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I recently decided to pick up a Thinkpad X1. The X1 is a great blend of high performance in a compact form factor. Sub-4lbs, 2.7ghz core I7, 8GB of ram, USB3, 13in screen, HDMI, miniDisplayPort, and user replaceable storage are unmatched specs.

Naturally, I immediately wiped the included Windows7 OS to install Ubuntu Linux 11.04. The install was actually painless, but I had one big problem. If I plugged a miniDisplayPort cable in, the GUI locked up completely.

Getting Displayport to work

The fix for getting a functional miniDisplayPort is simply to upgrade to the linux 3.0 RC kernel. This guide provides a quick HOWTO and links to the kernel repository. Once you reboot with the 3.0 kernel, simply plug in a miniDisplayPort cable and use the monitors app in Ubuntu. In many cases the screen will automatically adjust without configuration.

VMware Workstation

The downside with the 3.0 kernel is it breaks VMware workstation, which I use for my job on a daily basis. This fix will solve the issue with VMware not being able to install modules on a 3.x kernel.

General Observations with the X1

Overall, I’m very happy with the X1. The form factor is great, and the power is amazing considering the size. The keyboard is probably the best laptop keyboard I’ve ever used, and I’ve had numerous Macbook Pros and previous Thinkpads. There are a few areas where I see room for improvement.

The battery life is pretty bad. Now this might be an issue related to Linux config, but I’m getting 2 hours of battery life. The glossy screen is highly annoying. Its almost unreadable on a sunny day. Finally, the X1 is loud. It might be related to Linux config and the I7 processor, but its way louder than any of my previous laptops.

Overall, I’m very happy with the X1.

The other day I was having a conversation with a few friends who were talking about smartphones. The topic came up because my friend’s daughter keeps asking him for an iphone. His response was to show him his ancient cell phone and proclaim that he doesn’t need an iphone so why should his daughter get one?

For luddites, the question of necessity is always the first objection to any new technology. Necessity is always a relative thing. Luddites always question the value of a new technology by proclaiming that they don’t need it. But what technology do you actually need?

If you ask most people today, they will probably declare that they need a cellphone. Twenty years ago, if you asked the same people they would probably claim that a cellphone was completely unnecessary. The same is true of the computer, ATM cards, the automobile, electricity, running water, plumbing, etc, etc, etc. Back in the stone age I’m sure there people who claimed that horses were unnecessary.

Parents questioning the need for a child to have a smartphone reminds me of my own childhood experience. Way back in 1993, I was a 15 year old who wanted to have a pager. Back then pagers were only associated with doctors and drug dealers. A few of my friends had pagers, and I wanted to get one too. I scrounged up enough cash to buy a “used” pager down in Philly and brought it back up to my hometown to get activated.

My parents were not happy that I bought a pager. They associated pagers with drug dealers and didn’t understand why I needed a pager. As with any technology, the question of need was brought by those that oppose the new technology. After a heated discussion, I was able to keep my pager.

A few days later, I was out with friends and my parents needed to get ahold of me. They tried calling my friend’s house, but I wasn’t there. So what did they do? They paged me, and a few minutes later I called them from a pay phone. At that instant, my parents saw the value of the new technology and no longer objected to the pager. In fact, they loved the idea of the pager since they could reach me no matter where I happened to be.

Luddites are people who constantly object to new technologies by questioning the need, but really they are just people who don’t understand the value. There are always going to be people who irrationally object to new technologies, but for most people once you communicate the value, the question of need is no longer an objection.

Today, as I prepare to buy the Ipad 2, I want to revisit my orginal Ipad rant titled “Why the Ipad will be synonymous for failure.” A year later, the Ipad is obviously not a failure. So lets look at some of the points from my previous post.

The Kindle is a Superior E-reader

This is still true to this day. The Ipad is not a good book reader. Most people I know with Ipads also own a Kindle. At the time of that post, there was no Kindle application, and no indication from Apple that competing e-reader applications would be allowed.

Why buy an Ipad when your smartphone already has the same functionality?

I made a really stupid assumption. The assumption was that human beings are logical when it comes to making purchasing decisions. The fact is, people buy things based on appeal and desire, not left brain analysis. The world economy is driven by illogical purchasing, and I’m just as guilty as anyone else.

Lack of multitasking and user profiles makes it a bad product

Apple fixed the multitasking issue for the most part, but the user profile concern is still valid. However; most people don’t care about such a feature and Apple sure as hell doesn’t want to promote people sharing Ipads. Steve wants to sell more Ipads.

