Tag Archives: stupidity

iPod Touch and PDAs

I recently (about a month ago) acquired an iPod Touch as my primary PDA to replace my Palm TX

The thing that kept me loyal to Palm for so many years were the apps. Thousands of apps, free or reasonably priced, that work on all Palm devices. Some of them, I used for years. Some I swapped out as something better became available. But there was always an app that did what I wanted it to do.

I got the iPod Touch for two reasons. One, it was shiny. Two, the Palm desktop on Macs is terrible, and the replacement (Missing Sync) is better, but still falls way short of what I expect.)

What surprised me the most about the iPod Touch (and, of course, the iPhone too, since they are essentially the same device for this purpose) is the lack of availability of apps. No, I didn’t stumble on this blind – I knew it before I bought. But the more I think about it, the more it astonishes me. Why would Apple do this? They ship a device without even the minimum of usable apps, and then make it so that nobody can write apps for the device but them. Surely they realize that once folks get over the shiny, they’ll be pissed off by this?

In order to run apps on this device, you have to “jailbreak” it. Now, if you’re a geek like me, that’s fine. But most ordinary people are going to take one look at the various jailbreak websites and run screaming. Yeah, it’s fairly easy, but it’s a little intimidating to do something to a $500 device that looks and sounds illegal. Is it illegal? I don’t think anybody knows. And how many people on the planet know what the “BSD Subsystem” is? Come on, Apple, you can do better than this for your customers.

What I expect on a PDA, at a bare minimum is the following:

A ToDo app. (Missing completely)

A calendar that I can sync with my desktop. (Present, but I can’t edit events on the device. I have to edit them on the computer, unless I create them on the device. So, only about half-present.)

An address book. (Present, and mostly fine, except that I can’t delete contacts from the device. Have to do that on the computer.)

Notebook. (Present, but I can’t sync the notes to anything on the desktop, so of very limited usefulness.)

Email. (Present and very nice.)

Web browser. (Present and exceptionally nice.)

So, Apple, step up a little here. Provide an API so that folks can develop apps without having to feel like criminals. Provide a way to install those apps easily.

Yes, I know, you can use web-based applications, but this is utterly worthless for a PDA. I use my PDA when I don’t have access to my computer. That tends to coincide with when I don’t have a wireless network available. See the problem?

Look at the success of Palm. It’s 98% due to their decision from the very beginning to enable third-party application developers. This helped Palm, and it helped thousands of small app dev shops, as well as hobbyists. It’s obvious that your customers want this – that’s why there’s the jailbreak sites. And it will make the device more popular, and thus sell more, so it will help you.

Ticket websites and OpenID

I just spent 30 minutes buying plane tickets on a well-known travel website. Selecting the right tickets took less than 2 minutes. Logging in and making the actual purchase took the other 28. This included, among other things, trying the 43 different possible username/password combinations I might have used, trying to retrieve my password via email, getting frustrated and giving up and creating a new account, getting irritated at the restrictions on what I can make my username (which is, I presume, the reason I forgot what username I used the first time), finally creating an account with a username I’m almost guaranteed to forget by the next time, and which is now unlinked from my existing travel history, and FINALLY buying a ticket.

(And that doesn’t count the 5 minutes spent writing this rant!)

And, really, the only reason I was even able to create a new account at all is that I have multiple email addresses. Folks with only one email address would simply have been told, no, you can’t do that, there’s already an account associated with that email address. Continue with the guessing game. Neener neener.


Why can’t there be a decent authentication architecture that doesn’t take lengthy how-to’s to explain how to use them? And Sam’s is one of the best howto’s out there on this topic, and it’s STILL way too complicated for normal people to use. My mom is one of the most tech-savvy people I know, of her generation, and I”m reasonably certain that she would be confused by the end of the second paragraph. I can follow the article through, but I’m just not sure I can be bothered – it’s way too complicated, and it’s not widely enough supported to be worth the effort.

Yes, I know that this is a difficult problem. Quite frankly, I don’t care. There are really smart people in the world, and the first time I heard a talk about this problem at a tech conference was more than 5 years ago. Surely SOMEONE can solve this problem?!

It’s simply absurd that 15 years into this WWW thing I still have to create a new account EVERY time I want to buy a plane ticket, simply because there’s absolutely no way I’m going to remember the 12 accounts I’ve already created.