Friday, December 31, 2010

The hegemony of just cause

Hello, my name is Peter Obiefuna, and this is an open letter to you that seeks to capture some of the random reminiscences of my mind as I tumbled in my sleep and bemoan the lost opportunities that characterize the last couple of years in the Nigeria Association of Alberta (NAA) in Edmonton.

Background: The Idowu Appeal

Late in the month of November 2010, a certain young man named Idowu, wrote a letter to the Board of Directors of NAA demanding some of his constitutionally protected rights inter alia, an opening of the books of the association and the tabling of a special resolution at a General Meeting on a future date. This letter was signed by Idowu (for and on behalf of a long list of names).
Incidentally, the NAA Board appeared to have ignored the demands since it did not respond to Idowu's letter, nor fulfilled its demands within the time span mandated by the constitution nor did it insert the special resolution item in the agenda of a meeting scheduled for December, 2010 nor did it bring up this matter during a call-to-order opening remarks at the meeting. This meeting did not continue much longer in the direction the Board had hoped because Idowu raised a constitutional matter to introduce his concern and thus began the improv that culminated in a sudden and unusual end of the meeting several hours later. Following that meeting, an upheaval ensued in the community and more emails have so far been generated on this matter than all other community emails put together since time began. I created and dedicated a forum named NAA Speaks Out to this cause as a way for every one to speak their mind.

Legacy in Indented Poetry

The most significant of the things I hear from the defenders of this NAA Board is that the Idowu appeal was not legitimate in that some of the names on the long list (I told you about) are not even members of NAA. There are many other arguments like this one. There have been abundant conversations, conspiracy theories and innuendoes around the Board's capacity to govern, financial probity and accountability. There have been accusations that tribalism and ethnic dominance is at the root of the NAA problem. We have branched these conversations into so many pieces and fragments that I am uncertain that the main subject has received any attention at all. We are writing a legacy for our children in indented poetry and are lost in the depth of our own indentations. We have lost count and have forgotten how many [SHIFT][TAB]s we need to press to come back up to the root issues:
a. A member requested to see the books of the association (this should have happened within two days of the request) and that has not happened as I write.
b. A member sponsored a special resolution in writing and that motion was not put on the agenda for the next general meeting.

We are writing immortal words of gross miscarriage of justice and we don't care who is listening. In my minds eye, I clearly see our grandchildren and great-grandchildren craning their ears from years far in the future, trying to sift through the rubble of our illogic, hoping to hear the wise words of their hero, the legendary us. And the following is the picture they get:

One of the grandpas who lived in 2010 took his child to his local Hospital and entrusted the child to the Doctor. A few visits later, grandpa not only noticed that the child was getting sicker and sicker. The child who walked in on both legs is now in a coma and is dying. Grandpa looks around and sees that his child is dying, a specially recruited team of 7 doctors was promised but only 1 or 2 remained, and the promised open-book breakdown of how the medication is procured and administered has not been given in a long time. Grandpa appeals to hospital administration to execute a standing agreement to (a) let him see the financial breakdown and (b) set up the right team of doctors, properly hired as stipulated in the contract. To grandpa's surprise, hospital administration was divided. The group that supported the one die-hard doctor played the drum-beat of the doctor, "Some members of Grandpa's family are owing on medical bills and so, we can't even consider the request". The group supporting Grandpa was also playing the drum-beat of grandpa's vocal first son, "The doctor thinks he is untouchable because he is a member of the dominant 'doctors from the eastern border'". In all of this, the main issues remain relatively unaddressed: (i) What will happen to the comatose child? (ii) When will Grandpa see the financial breakdown? (iii) Is Grandpa's family an exception or a whistle-blower microcosm of the predominant sentiment in a colossally ill community?
That is the legacy we are seeping out today like the oozing of the last few drops of sap from a jaundiced breed of ancient trees. And it did not start today.

The Hegemonies

I dare say (for it is a deeply forbidden subject), that the Nigeria of my era (BTW: I will be 50 years old next May) is socialized around hegemonies that often manifest themselves as very dark caucuses of allegiance, protection and conspiracy. A man working in the Federal Ministry of Lands got that job because another man helped him get it. So it is for a man, a man or a man. These hegemonies constitute the dominant operational force behind what projects got done, who got chosen, where you got posted, where you went to school and what course you studied. These hegemonies were the Nigerian mafia that propelled the publicly facing, democratic, documented, due process, equality policies of all forms of the social structures where people my age and over grew up. The operations of these hegemonies are sometimes so complex that a smaller but viciously powerful cult within a larger group uses that larger group as a cover and makes decisions that further the interest of the cult. Then, it rubber-stamps those decisions with the seal of the more politically correct group. Worse of all, because these hegemonies prospered through a passion fuelled by hate, they were easy to pass down to offspring (seeing how hate is so close to the human nature that it is easy to acquire; the hard work being to love unconditionally). Most children that grew up in my time would have benefited or fallen victim to one or more of these hegemonies, and either way grew to think that they are inevitable ingredients of our polity.
So, when a man of my age arrives Edmonton even in the obvious face of relative independence from the shackles and limitations that forced us to bow to hegemony rule, we still seek them out, operate through them and are subject to them. So, it is common to find many of my age in a common discourse among Nigerians pandering to tribal and religious hegemonies. The symptoms can be subtle and overt. The overt may be like a leader of all Nigerians feeling that he is safer in a conversation if it includes more members of his Church or tribe than otherwise, and actually acts out that insecurity. The subtle is like what I call "The Dead Leaf Effect" whereby anytime a member of a hegemony says something, no matter how stupid, everyone in that group echoes the same thing or is at pain to clearly counter it based on facts. I call it The Dead Leaf Effect because to do this, a normally smart person will have to act brain dead, will have to fall where the others are falling and can be blown by the wind that passing by it's base tree, and ultimately the person loses luster and glow in the eyes of the untainted.
This is a serious sociological and historical Nigerian problem. It happens to different degrees elsewhere but the degree to which it happened in the Nigeria of my time was immensely mind-altering. An American parallel of this kind of effect is Slavery. It would be harder for a 65 year-old white American farmer who grew up in the South to vote for a black President than a 21 year-old University student. The farmer grew up in a system that molded him in a way that is not consistent with freedom of thought; fact-based thought. Freedom? I just realize that the slave owner was in as much a shackle as the shackle he put on his slaves. He is in bondage to the extent that he is not free to embrace the resources that abound outside the confines of his prejudices and the fears and uncertainties they bring him.

