iPhone Battery Improved; Apple Stock Up

There were announcements this morning that Apple had addressed two issues with the iPhone – the non-user-replaceable battery had its battery life runtimes increased and the covering for the touchscreen has been changed from a plastic material to glass. Apple’s stock was up almost 4% on the day due to that news.

AAPL June 18 close

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure an increase in battery life and a screen more resistant to scratching would make someone who wasn’t going to buy it now go out and spend $500 on an iPhone. I think pricing, usability and compatibility with existing email infrastructure will be much larger challenges for the iPhone to overcome. But the mere fact that Apple’s stock is reacting so violently to iPhone news indicates that this may be a make or break product, at least for Apple’s stock price in the short term. With the run-up in price over the past three months or so, iPhone better be good.

Some Changes

I put in some time this weekend and made changes to the design of random process. It’s not the complete overhaul I’ve promised for the site, but since it’s beginning to look like that endeavor’s going to take more time than I anticipated, I decided to put in some stop-gap changes to the current design. As I mentioned previously, I’ve highlighted the navigational features of the design more – it used to be hidden away in a drop down div. I still have to implement the About and Contact pages, but I don’t have time right now. I’ll try to get those done tomorrow. I’ve also put the RSS feed and search features in more prominent locations above the fold.

I’ve also simplified the look of the featured article. The way it was previously displayed was distracting – the background added nothing. Plus, I’ve been able to reduce the number of HTTP requests by 5 down to 44. That’s still more than I’d like, but is a result of the fundamental structure of the design. I’ve addressed that in the overhaul I’m planning down the road.

I hope these changes make the site a little more enjoyable for your use.

Newfound Enthusiasm

Almost immediately after completing the theme you see adorning the site currently, I started a new design for WordPress in Photoshop. All my previous designs were hand-drawn, then hacked into XHTML + CSS. This time around, I decided to do the mock-up in Photoshop and perhaps save myself some time and effort. That was almost 3 months ago.

I was working hard at it and making good progress until about a month ago. At that time, I’d done up most of the foundation for the site and needed to delve into the polishing – writing elements styling, little minute details, and so on. I predicted that I would finish the new design within a month. Maybe it was the thought of writing up CSS for every blockquote, list, link, and header that really put a damper on things. Or perhaps it was that I wasn’t completely satisfied with the design. I didn’t want to make something that I wasn’t completely happy with.

This past week, I regained some passion for the project again. I threw out a bunch of elements of the design and hacked away again in Photoshop. I believe I have come up with something I’m happy with. That’s not to say, I’ve come across my final design – I’m sure as I code it, I’ll think of new ideas or areas to improve. In the meantime, I really want to do some work on the current design. The instant the design was completed in XHTML + CSS, I realized I wasn’t pleased with some parts, specifically the header area and the sidebar. That’s the problem when all you’ve got is a crappy hand drawing I guess. I plan on ameliorating some of those concerns this weekend. It’s also about time I put more focus on the navigation bar at the top (I bet maybe 5 people, ever, have noticed that it exists) and implement the About and Contact pages. I’m also going to promote the feed in a more prominent location. I just put my feed through Feedburner this past week and I couldn’t believe I somehow have 20+ subscribers with that feed link hidden away below the fold…

Well, the important thing at this stage is that I’m once more interested in the work and am ready to dig down into it again.

PDEng 35: Turn for the Better

You’ve heard me complain about PDEng over and over again through the past couple years. I still stand by what I said about the program. In fact, having seen the changes being enacted in PDEng 35, I share those sentiments more than ever. PDEng 15 and 25 were pointless exercises in fancy writing and rounds of ‘make-believe’. One assignment after each pointless module had to be written by me, graded by the marker, more often than not, rewritten by me, following the exact deficiencies outlined in the comments, and remarked for a pass. The whole idea behind the program – ethics, professionalism, defensible decision making – were all lost in the jumble of words and half-truths. I hated the time I had to spend on PDEng and looked forward to each due date with remorse.

But I think the program has taken a turn for the best. I can’t say if PDEng 15 or 25 have been modified, but from what I can see in PDEng 35 (wow, my third work term already?) it’s manageable. The assignments following each content module in 15 and 25 have been done away with (they felt more like make work projects for both the writer and the marker) and instead, larger, more encapsulating assignments have taken their place. Instead of doing 8-10 assignment each work semester, there are only 3. Each one encompasses several modules and the written assignments are less about giving what they want to hear, but actually writing defensible decisions. For example, the previous assignment I just handed in (number 2) involved writing an opinion piece on a choice of three topics. I’m fully capable of doing that, and I believe it means much more than a prime example from previous PDEng courses, write about which animal you would be and why…

It feels almost blasphemous as a student to say this, but the first assignment of PDEng 35 was almost enjoyable. I was required to come up with an ethical dilemma to place a fictional character in and then attempt to come to a decision regarding the situation by weighing the outcomes. It actually required genuine thought and analysis of all angles of the problem. I’m sure the markers didn’t get a ton of cookie cutter responses to that assignment, which makes life a little more interesting for both parties.

