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Monday
Mar012004

Monday Tidbits

Monday again. No real theme, so it's a tidbits day. Yea! :-)

Eastern Standard Tribe
Finished reading Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe this weekend and enjoyed it. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom remains my favorite of Cory's books, and I also prefer several of the short stories in A Place So Foreign and 8 More over EST. But EST is still a fun read — I found myself laughing out loud at several points in the book.

Problems with the book for me were grasping the current time/flashback. I felt a little bombarded with things as I began the book and put it down for a few weeks. When I came back things improved. I dunno if it was me or Cory's approach to flashbacks, but it took until about chapter 8 until I figured out what was going on and began enjoying the book.

Cory's view of the future is stil quite interesting nonetheless. One key part of this story is the centrality of "comms" in the narrative. From what I could figure, the comm is a very smart mobile device that acts as a phone, video camera, audio note taker and full blown PC in a handheld package. Comms communicate via "squirting" data between each other, though a full time high-end net connection is pretty clearly present too.

I didn't feel as connected to EST's characters as in Cory's other books, and I don't know just why. Maybe it was their personalities. Not sure.

I also felt this book had a higher level of profanity than Cory's other works, and I'm generally one who feels that profanity in general media (films, books) is used way more than really necessary. Yeah, I realize people really use that kind of language at times, but it often gets in the way, when a lesser word or no profanity at all would work just as well.

Overall EST gets a lower mark than Cory's other books, but is still a fun read, once you get used to the flashback theme of the story.

PDAs vs. Mini PCs Thoughts
Looks like Andy's comments about the future of mobile devices is getting some great responses. I was very pleased to see comments and trackbacks on that piece, as I felt it was very challenging and thought provoking.

After reading EST a thought came to me: If indeed devices of the future are as powerful as notebooks of today, why couldn't you be free to choose the format you feel most comfy using? If someone is a very mobile person, why not the form of a smartphone, and if you're less mobile, maybe that of a Tungsten T3, a Newton, a Tablet PC, a laptop or a desktop?

The OS itself could even be tweaked, so that one OS "skin" would look just like Windows, another like OS X, another like Linux, another like a Symbian / Palm OS / Windows smartphone? The OS is really just a conceptual way to deal with files, text and pixels, so why not treat it more as a skin that's customizable?

And that brings me to the point of modularity... why not a "core" that can be plugged into one or many different device shells? That way you could have a smartphone when you needed it or a laptop or whatever when you needed that? I suppose it comes back to my WorkPod idea.

Lastly, on comments from Andy's post, I think Tom Stoneham has a great point about age difference and interest in learning.

"Young children have no problem whatsoever learning new interfaces. They happily switch between different desktops, game consoles and mobile phones with rapid 'need-to-know' learning curves."

I do think older users are more resistant to new things than younger users. Still, I think most people (not tech people) are inherently lazy about learning new things unless they have a good reason to. Kids now are maybe less lazy because the see value to knowing how to work technology for their needs and benefits.

But this does put computer and device makers in an interesting spot. Do they design devices for the young, knowing they will be willing to invest learning time, or do they moderate for the huge glut of baby boomers who are much more resistant to learning new things? Hmmm.

Have a great Monday. See you tomorrow.

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