The hegemony of Just Cause

There's got to be a reason why "youth" and "learning" are some of the quickest catalysts to social change. And that is why the walls of schools are often the breeding ground of great ideals. First, because there's got to be a hope for us in the future, our children will necessarily have to start off smarter and less encumbered than us. Second, young people don't yet have such a long list of people to owe obeisance for finding them jobs, co-sponsoring their wedding, helping to sponsor their immigrant application, and all those things that help to opiate the velocity of an impulse driven primarily by purity of purpose. Some of us can no longer afford to be idealistic but we too were! Remember back in the day when virtually every year students were killed during clashes with government agencies during campus riots in Nigeria because as students, we wanted change? And every year, we marched again, and again and again. Every year, it was us. Not our parents, not the businessmen, not the workers, it was us. The students. The epitome of ideality.. just cause unbridled!
Look what we have become now. We know of the problems in Edmonton NAA. We always knew. The major tribes rally around their key tribal leaders. The minor tribes do too. It's not so demonstrable but they do. Very much so. And they also do exert political influence, at least at the level of The Dead Leaf Effect. When we have issues in Edmonton, instead of putting it on the table and discussing it as Nigerians, the more organized hegemonies call a meeting to evolve a common front; the less organized ones do a phone network and the minority ones do home visit. By and large when NAA meets, it's more like a delegates conference of men in bondage (Of course, there are always exceptions but this post is not about exceptions). Most people don't tell you what they think until they know what their leaders think. When someone from a small group becomes a leader, we present it as a democracy but it works as hegemony. Sometimes, the key leaders of the hegemonies would meet to strike a certain level of balance and provide a code of conduct for keeping the pressure below boiling point. Unfortunately recently, something went wrong with the cordiality among the key leaders of the hegemonies. They are not friends anymore. There's no one to pull the safety cap on the pressure pot and it kept mounting for about 3 years now.
All along, we never thought there would be another hegemony; the one to whose name the title of this post is dedicated: The Hegemony of Just Cause.
When Idowu had a concern, he did not go to a tribal or religious leaning or a secret cult. He went to people that believe in the cause he was proposing and that believe that that cause is just. You don't have to agree with them but you must respect their right to believe; their right to do something about their belief; and their right to get a hearing. Their method may not be as "orderly" as you want but you must stop delegitimizing your own people just because you don't agree with them. They have a wind behind them. And for once in a long time, they are being driven by life and by belief in the cause at stake not the agreement enacted and sealed under a secret handshake, a sign of the cross or star or a tribal chant.
I call on you because somewhere deep inside of you, you used to be like these young people. Even now that you and I are no longer like they are, we like to think that we are. We call ourselves self-glorifying names like, "Straight-shooter"s, "Call-a-spade-a-spader"ers, "stating-just-the-facts"ers. We never call ourselves bondmen of our own negative socializing who have lived in and passed through Canada ("the true North strong and free") without letting Canada pass through us, at least, to adjust our mangled compass to point again to the "True North" of fair play.

The Moratorium on Legacy

Shakespeare said, "There is no art to find the mind's construction in the face".
I cannot tell what you are thinking right now. I cannot tell why you are holding out. I cannot tell why you are taking or giving advice that can only protract the awful days that this association has been plunged into. It appears like you are holding out until the young people just tire and just fall asleep; or they suddenly agree with you. One of the contributors on the forum who wrote in defense of the NAA Board wants us to hang out till March when the board plans to conduct elections. There are a few strange things about this contributor: First, I have reason to believe that this contribution is from a person using a false name to advance this agenda. Second, how does a guy from Auckland NZ already know when this Board has "slated" elections when even date has not yet been announced? I don't know if this is what the board wants to do ... just buy time and string this out till March, conduct an early election and then go. Somehow, this must represent some kind of victory for someone. Apparently, the purported early January meeting notice is yet to be sent out and the notice of special resolution has not yet been communicated to all members (meaning that the 3-week countdown may not have started). And would that be Victory over what? Over your own people? Young people, our own children who are trying to be what we were proud to be in our days?
I can assure you that there is no victory to be won in this thing other than the victory of being on the right side of Legacy. To record your stand for or against a desire by these young people to be heard, a desire to be respected as equal members of NAA and citizens of Nigeria and a desire for their concern to be addressed is the challenge we all face. You don't have to agree with them. You only have to support and help to create an arena for their views to be heard and given due consideration. Do it for your own children. These young people are older than your children. When your own children grow up, they will also want to be heard and respected. Here is your chance to teach these young people of today how to respect your own children of tomorrow.
Please do not let your advisers overrate March/April/May 2011. That day only represents the latest day of the best case scenario for people who don't even want to consider listening to these young people. It is not the day that all these concerns go away. Beyond that day, motions could still be moved and passed that would characterize and record for all eternity, everything that the General Assembly deems appropriate against the names of persons both within and without the Board who are helping to keep NAA in coma. You will be immortalizing a Legacy. You will be refinancing 3-4 months of self-pride for an eternity of whatever you leave behind after that.

Beast of No Nation: Man of All Nations

My name is Peter Obiefuna. I am a Nigerian Canadian. I am a software architect in a company that boasts about 31,000 employees. My office building in Edmonton has 19 floors and I only see 2 of my kind in there. I studied MS computer science in North Carolina and was the only one of my kind in that class ever (as in, the history of mankind). I have worked in Universities in the United States and Jamaica, countries not my own.
My parents are from Umudike Ukpor in Anambra State of Nigeria, a very diminutive village by comparison. I was born in Aba, Abia State; Went to primary school in a village not my own; Went to Church at Salvation Army a minority religious denomination; Went to secondary school at Oraifite, a town not my own; Went to University in Benin for first degree and Masters (not Nsukka in my cashment area); Did Youth Service in Sokoto, lived and worked all my working life in Calabar, Cross River State; Did a PhD in Unilag, Lagos State, married Idongesit from Akwa Ibom State.
When Fela Anikulapo Kuti sings the song, "Beast of No Nation", I feel it is speaking of me in a positive sense as "Man of All Nations"!
I recount these for you to see that I am acquainted with being in the minority. I know that ordinary people can do extraordinary things by just defining a good cause, believing in it and just going for it with all they've go. They don't have to go bow to thrones and dominations to get endorsement from the stalwarts and the revered. They don't have to enmesh their soul in inextricable alliance and so mortgage away their right to have an opinion. I know that all the allegiance bondage by which ploy people are held back from speaking up for justice does not have the power to hold you down forever. How can you be free if you are not free to even have an opinion?
I stand here to declare that I have enjoyed the love, friendship, and generosity of peoples of all callings. My success is traceable to the support and challenges from every shade of person. I have also faced perils from all shades of person. So, my greater passion is to align with a cause that will let me sleep well at night and that my grandchildren will be proud to read about. And when I die, I don't want to be judged for helping to suppress the cause of the just. When my children are up and about and the cup with which I measure out today is used to measure out to them, I don't want to shudder in my sleep.

Don't shoot the messenger

Shooting the messenger is easy. He is standing right there in your face; you are angry at the message, and he's right there. It's easy and requires no special discipline. But please don't do it. It makes you so ... ordinary. Let's address the message instead. I admire Idowu's passion. I admire his style and that of the people that support him. There are people of all cultures in there. There are people of all religions (or none) in there. They are young people and have an interest in making things better, in my opinion. Whatever side you sit on this divide, you will agree that this zeal should be encouraged and harnessed even for bigger and more visionary exploits. You will agree that we need to start getting organized around ideas rather than creed.
It will be cowardly to intimidate, alienate or attack their persons in any way. I know that several persons will assume that I will vote a 'Yes' on that special resolution. I probably will, but that misses the point of this post. My point is that even if I would vote a 'No', I should still write this post with the same passion asking that we prevail on this NAA Board to open our books to any member who asks for it according to the constitution and to not deny any one member the right to sponsor a special resolution including those ones they don't like.
It sounds like bravery but it really is cowardice to shoot the messenger. It sounds like a definitive response but it is a non-response to shoot the messenger without addressing the message. You may just want to shut off the message but often when you shoot the messenger, the message grows louder!
NAA should be a platform for Nigerian brotherly community strength and a source of identity for our children. If we allow NAA to become a platform for fostering hate, insensitivity and the worst of the baggage we brought from where we came from, the next special resolution will predictably be calling not just for a dissolution of the Board on grounds of the unconstitutionality of its composition but the entire NAA on grounds that everyone is tired of whitewashing the tomb.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Is crippling Hotmail the only response Microsoft has for iPad?

