Archive for July 2008

iPhone 3G – I surrender

2008/07/30

I was holding off for over two weeks, decided not go with that outrageous iPhone voice/data racket. Even trying to encourage people to wait in a hope the demand will be weak and Rogers will bend and lower the rates.

Only, it was not. I mean demand. iPhones seems to be selling better than beaver tales on Dow’s Lake during sub minus twenty sunny skating Saturday. Especially the 16 GB ones.

Now it’s over. I ordered white 16 GB iPhone yesterday.

It’s all Gabo’s fault. After playing a bit with the darn thing, I can resist no more. It is after all more than just iPod touch with more hardware. Four killer features from my very private point of view:

1) GPS with Google maps. So valuable especially now when I spend more time in Montreal than in Ottawa and walk around during evenings and lunch breaks…

2) Internet access. All my stuff is in the cloud – notes, documents, contacts, emails. With 3G or even Edge it is only 1 second and few clicks away. So much faster than getting notebook out of backpack. Not speaking of not needing WiFi to do so – very useful while sitting in the train. Btw, ViaRail, your WiFi is so unusable ….

3) camera that allows taking only slighly bad pictures. Big upgrade from Motorola where pictures were just plain terrible / hardly usable. Getting them off the phone happens automagically and they end up in proper place – iPhoto, without waiting 10 minutes for bluetooth sync …

4) Address book synchronization. Finally I will be able to dial from same database that is on my Mac – without holding iPod touch in one hand and phone in other, typing in the number I found on Touch. Yes, I did try to sync RAZR with computer. Three times. It consistently failed and wiped out Motorola twice and Address book once (no damage thanks to Time Machine ;-))

All this is worth spending 30 more bucks a month for 6 GB data plan. Gabo discovered it is more than plenty even if you surf a lot and listen to internet radio 2-3 hours a day. I hate the idea giving Rogers more of my money, but, as Tony Soprano would put it: “What are’ya gonna do ?”. Maybe I can find something to cancel to lower the bill – like some cable package. Who needs TV when there is YouTube and Google Video :-).

As added benefit, my daughter is very happy to be getting the Touch really soon now 😉

And by the way, once for a change talking to the Rogers sales person was quite pleasant experience. Too bad I did not write down her name – but she was really nice. What a change after that groups of obnoxious morons that used to call me regularly to offer HomePhone 🙂

Rogers, iPhone and Conspiracy Theory

2008/07/10

It was very interesting to observe during last few weeks – since WWDC announcement – the wave of expectations building up here in Canada. After all, we will finally officially have the iPhone and will be allowed to join the family of first-category nations, legally iPhonized, blessed by his Steveness himself. Selection of Rogers as carrier was no surprise. Rogers is only company that (IMHO) actually can run 3G iPhone – at least around here in Ontario / Quebec. You see, here in True North, we do not really have anything remotly resembling true competition in telecom space. Nor we have a reasonably good telecoms selling the phone service – only bad, really bad and terrible.

Many speculations were published about pricing, and when it was made official few days ago, public outroar of disapproval happened. The pricing published here was so bad, that quickly on-line petition started at the website ruinediphone.com, which signed by over 60000 people. Pretty large number, considering the nation of 30 milion. The sentiment of the comments on the site is well expressed by the fact that another URL which redirects you to the site is http://f***yourogers.com/ – try it out :-).

Two days ago, there seems to be some announcement that for $30 more, you can get 6 GB data plan on top of your existing voice plan with Rogers. That made many people quite happy and probably many more decided to buy after all. But was it really good news and did the petition really forced large company to backpedal ? Does democracy work in business world ?

Here is my cynical view of what could have just happened. Disclaimer (for the lawyers and themalike): this is pure fiction and any resemblance to real life event is purely accidental.

Assume that you are in charge of marketing for a company R that is about to sell product P and wants to get as much as possible money over the fair price (which includes reasonable margin) N. Your goal is to sell for double that price – 2*N.

What you do is announce price plans quoting 3*N and wait for unhappy customer feedback. You fuel that sentiment, so soon many more people are aware of that and word of mouth spreads. You even help to grow the sentiment in the website http://ruinedP.com/ and see happily how more and more people get involved.

Then, few days before launch, you “beg down”, and announce the big price break – down to 2*N. Sentiment swings, and many people are now happy to pay what is in reality outrageous sum of money for the P. And because of the campaign and petition, many more people now know about the product and may consider buying – after all, they are about to save big after the price break, aren’t they ? And you can still in wiggle out of the promised break by fine-print rules, ifs and whens ….

Yes, you get some really bad sentiment and bad publicity – but it is publicity and it is free :-). Many newspapers and channels (even those owned by you) reported on that. And, if you get lucky, maybe even some eager-beaver politicians may take the bait and join the game “to defend interest of the public”.

But back to reality: on Friday, when the sale starts, we will see how many people will go and buy.
I hope that as few as possible. Because even after the price “break” (which we still do not know if and how it will be applied because Rogers site still shows old pricing info), it is still a bad deal compared to the USA.

