kwc.org Photos Spare Cycles MythBusters

Category: Apple

January 7, 2012

Why Android is Better Off

I think this John Gruber quote on Siri explains why I use Android:

"...the whole thing still isn't up to Apple's usual level of fit and finish, not by a long shot. But I'm still glad it's there. I think the iPhone 4S is better off with Siri in its current state than it would be if Apple had waited until Siri was further along to release it."

If I had to distinguish between Google/Android and Apple/iOS, it's that each company decides differently whether or not a new feature is "ready" to put in.

Apple typically denies a new feature/product is necessary, secretly works on it for a very long time until it's polished, and then claims their solution is better than everything else out there. Sometimes this is very true (original iPhone), other times its marketing.

Google will see a need for a feature and put it in as soon as it is useful, even if it's not fully baked yet. They will then iterate on that feature again and again to make it right.

Google's approach means that people can take advantage of features sooner. It can be more difficult to discover these features because they can start so small and they get better and better in small and frequent chunks. On the downside, Google makes more missteps (Wave, Buzz, Google TV), and the ground shifts more rapidly (Android 3, 4).

Apple's approach means that new features are usually more polished and the additional fanfare helps users discover that they exist. But you have to wait a lot longer for them to arrive (notifications, Siri, cloud sync) and there are still mistakes (Apple TV, iTunes Ping, Spaces/Launchpad/Widgets/Expose mess).

It goes almost without saying that Google's approach is the web company style, and Apple's is the desktop software style: incremental, frequent updates versus major releases.

This is all just a spectrum, and Siri is one example of Apple straying a little more towards Google's side: releasing something when it is useful, but not fully polished.

So, I find Android has many more useful features *, and that's why I'm better off. YMMV.

* cloud syncing, turn-by-turn navigation, notification, desktop widgets, voice transcription, Face Unlock, Google Voice, customizable keyboards, Android Intents (apps plugging into other apps), NFC, etc...

January 27, 2010

Today's iPad announcement spurred my switch to a Google Nexus One phone

google-nexus-one.jpgTo be fair, I've been planning on switching to Android since Android 2.0 came out -- first it was going to be the Droid, but seeing the issues with the camera on that, plus the subsequent announcement of the Nexus One, gave pause to that earlier switch.

So what did today's iPad announcement have to do with it?

I was mainly waiting to see if:

  1. The iPad was a device I was interested in
  2. If it was, did the 3G options with it impact my decision to switch to Nexus One? e.g. should I wait until Nexus One is on Verizon?

I was expecting #1 to be true, especially given how poorly Apple managed the secrecy around this one. I was surprised to find myself completely disappointed.

I want my phone to be more like a computer, not my computer to be more like my phone. I'm switching to the Nexus One because it is a better computer than the iPhone. The iPad takes everything cool about a computer -- general-purpose freedom, multitasking -- and replaces it with a bill from the iTunes store. I love some of the new UI flair and experience of the iPad, but not at that cost.

Psychologically I could convince myself that this was okay on the iPhone. When it first came out, there really was no possibility of freedom on that platform, and Apple really did change that landscape. Their motivation, however, was just to supplant the cellphone company as mediator and tollbooth. It was really Android that really set things free. Unfortunately, the first release of Android was an inferior product, and I couldn't bring myself to switch. Android 2.0 is worth switching to, so at last I can say goodbye to my first-generation iPhone.

Who knows. The iPod was initially booed, but it eventually succeeded. I didn't buy one until the third generation, and I'd say it wasn't until the fourth that they really had a great product. I'm sure Apple will improve on this initial iPad offering and make it more compelling. What I don't see happening is Apple reversing their trend towards increasingly closed systems that make them tons of money. There are many wonderful ideas that you can bring from the iPhone experience to the computer, but forcing me to buy all my media and applications through Apple is not one of them.

September 10, 2008

Mild Apple excitement

dead macIt's like the most boring Apple press event ever -- can the gazillions of iPhone owners out there manage any excitement about iPod updates any longer? Headphones? The only meat for iPhone owners was the faint possibility that the next iPhone update promises to stop the frequent crashes and sluggishness that Apple introduced with a rushed 2.0 release. Of course we won't be getting the promised notifications service that, to me, is the requirement for killer iPhone apps. Some day.

But I did manage some excitement at the availability of HD shows on iTunes. My hatred for cable only grows with each Comcast cable bill and the general lack of shows to TiVo. I walked into an Apple store a couple of months ago to seriously contemplate buying an Apple TV but was greatly surprised to see that the TV shows looked like crap. They did themselves few favors buy having it hooked up to an HD TV. Even the genius was let down as the lack of HD was news to him.

I won't say that this announcement will result in an Apple TV purchase. My previous back-of-the-envelope calculations were based on a $2/show price. Apple seems to think that HD shows are worth $3/show, whereas I believe that they shouldn't even offer the crappier quality. At least NBC and I are in agreement that there should be cheaper offerings. My love of cycling is an important vote, though it seems silly to pay for an entire year of cable so that I can watch the Tour de France. There are many live streams now of this big event, but the convenience of a pause button mustn't be overlooked.

August 8, 2008

Unbricked

Brick_Breaking.jpg

Photo via bennest karate

Update: NONE of my thirdparty apps load now. They all crash on startup (fixable by redownloading each app from the app store again)

Thanks to the Apple-fu of m, my iPhone has been unbricked from its mysterious "unknown error (6)" issue. The highly technical of releasing it from its bricked state? I don't know if I should share it, but here goes:

Plug it into a different computer

Perhaps Apple is too embarrassed to publicly suggest this as a workaround, but it seems better than being telling me to piss off with an error number.

I used a MacBook Pro at work with the latest iTunes to try and perform the restore operation instead. It took awhile, but my iPhone breathes once more. Afterwards I had to plug it back into my normal computer so that the my iPhone would actually have stuff on it. The total time to perform this operation: just under four hours.

August 7, 2008

iPhone = Brick

brick.jpg

If I'm not answering your calls, I can't.

The iPhone 2.0.1 update bricked my phone. It gives me an 'unknown error (6)' every time it attempts to finish the update, so instead I have a fancy touch screen that displays a logo telling me to plug it into iTunes.

July 10, 2008

Digging the iPhone Apps

Update: Gus and David pointed out that the notification service -- important for apps like AIM and Twitterific -- won't be launching until later

Exposure AppI installed a bunch of iPhone apps -- basically anything free that looked good. I've been really impressed with how polished these apps are, even if I've had a crash or two. The integration with the iPhone framework, from contacts to camera to location-awareness, is quite deep in many of the apps. I wasn't expecting the first generation crop to be this well thought out. So neener neener iPhone 3Gers, we get the same great stuff that you do. I can find WiFi when I need speed ;)

Awesome:

  • Facebook: this little app gives a glimpse of what a future iPhone contact manager could be. You can scroll through your friends just like your phone contacts and easily call them, e-mail them, IM them (via Facebook chat), lookup their address, check their status messages, etc... They've hinted that they'll be adding location services in the near future, which would be a good move as all previous social network sites that have attempted this have lacked critical mass to do so (e.g. Loopt, Fire Eagle, etc...). Facebook already users, many of whom own iPhones, so at the very least I'll be able to track my friends with iPhones ;).
  • Exposure: this app is a much better way of browsing Flickr on your iPhone. Besides MonkeyBall it will probably be the first app that I pay for (there's both a free, ad-supported version and a premium version). I often have to spend time syncing certain portfolio photos onto my iPhone so that I can show them to clients. This app is good enough that I wouldn't need to. The "Near Me" feature needs a bit of work -- it just showed me a bunch 25 photos of some guy's baby.
  • Pandora: I like listening to Pandora Radio online and was surprised to see that the iPhone app is actually superior to the online Web site. It looks just like iTunes on the iPhone, with nice big album art that gracefully peels in (to hide load time).

Good:

  • Google Mobile: it searches both your contacts and the Web simultaneously and offers search suggestions to speed typing. Searching Notes would be nice, even if Notes is a degenerate app.
  • Twitterific: a solid iPhone client for Twitter. You can even post photos from your camera. I wish I could get notification of new messages without having to open the app, though -- it could circumvent the need to use SMS with Twitter entirely.
  • Monkey Ball: I haven't fine-tuned my reflexes for this one, yet, but its a great game to have on the iPhone.
  • PhoneSaber: your iPhone is a lightsaber, what more do you need? (yes, I'm aware jailbreakers have had this app for awhile)

Not sure yet:

  • AIM: very slick, though when I tried it this afternoon, I had to be in the AIM application to get notification of new IMs. I thought that apps were going to be able to get notification events so this wouldn't be necessary.
  • Loopt: this could be great, but there's no way I can imagine getting my friends to sign up for this. Other than that, it's basically a different app for browsing Yelp reviews -- I actually find it easier to use than Yelp's klunky offering.
  • Eventful: it's cool to be able to browse events at Kepler's bookstore alongside concerts at Shoreline Amphitheater, but its calendar only goes one month out -- not a good way to purchase tickets.

