Thursday, October 27, 2011

Creating an External Windows Volume

This process I took while trying to create a imaging and restore procedure for our MacBook Pro lab for both Windows and Mac bootable partitions.  The technique will be geared to the Mac side of things, but can potentially be applied to any OS using UNIX and has access to the dd command.  

The dd command is a very powerful tool.  You can make a bit by bit copy of data from one media to another without any problems by using this technique.  The only drawback is the time it takes to make the copy and the backup, which is why I have ultimately chosen to not use this method.  But, as a side effect, it made it possible to restore a bootable Windows image to an external hard drive. 

##CAUTION!!  Any misstep in this process can destroy your drive completely, making it difficult to restore back again.  That's why I don't recommend it as a restoration process.  I'd highly recommend you use another process for backing up your Bootcamp volume.  You can use Winclone 2.3, though only if you turn just about everything off, or CloneZilla Live (which I am still testing, though they say it can be done).

  1. First, start with a prepared computer/drive.  In this case, I had a MacBook Pro with OS X Lion on one partition and Windows 7 on another.  
  2. Mount the computer/drive as an external drive.  Macs are able to boot into Target Disk Mode, which turns it into a very expensive Firewire or Thunderbolt drive.
  3. Open Terminal (or your command line) and run the command to identify your hard drives on the computer.  For the Mac, this command is: 
    diskutil list
  4.  Identify your drive.  Most often drives on a UNIX system would be in the /dev/ directory.  On the Mac, they are identified as /dev/disk1.  For other UNIX computers, you will probably see them as /dev/hda. 
  5. Run this command to back up your drive to an ISO file:
     sudo dd if=/dev/disk1 of=image.iso conv=noerror
    1. sudo is for super user do (run it as root)
    2. dd is the command
    3. if is the input file, or the drive (or partition) you are going to copy
    4. of is the output file, or the location the copy will go.  In this case, we are copying the drive as an ISO file in the current working directory
    5. conv=noerror will check for errors
    6. Expect this command to run for a long time.   It took 9 hours for a 100 GB drive with two partitions for me!
  6. Mount your new drive.  For me, I unmounted the MacBook Pro, and mounted an external hard drive.  The new drive needs to be equal or greater than the previous drive in order for this process to work. 
  7. Wipe the drive, for convenience sake.  I'm not sure if this is required, but I would still recommend it.  To do so, run the following command: 
    sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/disk1 conv=noerror
    Again, expect it to take a long time to run.  
  8.  Once finished, you can restore the image using the following command:
    sudo dd if=image.iso of=/dev/disk1 conv=error

After a long imaging process, about as long as it took to copy and wipe out, you should have a fully restored system to an external drive that will boot to Mac or Windows.  

So, what I learned from this was finding a great way to back up and restore a hard drive using an ISO.  What I also learned from this is that bit by bit copying takes forever, and is not time effective enough for mass deployment.  So the search continues for a usable deployment system for a Mac with a Bootcamp partition. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Two Weeks with iOS 5

It's been two weeks since iOS 5 had been officially released to the public as a free upgrade for all compatible iOS devices.  Since I upgraded my iPhone, iPad, and children's iPod Touch devices, I've come to really appreciate the new features that come with iOS.  Here is my list of favorite features: 

