Archive for the ‘Apple’ Category

Changing the face of dining.

Friday, January 31st, 2014

We have a noodle truck at the office on Thursdays.

The Forbidden. Beef stewed for four hours in an Indonesian-style red curry. DFG Noodles, Austin, Texas.

The Forbidden. Beef stewed for four hours in an Indonesian-style red curry. DFG Noodles, Austin, Texas.

And it is pretty damn good.

And they take credit/debt cards. You’ve seen it before, haven’t you? iPad with a credit card swiper, pick your tip, sign, have your receipt emailed to you?

This observation isn’t original to me, and I’m not sure it is terribly profound, but: services like Square have revolutionized credit card processing. I remember the old days, when setting up a merchant account was hard to do, and you needed a phone line, and you needed bulky equipment, and the credit card processors charged enormous fees. Now? I’m kind of far from retail, so I’m not sure if Square has resulted in downward pressure on fees (though I suspect it has).

Someone I know who is in retail and takes credit cards reviewed an early draft of this post and provided this information: they pay 2.61% for credit card processing, but each month’s statement also contains a laundry list of “cryptic inexplicable fees” that they have to pay as well. Square claims to charge a flat 2.75% for swiped transactions (Visa, MC, AmEx, Discover) with no additional fees. (I say “claims” because I have not used Square and can’t verify that for myself.)

Square also claims to deliver your money in one to two business days, no matter what type of card it is. The retail person I know says that AmEx fees depend on how long you let AmEx keep your money: they let AmEx hold their money for 15 days, and pay between 2% and 3%.

But fees aside, anyone who has a bank account can take credit cards these days, and all you need is an iPhone or iPad (or a supported Android device, though frankly that looks a little painful). Little to no bulk, no landline, and the money goes into your linked bank account.

The big thing, as I see it, isn’t the merchant charges: it is the portability. Your credit card machine is your phone or tablet, and it fits in a trailer. Or in a pocket. And you don’t need anything else – you don’t even need a printer, you can just email receipts to your customers. (Okay, you might want a charging cable, depending on how good battery life is on your device. But other than that, nothing.)

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TMQ Watch: December 17, 2013.

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

You know that comment we made yesterday, about “Start writing or stop talking about it” being pretty good writing advice?

This week’s TMQ after the jump…

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Bad Idea Jeans.

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Scentee, a Japanese tech brand, has created a product that attaches to your smartphone and releases a scent. The plug-in accessory fits into the headphone socket of a smartphone (iPhone and Android). The device works with a companion app that tells it to spray a burst of fragrance into the air when you receive a message.

Available scents are claimed to include:

…rose, mint, curry, jasmine, cinnamon roll, lavender, apple, strawberry, ylang-ylang (a fragrant flower), coconut, and if you remember the fried corn soup fritters at KFC Japan from earlier this year, the corn soup scent should come as no surprise. There’s also a limited-edition Korean BBQ collection with two meat scents and baked potato. A bacon scent is in the works.

Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it in action. But even if this does turn out to be real, and not a hoax, I still think it is a damn stupid idea. (Anyone remember the iSmell?)

Also:

Almost as cool as making the theme song to “The Wire” (the Season 5 version) your ringtone … almost.

Oh, bullshit. Everyone knows the Season 1 version (with the Blind Boys of Alabama) is the best version.

Edited to add: I have been challenged to provide support for the above statement.

Here’s a handy page that contains YouTube versions of the theme song from all five seasons.

Consumer advisory: iTunes 11.1

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

If you have not updated to iTunes 11.1 yet, don’t.

atp

This is a screen snapshot from my iTunes 11.1 of one of the podcasts I listen to, the Accidental Tech Podcast. Click to embiggen.

In spite of what you see in the “Plays” column, I have actually listened to every episode of ATP. I delete podcasts from iTunes as I listen to them.

When I “upgraded” to 11.1, all of these podcasts I had already listened to, and deleted from iTunes, popped back in with that little “cloud” icon under the “Unplayed” column. Apparently, Apple wants me to know that these podcasts are available in “the cloud”.

That’s great, Apple, but if I want to find an episode I’ve missed, I can go to the podcast’s page in iTunes, or to the podcast’s website. How do I turn off the display of podcasts in “the cloud”?

Surprise! According to everything I’ve been able to find on Apple’s support sites, you can’t. You can’t delete them from iTunes. You can’t get rid of them. The “Show iTunes purchases in the cloud” option does nothing for podcasts.

You can use the “My Podcasts” view to show just the podcasts you’ve downloaded and not deleted, without the “cloud” podcasts. But I have sound reasons for preferring the “List” view over “My Podcasts” – “List” shows you more information and less graphics.