Nope:

  • Yelp: This would be a good app, except that Loopt actually did a better job with the same information. You get better search options, but it feels like it was designed by someone who hasn't used an iPhone much and thus laid out all the buttons wrong.

June 9, 2008

iPhone 3G/2.0

iphone_3g_back.jpgI had taken it as somewhat of a given that I'd upgrade to the new iPhone when it comes out, but I'm having second thoughts now. d is probably screaming because I think she is coveting my current iPhone.

  • 3G: For a lot of people the 3G will be enough reason to upgrade. I'm still mulling it over because I have WiFi at both home and work. It would definitely help a bunch on trips.
  • GPS: GPS will open a whole new breed of location-aware apps on the iPhone. We've already gotten a taste with the current Google Maps + celltower triangulation. The major problem for me, though, is that its not really a GPS device unless you can get the GPS data off it. I currently can't find any mention of this possibility. I could care less if my iPhone photos were geotagged, but if I could geotag my SLR photos...
  • 16GB: I'm not sure this is enough. There is already a 32GB iPod Touch. My major annoyance with my iPhone is that it holds so little of my music and video content.
  • $199: It's cheap, but it's subsidized. Upgrading half way through your contract has been a chore with my previous subsidized phones.

Arguably the biggest suite of upgrades is the software, which is available to current iPhone owners. App Store, save images in e-mail, notification API, bulk delete, searchable contacts, and videogames -- I may just have to tide myself over with those until a 32GB iPhone inevitably emerges.

Don't get me wrong: this is a better, cheaper iPhone. Between the $200 price drop snafu and subsidy, however, the balance may tip towards patience... but don't be surprised if I post on July 11th with an unboxing photo.

Update: the 3G data plan costs an extra $10/month. AT&T will get back its subsidy and then some.

February 1, 2008

They have Air

MacBook Air

The Palo Alto Apple Store has a Macbook Air demo unit (plus one in the window 'floating' in the air), demonstrating that units are not in huge supply just yet. My verdict is that it is surprisingly sturdy. From the little hinge door that hides the ports to its overall resistance to flexing, it felt like a strong piece of hardware. Even the rubber feet on the bottom are the best I've seen on a laptop -- the quarter-sized non-skid pads look like they won't join the other tiny rubber feet that I occasionally find on the floor.

My only knock was that the multitouch pad didn't seem very integrated with the core apps just yet. You could use it to change the text size in Safari and you could rotate images in Preview, but I didn't really seem the point of the latter -- other than to demo. They didn't seem to work in iPhoto, which is where it might actually be useful.

January 17, 2008

iPhone 1.1.3: Cool but buggy

iphoneupdate113.jpg

I'm really liking the new features in the 1.1.3 update for the iPhone. The new Google Maps targeting button was able to locate me at work and at home within 50 meters or so, and fast. The ability to bookmark Web pages to the home screen has also been a big time saver as I no longer have to navigate the bookmarks menu for the 5 sites I visit regularly.

I'm less happy with how the iPhone Mail has regressed. It is arguably the most important app on the phone, and yet I've noticed a definite decline in stability: my phone froze up loading a message, the new messages counter on the home screen is frequently wrong (and stays wrong), and problems with only partial messages loading have returned (though this time there is a non-working button to download the rest of the message).

January 15, 2008

MacBook Air

macbookair.jpg

I've been a proponent of sub-3lb laptops ever since I got my Sony Vaio Z505 in college (circa 2000). You have to compromise on features like optical drives, battery life, and heat, but you make up for it in always being able to carry it with you. I followed up my Z505 with two generations of Dell X300 laptops, which I loved, but I felt that the sub-3lb category was stagnating -- I guess the market was more passionate about performance, optical drives, and not burning yourself. However, Sony did make headlines in the field once more with their sub-2lb ultrathin X505, which measured in at .38" to .8" thick, but it didn't really penetrate the US market, perhaps due to its compromised ergonomics. And then I stopped paying attention as I found myself outside the sub-3lb camp when I won my HP Livestrong laptop.

Well, Apple, you brought me back. The MacBook Air is marginally thinner than the X505 at 0.16" to 0.76", but it packs a whole lotta whollop for its category: 1.6-1.8Ghz Core 2 Duo, 13.3" screen, full-size keyboard, multitouch trackpad, 64GB SSD option, and five hours of battery life. The advent of flash-based hard drives (SSD) is perhaps the game changer here: you get better performance, less heat, and less power drain all in the same package -- assuming you can afford the $1000 upgrade.

I got the Z505 in college because I wanted a laptop I could slip into my backpack and not get a backache -- the extra 3lbs in savings mattered. I'm no longer a student, but as a photographer I find myself walking around with a backpack once more, with backaches. I've been looking for a new higher performance laptop to replace my aging Livestrong laptop. I've also been looking for something much lighter. For the first time I may be able to get both. Of course, now I have to figure out how to pay for it (and a Mac OS X version of Adobe CS3).

MacBook Air

December 13, 2007

Shortcuts, etc...

  • Gmail: '[' and ']' let you archive and move to the next/previous message in your inbox with a single keystroke. I'm still waiting for the hosted Gmail to get the recent Gmail update with this shortcut.
  • iPhone Safari scrolling: two fingers lets you scroll an individual frame. The iPhone may be intuitive, but this had me stumped until today's TUAW post.

November 7, 2007

iPhone updates

  • The Starbucks + iTunes Music Store integration just launched around here. As Susanne warned me, it's kinda broken: sure, you can browse the iTunes Music Store for free, but it effectively disables your EDGE connection by requiring you to join the T-Mobile hotspot. You can't check your e-mail, browse the Web, or do anything else unless you're a subscriber.
  • The mobile version of Google Reader is new and improved. You can now browse your list of feeds individually, which is a big plus for me. I wish you could set it so that it only showed you updated feeds, given my 100+ subscriptions, but I'm certainly an edge case.
  • It's surprising to me how many bugs there still are in the iPhone. One I encountered seems pretty boneheaded: if you're fast-forwarding a song and a call comes in, the song will be stuck in fast-forward when the call ends. I've had other out-of-control fast forward behavior as well.

September 21, 2007

iPhone UI: Built for 2 1/2 year olds

I have returned from my trip with the above video, which is my 2-1/2-year-old nephew playing with my iPhone. You know a user interface is good when you can put it in front of a toddler and he gets it immediately. I'm a very proud uncle.

The video was taken the second time I showed him the iPhone, but it was pretty much the same the first time around, except I think he left more toddler finger goop on the screen the first time.

September 6, 2007

$100 back, yeah!

My mom actually broke news of this to me before I saw it on any gadget site (shame on you TUAW): early adopters will get a $100 credit with details to be worked out in a week. They must have been reading my mind because that's the exact amount I told people it would take to make me happy.

September 5, 2007

$399 iPhone, semi-ouch

iphone.safari.jpgApple lopped $200 off the price of the iPhone, which puts the price of early adoption at $100/month. I'm a tiny bit bitter, but its tempered by the fact that the iPhone really is the best gadget I've owned (I exempt my SLR equipment, which I consider to be 'tools'). My only real complaints are the basic ones -- I want more than 8GB, and it's much harder to get information off the device than it is on. Nothing Apple announced today changes that, though the existence of a 16GB iPod Touch sends the signal to me that Apple could put more storage into the iPhone. Perhaps Apple is keeping a 16GB iPhone off the table for awhile to temper the inevitable uproar from their iPhone user base that is locked into their 2-year contracts. They already have to deal with the backlash from the $200 price drop.

As for the iTunes WiFi music store and Starbucks partnership? Yawn. Perhaps I would care more if I actually bought more than 5 iTunes tracks per year. My most frequent use is to download free tracks and listen to previews... perhaps the latter will be useful for instant song identification.

August 26, 2007

Only 20 pages

My iPhone bill only came out to 20 pages, itemizing all 500+ occasions in which my iPhone transferred data. Clearly I'm no iPhone power user, like this 300+ page user.

July 10, 2007

iPhone: Does it blend?

Ars also tests will it scratch and will it play in the toilet?.

July 5, 2007

iPhone trick: earbud clicker activate

iphone.earbuds.pngThe earbud clicker has two main functions: answering/hanging up a phone call, and play/pause/fast-forward music. Unfortunately, the latter doesn't work if the iPhone has gone to sleep. It's already happened to me several times that I'll pause my music to talk to someone and then discover that I can't resume my music by clicking the earbud. The simple solution: tap the power button on the iPhone, then use the earbud clicker. Your iPhone will stay in a locked mode, but your music controls start working again.

This trick isn't as good as the period-typing shortcut (via), but it's been convenient for me. There's also the apostrophe shortcut for we're, he'll, and we'll.