In a previous post I examined the seemingly awkward posture of Microsoft in not responding to the need for a Microsoft Word-class word processor on the iPad. Today, I am just wondering if the "once-was" giant has dug in even deeper into a seeming iPad resentment.

You may have seen this Boston Globe interview of Bill Gates on the iPad. It nearly made me puke. This guy was my hero, you know, until that day. You can go see it here. I really don't know what is going on with Microsoft. This company once had their shares trading at $120. Today, it's scarcely $26. So, it's not like I am the only one who is restive about how this company is run. Perhaps, I am the only one not doing enough about it. I have believed in Microsoft for so long that I am not willing to face the possibility that glares me in the face. I still have my meagre RRSP savings in there, un-divested! I know! And my core competencies are built around Microsoft technologies.

It was disappointing for me to find, at least as an investor that Microsoft would not produce any Office product for the iPad at launch. Little did I know that that would not be the worst. My sister, Deborah Ilechukwu was arriving Edmonton from Abuja-Frankfurt, but was not on the expected airplane. I went to Hotmail online on my iPad because I needed to search my mail into a few weeks back to pull the record locator so that the airline could help me with info on Debo's whereabouts. I had gone to Hotmail when the iPad just arrived and it worked just fine. To my deepest chagrin, I realized that the iPad browser was now being redirected to use some crippled web page designed for the dumbest phone browsers. It supported no search, it was obtuse in every way. There was no option to display the full page, as most serious sites would offer you. I dug around and found a month-old story: Microsoft claimed that Hotmail would not work well on iPad browser and is trying to fix the problem. In the meantime, they would redirect iPad to mobile phone UIs.
I am really beginning to feel that I am backing the wrong horse here. When an animal is too obese to respond to brush fire, it usually gets roasted in it. If you had 3 months to respond to the iPad and you are still trying to even understand what that is, six months after, I think some rot needs being cleaned out in there. Three months should have been enough to even rewrite the entire Hotmail. This is the only online email service I know that fails on the iPad.
I just hope Microsoft is not boycotting the iPad. Notice: the iPad is no Netscape, you know. The world has changed. You have rested on your fat behinds long enough with the confidence that no one can replace Windows. You fail to realize that no one is talking about replacing Windows any more. The automobile never replaced the hot air ballon as a means of transportation.
I hear all the desperate reorg going on at Microsoft mobile. I think you need a reorg even down to the bone. When you are morbidly obese to the point that you cannot respond to a flame held to your feet, 20 minutes of treadmill will not do it. You need a more invasive surgery for starters.

Location:190 St NW,Edmonton,Canada

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kindle makes the iPad a great eBook reader

In a previous post, I applauded the business 'nimble' by which Amazon responded to the iPad challenge to the Kindle. No one would have guessed by how much the move would bump up Amazon's Kindle business.

People are basically simple. When you change your car, everyone understands that you changed the steering wheels too. So, when the iPad was invented, everyone screamed, "Kindle Killer". It was simple to understand it that way: The Kindle is a machine plus the books you buy with that machine, inseparable.

Anyway, how it now works out is that people buy an iPad for all the cool things it does. Then, they also get two free eBook readers: iBooks and Kindle for iPad. That's all it takes to discover that you have 2 equally amazing eBook readers on your iPad. Right away, you get all your existing Kindle book synced in and available. And that's a huge plus.

Then it comes time to get some new content into your reader. Reading books on the iPad is just such a pleasure but you need to get the book in there. Right now, iBooks is at a disadvantage for content, especially for trade books, textbooks, technical books, you know ... other than novels and autobiographies. Amazon has a great head start on all those.

As a test, just search for any book in your profession on iBookstore. Then repeat the search on's Kindle selection. Right now, I am reading a software book on my iPad and even though I tried buying it on iBookstore, I couldn't. I bought it from Kindle books for about $35.00.

And regardless where you buy it from, the pleasure of reading the eBook on your iPad is just the same kind of pleasure.

Location:190 St NW,Edmonton,Canada

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The effect of cost on the uptake of new ideas

Why is the email such a worldwide phenomenon? It is free, that's why! Is this lesson enough for cellular voice and data providers to take a hint and clean house? This article reviews how telephone companies have historically priced otherwise cool ideas first into disuse and then into obsolescence.

All last week, Apple released international pricing plans for the iPhone in 7 countries. Alongside this several cellular network companies released data plans to support the 3G iPad model. Most of these plans tried to closely mirror the AT&T pricing model previously announced by Apple way back in January: A contract-free, no-overage-charging, unlocked SIM monthly plan of $15.00 for 256MB and $30 for Unlimited. Of all these service plans, two of them raised the most furor. Worst was the Japan plan that tied the iPad to a single cellular network company, contrary to what obtains everywhere in the world. The next closest angst-stirring plan was the Rogers plan of Canada.

The Rogers Canada problem

Rogers customers were livid with rage all last week and actually took it out on the Rogers Customer Service Blog, the Redboard.
The following are the key concerns, ordered from the least to the most disturbing:
  • Rogers would not match the AT&T base plan, dollar per dollar even though there's dollar parity
  • Rogers would not offer the AT&T-type Unlimited plan, claiming that most persons don't need it anyway. They rather replaced that plan category with a 5GB plan.
  • Rogers aborted the "Add iPad to your existing data plan" plan. This plan would (for a one-time $20 fee), let you use some of your unused data from another data plan.

This last one was the one that really got people threatening to even abandon the Rogers networks altogether. First, they feel they are only using data that they already paid for; they are using it with a second machine they paid for in full; and it was actually published on the Apple site as a Rogers offering. I could give you my opinion on this specific issue but this article is not about that. But if it was, I'd suggest that Rogers should fire whoever their Spin Master is. You know what a Spin Master does, right? That's the guy that comes up with the nonsense they tell people when they do something awful. The only requirement is that the nonsense has to be logical. Now, the Rogers nonsense is not logical.
To the Unlimited plan, they spinned, "99.xx percent of our customers don't need it". I was like, "Ok genius, so what's the problem?". Why stop at 5GB then, after all 99.xx customers don't use 5GB either! Then, to the "Join iPad to your existing plan" plan they said the most stupendously retorted spin: It was an error! What? Typographical or strategic? Since when was it an error to just do the right thing?
Let me offer an alternate explanation: Last couple months, Rogers got a signal from Apple that the iPad should not be subjected to the telephone companies' typical pricing barriers to adoption. In response, Rogers started investigating how to join iPad to existing iPhone/Blackberry data plans (It's not like it's new, anyway, the 'Couples plan' joins two or more phones to the same voice plan. And the 'GSM home phone' plan joins multiple handsets to the same plan. Anyway, Rogers created the "Join iPad ..." plan based on verifiable due-diligence and proper research. Then, the day following international price announcement, "The Department of How-Much-Greed-Can-We-Get-Away-With discovers that no one else is offering this. And they go, how much money can we gouge from these suckers if we knock off that "Join iPhone thingy?". "Did you say, millions? That's it! Take it off and let's see if anyone complains ... just as we tried to take advantage of the iPhone, too". That's what I think happened. But like I said, this post is not about that.

