The Life of Thomas Linacre

The full title of this book is The Life of Thomas Linacre, Doctor in Medicine, Physician to King Henry VIII, the Tutor and Friend of Sir Thomas More, and the Founder of the College of Physicians in London with Memoirs of His Contemporaries, and of the Rise and Progress of Learning, More Particularly from the Ninth to the Sixteenth Century Inclusive.

(And people wonder why it is no longer in print!)

I highlighted Thomas Linacre yesterday, and I have to say that he led a wildly interesting life for the son of relatively unknown parents from Derbyshire.

This book, the only biography of Linacre I have been able to find, was written by John Noble Johnson, M.D., who was himself a member of the Royal College of Physicians which Linacre had founded. Pretty much the only thing we know about Dr. Johnson is that he wrote a biography of Linacre, so this is a matter of the unknown writing about the slightly less unknown.

I can’t say Johnson’s prose is anything approaching elegant, but at least it is succinct. He did live in an age when flowery, overwrought language was fairly typical.

This is just one of my most recent finds on Google Books. Google has footed the bill for scanning millions of out-of-print volumes to make them available to people online. It is estimated that by 2016, Google Books and other similar programs (such as the French Gallica project) will succeed in scanning all volumes available from both universities and major museums throughout the world – both printed and manuscript.

How Android Could Beat iOS

Google has finalized their $12.5 billion merger with Motorola, and if Google is smart, they will pull their licensing of the Android operating system and do an Apple. They will release Android 5.0 on a Google-owned and Google-manufactured device like Apple does with the iPhone.

Why?

Simplicity. Right now, Android developers have to write software that works on at least 4 versions of Android that span over 300 devices with different specs – from screen-size to processing capability to ports and drives. The Android development world is awful. As a result, many users have wildly varied experiences. My LG Enlighten is a low-end Android phone, barely meeting the minimum requirements for running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but there is also Android 2.2 Froyo, Android 3.0 Honeycomb, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, as well as Nook and Kindle Fire branch OS’s which are based on Android’s kernel but wildly different from the standard releases.

For a developer like Dropbox, writing for all these variants is a pain. It isn’t quite as hard as trying to write a universal app of Mac OS X 10.5-10.7 as my friends at Logos Bible Software are discovering, but it is still a pain of the royal type.

If Google is smart, they will develop a brand new version of Android that runs only on their own device. Let people keep their older devices, but phase out support like Apple did with iOS 3 and iOS 4. Invest heavily in designing an experience rather than just a clunky and sometimes unreliable OS.

You might be surprised to hear me say this, but I think Android has the makings of a far better OS than iOS. Because it is not a scaled down version of a desktop OS but is instead it’s own creature, Android can do things iOS can’t. It integrates with Google’s other services so well that I actually considered getting an Android tablet until I discovered that Google does not have a mobile version of their Documents service (now called Drive).

If Google is smart, they develop Android 5.0 or Android 6.0 to run exclusively on a small group of devices – a compact phone, a larger phone, two tablet sizes (7″ and 9.5″) and at least two docking systems like what they tried to do with the Atrix. The Atrix was actually an ingenious idea, and if Google can monopolize on it, they could have tremendous potential.Design the OS so that your phone or tablet has limited capacity to save battery life, but when you’re home and you plug it into the shell, the capacity doubles or triples. Resource swapping like that reduces the need for multiple devices, but it has to work right EVERY TIME. You have to be able to get a day and a half out of your phone AND have desktop capacity when it is plugged into the larger unit.

Think about it. One unit that is both the iPhone and the Macbook or iMac. Forget the flawed Chromebook idea. Google needs to find a way to have one device that provides two experiences – the portable and the desktop. That is the only way to beat Apple at their own game.

But it has to work. Android phones would be fantastic if they would just do the stuff we want them to do. I paid $700 for my iPad. I would never pay that for an Android tablet. I got my Android phone for free – and that’s about what I’d pay for this multi-device mishmash that Android is right now.

