Entries Tagged 'Rants' ↓

What HP could have done with WebOS

HP this last week or so announced that it had made a terrible decision to discontinue producing the Touchpad or other WebOS devices.  It came as a real shock to those of us that have been hoping they would simply fix the problems that WebOS has so that we can come back.  I don’t know about everyone who’s tried the WebOS, but it has by far the most potential of any i’ve seen for mobile applications.

The Good about WebOS

There are a lot of really excellent parts of WebOS.  First, although on day one things can feel a little confusing (the swipe isn’t natural, how to use the cards aren’t obvious, etc) after about 1 or 2 days of real use it starts to become not only natural, but something to be desired.  I moved to my ipod touch from my Palm Pre and keep trying to swipe to switch apps, and getting frustrated because such an awesome feature didn’t exist.  Opening the keyboard and just typing, again is wonderful.  Just type is indeed that, you simply open, type, and you have what you want.  It’s good, it’s very good.  Also, patches.  My biggest frustration with Apples iOS is that it seems to be written to be perfect for exactly 1 person - Steve Jobs.  Lots of fanboys decide that they also like turtle necks, but I don’t, I hate them.  iOS doesn’t work exactly like i’d like it to, but there’s little that can be done without jailbreaking it (which as far as I know doesn’t work on my ipad 2 yet).  WebOS on the other hand embraced the idea of patching the OS.  I can make the battery in the corner work the way I want instead (show as a %), I can make the vibration last exactly the amount of time that I want.  I can remove that stupid NFL app like I have any interest in that sort of thing.  Not by downloading some app, but by changing the OS code to run the way I want.  Very Excellent (though not fully condoned by Palm as far as I know).

The Bad

So with so much going for it, why am I now on android?  There are really 2 main reasons.  The first reason: The battery is absolutely ridiculous.  This is actually the reason I don’t use my Palm Pre any more.  If I completely charge my phone, and don’t use it all day, it’s dead by the next morning.  That’s ridiculous.  If i try and use it during a 3 hour meeting for notes, surfing, etc (not even 100% of the time) it’s dead by the end.  That’s completely unacceptable.  If nothing else is fixed, the battery life simply has to be fixed for WebOS will never make it out of HP’s doors with any form of following.  The second reason: Things are simply too slow to load.  When I tried to show people how cool my phone was, I’d try and open any app, and it sits and blinks for 5-10 seconds while it load.  This is, I imagine, because of the reliance on html and javascript, except webpages don’t take that long.  In web development we learn that if a page takes longer than 500ms to load, it’s not good yet, if it’s more than 2 seconds you just lost a customer.  So why does loading a small website, say a contacts app, take so long?  I can only guess it’s due to poor framework development on Palm’s part.  The framework obviously tries to do too much before the app loads, and this is killing them.  Also, 1 other problem, if you get people to go to a provider (Sprint), don’t switch on them when you come up with a cooler option.  I wanted the Pre 2 because I had hoped you’d fixed things (I later learn the battery was worse, you’re just screwing yourselves) but no, i’m on sprint now and you made some weird contract with Verizon.  Honestly?  It’s like you faked us all out on purpose.  I can just see someone laughing in their office; haha we totally tricked you into going with Sprint (which, btw, is still my favorite provider with their any mobile to mobile minutes, awesome :)) suckers.

The Potential

Assuming that Palm fixes the Load times and most importantly the Battery life, there are still a few things they could do to revive their dying child.

