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Peanuts Comic Strip from 11-16-69 by Charles Schulz

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Write This Down: Note-Taking Strategies for Academic Success

Write This Down: Note-Taking Strategies for Academic Success

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Rock of Ages: The Retrophisch Review

In the interests of full disclosure: the soundtrack for this film was the soundtrack of my life in the 1980s. I was a closet metalhead–closet only in the sense that I didn’t have long hair and wasn’t allowed to go to the rock shows by my Southern Baptist-raised mother. These songs are the songs of my formative teenage years, and I was already biased toward liking this movie before I sat down in the theater to view it. So fellow ‘80s rockers whose iPods and iPhones hold Poison, Journey, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, The Scorpions, Guns N’Roses, and the like, you’re going to love this movie, despite its myriad shortcomings.

Oh, and shortcomings it has. For one: how do you leave out Motley Crüe from the soundtrack? Talk about your quintessential 1980s L.A. rock band. There’s not even a cut from the Crüe in the original musical. Granted, Rock of Ages is, despite its full-on ’80s rock ensemble, a love story. And Motley Crüe didn’t make their bones belting out power ballads. Now it wouldn’t surprise me to learn, given Motley Crüe’s years-ago split-up, then later reformation, that there may have been some legal wrangling that proved too costly. Or maybe, being the quintessential 1980s L.A. rock band, the Crüe simply didn’t want their tracks being associated with a Broadway musical and its film spinoff.

One shortcoming which will come as no surprise: the plot’s really thin. The entire reason there’s even a plot is to give us reasons to have these songs performed. I’m sure if you took the original music videos for these songs, or video of their best live performances, strung them together one after another, and released that to theaters, we ’80s rockers would be just as apt to shell out our ten bucks each to sit down and enjoy that hour and a half. One will note that Rock of Ages’s running time is just a hair over two hours, which tells you there’s about 30 minutes of nearly useless, music-less filler to slog through.

Casting: whew, we could be here awhile in this regard. But I’ll try to keep it brief. Alec Baldwin is amusing in his role as Bourbon Room owner Dennis Dupree, but you could easily interchange him with any number of actors. Malin Akerman is pure eye candy as a reporter from Rolling Stone. Really? A swimsuit cover model type cast as a reporter from Rolling Stone? The other supporting roles are as equally interchangeable among the Hollywood glitterati as Baldwin’s.

Julianne Hough is endearing as Sherrie, and we all know she can sing. (All the actors did their own singing, painfully obvious in a line of one song where Baldwin chimes in.) Mary J. Blige as Justice, the owner of The Venus Club, is a treat, and you want to hear more of her covering Pat Benatar and Quarterflash than to put up with another round of anything from Diego Boneta. My feelings regarding the lead casting of Boneta as Drew are best summed up by this line from Tom Santilli in his Examiner review (read after I saw the film):

He seems more suited for musical theater, which I guess this is, but he just seems like the kind of guy Stacee Jaxx would have beaten up in high school.

And speaking of Stacee Jaxx, this leads us to Tom Cruise. Like many, when I saw Cruise was taking the role of the fictional rock legend, I had serious doubts he could pull it off. And while I don’t think his singing voice is quite right for certain numbers (“Paradise City”, most notably), he sings well enough to indeed pull it off. I’ll also give Cruise points for giving an appropriately dark performace as a rock god who’s having trouble accepting his place in music history, and not knowing where to go next. I got the feeling he was channeling Axl Rose as the latter dealt with his own issues following Guns N’Roses’ ascendance from overnight success to rock institution.

There’s a lot to ding Rock of Ages for, but all in all, it’s a fun movie. And if the soundtrack of your life was like mine during that time period, you may find yourself wanting to go see it again.

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PEBKAC: The Normals’ View of Apple and the iPhone

This column originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of About This Particular Macintosh.

