lovehate: Macolytes Drool for The Apple Strudle... I mean Tablet

Is everyone heading down to the Great Outdoor Sports Equipment Supply Depot to get their backpacks ready for a three week stint in a line outside their neighborhood Apple Store to wait for the new iTablet? Have you borrowed your sci-fi geek friend's Dune-inspired Fremen suit so that you can filter your own urine and sweat and not give up your spot in line? Why are people so excited for a fragile 11" piece of vaporware?

I just don't get it. I do have issues which make me question why I would EVER want one of these rumored devices and, by extension, why anyone else would.

First Issue: iPhone OS - I can't imagine having a big screen version that merely echoes the functionality of an iPhone. The iPhone OS is neat, but if this device is going to replace a netbook, I have the feeling people will want to run more than one application at a time. Notice how the iPhone commercials never say "there are Apps for that." To promote this as a slogan would imply that you could run "apps" and not "app". A tablet will HAVE to get a better version of the iPhone OS if it's going to be used for anything useful whatsoever.

Second Issue: form factor - Why on earth would I lug around an 11" version of an iPhone/Touch. The iPhone fits in my pocket. I would have to buy some sort of European carryall to accommodate this funky new device to do the same things I do with a pocket-sized gadget. And while I admit that I sometimes wish I had a bigger keyboard on my iPod Touch, larger screen buttons won't convince me to switch. In addition, think of one of the most popular additions to the iPhone 3GS: video. Picture yourself holding an 11" slab up in front of your face to take a picture or shoot a video. And I can't foresee holding this up to my head to answer a phonecall.

Third Issue: price - A high GB iPhone, without a subsidy from a mobile provider, can cost upwards of $699. A 10" screen tablet would have to cost, being generously frugal, between $1000-$1200. Assuming there's Bluetooth with the new device, a funky iEar could be packaged with the device in order to allow a mobile subsidy to apply. Maybe a $100 belt clip could be sold as an accessory and it would look like you had a digital picture frame hanging from your waist. I have a tough time justifying a $300-$500 netbook when I can buy a full laptop for between $500-$600. Apple never does things on the cheap, and I can imagine this might the most expensive Strudel... I mean Tablet... on the block.

If a netbook was originally meant for someone who didn't need a laptop, but wanted to stay connected to the net in a slightly larger form factor, who will the tablet be for - someone who really doesn't need an Macbook but wants to stay connected? Because from what I can see, the Macolytes who would buy the tablet would also own the Macbook Air and Apple TV and the iPhone and a black turtleneck and a polished aluminum MacMini with an etching of Steve Jobs profile. The iStrudel doesn't replace anything except cash from your wallet with air.

thinglets: Bohemian Rhapsody Old School Computer Remix

I think Freddie Mercury would be proud of the time and dedication it must have taken to produce this - although he may have preferred some spandex be involved. Just goes to show how one can find music anywhere. It's a little bit hypnotic as well. I can't believe I just watched a tech junkyard create music for six minutes... I need help!

thinglets: Wax On, Wax Off Remote

Through CNET's Crave, and several conventions over the past year or so, has GestureTek use-the-force hand-waving television remote come to the fore. And I cannot think of a more ridiculous idea.

Oh sure, the technology is cool, but do I really want to sit in my basement waving my arms around like I'm guiding a plane down the tarmac at LaGuardia? The traditional television remote control has reduced my inaction down to the most minimal press of my thumb. Why do I want to engage in a Karate Kid exercise every time I want to interact with my tuner?

I've got a gesture for the workmongers at GestureTek, and it involves quickly inverting an avian creature with my middle finger. I'll stick with my thumb press thanks.

lovehate: Auto-accompaniment and the Failures of Simulation

I've been playing piano since I was five and, while there have been short periods when performing music has fallen out of my interests, I have almost always had an appreciation for a completely live performance. Such a performance can include anything from a single instrument and voice all they way up to a full orchestra.

I remember playing as a teenager in the 80s-drenched synth-oriented dance pop that pervaded the charts. I remember even buying into the concept of a synthesizer or two but hated the concept of the dreaded sequencers and samplers that would allow even the most inept players to spout forth with "cool" sounding patterns and loops. I could tolerate the idea of a synthesizer making sounds that were unique to the instrument itself and not trying to generate something else. With the persistent adoption of drum machines and string patches and horn sections and poorly-modelled electric pianos, I retreated further into a state that I considered a bit of musical elitism: a piano sound should come from a piano, a drum sound should come from a drum, and a bass guitar sound should come from a bass guitar.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the attraction of simulation. I have recorded songs where I've used a keyboard to create multiple music tracks, but always, in my head at least, the exercise was just that - an exercise. Call me old-fashioned when it comes to music, but I believe there should be something organic to musical sound. And this from a guy who grew up idolizing Keith Emerson and his endlessly-tweakable envelope filters.

As I grew older, I developed a certain tolerance for auto-accompaniment, but always with a sense of kitsch. The idea of the cheesy home organ with beat generator and portamento was to being smiled at and laughed with instead of laughed at. I am willing to listen to someone satrize a traditionally serious song by giving it the Wurlitzer treatment.

And it was with all this derision that I shook my head in disbelief when I learned of Microsoft's Songsmith software during CES last month. While this product's limitations have been shown to glorious and humorous effect by copying the vocal lines of past hits into its engine and watching the generic "reggae" or "soft rock" accompaniment get triggered, could anyone have really expected anything different... you know what? I was exepecting better.

While I believe the concept abhorrent and completely against all of my sensibilities about music, I fully expect that the technology is not out of reach to mesh anyone's random vocalizing with a very solid sounding accompaniment. I anticipate that no matter how bad someone sings, the software's engine should, on the fly, fix any out of tune notes and quantize the rhythmless until they sound inoffensive. I expect that music AI has advanced far enough that realistic-sounding instruments can be modelled in real time to sound at least as good as many of the mediocre ballads that are in the top ten of most pop music charts.

I expect we're on that threshold and, while it should scare the hell out of me, I've discovered I really don't care because if some out-of-tune arhythmic cellar dweller can one day sell a million copies of a song they produced in their basement, and maybe flip the RIAA and the Big Four the finger while doing so, I'll buy a cake and with wry, smiling dismay blow out the last candle on musical integrity.