Review of the Steve Jobs biography

Steve Jobs“This bio is sh–!”

That’s all I could imagine Steve Jobs saying if he had read the biography he commissioned Walter Isaacson to write. Since I’m not Steve Jobs, I’d say it was an amazing read, though it could’ve benefited from a bit more editing.

While growing up I remember using Apple products in school, from the Apple II in Grade one, to the Macintosh throughout the rest of elementary school, and once again when I went to college. What I wasn’t really familiar with was the man behind those machines. Sure, I’d helped poke fun of Steve Jobs and Apple, and when I turned 180 degrees on that, I watched every product unveiling from the iPhone onward, but I never looked into the type of man he was, so this biography was quite the read.

Steve Jobs paints a picture of a man who is a quagmire. He was a narcissistic perfectionist who could bend people to his will and still garner deep respect and admiration. He was extremely emotional, often crying in public when happy or hurt, but callous when criticizing others for their work. There are countless stories of Jobs verbally abusing employees when they couldn’t come up with a design that he envisioned. He would catch them in his “reality distortion field” and get them to complete projects in unthinkable ways.

To further add to the quagmire that is Jobs, his personal life is equally odd. He speaks extensively about his personal life, with stories of him experimenting with LSD, strange dieting, traveling to India for months to seek enlightenment, and not stepping up to the plate to father his first child Lisa, among other things. We see a man who is a product of his generation, a bit of a hippie searching for inner peace, but also someone so cold as to not recognize his own daughter as his. The closest we get to an explanation of the reasoning behind why Jobs was the way he was, is through Isaacson’s interviews with others saying that he was trying to cope with abandonment issues at birth. It’s strange because Jobs was raised by loving parents who did nothing but make efforts to see him succeed. For all I know he did, but I’d like to have seen Isaacson press Jobs more about his feelings toward his birth parents.

For someone who is lauded as one of the great technology minds, Jobs was never really an expert at anything. He had this innate sense of how things should be, and worked off the genius of people like Steve Wozniak, designers at Xerox and Apple designer Jony Ive (and many others) to make the great products that Apple is so known for today. Each one of those that worked with him says that yes they did the work, but that wouldn’t have been possible without Jobs pushing them to do the unimaginable.

Throughout the book I couldn’t help but think that I was happy Jobs was never interested in running for public office. Imagine him as President of the United States? I’m pretty sure he’d rival, if not be worse than some other notorious world leaders of the past. Luckily he was focused on changing the world through computers, not politics.

As I mentioned at the top, the book could have been given an extra round of editing. There is a lot of repetition, especially in the latter half that became distracting at times. If it wasn’t for that, I would have given it a perfect score, but instead I give Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson a 4.5/5.

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iOS 5 is nearly here

iOS 5

Today Apple announced the launch of iOS 5, the new operating system for its devices, at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Many Apple fanboys and girls are going crazy over the iCloud announcement that lets you basically do everything over the air (OTA); for me it’s not that mind blowing, but I may come around. What I did like was many of the new functions that the OS offers me, the regular iPhone user. Here are the ones that stand out to me the most:

iMessage: This addition is clearly competing with BBM and the many apps out there on iTunes already. Without using your valuable text messages, you can now text, send phones/videos, locations and contact info to anyone using iOS 5. I’d like to see how many more people make the switch to the iPhone after this because the majority of people I know are with Blackberry only for BBM or the keyboard.

Notification Centre: Making great use of the lock screen, you can now view all pending notifications just with a quick glance. To access an individual one, like a text for example, just swipe it and you can compose a message. This also solves an annoyance of mine by sending you non-intrusive notification when someone messages (and calls, I presume) and you’re playing a game – I hate being interrupted.

New Camera functionality: There have been many times where I wanted to take a picture, but have missed the opportunity because I had to wait for the camera to load. Another way Apple is taking advantage of the lock screen is by letting you take photos with the volume + button. Also eliminating the need for many apps, you can now edit the photos as you take them, and…

Twitter everywhere: You can send those photos links, videos and maps direct from your phone. As a heavy Twitter user this is great!

That’s the majority of the updates, but you can also watch the video below (for those without Quicktime) or visit Apple to see the rest of the specs.

Thanks to pspfano for posting the video to Youtube.

Pros and Cons of the Sony Digital Reader

Sony Digital ReaderI’m a fan of technology and try to keep on top of new technology; unfortunately my bills would not get paid if I decided to buy everything that caught my eye. When I won the Sony Digital Reader at HohoTO on December 16, I was excited because I was curious about eReaders, but hadn’t decided if I was going to buy one or not.