The last Macworld Expo I attended was in January 2009. This also happened to be the last Macworld Expo Apple attended. While in the Bay Area, I and some friends took advantage of the location and made the short trip to Cupertino, and the Apple Company Store. For those who’ve never been, the Company Store differs from your average Apple retail store in that it offers a variety of Apple-branded items such as clothing, hats, and paper and office products, in addition to the hardware and software you’d expect to see. I left with a black fleece pullover with a silver Apple logo on the left breast (on clearance, no less).

By now you’re wondering why this is at all important, and after all, aren’t I simply bragging? The Apple fleece has become my go-to sweatshirt. It’s comfortable and as we fashionistas all know, black goes with everything. So it’s not uncommon during the two or three days of winter we have here in north Texas to see me sporting the Apple fleece. It’s also a mainstay when I take our oldest son to the rink for hockey.

At a recent practice, a pair of fellow hockey dads were standing by the glass a few feet from me, discussing the iPhone, Apple the company, and Steve Jobs. One of them had obviously recently finished Walter Isaacson’s biography on Jobs, given some of the material he was regurgitating. This led to more material on Apple as a company, both under Jobs and without him at the helm, and about the iPhone and iPad. As I watched our sons practice and half-listened to their conversation, I was struck yet again at how differently I view the technology world, and specifically Apple and its products, than normal people.

Please understand when I say “normal” people, it is not a term of derision, like, say, muggle. I worked in IT for a decade and a half, nearly ten of those years exclusively on Macs. You wanted to know why Mac OS 8 wasn’t behaving properly once the Finder appeared on screen after boot? Why, you may well have a rogue extension or control panel installed, let’s take a look. What’s this, Mac OS X is actually based on UNIX and there’s now a command line? Oh, goody, something new to learn so we can better exploit the ease with which things can get done and we can get back to our game of Doom 3. Or Modern Warfare 3. Or whatever game’s the latest and greatest. (Because that last part is what normal people think IT people are really doing when we’re not actually working on a computer.)

As I said, I see these sort of things differently, as do many of my friends, including colleagues on this very publication. Normal people don’t buy black Apple fleece sweatshirts. And if they happen to, normal people usually don’t make a special trip out of their way to do so.

What I have noticed about wearing the fleece in the three years I’ve had it, is that fewer and fewer people will ask if I work for Apple. Or used to, if they know what my current occupation is. The why is easy to answer: today, more than ever, Apple is such an important part of people’s daily lives, it’s not an oddity any more. Apple is no longer the alternative-to-Windows company. Apple is now the iPhone company. And it seems every where I look, someone’s using an iPhone.

And interacting with normal people who use iPhones, I’ve quickly learned they use their iPhone much differently than we more-plugged-in techie types do. For instance, they usually only have one Twitter client, the official one from Twitter–if they have a Twitter client at all! <gasps, shock, horror> They don’t spend a lot of time obsessing over the latest and greatest apps, and most of the time what they have installed beyond Apple’s default apps are recommendations from friends. From my own random, completely unscientific observations of the iPhone-using normal masses, the non-Apple app I see in use the most is Facebook.

I realize that a lot of this sounds like common sense, but it’s hard for us techie types to sometimes understand how differently we see the technology world versus normal folks. Those people who just want stuff to work, just want to get stuff done so they can get on with their lives. For us, the tech stuff is our life. Those who can make the transition back and forth easily are the ones who do very well in the IT consulting arena. And normal folks, it’s always great to have someone like that in your corner.

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PEBKAC: On Being Locked In, And Getting What I Want Out

This column originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of About This Particular Macintosh.

While I own a Kindle e-reader, I find I still do most of my electronic reading on my iPhone. Whether it’s in the Kindle app, or Barnes & Noble’s Nook app, or Apple’s own iBooks, I always have my iPhone with me, thus, I can always read an e-book, even if I left a dead-tree version, or my Kindle, at home. At any rate, I’ve noticed something about these three reading apps.