People don't like you metering their lives: The email case study

Emailing is a way to send some documentary information from one person to another, practically instantly. It has taken over our lives in such a short time. Billions of this thing get exchanged daily. Pretty much in the order of magnitude of millions per minute!! How did it happen? It is free; The telephone company did not get it's hooks into it before the rest of the world knew about it. They did not get a chance to charge for it on a per character, per word, per cent, per page, per minute, per MB or per anything basis. The email was not metered. And it grew.
The email had an twin sibling: Text Messaging (SMS). It was born in the same era but was controlled by the telephone company. They charged you per message, up to a maximum number of characters. So, it did not take off. Not until lately, when you can now get a package of so many messages per month (often unlimited local text messaging) because it has to complete with emails that now come right into the phone.
SMS has an older sibling: TeleFax (FAX). It was controlled by the telephone company. They charged per minute. Earlier on, they even forced you to get another line for your fax, even though the two machines could co-exist on the same phone line. They no longer do today, but that practice is the order of the day. Every company has a phone line and a separate fax line. The FAX was an irreplaceable document transmittal technology (not irreplaceable anymore, though). It helped businesses to cut down post office delays. But on the personal consumer side: The FAX failed. Most humans on earth have never sent faxes from home.
FAX too has a much older pair of sibling: Telex/Telegram. It was controlled by the telephone company, it was metered by the character. Yes, you paid per character. And later, per word. A period was a word, a space between two words was a word. The Telegram was great but it is dead.
People don't like you metering their lives. Why is Facebook, twitter, or all those social networks so successful? They didn't meter people. They found business models that don't just naively draw blood from the primary consumer, so fast and so much that they would shrivel and die and the idea dying with them.

Why do they charge so much?

I once asked my Telco friend why they charged so much for the cellular phone. And he said, "Because we can. We treat it as a premium service. People pay for the social statement of having a mobile phone. It did't cost us more to provide it but we won't reduce the price for as long as they keep paying". I learned from him that cellular phone networks are cheaper to set up than land networks, and they are not more expensive to run. They made you pay more for cell phones because they figure that mobility is important to you. Take for instance, the "Rogers Home Phone". This service is based on the very same GSM service that you have on the cell phone handset. But they can price the Home phone service to be competitive with the Telus landline service. Second example: Nearly 10 years after US mobile phone companies offered international roaming as a base service on their voice calls, Canadian companies still make you pay roaming fees if you leave your little city to visit your farm 10 km away.Even in many developing countries, the cellular minute is a nationwide minute. And to perpetuate this practice, it appears that the competing companies have found a way to agree among one another on what and what they can compete on. When competiting parties agree among themselves in any sport, it's called 'fixing' and someone goes to jail for it. And we do have regulators. We really do.

How fast should you draw blood from a baby?

I have a vision for the iPad that is similar to the vision I had for the laptop. It is much easier to have your iPad with you all the time. It will give you much more on-demand access to your stuff. And you will not have to 'get home' before you can do something. I believe the WiFi-only model is just a test-the-water model. The full glory of the iPad can only be revealed when you can just turn it on and you have access to all you need. Trust me this thing is so boring to use when you have no connection to the rest of the world! And right now, only a 3G access gives you that kind of coverage. This baby will blossom and become the way to consume information in our world.
Unfortunately, 3G is controlled by the telephone company. Until a practical Wide Area Network (WAN) emerges that is not controlled by the phone company, their control is going to remain. The way their heads are wired, they would force you to get a new line even if you can share the same one, they will charge you per small unit, they will make you pay for being happy, for convenience, and just because they can. They will meter your usage until the vision is squeezed dry. Then, they will wait for the next idea to emerge. If this iPad vision must survive, the telephone company has got to take it's talons off, now!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My iPad, one week after

One week after driving 17 hours in each direction from Edmonton to Seattle WA to buy an iPad, I thought you'd like to know how it's going for me.

About this time last week, I wrote to tell you guys that I finally got my iPad. I was in this hotel room in Seattle where my entire Edmonton crew was hanging out and refreshing from the first leg of the iPad adventure. I had gone along with every one: Idongesit, Victory, Samuela and Pete. Anyway, I was writing and telling you that this 32GB iPad 3G was finally in my hand and I was loving it. I will not spend much time telling you about all the first-looks and first impression stuff and is all over the Internet. I really agree with most of those balanced observations.

Buyer Remorse

First off, I've got to tell you this, and am sure you know about it as much as I do. Other than medication and basic food, there's hardly anything I buy that I get an attack of 'buyer remorse' over. It usually sets in after about 2 days of getting the item and having the initial excitement boil over. Well, I didn't have 'buyer remorse' after marrying my wife either, but let's not go there. Anyway, it's been a week and I don't have a tinge of that nagging "should I have?" thought. I am just so happy I got the iPad.

WiFi is great but 3G is important

Initially, I had thought to buy the WiFi-only option. But I'm so glad I changed my mind. This thing is specialized for consuming the Internet. Trust me. Most of the fun stuff you do with the iPad need some form of connection to the world outside of itself. So, if you can only do this where you have WiFi, it's like you're carrying a pseudo-cripped machine.
I can tell for sure because there's no iPad data plan in Canada yet (and am not about to cut my SIM card or Jailbreak this beauty). I've used a Jailbroken iPhone before (the 1st Gen) and till today, I can't upgrade it or anything. It's not fun. Anyway, if you have a choice, buy the 3G option. You'll thank me.

People at work

When I got back Monday, every one at work was like, "ahh!!" (the sound of sucking in so much air through a wide open mouth, wide open eyes and both arms reaching out to touch it). Everyone of my colleagues in the wing I worked loved the iPad. Some would not travel to Seattle for it, though, but they now understand why I would.

US Store, Canada Store

I am having fun with my schizophrenic iPad. One time, it's pointing to the Canada store (for most things movie and music), and another time, it's pointing to the US store for apps. And when it's confused about the store (because it pretends that the Canada app store does not exist), I just do the transaction on Mac iTunes and sync up to the iPad.

Little know Photo Viewer

I wonder why most people don't speak about this, but I consider it super cool! If you have pictures in your iPad, and the machine is locked, you get this pretty rose bud icon on the right hand side of the lock slider. Click it and you get access to your photos right away. You don't have to unlock the iPad to do this.

Kindle App complements iBooks

Who would have believed? The press made it an iPad vs Kindle war. But apparently, Apple and Amazon have made it (from a consumer's point of view), a symbiosis. There are books that the iBookStore don't yet have. There are many of them, especially trade books, like Computer books. In such cases, I'd just go over to the Kindle app (with it's brilliant screen) and just get the book from Amazon, and life just goes on.

Einstein's relativity: my iPhone shrunk

My iPhone now looks so small to read from. I can't even open the emails there. I just check who it is (when am out and about) and then, if it can wait, I wait and read it on the iPad. It's amazing how small the iPhone screen looks now.

What does the iPad replace

Honestly, the iPad takes a chip off everything. I kinda use everything else a bit less. And because I can take it everywhere, really everywhere, which you couldn't do with a laptop without looking out of place, the iPad has truly come to stay. Let's put it this way, you can't bring a laptop to thanksgiving dinner but you can bring an iPad. And while others are chatting about all the boring stuff or are retired to sleep, you won't have to tip-toe around grand-ma's old Windows 98 to check your email.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I crossed the border for an iPad 3G

This is the first piece of business I am doing on my new, shiny iPad 3G. And thus ends the 3-4 months of breath holding.