  1. Notifications:  Both the Notification center and the new way notifications are managed in iOS 5 are a huge upgrade for the OS.  I can see why it was so popular in the Android platform, and I'm glad to see it on my phone.  Features like the stock app and weather app are more useful as they are published to the notification center, and I can view them regardless of the app I am using.  For instance, one game I like to play while commuting on the train is Civilization Revolution.  But I also need to know the time.  Previously, I would need to either check my watch or close the app to view the time (just to make sure I don't have to run to catch the train).  Now, with two swipes from the top of my game, the notification center will tell me what I want to know.  I can also see current emails waiting for me, and texts I may have gotten that are waiting, etc.  I look forward to more apps using the notification center instead of badges, as the latter are very annoying to see on the screen.
  2. Personalized Texting Tones:  It's a minor thing, but now you can personalize your text tones per person with ringtones, instead of using the default text notification.  Very handy when identifying who sent you the text, and how important it may be. 
  3. iCloud:  This is huge for me, because I have a bad habit of wiping computers and repartitioning them to test theories.  As such, I don't always backup my data properly, like pictures, much to my wife's annoyance.  With iCoud, those documents I want to keep get backed up and synced to all my devices, so I always have a copy of them somewhere.  It works well with Photo Stream and the iWork suite.  I'm looking forward to more apps using iCloud, like, say, an iOS version of Office?
  4. Find my Mac/iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch:  Last month, my youngest, in his excitement, managed to misplace both of the boys' iPod Touch devices.  We took the house apart looking for them, and was unable to find them until recently when we had our carpet replaced and they took the grill off of the return vents in the hallway.  There were both of the iPod Touch devices, none the worse for wear other than having completely drained batteries.  I immediately upgraded them, synced them to my iTunes account, and turned on Find my iPod Touch.  Now, should they go missing, I can quickly an easily find them using the wireless network by sending a loud tone.  While this feature was available for the iPod Touch in iOS 4, it's easier to enable in iOS 5.  I also will be getting any pictures my sons take with their devices in my Photo Stream, which will then be shown on the Apple TV.  That's just cool. 
  5. Newsstand:  I've never been a huge fan of newspapers and magazines, mostly because they take up a lot of space when you save them, and even more space when you try to get rid of them.  And digital copies on an iOS device using apps was cumbersome.  Newsstand does simplify the process of getting and reading your subscription media, and though not all subscription apps support Newsstand, many do, and that has got me actually thinking about getting subscriptions.  If only The Highlander would create an iOS app for Newsstand..
  6. Increase Volume Button for Taking Pictures:  It's just awesome to use the native camera app and take pictures with the increase volume button. 

So those are six things that I have enjoyed since I started working with iOS 5.  There are other features, of course, that are just as awesome, but some I can't take advantage of without having newer hardware, and others I haven't discovered.  There was one issue I experienced after upgrading though:  my battery on my iPhone 4 drained faster than ever before, until I let it drain completely and then recharged it completely.  After that, the battery has worked as well as ever, and sometimes even performed better. 

How do you find iOS 5? 