Before we get to my observation, a quick word on these apps’ respective libraries and purchasing systems: yes, you are locked in. A Kindle book cannot be read in the Nook app, nor can the Nook book be read in iBooks. And while iBooks books are based on EPUB, Nook’s are based on eReader, and Kindle books are a derivative of the Mobipocket format, all of these are wrapped in digital rights management (DRM) software which is unique to that particular app/vendor. In other words, when you buy a Kindle book, any reading of that book has to be on a Kindle device or app. Forever.

For many folks, this isn’t a problem. They have a long history ordering paper books from Amazon, or buying them at a brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble, and they’re comfortable continuing to give that company their business. I am one of those people, and I’ve given both of those companies part of my book-buying business over the years. My problem with the whole e-book thing is that, unlike the dead-tree edition of a book, I can’t–with limited exceptions–loan it to a friend, or donate it to a library or other organization when I’m done with it. The other problem is, what if this vendor goes out of business? Or shuts down this component of their business? Sure, that doesn’t sound remotely possible with the three companies in question, but who among us would have thought, fifteen years ago, that Leahman Brothers wouldn’t exist today? Yes, they can take up a lot of physical space, and are susceptible to the elements, but a well cared-for paper-based book may just have a better of chance of making it to the second half of the century.

This is a continuing problem authors, publishers, and readers have to dance around. To not have DRM means books are more easily pirated, and authors lose out on royalties, while publishers’ costs increase. As a content creator myself, I’m fully aware of the need to protect one’s work. Yet at the same time, I’m a content consumer, and I find myself at war within, given that I’d rather have the same easy choice with e-books that I have with paper-based books.

So, to my observation: While reading a book in iBooks, I came across an interesting passage, and I have long been a note-taker. In iBooks, it was no big deal to highlight the passage, copy the text, then paste it into a plain text file on Dropbox with Notesy for future reference. Yet this simple process is not at all possible with the Kindle or Nook apps, should I find an interesting passage while reading within either of them. Oddly enough, to take notes from something I’m reading in the Kindle or Nook apps, I have to revert to the same process I would use if the book in question was paper-based: I’d touch-type the note into a relevant file while reading from the device propped up next to my iMac.

This, on the face, seems like a simple fix: the Kindle and Nook app developers need to include a copy text function. However, knowing several programmers, I know that things are often not nearly as simple as they seem. These developers may also be restricted in some way by Apple’s rules for iOS apps, who can say? Still, I’d love to see them implement this in their respective apps.

But why not just highlight the passage that’s caught your attention, you might ask. Because, so far as the Nook is concerned, this means you’re still stuck always having to flip through the e-book to find what you’ve highlighted. Amazon gets around this somewhat with the Kindle, however, by collecting your annotations. Whether you highlight, or make a note, it’s kept for you at kindle.amazon.com. From there, you can copy and paste directly from a web page, which is a reasonable alternative to doing it bit by bit on your iPhone.

The only issue with that solution on the Kindle, however, is what if you have a book you didn’t buy from Amazon? In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I downloaded a novella from an author’s blog. He had put it out as both a .mobi file for reading on a Kindle, or EPUB for apps and devices capable of that format. I can put this .mobi file on my Kindle, and highlight all I want, but those won’t be available to me at the above web site. Built-into-the-app copy abilities would help solve that. Because you never know when an interesting passage is going to come along.

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PEBKAC: Staying Connected in Africa

This column originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of About This Particular Macintosh.

Greetings from Rwanda! As this issue goes to press, my wife and I are in the African republic finalizing the adoption of our third child. We’ve been here for two weeks, and have up to another week in Kenya to look forward to. (Procedural muckety-muck with US Immigration; not everything can be processed in Rwanda.)

