Technology delays

Last week was a week of waiting for certain items of technology to appear. (Wrote this on Saturday but didn't get around to posting it 'til now.)

Three things in particular were delayed: Odysseus; third-party iPhone apps; and Time Capsule.

(Yes, it's kinda funny that a product named Odysseus has gotten delayed.)

Over at Infinity Data Systems, they posted the first sort-of beta for their Eudora (email application) replacement, Odysseus, back on February 8, about seven weeks after the original planned date and two weeks after the revised date. It was available for download by beta testers for a few hours, but after several reports of a particular problem, they took down the download. A couple of the people who did download it indicated that it was more like alpha quality than beta; I suspect that the main reason the company posted it at all was that one vocal forum member kept saying it was vaporware. The project manager posted on February 23 that they were hoping to post a new beta around "the end of next week"; two weeks later, there's still no sign of it.

The project manager keeps saying that the forthcoming next build will have way more in it than originally planned, so they're not actually all that far behind their schedule; which is nice to hear, but I keep hoping that they'll pause in the feature-adding process and let us try it out. Meanwhile, my copy of Eudora continues to deteriorate--its latest trick is to entirely disable the keyboard every now and then. Software rot in action.

I don't mean to be too hard on the IDS people. I'm still delighted that they're creating a Eudora replacement, and still hoping it'll be good enough to replace Eudora for me. But the background/context is that QualComm spent over a year (possibly a couple of years) telling us that a shiny new version of Eudora for the Mac was on its way any day, and then they decided to cancel the product entirely. So some of us Eudora users can get kinda twitchy about delays in release schedules.

Of course, the IDS people are damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they don't publish a release schedule, then everyone pesters them to know when it'll be done. If they do, then everyone pesters them to know why they aren't meeting the schedule. The only ways around that that I know of are (a) don't announce the product before it's ready to ship (hard to get customer feedback and beta testing and build excitement if you take that route), or (b) always meet your deadlines. The only software development team I've ever seen do (b) well is the Dreamweaver team; they were extraordinarily good about shipping on time. (Without sacrificing quality, though sometimes sacrificing features.)

P.S.: A couple of days after I wrote this, but before the entry went live, the IDS team announced that a new beta would be available in a few days, with a bunch of good-sounding features. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Anyway. The other big delay of the week, of course, was the iPhone SDK. It really should have shipped with the iPhone last June, or ideally even before the iPhone was available, but for months after the iPhone shipped, Apple indicated that there wasn't going to be a way for third-party developers to write native apps to run on the iPhone. (Instead, Apple said to write "apps" that run on web pages.) But finally in October 2007, Jobs announced that "we plan to have an SDK in developers' hands in February."

February came and went, and then this past Thursday Apple released the SDK--sort of. What they really released was a beta, and iPhones won't have the ability to run third-party apps developed with this SDK until late June--four months from now.

To be fair, it looks like a really solid beta, and a lot of people are very enthusiastic about it. I'm pretty enthusiastic about it myself; I even downloaded it, and may play around with writing a simple iPhone app just for fun. But I'm very disappointed that I won't be able to run third-party apps (without jailbreaking my phone) for another four months. (Sometime soon I still hope to write an entry about what I do and don't like about the iPhone, and what apps I want to see on it.)

The other delay is of a different sort. I've been mostly really liking Apple's new backup system, Time Machine, but would love to be able to back up my laptop without having to be at my desk with the cables plugged in; also, my wireless base station/router has been slowly dying for months. So I was really pleased to hear Apple announce the Time Capsule--a combination wireless base station and network-backup drive--back in January, for a February release. It was finally released on the last day of February, and I've been reading various reviews and such, and although it's not quite perfect for my needs, I finally decided that I definitely want one.

So Friday night after dinner, Kam and I stopped by the Apple Store in Palo Alto to pick one up. And discovered that they were sold out.

They were still sold out on Saturday at all the local Apple Stores, and they don't know when they'll be back in stock. On Monday, the Palo Alto store had the 512GB model, but not the 1TB model.

I could order online--but it wouldn't ship for 5-7 business days. Want instant gratification NOW!

Ah, well. At least we got to play with a MacBook Air while we were at the Apple Store. Yow. Every bit as sleek and light as it looked in pictures. It's not for me--I'm too wedded to having an internal DVD drive, lots of hard drive space, and an Ethernet port--and definitely not intended as a primary machine. But very pretty nonetheless.

3 Responses to “Technology delays”

  1. sairuh

    Speaking of backup solutions, have you looked into Drobo? Andy Ihnatko wrote a very amusing and detailed review on it.

    The sad thing is that Drobo won’t work with Time Machine. According to the Drobo site and Ihnatko’s article, the problem/limitation is with Time Machine, not Drobo. But perhaps that might change?

    Anyhow. I’d like my 100TB wireless superfast backup with data redundancy now please thank you very much. 😉 Along with that TARDIS.

  2. Jed

    Neat! I was not previously aware of Drobo. Good review, and it sounds like a great product.

    Here’s the deal with Drobo and Time Machine, as far as I can tell:

    If you have a Drobo box connected directly (via USB) to a single Mac, the Drobo box works fine with Time Machine.

    You can also (I think) share that Drobo drive with other Macs on your network as a Time Machine drive, just like you can with any other hard drive. But that requires that you have one Mac that’s always on, with the Drobo attached directly to it.

    You can also use the Drobo*Share* (that extra little box) to set up the Drobo as a networked drive (not directly connected to a Mac, just sitting on the network) and use that for non-Time-Machine backups or storage.

    What you can’t currently do (and this is what Ihnatko was referring to as a Time Machine limitation) is use Time Machine with a networked/DroboShared Drobo (that isn’t directly connected to a Mac). That’s ’cause Time Machine doesn’t let you do backups to any standalone network storage device other than the Time Capsule. I’m hoping that Apple will allow such use at some point in the future (and I gather that some people have gotten it to work), but it’s not currently supported by Apple.

    So although the Drobo sounds super-cool, it’s not what I want right now–I would have to either have an always-on Mac acting as kind of a server, or connect the Drobo directly to my laptop. (So it would definitely be better than my current setup, with just a normal disk attached directly to my laptop, but it wouldn’t be as good for my purposes as Time Capsule.)

    And for me at the moment, 1TB is way more than enough storage for Time Machine. I’ve got two months’ worth of Time Machine backups on my current 1TB drive, and the incremental backups are only taking up a couple more GB every couple of weeks. At the current rate, it’ll be something like ten years before that drive fills up. I’m sure that’ll change (like if I start storing video or something), but for now 1TB is all I need. So I think I’ll stick with Time Capsule for now. (Even though the Drobo does provide much better redundancy in case of disk failure.)

    But the Drobo does sound extraordinarily nifty; thanks for the pointer!

  3. sairuh

    Have you seen this article about a recent update that allows an Airport Exreme to run Time Machine?

    Thanks for your detailed response, btw! One of these days I need to figure out the rate of disk consumption for my Time Machine backups, taking into account my (erratic) accumulation of image and audio files… ;-P Out of curiosity, which file types (audio, text, image, etc., on a high level) take up the most room for you? (Feel free to respond over email if you don’t wish to divulge such info here. (On a related note, I found Disk Inventory X to be a rather useful (and free) tool for calculating disk usage by folder and file type.))


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