Last night, my whole household, filled my wife's 8-seater (people + stroller + camping stuff) and drove 1440 km due south west from Edmonton to Linwood WA to buy an iPad 30GB 3G. We set off about 8 pm Edmonton time Friday and drove all night and morning, save 4 stops for gas & bio and one 45 min nap.

I got to Seattle at about noon (Edmonton time) Saturday (11am local time) and just walked into the Lynwood store and bought one. No lines, no protocol. I also bought a $50 US iTunes card so I could purchase the key apps I needed to buy from the US store (because they're not showing up in the Canada store yet: Pages, Keynote and Numbers). I think everyone needs them to be able to open attachments nicely, at least.

This is not really a review but I must tell you, the iPad is an amazing piece of computing device. If anyone tells you otherwise, it will be nice to find out why.

I barely had enough time to configure the iPad and sync up my music and initial app purchases before yeilding my body to the obligatory nudge of sleep about 4pm (local time). Idong and the children left and went shopping and the next time I stirred was about 9pm when they returned.

My configuration went quite smoothly (except for the store localization problems. iPad does not like that I bought some apps from the Canada store and others from the US store. This happens most when you need to do an app update. But I will keep navigating that minefield with caution.

My first impression: Something huge has just happened to personal computing! And it's not going back.

Something Apple should seriously give some thought is: How should we manage the Apple store across the countries? The kind of control that was brought to bear on the music store is not really necessary for the App store (I should think). So, purchases from multiple stores should sooner begin to learn to live together more transparently. This thing is a computer. It really is (in a catcher in-the-rye sort of way).

And, yes, I wrote this blog on the iPad.

UPDATE: I seem to solve the app localization issue by doing the updates in the mothership (computer itunes) and then syncing up to the iPad.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I read the exciting announcement today, by Facebook CEO, that Microsoft and Facebook are collaborating to host, an online document sharing platform based on Microsoft Office 2010. 

For nearly a year, Microsoft has been testing the concept of putting Microsoft Office on the Internet with the Office Online initiative. Office Online was based based on Microsoft Office 2010 whose desktop versions were scheduled for release in early to Middle 2010. But all along, I wasn't sure how quickly or how well  the Office in the cloud concept would catch on. Again, I didn't know how the platform would work for persons that don't have Office installed locally. The little I remember of the beta product, it was like it still uses rendering engines available on your local machine from the Office mother ship, which sort of limited its appeal as a cloud-based document platform like Google docs.

Now, this announcement of with its deep Facebook integration is really a good thing for Microsoft. First, it launches an Office alternative on a generic, distributed platform and second,  it logs right into the FaceWitter (facebook+twitter) mentality of our day. I hope it works out for Microsoft and for Facebook. If it does, the Facebook platform will change drastically into a collaborative platform for productivity not just for fun and games. 

I see a few huddles, though: The current website is a Silverlight site. The controls that render those Office docs are Silverlight controls. This can be a problem for mobile system users on non-Flash, non-Silverlight platforms. Lots of Facebook users are on the move and casual. Many of them use mobile phone apps to connect to Facebook and a significant number of these don't have Flash or Silverlight. Notable among these are the iPhone and iPad.

In a previous post, I spoke about how disappointed I was that Microsoft did not release iPad apps for Microsoft Office. With this new move towards, it's perfectly possible to use on the iPad just as easily as using it on the desktop. The only catch is that the iPad does not support Silverlight, which the site requires. I think that can really fly well on the wings of the iPad but Microsoft will have to think seriously about supporting the iPad. To do this, they would have to create an iPad compatible HTML5 version of in the minimum or just go on and show some leadership with this new emerging web standard altogether.

So, hello,! What do you have for the modern user?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Israel's iPad ban and the Wi-Fi specification

Everyone has been tumbling over the news item that Israel banned iPad imporation and has actually impounded a few of those at the port of entry. Everyone opinion I've read including those of even Israeli lawmakers seems to beat up that decision as unreasonable. Some blog commentaries have even suggested ulterior theories. I am using the same facts proposed by some of these opinions to argue the opposite case: that Israel may actually have a point.

It is a fact that requires no evidence that there are many iPhones and Blackberry devices in Israel. Many have argued that the iPad Wi-Fi chip is the same standard unit that is installed in these other hand-helds and so advance an argument that Israel's decision to selectively ban the iPad is arbitrary and unreasonable. An unnamed Apple spokeswoman was even quoted as saying, "iPad complies with international industry standards for Wi-Fi specifications."

When I heard that response, i wondered, "international industry standard for Wi-Fi specifications"! Up to that moment, I was also like, "Israel should relax, men, what's all that about?". But this statement got me thinking. I said, anytime a corporation equivocates, there must be a need for it. What are my problems with these statements? First, if it's just as simple as using an identical Wi-Fi chip, then, yes Israel's action sounds arbitrary. But then, turn it around and ask yourself, does the same argument not make a credibility point for Israel? Israel could say, "We don't have a problem with Apple products or mobile devices. We allow iPhone, we allow BlackBerry, we allow MacBook Pro. So, believe us when we say that iPad has something that the others do not." My issue with the "international standards" statement is not so simple to explain without some geek speak, but I'll try. The statement can be both true and false. Yes, there is one and the same set of international industry standared for Wi-Fi specifications. That set of specifications is the IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n. But what is missing in that statement is that it does not show that different countries have laws that further restrict the use of all 14 Wi-Fi channels defined by IEEE 802.11. To help you understand this, 802.11 was originally reserved for medical equipment. Later when it became successful in computer networks, it became necessary for countries to determine which channels they allow for use on internet equipment based perhaps on what channels they have already assigned to, say MRI equipment or heart pacemaker diagnostic equipment. Europe (like Israel) allows all channels except channel 14 while North America further disallows channel 12 and 13. This would look like US equipment would be compliant in Europe and Israel. Some have advanced this claim as evidence of compatibility. But wait.

Aside from specifying the central spectrum and power restrictions of each channel, there's also the little known but major interference concern of 802.11 clause 17 which restricts spectral mask. Spectral mask defines the permitted distribution of power across each channel. In essense, within the channels allowed in your contry, a station can only use every 4th or 5th channel without overlap. A theoretical simplification is that American devices may 1,6,11 while European devices uses 1,5,9 and 13. This is designed to produce signal attenuation that would produce minimal interference of devices on other channels (provided it is farther than 1 meter away and operating within allowed power levels. You can see further geek details here or see a summary here and here.

So, there are several ways that something can get screwed up for one country but not the other and if a country is prudent enough to discover it, we should not bully them for looking out for themselves.

It's not like iPad can do no wrong, anyway! I love the device, I am going to buy one but it's still built by man. For instance, even though it alse uses a well-tested, well-understood DHCP algorithm for leasing IP addresses, Princeton University has reported iPad problems on their network and has gone ahead to block some iPads from access because the devices were not playing well on that network. It is reported that Apple is currently engaging Princeton to create a patch. My point being, iPad could still use well known chips or technologies but yet have some flaws that may need to be fixed.