Staying connected with back home and the larger world has been a challenge. We each brought our iPhones, but they’ve been locked in airplane mode since we boarded our initial flight out of Dallas. We checked with AT&T about using them internationally, but the costs of doing so were just too great. Thanks to a Facebook group devoted to adoption in Rwanda, we learned it was relatively cheap to buy a simple phone for texting and local calls. So we set our sights on doing that.

Our first full day in-country we performed our first currency exchange and immediately sought out one of the myriad cell phone sellers. And when I say myriad, that’s not an exaggeration. Take those half dozen or so cell phone kiosks you see at an average American mall and multiply it by a few hundred. Thousand. A few hundred thousand. (Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it seems that every where you look there are booths or larger stores devoted to selling mobile phones.

Mobile is huge here, as it is in much of the developing world. A mobile infrastructure is much easier to build out than a wired one. Everyone here has a mobile phone. Not many people have a land line. Heck, even the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Children (under the Office of the Prime Minister) has her mobile number on her business card. And that’s all. (And yes, this means that we do, in fact, have a business card from the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Children.)

So, mobile phone acquired, along with two SIM cards, each with about nine US dollars worth of time and texting, total cost: US$35. Why two SIM cards? Turns out this no-name phone from China or Korea or wherever has two SIM slots. There are two mobile providers in Rwanda, the original MTN, and the relative newcomer, Tigo. It’s cheaper to call internationally, especially to the United States, on Tigo. Most everyone we’d be in contact with in Rwanda is on MTN. So the dual-SIM card capability would benefit us greatly. (An eight-minute phone call at 4 in the afternoon, Kigali, back to Dallas cost about 300 Rwandan francs, or 50 cents US.)

On every street corner, in every other empty space of a strip mall or building, there are men and women selling cards for time and data on MTN and Tigo, usually under yellow umbrellas of the former and purple umbrellas of the latter. They are fairly aggressive, but not obnoxiously so. They won’t hesitate to come up to ask if you need to buy, but back off quickly if you decline. It’s very cutthroat, however, as the percentage they receive from each card sold is their livelihood. They won’t hesitate, once a buyer has been identified, to try to sell over one another to earn that percentage. While we haven’t had to engage in an on-the-street purchase, our local attorney has, and it was interesting to watch.

So far as Internet access is concerned, we brought my 11-inch MacBook Air, plus an iPad 2, which has proven handy for watching US TV episodes previously downloaded when your only choices in the hotel room are Al Jazeera English and a sports channel that shows nothing but football (soccer, fellow Americans). Our hotel has Internet access in the room, usually served via wifi from a router mounted out in the hallway. Unfortunately, that wifi hasn’t worked since the day we moved in. Enter a wired connection and Mac OS X’s Internet Sharing feature.

Though I always carry a 25-foot Ethernet cable in my pack, I heartily accepted the hotel staff’s offer of a cable to plug in with. I consider the Apple Ethernet-to-USB adapter for the Air to be one of those “better to have and not need, than need and not have” pieces of kit, and it indeed saved our bacon. With the MacBook Air plugged in, it was off to the Sharing pane in System Preferences, and after turning on Internet Sharing, our iPad and iPhones could access the outside world over wifi. Problem solved!

Well, kind of.

Two days prior to the writing of this piece, our hotel’s connection went down about 8:00 PM local time. And has yet to resurface in our room, despite the tech sitting at the front desk, plugged in, forty-eight hours later. So while we were happily checking in on Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail in the mornings and evenings, that was no longer possible, wired connection or not.

So lunches and dinners have been spent at places with known free wifi, and the staff of two institutions now recognize us on sight. Just this evening, while eating steak kebabs and sambusas (local version of the meat-filled, deep-friend pastry), the Air was on the dining table, purchasing tickets through KLM’s web site for our flight to Kenya. (And zapping some spam from my e-mail inbox.)

So while staying in contact with our family back home, and with our friends around the world, hasn’t been as easy as back in Dallas, it has not been an insurmountable challenge, either. The people of Rwanda have been very friendly and accommodating, and we have, to a degree, fallen a little in love with our newest child’s homeland. We will certainly return in the years to come.