Imaging a Mac Computer with Bootcamp using Clonezilla

Creating an image for a Macintosh computer that includes both a Macintosh partition and a Bootcamp partition for Windows is complicated at best with the release of Lion and the demise of the old standby: Winclone.  Since twocanoes stopped developing Winclone, I've been looking for another method to create an image that will be, well, reliable.  While it is possible to use Winclone 2.3, it's not supported and it's very buggy.  And that's just the Windows partition, not the entire drive, and I want the entire drive.  So, based on some suggestions I got with previous posts and lots of online research, I decided to give Clonezilla a try.  
Clonezilla is akin to Norton Ghost, as it grabs a complete image of a hard drive, partitions and all, and will restore it.  Unlike other ghosting software though, Clonezilla supports HFS+, the Mac OS X Extended filesystem, as provided by the core utility, Partclone.  That means it can image both a standard NTFS partition with the Mac partition.  It sounds great, assuming it would work, so I thought I would test it out and see if it were a viable option for mass deployment of Mac with Bootcamp.  Going through the motions, I was impressed with the repository settings that were available.  Much like Acronis, the Clonezilla Live CD boots up into it's own OS platform.  With Clonezilla, though, it's Linux, and it shows.  There are a lot of options to select, and it doesn't have a very friendly UI.  But, really, UI is secondary to performance in my case (because I'm used to a command line UI that it presents), so that wasn't much of a consideration.  
The first neat experience I saw with Clonezilla was it's flexibility.  You can select just about every language and keyboard setup that Linux supports, which makes it handy to deploy.  Unfortunely, you need to do it every single time you boot.  Perhaps there is a way to build a custom CD, or perhaps settings would be kept with the USB boot, but I didn't see it off hand.  The other flexibility option that impressed me was the method of finding your repository.  It's actually very easy to find a connection method that will work for you.  I really liked the idea of having an SSH repository, making images easy to deploy to and from a remote server if necessary.  The only thing to change performance at that point would be the speed of your connection.  Internally, if you are on a Gigibit switched network, it will come as close to that speed as possible.
Then we get to the image tool.  I only used the beginner options, which probably has a lot of settings that are defaulted, but I wanted to make this as easy as possible.  That, and after spending a good 5 minutes on choosing my keyboard and setting up the repository information, I wasn't much interested in spending more time configuring when default settings should work just fine.  Apparently you can back up just partitions, or the entire disk.  I chose the entire disk because that was what I am looking for, but I kept the partition idea in mind for future projects (assuming it worked, of course). 
Below are the steps I took while creating an image, and deploying that image to a computer. 
Steps: Booting from the CD
  1. Boot to Clonezilla Live CD
  2. Select boot option for Clonezilla.  The default works great at 800 x 600.
  3. Select Language (default is US English)
  4. If you are not using a USB keyboard, select the keymap from the arch list, otherwise continue with "Don't tuch keymap"
    1. If you selected to select the keymap, select your keyboard type (default is most common, QWERTY)
    2. Select the Keyboard layout (starts with Brazillian)
    3. Select your keyboard variant, either Apple USB or Standard
Now you are ready to set up the repository for your image. 
  1. Select Start_Clonezilla
  2. Select Device-Image, as you would want to create an image from a device.  
  3. Select your repository method. 
    1. If you have a local device, like a USB drive or internal drive, you can use Local_dev
    2. If you have an SSH server you want to publish the image to, use ssh_server
    3. If you have an SMB server (Samba, or Windows server), this will be best for you
    4. If you have an NFS server (common in UNIX networks), nsf_server will work for you
  4. Depending on what you selected before, you need to verify your network connection (or not if it's local).  I selected the Ethernet network (for speed), and then used DHCP.  This will probably be the most common setup for everyone. 
  5. Since I chose SSH, I entered in my SSH server IP (can use DNS name too), confirmed the port number, and entered in the user ID for the login.
  6. Then enter in the absolute path for the repository.  I put it on my Desktop, so I put in  /Users/userid/Desktop.
  7. It will then ask you for authentication information to mount the connection.  Follow directions (hopefully you already know all this information).
You are now ready to start the image.
  1. Select Beginner mode.  It's easy to use, and you don't have to mess with the expert stuff.  If you already know what you are doing, then expert would be great.  But then, if you already know what you are doing, why are you reading this?
  2. Select Action
    1. savedisk:  Will image the entire hard drive as an image, with all partitions.  This is what I chose for creating the image of my Mac with the bootcamp drive.
    2. saveparts:  Will image partitions of the drive for restoration.  If you don't need everything, just a single partition (like your Bootcamp partition), this will back up just the partition.  Obviously this will save you time over the entire disk if you have more than one partition.
    3. restoredisk: Will restore the drive from an image.
    4. restoreparts: Will restore individual partitions.
    5. recovery-iso-zip: Will create a recovery disk of Clonezilla Live for either CD or as a zip for a bootable USB drive.
    6. chk-img-restorable:  will check to see if an image is restorable or not.  This is an option you can turn on while creating the image, so it will be checked after the image has been created.
  3. Input the name you want for your image.
  4. Select the disk or partition you want to back up
  5. Choose to either check the image as it's saved, or skip the check.  I recommend letting it check the image (increased my image time by 15 minutes, but well worth piece of mind)
  6. Press enter to continue. 
At this point, you are all set!  Clonezilla will create an image of each partition in the hard drive (or just the one you selected), and notify you how long for each partition it will take to back up and restore.  It took, for my two images, a total of about an hour and a half to back up and restore the image using SSH and the options I selected above on a Gigabit network.  
To restore, it's much the same process.  Boot to the drive, select your language, etc., and set up your device repository. To restore, you would use these steps:
  1. Select Beginner mode.
  2. Select restoredisk (or restoreparts, if you backed up a partition)
  3. Select your archive as displayed
  4. Select the drive you wish to image.
  5. Press Enter to continue. 
  6. It will then ask you if you want your hard drive partitions overwritten, type Y to continue.  It will then verify that you are wanting to replace your hard drive partitions, type y.
  7. The system will not restore.
The restoration process is done partition by partition, with each partition taking less time to reimage than it took to create the image in the first place.  And the results?  Success!  The restore booted without a problem, with all settings in tact.  That is better than could be said for the previous imaging tools I have tried.  
So it looks like I have found a useful cloning tool for imaging my Macintosh computer lab, and pretty much any lab for that matter.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Parenting a Child with Autism

