Podcast #17: Record Traffic, “What is a Computer?”, Notes Apps

2011-10-31 by . 3 comments

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This is the seventeenth episode of the Ask Different Podcast. Your hosts this week are Kyle Cronin, Jason Salaz, Nathan Greenstein.

  • Starting with some site news, Ask Different has seen record traffic lately. On the heels of iOS 5, iCloud, and the iPhone 4S, visits have gone way up! We hope to see similar increases after future Apple updates. We encourage our users to ‘seed’ the site with questions that people are likely to have after a major software or hardware release.
  • As we get more traffic, there is a noted increase of ‘help desk’ questions that specify a vague problem with few details. The Stack Exchange system works best with long, detailed questions, and detailed answers. Back-and-forth troubleshooting is not a good fit for SE. We encourage our users to edit the question (if possible), vote to close, or flag these questions.
  • Concerning flagging, note that the moderators can’t review every question on the site, but we do review every flag. If you see something bad, please flag it! And if we decline your flag, don’t take that to mean that you should stop flagging. Kyle and Nathan always try to explain why a flag has been declined.
  • Steve Jobs’ biography was released last week, and Jason has read the first several chapters of the book. He shares his interests, comparisons, and one of his favorite parts, where Steve Wozniak created a device to create ‘snow’ on analog TVs and used it to mess with his fellow students.
  • Also within the biography was very detailed information of how Steve Jobs chose the name: “Apple Computer Co.”, and more specifically, how it stuck. In recent years however, Apple officially changed their company name to “Apple Inc.”, we talk about how best to classify all these new phones and tablets, and what exactly makes something a computer. The Super User Stack Exchange site has decided that smart phones and tablets are not a computer, and are off topic for their site. And what about a Chromebook? A laptop that is almost completely Web-based? Super User has chosen to consider these as computers.
  • Wondering about tablets leads us to discussing the future of Windows. Microsoft is going to be encouraging developers to transition to develop for Metro using solely .NET, which officially means that so many classic Microsoft foundations and toolkits could be no longer supported. We discuss other major transitions that have been made, such as Apple’s switch from PowerPC to Intel CPUs, and more recently and also not yet complete, Carbon to Cocoa.
  • Speaking of Chromebooks, we revisit the idea of cloud-based computing and what it means for clients. Although it seems outdated, more and more devices are embracing something similar to a ‘dumb-terminal and mainframe’ manner of operation. Even the iPhone 4S is moving in this direction, as most Siri commands rely on an external server. We also discuss some of the strengths and limitations of iCloud’s ability to transition iOS devices into truely simple clients.
  • Amongst all of the benefit of delegating intense processing to dedicated servers, this reveals perhaps the biggest problem: privacy. Things like Amazon Silk relay lots of information to the company hosting the service, which could be used for good or bad things. Kyle suggests standardizing protocols for various cloud functions so that people could choose any company as their provider and corporations could host their own services in-house.
  • Our Question of the Week is “Exactly what are the limitations of geofenced reminders in iOS5?” asked by Jish on October 19th. The question asks about how to deal with locations that are mis-represented and thus, don’t trigger reminders to alert, notably when arriving at a location. This question has one answer, but is otherwise not highly trafficked. Additionally, there is contention on whether or not the reminders ever use GPS. If you have a good grasp on iOS location features, please help out by providing a thorough answer!
  • We have three related Apps of the Week this week. First is Notational Velocity. This free app makes it easy to take down quick notes on your Mac. When configured to save text files to a location in your Dropbox folder.
    • When you want to view or edit your notes on the go, Kyle uses PlainText (iOS App Store). This free, ad-supported iOS app ($2 in-app purchase to remove ads) is a Dropbox-integrated text editor. This allows you to create notes on your computer and easily read and edit them on your iPhone (and vice-versa).
    • Nathan uses a different Dropbox-integrated iPhone app for notes and text editing, called Nebulous Notes (iOS App Store). This $4 app is a very fully-featured editor which Nathan uses for coding, notes, and general word processing.
    • And finally, Jason just uses Notes, built into iOS.

This episode was recorded on October 29th, 2011. You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or iTunes. We’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment on this post or e-mail us at podcast@askdifferent.net.


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  • Mahnax says:

    Always wondered… Is Nathan actually 15, or is that nonsense?

  • mahnax says:

    Cool. It’s kind of nice to see someone my age on here once in a while.

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