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PEBKAC: On the passing of Steve Jobs

This column originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of About This Particular Macintosh.

In 1996, I was working for The Computer Shoppe, in Metairie, Louisiana. The Computer Shoppe is distinctive in that it was one of the original Apple retailers signed up nearly twenty years before. That year Apple Computer, Inc. celebrated its twentieth anniversary, and there was much hullabaloo. One such bit of hullabaloo was the visit by Apple bigwigs and Steve Wozniak to our humble shop. Then-Apple CEO Gil Amelio had enlisted Woz, as one of the company’s original founders, to act as the face of the company for the anniversary goings-on.

Woz spent an entire day at the store, and the entire staff got to go to a dinner that night, where The Computer Shoppe’s owners were presented with a crystal apple as thanks from the company. Some time during that day, I got Woz’s signature on the mostly-blank side of one of The Computer Shoppe’s tri-fold flyers.

I’ve attended two Macworld Expo keynotes where Steve Jobs was presenting. The first time I was in the same (albeit very large) room as Jobs, I thought about that flyer with Woz’s signature, and how neat it would be to get both founders’ autographs together.

These were the heady days of two Macworld Expos a year, and I knew I’d be attending the very next Expo, so for that time, I dug through the box of momentos and found the flyer. It was with me in the keynote hall, and it was in my hand as I got within about fifteen feet of Jobs after the keynote had concluded and the hall had mostly emptied.

That flyer still bears only Woz’s signature.

I don’t remember who Jobs was talking to. It didn’t appear to me it was a media-related conversation, and my memory isn’t deep enough to recall whose badges said what, so it very well could have been a less-publicly known Apple executive. Or just a friend.

What I do recall is that Jobs appeared at ease. Comfortable. He wasn’t having to be “on” for the keynote presentation. He was more relaxed now. There were a few other people were milling about, waiting for a chance to talk to Steve, shake his hand, whatever. I looked around at them, and the thought occurred to me, This just doesn’t feel right. I cannot recall there being anything specific triggering that thought, but I do remember the thought. This just doesn’t feel right. So I stuck the flyer back in my laptop bag and headed out, no looking back, no regrets.

There may have been a time to ask Jobs to sign the flyer, to get his John Hancock next to his former partner’s. But that wasn’t it. Not when he was coming down from arguably some of the toughest in-the-public-eye work he did each year. It was time to let him bask in the finish, to relax, to enjoy.

Many words have been and will continue to be spilled about the life of Steve Jobs. He will be called many things: visionary, leader, driven, egotistical, asshole. He will be remembered fondly by many. He will be remembered foully by some. Love or hate, he will be remembered.

The first computer my family owned was a used Apple ][e, purchased from a teacher at my high school. I distinctly remember going with my dad to the teacher’s house to pick up the system, and I distinctly remember seeing my first Macintosh in person, for that was what had replaced the ][e for this particular teacher. I remember buying my first Mac in the Tulane University book store while my wife was in law school. And I remember going into the Dallas metroplex’s first Apple retail store to buy the first iPod.

Like many of my friends, I would not have had many of the experiences, the jobs, I have had were it not for two Steves getting together to build a personal computer. Which led to another. Which led to another. And another. And so on.

What we should remember most about Steve Jobs, for all that he accomplished, is that, in the end, he’s just a man. A man with family and friends who loved him deeply, and who will mourn his passing more deeply than any one of us outside that circle. For me, tomorrow is just another day in my life. For them, tomorrow is another day without the dear one they loved.

So I do not mourn Steve Jobs for myself, despite what his life’s work meant to mine. Instead I mourn for his family, who now face life without a husband and father.

And for the rest of us, tomorrow will be just another day. Tomorrow, there is no chance of Steve returning. Tomorrow, there is no amount of mourning and what-iffing that will bring him back.