Article first published as Parenting a Child with Autism on Technorati.
Boy playing on an organ stool.
Early this morning, at about 2:00 AM, my son climbed into bed with us. Unlike other mornings, I was aware of this because I was awake, though normally I don't notice him climbing into bed with us. There was no sound, no crying, just a quick jump, flip under the covers, and he was out like a light on my pillow.

Later this morning, as my son woke up earlier than usual, he started to dance around and play with the dog. After a few calls for him to get dressed, he looked into my eyes for a second and smiled, his giggle infectious and infuriating, as he doesn't do as I ask for the fourth time this morning. I help him on with his shirt, hand him his pants, and he gets dressed.

While I'm still trying to get ready for work myself, I savor the eye contact. That shining moment that acknowledges my son's affection for me, and his acceptance of me in his life. It's fleeting, because of my son's Autism. It's savored because I'm one of a handful of adults with whom he will share eye contact.

Parenting is a scary business. It's full of stress as you worry about how your child will grow up and impact the world. Some parents take it easy and just expect their children to do well. When they don't, they look for scapegoats for causes and blame the world (or at least their teachers). Other parents are the diligent type, dedicated to giving their children the best of everything so they will excel in the world and bring honor and glory to the family name. Either way, there is stress, and it's put some people off having children at all, let alone more than one.

Autism is also very scary, in that no one knows what causes it or how it impacts the child's learning. Children can range on the Spectrum from very low functional (highly autistic with low IQ) to very high functioning (often Aspergers, with high IQ and mild Autism), so advice from parenting doesn't work. Generalities can be given, but the devil is truly in the details as you as a parent work to find a way to connect with your child consistently.

Other parents don't really know what to say when you explain the head-butting, hand flapping behaviors as ways your child expresses his emotions. Many offer suggestions, help, criticisms, and even sympathy, but only you as a parent can really connect with your own child. Parents who are truly interested look for the rules you govern your child, and try to emulate them. Some parents in an educational or religious environment, will attempt to apply their own methods in contrast to yours, causing confusion and regression in some behaviors.

To be a parent of a child with Autism is to parent from day to day, looking for every possible sign of success, and expecting regression when it comes. Instead of focusing on long-term plans like financial success or brilliant educational or recreational accomplishments for your child, you look for a successful day without spilling food or drink on the floor on purpose, dumping the dog's water into his food bowl, or pulling out all the marshmallows from the cereal box.

To parent a child with Autism is to place all the anxious future planning of traditional parenting into your daily routine. Effort cannot be diluted with incidentals about which Ivy League schools you want your child to attend when you are still focused on their using utensils while eating. Athletic scholarships are the furthest from your mind while trying to teach your child the necessary hand-eye coordination to write his name. It's too much effort to think beyond the day, the daily successes, and looking after the little things while hoping beyond hope it's true that the big things will actually take care of themselves.

It's scary, not having a well-planned life. I'm the type that likes to have things planned out in sequence in order to provide a smooth transition between two states. With Autism, you don't have that luxury. Development depends to so many variables that having future plans beyond perhaps special things like vacations have too many variables to make a successful plan.

I've voiced some of these frustrations before, so why bring them up now? Well, I read Notes from a Dragon Mom in the New York Times this morning about a mother with a child who has Tay-Sachs, a genetic disorder that will slowly kill her infant child. I found myself identifying with her descriptions of a lot of things, though my son will not pass away because of Autism. But the same loss of concern about the future and focus on the day to day is vary similar to what I experience with my son on the Spectrum. I have the same disconnect between the son carrying that degree from Harvard she had, though for completely different reasons. My heart went out to her because I could, in some ways, to her situation. Dragon parents are amazing, and deserve the admiration of us all.

