How a Simple Bug In SimpleNote Can Simply Screw You
I write and I travel. The latter always begets the former. So when it comes to taking notes, writing stories and putting down ideas, I need a medium. Like most 21st century writers, that normally involves locally saved text files. But a few years ago I started relying on services that synced between my primary note-taking devices: my phone, computer and iPad.
It started with Evernote, which proved invaluable. But while testing a developer version of iOS 5 last year, Evernote was having issues, so I decided to switch to SimpleNote. It was an alternative that perfectly suited my needs. I wasn’t concerned about images or other frippery, so the text-only note-taking service was perfect for jotting things down on the go and penning short pieces that would later make their way into a CMS or my blog.
Then there was a trip to Italy.
I bought a SIM card after landing in Milan and threw it into my Nexus S. I had data, but no voice (for whatever reason), but access to Gmail, Twitter and the Web was good enough.
And then a mysterious thing happened.
After tapping away in Notational Velocity on my MacBook Air (sans internet connection), I got back to the hotel and connected to the overpriced WiFi. Notational Velocity proceeded to sync, and in the process one and half hours worth of notes – over 1,500 invaluable words, including quotes and off-the-cuff comments – disappeared without a trace. All that was left was a few sentences that were stored the previous day. What happened? It took a few reinstalls, several syncing tests and many drinks to find out.
My Nexus S was set to local time; nine hours ahead of my MacBook Air. Notational Velocity was syncing the most recent notes, which only included the content of my Nexus S. That meant that anything inputed in the future disappeared without a trace.
I tested this several times with existing notes and three separate SimpleNote apps. If I typed something on my MacBook, when the next sync event happened, the changes would disappear, reverting back to the original text.
There was no backup on the SimpleNote webapp and the local files – a string of undecipherable hex characters stored in a hidden folder – were no use. All that work. All that effort. All that unrecoverable text was gone. It was enough to make me envy my Moleskin-touting counterparts.
To SimpleNote’s credit, they were quick to respond to my freaked out tweet, but they were as surprised as me at the situation. It’s something they’d apparently never encountered.
So the solution was frustratingly simple: Set my phone to the same time as my laptop and iPad, and everything syncs up without issue. If I’d only known before landing nine time zones from home.
Let’s start with the quote above. Yes, everyone doesn’t have a smartphone with a data connection. But affordable data plans with subsidized smartphones aren’t just around the corner, they’re already commonplace. The last batch of stats comes from Vision Mobile (download) that states smartphones cover 63% of the mobile market in North America. At its current growth rate, we’ll be well into the 80s by the end of the year.
Secondly, Sedgwick provides this gem about Apple’s voice command feature with no real explanation:
Siri draws on the limitless computing power of “the cloud” to understand and answer the user’s questions.
Correct, every car doesn’t have the computing power necessary to process natural language voice commands, so it will have to rely on “the cloud” to handle the heavy lifting. But does the average Automotive News reader even know what The Cloud means? What it is? What it does? Sedgwick leaves it up to the AN peanut gallery to decipher and does his readers a disservice in the process.
With a broadband data connection (LTE ported through either a tethered smartphone or embedded modem) coupled with processors in the cloud, voice recognition won’t be an issue. And if automakers are smart and focus on a combination of modular infotainment systems and reliable data connections, this won’t be an issue in the three-to-four year timeframe Sedgwick enlists.
Second, the Apple iPhone — or any other smartphone, for that matter — relies heavily on visual readouts. But if you are barreling down the highway at 80 mph, you can’t afford to squint at your display screen to sort out lunchtime options.
Sedgwick assumes that the interface of both smartphones and cars isn’t going to change. If (very recent) history is any example, he’s dead wrong. As I’ve maintained for a while, the next great in-car innovation is going to come in the UX realm and the automaker that figures out how to combine voice with a road-friendly UI is going to rule the decade. And that day is not far off.
And finally this:
Sure, automakers are using HTML5, the industry standard for presenting Web content, to create user-friendly graphics. But HTML5 is a tool — not a panacea.
I’d break this down, but it’s so off base it was barely worth the effort to copy, paste and delete the Tynt code.
So, bottom line: if you want accurate analysis of where the automotive industry is going, AN and Sedgwick aren’t it. Or to further crib our editorialist’s final line: maybe they’ll catch up – eventually.
Long goodbyes are for self-important egomaniacs, so I’ll keep this brief.
After six years, hundreds of cars, thousands of miles and over two and a half million words spread out over some 3,800 posts, I’m leaving Autoblog.
On March 12th I’ll be taking the helm of Wired’s Autopia and heading up the pub’s automotive and transportation coverage. I’ve long described myself as a part gearhead, part geek and the opportunity at Wired couldn’t be a more perfect fit.
I’ll still be staking out the shows, pestering automakers and attending the occasional trip, but my focus at Autopia will be on the future of transportation. Alt powertrains, infotainment and connectivity are what interests me the most, and I want to bring an enthusiast perspective to stories that just aren’t getting the coverage they deserve.
I can’t speak highly enough about the crew at Autoblog. I’ve watched it grow from a rag-tag assortment of knuckleheads to a world-class automotive publication that’s giving the established players a run for their money. We’ve had ups and downs, major accomplishments and the occasional dust-up, but I’ve never been more proud or honored to work with such a dedicated, entertaining group of people. And more than anyone, I can’t thank John Neff enough. He’s the reason I get to do what I love every day and without him taking a chance on a barely literate former driving instructor, I wouldn’t have made countless new friends or be able to embark on this next journey.
Thanks to everyone for their continued support and guaranteed, I’ll see you around.