In memoriam — Ville Oksanen

Went through some terrible news today. Ville Oksanen, my long time friend and colleague, passed away. He was my call-to guy for anything possible that mattered over the past 15+ years. No matter what I was calling about I could always know his feedback comes with deep insight and the highest possible integrity.

Ville needs more than a quick obituary. To start with here’s something we got published in Helsingin Sanomat back in March 1999 when we were just 22-year-old nerdy students. I still consider this early piece kinda set the stage to everything that was to come in his life’s work.

My Tesla Model S

I am and have always been a car guy so how to put this thing into words? Let’s try a few combinations:
— The biggest revolution in cars during my lifetime
— The best car I have ever driven
— An insanely great car

I’ve had my Tesla Model S now for a few days and 300+ kms. It is the first car I have ever acquired new. It has pretty much all the options except performance and top end audio packages to keep the delivery time minimal and costs comparably reasonable. Thanks go to Miika at Auto Outlet to get this metallic red colored magical space car in a month from his reserve lot.

It all started when I realized a month or so back I can sell my trusted but ageing and pretty thirsty workhorse Porsche Cayenne in August. I know ordering a new popular car model will always take several months. So I went out and test drove all the latest BMW, Audi and Mercedes family wagons and SUVs. The cars I can see every morning and afternoon parked in the front of the upper middle class homes on our home street. The cars I’ve often rented during my trips to Germany. Boring. Just boring. BMW 5 series. BMW X5. Audi A6. Mercedes Shooting Brake. Well, Benz has a good name badge in there. I even test drove the new S. But said to Szaka during the test spin something like: “Well, this is nice. But it’s just another car.” I was not hyped. Because it really felt like that. Even Mercedes S class is just another car. No surprises anywhere. It is what you can expect.

While comparing these tested and tried options it just hit me I have totally forgotten one big thing. The brand name I always saw when driving on 880 in the Bay Area. For sure I had seen some of those early two seating Roadsters go fast and wondered who are the guys driving them. And I was aware Model S was in the pipeline, but it had a lot of issues before getting to the market. We had already moved back to Finland before they delivered. A quick update one night and the next morning I first went to Sports Car Center close by who advertised Tesla along with Auto Outlet. Turns out Sports had imported so far none and just copied the competition’s ads. One call, 15 minutes tense driving, and I meet with Miika. Right after kicking it down I just utter out something like “Wow. Okay, this is it, why don’t we just go back and do the paperwork.” This is how I bought my first new car. Less than 24 hours from the discovery it does exist to signing it home.

What is so amazing and revolutionary about this car it completed trashed my little kid “lists” of cars I’d like to own before I die. I have these lists written in my childhood, teens, 20s, early 30s consisting of the usual Ferrari Testarossas, Lamborghini Countachs, Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Corvettes and Porsche 911 Turbos I need to have in my garage one day. What has just happened is those lists kinda lost their relevance. Or at least I see them completely differently. I see those cars with engines that explode, with trannies full of greasy, moving parts, with spark plugs, gas tanks, regular maintenance and so forth as something like… A CRT at the time of LCD. A modem at the time of always on broadband. A landline at the time of mobile. You just don’t want to own a CRT, modem or landline anymore. The change Tesla brought with it is just huge, big, disruptive. Having Tesla today is kinda like having iPhone in 2007. It just kicks in and tells you this is what all cars must be like. Never in the car market have I seen or felt anything similar before. Ever.

Btw, hybrids are a really stinking, bad joke. I’ve always kinda known it and now I can finally argue it. Just give any ugly, slow, boring Prius owner a Tesla for a quick drive.

There’s an interesting political angle to Tesla as well. Right now the Finnish government gives you a 500 EUR per month credit for any new company lease under this program. I want to show this car to everyone interested. My message: when was the last time you had really fun in test driving a new car? Let’s face it. Getting a new Tesla is a no brainer. Period.

Did Android win the mobile platform war?

I am not fully sure anymore Android is the ultimate platform war winner. True, Apple is getting boring and Nokia left Microsoft alone with Windows. All the interesting stuff happens in the open Android world where you have huge growth and everything starts looking like the new normal. However, there are strange things ongoing like Google rebranding the whole thing without asking key partners and users apparently anything. Would you like to have a Samsung KitKat phone? This is how Google operates. My take is that there’s still room for a contender, which “does no evil.” Something like Google’s search engine used to be before it sold out.

Migrating to Pantech and Android

Took some time since I declared abandoning iPhone back in March to actually execute the plan. I’ve been now using Pantech Vega R3 running Android as my phone for a few days. Here’s what I’ve learned of migration from iPhone.

1. It is not so simple and straightforward as you’d like it to be. Main reason is Android but also Apple and the Korea Telecom specs of my Pantech have taken their toll.

2. Google has to support a lot of different devices and modifications like Microsoft has been doing for PC hardware in the past. The result is tons of incompatibilities, which may make the use of some key feature or service impossible or very difficult. It does not help when the Android phone is a Korean one, not sold anywhere else, localized to be used with a Korean telecom operator. If you want to get the device running you may need to install little third party apps, hack and customize the phone to make it work properly.

3. Apple is a closed, proprietary platform as we know. It also reminds me of Microsoft with the fact Apple does not support all open standards so actually taking your key data out from an Apple device may require you to install some “unofficial” third party hack that circumvents Apple’s DRM and opens their proprietary protocols.

