After sifting through the backlog of April Fools Day pranks that had accumulated over the Easter weekend whilst I was hiking my way up several mountains unnecessarily (note to everyone out there, a real GPS is money well spent) the next big ticket item that seemed to be gracing my favourite news sources was of course the iPad. Over the weekend it appears that all those who lashed out to get their hands on Apple’s latest device have finally got some physical hardware in their hot little hands and the reviews of the device have been coming thick and fast. I’ve read my fair share of the commentary of the lead up, announcement and now actual review of the hardware and if there’s one thing that stands out from all of them it’s this: I just don’t care anymore.
Way back when the iPad was still just a rumour and had a much cooler name (iTablet and iSlate have a much better ring to them in my opinion) I actually perked up at the idea. Needing some form of Apple computer to develop on I had hoped to be able to purchase what would amount to a less powerful Mac Mini stuffed into a touch screen, and had almost resigned myself to parting with circa $1000 for the privilege. The actual announcement then left me with a rather sour taste in my mouth as the device was nothing like I had imagined and was completely unsuitable for the use cases I had drawn up in my head. That’s no fault of Apple and I completely lay the blame on myself for getting caught up in any Mac hype, but that didn’t give the iPad a good first impression in my head.
However for what its worth the reviews of the device, even from those who were deliberately skeptical in the lead up to actually getting their hands on the hardware, have been fairly positive. The iPad experience seems to be well rounded and there are seemingly no 1.0 glitches to sully Apple’s reputation for good products. In all honesty I expected as much as the software hasn’t really undergone any revolutionary changes apart from a UI redesign, something Apple has proven themselves to be quite capable of doing. There’s been no report on any major website of DOA hardware or anything else so hats off to Apple for being able to ship thousands upon thousands of iPads without any glaring manufacturing defects.
Just like the original iPhone before it there are a few things missing from the device that have drawn the ire of a couple reviewers. Many of them make a point that a device like this would be a pretty darn nifty video conferencing device if there was an included camera, although since Apple has yet to include a front facing camera with their iPhone you’d have to question how much use the thing would get if it was actually there. The lack of a user login on the device is probably a bit annoying for those who were looking to have it as a coffee table device that was shared amongst a family, but the use cases for such an interface are a bit dubious (I mean really porn on the iPad? Ewwww). There’s also the usual no multi-tasking and lack of flash support but I’ve already harped on those enough already and beating a dead horse isn’t really my thing.
What I’m not seeing however is how the iPad is the media revolution device that it was supposed to be. Sure this could be due to the fact that negotiations between Apple and the media giants aren’t going along as quickly as they had planned (or the fact that most people who get their news on the Internet won’t pay for it) but those who are extolling its ease of use with all forms of media are really just regurgitating the same points they made when the iPhone came out. In reality there’s nothing new here apart from the form factor and 90% of the things that the iPad does the iPhone or iPod Touch could do before it. It’s still early days to call it a failure in that regard but for the most part even the enthusiasts aren’t really excited about the media revolution that this device was supposedly bringing in, they’re just really impressed with a solid piece of Apple hardware.
It seems whenever I post on the iPad I always have to finish it off with a “let’s wait and see” just because the product is going to need a long time for it to actually become whatever the hell it was meant to be. Apple to their credit has launched a solid bit of hardware that’s backed up by some very mature software but beyond that the device is nothing more than the giant iPod touch it was first revealed to be. I would say I’d give one to my parents, but they discovered netbooks last year and haven’t had any troubles using them. I think the iPad would just confuse them more than it would help them.
Then again, my parents aren’t that typical (I mean they did raise me up as the complete geek I am ;).
Take any piece of modern hardware and guaranteed its locked down in one way or another to make sure it’s not used in a way that the vendor didn’t intend, expect or desire. Take Apple for example, they strictly control what can and can’t be run on their entire range of hardware products to make sure that their brand name isn’t tarnished (and they fight fervently when there’s even the slight hint that it might). Such restrictions give rise to the hacker community dedicated to unlocking the full potential of the hardware. To them it’s not so much the potential of having unrestricted access, more it is about the challenge that is presented with these restrictions and finding that loophole that lets them circumvent it.
To date nearly every major console and handled game device had been hacked into in at least some form. A couple days ago however the king of the unhackable hill, the Playstation 3, has apparently fallen from its perch:
I have read/write access to the entire system memory, and HV level access to the processor. In other words, I have hacked the PS3. The rest is just software. And reversing. I have a lot of reversing ahead of me, as I now have dumps of LV0 and LV1. I’ve also dumped the NAND without removing it or a modchip.
3 years, 2 months, 11 days…thats a pretty secure system
Took 5 weeks, 3 in Boston, 2 here, very simple hardware cleverly applied, and some not so simple software.
As noted in the quote above its been quite a long time coming for such a hack to appear. So long in fact that I doubted that it was legitimate considering that the site itself is extremely new (well under a month) and was proclaiming something that had been tried before and failed spectacularly. My mind was changed when I checked out who the hacker was, George Hotz, who’s claim to fame before his PS3 shenanigans was unlocking the iPhone. So his street cred checks out.
I put off posting about this for a couple days so I could glean a little bit more info about the whole thing before posting about it. The hack itself doesn’t appear to be too complicated however what is going to be complicated is making anything of it. Whilst the original “phat” PS3s were quite capable of running Linux (albeit quite horribly, I don’t even bother with my install anymore) many of the higher level functions, like access to the full set of GPU instructions and the SPEs, was disabled. This meant that anything running on the PS3 that wasn’t sanctioned by Sony was inherently crippled. Getting access to these extra bits of functionality would make allow people to create games without forking over for Sony’s developer kit ($10,000 FYI). You can see why they tried so hard to keep people from doing such a thing.
There’s also the darker side to this hack appearing: piracy. Sure there are legitimate reasons for blowing open access to a console like this but for the most part any successful cracking of a game console has ultimately lead to a rampant piracy scene. Whilst it would be difficult to judge the actual financial damage to Sony and the publishers who have games on the PS3 it would still be there, and you can bet your bottom dollar that it would be cited as a reason for any bad financial quarters. GeoHot’s hack is a far cry from this however, so there’s still a long time before any real piracy scene appears for the PS3.
Still I can’t help but wonder, will anyone really bother? A typical game on the PS3 can be anywhere from 10GB to 25GB something which, especially in Australia, would be rather hard to swallow when your download cap is a mere 75GB such as mine. Additionally with many games appearing cross platform you’re really only going to be pirating the exclusives and if you bought a PS3 its not really worth your trouble just to pirate those. Would you really spend the cash for a blu-ray burner, discs and bandwidth in order to play a few games a year? I’m guessing not.
So whilst I was initially excited at the prospect of some intrepid hacker finally cracking the PS3 code it wore off pretty quickly. With my secret addiction to collector’s editions that have things you can’t pirate still running rampant I have no inclination to pirate games on my PS3, nor do I have a need for yet another computer in my house (there’s 5 in the same room as the PS3, I’ll be damned if I need the PS3 to do their jobs). With this hack taking so long to come out I can’t help but feel that the majority of PS3 owners are in the same boat, happily residing themselves to never thinking about home brew or piracy on the PS3.
Still I’ve been wrong before so I’ll be watching the developments pretty closely. It certaintly has made for interesting reading at the very least 🙂