I'll never be a tiger dad, nor would I think of considering myself a dragon father. I'm just a father of a child with Autism. I see the bark of the tree, and perhaps the tree, but I can't afford to look at the forest because it's changing too drastically to be relevant to what I'm doing. But some times, in those strange moments when I connect with my son, I can see a bright, glorious wooded mountain that is just waiting to be discovered.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Autism Insurance Coverage

Article first published as Autism Insurance Coverage on Technorati.

Children enjoy a magician at the Utah Autism Carnival for Autism.California recently passed, and Governor Brown recently signed, SB 946, a bill requiring health insurance companies to cover behavioral, vocational, and occupational therapies for those diagnosed with Autism. The Insurance companies were firmly against it, as they claimed it would increase insurance costs in California by more then $850 million a year (an independent commission estimated the increase at only $98 million a year). David Lazarus, from whose article I received these numbers, sees it as a good argument for a national healthcare system where risk is more evenly divided amongst all tax-payers, thereby lowering costs even more.

Government intervention in the healthcare system is a huge political hot topic right now, with the "Obamacare" issue for the Republicans, the single public "Medicare Plus" plan issue for Democrats, and in the middle are patients that are in need. Right now children on the Spectrum are struggling in schools to learn, not just their three R's, but how to be social. They learn things like why it's important to brush your teeth, look someone in the eye, reply when a question is asked, and how others are reacting based on body language queues with which children who are neurotypical have no problems. In some States, such as my home State of Utah, Autism is not covered at all as a diagnosis. So even getting your child screened for Autism is an expensive proposition if schools are not willing to provide that service themselves through a school psychologist.

There have been numerous genetic links to Autism, showing that Autism is more than just a result of poor parenting as was originally believed. The idea that Autism is anything but a physiological issue has been ruled out. The argument still rages on between genetics and environmental triggers, but cause doesn't invalidate treatment. Regardless of the cause, these children are in need of help. And as such, we as parents are doing everything we can with the meager resources provided.

As a parent of a child on the Spectrum, I spend as much time as I can trying to prepare him for the world. At a tender age of 6 I'm trying to teach him things he would normally have picked up naturally by 4. Things like brushing his teeth, using the toilet appropriately, keeping clean, and using utensils when eating. On top of that are his academic needs, which he tends to excel at when prompted, but still needs prompting in order to keep him on task. All the while I worry about his social skills, and work to help him focus on eye contact and social rituals like shaking hands and high-fives.

The problem is, I'm not there all day to instruct him because of work. My wife isn't either because she works as well. He is currently in school all day (which is very nice), but even then his classroom has other children that are in need. Some have even more need than does my son. That, and with meager resources as well, the school is doing the best they can with what they have.

I'm not complaining about the school, as our school district is better equipped than many others in the State to assist children on the Spectrum, but rather I am concerned about the lack of funds. Governments cannot afford to provide the funds for the needs of those children and adults with Autism, particularly in this economic climate. Parents generally are not in a financial position to fit all of the bill either, for the same reasons. It's become an impasse that few are willing to address, because no one wants to take the burden of cost, leaving individual families to bear the heavy weight for therapies.

We talk so much about research, causes, cures, etc., that we often forget the human aspect of Autism. Parents are struggling and siblings feel neglected because of the attention their sibling with Autism currently receives through family-based therapy. But eventually Governments will start to feel the pinch as parents pass away and siblings (if there are any) are unable to care for an adult on the Spectrum that didn't have the opportunity to receive the important therapy now available. It's no wonder both parents and government entities are looking to Insurance, now mandated because of the recent Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to provide funds for therapy for this biological condition.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Passing of Steve Jobs

Last night I heard the news that Steve Jobs, the co-founder and former CEO of Apple, had passed away after finally succumbing to his long battle with cancer. The news was a shock and very sad, though I didn't fear for Apple. Having met many people at the Cupertino based hardware and software company, I'm firmly convinced that the company is in very good hands and will continue to innovate for years to come. But the passing of Steve Jobs is a sad milestone.

Steve and company developed some of the most innovative technology advancements that have changed the way those on the Autism Spectrum learn. With the introduction of the iPhone, iPod Touch, and finally the iPad, many parents have had affordable tools with which their children can communicate. Their dedication to those with disabilities has made devices that are accessible to the blind, deaf, and those with mental conditions that make communication difficult. And for that, Mr. Jobs, I salute you.

