Good Stuff: Raspberry Pi and the iPhone

Looking at this blog, it seems I mostly complain about stuff. In real life, I'm not that bad (honest), but this is where I end up writing down various frustrations, and it's relatively rare that I actually want to point out good things. I thought I'd make an exception to my normal posting style...

Raspberry Pi is a fantastic project, aimed at getting children back into programming - the '80s BASIC-powered home computer for the new century. While there are a lot of people involved who I really respect and trust (including my PhD supervisor, and an ex-employer), it's really the brainchild of Eben Upton, who is a really great clever guy. I can't really say enough good stuff about it, so I'll give up now, and instead encourage you to go scour the web for more information.

From the very open to the very closed. I have finally bought myself an iPhone 3GS, after years of having the dumbest of phones. In the past, what I wanted was a small phone without all the pointless and expensive extras. Having had years of PDAs, I'd generally found them nice toys, but useless in practice. So, while I could see the use others were getting out of their smartphones, especially in mobile internet, I couldn't be sure it wasn't going to be another pile of wasted electronics.

It's been great. The main thing this gadget has provided, which the others haven't, is mobile internet. It does this well. However, either gadgets have changed, or I have, as I've found the organiser and notepad features very useful! I guess I've got more meetings and to-dos than I ever used to.

Why'd I get the old 3GS? Basically, I enjoy living on the trailing edge of technology. Every upgrade I do has the thrill of discovering the new features, just like everyone else, except the things I upgrade to are bedded down and reliable, and much cheaper than they would have been otherwise!

So, now that I own an iPhone, I can see what Apple are up to. The app store may be horribly closed, but their vision is compelling - they've managed something Microsoft never did, making their customers want a monopoly. Having skipped the painful early stages, I can also see why Apple held off on 'easy' things like multitasking and cut-and-paste for so long. The iPhone was their way of completely redefining the graphical user interface - challenging UI conventions that had basically been standardised on all platforms since Apple introduced them in the mid-'80s.

It's weird to see this 'phone interface', knowing it's also the basis for the iPad and the features are now making their way into OS X in Lion. Rolling out the features incrementally was Apple's way of making the world used to their new plans, and making sure they got it right, without assuming too much of the old ways. The fact that the supplied manual is really one sheet of paper, and the whole design is both so innovative and intuitive is quite amazing.

Posted 2011-11-14.