Bad job, Apple. May the person who decided on this develop a case of painful rectal itch.

The street finds its own uses for things.

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Hattip on this to Big Bill Gibson and John Gruber.

Toes in the water.

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Sorry about the short blogging quasi-hiatus there.

After work on Friday, I drove down to San Antonio for LoneStarCon 3, the 71st World Science Fiction Convention. It was a swell time. I got to hang out with several friends, including Mike the Musicologist, Andrew the Colossus of Roads, RoadRich, and Lawrence, who was doing a land office business in books. (Who says people don’t read any more? I covered the table for him a little bit, and by Ghu the books were flying off the table like snow crab legs at an all you can eat Chinese buffet.)

I haven’t been down to San Antonio for reasons other than medical for years, and hadn’t been on the RiverWalk since LoneStarCon2. I’d forgotten how nice the RiverWalk is, even though the vendors make things a bit crowded. (I don’t remember there being as many sidewalk vendors there last time I was down. But I’m getting old, and memory fades.)

Mike the Musicologist did most of the meal planning. Breakfast for two out of three of the days we were there was in the Marriott Rivercenter, mostly for reasons of timing. However, it is a pretty good buffet; I’d go so far as to say, with the custom omelets and made-to-order waffles, it comes close to being worth $20+tax and tip. Especially since I really didn’t see any breakfast places near the hotels or along the Riverwalk. (McDonalds and Whataburger excepted. There was also a Denny’s across the street from the Rivercenter; but literally the first thing I heard when I got to the hotel was that a mutual acquaintance of ours got food poisoning from the Denny’s bacon.)

The one non-Marriott breakfast was at the Magnolia Pancake Haus on Embassy Oaks, which was packed to the gills. We waited 40 minutes for a table, but the Munchener Apfel Pfannekuchen was worth it. I’d love to go back (and maybe try the wild mushroom hash) but I’d make sure I brought a good book.

(At some point in the near future, I want to do a post on how tablets, and especially the iPad, are transforming the restaurant industry, with Magnolia being one of my examples.)

We also had an excellent meal at Moroccan Bites (I loved the lamb shank and the chicken bites) and a pretty good meal at a place called Charlie Wants a Burger. (I had the pulled pork sandwich. And wings.) Sunday night we went to Fogo de Chao…which, you know, is Fogo de Chao. If you want huge amounts of roasted meat, you know what you’re getting into. For reasons I won’t discuss here (think Tim Cahill’s rule #6, corollary 1), I just had the salad bar. Which is actually a reasonable thing to do at Fogo de Chao (especially since you also get to eat the fried polenta, bananas, and cheese rolls), and I didn’t feel ripped off at $22.50. (I did feel gouged by the $3.25 iced tea. Note to self: water next time.)

(If you think you detected a trend, you may be right: Moroccan Bites and Magnolia have both been on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Guy Fieri may have problems running a place of his own, but as far as recommendations go, he’s batting 100% with me.)

Oddly enough, I bought more t-shirts (three) than I did books (two). Of course, one of those shirts is a gift for my brother. And one of those shirts I don’t actually have yet (they’re shipping it). And one of those books I bought mostly so I could support my friends. (I would have bought more books, but nobody had any Robert Frezza. “The Whistling Pig” was the theme to my last few months at 4LCC.)

I do want to say a few words about the best thing that happened at the convention. I don’t like bragging about famous people I know, mostly because I’m always afraid someone will ask them about me and they’ll say “Dwight who?” (Or, if they’re talking to Gardner Dozois, “That a–hole Dwight?!”)

(If you’ve never met Gardner in person, let’s just say he has a puckish sense of humor.)

But I digress. The best thing that happened at the convention is that one of my closest friends in the world won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette. That put the cap on a pretty swell weekend.

Congrats, again, Pat.

Missing the boat here.

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

More than any other skill, glass blowing has allowed Tacoma, Wash., to emerge from Seattle’s shadow. Carve out a couple of hours from a leisurely weekend of museum-hopping, shopping and sightseeing, and you’ll take home something more tangible than the usual vacation leftovers of memories and a sunburn.

How can you write a travel article about Tacoma and not mention the Silver Cloud Inn and its luxurious Crazy Apple Rumors suite? For crying out loud, the Silver Cloud Inn is right on the waterfront! Instead, the LAT recommends staying at some hipster hotel with a “stunning glass collection”.

And what does the paper recommend you eat? Tacos. Vuelve a la Vida may be great, but I live in Austin; if I’m going to Tacoma, I’m going to get away from tacos.

(I’m still hoping to get up to Tacoma one of these days, before John Moltz becomes the famous Internet personality he deserves to be and starts spending all of his time cavorting with SI swimsuit models and professional drifers.)