July 3, 2007

Reducing iPhone crashes: reboot

iphone.safari.jpgI seem to have an easy solution to my iPhone's crashy behavior: reboot (something I picked up from Microsoft).

This morning my iPhone got bad enough that I couldn't even play a song without it crashing. I decided at this point to shut it down (hold down power button for several seconds) and see if it would improve on a fresh boot. Indeed, it has. I was trying to demonstrate the crashy behavior to Susanne and I couldn't get the darn thing to crash, even on the tried-and-true crashers.

June 30, 2007

Convergence: almost there

iphone.convergence.b.jpgOne of the enjoyable aspects of the iPhone is convergence done right and fun. It's not enough that a convergence device saves you room in your pockets; it needs to show some integration between the combined functionality. The fundamentals are there and implemented smoothly: clicking on a phone number in an e-mail calls, clicking on a e-mail address loads Mail, clicking on a URL loads Safari. But there are a couple other touches: looking a location in Google Maps and you're offered the option of adding it to a contact -- the exact same option you are given with photos whether they are synced from your computer or taken with the iPhone camera. The Mail and Phone apps also share the same contacts, and contact pages allow you to quickly send SMS text messages via the Text app. It's the tight spiral of content that makes every piece of data on the phone more valuable.

There is a bit more to go, especially with locations. The Clock, Weather, and Google Maps apps don't really talk to one another. I could add Morgantown, WV as a location to the Weather app, but the Clock app claimed it didn't know where that was -- that's just odd, from a user's perspective. Google Maps, of course, has no trouble finding Morgantown, but there are no shared "location bookmarks" that would make the text entry easier. It seems natural to me that if I care what the weather is somewhere, I might want a map or a clock, right?

There's also the obvious hole with respect to music, though I think the music industry has a lot to do with that one. Ringtones are an artificial money-maker, and there currently is no way to assign songs from your library to be a ringtone for a contact. All indications are that ringtones for the iPhone are coming, but I would be surprised to see this integration come for free.

It is a first generation device

iphone.safari.jpgUpdate: rebooting from time to time improves things greatly

In many ways the iPhone defies first-generation-ness. Before you even turn on the screen, it already feels like the best iPod ever made. With its shiny bezel, subtle buttons, and more scratch-resistant finish (put to the test by PCWorld), there is a lot more refinement to its external design to enjoy. But, despite the excellent appearance of its external hardware, inside, in the software, it remains a first-generation Apple product.

It crashes. In the past five minutes or so, I was able to get it to crash five times. Your first warning is that any audio you were listening to stops playing. A second or two later, the application you are viewing goes back and you are taken back to the main menu. These crashes are over relatively fast, making them gentle as far as crashes go, but Safari loses a bit of your browser history and the iPod doesn't remember where you left off in your podcast/audiobook.

Most of the apps are stable. It took nearly 24 hours to discover that crashing was so easy. The troublemaker: Safari (both as a Web browser and the engine behind Google Maps). All I have to do to get it to crash is do a little bit of zooming and dragging. With about 20 seconds of determination, I can get the crash to occur.

This makes me more wary of pulling up Google Maps while I'm on the phone -- instead of having to call people back because of dropped signals, I'll have to call people back because my phone crashed. I'm not looking forward to that, so I think I'll be avoiding regular Safari use until the next firmware update.

Note: it's still the greatest personal consumer gadget on earth, it's just bit more iPod+Phone rather than iPod+Phone+Internet Communicator right now

June 11, 2007

Secondary browser switched to Safari

Apple's release of Safari for Windows was most likely an iPhone-related play, but I'm appreciating it for a different reason: font smoothing. Sure, Windows does have ClearType, but it just never looks quite right to me -- the font weight is a bit to thin and fuzzy. So now, instead of firing up Internet Exploder to read my secondary GMail account or see the public view of my Flickr photostream, I can now view it with font-smoothing goodness in Safari

February 6, 2007

Well-played Mr. Jobs

With Apple under threat of litigation in Europe for its closed DRM for iTunes/iPod, Steve Jobs counters with a call for the record companies to end all DRM:

Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free. For Europeans, two and a half of the big four music companies are located right in their backyard. The largest, Universal, is 100% owned by Vivendi, a French company. EMI is a British company, and Sony BMG is 50% owned by Bertelsmann, a German company. Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.

Perhaps a bit disingenuous, but it's hard not to rally behind the right call.

January 10, 2007

Other iPhone thoughts

Today's Penny Arcade made me laugh before I even clicked to view the comic: "The Microsoft Zune: 2006-2006." What Jobs orchestrated yesterday was an assassination. He named names -- Microsoft, RIM, Palm, Nokia -- put up screenshots of their products, mocked them, and pulled the trigger. It was merciless. He waited until all the manufacturers had their chance to make their CES announcements and then he announced his own product that won't come out for six months. He killed the with vapor, with words. My opinion was that the Microsoft Zune was perhaps a generation behind the iPod in refinement: with one more iteration you could imagine the Zune being on par. The 3G iPod launch on Windows was hardly stellar. Microsoft was finally understanding the need to integrate the hardware and software experience. So we must take a little bit of pity on the Zune, still learning to stand up, while Jobs stood over it with a shotgun held to its head. Perhaps it was the merciful thing to do.

When I saw the first iPod announcement, I was among those that went WTF? It wasn't the first hard drive mp3 to market and I imagined others would be able to meet the form factor quite easily. I underestimated the importance of software. Yesterday, though, even d's mom in Tennessee had heard about the iPhone. It was the front page of CNN. Billions of dollars in market cap shifted hands.

Next day thoughts on iPhone

iphoneYesterday expressed my unbounded enthuisiam for the iPhone. I'm still 90% enthusiastic (great screen, no stupid clickwheel, solves many cellphone gripes), but the iPhone is currently vaporware. There is a big difference between making choices about a technology you would buy today versus one that is six months away. If you are willing to wait six months, then why not 10 months, 12 months? I find this line of thinking especially difficult with the iPhone: it has a two-year contract. Thus begins the paralysis of the never-ending improvements of technology.

My top area of paralysis is the 4 or 8 GB. The pattern on this paralysis is: the big screen and UI are great for __, but I won't be able to use it much with that little bit of storage. For example, video looks great on the larger screen, but a 1-hour TV show is 500MB: how are you going to leave room for other stuff? Or, yeah I'd love to sync my photos onto it, but I can take 4GB of photos in a single weekend. Or one final one: Cover Flow is nice, but how necessary is it if you only have room left for 10 songs?

The fact is, if it were just a cheaper 30GB iPod without the phone and commitment, I'd probably buy it, which is perhaps why TUAW has a post titled, "WIll the iPhone Cannibalize iPod Sales or Vice Versa?". But I really do like the phone.

Then there are the other breakdowns: * If I take it is a device of fantastic convergence, how many of those features could I use with its limited battery life? I charge my phone perhaps every three days, which I find annoying. Do I really want to give myself the choice of, "If I watch this episode of Scrubs, will I have enough battery life to talk to my parents tonight?" * The Internet browser looked great, but I imagine that Jobs was demo-ing using WiFi. Is it going to be even half as great with the relatively slow Cingular EDGE? Note: EDGE isn't even the fastest capability that Cingular has, which means that you can be sure that there will be an upgrade to the iPhone's specs in the near future. Also, how much will that EDGE plan cost?

And I'll finish with meta's sage advice: 1. Never get involved in a land war in Asia. 2. Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line 3. Never buy the first generation of new Apple hardware.

I'll be clear here: I'm still 90% certain I'll buy one, but I have six months to think about it, and six months to debate whether or not waiting another six months will solve all the problems I listed above. None of the problems I listed are inherent to the notion of an iPhone. Do I want to be the person who rushes to buy the first generation, or do I want to be part of the second generation crowd that laughs at the first generation crowd stuck in their 2 year contracts? Apple could put in a hard drive. Apple could release a 16GB flash version. Apple could upgrade from EDGE to the faster UMTS. Apple could release a cheaper iPod-only version. Apple could add video conferencing. Apple could, could, could.

January 9, 2007

I think I'm getting a new phone

I get the widescreen iPod I've always wanted plus a smartphone? Sick.

update: and the Apple Web site now has fancy video tours

One more thought: this is the first time I haven't been jealous of Japanese cell phones.

January 7, 2007

Best Blogging Tool: iClip

iClipWhenever I needed to do a post with more than text I usually fired up Windows Live Writer, which I thought I was slick... up until I discovered that it was capable of producing some pretty ghastly broken HTML. Since then I've been taking my risks editing in ye ole' browser.

I am still doing that, but I've stumbled across a clever tool that has made some of the more repetitive tasks of blogging easier: iClip, which I picked up as part of the MacHeist promotion. iClip is very simple: it stores the last few things you've copied to your clipboard and lets you copy them back out. It comes with a sidebar that you can pop in and out as you need. This isn't novel -- Microsoft Office has had this feature for awhile -- but its the first time I've been able to use it system-wide, which is where it becomes much more useful.