There is no camera, there is no video out, there is no usb port

The camera issue is fixed with the Ipad2, and there is a video out adaptor. I prefer the built-in hdmi adaptor on the Xoom, but I’m not sure I have a use case for video out on my tablet. A USB port would be nice, but Apple doesn’t want to sell the Ipad as a computer and they don’t want expandability. I expect that to change as the competition from Android matures over the next two years.

The United States is a great country, but after spending 10 days on a whirlwind trip across France, here are a few areas where the USA can learn a thing or two.

In France, tips are not expected, even at full service restaurants. In the United States, the tipping culture has gotten out of hand. Its gone way beyond wait staff at full service restaurants, today we see tip jars popping up all over the place. I’m a generous tipper, but things are out of control. Employees are getting underpaid, and consumers are expected to fill up the gap.

alex driving
I was amazed how well motorists behave on the highway in France. First off, nobody clogs up the left lane. Everybody moves immediately to furthermost right lane when not executing a pass on the highway. Nobody passes on the right hand side.

After driving over 2500 miles, I was shocked how smooth the highways are in France. Literally, I did not hit a pothole of significance during the whole trip. I don’t know what the French are doing differently, but their roads are clearly superior, and I didn’t see much construction going on during our trip.

Gas Station Coffee

In the United States, if you want drinkable coffee you are forced to go do a dedicated coffee house. Gas stations and rest stops have horrible coffee. I’m sorry folks, but Wawa and Sheetz have shitty coffee. Donut shops have shitty coffee. In France, every rest stop has automated espresso machines that make decent coffee. Its not great, but its way better than anything in a gas station in the USA.

There is great food in the USA, but its not the norm. You can easily have a bad food experience. Its hard to have a bad food experience in France, especially if you avoid the touristy sections.

Two months ago, I bought the Withings WIFI scale, which has a bunch of unique features, including the ability to report weigh-ins to twitter. I decided to conduct a two month personal experiment where my scale would report to twitter every time I stepped on it. Because my twitter account is hooked up to Facebook, the scale also updates my Facebook status.

I had two goals for the Twitter diet:
1. Don’t gain any weight in the month of December
2. Lose 10lbs by the end of January

Amazingly, I managed to acheive goal #1, but I fell short of goal #2. I only managed to lose 5lbs during the twitter diet. The Twitter diet was unique because everybody around me was reminded that I was on a diet, which created a built-in weight loss support group. If somebody saw me eating junk food, I would be ridiculed.

The daily reporting of my weight caused me to really think twice about what I was eating. For the first time in my life, I experimented with various diets. I went veggie for a few weeks, I tried the the low-carb thing too. There is no way I would have been motivated to diet if it wasn’t for the Withings scale.

Overall, I think the twitter diet has a lot of potential. I’m actually going to keep the scale sending tweets, but on a weekly basis instead of daily. The weekly reporting should be enough to get me embarrassed if I start to creep back up, and thats the real benefit. The public reporting of weight, gets people who would otherwise not care to really think about how much they weight, what they are eating, and what they are doing.

Its been 24 hours since the iPad was announced, and I have to say that with every tick of the clock, my opinion of Apple’s new device gets more negative. During the announcement, I wasn’t blown away, but I was positive. However; the more I started think about the iPad, the more I disliked it. Its really just an oversize ipod touch.

I thought Apple’s device would be a really strong e-reader, but sadly the Kindle is far superior. A backlight display is not preferable for reading, so Apple’s choice of an OLED screen makes the device a substandard e-reader. With the Kindle, there are no data fees, and there is infinitely more content, and to top it off, the books are cheaper too. So I have to have a monthly network access fee, to buy more expensive books, in a store with less selection, and I must read those books on screen that will strain my eyes? No thanks!

Photos, videos, and music all look very nice on the ipad, but why would I buy an iPad when the iphone/ipod already has all that functionality? The video display is better, but what is the actual use case for the iPad video? An airplane trip? If I’m in an airplane, I already have my laptop, so why bother with an iPad? Again, the more I think about it, the more the iPad doesn’t make much sense.

Finally, the one solid use case I had for an iPad is a living room computer. Something I could share with others in the house to check e-mail, browse the Internet, and carry on the road when I’m on the go. The lack of multiple user profiles makes the iPad a horrible option as a living room computer. Multitasking has existed on personal computers for 16 years, but the iPad wants to party like its 1989? There is no camera, there is no standard video out, and there is no usb port. No sane person would buy a computer that requires you to purchase a bunch of proprietary junk to have basic connectivity.

I’m the type of personal who can rationalize just about any technology purchase. I’m the guy in line to buy the new gadget the day it goes on sale. There is no way to rationalize purchasing an iPad in its current form. The device makes zero sense. It reminds me of the Macbook Air, a device for people who have more money than brains.