iTunes saga 5.0.1

Posted by Žiga Turk on 15/01/12

I went through a painful iTunes experience. Had to. I try to avoid iTunes as much as possible, but since I wanted to update iOS version on my iPad, it was not possible to avoid it. The bottom line is that it sucks as a device management tool. Here's why:

iTunes is not a device management tool

It is a media management tool. It was made to put music and videos to iPod which started as an MP3 player. Some say it sucks there as well. I don't care. I copy photos as files, I transfer music with MediaMonkey and use mail and Dropbox to manage documents.

iTunes is patched to be a device management tool with key functions obscured by the media-optimized interface.

Sync doesn't

One of the most scary checkboxes in the Apple universe is the "Sync Apps". User is warned that if selected, all apps installed by the user on device will be removed. And they are. The trick is that before one does that, it makes sense to "transfer purchases". So that after "sync apps" removes them all, you can put them back. They get rearranged on the springboard pages but after a few minutes' work things are back to normal. It seems. It is still scary!

What sync should do to justify its name is to really sync - compare content on the device with content in iTunes and allow for both to be the same after the process. Actually I see no point in syncing stuff - apps are installed via WiFi anyway and purchases remembered by the AppStore in case one deletes them by mistake. But I decided to sync, because:

Backup doesn't

Before upgrading to iOS 5.0.1 I backed up the iPad. Upgraded. But when I restored it, there were no apps installed, just some 5 GB of memory was occupied with "other". Some backup! I would expect a backup to backup the device. Perhaps Apple would care to offer a selection of what to back up. Like system settings, apps, apps' settings, apps' data, music, videos ... But no. It seems only the things are backed up that are synced!

So I installed the iPad from scratch. Which is not a bad idea every now and then. Get rid of all the junk and dead wood and start clean.

The Monti Factor

Posted by Žiga Turk on 17/11/11

Plenty has been written about Monti’s taking charge of Italy. But there is another dimension in his appointment. A wise man will be joining the The European Council.

Mario Monti was a member of the Reflection Group on the Future of Europe, also known as the Wise Men’s Group of Felpie Gonzales. I have been observing, admiring and learning from “il professore” for almost two years. Not only were his proposals intelligent. Wise was the way in which they were put forward and diplomatic the ways in which he was building support for them.

His main theme at the time was a grand bargain: more single market in exchange for tax harmonization. This was back in 2010 when the debt numbers were small. Today, behind the round table of the European Council, he will need to build alliances for an even grander bargain: More solidarity in resolving the sovereign debt crisis in exchange for less sovereignty of the member states, and, here comes the carrot, greater overall economic growth.

The indebted periphery finally got a voice that the core will have to listen to. But only as long as the members of the Italian parliament will listen to him as well.

Managing the Eurozone

Posted by Žiga Turk on 23/08/11

Reading about Sarkzoy, Merkel to invite Van Rompuy to head Eurozone I must say I liked the idea 18 months ago. From a paper published in European View Volume 9, Number 1, 79-92, DOI: 10.1007/s12290-010-0117-3.
Enhance economic coordination. This is a logical requirement to maintain monetary integration. The crisis has shown its mechanisms should be taken much more seriously. In the enforcement of the Stability and Growth Pact the Commission should take advantage of the new provisions in the Lisbon treaty. The pact should be extended with supervision of private debt and the balance of payments. Because economic coordination calls for measures in the member states, the European Council should take the lead in shaping coordinated economic policy and the Commission in overseeing it. The coordination in the Monetary Union should be particularly strong and take place at a prime ministerial level (underlined today).

At the time (and now as well) the Monetary Union was handled by an almost informal meeting of the finance ministers of the Eurozone the evening before the meeting of ECFIN.
Today I would just add that economic policy coordination and budget supervision will solve little on the long run. It is an accounting measure. People will have to flow from regions doing bad to regions doing well, and money - in the form of investments rather than loans - will need to flow from countries with surpluses to countries with deficits. To do so the PIGS (and a few others) will have to set up an attractive business environment, because there are places outside of the EU where one can invest.

The World is Going to Hell and We Call it Magic

Posted by Žiga Turk on 05/02/11

Yesterday, I decided to upgrade my iPhone form iOS 4.1 to iOS 4.2.1. The process nearly bricked it. It would not even restore (Figure 1). It took me some three hours to make it work again. Something to do with the etc/hosts file. The good thing was, I had phone silence for a few hours.

Figure 1: And BTW, it is not an unknown error. It is error 1013!

I do not get intimidated by gadgets

Today, I decided to upgrade my iPad from iOS 3.something to 4.2.1. There are quite a few new apps that want iOS 4.2 and there is a long weekend in Slovenia, Tuesday being the Culture Day. Time to do a complicated and lengthy surgery.