How does it save me time? As you can see from my previous posts, I like to put a lot of photos in (usually from Flickr). Without iClip, I have to go to the page for one photo, copy the HTML, switch back to the blog entry compose tab, paste in the HTML for the photo, and repeat again for every photo in the post. With iClip, I can copy the HTML for several photos, then go to the blog compose page and paste them all in. This is a huge time saver. iClip can also save me time when I need to copy multiple links or copy a link and text for that link.

There are many other ways it can save time, but blogging ranks high among my most repetitive copy-and-paste tasks, so I'm glad to have a tool like iClip now. This has led to some OS juggling as I do all my photo-processing on my Windows desktop and then crack open my MacBook Pro to start the Flickr HTML copying. Someday this whole Flickr-blogging integration will work right (Vox is close, but not quite).

FYI: of the software I got with MacHeist, iClip is the only one seeing regular use, though I do occasionally fire up TextMate and hope to figure it out soon.

December 8, 2006

Mac Rant: Keyboard visual design

I'll talk about my new laptop later, but I found that as I collected my thoughts on the issue, most of my attention was directed at keyboard peeves. Switching keyboard layouts is certainly not going to be easy, and I do like the softer feel of the keys and their big size, but it seemed much of my ire was preventable by a better visual design.

First, there are the basic criticisms. Apple reduced the number of keys on the keyboard, but they still found room for two keys labeled 'enter', and no one can tell me the difference between 'enter' and 'return' -- I've found people who have used Macs for years without noticing the extra 'enter' key. Apple also can't stick two visible buttons on a mouse, but they have four modifier keys (fn, ctrl, option, command), two of those modifier keys have two labels (alt/option, apple/cloverleaf), and most still don't have labels that matches the labels that OS X uses (caret for ctrl, up for shift, indescribable for option). I still don't know the difference between alt/option and apple/squiggly-leaf.

The greatest object of my hatred though is the 'fn' key. First, there is the fact that it is located where the Control key should be, but that's not my main peeve -- I remapped the caps lock key and am much happier now. My main peeve is that many of the keyboard keys are decorated with two labels, one to indicate what happens when you press it, and the other to indicate what happens when you press a modifier key. But they don't tell what that modifier key is, nor are they consistent. For the F1-F12 row, it is the 'fn' key. For numbers, its Shift. For the overlaid keypad, its the 'fn' key once more. So far, not too bad. For the left/right arrow keys, its the apple key, but for some applications the 'fn' key sometimes has a behavior; for the up/down arrow keys its the 'fn' key, but the Apple key has yet another behavior, which happens to be identical to the behavior of 'fn' + left/right. Then there's the missing label(s). At first I thought there was no "Delete" key -- the Mac 'delete' key is actually backspace -- but it turns out that 'fn'+'delete' has the missing behavior, it just doesn't advertise it.

The PC laptops I have use a simple solution to this confusion: colored labels for fn-related keys. Dell even found space to stick in the proper icons for shift, enter, backspace, and tab. Less pretty, but I remain unconfused.

November 28, 2006

Space monkeys

My new Mac laptop is in and being setup as we speak. We're required to name our laptops after one of the explorers listed over at enchanted learning. I wasn't really digging the list of names -- mostly because I couldn't spell or pronounce most of them -- until I clicked on 'space' and found exactly the type of name I wanted for my new Mac: monkeynaut.

Maybe when I finally pay for a membership over at the Techshop I can get a space monkey laser engraved on it -- I'll have to check if company policy allows that.

October 24, 2006

"Switching" to Mac

I should soon have a brand-new 15" MacBook Pro at work. It's not really switching, as my primary machine will remain a beefy dual Xeon Windows machine, but it will be nice to finally be able to live in both environments. I was very nearly considering getting a MacBook for personal use, but a lucky scratch-and-win contest changed that. But perhaps it made my work upgrade choice easy: as I already have relatively new Windows desktop and laptop, a Mac laptop is just icing. I won't get to use it for personal stuff, but lets take things one step at a time.

Any software recommendations? For my last Mac experiment, I took a liking to Adium and Quicksilver.

September 29, 2006

iTunes 7.0.1: There goes the library

iTunes 7.0.1 just nuked my entire library. And to think I was so happy that they might have fixed some of the bugs I mentioned in my iTunes 7.0 review. Way to go Apple!

Update: When iTunes nuked my library, it move my "iTunes Library.itl" file to "iTunes Library (Damaged).itl". I copied the "iTunes Library (Damaged).itl" back over to "iTunes Library.itl" and my library was back again. Hell if I know what made iTunes 7 go crazy.

September 26, 2006

iTunes 7: likes, peeves

Update: the iTunes 7.0.1 upgrade nuked my entire library

I've upgraded most of my machines to use iTunes 7 with some good and some bad results. It's clear that this is a buggy release, which is problematic in my opinion because you have to upgrade in order to continue purchasing videos on the iTunes Store. A co-worker of mine had her entire library disappear when she upgraded on her Mac (her daughter got a new Nano). My bugs have been far less severe, though a trifle annoying. I prefer to sit out Apple's first version of any hardware or software product, but I disregarded my own advice and upgraded anyways because I wanted some free ABC episodes.

Cover Artwork

I love the new cover artwork views, at least the the static, non-CoverFlow ones. I'm not sure that the flipbook is going to be terribly useful, though it does look neat and better approximates that physical act of browsing music. I appreciate the fact that iTunes lets me download album covers now, but it's a feature that's still evolving -- I've found that they have been adding new album artwork over time (Q: Does the automatic download feature actually work? I see no evidence that it does).

I have two peeves with the new tech, though. 1) I've had it download the wrong cover artwork for a White Stripes album and the "Clear Downloaded Artwork" option did nothing.  2) As you can tell in the screenshot below, it does covers by artist name, not album name. This means that for Moby's 18, for example, the 18 tracks get broken into four separate listings. Is there any way to fix this other than editing the artist name?

Media Reorganization

I like the fact that the movies view of iTunes 6 has been given an upgrade. It looked nice in iTunes 6, but it was a bear to use. It is much easier to browse videos now that you have the list, list with covers, and CoverFlow views. However, I did run into one problem: there are now views for TV shows and movies, but not vodcasts. Some of my vodcasts were marked 'movies' (e.g. zefrank's The Show) while others were not.

Video Playback

Why does iTunes play video in the tiny 'Now Playing' postage stamp by default? Also, why does pausing a video in full-screen playback cause it to disappear?

Mini Store

I wasn't going to note my inability to figure out how to turn this off -- for about five minutes, because I didn't read their three paragraphs of text in full -- but then I saw that even the people at TUAW had a similar gripe.

Accidental Features?

I ran the "Check for Purchases" feature because iTunes didn't finish downloading three tracks. When I did this, I found that my iTunes downloaded a music track that I had purchased (for free) a long, long, time ago. I know this was an accident on their part -- somehow or another they didn't mark the download for that track as complete -- but clearly Apple has the capability to let me resync my purchases via the iTunes Store (as if this wasn't obvious) instead of clumsily backsyncing from my iPod.

September 12, 2006

Day of the Video: Apple

Overall, I'm disappointed, maybe because I expected a major new device like a Video iPod or video-streaming airport, though the latter is very difficult to get right. Pretty much every site I read overpredicted for this event, which perhaps relates to the fact that it has been a long time since Apple has pulled a 'wow.'

Instead of going for one big wow, today's announcement was mostly a parade of updates. For something approximately a wow, they had to do continue their more recent trend of pre-announcing (is this Apple we're talking about?). The 640x480 video upgrade was major to me as it took the video from being iPod-only to something I might watch on a big screen, and the revamped iTunes 7.0 is nice but overdue (did anyone think that the video browser was laid out well?). The inclusion of Disney movies in the movie store is minor given Amazon's Unbox, which offers many more movies with just as many silly encumberances (I'll use neither), and the updates to the iPods were mostly minor (brighter screens, bigger storage, better battery life, new cases) with the exception of the new Shuffle -- it got a lot more attractive. The biggest item, the iTV, is months out and isn't even capable of recording TV -- it's just another box through which you can buy more stuff from Apple. It's one thing when an Apple device induces you to buy more stuff from Apple, but this really just looks like a dedicated box to fill Steve Jobs with money.

  • iTunes 7.0: The UI got a minor major revamp, which was necessary: the left pane was getting very overloaded with each successive Apple media event. There is a new album/DVD cover art flipper that looks similar to the freeware app CoverFlow (update: CoverFlow licensed their tech to Apple), which necessitated Apple finally offering free cover art (Musicmatch did this for me 6 years ago!), and there are some other needed tweaks like making the controls for iPod sync a first-class citizen.

