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Steve Jobs: A Biography

Steve Jobs: A Biography

Steve Jobs: A Biography by Walter Isaacson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think the main feature of this book that I would emphasize is that it is, in fact, a biography about a flawed man, and not so much a history of his technical achievements. As a computer geek and long-time MacAddict, I found that a little disappointing; I didn’t care as much about every anecdote of his emotional instability, I cared about how he did what he did at various companies. There was barely anything on his time at NeXT, and even the major changes at Apple in the last 15 years pretty much got a single chapter each. I was also surprised to find a couple of spelling mistakes, although I suppose since I read an electronic version that could get patched later.

Overall I would echo John Siracusa’s Hypercritical podcast episode in which he reviews the book as having been writing by “the wrong guy”, making the point that Isaacson is someone who was generally incurious about technical matters. I think my rating of this book would be higher if he had delved into that side of Steve more.

That all said, it is probably the best collected summary of what he was like, mostly due to the access Isaacson had. I learned a lot of trivia, and there were a lot of interesting quotes that I marked in iBooks. I knew very little about his early life, or his family life. I just would have liked more of a study of what made his technical and design successes. There were some good stories from, among others, Bill Gates, Jony Ive, and Steve Wozniak.

I think it’s a reasonable first look at The Steve, but I would definitely read other history books first, or generally familiarize yourself with the history of Apple, NeXT, and Pixar. For the latter, the documentary that appears on the WALL-E DVD, The Pixar Story, is excellent.

I think my favorite quote from Steve featured in the book was this one, which is more philosophical than technical: “The job of art is to chase ugliness away.”. As in my initial reaction to his death, I think Steve clearly achieved that.

Posted in Book Reviews Tagged with: , , , ,

Reality Distorted

I had just gotten home from work on Wednesday night, when I read this tweet from my friend and fellow Apple fan Andrew. It was certainly a surprise, to the point where I initially doubted it (or perhaps hoped it wasn’t true), but the stream of traffic from my tech-oriented Twitter feed made it fairly clear that Steve Jobs had died. This news affected me more than I expected.

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Posted in Life Tagged with: , , , ,

Is the iPad for me?

What’s the question?

Like every other critic and salivating fanboy, I feel compelled to chime in on yesterday’s religious experience in which The Steve descended from on high bearing a tablet. However, this is not a review, but merely a (lengthy) answer to a simple question: is the iPad for me? I won’t be talking about the market for digital content distribution, I won’t be whining about what software and hardware widgets weren’t included, I’m not going to rant about Apple’s closed ecosystem, I won’t be begging to lick someone’s boots for a chance just to touch one. Additionally, although hopefully this is obvious, this is heavy on speculation, since I have yet to actually hold the product, let alone use it for any length of time.

I’ll also take this¬†opportunity¬†to brag that I got 29.5 points on the prediction score card, with only one question as yet unanswered: will textbooks be available (I said yes, and I think this is eventually likely, based on the list of publishers involved). I was briefly unsure if my existing Apple Wireless Keyboard would be supported, but the Design page indicates that in will be, in spite of the existence of the iPad Dock. I got the name right, and most of the detailed features based on the rumorsphere. The substantive places I was wrong were the absence of a camera, the price point (cheaper than I expected), and the lack of any information on iPhone OS 4. I had a hope for an open development environment, but I knew that wasn’t going to be true, so that’s more a self-docking principle point. I failed to predict the dock, and I gave myself a half-point for saying no 3G when there are models both with and without.

Below the cut I’ll start off with a brief history of my personal electronics habits from college through today, and then consider where the iPad would fit into my little niche… and, if it does fit, whether it’s worth it. I’ll also look at what still-open questions about the device would affect my potential buying decision (not the least of which is that I need to try it out in an Apple Store to get a sense of the ergonomics). While I’m only speaking for myself, maybe my analysis will be useful to people similar to me.

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Posted in Computers, Opinion Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Nicolas Ward

Software engineer in Natural Language Processing research by day; gamer, reader, and aspiring UltraNurd by night. Husband to Andrle
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