The amount of money you pay is actually much higher and is cleverly hidden is variety of fees – system access, value pack fees, and just-because-we-can-we-will-charge-you-pack fees. This way the cheapest 60 dollar plan is more like 85 / month and the more likely 100+ month. Which means that over lifetime you will pay 300 for the phone, 35 activation plus 3600 for monthly fees – over $4000. And that, my friends is lot of money for giving up the freedom to be inaccessible by email and have possibility to spend even more time on the web …

If you are developer, 4000 bucks buys you a Mac Pro, Macbook Pro plus Mac Mini, or about 6 Windows desktop PC’s. If you are not a geek (which makes me wonder – why are you then reading this blog 😉 ), $4000 is nice escape from frozen Canadian winter for you and your family to warm Caribbean …

Without options to choose from and any competition, all you can do is to vote with your dollars. Because, honestly, your dollars are the only thing Rogers is interested in. I am their customer for over 10 years so I have some first hand experience.

Voting means: Do not buy. Wait.

The ONLY thing that will drive price down is lack of demand. Or competition.

If you absolutely MUST have iPhone, you can still “vote” – cancel some other Rogers services or switch them to competition: other cell phones, internet, TV – and let Rogers KNOW that you are going away and why. In worst case, the customer retention department will kick in and you can get some freebies 🙂 Because unlike with iPhone, here you have some alternatives.

Unfortunately, switching is always an inconvenience for the end user and none of the competitors is much better (sometimes quite a lot worse) than Rogers, so it is really up to you how far are you willing to go in order to send a message.

Or – if you are mainly after the new platform and mobile apps, you can get iPod touch and get most of the experience – minus phone and minus the montly fees for less than subsidized iPhone price.

I personally will wait. I have iPod Touch, so I am looking forward to new apps. And I will re-evaluate the iPhone need after all you, my impatient friends can share the news about your montly bills and how much you actually shot over the ridiculous amounts of data bandwidth in them…

The (most ?) underappreciated Java pioneers

2008/07/01

I still remember back in 2003/2004 when Rod Johnson wrote his books “J2EE Design and Development” and “J2EE programming without EJB” and presented his POJO based inversion of control framework – at that time, still packaged as com.interface21.* – that eventually evolved to Spring Framework.

Idea of composing J2EE application from basic Java Beans, that were instantiated by the core container that managed their lifetime and resolved references was for most people really an eye opening experience, true Aha! moment and completely new world discovery. Everybody I knew was happy and excited about it. I was also happy and excited – not as much because of the novelty, but because of seeing a great design ideas I saw before in closed source implementation to re-appear in open source world.

The place I have seen the excellent embodyment of the “core IoC / DI container” was an application server Dynamo created by company named ATG (Art Technology Group). ATG wrote the DAS (Dynamo Application Server) whose kernel – container named Nucleus was providing very similar services than Spring container. It also provided lot of added values on top of that: personalization layer, scenario server, portal and administration. In 2002, we at Montage have just delivered one major public sector system based on ATG and second even bigger ATG system was well on the way.

Now I am NOT suggesting at all there is any idea transfer between ATG and Spring framework – either way. These design principles were known in research papers since 1980-ies and (as many today’s great trends) originates from Smalltalk. It was only matter of time who will implement it properly in Java and when. Both ATG and Spring, coming from different angles created quite different systems. One is open and free and pretty much accepted standard. The other is way more powerful and mind bogling toolset – in its current form it is probably the most comprehensive and most powerful eCommerce solution in Java space currently available. Alas, it is not widely known, unless you happen to be working in implementing personalized eCommerce sites in 10-100+ million dollar revenue range.

It is very interesting to look at the places where they differ and the consequences of the different decisions for developing in either of the environment. I have decided to publish few blog entries on this, for several reasons:

1) From technology perspective, ATG platform is very interesting and innovative and lots of ideas and design principles used can be very useful in general application design.

2) The company – ATG – is probably one of the most unknown and unappreciated Java innovator and pioneers. These guys more or less invented the JSP in its predecessor form – JHTML. They were very first I have seen to have workable IoC container – back in year 2000 and their ideas of “droplets” and servlet beans certainly made me say “wow!” several times …

3) Talking to developers that came to the ATG platform recently, I have sensed the sentiment “.. yeah, yet another Spring knock-off framework “. I am big admirer of Spring, but let’s face it: ATG certainly did not get any inspiration from Spring, unless they have a time machine hidden somewhere in their Boston HQ. If the idea-crosspolination happened (and I am NOT saying it did – I simply do not know), it could have been only the other way.

4) After using mixture of open source technologies and commercial solutions in quite a few projects of various size (from small to humongous) I gained some experience and appreciation of advantages and weak points of each of them and I’d like to share them.

Before I start, one disclaimer: Thinknostic is ATG partner and has worked on / is actively working on several ATG projects. Obviously, we are interested in success of these projects 🙂 and therefore we do have vested interest in success of ATG as platform and indirectly in success of ATG as a company. We are however not shareholders of ATG stock or do not get any incentives for spreading word or encouraging ATG sales (with obvious exception of somebody buying ATG platform and hiring us to help them with implementation). The sole reason for this and future blog posts is very interesting technology behind it. As you hopefully will see, I will try to be objective and highlight the strengths as well as weaknesses of both solutions – Spring’s as well as the ATG stack.