  • iTV: Perhaps the biggest announcement was the pre-announcment of a set-top box, the iTV (side note: what is it with Apple and pre-announcements nowadays?). As far as I can tell, it's a Mac mini that just runs iTunes/Front Row. There are no input jacks for it to record TV, so most of the video will have to be purchased from Apple unless you really, really like vodcasts. I'm patient enough to wait for any show to hit DVD, so I've only purchased a TV show once when my TiVo couldn't record two programs that were on at the same time. This might be attractive for the person who likes TV but doesn't want cable.

  • aluminum Nanos: what do you do when everyone complains about scratches on their black Nanos? Make it out of metal and give people colors. As far as I can tell, that's the only big change to the line; no mention of video support though the screen and battery life have been improved.

  • Shuffle 2.0: Jobs now claims it is the World's Smallest MP3 player. I actually think is it a tad bit larger than the quarter-sized ones I've seen, but it doesn't matter too much -- it's tiny. At this form-factor, the absense of a screen finally makes more sense to me.

  • 640x480 video: at long last, the video on the iTunes store is now 640x480. I've previously whined about how 320x240 is far too small to pay money for -- it's only good enough for the iPod and looks like crap on TV -- so I'm very happy to see a more respectable encoding used.

  • Movie store: leaked awhile ago, there are now 75 Disney-related films on iTunes for purchase. yawn. I'm not a person who cares about this sort of stuff. I'd rather buy CDs because I can play them on non-Apple devices without having to reburn a playlist, and I'd rather buy a DVD because even if that is a more locked format than a CD, I actually own the DVD and I'm free from Apple deciding what devices I get to play my movies on.

  • updated iPods: gapless playback is nice -- though I had a plugin for Winamp that did this 7 years ago -- but I could care less about playing video games or inputting search text on a scrollwheel.

August 7, 2006

Time Machine Desktops

One of the cool new features Apple is announcing right now is "Time Machine", which attacks one of my pet peeves: the amount of labor involved in creating backups. It will automatically backup your files in a time-indexed way -- even to a server -- and the flashiest feature is that you can even move your Finder backwards in time to find a file.

Even reading a brief summary from the live WWDC coverage I know it's cool because I've seen it before; I'm fairly sure Apple copied this idea from Jun Rekimoto of Sony (Time-Machine Computing). Funny how both before and after the announcement of "Time Machine", Jobs made fun of Microsoft for copying Apple and Google -- I guess it's okay to copy Sony?

Update: as far as I can tell, much of what was announced is copied in some way or another, though Apple did a very slick job -- in many cases better -- of implementing it all. Outlook has had notes and todos for several years, Spaces appears to be an Expose-ish virtual desktop manager, and Spotlight has been updated to be a little more like Quicksilver. I wouldn't point this out if it weren't for the fact that Apple seems quite obsessed with calling Microsoft a copycat, when in fact Apple is just a faster, and better copycat.

May 31, 2006

Photo Booth Cliches

Photo 12 Photo 13 Photo 18

Photo 17 Photo 21 Photo 14 Photo 15

Susanne showed me Photo Booth on her new MacBook Pro at work, which of course immediately resulted in me trying to generate every disturbing face I could using the fun house effects. I'm sure these have been done many times over now by others, but, please, enjoy.

April 5, 2006

Apple's Bootcamp: First Step?

Update: Parallels Workstation 2.1 beta for Mac OS X has been announced. You can see video of Parallels in action onYouTube.

Every tech site on the Internet seems to be talking about Bootcamp, Apple's official support for dual-booting Mac OS X and Windows XP that was previously the realm of hacking contests. Apple's official support and easier installation setup are a great gift, but I'm still keeping my eye on the Parallels Web site. Techworld said that Parallels would be announcing virtualization software for OS X this week -- who cares about spending time rebooting into another operating system when could run both (in Rahzel voice) at the same time?

There's been a lot of movement on the OS virtualization front recently. r was explaining to me on Caltrain how Intel was implementing a bunch of new instructions to support virtualization. These instructions improve virtualization performance and make life easier for virtualization companies. AMD also announced CPU support for virtualization, so the game is on between the CPU rivals. Virtualization technology has historically been targeted at corporate servers, but perhaps it will soon become something for the masses -- Parallels?

March 8, 2006

Daily Show/Colbert Report on iTunes

While MacRumors focuses on the fact that Apple is rolling out a new subscription pricing model for iTunes TV shows, all I care about is The Daily Show and The Colbert Report will be available for download for the first time -- sure to be much better than the streaming video on the Comedy Central Motherload that adds its own frame-dropping punchlines. I'm still crossing my fingers for the 50-disc yearly DVDs, but downloading does seem a bit more convenient. Each month of episodes (16 episodes) will cost $9.99.

February 28, 2006

Apple *yawn* fun

I fail to see much fun in today's announcement of an Intel Mac mini, iPod HiFi, and leather cases.

  • Mac minis are the most exciting announcement, but this just feels like Jobs milking the MacIntel announcements -- the MacBook Pros just started shipping last week.
  • iPod HiFi is no different from any of the other Bose/JBL/etc stereos on the market -- except I don't think it's very attractive. They did add software updates to the iPods themselves, but it's minor upgrades such as large album art display.
  • The leather cases are 4x as expensive as my Case-ari leather case, but my Case-ari case is both high quality and it lets me use the controls and see the display.

If I were a thirdparty Apple accessory provider I would start looking for another platform to develop products for. Why develop accessories for the iPod when you know Apple is just going to take a huge cut of every product you sell, copy your ideas, make minor updates to the iPod firmware, and put the full weight of their marketing division behind it?

There is a balance between having total control over the user experience and farming it out to thirdparty vendors. Apple is moving towards total control over the user experience -- hardware, software, accessories, .Mac and store. This provides very little incentive for companies like Belkin, Griffin, Adobe, Konfabulator, and others to develop new and innovative products -- Apple will just copy them and win. Control over the user experience is nice, but if other companies are already making great accessories for your products, why not just help make them even better instead of pushing them out?

Microsoft has obviously gone too far into the farming out territory and lacks a good end-to-end user experience with music players. Jobs is right that Microsoft would probably have to do it's own music player if it wished to beat the iPod, but if Microsoft exercised half the control over it's platform that Apple has it would probably find itself back in antitrust court.

February 27, 2006

Today's Apple humor

In anticipation of Apple's Feb 28th announcement, I bring you Fair and Balanced humor coverage (one dig at Apple, one dig at Microsoft):

special leak from Engadget's What Would Jobs Do 3: apple parody

Microsoft redesigns iPod packaging (click for video)

February 1, 2006

Thinking of buying a Mac Pro? Perhaps you should wait

According to Adobe's Intel-Mac transition FAQ, you may want to delay your upgrade to the Intel iMacs. You may also want to save up a bit more $$$ for the switch. Adobe will not be releasing Universal Binaries for it's current application versions (e.g. CS2). You will have to wait until their next release to get Intel support and, presumably, that upgrade won't be free. You can still run CS2 on the new Intel Macs, but you won't get the performance upgrade you were planning on. Of course, you could always get good Intel performance by running Photoshop on Windows ;) ...

January 20, 2006

Case-ari iPod nano case review

case-ari caseI just received my Case-ari iPod nano case, which will replacing my homemade Altoids case. The Case-ari case is similar to the premium Vaja leather cases, but about half the price as they ship from Georgia instead of Argentina and they don't offer any customization.

I approve of the Case-ari case so far. It comes with a detachable belt clip and plastic screen protectors that you stick right on the screen and scrollwheel. Strangely there is no protector for the center button. The inside of the case is plush and there is a separate cleaning cloth. The customer service, from what I have seen, is good. Within a couple hours of my order they called to let me know that my chosen color was out of stock and gave me the choice of choosing a different color, cancelling, or waiting. The case also arrived with a free Case-ari keychain and signed personalized letter. All little things, but quite a lot for a $24.95 product when compared to the crap you might find for the same price in the Apple Store.

I liked the Altoids case, but I never quite finished it and it felt silly carrying around something as large as a regular iPod to transport a nano. I may revive the Altoids case for snowboarding or the like, but otherwise the Case-ari case will be absorbing most of the blows.

January 10, 2006

New Apple laptops

Intel dual-core Apple laptops, $1999+, and Intel dual-core iMacs. Maybe one of these days I'll finally pickup a Mac... or maybe after I recover from the purchase of my TV. Also cool to see Apple embracing video blogging and podcasting with iLife '06. An interesting tidbit from the announcement was that Apple sold 14 million iPods last quarter. That's a whole lotta white earbuds.

Note that at this time, the Apple.com homepage is still advertising the "new iMac G5" and "new Powerbooks." Hope they didn't produce too many of those.

update: apple.com has finally updated with the new products

December 1, 2005

Mac-ers, this is your chip

Anandtech has benchmarked a Yonah sample against an Athlon x86-64. Why should you care? Well, Yonah is probably the chip that Apple will be using for it's Intel-based machines, so you may want to cozy up with the review a bit and bond with it's stats. The benchmarks have another important meaning: they give credence to all the rumors flying about that Apple will be launching it's first Macintel product in January.