TMQ Watch: August 13, 2013.

Friday, August 16th, 2013

We were trying to come up with a clever introduction to the return of Tuesday Morning Quarterback (and, thus, the TMQ Watch) but we couldn’t. On the other hand, we were also suffering from a bad case of 70s nostalgia (brought about by many things, but exacerbated by the death of Bert Lance). So we thought we’d throw some vintage music your way before cracking open this week’s TMQ after the jump. Oddly enough, it turns out to be fitting for reasons we’ll see later on…

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I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone.

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Well, not really “gone”. I hadn’t been back to Ohio for nine years, and it amazed me somewhat both how much and how little has changed.

For example, there’s an entire grocery chain that I don’t remember from my last trip…that takes the Discover card and cash. No Visa/AmEx/MasterCard/Diner’s Club, not even debt cards with a PIN, just cash and Discover. Who came up with this idea?

On the other hand, the tractor tire store that was a landmark on the way to Grandma’s place is still there, after 40 something years. And Grandma’s place still feels remote from everything, even though there’s major strip centers at the end of her road, and even though much of the land was sold off over the past few years (and now has houses sitting on it).

And the old NASA hanger is still visible from the airport. That was another landmark for us kids. (My dad worked there, back when it was still the Lewis Research Center, before it was renamed “NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field“. Which is a mouthful. Not that I’m bitter or anything over the renaming; by gosh, if anyone deserved to have a NASA facility named after him, it was John Glenn.)

This is shaping up to be a long post, and sort of “stream of consciousness”, so I’m going to put the rest of it behind a jump. Before I do, here’s Grandma’s obituary, just for the record.

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(not) Fire.

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

I’m not 100% happy with the way these photos turned out, but it was a hard subject to photograph: I think it would have been hard even with the big camera instead of an iPhone. While they aren’t perfect, I think they’re interesting enough to post.

arcade1

arcade2

(Interior, Cleveland Arcade, downtown Cleveland, Ohio.)

I’ve been thinking about picking up one of the Olloclip lens kits soonish, depending on how things go. Anyone have any experience with these, or anything they’d recommend instead? I’m mostly interested in the wide-angle and macro lenses.

Teaser.

Monday, July 8th, 2013

I’m waiting until I get back to edit and post photos. (As a side note, geotagging photos is a PITA on Ubuntu, compared to Apple’s iPhoto.)

We (that is, my mother, aunt, uncle, and I) were trying to get a good view of the tall ships at the Port of Cleveland. Which we couldn’t do yesterday, because the good views required $10 a car for parking plus $14 a person. However, my mother and I went back downtown today and took some photos.

I’ve been thinking a lot about firefighters recently. There was the West incident, and then the Houston Fire Department lost four people fighting a fire in a crack motel. Then there was Arizona. And it isn’t clear to me if any firefighters were lost in Quebec.

We stumbled across this yesterday while we were out, and I wanted to go back and photograph it. I’m happy with the way this photo came out.

memorial

Cleveland Fallen Firefighters Memorial, Cleveland, Ohio.

Interesting thing about this memorial: it was designed by Luis Jiménez, who also started building the sculpture. Mr. Jiménez was a popular and well-regarded sculptor. While he was working on the Firefighters Memorial, he was also working on the “Blue Mustang” sculpture for the Denver International Airport. In the process of building that sculpture, part of it fell and fatally injured Mr. Jiménez, and the memorial was completed by other people.

Here in my car, I can’t make a call, because the system doesn’t work at all…

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

The latest in-dash “infotainment” systems are turning into a giant headache for drivers. Problems with phone, entertainment and navigation functions were the biggest source of complaints in the latest J.D. Power & Associates survey of new-car quality, easily outstripping traditional issues such as fit and finish and wind noise.

More:

But the next generation of in-car technology will get much more interesting, with embedded systems making a comeback of sorts, in more sophisticated form.
Such systems may focus on collecting data that only the car can provide — and transferring it to Web-based systems to large numbers of drivers. If cars signaled that their windshield wipers were on, for instance, that information could be fed into a navigation system that could warn other drivers of a rainstorm ahead.

Why do you need cars signaling that their windshield wipers are on to warn of a rainstorm ahead? I have a close friend who recently bought a 2013 Ford: it has weather information integrated into the navigation system. As I recall, his 2011 Ford had the same feature.

But my primary reason for blogging this is so I can link to episode 11 of the Neutral podcast, in which John Siracusa, Marco Arment, and Casey Liss discuss why car software stinks. I think all of the Neutral podcasts are worth listening to, but if you’re only going to listen to one, this is the one I’d recommend.