If Google can do it and do it before Apple and Microsoft roll out their ideas for integration (and what are Apple’s OS X 10.8 and Microsoft’s Windows 8 but exactly that?), then Google has all the backend resources and apps to really make it work. But they have to do it right.

Here’s to the potential of Google and Motorola’s merger, which somehow I think they are going to squander.

That’s my techno two-bits for today anyway.

My New Phone

Recently, I upgraded my phone. It was time. My LG enV Touch had run its course, and beside the battery giving me about 2 hours of use, it was dropping calls and not sending text messages. If you’re in the business of people, not connecting with them is a big no-no.

A lot of readers might think that buying an iPhone would be a no-brainer for me, but as suprising as it might seem I went for an Android phone. I made the foray into the world of Google devices for a couple of reasons:

1. At the church, we use Google Apps for everything: our email, our calendars, and many of our records.

2. I already have an iPad.

3. The iPhone is EXPENSIVE.

4. I like physical keyboards on my phones.

So, I got an LG Enlighten, which is an entry level phone running Android 2.3 “Gingerbread”. The phone itself has some quirks. It is not the fastest device you will ever use, but it is not my primary device. My iPad is. (I am writing this post on it.)

I just needed a phone with a physical QWERTY keyboard and the option to use it as a WI-FI hotspot. Since the Enlighten was also FREE with my upgrade, this was a no-brainer. The phone met all my criteria, so it made sense.

Google Apps Integration

Here is what I love so far about the Android phone – everything is integrated. I entered my Google email and password, and presto all my contacts, calendars, YouTube and Documents were available to me. A quick download of the Google+ app and all my pictures automatically go to Picasaweb.

Google does the cloud right. Say what you will, they are way ahead of Apple on the integration of services. (iCloud is an embarrassment thus far.) Need to add a contact? I just enter their info on the phone, and POOF! It is available everywhere – even my Address Books on my Mac at the office and my iPad. That does not happen with iOS without a lot of work.

Add a calendar event? Oh look, it is on my Google Calendar! My wife can see it. My iPad can see it.

The Google Docs integration is full, but editing a document on a 3″ screen is not my idea of productivity. It is convenient to be able to see the documents, but I’d do little work on the phone – even if it was an iPhone.

Social Media Integration

Once I downloaded the Facebook and Twitter apps, they integrated into the OS. It is the kind of “deep integration” that Apple claims to have with Twitter, but for everything. The phone merges all my Address books, so I not only see a person’s contact information but also have a link to their Facebook, Twitter and any other social apps I download.

What’s more, the OS can integrate with Evernote, my favorite app in the world. Just press the menu button and tell the phone to send it to Evernote. POOF! It is in Evernote.

If we’re honest, Evernote’s integration with iOS has lagged a bit. It took forever for them to get full rich text formatting, and just today I tried to use a shopping list on Evernote on a grocery trip. Nichole and I separated in the store, and the idea was to just keep updating the note as we picked up items. What happened was that everytime she edited the note on her iPhone, it would append an entire copy. By the time we were done, there were sixteen versions of the same list in the same note.

What’s Lacking?

1. Android really does not have a solid take on audio integration. The built in music player is bare-bones, and it does not allow convenient use of audiobooks – which are my primary listening. With iOS, I can build .m4b files that include bookmarks and section breaks. Try as I might, Android just does not play well with these files.

2. iOS’s approach to multi-tasking is both efficient and convenient. Android’s is bulky and does not lend itself to any sort of confidence that it is working. Battery life on my phone is about the same as my wife’s iPhone 4S, but I have to constantly be on the watch for apps running in the background. When apps are eating away at my resources (which are limited in this phone), I have to manually kill them or use an app killing software. Even then, I feel like the apps linger in the RAM.

3. The microSD dance gets annoying. My phone is an entry level device, so there is only 120MB of internal storage. That’s not a ton. I have a microSD card, and can move many apps to the card, but they have to leaves some of the app on the internal memory. So, even if I had a 32GB microSD card, I would still be limited to about 50-60 apps at an average of 1.5MB of storage on the internal memory.