  • Embrace patches.  Get a developer to look over the patch and make sure it’s good, and release it on your own website.  Offer tons of them, that do anything I could want.  Let me install them from the app store, and remember my decisions during an update.  Patches are your friend :) love them, protect them, make them available.  They let me use my phone the way I want, not the way you thought I wanted (or worse the way that your CEO wanted).
  • Offer the touchstone as part of the original phone.  I was disappointed when I heard there was this awesome piece of technology that you guys created, but that was an extra $50 right on top.  Almost as disappointed as I was with the HTC Flyer (which is an entire rant in itself, and has caused me to believe that HTC couldn’t care less about their customers, terrible move).  It’s like selling a car without the tires, or a kids toy batteries sold separately, or a cool phone without an awesome charger (except you taunt us with the possibilities).  It was too much money to spend to simply get the ability to set my phone on a magnet and let it charge.  Honestly $50 did someone eat lead paint chips as a kid?  But the touchstone is awesome, everyone with a Pre (or whatever) should have one that comes with their phone.  Extras can then be $30 if need be, but the original one should come in the packaging.  Then your phone has something none other does, true convenience.
  • Reprogram all the main apps directly in C instead of in JS.  Better yet, work on the framework so that it loads programs faster and cleaner.  The apps shouldn’t be very large, and they should be very fast.  But in the end, the built in main apps should be sooooo fast that I can blame the other developers when their apps aren’t as quick.  As is, of course other apps aren’t fast, the contacts app is slow.  How can I expect some other company to write in your framework if you can’t?  And, how can I expect to be able to develop something someone will truly like if no matter what I do it’s going to be terribly slow?  That’s not a good feeling for your developers.
  • Did I mention fix the battery life?  It really is totally unacceptable
Will HP/Palm hear my rants?  Almost assuredly not (if you know someone from HP please :) feel free to forward it on), but if they somehow do, don’t just by pass them as Ramblings of a Crazy Programmer, hear them as a genuine request from a customer that longs to come back.

Dear IPAD - don’t take out the pen

Everyone has been checking out the brand new IPAD.  Granted, I don’t own one, and there’s 1 main reason.  Why of why did you make a pad without a pen?  I’ll tell you why, because “everything should be finger based”.  That’s true, almost.

Before you stop reading, I don’t mean a stylus, I mean a pen.  This wouldn’t be used for moving around the page, it’s not a stylus.  You can’t click on icons with it, you can’t flip pages with it.  You can’t click pause, fast foward, or even stop.  I repeat - IT’S NOT A STYLUS.  So what can you do with it?  WRITE.  It’s a PAD, meaning a replacement for things like paper.

My “dream”.  I pull out my ipad and am reading a book about SQL, and see something I really like, I slide the pen out and touch stops working (while using the pen), I write notes on what I like about it, and slide the pen back in and keep reading.  Or i’m in class, following the instructor, and the instructor mentions that the author wasn’t fully right in this part, but instead take note that such and such should be such and such.  I pull out my pen, take the note, and slide it back.  Everywhere where I’d want to write on the tablet would use the pen.  It could be precise (even pressure sensitive).  I should also be able to hook it to my computer and turn on a tablet application which turns it into a pen tablet / monitor for my computer.

The pen should not however be designed into the applications for any reason other than writing.  It’s ink, not a mouse pointer.  It’s not used for precision, instead it’s used for writing and drawing.  Every application should be designed so that the interface uses touch to control, and a pen to write if that makes sense.  Children draw with their fingers (and sometimes I do when my daughter wants to paint with me), adults draw with pens, pencils, brushes, etc.  Such a simple addon could have completed the ipad, but alas, they overlooked it.

Someday I may buy one, but to me $500 is too steep for a book reader and a movie player.  But add a study guide and a graphics tablet, now that’s different :).

Designers think “outside the div” why doesn’t CSS?

Somewhere someone decided that using tables for layout was bad.  Everyone who was doing it got slapped on the wrist, and everyone who agreed with the notion removed all tables and added div with CSS instead.  The result was html files that were clean, and a lot of really ugly websites.  You have 2 options.

Option 1 - use tables, where everything is a big grid, and you lay it out in the HTML the way you want it to look.  This option is very nice in the sense that no matter what people do your text doesn’t overlap.  No ugly websites, instead you get ugly html

Option 2 - use divs that are placed via CSS.  Boom - beautiful html, but unless you’re good at CSS it looks terrible in one of the 3 major browsers.  The problem, of course, is microsoft and their inability to program things to standards, but this problem exists and there’s nothing that web developers can do about that but work around it.

Option 2 has definately won the war, but still major companies like google choose to use tables (in programs like gmail) because “they just work”.  Of course they use divs and tables in a joint way, which seems to be “the best way” because of these issues.

My complaint: If you’ve ever worked with a designer before to build your websites, designers don’t know how to think inside the box.  They always want to design things that look nice, not things that are necessarily easy to program.  They want borders around divs that are made out of images, the border width = 2 thing just isn’t good enough.  They want rounded corners, or torn corners.  They want this image to be placed a little outside of the div, and they want this button to be gradient in just the right way.  They want scrollbars that look like the rest of their design.  They are soo picky.  And CSS, which should be tailored to fit their picky ways, doesn’t work like a designer.