Tomorrow is the time to turn to the ideals Steve believed in: striving for perfection, though it is never attained; demand the best in yourself, and strive to bring it out in others; and to live your life to the fullest in pursuit of your dreams.

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PEBKAC: Readers, Readers Everywhere, and Not A Library To Spare

This column originally appeared in the October issue of About This Particular Macintosh.

I have a problem.

I love to read. (No, that’s not the problem, but we’ll get there.) Last year, I read forty-three books and novellas, a personal best since I began tracking annually three years ago. Over the past couple of years, a steadily increasing amount of my reading has been done electronically. With iBooks, Kindle, and Nook apps on my iPhone, I could read pretty much anywhere, any time. My wife and I each have our own hardware Kindle now, too. And, of course, there are still the dead tree editions stacked about.

So what’s the problem? Sounds like maybe Erasmus’ quote writ large, perhaps, but no, not having money for food and clothes isn’t the problem.

The problem is that there’s no way to track my library across dead-tree, iBooks, Kindle, Nook, et al. And when I say track, I mean in a manner that doesn’t have me endlessly typing into some sort of database each and every title. Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble already have a database of what titles I’ve gotten from them, both free and purchased. If only that information could be harnessed.

And therein lies the rub: even if an enterprising developer rose to the challenge, he would have to have access to certain information which I’m pretty sure Amazon’s APIs do not allow access to, I don’t think B&N even has APIs for, and know for a fact that he wouldn’t be able to get it out of Apple.

Now, as a good capitalist, I do not begrudge Apple, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble from keeping this information proprietary. After all, they’ve spent considerable monies and man-hours on building these systems for their benefit. Yet as a consumer, it would be nice to be able to use my personal information from these companies for my benefit as well.

I know I’m not alone in this problem. Some may not have even realized yet they have the same problem, which only makes it more frustrating for those of us who are aware of it, as it means there’s little demand for the above companies to relinquish access to the information we’d so desperately like to house under one roof for our own benefit.

“But Chris,” you may say, “why not just buy from a single source, like say, Amazon. Then your problem’s solved.” Very true, but how often is that the case, that we’ll be able to have 100% of our electronic and dead-tree book purchases come from a single source? Sure, it’s easier than ever to make that happen, but personally, I like to spread the wealth around. For one, I actually prefer the iBooks interface to the Kindle app’s on my iPhone. Granted, owning a hardware Kindle means I’m more apt to purchase from Amazon moving forward, but that still doesn’t fix the problem of the myriad titles across different apps/sellers now.

Sadly, looking at the landscape, the only conclusion we can reach for those of us who really care about the one-roof concept is that we’ll be spending a lot of time in our database of choice entering it all manually.

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PEBKAC: Never Forget

This column originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of About This Particular Macintosh.

September 11th this year marks a decade since the United States suffered the worst-ever attack on its own soil. Like my parents’ generation with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I can vividly recall where I was and what I was doing when the news broke. I remember watching NBC’s live video as the second plane flew into the South Tower. That moment told us this was no accident. That moment, in hindsight, was when everything changed for America.

A familiar mantra rose up: “Never forget.” Such a simple phrase has obvious connotations, yet can carry different meanings for different people. For some, it denotes revenge, not only never forgetting, but never forgiving those who attacked our nation and killed our fellow citizens. For others, myself included, it means learning from the history that lead up to the attack so as to prevent another in the future.

Millions of bits and reams of paper have been published over whether the US should be in Afghanistan and Iraq. My personal position has shifted to one degree or another in the decade since 9/11, and we have yet to experience another successful attack. This appears to be a result of fighting terrorist groups who wish us ill over there not having sufficient resources for those same groups to attack us here. That’s a lesson best summarized by the military maxim, “Take the fight to the enemy,” and falls into the learning-from-history category.