4. I first tried my best to migrate everything from iPhone to Google’s cloud. I thought it should be straightforward then to download everything from Google to the new phone. I tried various methods. Google support Exchange (originally a Microsoft protocol) to share contacts, calendars and browser data. I tried my best but was never able to upload the stuff from my iPhone to Google’s services. I downloaded and installed latest iOS, version 6.0.1. No luck. I also went to try open protocols Apple has added support for, CardDAV and CalDAV. No luck there either. Everything was configured okay and there are options in the latest iOS interface, but iPhone just didn’t do anything. Data never uploaded. Maybe some protocol incompatibility. Who knows. Then I tried to do the same via my Mac. Based on some blog screenshots iTunes has apparently had the option to upload data to Google but looks like that option is no longer there. As far as I could see, iTunes could upload the contacts, calendar etc. data only to Apple’s own cloud. Thanks. — As an afterthought maybe this announcement explains the problems I had with Google’s cloud. If their Sync “service” does not work with such a basic device as iPhone they just shut it down?

5. So I went the route of uploading everything (and now it worked from both iPhone and iTunes on my Mac) to Apple’s very own iCloud. Then on my Pantech downloaded and purchased two apps: CardDAV-Sync and CalDAV-Sync which I used to sync the data from Apple’s cloud.

I had to go to forums to find out the right configuration info as Apple does not openly share iCloud server addresses. They are different to both contacts and calendar. Maybe it will be impossible to sync to iCloud later with Android but at least it works for now… so finally with these it worked out. I got my contacts and calendar notes migrated. Phew!

6. Then I wanted to also sync music, photos and videos from iPhone to Pantech. Found out there is basically just one popular solution and that one is DoubleTwist, the thing from DVD-Jon’s company. I downloaded and purchased DoubleTwist AirSync.

It should do the job but turns out it doesn’t work, at least all the time. It did not recognize the phone until I had it plugged in via USB. After some trial and error I got it finally working, even over the air, but only for a short time. Turns our doubleTwist works from time to time and does not work at other times. There are no crashes or explanations, usually it just does not connect. Also transferring files is quite strange as there is no good progress bar to check how it goes and while the transfer is ongoing you cannot add anything in queue. Syncing is not like you’d just sync your iPhone content; the application tries to do the whole iTunes library, not just the stuff I have on my iPhone… — As an afterthought here maybe all this has something to do with the fact doubleTwist and the company website don’t look like ones that are updated that often lately. Are they in trouble?

7. Of the many little annoyances after taking my Pantech into use I have to mention one. When receiving calls Pantech cannot show the right contact in the address book where everything has the international country code (e.g. +358 50 … or +358 40 … for Finnish numbers while they come in as 040 or 050). I had to install and configure another app called Prefixer to deal with that (remove 0 and add +358 instead). This does not work outside Finland of course; then this app must be disabled. I bet that some other Android manufactures have fixed this problem.

8. Setting all the migration hacking aside Pantech is a really cool device that generates tons of curiosity to try new things after that revolutionary device once titled Jesus-phone became all-too-boring over the years. My Pantech is right now possibly the fastest specd Android shipping anywhere. It has quad-core Snapdragon S4, crystal-clear 5.3″ screen, 13 megapixel camera, and it plays the sharpest Gangnam style from any device I have seen. The last few days have been kinda getting back to the excitement when I had to first root iPhone to see it running in the first place…

Why I am Switching from iPhone

I’ve owned an iPhone since October 2007 when it was far ahead of the competition. I posted enthusiastically about my phone in 2007-2008, getting kicks from hacking and finding something new and playing retro stuff. I even went to one launch event once when it was a new concept and there was’t any queue. Then came the stores — both physical and online — everything went closed, commercial, queues grew up, and I had less time to hack. My previous iPhone post is indeed from 2008. Since then I’ve been running it in stock mode with just a couple apps. Issues I have with iPhone today include:

  1. Look and feel is the same as when it launched five years ago. Yes. Where’s the innovation? On the left you have the original 2007 model, on the right hand side the latest model selling five years after in 2012. I want and expect change.

  2. Crashes more and more often, and compared to competition it is getting worse. Here’s one related study although I’m talking about the operating system crashing, not an individual app. I’m experiencing at least once a week complete system hang which needs hard reboot. It can come any time during any operation of any app, like with the built-in map application. Apple is hacking an ever complex, closed system in-house. Some would say this is the expected outcome.
  3. Hardware is closed and has no open connectors anybody could freely build accessories for. There’s less third party stuff in general. No peripheral ecosystem. Again, less innovation.
  4. Apple is sold out like a girl or boy band at the peak of their career. Anything Apple is no longer cool. It gives me no kicks. Why would I devote any time to hack or talk about Apple’s devices because everybody is doing it. Having too many fans can makes you look dumb with those white earphones. I so much like this ad:

  5. Overpriced and will remain so, despite all of the above. While this may not be the really limiting factor to get one, it will hit me that I don’t want to spend anybody’s money for technology that just isn’t worth it anymore. I think it is morally wrong and detrimental to innovation if people are spending money into that stuff and let them put out more crap.

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On the positive side iOS devices are still easy to use and fast, very good (when it doesn’t crash) for basic email, navigation and surfing. There are apps for everything. Yes, like Windows 95 or 98 for basic desktop use. That comparison should tell enough why I’m switching …

Overall, Apple is today like Microsoft in the mid or late 1990s. It is hard to see right now how they can ever fail. They have obviously many great years ahead but, at the same time, the other guys are creating a more interesting future.