Remembering what happened yesterday, I decided to do a backup of the iPad first. I would really hate to reinstall and reconfigure all the apps or lose documents, slides, magazines, books, movies ... The backup started, but did not look like it was doing anything. The progress bar was not moving at all (Figure 2).

Figure 2.

On a side note: these guys at Apple are supposed to be some kind of GUI fanatics ... would Steve Jobs really kill anyone if the thingy would include some kind of a counter that would say: "Your backup would be finished in three weeks, seven hours, forty five minutes and five seconds". Well, not Steve Jobs.

Seriously, if it wasn't for the animated icon (Figure 3), the iTunes could just as well be frozen. I plead guilty, it is the first time since I bought the iPad in April last year, to do the backup, but what the heck: 11 gigs take 10-15 minutes to push over the USB on my notebook, so how long could this take?

Figure 3.
The answer: 27 hours! Theoretically.
I fired up some system tools that showed that the data transfer rate between iTunes and iPad is at some 1 megabit per second. I assumed 8+1 checksum bit per byte and did the math. 99000 seconds to back my 16GB 3/4 full iPad! The beauty of this is that the battery lasts some 10 hours and that the iPad is not charging via MacBook's USB port. Isn't this just great?

But Google is your friend they say.

Lets find some tips how to make the iTunes backup faster. I would not be writing this if it wasn't for those tips. And the wise words from my friends on Twitter. The best advice to speed up backup is to delete the stuff you would like to back up. A whole PhD is written on how to identify which app is the one taking up a lot of space, because there is no iPad/iTunes tool to find out.

Am I the only one to see the idiocy of this advice? I mean, if I would not care about the stuff I want to back up, why back up in the first place? Yes, delete the movies, the books, the magazines, the photos, whatever data you might have ... and then, when your iPad is empty, the backup will be fast. Revolutionary?

It will not be fast, you morons, it would be the same 1 megabit/second, it would just be less of the bits and therefore fewer seconds! It is like an advice for safe sex that would say, don't have sex!

It is amazing what our IT industry gets away with these days. Devices sync at a rate which is slower than the rate at which they empty the battery. They get away with advice that in order to do backup faster, you should first destroy what you want to back up! Enough is enough.

An hour later.
They have the nerve to call this device - the iPad - magical. Indeed, it takes a fool to believe in magic. The IT industry believes we are all fools, and they are making a lot of money on this assumption! The real magic is that we are so enchanted with these gadgets, that after the troubles are over, we again think the iPad is the best thing since the screw off beer bottle top.

PS. While I was doing this, my daughter announced she needs a new external hard disk. I had an old 300M and a new 1T to spare, so I asked, what size she needed, what size are the ones she had. She had no idea except that it is full. She is in the 2nd year of grammar school, they have computing courses, and obviously they are raising good customers for this industry.

Assange on Žižek?

Posted by Žiga Turk on 16/01/11

That Slavoj Žižek writes with sympathy about the digital Che Guevara is not a surprise. What is surprising, though, is that Assange had a lucid opinion on philosophers even before he read Žižek:
It has often been said that mathematics is the cheapest university department to run, for all one needs is pencil, a desk and a waste paper basket. This is not so. Philosophy is cheaper still, since in philosophy we do not even need the basket.
- Julian Assange

Wishlist for iPAD II

Posted by Žiga Turk on 03/01/11

Now that I got everything I wanted from Santa, let me write down what I want in iPad II.

  1. Shared file system for (some) apps. This has in fact nothing to do with iPAD. It is an iOS thing. As it stands, iOS is lobotomized. Each app only has access to its own files. I want for example Dropbox app and Pages app to have access to the same files. I will use one to read and write documents and the other to sync them with the could.

    Is this really too much to ask? I mean, really!
  2. Decent Safari. I want Safari to work with "destkop" versions of Google Docs, Gmail, Google Calendar etc. This has nothing to do with new hardware either. It is just a wish to make iPad a better client for the cloud services.
  3. More iPAD specific features in the iOS. iPad has a larger screen. It could be managed differently then the iPhone. Like switching among apps Expose style, for example.
  4. Keyboards with smaller keys, but more of them. It is really a pain to type anything that is not an US-ASCII letter.
  1. Better screen. It is an eyesore to look at iPad scree after reading something on the iPhone 4. 1920x1280 would be nice, but not very likely at the 9" screen size. But I would be disappointed with anything less than 1200x1600 pixels.
  2. USB host port. It's really a pity that I cannot give a presentation stored on my iPad on a stick to the guy who manages the projector at a conference.
  3. Keep (or increase) screen size and battery life. There are some rumors that Apple might reduce the size of the screen to be able to claim "retina" resolution and make battery smaller to reduce weight. I would hate this. Actually I would not mind a 10" screen. At better resolution one could read slightly reduced A4/letter sized pages that this civilization found as a good size for our eyes and brains.
  4. I could not care less about a camera, SD card slots, memory, processors etc.
Am I forgetting something? What would you like?