Yonah is a dual-core 2.0Ghz processor and should be a good match for OS X. It doesn't beat out AMD's Athlon dual-core 2.0Ghz processor, but it should consume a lot less power, which will be save your battery life as well as prevent lap burns.

November 26, 2005

A nano case, sort of

I've been stopped by several Apple accessory stores over the past several weeks to try and find a case for my iPod nano. I've been using baby socks (0-3 months) as my Nano Case 1.0 and I've been wanting to provide it with slightly better protection for pocket travel. No affordable case has yet to catch my eye, so I've decided to upgrade Nano Case 1.0 from soft cover to hard cover. Nano Case 2.0 uses the same baby sock, but the sock now has a hole for viewing the screen. The modified Nano Case 1.0 with hole now sits inside of an Altoids case. A hole drilled in the bottom allows me to plug my headphones in. As soon as I find a metal file to file down the sharp bits it will be ready for primetime.

nano case nano case

November 9, 2005

Brilliant Apple engineering

As my co-worker heads to the Apple store to get his iMac repaired, I think I have finally deduced Apple's Master Plan. Many of you are familiar with the bugginess of the first revision of any Apple product. These first revisions tend to be recalled or otherwise need repair. These first revisions are also most frequently bought by early adopters and Apple's most devoted. So here it is, Apple's secret Master Plan:

  1. Intentionally introduce flaws into first revision of product
  2. Customers bring in products for repair at the Apple Store, where they see shiny new Apple products
  3. PROFIT!

November 1, 2005

Hands on iPod with video, mixed impressions

I got my first hands-on experience with the iPod with video yesterday. My immediate impression was, "It's bigger," even though it's smaller. They aided this illusion by shrinking the scrollwheel (comparison pic). The more interesting comparisons came once I picked it up and started playing with it. Perhaps it was a matter of expectations. If someone had said, "Checkout the new iPod photo with new screen," I probably would be more favorable to it. Two disappointments came to mind:

  1. I felt strained watching video on it's tiny screen, though this may have been because the first video I watched was the Fantastic Four trailer. Although the screen had beautiful colors, I felt that I had to concentrate to watch, something I don't have to do when I watch video on the larger screen of my PSP. I was biased against it going in and nothing I experienced changed that.
  2. The ergonomics are much worse. I appreciate that they made the iPod thinner, but they also decided to change the plastic face of the iPod. Instead of the smooth, rounded edges of the third- and fourth-generation iPods, it's back to the old sharp edge of the first-generation iPod. It didn't feel as comfortable sitting in my hand as I tried to manipulate the smaller scrollwheel.

I hope that this is not Apple's final statement on handheld video playback. Apple usually tries to one-up it's competition when it enters a new space, but now I feel like they have to catch up. The only advantages they have are in video content and software, especially now that I see that Sony wants to charge $20 for software to put content on your PSP. These are not advantages that I underrate, but the handheld experience currently does not measure up to them.

October 12, 2005

First gripes

With euphoria of new announcements comes a bit of a hangover. Time to do a reality check (read on if you want my gripes and predictions):

Continue reading "First gripes" »

Apple gets video

ipods.video.JPGI've long wished for an iPod with video out that I could sync with my TiVo to transport my TV shows around. Now it looks like I will get something close as there is now an iPod that can playback video with video out as well as an a new 'FrontRow' media-center-like app, a new iMac with remote, TV shows for $1.99 via iTunes, and music videos. Today's laundry list of announcements show that Apple has thought about the full video experience that they wanted and waiting until they could have all the pieces in place: iPod, iMac, and store.

$1.99 is a really good price for TV shows IMHO, even if the video resolution is a bit low (324x240). It matches well againt the per episode cost of DVDs and comes with the additional benefit that you are only getting the episodes you want and sooner. It should also give Apple some leverage with the music industry, which is already losing sales due to the pricing of DVDs versus CDs. It's hard to argue for more than $0.99/song when an hour long TV show is only $1.99.

The iPod is ultimately a generic storage device, not a music player, and with the addition of photo and now video capabilities it is a more complete portable device for media. Video was the last pillar of standard media and they now have them all.

September 7, 2005

iPod nano, pico, pinto

galleryimage012.jpgApple introduced a whole slew of music stuff: iTunes 5, iPod: Harry Potter Edition and the Motorola ROKR photo (100 songs on your phone, rather paltry for an otherwise uninteresting phone). The one that caught my attention the most was the iPod 'nano', the successsor to the iPod mini. It's tiny. It uses flash instead of a hard drive, making it about the width of a #2 pencil. It's small enough that I worry about whether or not the scroll wheel on it will actually be usable. It also comes with a color screen and new features like a better clock, a lap timer, and stopwatch.

The Apple marketing team must have taken a cue from the iPod flea parody: one of the first accessory items that will be offered are 'nanotubes' -- green, purple, blue and pink slipcases -- presumably a step up from the iPod sock.

August 4, 2005

Mighty Mouse, dissected

dissectedI'm not a fan of the new Apple Mighty Mouse, so I shed no tears when I saw that the folks at ArsTechnica had dissected one into little pieces. I don't understand why Apple feels the need to design devices with no physical clues as to how they are used (affordances), shape them to make my RSI cringe, and require you to learn rules like "you must lift your left finger in order to right click."

Actually, according to the Ars dissection, it's not actually a "right click" as much as it is a "click with no left finger present," which almost sounds like a Mac koan. Apple apparently did include a right touch sensor in the mouse, so perhaps they'll modify this behavior in the future.

renmouse-1.jpgCritiquing the Might Mouse is a bit pointless for me because there's probably little if no features that could convince me to part with my ugly but wonderfully comfortable 3M Renaissance Mouse. If any mouse deserves buzz, I think it's this scrollwhell-less mouse which even my RSI-wridden wrists can command around with authority. Coat one of these with shiny white plastic and I think Apple would have a killer product.

June 13, 2005

The case against the iPod shuffle

It used to be that when a raffle said "Win a free iPod" you knew you were getting a good $250+ prize. In the past two weeks, I've participated in two raffles that were:

Win a free iPod* * shuffle

The iPod shuffle has completely wrecked my experience of not winning raffle prizes.

June 7, 2005

One more Macintel followup

To clarify some questions that people had:

After Jobs' presentation, Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller addressed the issue of running Windows on Macs, saying there are no plans to sell or support Windows on an Intel-based Mac. "That doesn't preclude someone from running it on a Mac. They probably will," he said. "We won't do anything to preclude that."

However, Schiller said the company does not plan to let people run Mac OS X on other computer makers' hardware. "We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac," he said.

The product that I (as a PC user) will be paying attention to is the Mac mini. It has the price point most seductive to traditional PC users, and it's about to get the horsepower that we are accustomed to. Take the Mac mini, a little bit of wireless USB, and you get a pretty hot little apartment-friendly computer.

June 6, 2005

Apple/Intel

I wanted to do a quick post as to why this makes a whole lotta sense on Apple's part.

A couple years ago, Apple was pretty close to shifting over to Intel. Instead, it decided to place it's bets with the G5, hoping that IBM would deliver. IBM hasn't, and Apple is probably getting tired of having to liquid cool or otherwise come up with clever cooling solutions for its product. Apple's shift to Intel is also probably a clear signal that IBM isn't anywhere close to delivering the oft-desired G5 PowerBook, which brings up (perhaps) the most important statistic:

53% of computer sales last month were laptops

The Apple laptop line, in terms of performance, has stagnated due to a lack of a top-of-the-line processor -- iLife applications like iPhoto and Garageband seriously suffer.

Apple does have to suffer the inevitable price comparisons, but the net effect should be that Apple nullifies hardware as a major purchase decision point (one they were losing on), which will leave a purely software comparison -- given the Longhorn screenshots I've seen, Apple is likely to do quite well if that's how they can get buyers to choose.

April 21, 2005

xxx

My Mac-killing superpower is going strong -- I just received news of three more dead Macs in the office: two along my corridor, and one on the adjacent corridor. The two along my corridor I have used before, but the one in the adjacent corridor makes me think that my superpower is getting more potent. Also, I almost hit for the cycle: eMac, iBook, and PowerBook. I don't think we have any iMacs around, but I should try focusing my powers to see if I can take out one of the imposing G5 PowerMacs.

April 15, 2005

GarageBand-ready popular music

It's not quite my feature request, but it's pretty close and cool nevertheless. To recap, being a guitar player, I thought it would be really cool that instead of just selling songs on iTunesMS, it would be really cool if Apple also started offering GarageBand-ready mixes, or at the very least, remixes of songs with the guitar/vocals/(your musical talent here) knocked out so that you could play along.

Trent Reznor of NIN has done just this -- you can download a 70MB GarageBand-formatted version of "The Hand That Feeds."

Yes, this is pretty much what I asked for with one minor caveat -- from what I've heard from the most recent album, there's very little chance that there's a guitar track that I can knock out and play. Oh well, minus my own lack of versatile musical talent, that's pretty cool.