But here’s the thing…

I Want My Phone to be a Phone

I have my iPad for mobile computing and note taking. I don’t want to use my phone for things I can do on the iPad. (And I certainly don’t want to pay $300 for a phone that does the exact same thing as my iPad.)

I want my phone to integrate that snapshot I took or to check my email really quickly. I want to be able to send everything everywhere – all at once. My phone isn’t for getting my news or for creating content.

My phone is for making calls, sending texts and quick updates. And when necessary, it is for letting my iPad get online. It does what I want, and it keeps contacts and such up to date.

I don’t expect Android to be as slick as iOS, anymore than I expect Windows to be Mac OS. Windows does different things, and does them very well. Each OS does something well, and we shouldn’t demand they do other things. I wouldn’t want Android on a tablet, and I am happy without using iOS on my phone.

Playing with Google+

Over the past week or so, I have been playing with Google’s newest social network – Google+. Overall, I am impressed with its potential.

The Facebook API is pretty much exhausted.

Everyone with half a brain can see that Facebook needs to either reinvent itself and face the wrath of the user base or go the way of Myspace. It has reached saturation, and although people continue to join it, the social side of it is on the wane. People are getting tired of the way Facebook works (at least I am).

Where do Zuckerberg and company go from here? Last week, they added video chat through the Skype technology but that was almost an after thought if you ask me. I think they knew that Google+ was coming. It should not surprise any of us that Zuckerberg was on Google+ in its earliest testing, scoping out the features of Google+.

Unlike Facebook, Google+ could start from scratch in designing a social network.

Actually, they’re not starting from scratch. Google is starting with gmail and calendars, and a multitude of cloud-based features already in place. That means there is a tight integration between your email connections and your social connections. The line is blurred almost completely – something I really like.

Google+ Circles make multiple social networks into a single network.

Being selective about sharing in Facebook is a nightmare. You have to set groups, then check boxes. There are multiple pages to go to. As a result, everyone posts pretty much everything for everyone to see. You get tagged in a photo, and suddenly you’re getting notifications about people you don’t know writing things you’d rather not read. Circles gets rid of all that.

Make a circle and share in the circle. Want to expand it to others? Piece of cake. Want to not see posts from those annoying people? Pull them out of circles all together. Want to stay friends with someone without them seeing your posts? Not a problem. Want to have work and play separate? Not a problem. Share documents with a circle? Watch youtube video together? Video conference with your grandkids, even though one of them won’t get home for a bit? Use a circle.

This is an ingenious interface idea, and it has tremendous potential – especially considering the collaborative features already built into Google’s infrastructure. Let’s face it, Facebook is a distraction – to say the least – when it comes to work. But Google+ could easily because a necessary tool – especially if they can find a way to integrate Evernote or something even better.

Video Conferencing is incredible.

I have not been impressed with mini-Skype on Facebook. It does the basic thing, but there’s a lot of lag and the typical Skype problems. Google+’s video feature – called “Hanging Out” – can be shared with everyone or just specific circles. In the aforementioned example of talking with your grandkids, you can create a “Hang Out” for all of them, and they can conference in from their computer, their iPad, or their iPhone/Android handset. Like Apple’s products, Google+ just works.

You can only run one video conference at a time on Google+, but that’s not bad. It is pretty much industry standard when it comes to webcams. But you can have multiple chats and running conversations.

Email Integration

A few months back, Facebook introduced their @facebook.com email feature. How many people used it? Not many. They view Facebook messaging as messaging, not email. Google on the other hand, already has a highly successful email – perhaps the most successful email platform ever. If you want to email someone in your Google+ network, just click the “Email” button. Nothing is easier. This is something Facebook simply cannot do.

Automation and Connections?

My one big concerns for Google+ is how well it will automate with other services. For example, Google has the Blogger service for blogs. I can’t stand Blogger. Will Google allow WordPress to integrate an automated feed? I hope so.

Because Facebook is a third party site, all the blogging systems connect to it. All the gaming companies want to get in on it. Google owns a lot of competing services. I hope they don’t become so focused on their product that they don’t support other (and many times, superior) products.