I’ve been reflecting recently on my twisty path from being a kid with a computer to being a grown-up who is (apparently) a bona fide software engineer. My first computer was a TRS-80 Model III. It had a 1MHz 8-bit Z-80 CPU, 64KB of RAM, and two 5.25" floppy disk drives (after upgrades). I used it to play games, write papers, and learn how to write software – mostly in BASIC, though I eventually learned Z-80 assembly language.
This post is not about any of my usual software or hardware topics, but it still is nerdy. The flashlight. Parliament’s classic song on the subject tells us that “everybody’s got a little light under the sun.” It’s good to have a little light, especially when the sun isn’t around. But some little lights are better than others. The best thing that has happened to flashlights in recent years, especially little ones, is the rise of the LED.
It will surprise few that I have not yet given Apple $10 for the privilege of upgrading my iPod touch (“iPt”) firmware from 1.1.5 to 2.x. Update: A month after posting this, I took the plunge. Version 2.2 came with some nice little improvements. I still miss my shell, but at least I have an SSH app! At first, I resisted out of attachment to the open source software I had installed via Cydia – with no supported “upgrade” process per se, I would have had to reinstall all my packages manually.
This began as a quick reply to a discussion on the Well about a recent posting from John Gruber which links to a hit list from Crackberry.com about the iPhone. Gruber focuses just on the keyboard issue, about which I found I had this to say: With the built-in spelling correction, I can type close to 30wpm on my iPt keyboard. This is faster than I ever was with Graffiti, which I used for about 8 years and was pretty good at if I say so.
My first week with the iPt has been a thorough validation of my decision to jump ship from the Palm platform. The things this new device doesn’t do are still a problem, but the things it does do it does incredibly well. I won’t gush over those because they’ve all been thoroughly gushed over. But anybody who thinks the success of the iPhone/iPt platform is primarily based on superficial factors of appearance or brand image likely hasn’t used one for more than two minutes.
I bought a new Netgear wifi router for the house today, to replace a crappy old D-Link that didn’t really work with either my MacBook Pro or my new iPod touch. A business-card-sized slip of paper fell out of the box when I opened it. It was a little GPL/LGPL notice, with a URL for downloading source. Digging further through the included paper I also found a three-panel insert with six-point type that has the full GPL text on one side and the full LGPL text on the other.
I bought my Palm TX in December 2005, a few months after it came out. In my blog post where I weighed the pros and cons of the device and the platform, I grumbled that “Palm has successfully crushed any optimism I might have had for fixes appearing in the form of a free, downloadable OS upgrade.” My grumpy intuition was right – in fact, the Palm platform has pretty much just stagnated since that time, punctuated with spastic feints toward Linux that you can read about elsewhere or in my old Palm-related posts.