Professional Development for Engineers. I would grimace every time I heard those words or any variation of PDEng. Now it doesn’t seem so bad. I can only hope that these changes are the result of countless complaints from students. I do urge them to continue improving the program as I believe it has merit, just not with the previous implementation.

WWDC 2007

I was severely disappointed by the keynote address of WWDC 2007. There was lots of talk about Leopard and iPhone, but nothing really new came about it. Oooo, the launcher is now reflective – score one more for the ‘new features’ list. Damn, the taskbar’s transparent! Another point added to the new features list. Plus, the only ‘product launch’ (if you can even call it that) was Safari 3 beta for Windows. I’m actually writing this post in Safari in Vista – it definitely won’t be replacing Firefox. Hopefully Apple tidies it up for the general release and perhaps teaches us noobs how to install plugins, because currently, it’s difficult to use compared to Firefox. I’m used to middle clicking to open and close tabs. I’m used to being able to use my mouse’s forward and back buttons to navigate.

I guess on the bright side, I’ll finally be able to test out my website designs in Safari without having to buy a Mac. That’s about all I can see it being useful for at this point.

Cooler Master X Craft 350 eSATA Enclosure Review

I’m always between my permanent home and my temporary home whether I’m at university or on a co-op job. Consequently, I’ve come to find that an external hard drive is immensely useful. I store most of my media files on it so that I can easily take them with me, to use it with my laptop or desktop, depending on which setting I find myself.

Additionally, with media files getting larger and larger, it’s become increasingly difficult to store everything on my existing 200GB USB 2.0 external drive. I hate doing DVD backups (it requires so much time, not to mention the hassle of searching for the DVDs down the road) so the obvious solution was to purchase a new hard drive. Since I like carrying my media around with me, I decided to pick up a hard drive enclosure as well.

Initially, I didn’t really think much about the enclosure. Most people I know tend to pick the Vantec line of enclosures and the USB 2.0 version at that. However, remembering that I have an external SATA port on my ASUS P5W DH motherboard, I thought it would be nice to take advantage of the built in capability. A little research later and I settled on the Cooler Master X Craft 350 eSATA enclosure. I picked one up at DirectCanada for just under $40 CAD.

Package Details

The front of the packaging shows you what you’re getting. There are no aliens or robots here. Cooler Master uses their signature purplish colour quite liberally and some of the more important specs are listed in plain sight.

 box

Open up the box and you’re greeted with a well laid out package that includes:

The enclosure itself
eSATA to eSATA cable
eSATA to SATA adapter bracket
USB cable
AC adapter
2 risers for thin-type drives
User manual
CD with Windows 98 SE drivers and P&G Backup software

contents

Nothing really out of the ordinary for an eSATA enclosure.

Buying Akamai

I would be doing that right now. I wrote about Akamai way back in February of 2006, when the stock was at $26. I was bullish on the company and the sector in general and I’m still bullish now. With more and more (not to mention higher quality) multimedia content being delivered across the internet, use of services provided by companies like Akamai will continue to grow quickly. The stock has fallen by about a third from its highs. The main reason was a not-spectacular earnings announcement and a slightly weaker forecast than was expected. Compared to its bigger competitors, Internap and Limelight, Akamai is the powerhouse and with many of its technologies patented, it’s probably not going to lose that position anytime soon.

Currently Akamai (Nasdaq: AKAM) is trading around $42. That puts it at a P/E of 33, which remarkably puts the PEG ratio at approximately 1.00. Forward looking, P/E is around 25. And based on their tendency to beat estimates, that should go down a bit. I’m predicting an end of 2007 stock price of $55-60. There’s a decent bottom forming in the $40-42 range and I believe the stock is due for a bounce to the high $40’s in the near future. The earnings announcement in July may serve as a catalyst for that.

Akamai (AKAM) chart - Yahoo! Finance

Limelight Networks will be IPO’ing tomorrow and it should do well. It speaks volumes for the industry and Akamai as well. There’s a lot of interest in this market, and unless you expect internet downloads to slow, this sector will be hot.

