Fast Company has a good overview of 25 highly useful (and/or interesting) iPhone apps.
Mac Snow Leopard Update
Here are the enhancements and refinements that are coming with Mac OS X Snow Leopard.
Helpful Review of the iPhone 3G S
This was a helpful and detailed review of the iPhone 3G S, via the Infinite Loop blog.
I’ve picked one of them up and it is indeed much faster. Now, it now longer takes 2 minutes for my OmniFocus app to open up (the 2,345 actions or something like that tended to bog it down). Also, it’s great to have video.
The New iPhone
It will be available starting June 19. See an overview on the Apple site. Looks excellent! Key improvements include:
- 2 times faster
- Built in video camera (finally! — although I know you could take video before if you “unlocked” it)
- Voice control — play music or place a call by voice
- Spotlight search so you can search across the whole device (finally)
- Send photos and videos in your SMS
- Copy and paste (part of the software update, so it sounds like you have this even if you don’t upgrade the phone)
Why Nuclear Meltdowns Happen
Yesterday we learned from Malcolm Gladwell about why plane crashes happen. Surprisingly, “plane crashes are much more likely to be the result of an accumulation of minor difficulties and seemingly trivial malfunctions [as opposed to major mechanical failures].”
Interestingly, the same factors are at play in creating most major disasters and industrial accidents, including nuclear meltdowns.
The near-meltdown at Three Mile Island is a case in point. A number of minor errors that would have each been harmless in themselves combined to create a near catastrophe. In fact, even four of these errors happening together would have amounted to nothing. But with each error, there was some freakish, incredibly unlikely related error at just the wrong spot to render the previous error significant. After a sequence of five of these, the plant was almost at a meltdown.
The story is quite incredible. Here it is, from Gladwell’s book Outliers (p. 183):
One of the most famous accidents in history, for example, was the near meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island nuclear station in 1979. Three Mile Island so traumatized the American public that it sent the US nuclear power industry into a tailspin from which it has never fully recovered. But what actually happened at that nuclear reactor began as something far from dramatic.
As the sociologist Charles Perrow shows in his classic Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies, there was a relatively routine blockage in what is called the plant’s “polisher”–a kind of giant water filter. The blockage caused moisture to leak into the plant’s air system, inadvertently tripping two valves and shutting down the flow of cold water into the plant’s steam generator.
Like all nuclear reactors, Three Mile Island had a backup cooling system for precisely this situation. But on that particular day, for reasons that no one really understands, the valves for the backup system weren’t open. Someone had closed them, and an indicator in the control room showing they were closed was blocked by a repair tag hanging from a switch above it.
That left the reactor depending on another backup system, a special sort of relief valve. But, as luck would have it, the relief valve wasn’t working properly that day either. It stuck open when it was supposed to close, and, to make matters even worse, a gauge in the control room that should have told the operators that the relief valve wasn’t working was itself not working properly. By the time Three Mile Island’s engineers realized what was happening, the reactor had come dangerously close to a meltdown.
Here’s the point:
No single big thing went wrong at Three Mile Island. Rather, five completely unrelated events occurred in sequence, each of which, had it happened in isolation, would have caused no more than a hiccup in the plant’s ordinary operation.
That is simply fascinating in itself. But let me be anti-climactic here by drawing out a lesson for our productivity.
Here’s the lesson: If you keep your routine systems humming along well (getting your email to zero every day, processing your inbox daily, etc.), who knows what far greater complications you may be saving yourself from?
By keeping the basics going along well, you may be heading off an accumulation of small complexities in your life which in themselves may not be a big deal, but which may just have ended up combining with a few other insignificant complexities to create a perfect storm. Perhaps not a nuclear meltdown, but perhaps a very, very bad day.
iPhone Plans May Become Cheaper
From the Infinite Loop blog:
AT&T is listening to customers and is considering slashing its monthly iPhone plans, according to a new rumor out of BusinessWeek. “People with knowledge of the company’s thinking” have told the publication that the carrier has thought out some lower-priced data options, including a limited data plan for $10 less than the current offerings.
The news comes just weeks after Cote Collaborative analyst Michael Cote sent a research note saying that there was a “strong possibility” that AT&T planned to drop its entry-level iPhone plan from $69 per month to $59. At that time, Cote offered no real support for his premonitions aside from the fact that it would make sense if AT&T wanted to continue bringing in new customers, noting that the current data plan pricing “does not address the whole market.”
Before that, Kaufman Brothers analyst Shaw Wu said that AT&T was “more open to developing tiered data plans that fit more in line with today’s environment.” He suggested that there may soon be multiple levels of data to choose from, which seems to support the buzz out of BusinessWeek. Given the language used in the BW piece, it sounds as if the unlimited data plan might remain the same price, with a likely download cap for $10 less per month.
The price cut may be part of negotiations between Apple and AT&T, as the carrier is currently trying to extend its exclusive contract until 2011. Apple is undoubtedly looking for its carrier partners to start offering more attractive plan options in order to expand market share, and AT&T is likely willing to bend over backwards in order to keep Apple to itself for a little while longer.
The Extent of Information Overload
This is incredible. From the Columbia Journalism Review. Keep in mind that an exabyte is actually two levels past a terabyte.
In 2006, the world produced 161 “exabytes” of digital information—3 million times the amount of information contained in all the books ever written. Next year, the world will produced 988 exabytes of data. (Columbia Journalism Review).
Schedule Meetings Without Email Back-and-Forth
We all know the drill: when it comes time to schedule a meeting, there is often cumbersome and detailed email back-and-forth to find a time and day that works for everyone.
There is a better way. With Doodle, you can set up a quick online poll with a few options for the meeting times. You then send the link to the poll to everyone, and they vote for what works best for them. You can then use this information to determine the meeting time, without going through a bunch of emails.
You can also use it to make a choice among movies, restaurants, or anything else that you need to decide on as a group.
And the best part is: no registration is required.
Two Firefox Shortcuts
Here are two great keyboard shortcuts in Firefox:
- To go right to the search box in the upper right, press command + k (on a Mac; I would assume control + k on a PC, although I’m not sure).
- To open those search results in a new tab, press alt + enter.
Here are some helpful, short videos that show what Microsoft Surface can do.
Surface is a 30-inch tabletop display that enables multiple people to interact with digital information. There is no mouse and no keyboard. Instead, you just grab digital content with your hands and move information between objects with simple gestures and touches.
It will be great as human to digital interfaces move more and more in this direction (and hopefully Apple will take the lead here; the iPhone is a great start). Mouses and keyboards are a limiting factor on how quickly and easily we can deal with information. We need digital interfaces that are more like the physical world if we are going to be able to keep up with the pace of opportunity and stay sane.
There will always be some place for the keyboard — namely, when you actually need to type. But a primarily touch-based, multi-dimensional interface for interacting with our computers will make both the routine and creative dimensions of work much more smooth and intuitive. The result will be that we can focus more and more on the actual work, rather than operating within the limitations of our interfaces.