I tested out the Digital Reader by reading “The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest” and afterward, came up with a pros and cons list for the device. If you have more to add please share.

Pros

  • Great for travel/space saver – They’re perfect for long trips where I would not want to pack a few books and riding the subway in the morning can be quite the sardine in a can experience, so lugging around a large hardcover book can be hard to read. With the eReader I had no problem holding on to one of the poles while reading on the jammed subway. This leads to more reading getting done!
  • Environmentally friendly – Of course books are made of paper, so if everyone had an eReader, the effect on the environment would be astonishing, I’m sure. I’m not sure what goes in to making an eReader, so I can’t comment on that being more dangerous to the environment or not.
  • I returned to the library – The Toronto Public Library has eBooks, so being cheap as I am, this is a good option when I don’t feel like spending money and I don’t have to worry about forgetting to return the book.
  • Book-like screen appearance – The difference between the Sony eReader and the iPad for example, is that you don’t have the annoying computer screen shining in your face. I was shocked at how realistic it looked when I turned it on for the first time.
  • Great battery life – The battery on the reader is amazing. While reading the book I had it in standby mode most of the time and I believe I only had to charge it once in the (give or take a week) month I was reading the book. That was a pleasant surprise for me.
  • Touchscreen – My iPod Touch, now iPhone 4 have made using anything without a touch interface difficult, so having the option to swipe the screen or click a button to change the page was perfect. There were times when I preferred one over the other and I was happy for the option.

Cons

  • Not a real book – One of the reasons why I hadn’t bought an eReader was simply because I like the tactile feeling of reading a book. Turning the pages and seeing the progress made to the end feels like more of an accomplishment to me than just clicking ‘next’ 500 times and finishing.
  • Lack of ownership – I like to buy books and have them on my shelf; I own them. With digital content, for any device, not just eReaders, it doesn’t feel like it was worth buying because I don’t have it in my hand. I got over that for music, but I still have DVDs and books on my shelves – something I don’t see changing any time soon.
  • Harder to share – eReaders have the option (I believe) to send a book to a friend, but that means your friends have to also have an eReader. With books I like to lend them out to friends and family when I can, so until everyone has an eReader I’ll stick to the old fashioned way.
  • Not great in all light situations – While the screen looks great, I found with an actual book I was able to read in bed with my not-so-bright lamp, but with the device, I had to lie awkwardly so the light hit it better. I tried adjusting the settings but it didn’t compare.
  • No more shopping for books – I enjoy going to book stores for the fun of it – just about the only shopping I can tolerate for long periods of time. If I had to search through an online store I’d be missing out on that great in-store experience.

Overall I had a good experience with the Digital Reader and I’m definitely ‘for them’ in theory, but I prefer to an old-fashioned book more often than not; I can’t justify buying ebooks just to read them on the subway (but if I could find them in the library’s online archive I would gladly do so). Also, for long trips I wouldn’t hesitate to bring my Digital Reader with me because I think it is perfect for that situation.

Justify the iPad for me

Apple’s iPad recently went up for pre-order in Canada and many early adapters and Apple Fanboys (and girls) clicked that button to make sure they had their new device on May 28. I was not one of them.

I’ve been torn about this thing since it was first announced. I quickly threw it in the want pile, because I sure don’t need it. It’s a sleek device that, with WiFi or 3G access, you can find your way with Google Maps, show off your family pictures, watch movies, go on the Internet, read books…etc. The list goes on, but all those things are available on the iPhone/iPod! It’s less portable than an iPhone and I’d be kind of scared taking that out on the TTC.

Many would buy the iPad for reading, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of the reading actual books. The tactile feel makes a difference, and I’d be worried if something happened (or in the future another bright and shiny device is released) and I couldn’t access my books anymore; where would my library be then?

Another big factor is before the new year I bought a MacBook Pro. I simply can’t justify the cost of buying a half-computer, which the iPad basically is. I’d much prefer my laptop over the iPad simply because I can multitask (though I know that will be added this summer), I’d like to print documents and sometimes I need to use DVDs.

Until the day comes when this kind of device is not a supplement to actual computers, I can’t see myself justifying the purchase.

What is it about that iPad that draws you to it? Have you made the pre-order or are you having trouble justifying the purchase, like I am?

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