March 4, 2005

mac world, mac office, iLife

I think I've discovered my mutant superpower. I've long pondered this after we discovered honeyfield's ability, which is the power to speak to anyone, including extreme geeks (artisty/gamer/programmer), for extended periods of time; hers is a very useful power to have at Comic-Con.

My power, depending on your allegiances, either qualifies me as a superhero or supervillain. Without saying what my power is specifically, I will present evidence rendered in crude infovis.

MacWorld (data you have provided in comments, as well as macs at work not in my immediate vicinity):

macworld.jpg

Mac Office ('k' = me):

macoffice.jpg

iLife (Macs that have had direct, frequent contact with me [metamanda, honeyfields, d, parakkum, ln m, pqbon]):

maclife

I think I'll make frequent trips to the Apple Store to see if I can focus my powers...

Continue reading "mac world, mac office, iLife" »

February 7, 2005

Anthropomorphic iPod (Shuffle edition)

Newsweek has has revived the Anthropomorphic iPod argument in light of the "Random is a Virtue" iPod shuffle marketing gimmick.

More than a year ago, I outlined these concerns to Jobs; he dialed up an engineer who insisted that shuffle played no favorites. Since then, however, millions of new Podders have started shuffling, and the question has been discussed in newspapers, blogs and countless conversations. It's taking on Oliver Stone-like conspiracy buzz.

Apple execs profess amusement. "It's part of the magic of shuffle," says Greg Joswiak, the VP for iPod products. Still, I asked him last week to double-check with the engineers. They flatly assured him that "Random is random," and the algorithm that does the shuffling has been tested and reverified.

December 23, 2004

Guts and crumbs

There are many photos of dissected iPods on the Web, but these are the only photos of my dissected iPod. Neil was kind enough to send these along to me as I didn't have a camera at work to document my poor fixit skills. I'm mainly posting these as I want you to notice the subway sandwich in the background, which I was eating as I dissected the iPod in my lap -- and I wonder why my gadgets keep breaking on me.

12-22-04.ipodcrumbsb.jpg

12-22-04.ipodguts.jpg

  • Large blue thing: hard drive sandwich (two pieces of blue rubber with hard drive in the middle)
  • Little blue thing: new battery

December 22, 2004

Where does this go?

I put the new battery in the iPod -- rather interesting to see the innards -- but now I have this foam spacer piece left over. I wonder where it goes? (shake shake jiggle jiggle)

November 10, 2004

F- you Apple

My iPod battery is going dead after one year of service. It lasts about two hours now.

October 29, 2004

WoohooPod

The new iPod Photo is pretty much everything I wanted in an iPod. Beautiful color screen, photo storage/display, TV out, and sync support for Photoshop Album. Oh, and there's better battery life. When I go home to visit my parents I can now take with me my recent photos to show them on their TV, and when I travel with my Belkin flash adapter, I can offload images onto my iPod and view them later on. Now I just need to scrounge up $500.

Update: (10/29) It's a little less perfect. The new iPod cannot display photos that you've imported using the Belkin flash adapter, I guess because it is not able to create thumbnails for them. So while it's a cool iPod, it's not my dream iPod.

September 17, 2004

OS X: the more positive thoughts

Besides the keyboard shortcut problems I've been having, my Powerbook experience has gone fairly well. It's hard to judge off of just one day's use, but I wish the following applications were on Windows:

  • Adium: IM client. Visually better than Trillian with a lot more customization. Also has scripting support, which could theoretically be used to implement some cool features such as IMing your home computer to find out it's current CPU status or what it's playing on iTunes, or write more advanced applications like caltrainbot. No metacontacts yet, though that appears to be coming soon.
  • Quicksilver: I'm hoping Google improves its deskbar and/or their Puffin technology will be competitive with this. Any application that makes it so that I don't have to use a mouse for a task is instantly a favorite with me.
  • iTerm: terminal window with tabbing.

I also installed Fugu for SCP/SFTP, but this is slightly more clunky than WinSCP when it comes to bookmarking directories and sites.

As for OS X, I like the fact that application installation is so much easier and doesn't result in 200 files being copied onto my hard drive. I also think that the way applications and user data is separated makes it a whole lot easier to backup your personal data.

I also like the fact that OS X doesn't suffer from the branding/marketing spam that Windows does, though that's not necessarily Microsoft's fault. When I first setup my Dad's HP desktop, the entire desktop was covered with ads for AOL, HP products, Musicmatch, etc... Somehow the OS X aesthetic seems to resist this clutter. The same lack of clutter applies to the laptops themselves: my Dell is covered with Intel, Windows, FCC, licensing, service, and other stickers and certifications that get gummy and nasty with use.

I also appreciate the fact that applications are named more simply. Microsoft's applications have clunky names like Outlook Express, Windows Movie Maker 2, Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, etc... (apologies if I got any of these wrong. My Windows laptop is resisting power-on). It's kind of nice to create a new account and see "Mail", "iTunes", "iPhoto", etc... along with a nearly empty desktop. Not all of Apple's applications follow simple naming conventions, but I do imagine that a novice user would have a much easier time getting started with a Mac than a Windows PC (and there's no stupid Start Menu to have to keep organized).

Anyway, that's it for now. Off to the Giants game. This may be the only game that I will cheer for Bonds, lest Kenji pass me in the fantasy baseball standings.

June 17, 2004

BMW + iPod (Update)

The rumors were true: Apple teams up with BMW on iPod adapter.

There's no details, but I'm hoping that I can get the adapter installed in my older BMW.

Update: only 2002 and later are compatible (my car is 2001), and you have to have a stock stereo system. Shucks.

The kit installs into the glove compartment and allows you to control the iPod from the steering wheel.

May 4, 2004

Apple vs. PC laptops

I feel like starting a religious war. Also, rcp wrote me asking for advice, and to offer her more unbiased advice, I figure that posting this would be a chance for a Mac user to respond instead. I've posted rcp's original e-mail and my response. Feel free to rebut my response as politely or angrily as you wish.

i am considering getting a laptop. actually no, i am going to get a new laptop. but being usual me, i cannot decide. i am used to pcs, but they are more expensive and are huge. macs are nice, i like the interface, but software (free) is not as easy to come by. and i am a bit hesitant to enter to realm of non-windows.

i'm basically going to be using it for grad school, some data analysis, and my usual conquest to steal music from people if i can.

right now, it is between a new mac and an ibm. do you have an opinion one way or another?


Here is my reply (slightly edited):

First, to clear up some assumptions:
1) PCs are not more expensive. Apple is still slightly more expensive, though it's hard to compare side-by-side. Also, if you end up buying a cheap iBook, one of the first things you have to go and do is buy more memory for it. You will hate it if you don't.

2) PC laptops are actually lighter; a Dell Inspiron 600m with a 14" screen weighs the same (ed. 4.98lbs) as the 4.6lb 12" Powerbook, which is the lightest laptop Apple sells.

Now, to qualify that: IBMs are huge. They still manufacture them in the same cases they did 10 years ago. Even their small laptops feel bulky due to the big black case.

If I were to choose between an IBM and an Apple, I would go with Apple, because I think the Thinkpad line sucks. It's essentially the same laptop they sold when I was in high school; if you put a ten year old Thinkpad next to a brand new one, it would be difficult to tell them apart at a distance.

If I were to choose between Apple and PC, then the answer becomes more nuanced.

If I were buying a computer to drive my iPod, digital camera, and cell phone, and guitar, I would get an Apple. The iLife application suite is a great package of "free" software. You can get better if you buy separate software, but as free software goes, it can't be beat.

If I were to get a laptop for school use, I would get a PC. They're lighter, MUCH higher performance, and more likely to work with school software. It's hard to emphasize how much faster a PC will be. The iBooks especially are cripplingly slow, and I would rather have a PC that could run MS Office quickly for my schoolwork.

If I were to choose a PC for school use, I would probably go with Dell. Sony is too expensive, and I don't think highly of Gateway/HP/Toshiba laptops. Dell has a broad enough product offering that you can pretty much find the type of laptop you want, whether it be one with a large widescreen, or one that is extremely light.

The Mac users I know, including the people who have switched, adore their Apples, but in many ways its an emotional attachment, not one based on the economics of price-to-performance. Don Norman talks about this in his book, Emotional Design. Also, there is the simplicity that comes from having iLife and having things "just work" when they plug them in overcomes any slowness issues; the simplicity does come at a cost: the reason why Apple works so well with other devices is that there really aren't that many devices that work with an Apple; you also can't easily replace the internals of your machine. Then again, we're talking about laptops, so neither is as much of an issue.

There's also a subset of Apple users who are using it because they come from the Linux camp and enjoy having a bash shell on their laptop.

Emotional doesn't mean wrong, but it's a different metric. It's good to be fond of your machine; at the very least means that its not causing you stress, and its certainly not an adversary (like Windows can be). It also means that somewhere in the design they got it right.