    Wikileaks? What Wikileaks?

    Posted by Žiga Turk on 06/12/10
    Napolen would know how to deal with Wikileaks:

    In politics... never retreat, never retract... never admit a mistake.

    Its simple. Pretend they do not exist. Here's how the Prime Minister of Slovenia Borut Pahor handled his personal dealings with the Charge d'Affairs at the US Embassy in Ljubljana to get 20 minutes in the White House with Obama:

    Here is the relevant part of the cable:
    "In a one-on-one pull-aside with CDA ((Charge d'Affairs)), Pahor linked acceptance of detainees to "a 20-minute meeting" with POTUS ((President of the US)) ... 
    "Pahor reiterated that he would be willing to make the case,  but in a one-on-one pull-aside with CDA, the PM gently - but unambiguously - linked success on detainee resettlement to a meeting with President Obama. He said that "a 20-minute meeting" with POTUS would allow him to frame the detainee question as an act of support for Slovenia's most important ally and evidence of a newly-reinvigorated bilateral relationship. 

    And this is the relevant part of the transcript from Borut Pahor's press conference a few days after the leak:
    "It would be below my dignity, below my dignity, I would be ashamed, if me or my coworkers would say to anyone that we would accept one of the Guantanamo detainees if we would be received at the White House with President Obama".

    And finally a comment from the new US Ambassador to Slovenia H.E. Mussomeli:
    "Pahor is an honorable man".

    Linking in Open Access Publications

    Posted by Žiga Turk on 03/11/10

    The recent move by LinkedIn - that lets me enter my bibliography - could mark a beginning of a new chapter of Open Access Scientific Publishing and more. It is a small step. Today they do not even allow full texts to be attached. But if they develop the idea further, add commenting, reviewing, favoring, grouping etc. it could bring all the benefits of social networks to the exchange and evaluation of scientific ideas. It is in fact absurd, that collaboration and networking tools are much better when it comes to collaborating on your hobbies (which is not col-labor-ating ... labor as in work) then collaborating on the frontiers of science and innovation.

    I Like Ike

    Posted by Žiga Turk on 20/10/10

    Here are a few paragraphs from Eisenhower's farewell radio address of 1961 (via Relevant to the general debate on the European Innovation Union and the debate in Slovenia on the Higher Education Program and The Innovation Strategy.
    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
    The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.

    Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

    Perls from Spain

    Posted by Žiga Turk on 13/09/10

    I'm in Seville, Spain, at a final review of an EU project. The only other meeting I was at was the kick off. Some three years ago. Also in Spain. In between I did many things. Among others I was Secretary General of the Wise Men Group chaired by Felipe Gonzalez. From Spain.

    And while I sit here in a bar without internet connection, in Spain, I am reading an old talk by Larry Page. Brilliant talk. Larry invented Perl. The last language I programmed in before I took a sabbatical in politics.

    I miss programming. By programming you create. You don't just talk about creation. And ...

    ... there is more than one way to do things in Perl.

    I was a liberal when computer programming. Not a progressive. A liberal. And Larry Page Wall is a liberal:

    The very fact that it’s possible to write messy programs in Perl is also what makes it possible to write programs that are cleaner in Perl than they could ever be in a language that attempts to enforce cleanliness.

    True greatness is measured by how much freedom you give to others, not by how much you can coerce others to do what you want.

    Personally, I think the Perl slogan, There’s More Than One Way To Do It, applies outside of Perl as well as inside. I explicitly give people the freedom not to use Perl, just as God gives people the freedom to go to the devil if they so choose.

    He demonstrates that computer programming is applied philosophy ...

    A universal truth only has to be true about our particular universe. It doesn’t much matter whether the universe itself is true or false, just as long as it makes a good story. And I think our universe does make a good story. I happen to like the Author.

    ... and psychology:

    Imagine, open source is merely a byproduct of our need for family.

    I will conclude with a quote for my spiritual friends:

    How is duct tape like the Force? It has a light side, and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

    This is deeper than most of the Dawkinsian arguments about the non-existence of God.

    -- Written on my iPad with BlogPress.

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    Žiga Turk, professor, former minister and secretary general of the Reflection Group writes about the future of growth, innovation, technology, sustainable development, creativity etc. more.