Etc 10/2/11

I’ve got a whole host of things going on lately and really not enough time to think about or write about them all.  I’ve got some cool new projects I’m working on, and work may take a big potential upswing this week (fingers crossed!).

In the meantime, this week there are a few things goin on in tech land.  Tuesday is the launch of id Software’s latest game, Rage, which I have happily pre-ordered like every other id game that I own.  Rage promises to illustrate id Tech 5 the latest incarnation to their engine and probably the only competitor (IMHO) that the Unreal engine has.  I have nerd adoration for id’s Technical Director, John Carmack and the impressive amount of things he has created or envisioned over the last 20 years.  If you do anything with computer graphics you owe this man a lot.

Anyway, Rage looks awesome.  3 discs? 25 gigs of data?  This thing has to rock….

On Tuesday, Apple’s holding some press event.  I expect them to announce a lower-end iPhone 4S model and a top-end iPhone 5 and a release date for iOS5.  While I am in the beta, I’ll report on what others are surmising, namely FaceBook integration at a system level.  Personally I’m more happy about iCloud persistent storage for apps and what that means for devices: Game saves in the cloud anyone?  How about automated push downloading of the Daily without me having to manually fire up the app?  It’s very exciting.

Plus, I’m looking forward to getting rid of the “razor blade” phone that my dropped, cracked, but-barely-there-still-works iPhone 3GS currently us.  I’m due for an upgrade and I’m hoping to hear something good on Tuesday.  Stay tuned.

Apple WWDC 2011

The last couple of weeks have been kind of an onslaught for nerds and geeks out there. E3, the annual gaming expo in Los Angeles happened, as well as Apple’s WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conf.) in San Francisco. Both events were multi-day affairs, and I’ll get to E3 in a later post.

At WWDC Apple unveiled iOS5 as well as some additional peeks at OSX Lion. I’m gagged by an NDA, at least until July when Lion comes out, and September when iOS5 finally launches. However, that doesn’t preclude me from speaking about the features that have already been outed by others and Apple. Up first:

iCloud is a service that has been talked about for almost year now ever since Apple finished building a massive data center in North Carolina. Prior to the announcement I thought that the service would behave much like other cloud services out there: storing remote copies of my data to allow them to be pulled down later. iCloud Logo Backup, simple file storage/versioning, and web services provisioning (considering MobileMe is being killed off).

The reality is much, much different. What I’ve seen thus far is a backup service for all of my apps, and a remote pull for new device restores. As a developer I can store key/value pairs for things into the user’s space on the cloud, and poll to get those items back. This is the credible answer to lack of a “file system” on the iOS. The service also seems to be built around “cutting the cord” when it comes to syncing all of the devices. Snapping photos and storing them in the Pictures app sends them to the cloud to be asynchronously pulled back down to other devices that you’ve pre-selected. It apparently only does this for the last 1000 photos which again suggests that this service is really structured around backing temporary data up as a user background feature rather than an active process.

Music syncing is kinda crazy though: Apple will sync your entire library to the cloud and allow you store 25,000 songs up there. It’ll automatically pull down the iTunes purchased data and those assets will not count toward your file size or count limits. In a twist, the service will also scan your existing library of files (that you may or may not have legitimately acquired) and if it finds a suitable iTunes song match, it’ll let you “store” or at least pull down a 256-kbit AAC version of that same file! Apple only needs to store one version of the file out on the cloud, and we all just have a handle to it. This feature is slated to cost $24.99/year, but I’m wondering if I get to keep those high-encode files once I stop paying.

I’m not sure whether or not this is an “outed” feature yet, but I’ll give my big thumbs up to being able to download or update apps asynchronously. Finally, no in-order waiting for 30 updates to download to my phone.

Notifications: Prior to loading the new OS, I actually had turned off notifications for just about every app except for Boxcar which became badge only. Turns out Apple felt my pain a bit and launched an all new interface for them. You can now swipe them from the lock screen to be taken directly to the app generating the notification, as wel as access them from a “roll-down” interface by pulling down from the clock. They seem like lightweight widgets when accessed from the roll-down, and my understanding from other’s screenshots is that the weather and stocks apps will be updated to store some data in this tray. Nifty!

Location-based alerts sound awesome. Being able to pinpoint a 4D point in space/time and have your device remind you to “Pick up a book of a stamps” or whatever you need is perfect. Again, building these things in at the OS level is incredibly smart because developers will be able to bring the best representations of these services to the surface.

There are a gazillion more features in the pack including AirPlay mirroring (which I’ll talk about in a later post) but these are the few most important to me. Moving onto Lion for a second, I’ve noticed that OpenGL 3 is not one of the big features mentioned in their list. Snow Leopard’s feature doc listed OpenGL (as well as OpenAL) prominently. Why does this matter? Sadly, the current version of Mac OS only supports Open GL 2.X extensions, and none of the newer shader programming that accompanies today’s rich media applications. Literally, they are two versions behind which is odd for an OS that could easily integrate these libraries into the OS considering they have a specific hardware target. Hopefully we’ll find that all out in a few weeks here when Lion drops on the App Store as a digital download.