My metrics are weight (I won't buy a laptop that weighs more than 3 lbs. because of my back) and performance. On both of those metrics, Apple laptops lose bigtime.

May 3, 2004

More Windows customizations/OS thievery

I've added to new bits of software to my computer setup. iEx is an app that somewhat replicates Apple's Expose feature. After using the G5 in the lab here for a day, I grew to like that feature rather quickly, especially now that I don't have a three monitor setup. iEx doesn't have all the whizbang animations of Expose, but it has the necessary functionality.

I'm also testing out Samurize, which lets you place a lot of useful information on your desktop, like a CPU meter, network meters, weather, battery gauge, etc... (its different from Konfabulator in that you basically have one giant widget that you customize, instead of a bunch of little ones). The screenshots might make it a little bit more clear. The learning curve is probably a bit steep for beginners, but once it's runing it's rather nice.

April 27, 2004

iPod headphones are dorky

It occurred to me, as I watched a person using an iPod walk by, that iPod headphones are dorky. The person walking by was already a Silicon-Valley-type, but as I think about it, I am quite certain that the iPod headphones make him look far more dorky than without.

They cry for attention; they're whiteness stands out and says, "Here I am, I have an iPod, please think I'm hip," which doesn't go unnoticed by muggers. The ear buds shaping is crude, and they don't even have great sound quality. The remote is also a piece of crap, and given that it can't actually clip to anything properly, it's only purpose in life seems to be to make the white cord even longer and more noticeable.

I'm sure all of this makes for great branding and fun advertisements for spoofing, but why, with such a great product to plug into, must they be so dorky?

March 16, 2004

My Pepsi iTunes Stats

I'm now nine for seventeen on the Pepsi iTunes sweepstakes, which is surprising considering I'm getting the bottles out of a vending machine. I'm ten for eighteen if you include one instance of cheating, which I maintain was necessary: a sampling of the bottles of the supermarket made it clear that others were cheating, which meant that the contest was no longer fair, so it was necessary that I cheat as well :). Not quite game theory, but close enough.

Here's a list of my current purchases:
- "Black Jack Davey" (The White Stripes)
- "You Know You're Right" (Nirvana)
- "Heroes" (David Bowie)
- "Soul to Squeeze" (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
- "Dark Was the Night" (Blind Willie Johnson)
- "Fault Lines" (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan)
- "Tracery" (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan)

These pretty much all fit my criteria of songs that are:
1) not one-hit wonders
2) are not on albums that I would purchase

Blind Willie Johnson might be an exception to (2), as I may buy the album now that I've listened to the track.

I still have three tracks left to buy (someone gave me a winning cap), so we'll see how it goes.

Update: eleven for nineteen (~58%) 13/22 17/31 now

March 9, 2004

Photo iPod?

I've talked about ths with a bunch of people. I think it would be really great of the iPod had a color screen, video out, and also sync'd with your photo album. Combine that with the Belkin Media Reader, which allows you to load photos from your camera onto your iPod, and you have a pretty killer portable device. Here are some scenarios:

- If I was visiting my parents, I could pull up a photo album, set slideshow, and then have that play on my parents' TV.

- If I was having a party, I could load in some photos, select some music tracks, and have both audio and visual entertainment during the party.

- If I'm talking with someone and I want to show them a photo I took awhile back. I can just bring it up on my iPod. It won't be the prettiest rendition of the photo, but it beats carrying a printed album all the time.

Given that the iPhoto and iTunes are very similar applications in terms of how you use them/playlists/rating/etc... syncing photos in addition to music should be a very graceful transition and easy for users to understand. If I have enough space I could have it sync all of my photos, or I could just sync in my highest rated photos with a smart playlist.

So why did I bring all of this up? A story on Yahoo! News hints that a photo iPod might be in the works:
- A PhotoPod? - Engadget - www.engadget.com

March 8, 2004

My first iTunes Music Store purchase

I've managed to win three free songs from Pepsi cans (out of five tries from the vending machine down the hall). I've been debating my purchases carefully, as I would prefer to purchase songs that I wouldn't otherwise want to buy the album. One hit wonders fall into this category, but I'm not really into one-hit wonders. New tracks released just for a greatest hits compilation also fall into this category, as do B-sides for an album you already own.

I had my heart set on getting White Stripes' cover of "Jolene," as the vinyl 45 with the song on it sells for $25, but iTMS doesn't carry it. I then checked for the extra tracks that Soul Coughing had on their greatest hits album, but iTMS doesn't carry that either.

Nearly defeated, I saw a link on the front page to an "exclusive track," White Stripes' cover of Black Jack Davey, which is a B-side of Seven Nation Army. It's pretty rockin'.

Two songs to go... (Nirvana's "You Know You're Right" is a likely candidate)

February 19, 2004

What's on your iPod

Here's one I've been meaning to do since I saw this on Neil Gaiman's journal, but my iPod wasn't charged. Put your iPod on random, and transcribe the first fifteen songs. Here I go. Out of 3399 songs, here are the first 15:

1. Happy Jack - The Who
2. Bulls on Parade (Live) - Rage Against the Machine
3. We'll Meet Again - Johnny Cash
4. Jessica - Allman Brothers Band
5. Love Reign O'Er Me - The Who
6. Take it Back - Pink Floyd
7. Big Cheese - Nirvana
8. You - Pearl Jam
9. Terrible Lie - Nine Inch Nails
10. 4 out of 5 - Soul Coughing
11. Easy Goin' Evening - Stevie Wonder
12. You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now - B.B. King
13. Piggies - The Beatles
14. Angel - Jimi Hendrix
15. Rain Song - Led Zeppelin

I was hoping that this would show off something more eclectic on my iPod, but the odds were against it. I was surprised that The Who showed up twice, seeing as I only have one album of theirs on my iPod.

I did one more list just to see how random my iPod was. Results of that are in the extended entry.

Update: for those of you without iPods, the first 15 songs off your mp3 player (iTunes/Winamp/Musicmatch) works just as well

Continue reading "What's on your iPod" »

January 6, 2004

GarageBand is swwwweeet

This might actually make me buy a cheap iBook:
- Apple - iLife - GarageBand

I really, really, really would have liked this a lot growing up, and it probably would have saved me a lot of money on amps and effects pedals.

October 22, 2003

Review: iTunes for Windows

I've been using iTunes for Windows on two computers since it was first released, so I felt it's about time to write a review. I didn't have any of the boot/install problems described in some reviews, but I have only been using it on Windows XP machines. I have no desire to write a structured review, so here's the quick breakdown:

Continue reading "Review: iTunes for Windows" »

October 16, 2003

iPod wishes come true

My "dream" iPod would be one that I could take on a trip with me and use to dump photos off my camera so that I wouldn't have to constantly steal metamanda's laptop or ask my Uncle to burn my a CD. Now it looks like my wish is coming true. Among today's iPod announcements:
- new $99 Belkin flash card reader accessory that plugs into the iPod and syncs with iPhoto (what about Photoshop Album?)
- iTunes for Windows, including Rendevous support
- microphone recorder for iPod

One of the most intelligent things (IMHO) that they announced today was a new "allowance" feature that allows parents to give their kids a music allowance in the music store. While I was at PARC I found out about studies that showed parents often used cell phones as a way of educating their kids about budgeting, and this seems to be a smart extension of that principle that will probably be very popular.

Update: They also announced that Apple has partnered with AOL to offer iTunes Music Store on AOLMusic. Woah.

October 1, 2003

iPod stuff

inMotion for the iPodThe rubin-deutsch conglomerate had the good idea of buying a pair of speakers when we were at a wedding in Wisconsin so that we could have blasting tunes in our hotel rooms served up by our iPods. Now it looks like Altec Lansing has caught onto the idea and are selling something a bit more portable (Spec Sheet). The only downside is that it's more than a bit expensive at $149, but for 3rd gen iPod owners it can serve as a traditional dock as well. Seeing as Apple wants $40 for a dock, it doesn't seem quite as expensive.

Don't have an iPod? There, there now. If you have a printer, I hear you can make your own second-gen 10GB iPod.

(via Gizmodo)

July 16, 2003

ipod + car

Motor Trend: Volkswagen's New Beetle and Apple's iPod Unite

June 26, 2003

Ive Watch Out

With Apple introducing the Ive's iCheeseGrater this week, I was wondering what other kitchen utencils/appliances could be co-opted. BoingBoing pointed me at Toaster PC:

castmod

June 23, 2003

Apple Lies, Black T-shirts Rejoice

I first read the Slashdot headline, "New G5 Power Macs 'Fastest Desktop In the World,'" which reeked of BS, then I just saw this page on the Apple site and I was appalled. I really wanted to deconstruct this, but an Apple fan has already done this for me well enough.

what is this?

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to kwc blog in the Apple category.

TiVo is the next category.

Current entries can be found on the main page.

listing.