While he was known to be very opinionated, brisk, and abrasive at times, I have always found that the culture he fostered to be very open to all with ability. The campus was always busy with those who sought to improve the experience at every level for the user, and with their broad proliferation within the consumer market, they have succeeded. I had never met the man personally, though I had seen him once before the launch of the iPhone with the men who brought us that very unique and game-changing device. He was focused, determined, and seemed in a hurry. From all accounts of those closest to him this first impression I had of him was a very telling one, and very true to his nature and his drive.

My heart goes out to the family of Steve Jobs, as they mourn his passing. Know that we mourn with you.

Thank you again Steve, for all that you have done for a growing, often confused Autism community. You will be greatly missed, and remembered as one who, whether intentionally or not, enabled so many of us to help our children.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Autism and Siblings

Article first published as Autism and Siblings on Technorati.
Brothers on an amusement ride together.It seems these days everyone is looking for fault in the behavior of children. I hear complaints about "learned" behaviors, mimicking, and lamenting that the behaviors are difficult to "undo" in the best of families. I hear it even more so with my son, who, as part of his Autism, vents his frustration and excitement by head-butting. As such, I get complaints about potentially hurting others, or even worse, others mimicking his behavior.

I can understand how frustrating it is when your child starts to behave in a way that is deemed socially unacceptable. It's a constant vigil for most parents of children on the Spectrum as they try to help their children overcome these behaviors to better assist them in their social development. But nothing is more frustrating than having a sibling mimic the older child with Autism.

My youngest of two boys is almost 3, and therefore is about the right age to start to see signs of the Spectrum. He has some signs, such as avoiding eye contact, ignoring his name when called, and seems to be between 6 months to a year behind in his speech development. He also head-buts when frustrated or excited. The problem is, we can't tell if this is a learned behavior from his older brother, or if it is a genuine sign of Autism.

If it is Autism, then he most likely will fall under the Asperger's syndrome umbrella, and will be very high functioning. But he seems to be so high functioning that he may not have Autism at all, which merely adds to the conundrum. The only real solution is to have him tested by a specialist to be certain one way or another. The numbers don't look to be in his favor, with recent reports showing siblings of older children on the Spectrum are more likely to be on the spectrum themselves. Not that it will change much, other than give him a head start with preschool Applied Behavior Analysis (and his brother's preschool teacher will get him, which will thrill her).

The thing is, another diagnosis in the family doesn't have the same impact as the first diagnosis. We have since learned a lot about the Autism Spectrum, developed a routine that caters to the spectrum while still demanding appropriate social behaviors, and in general have a good knowledge of what is needed. Basically, as we have already been through this once, we are prepared the second time around. The question is, are we prepared for a neuro-typical child?

Monday, October 03, 2011

Apple iPhone Announcement: The Anticipation

Tommorrow, October 4th, 2011, Apple will be making their iPhone announcement.  Much anticipated is the new iPhone, the iOS 5, and iCloud as fit for release. There are some other rumors about some features, and that's what I want to talk about.  Why?  Because it's fun to speculate, and fun to dream.  And who knows?  Perhaps one day some of these wishes will make it into a future iOS release.  

First and foremost is iCloud.  Not a lot has been mentioned here, as most people tend to write off iCloud as a file sharing/email/contacts service that lets you download stuff you have already purchased from iTunes at any time.  Doesn't sound too exciting, does it?  But there is a whole lot more.  First, there are backups of your phone, allowing for quick and easy restoration should something happen to your phone.  That alone is a great feature, and well worth the new iOS release (which is expected to be free, I might add).  Backups are in general rarely made, particularly photos and documents.  We as computer users have been lulled into a false sense of security with better performing software and hardware.  Hard drive journaling with Mac OS Extended (Journaled), ext3 and NTFS for Mac, Linux and Windows respectively, have all presented us with fewer corrupted files.  The death of the floppy drive and the prolific use of the USB thumb drive have given us more storage that takes up less space.  We think our data is secure.  That is, until we have a hard drive failure.  Then we curse ourselves for not backing up our data. With iCloud, at least for iOS devices, photos, and documents, backups are happening automatically for us.  We still need to burn purchased movies and various other applications, PDFs and Downloads, but all in all iCloud will take care of our precious memories and important documents. That is a feature worth talking about.

