Apps I want to exist

Here’s a couple of app/service ideas that I don’t know if they do exist (if they do, my google-fu failed me, that I think *should* exist. But I’m unlikely to write them in the next 2 months, so, please feel free!

  1. Sigfile-scanner: I want to be able to select/copy the signature of any email someone sends me and have it auto-scanned & filtered into a consumable vcard/contact info. This should work in Mac Mail, and in gMail on the web. Ideally it IDs at least name, phone, email, URL & street address, but extra stuff would be cool. I know there’s alot of variance in how this info is presented, but the info itself feels somewhat standard.
  2. Warranty-info-manager: I want a centralized service to maintain all my warranty info. For anything I buy. Ideally, all I should have to do is perhaps scan a barcode & enter a purchase date (default date should be when I scan it), maybe submit the serial No (or better yet – translate a picture of the serial no into text). It should then be able to retrieve all the relevant warranty info for that product – and tell me in plain english things like when it expires, if it’s renewable/extendable, contact #s/addresses, etc. This could likely be crowdsourced, API’d so that as other people add their products, the common info gets shared, or companies could easily submit their warranty info automatically. I should be able to get reminders about when things are expiring well in advance too. Bonus points for being able to store/auto-submit registration info for those things that require registration (although this gets into the hazy what’s too much information to store about a single person zone).

 

Comics

I buy comics. A fair amount of comics. I’ve drastically cut back my spending these past couple of years, but the fact remains is that nearly every week of the year, I’m buying 3 or 4 issues. And they make me happy. Every few weeks, for the past 15 years, ever since I moved to Vancouver, I head down to Golden Age Collectibles on Granville st. There, they’ve put aside the comics I collect in a “saver”. When new series come out, I add those to my list. This is an incredible way to shop. Comic shop sales-people have a bad rep (see: The Simpsons, Big Bang Theory), but in my experience, they’re some of the nicest retailers I know: they get  customer service. If an author or artist I like has a new book coming out, I’ll often find the first issue of that series in my saver even though I didn’t ask for it, because they think I might like it. When I lived in Toronto, I went to the Silver Snail, using the same saver system.

I used to buy physical music. But I started ordering CDs online as soon as Amazon delivered to Canada, and never looked back. I never had a single local supplier of music. & when digital music became a viable option for me, I mostly stopped ordering CDs at all, and never looked back.

I used to buy physical books. A lot of books. When I first moved in with Leah, I believe the boxes of books were more in both weight & volume than the rest of my possessions combined. & I tried to support local, indie booksellers. But in the end, I started ordering online because it was easier. But I didn’t have a single source for books ever since Bollum‘s at Granville and Georgia closed, and so I never looked back. & now I only buy digital books – mostly Kindle, but the occasional iBook thrown in for good measure.

And while I’m bummed about the loss of bookstores & music stores, I never had a connection to any of them. I started reading some digital comics when I got the first iPad. The app sucked, the interface wasn’t great. But you could tell this was where things were going. But now with the new iPad (3), the retina display means that comics could potentially look as good, or better, on screen than they do in print. And there’s no storage issue. I have boxes & boxes of comics, stored in the basement that I don’t know what to do with. Sometimes I go and re-read old series. I hope someday Liam or Kellan might like to. But I don’t want to keep adding to the pile, particularly as I move to a new place where storage is at something of a premium.

And so, I’m likely going to start subscribing to a lot of the series I like digitally. Sure, I’m locking in to some DRM scheme, but I’m ok with that. The convenience of digital subscriptions current outweighs my dislike. But I’ll  be sad about not going to buy comics from my local. I’ll miss their recommendations. And I’ll be sad if/when they close. I don’t know how much the memorabilia/collectable trading card portion of the store brings to their bottom line. But I think the time is coming, in the very near future, where I won’t be buying physical comics anymore.

And I’m sad about that. & I suspect that I’ll miss an ephemeral, but important part of my cultural landscape in a way that I didn’t with books or music.

Thoughts on the iPad

Like a huge number of people, I was highly anticipating the release of the Apple iPad. After watching the announcement, my initial response was ambivalent. It didn’t hit all the notes I was expecting it to. But a few hours later (and, it should be noted, I still have not seen it in person, only watched videos) I have some additional thoughts on it:

  • Given how much I enjoyed using my iPhone as an eBook reader on my last trip, I can only imagine how awesome it will be to use that screen to read books. That being said, the page-turning animation is horrible, and should go away now.
  • Where is the multimedia magazine-reader app? Can I buy a subscription to National Geographic or Harper’s or the Walrus or anything that’s been formatted & optimized for digital reading yet?
  • The form-factor strikes me as all wrong for watching TVs and movies. As several people have noted, it’s 4:3, when virtually all visual media is in widescreen now. Why not make it skinnier and longer to accommodate that?
  • I really hope I can tether it to the iPhone for internet access. I haven’t seen anything saying I can or can’t. But I can’t afford another data plan – so I certainly hope so.
  • I’m not a big mobile gamer, or mobile video-watcher, outside of travel. And I don’t travel much. The idea of watching movies on a tiny screen, in less-than-optimal resolution, with less-than-optimal sound does NOT sound appealing. Except on an airplane, where this screen kicks-ass over the in-seat screens.
  • The idea of loading up iWork and taking that with me whenever I do a presentation is *really* appealing, and I could legitimately see many small offices buying a communal one for that reason. Plus for note-taking during meetings.
  • Why no over-the-air sync of files/music/etc with my main computer? (I ask this about the iPhone too, but with iWork, it becomes a more serious issue)
  • The lack of forward-facing camera is actually something of a deal-breaker for me – because now, when travelling, I’d still need to take my laptop with me for chatting with Leah & Liam at home. So then it just becomes another device to tote, not a replacement.
  • Overall, this seems like a pretty awesome version 1.0. I’m excited to see what apps people develop over the next year. If, say, there was a Coda for iPad, some sort of remote-desktops app & and something like Lightroom (along with some sortof dongle connector so I could upload photos from my camera to my iPad), I would suddenly become very interested in owning one of these.

Your thoughts?