@your.server.IP.here
  6. Start running the following commands (You could copy paste the next section into your terminal if you like)
# Do your updates
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade -y
# Install base libraries for building stuff and doing development
sudo apt-get install build-essential libssh-dev git-core -y
# Download Node.js and get it built and installed
tar zxf node-v0.4.11.tar.gz
cd node-v0.4.11
./configure
sudo make install
# Install the node package manager
That should do it for you! From there, you can install node packages that you need to get things up and running alright.

Node.js

Wow, things are really cool in Node.js!

Traditional application models like LAMP use servers that are thread-driven. This means that when I connect to the server, my request blocks others until it’s finished processing, whereupon those next in line connect.

Node.js is event-driven, meaning that the server can route requests and request data from databases, but it does not wait for each completed transaction before continuing. It’s like a fast food restaurant: The cashier takes each order and posts it to the kitchen, but the cashier doesn’t wait for each order to be completed, nor does the restaurant “scale” by adding more cashiers. While users still wait, the cashier isn’t overwhelmed with too much work to handle.

Check out http://nodebeginner.org/ and learn more about Node.js and why everybody should take a look at it, at least, if not learn how it works and how to use it. On top of all that, it’s written in a way that many computer savvy individuals who might struggle with JavaScript can understand.

World Famous Startup Tech Guide

I’ve worked with setting up technology infrastructure for several companies and thought I’d make a shortlist of resources that I use, in order, when setting up the initial technology architecture for a business.

While your mileage may vary, this list will get you launched out the door for as little as $250 in a very big way. If you like, I help people get these services set up - I’ve set up several businesses with these services, and am available to help set services up. Contact me and we’ll talk.

Legal (Varies, $80 minimum probably)

LegalZoom.com is a great place to start with, however if you have the funds or know what you’re doing a full-fledged law firm is clearly superior. I have personally had a good experience using Utah’s business registration portal to get things set up, but getting advice from legal counsel is important before you sign anything.

I recommend BTJD if you’re looking for a full service, very startup-friendly law firm based out of Salt Lake City. If you’re in the Utah ecosystem, Jared Richards is often at and/or organizes LaunchUp events, and he’s an attorney with BTJD. He’s a great person to meet up with at a networking event like LaunchUp if you’re looking for legal direction or services that are more robust than self-organized LLCs.

I feel like putting a disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer nor do I plan on being a lawyer: get legal advice and counsel for any business formation/restructuring actions you make.

Web Hosting

Because the internet is the core of business technology nowadays, I have three tiers of web hosting services listed below. Dreamhost is the middle of the road, Amazon is for the gurus who still might need other parts of this guide, and Google Sites is for the technologically impaired.

Dreamhost.com ($10/month or less + Domain Registration)

Dreamhost is one of the best hosting providers I’ve ever worked with. Inexpensive, great support, excellent uptime, and fabulous resources. Use my brent50off as a coupon code when registering to get $50 off your hosting plan!

For those who are more intrepid…

Amazon Web Services (Can be free for the first year, about $15/month minimum after that, scales up to $1k+/month when you use it like that)

Amazon Web Services is what many people call “the cloud.” It’s a platform for those with more engineering experience than the vast majority of people. If you’re savvy (or know someone who is) you could potentially set up IT services for your startup for the cost of a domain registration, but be set up on the same scalable infrastructure that powers some of the worlds largest websites.

If you’re not afraid of (or not afraid to learn about) SSH, setting up instances, load balancers, IP addresses, database servers, reverse proxies, and other technobabble, then this is definitely for you. 

For the technology novice…

Google Sites (Free+Domain Registration)

Google Sites gives you a simple way to build a great site for free and edit it however you like. The domain registration fee of about $10 gives you YourDomainHere.com/net/org/info/etc. and you now own a piece of the internet! It also is insanely easy to set up if you use this in conjunction with Google Apps (see below).

Google Apps for Business (Free!)

With Dreamhost, you get super straightforward connection with Google Apps, including Google Hosted eMail, Docs, Calendar, etc. This also opens you up for using applications from the Google ecosystem which are insanely useful (see below). Google Docs is especially useful when getting started, since it gives you a place to collaborate on spreadsheets and work without an office at all.

CloudFlare (Free!)

Imagine having a ninja watching your website 24/7, and this Ninja also speeds your site up and distributes it across the internet so it’s lightning fast no matter where you are in the world. That’s what Cloudflare is! For the technically savvy, CloudFlare serves your DNS and directs requests for your website through their data centers, providing security measures as well as analytics and a performance boost. They boast that you’ll decrease server load and bandwidth costs, and if your site has a heavy traffic hit they cache your static resources so your site doesn’t go down and you still enjoy all the traffic.

Wave Accounting (Free!)

Wave Accounting is 100% free accounting that rivals QuickBooks, including free payroll (This is a big deal). They import automatically from your bank/credit cards and provide full accounting services that even accountants will appreciate. Wave Accounting profits from business affiliate offers they provide to their users, taking a percentage of referrals for business services you need anyway (Hosting, business cards, that kind of stuff).

Google Voice (Free!)

Get your own phone number and link it to your mobile/existing phone line for free! It’s very straightforward, fabulous, and integrates with your Google Apps for Business we talked about earlier.

Twilio ($1/month/number, 1¢/min. outbound)

Twilio provides API access to complete telephony products, including number provisioning, call placing, receiving, automated responses (recorded and text-to-speech), SMS integration, conferencing, and a bunch of other stuff. It’s free to start using at first, and they give you a $30 credit for numbers and minutes so you have room to experiment before buying your first number and linking in a credit card.

WordpressJoomlaDrupalConcrete5 (Free!)

These are content management systems that are also free which give you what you need to set your website up. Dreamhost has one click installers for each of them, so it’s possible to get these set up without an ounce of technical experience.

This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, but it’s a great start to the foundational technologies that will help get any business off to a great start!