On a more social note, do you think we'll show this surprise if these were equipment made in Russia and impounded by US customs? We'll jump to believe the US communications people and expect Russia to clean up the problem.

So, I suggest, we give Israel a break. It's called benefit of the doubt. Let Apple engage Israel and address the problem. The Israeli market is bigger than it seems. The whole world goes to Israel quite often. It is a large tourist nation of extreme historical, political and religious importance. The iPad is going to be an ultra-mobile gadget even more than the phone, since they come unlocked. It should be configured to play well in all countries. Bravado won't do it. Just as Apple has engaged Princeton to solve the DHCP bug, they should engage Israel to study the complaint with a view to a solution.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Apple should respect non-US iPad Customers

If a company with a large and enthusiastic International following (like Apple) begins to operate so ethnically, you would think that they don't appreciate the business of the rest of the world as much. I have started a facebook group entitled "Apple should respect non-US iPad Customers" to help others sound off on this iPad release dichotomy. I am also sending this link to Apple.

(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

Apple is one of the few computers in the world that is actually loved, yes loved, by its customers. There is this comradeship among mac users. When I bought my first mac in Greenville NC, I attended a Mac user group and couldn't help sensing the bonding that was both reminiscent of a religious fellowship and a closely-knit social club wrapped in one. Today, if you brandish your shiny aluminium in public, other Apple users would nod to you instinctively especially in parks, at beaches, on campuses and at airports. You can't believe the instant connection to this hive mind. It is real.

For a living, I write software on the Windows platform but there are 10 Apple devices in my home right this moment ranging from iPod classic through iPhone 3GS to Apple TV & MacBook Pros. Now that Apple laptops can dual-boot with Windows, I even take my mac to work, and in the midst of all the grey-scale official laptops around the conference table,  the aluminium flourish stands like the scene in "Legally Blond" when the lady in a pink suit steps into Harvard Law School amidst all the black and gray of the usual business suits.

As an Apple lover, I am just an Apple lover. So is my wife, so is my 16 year old daughter. We were living in the US and now live in Canada. Then and now, we were and are just simply Apple lovers. So, don't be surprised if I say that I loose sleep over the anxious expectation of the iPad. I may even have worked myself into a frenzy.

In one of my earlier posts, I reported that days after the iPad announcement, I sold my Sony eBook Reader. I really loved that Sony reader but I sold it for less than it was worth. And then, the wait for iPad began. First, I waited for end of March. Then, we learnt that it was releasing only to the US. Canada was to wait for end of April. To douse my feeling, I started downloading iPad apps in advance and reading every review. Once or twice, I had considered and given up driving 1200 km south to go buy one. I gave it up because Canada release date was just around the corner and I really now want the 3G model, since am not getting tethering post.

A few days ago when Apple announced the iPhone OS 4.0 sneak preview when I followed by a live blog, Steve Jobs still said, "International release of the iPad is coming late April".

So, you can imagine how just a few days later, Apple announced this move back by a whole month! If they has said, "We are having problem with local content developers in some countries", or international law or something like that ... if that was the problem, I would understand. It was so annoying that they said something like, "we are doing this because US buyers just want more than we thought they'd want. And we have more pre-orders for the US that we want to fill end of April. So, we'll just go ahead and do that and push International release to late May. How audacious!

The impression I get from this is that Apple treats the rest of the world as "Consumers of the Crumbs". They serve the main loaf to the US market, even offer seconds for anyone in the US who wasn't hungry the first time around. And then, if there are left-overs, offer that to the rest of the world. One early sign that a law is too arbitrary is that normally law-abiding people begin to go around it. Imagine how many people traveled to the US from the rest of the world to buy an iPad. Even till today, I believe that beyond the initial spike, the rest of the steady rise is attributable to international purchases. Is it a surprise that all the states that have sold the most iPads judging by Chikita real-time tracking are states on the borders with high-traffic international airports?

Apple should have shown respect to non-US customers by honoring the release date they were promised. It does not matter if they have products lasting a whole month at a go. But it would have gone a long way to dousing the  passion of early, unconditional adopters. Even those early adopters should be part of a smart marketing strategy. 

I have started a facebook group "Apple should respect non-US iPad Customers" so people can to and express their opinion on the matter. You are welcome to go there and sound off. I am sure Apple will hear because I am also sending the link to them.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why iPad and iPhone cannot tether

When the iPad WIFI edition was launched on April 3, 2010, the first thing I kept listening out for was whether it had tethering. I had previously blogged on this column that I really want tethering on the iPad. When I realized that it didn't support this feature, it began to look like the terse 'No' email reply on this subject credited to Apple CEO Steve jobs may have an element of truth in it. One wonders why the iPad would not support a service that will allow you to use your own existing cellular data plan on through gadget in your pocket but will encourage you to buy yet another data plan.

When I first got my first generation iPhone, it did not have a data plan. iPhone had just been released in the US. It would not arrive Canada for another year+ and I had purchased it on eBay. Those pre-iphone days, data plan cost more than molten gold with cellular companies. So, I mostly used my iPhone without data plan. Once in a while, I would brouse and get billed by kiloBytes and believe me, it wasn't funny. Because of this, most of what made the iPhone fun was not accessible on my phone outside my home network. In my home network, I would browse on fuller screens, anyway.

It wasn't till we got the 3GS that I slapped on a full data plan on my iPhone and the device truly came to life. The power of the iPhone is not so much as in phone calling but in its "information anywhere" concept. And you can't do that if you were not always connected. This fact is much more so for the iPad because much as you can use a data-cripped iPhone as a phone, you can't use a data-cripped iPad as much anything else without limitation. Even Amazon Kindle gets that.

Several iPhone users I know have data plans that are less that 20% utilized. The major cellular data providers in Canada provide tethering for free so you can use your iPhone data on other computers. That is why it would only have made sense if Apple allowed the iPad to consume this same available iPhone service. But then, we hear that Steve Jobs said 'No'. It looks like the bigger Apple gets, their chief spokesperson sound more and more like Bill Gates. Or even worse! Bill Gates never called Adobe and Google lazy in the same month!

Within 1 week of iPad release, it got Jailbroken and following quickly the next week is a $9.99 app called MyWi, as reported here, which provides iPhone/iPad tethering support. When I read that, it felt sad that a company like Apple, whose percieved social model over the years has been to brand Microsoft as the evil empire, is turning into a worse-than-Microsoft just after a few years of mobile device dominance. If they owned Windows, they probably would control who you married by now -- "All marriages must go through the iWed app. Every Minister must register with us and we share the proceeds 60/40. We decide which marriage to allow. We can also annul a marriage after the fact". If this sounds similar to what happens at the Apple AppStore, that's probably because it is.

I was in a conversation Saturday night with a guy that lived in Russia. This guy told me that capitalism in Russian language is transliterated as "Man's exploitation of Man". It felt too extreme then. But I believe that every iPad user who has to buy a separate data plan while at the same time has 80% of his/her iPhone data plan lying waste every month is being deliberately exploited.

This smells the same as a "pre-existing condition" in the US healthcare system. Man's exploitation of man!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What do iBook and iE have in common?

When Apple released the iPad version of iPhone OS, they chose not to include iBooks as one of the base apps of the iPhone OS. I am just wondering if they did this to avoid antitrust issues or just doing the right thing.