I Only Realized It Today

I was trading emails back and forth with someone at the office today, discussing my choice of co-op jobs. It was during that exchange that I realized I was really unhappy with the position I held last semester at Bell Mobility. At the time, I was caught up in it and only now, after about 5 months, have I really thought about the experience.

I was rather surprised when I was offered the position of Strategy and Planning Analyst. I had grand visions of proposing changes at Bell Mobility. They ranged anywhere from being an innovator in the field to splitting Mobility from the rest of Bell Canada to increase autonomy and shareholder value. Of course I hardly mentioned any of these ideas at all (especially not the latter one). After all, I was merely a co-op and what would Michael Sabia (CEO) be doing, listening to a co-op when there were 20,000 other employees with ideas as well.

I was fairly content with doing ‘strategy and planning’. I was one of the first University of Waterloo co-op student that department had hired and I had the feeling that they weren’t quite certain what to do with me. In the end, I was tasked with creating a technical document on the current state of the wireless industry and future projections. It seemed to me like a make-work project; I figured the Product Managers would know their services inside out. What information was I supposed to provide them? I, along with the other co-op working with me, met with our supervisor and other managers several times to get an idea of what we could put in it that wouldn’t be a complete rehash of existing knowledge. No one really gave us a clear picture, but we set to work anyways.

It involved a hell of a lot of learning. I became quite enamored with wireless technologies and of all the things at Bell Mobility, that has stuck with me the most. I spent countless hours reading research paper after research paper, analyst opinion after analyst opinion. I helped put together a nearly 100 page research paper on the state of the wireless industry in Canada and various technologies that were in the field or had the potential to enter the field. I incorporated roadmaps, ideas for implementation, and possible new services. I poured a lot of effort into that job.

In a way, I guess I should thank my Dad. He told me many times not to get my hopes up about enacting changes in the company. Companies like Bell Canada are lumbering machines – it’s very difficult to change course. You might be able to nudge it a little, but if you try to turn it too quickly, it’ll flip. And you don’t want to flip because you might never get back upright again. But I still held an idealistic view in the back of my mind.

I finished the project without much time to spare. That’s the thing with research, you have to set a cutoff point. Otherwise you’ll go forever. I doubt a single person there read the report. I’m not even sure if anyone other than my manager even glanced at it. I lacked any sense of accomplishment, despite passing in a substantial report. The information provided was completely factual and I thought the ideas presented had potential, but the probability that it would get shoved under a stack of papers was quite high. That was the sort of job I didn’t want to do ever again.

And here we are with at least three different private equity groups circling Bell Canada. They’re going to undergo some major changes one way or another. If they do get privatized, you can be sure they’ll chop off a lot of excess fat. If they don’t, the stock price is going to plunge and shareholders are going to be up in arms for some change.

Maybe someone will even find my report when they go through the papers…

New UMPCs Are What I’m Talking About

Most of the Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs) have been slab-designs. They’re sort of like PDAs on their side, but bigger and more powerful. Today, ASUS and VIA launched a slightly different twist on the idea, taking the UMPC idea and sticking it into a notebook form factor. ASUS sticks with the UMPC name class with their Eee PC 701 while VIA has whipped up NanoBook Ultra Mobile Device (UMD, ahhh Sony!). In either case, both manufacturers have packed a 7″ wide aspect display into a sub 2lb shell and sporting the all-important internet access through Wi-Fi. VIA’s design goes for their in-house C7-M processor along with 1GB RAM and a 30GB hard drive. ASUS has not detailed the platform that its device is running on. Based on the 512MB DDR2 reference and the fact that it was presented during an Intel keynote, I’d imagine it’s something in the McCaslin family. Battery life is targeted at about 3 hours for the ASUS and over 4 with the VIA. Prices are quite different however. The ASUS is targeted at expanding the number of users connected to the internet and is selling the Eee PC 701 at $199 and $299 price points. VIA’s NanoBook will be around $600.

These two ‘UMPCs’ sort of embody what I was talking about towards the end of a post I wrote about the Palm Foleo. While I still believe the Foleo will be a failure, I also believe there is a market for very small and less powerful laptops in the sub 3lb range mostly used for accessing the internet and word processing. Aside from the relatively small screens on the two devices launched today, they’re just about what I was talking about. The ASUS especially looks enticing. If they work on the platform a bit more and improve battery life and possibly increase the screen size a bit (or more importantly, resolution) I’d definitely be interested. When I’m on the go, I don’t need anything terribly powerful for some internet access and email. These devices fit the bill.