Over the past decade, Apple has been doing quite a bit of learning from its own history. When Steve Jobs returned to the company he’d co-founded then summarily been driven out of, he certainly put his stamp on the organization moving forward, doing so with an eye on the corporation’s past. Model lines were streamlined, costs were slashed, and then new products began to emerge, with a new executive team to back it all up.

The debut of the iMac was the shot across the industry’s bow that this was no longer the old Apple. Building upon that success, ten years ago this past March, Apple debuted Mac OS X. While that initial release had its issues, the past decade has seen polish that indeed has made every successive version of the operating system, including today’s Lion, “the best yet.”

That same year, Apple began an industry disruption with the release of the iPod. Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player category, but the little white electronic box the size of a deck of cards would go on to dominate that same category. Apple under Jobs certainly did not forget lessons from the company’s past here, and did something so audacious, it’s still being talked about in MBA classes*. The iPod mini, the company’s most popular iPod model, was killed. Nuked. Replaced. And the iPod nano then shot to the stratosphere.

(* Totally made that up, but it sounds good, don’t it?)

When Apple killed the iPod mini, it was a signal that not only was this no longer the Apple of years past, but that Apple was, as many of us have long observed, very different from other tech companies. Would Michael Dell have killed his best-selling model of anything? Would HP? Toshiba? The old Apple would have continued to milk the iPod mini for all it was worth; while allowing innovation to stagnate. Not so with Jobs at the helm. How do you innovate your way away from a best-selling product? Make another best-selling product.

So you continue to polish the best operating system on the market, and you pretty much take over an entire market segment. What’s the encore? Another industry disruption: the iPhone.

Apple wasn’t going to just walk into the mobile phone industry and do well, remember? Now, for the non-tech crowd, “smartphone” has become synonymous with “iPhone”. Four years ago, in my little corner of Texas suburbia, I would never have envisioned the penetration amongst the soccer/band mom crowd that the iPhone has now seen. Every time I turn around, if a middle-aged, minivan-driving mom has a smartphone, it’s an iPhone. Sure, there are a few Android phones floating around, as well as the rare Windows 7 Mobile, but the iPhone remains dominant. And the industry has only begun scratching the surface with smartphone purchases among users.

Then there’s the iPad. Remember the tablet market before the iPad? On the Apple side of things, a third-party was taking PowerBooks, nee MacBooks and converted them to touchscreens, with swivel tops to cover up the keyboard. PC vendors, working closely with Microsoft or not, had developed similar models for one Windows flavor or another. A few were sold in niche areas, but never in significant volume to justify there being a “tablet market”. Then Apple released the iPad, and it was all over before the rest of the tech industry could even blink.

The iPad was derided as an oversized iPhone, without the phone. Consequently, this actually sounded like a feature to quite a few people, rather than a bug. Here was a tablet which shared the same ecosystem that allowed for vetted apps to be purchased, was isolated from the threat of viruses, and didn’t require a For Dummies book to get up to speed with.

When we first started going to our current pediatrician a few years ago, all of the doctors and nurse practicioners were using netbooks to track patient information during a visit. Now, they all have iPads, running in a ZAGG keyboard case. Here’s a niche where the Windows-based tablets of old would have been targeted, and have now been supplanted. As the industry has too-slowly come to grips with, there isn’t a tablet market, there’s pretty much only an iPad market.

How did it come to this? Learning from the past. Over the past decade, Apple has looked to its own past to see what worked and didn’t work. It has also looked to the past of the entire tech industry. With such knowledge in hand, Apple has charted its own course, marched to the beat of its own drum. Apple’s profits and highly valued stock are the result of Apple setting the trends, not following what others might have done. The rest of the industry has yet to grasp this important distinction, and thus continues to flail about, chasing the tail of Apple’s comet.