Anyone who has been around long enough will remember the world’s most celebrated antitrust suit in the United States. The main gist of this is that Microsoft got sued for bundling the Internet Explorer (IE) browser with the dominant Windows OS was presenting unfair competition for other browser manufacturers. The lawsuit also  argued that giving IE away was an unfair competitive practice against the Netscape browser since Microsoft could still cover IE cost indirectly through Windows pricing. Microsoft argued that IE was an integral part of Windows and that the two could not be separated.

When Apple announced the iPad, it also positioned the tablet as an eBook reader by the announcement that it was coming with iBooks. Many pundits saw that announcement as an Amazon Kindle killer move. So, when Apple decided that iBooks would not be a base app in the OS, I started thinking. (By the way, base apps are those ones that come basically installed with the OS and you can’t delete them).

Some blogger reported that Apple decision to make iBooks a separate download was because they want iBooks to be freely updateable instead of  having to wait for OS updates.  Anyway, I think that Apple’s excuse is plain odd. In the first place, there are several things that come down OS X install that get trickle updated anytime and out of phase with the core OS. Even for the core OS, service release cycles would be frequent enough for updating any app, even the iBook. Moreover, when Apple announced the 7 iPhone OS 4.0 tentposts, iBooks for iPhone was one of those. This simply suggests that iBooks is more than just any app. It’s more like the Calendar or Mail or iTunes (apps that you just can’t choose to install or uninstall). But in this case, Apple has learned that eBook sellers may pick on this as a cage-rattling opportunity and they’re not allowing that to happen.

Anyway, I am just wondering and thinking, “Well played, Apple!”. If you buy an iPad, you make a choice to download an iBooks or Kindle or Nook or B&N Reader. Thus, Apple cannot be accused of  leveraging platform advantage over the competition. If  in the next 5-10 years, Apple succeeds in getting iPhone OS to become the dorminant  consumer OS and then prices it at double what it’s worth (like $1000) and then appear to be throwing in all-you-can-read eBooks, they would actually be making $500 for eBooks. That would make people stop buying Kindle books.  Then, Amazon Kindle as we know it will be threatened for certain extinction.

I think it makes more sense to me now but it’s little too late for Netscape. I wish I understood it this clearly then.

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

The iPad era: Is Microsoft hard of hearing, or just too heavy to respond?

As a Microsoft shareholder, I have reason to be concerned. I really do. When everything else around you is moving and you choose to stand still, you make a big target. Worse still, if you are a large one. 

I will dispense with the background quickly: On January 27, 2010, Apple announced a new breed of computing devices called the iPad. Launch date was set for end of March and the item was available in stores on April 3. This thing has no need for a pointing device, no need for third party chips, no need for Windows and actually, no need for any of the things that make normal computers dove-tail into some Microsoft service.

In the 2-month period between the announcement and release, so many companies jumped on and designed something that would take advantage of the iPad. Till today, I have heard nothing coming from Microsoft. At first, I was like ... "Microsoft can't be so stupid as to ignore this. They have to have Word, Excel and PowerPoint out there on day 1. They can't afford the risk of Office devotees discovering Pages, Numbers and Keynote." But what do I know? Launch day came and Microsoft released and announced nothing. Nothing!

You know, there was that time when WordPerfect was king. It was great on DOS and beat WordStar hand-down, in my opinion. Most people may think that it was the greatness of Microsoft Word that killed WordPerfect. But I don't think so. I think it was WordPerfect for Windows that killed WordPerfect. The then WordPerfect Corporation did not respond well to the new world and people learned Word. And guess what? They like Word. 
No one would need to learn a new productivity app if the one they like is available on their platform of choice.
I am sure that some old soldiers at Microsoft are so callused in their joints that they don't know how to stay alive through agility. Before now, Microsoft was good at playing on its own field because it was a very large field but now, it needs to learn to strategize in a multi-faceted way. It needs to learn the times. It needs to be nimble at the feet. It needs to walkout more. 

Jealousy has no place in modern business. An old-fashioned way of thinking would go this way: "If we build for a non-Windows platform, we are encouraging it and hurting our main bread and butter. So, ignore it and use our sheer strength to suffocate the market place." And that's so sad, if you ask me! Amazon is my hero company in this regard. The iPad came head-on with Kindle, and the press sensationalized it. What did Amazon do? Sulk, wine and play the ignore game, wishing that iPad crashes and burns? No. It made an iPad-compatible Kindle. Apple played a similar genius game when they made BootCamp, a Windows-compatible apple machine. And believe me, there's little more to know about how well a company is run or how smart and nimble its execs are. By comparison, AMZN shares stood at $131.81, AAPL at $235.97, and MSFT at $29.16. When last did you see such a large company equity worth so little? Ford and GM kinda come to mind.

I have a personal investment in Microsoft and so I have an interest in advising them not to be stupid. If the iPad makes the iPhone OS the dominant breed of consumer OS, then Microsoft may be positioning itself for certain extinction. No one company has a monopoly control on what people like. A good company should always position itself well for every eventuality. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Great Windows Azure Idea:: A window into my lover's heart

Today, I dare reminisce on how my lover treats me. You may have such a lover too. Like, it's all feeling blissful until that rare "wait-a-minute!" moment. Then, you wonder if you've been getting the rough end of the stick all along.

Windows Azure is Microsoft's cloud computing offering. It's like your application sitting on some platform out there, nestled on top of a highly scalable, robust and distributed (NLB + operating system + database + network + servers + domain name + buildings + air conditioning + disaster recovery + CDN + ...  'you get the idea') all wrapped in one single "pay-per-use" experience located at Microsoft-maintained data centers.

Long ago, in October/November 2008, some of us tech lunatics (as in 'madly in love with technology') were recruited by Microsoft to try out these new stuff and tell them what we think The idea was that we are the technology community and we were previewing this stuff and we say what we want, they make it happen and then they'd release the final product, and we and them will live happily ever after. Just think of it as the nerd equivalent of, "Windows 7: my idea!".We were a select few. Our idea mattered. We loved it! We worked tirelessly night and day, we poured in opinion, we made friends, we fought one another, we fought Microsoft, we defended Microsoft, champions rose and fell on the score board (rising when their answers helped others and stayed up late taking questing from another time zone, and falling when they go on vacation), people got help! People gave help! The revolutionary Azure way was on its way! Our compensation package: Pure adrenaline. Yes, Microsoft paid us in adrenaline units; the excitement of uninstalling Feb CTP to install July CTP! The uncertainty that follows if you didn't follow the uninstall/install order carefully. The sigh that follows when Pita.O or Neil Mackenzie or Yi-Lun Luo or Steve Marx or jnak (there are many other heroes of the community) gives you an answer that works. The frustration when you got the wrong answer, the diligence from re-installing, the fortitude from data corruption, calling in sick at work because you were hung over from doing too much Azure last night at home, the $200 you shelled out to get a Vista upgrade because they wouldn't put the SDK on your Windows XP. The laptop you have to lug to work because your client still insisted on Windows XP ... again, you got the idea. All pure joy! All pure adrenaline! All worth it. Lunatics, remember? After all, you were contributing to something important.

The idea was that all those opinions were heard and someone in the back office was also working day and night to consider the ideas and actually do something with them. After all, the community has spoken! After all, this would have cost Microsoft so much and would have cost the community so much too! It can't just be for nothing, right? They must be important, those ideas. Yes!