For iOS 5, there are lots of rumors that voice control and voice activation will become deeply ingrained into the OS.  This is huge, because for right now most voice activated apps are narrowed down to taking quick dictation and needing a copy/paste procedure to keep it. While I don't know the depth of the integration, knowing what I do know about the development team I would speculate that voice acivation and dictation could very well be in the cards.  And I'm not talking just speech to SMS as Android has, or even speech to text for documents.  I'm talking voice control for apps.  This may yet be a pipe dream, but I can see a whole host of Assistive apps growing from a core module that allows for voice control.  For instance, suppose you wanted to help a child learn to speak clearly?  How nice it would be to have an app that would use speech recognition and translation to help them focus on their pronounciation, word usage, and speech.  Speech therapists would love to have something like that to help augment their teaching, and parents would injoy it just as much.  Not to mention language practice!  That would be huge.  Yes, that kind of depth would be fabulous.  Do I expect it?  Not really, I'm expecting some common voice commands and speech to text/SMS.  But that is just a stepping stone, in my mind. 

Specs for the iPhone have been bandied around, and I'm all for a faster processor when it's necessary or needed, but for right now I don't see that need for the iPhone.  I also don't see the need for a more powerful camera, etc.  Hardware for me, as the iPhone already has a display that is so highly resolute that the naked eye cannot identify the pixels, is more just icing on the cake.  Until the software demands a better phone, I don't see me upgrading the hardware.  The software, on the otherhand, is what will drive upgrades for me.  Luckily, from the declaration at WWDC, iOS 5 will be supported on the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 as well as the new model.  

But specs for the new iPod Touch could be interesting.  If, as according to some rumors I have heard, Apple places a 3G/4G chip in with the WiFi chipset, effectively making the iPod Touch a mini iPad, then that will be an amazing upgrade.  It will effectively broaden the number of devices that can be truely used anywhere and anywhen, allowing for those who do not see the need of a phone to use their web-enabled device for anything they want.  And suppose they don't want a cell phone and all the texting/minutes/data issues that carriers tend to add to accounts, yet still want to have mobile phone access?  the iPod Touch will support Skype, as well as a number of other VoIP apps (many for free) for calls over the 3G/4G network as well as WiFi.  Carriers, instead of being phone companies, could quickly just become mobile Internet companies, providing data usage.  I wonder if the carriers would be happy with that?  

Another rumor that has since been dismissed is the release of the iPad 3.  It's really soon after the iPad 2 had been released, so I don't imagine the iPad 3 will be coming out now.  But if it did, the one and only thing I would really be looking for is a retina display.  That's what held me off from purchasing an iPad 2 when it came out, and sticking it out with my iPad.  I want to see the iPad with a retina display, thereby making it easier to read whatever app is on the screen.  For now, the display is still great, and the old iPad still does exactly what I want it to do, when I want.  

Finally, there is the rumor of the Assistant, which is a combination of a lot of speech control.  The demo circulating the Internet looks really cool, allowing for speech control in a number of OS-level functions (voice calling, searching, web searching, Twitter, etc.).  But the rumor also said it will only be available on the new iPhone model, and not any of the previous models.  That is disheartening, as I've had my iPhone 4 for over a year (has it really been that long?), and I can't imagine having to give it over to upgrade to the new phone.  I'll have to see which way this goes, and whether or not it's a feature I could or could not live without.  

So, lots of exciting things to expect from Apple tomorrow.  I think it's pretty safe to assume iOS 5 and a new upgrade to Lion (and possibly Snow Leopard) to support iCloud will be available tomorrow after the presentation, and I think there will probably be a new iPhone getting released.  I would also expect that a new iPod Touch will be announced with similar iPhone specs, and we may even see the final demise/retirement of the iPod Classic.  With iCloud, you no longer really need to have that much storage space, so I think it's pretty clear what's going to happen.  As for the other aspects of iCloud and iOS, that's what will keep my attention tomorrow.