Now the man who energized and turned the company around with his vision is stepping down. Steve Jobs has turned the reins of Apple CEO over to the able Tim Cook, and I have no doubt in the Cook era that Apple will continue to remain the dominant player in the tech industry. (Yes, I said the dominant player. Who else has accomplished what Apple has in the past decade? Google? Microsoft? Please.) We imagine the current management team will remain relatively unchanged by Cook moving forward. When something’s not broke, why fix it?

Yet Tim Cook and the other Apple executives will be in a unique position to learn from their history. For while Jobs is no longer Apple’s CEO, he will remain on as the Chairman of the Board, and everyone knows he will continue to have some say in product development. Cook and Company have been living Apple’s history, and will continue to do so, and they must check future development against what has worked for the company in the past, so that it might continue to work in the future, making changes as needed. Be disruptive. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Go against the grain. Think different.

The actions taken in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past ten years have reverberated across the Middle East, even the entire globe. We are still learning valuable lessons which our leaders, current and future, need to take heed of and understand. Be disruptive. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Go against the grain. Think different.

For that’s how the world truly gets changed.

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PEBKAC: Moving, and Moving On

This column originally appeared in the August issue of About This Particular Macintosh.

The past few weeks in our home have encapsulated the Great Room Reshuffle of 2011. My wife and I are in the process of adopting our third child (Boy2 is also adopted), and this is requiring some shuffling of resources. Our guest room will be no more so each boy may have his own room. New bedroom furniture has been ordered, and will be in place by the time, you, dear reader, are seeing these words.

Boy1 is remaining in the same room he’s been in since we got the original furniture, which is now in Boy2’s room. Boy1 is getting the aforementioned new furniture, including a desk, useful for doing homework and LEGO building. The new full bed ensures Boy2 or Boy3 can bunk with him when my parents come for a visit. (See above: guest room going away.) Boy3 will, at some point in the future, once we actually have Boy3, get new furniture, but for now his room remains semi-complete.

So now we’re at the third paragraph, you know way more about my home life than you ever wanted to, and you’re wondering what the heck this has to do with Macs, aren’t you?

Mac OS X Lion released a couple of weeks ago, and for a subset of users, shuffling installations was a concern. Just as we’re rearranging rooms, some found themselves moving to a clean drive partition to put the new operating system on. Most simply did an update install, which shuffles off the old Snow Leopard bits and moves the new Lion furniture in to the former’s place.

As of this writing, I’ve only installed Lion on one of our four Macs, my 11-inch MacBook Air. As more than one commentator has stated, Lion and the Air seem like a match made in heaven. Or Cupertino, as the case may be. I utilized the method most who upgraded to Lion have, the update-in-place. Snow Leopard is packed up, moved off the drive, and Lion is moved in and unpacked, everything put in its place.

It was time-consuming, but otherwise uneventful, much like the Great Room Reshuffle, which saw lots of sweating and grunting by yours truly as dressers and chests and beds were carried and slid about (yay for carpeting!), but no dented furniture, busted walls, or broken bones. Likewise, my moving on to Lion has only seen one hiccup, and that was the need for Java for Mac OS X 10.7 to be installed afterward so CrashPlan would work properly. Just a little sweating over my off-site, online backup, but no grunting this time.

Seasoned Mac veterans may take their time upgrading to Lion, and users of Quicken will most especially want to wait. (Though honestly, given Intuit’s lack of motivation thus far to update Quicken’s code, Quicken users may be better off looking for alternatives from committed developers.) Like many long-time Mac users, I’m not sure I’ll use the new Launchpad or Mission Control features, but I’m otherwise enjoying the many subtle changes Apple has made to OS X’s face. And as with previous Mac OS X updates on previous Macs, this latest operating system just feels faster on the same hardware.

Just as I’m glad we’re doing the Great Room Reshuffle of 2011, I’m happy so far with the Great Lion Upgrade of 2011. If you’ve been on the fence, and don’t have any application-compatibility issues, I encourage you to make the move to Mac OS X Lion. It’s the best Mac OS yet.