Bolstered by this feeling of relevance, we gave ideas:
(a) We want multiple roles per instance
(b) We want to make it less expensive to run my very small service on Windows Azure
(c) We want you to continue to offer Azure free for developers
(d) We want the ability to send emails right from Azure (as in local smtp server)
(e) We want a way to reschedule worker roles so they only run when needed
(f) We want you to Create a "beta" environment for.NET 4.0 tests and evaluation
(g) We want you to Provide DNS services for our domain and subdomains

But then,  these ideas and many others like them were scattered over the community space or placed on connect. There was no way of seeing, in one place, what Microsoft actually did with these ideas. So we just kept giving them!

Then, there was this top shot from Microsoft who sent surveys to a few of us, really select few! These guys can really make you feel important. Mike Wickstrand. And we responded to the surveys, all about how to make Azure better. And Mike sent back these nice appreciation letter of how they so love what you  are doing for Azure and even invited you to VIP status for the next PDC. The point being, these ideas we give are really very important to Microsoft. So, we kept giving them!!

Then, Mike goes and sets up this aptly named website called and invited us to go aggregate these ideas there and vote on them. The concept caught on. They even pinned a redirect on the community space telling us in essence, "if you put your idea on this new ideas aggregator and it gets voted up by the community, you'll get Microsoft's listen". So, we went. And we kept giving them and voting them up!!!

Then, here's the time of reckoning! Microsoft released the commercial build of Azure on Feb 2, 2010. Then, I cast my eyes back at those great windows azure ideas we gave. The most popular ideas are captured in the list I showed you above. They have votes ranging from 266 - 1790. Yes, 1790! About 600 and 1000 early adopters of the Windows Azure platform actually spoke with one voice on an idea. It must have been accepted or even completed, right? (Note that there are tabs for "Accepted" and "Completed" on the site.

Oh! There! There are items in the competed and accepted columns. It must be good. What? Just one item  accepted? It has 150 votes. Oh, do you know why it was moved to accepted? No, not the votes! Mike said he heard it "annouced at PDC[09]" prior to even launching the "my great windows azure ideas" site. Ok. What about the other accepted ideas? None. Right, and the completed ones? All 4 of them. Yeah!! Highest votes on each of them? Vote count: 1,2,4,58. Who are the proud authors of the "completed" ideas? Mike, Mike, Mike and ... Mike. Each and every one of them. Wait a second!! Nooooo! Each of these ideas was already implemented and deployed prior to PDC09. So, let's just call these Mike authored ideas, "Idea templates" seeded into the system to show us how the process will work.

So, last week or two, I got another questionnaire from Mike. I haven't even opened it. Maybe I should. Maybe there's a t-shirt ballot to be entered for. Maybe I should do it for the t-shirt. Man! I'd love to be paid in Microsoft t-shirt rather than sheer adrenaline. Hmmm ... could I still do it just because the ideas count for something?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Open Letter to Fido/Rogers:: Give us a data equivalent of the couple's plan

In recent posts, I have been eScratching my head about how I can make my existing 1GB data plan work well for me ... and be assessible from my iPad. And today, I've come up with a very good idea!

You know how Fido and Rogers ... and perhaps a few other networks in Canada ... have had this couple's plan idea? The plan works like this: You buy a 300 min calling time on your phone, and then buy a base phone plan for someone in your family (or honestly anyone in your local calling area). Once that person is joined to your "couple's plan", both of you would share out of your 300 min time pool for all outgoing calls from both phones + you call each other for free.

Ok. Now, am thinking, if Fido can create a couple's plan for data, my iPhone SIM and my iPad SIM could be added to that plan and all my 3G wireless usage will come off the same 1GB plan already on my iPhone.

I know, I know, the fat-fed status quo will be reluctant to do this. But with the new wave of wireless competition banging on the shores of Canada lately, someone is going to have to swim harder or start sinking. It will never be business-as-usual ever again. Just consider this a free shot in the arm, Fido/Rogers.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wither iPad: WiFi or 3G?

In a recent ZDNet article, author Rachel King reported an AT/T CEO's analysis suggesting that most persons would be buying WiFi iPads rather than the 3G version. I agree with the AT/T analysis but I think Rachel's meta-analysis is a bit off.

The AT&T analysis is dead-on. But I think Rachel
missed the point a little bit when she said, "If
you’re already plunking down $500 or $600 on a gadget,
the last thing you want to add is another monthly

The issue is not about buying a $15 a month
subscription to support a $500 commodity! That's the
way our lives work: We buy power subscription and
cable subscription to support a flat-panel tv
purchase. We buy skating club membership to support
the purchase of expensive skates. We purchase 3G
wireless access to support iphone purchase. iPhone
actually costs about $600 as well (if not for the
contract that underwrites the difference).

I believe the AT/T analysis is saying: iPad buyers
would mostly already be iPhone users who already have
existing 3G plans with their carriers. They won't want
to buy yet another 3G plan for data on another device.

What we should all be promoting now is for tethering
support b/w the iPhone and the iPad so people could
actually use the data plans they already have on both
co-complimentary devices.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My iPad wish list : Tethering

I am getting the iPad but am getting a WiFi-only model. I expect it to come with inward internet tethering support so I can extend my existing iPhone 3G data plan to the iPad.

First off, this post is not about joining the "I want a camera on the iPad" bandwagon. Or the rant credited to Bill Gates about a poke pen, voice recognition and camera. I don't care about any of those. Actually, I do. I don't want them. I don't want to have to pay for them. No one is saying yet, where the camera should be facing: Facing me like the laptop or facing my friends like the iPhone. I don't want either of those. If any, I would rather say, make it a webcam, to face me. But then, I have to stream all that video over my little precious 3G bandwidth!! Ok. Enough of that. Please read on.

Since Steve Jobs announced the iPad on January 27, 2010, I have been preparing grounds to be one of the first to get it in my hands.

First thing I needed to do was find the money for it: I had this other Sony eBook Reader PRS-600 Touch Edition I purchased in September 2009. I had to immediately put it on eBay and it was won by this nice lady in Saskatchewan. So, I was $316 on my way. Then, my wife donated some $375 cash back she got from Costco/America Express. Money-wise I am ready and waiting for late March.

But here's the backdrop to my problem: I already have a 1GB data plan with Fido and it supports tethering. So, I can right now, use my MacBook Pro to access internet anywhere, either on the Snow Leopard or Windows 7 side of the Mac. The Macbook pairs with the iPhone in my pocket and am on my way to the internet through the iPhone's data plan.

I am getting a WiFi-only iPad 32 GB. I don't need a 3G data plan on every mobile device I have, duh! It just feels wrong! The iPhone takes up only about 200MB (max) of the 1GB data plan (and my usage is relatively heavy). I do everything else, including read iPhone kindle on the phone everyday (except stream movies) with the 3G plan all day; and when I get home, my WiFi takes over. So I never even hit 200MB a month. Fido won't give you tethering unless you have a >= 1GB data plan.

So, here's what I need Apple to have on-board the iPhone OS 3.2 (iPad OS): The Bluetooth services should include support for inward tethering (ie: just like the MacBook/Windows can find the iPhone's internet and connect to it, the iPad should be able to do that).

So, I want to have my iPhone in my pocket and transparently be browsing iBookStore on the train with my iPad on my palm, over Bluetooth. How's that? It's not a deal breaker for me, but it's going to make one really contented iPad user.

What'd you think?