CSS wants you to either place things in a flow or absolute.  I could (and most likely am) be wrong, but to me it’s difficult to get one div to just plain overlap another div.  It’s hard to make an image that becomes a border of a certain class of divs.  And it’s just plain impossible to overwrite the default scrollbar “because who would want to anyway” (ME!!! or at least my designer :)) unless you plan on using javascript, and even then the libraries are outdated.  CSS is almost powerful, so almost powerful that it hurts to use it.  It almost has the ability to position things the way I want.  It just needs a redesign.

That’s my rant :)

What if CSS added (feel free to comment on what you’d like to see it add):

border-image(url(../images/tornborder.png) 13px 8px 120px 270px) - the syntax obviously is made by me, but the idea is that tornborder.png is a sprite that can be cut up to corners and sides using the px as the grid to split it up (my thoughts are that the top is the top 13px, the top left corner is from 0 to 8 px in and 0 to 13 px down, the left is from 0 to 8px in, the bottom left is from 0 to 8 and from 120 to height, etc.

scrollbar-image-horizontal(url(../images/scrollbar.png))

scrollbar-image-vertical

scrollbar-background(url(../images/scrollbarback.png))

scrollbar-arrows(url(../images/scrollbararrows.png) 5px (basically a 10px by 10px picture that is a grid of 4 5px arrows)

stack: true - makes everything inside this element “stack”

align: center - who was the moron that forgot to add this?  gaahhh.  And if someone purposely left this out, then who’s up for a good old tar and feathering? margin-auto is a cop out, doesn’t always work, and isn’t align: center :).  Align: left .. align: right … margin-left: auto margin-right: auto, which one of these aint like the other?

Google Chrome OS is a cop out

Some one at google must have read thousands or even tens of thousands of emails from users pleading with Google to make an Operating System.  Google did wonderful things to the search engine world.  They seemed to do everything right.  Kept things simple and fast, exactly what search engines needed.  Then made ads that weren’t “in your face”.  Again beautiful.  Then they came out with email, which I personally love.  It works just the way that I want (some people would disagree).  So, with this track record, people requested an OS (I always theorized “the perfect OS” and knew that only google could ever make it).

Then, to everyones enjoyment Google announced that they would indeed be making an OS.  I couldn’t wait.  I wanted it to come out the day they announced it :( but sadly had to wait.  Then, it came.   And …. ARE YOU KIDDING ME.  What a piece of crap.  You already made Google Chrome (the browser), and it’s pretty cool (still hasn’t replaced firefox in my book, but it’s close), but come on, this OS is a cop out.  It’s like someone at google said “We already have chrome, let’s not spend much on the OS, just push something out that only has chrome, people will use it because it says Google on it”.  But come on, people use stuff that says Google on it because it’s always “the answer”.  If it’s not, then people don’t use it.  This isn’t a “game changer”, it doesn’t do anything.  In fact, it does less than a windows box with chrome on it because at least a windows box let’s me install other things.

Someone needs to be slapped :).

The answer.  I’ll be the first to admit that i’m not 100% qualified to come up with the actual answer, but here’s my opinion on what google could have done:

1) Create an application browser.  One that’s built to make application programming easier, and faster for the user.  Not one that helps make pages that work in todays current browsers, but one that replaces those browsers with one that’s made to build applications, client server, or just client, with cool syncing, and a new version of HTML/CSS that’s not for displaying new articles but for displaying applications.  Completely rethink the browser from an applications point of view.  This is the OS, and it should work fast.

2) Work offline or online, and sync when online.  Let me install applications and let them work completely offline.  Let me install Google Docs (which really should jsut come with the OS) and let it work lightning fast.  Let me save documents locally or in the cloud.  Or let me work on my “cloud” documents when i’m offline

3) Make it free and open source.  Rewrite the kernel, rewrite everything and make it awesome :).  Sit down at the table with all of your geniuses (or just a set of them) and come up with something that actually changes the world.  You’re the only ones that are able to, and once you do no one will use Apple or Microsoft ever again (ok that’s not true, but I wish it was).

Anyway, I know i’m just ranting, and google will never listen, but they could, and they could repent of their faulty attempt at something nice, and do what worked for them day 1 when they came out with something that actually changed the way we used the internet.