Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Tech Toy That Will Probably Cause My Divorce

I’m late to the smartphone party. That’s okay. It’s only recently that I could justify buying one of these expensive gadgets, both professionally and personally. They also were a wee bit more expensive than I would have preferred. Also, let’s be honest, I’ve been burned by enough version 1.0 products to know not to do that with my phone. But the time was ripe.
My new baby is a Samsung Continuum Galaxy S. Sounds like a starship on Star Trek doesn’t it? I have yet to see a more melodramatic and pompous products name. It is the complete opposite of the simplicity of the iPhone name. That’s not surprising since it’s philosophy is pretty different too.
This is a good time to introduce Tom’s Law of Usability, Stability, and Flexibility. It states that usability and stability are inversely proportional to flexibility for IT and Electronics products. The Geek Corollary to that Law states “Geeks prize flexibility over usability and stability because, heck, we can figure it out, right?” You see this played out dramatically in the operating system market. On the far right is Mac OS X. It’s pretty, it’s easy, and you have one way of doing anything. That’s why you only have one button on your mouse – because that’s all you need and if you want more you are doing something wrong (dammit!). Mac’s are for people who say “I just want you to tell me how to do <fill in the blanks>!” This is true of all of Apple’s products. They excel at simplicity as long as you do things the way you are told.
Linux is on the other end of the spectrum. If you don’t have to drop to the command line a couple of times a day, then go get a Mac! Seriously, Linux users like the fact that their are ten ways to do something, each with varying degrees of difficulty. They like the fact that they have to edit a 57 page XML-based configuration file. Registries are for babies and the mentally incompetent. With Linux, you can remake you computer into your own image down to rewriting the kernel if you please – and who wouldn’t want to do that? Microsoft Windows lives in a space between the Linux and Mac worlds, trying to balance usability with flexibility and taking hard knocks for not achieving either. It’s not fair but neither is life.
This Law applies to my phone. It is based on Android, a Google Linux derivative. Compared to any other phone I have ever had, it has infinitely more settings, configurations, and options. In other words, it’s way cool! It’s not really even a phone. It’s a tiny computer that happens to make calls. I can customize it at least as good as my Windows and Linux computers. I can add software from anywhere (not just the Verizon app store) and even connect it to my home network. Heck, I have used it to get a remote desktop to a server on my LAN. It is just the neatest toy which is why my wife is starting to hate it. It’s only a matter of time before I will hear “Put that damn thing down when I’m trying to talk to you” or something like that.
But, just like a typical Linux computer it has it’s foibles. Ever so often it just locks up. No reason. It just seems to go home for the evening and hangs out a “We’re Closed” sign. There’s no reset button so I have to pull the battery, an action that requires opening up the case. I cringe every time I have to do that. It feels like something I shouldn’t be doing.
But this is truly a device for geeks. There are lots of ways to really screw this puppy up, not the least of which is misbehaving software. That’s its charm. You can customize this phone/tiny laptop to your heart’s content without getting permission from mother Apple.
Now, if only I can stop playing Angry Birds. That’s like game crack.