November 12, 2013
I abominate Apple's new headquarters...
Leftists always try to make people fit their ideas, rather than adjust their ideas to human nature. A lefty dreamer like Jobs has a vision of austere purity and clarity, and imposes it on others with no regard to what they actually want or need. He was, in essence, like a Lenin or Mao, but without the power to send people to the Gulag.
I have a suspicion that the best working spaces for creative people would be funky and simple, with walls you can pound nails into or staple posters onto. With simple sturdy furniture that people can select and move around themselves. With small quiet offices that introvert-types can retreat into. Plus more open group spaces where people can mingle around the coffee pot, or spread paperwork out on big work-tables. Plus nearby cafes and snack-shops that one could walk to for a bit of exercise and fresh air.
And the flavor of "work" in the Information Age is increasingly like creative teamwork. Teams are put together to think and solve problems, without the tyranny of org charts and formal management structures. In my imaginary buildings for today's work-world, people who are trying to accomplish something could commandeer some rooms, could roll their preferred desks and chairs and tables in themselves, and just set themselves up.
March 6, 2013
iPhone like clothes from Walmart?
I found this 3-part piece by tech writer Andy Ihnatko interesting. Customize and collaborate: Why I switched from iPhone to Android, Part 2 | TechHive. His priorities aren't mine, and I doubt if I'll switch anytime soon. Except that I'd love the bigger screen. (Hint, Apple. iPhone Maximus—I'm ready to buy.)
If I don’t like the way my iPhone works, I don’t hesitate: I search online. I can count on finding an answer. Not a way to make my iPhone work the way I’d like it to; rather, a Perfectly Reasonable Explanation of why Apple believes that the iPhone should work that way, and why it refuses to let me override the default behavior.
If I don’t like the way my Android works and I look online for solutions, I can usually find a way to change it.
I encountered many—oh, wow, trust me on this: many—annoying quirks when I took the Galaxy S III for its first test spin. I gave those quirks a chance, but by the end of the first week, I’d turned off almost all of them. And by the end of the first month, I had a phone that felt custom-fit to my personal likes and dislikes.
iOS is beautifully designed. And I myself am usually the first to present the argument that a designer (who spends all day, every day, thinking about how a phone ought to work) starts off with a much better understanding of what’s good for the user than the user (who’s slotted “buy new phone” in between “drop off dry cleaning” and “refill cat’s fungus cream prescription” on today’s to-do list).
At times, however, the iPhone and iOS feel like the clothing styles available to me at Walmart. They’re designed to be Good, or even just Acceptable, for a very wide range of consumers. I want something that’s going to be Excellent, for me.
Android has a consistent core philosophy that I find instinctively compelling: why wouldn’t a phone give its sole user a vote on how their device works? And because Android mostly hides its customization features where they won’t be discovered without a deliberate search, these options are unlikely to confuse anyone....
November 30, 2012
Like the wee trash can on your computer screen...
...iCloud was meant to make data ubiquitous -- to magically handle syncing everything that really needs syncing between iOS and OS X devices, so users simply have the most up-to-date stuff, backed up and available, all the time and everywhere, without worrying. And it is. Except when it isn't. And when it isn't, it's almost as opaque to developers building against its APIs as it is to users wondering where their stuff is. So what to do?...My main peeve with Apple through the years is that the excellence of their gadgets hardly extends to anything they do with networks. That's almost always where I experience frustration. Possibly the focus the on one leads to a blind spot on the other.
Apple pioneered in making your file system something you could see. Almost touch. You put your little pieces of paper into little folders. Drop them in a little trash can when you are done with them. That's psychologically very satisfying for the average user, and conveys information much better than a command-line interface. So it bewilders me that they have never done much to make networks visible. There's no way, for instance, to "see" your local network of printers and routers and scanners. This would seem like a no-brainer to me. Why isn't there the equivalent of the "desktop?" Why can't I "see" my printers or my print queues?
Likewise, why can't I see my documents "flying off" towards the Cloud? With maybe some visual indicator of which version is replacing which? Or my e-mail account settings, why should they not be visible as icons? Ones that I can save, or drop into another-mail client?
I had big hopes for iCloud, but now I hardly use it. I mostly use Evernote, which I've come to love.
December 22, 2011
Not all problems go unsolved...
Most of you won't be interested, but I got an e-mail that made me feel better about the world:
Dear Quicken Mac Customer:
As a fellow Mac fan and customer, I wanted to personally introduce myself, and share some highlights of our Apple-related efforts with you.
I recently became General Manager of the Personal Finance Group at Intuit, responsible for Quicken and Mint.com. Intuit's 25 years of leadership in personal financial management software makes me excited to lead this team and I am committed to creating products to help you reach your financial goals.
I recognize, however, that we have not always delivered on this promise to Quicken Mac customers.
As you may know, Quicken for Mac 2007 does not currently work on Apple's latest operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). I understand the frustration this may have caused you and have put a team in place to address this issue. I am happy to announce that we will have a solution that makes Quicken 2007 for Mac "Lion-compatible" by early spring. There are still details to be worked out, so I ask your continued patience as we work through these. In the meantime, you can find more information on our Mac FAQ page...
General Manager, Intuit Personal Finance Group
It's not that I love Quicken, it's more that the other ones are worse. As I discovered when I upgraded to Mac OS 10.7, and couldn't use Q. Mostly I had Q all down-pat for those particular reports and such I needed, and I've hated starting over.
And this development is interesting from a business management perspective. Intuit stopped Mac development just at the moment (2007) when anybody with sense should have seen that the Apple platforms were heading in exciting directions. The first iPhone was unveiled on January 9, 2007. The Apple Stores were by then a clear success, iTunes and the iPod were king in music, Mac OS-X was clearly a winner.... So of course that's the right moment moment to put all your chips on Microsoft. I bet Intuit was full of those faux-manly tech types who dismiss Apple customers as "fanboi" who have "drunk the Steve Jobs Kool-aid."
October 20, 2011
This was a bit of a surprise to me...
I'm way too close to Silicon Valley to be terribly impressed by the political wisdom or general wisdom of tech entrepreneurs. Especially Baby-Boomers like Steve. But here's some wisdom...
...Jobs, who was known for his prickly, stubborn personality, almost missed meeting President Obama in the fall of 2010 because he insisted that the president personally ask him for a meeting. Though his wife told him that Obama "was really psyched to meet with you," Jobs insisted on the personal invitation, and the standoff lasted for five days. When he finally relented and they met at the Westin San Francisco Airport, Jobs was characteristically blunt. He seemed to have transformed from a liberal into a conservative.
"You're headed for a one-term presidency," he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. As an example, Jobs described the ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States, where "regulations and unnecessary costs" make it difficult for them.
Jobs also criticized America's education system, saying it was "crippled by union work rules," noted Isaacson. "Until the teachers' unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform." Jobs proposed allowing principals to hire and fire teachers based on merit, that schools stay open until 6 p.m. and that they be open 11 months a year....
Of course if Jobs had been really awake, he would have realized that Obama wants Americans to be stupid and poor. As someone once said, "Liberals want America weak, and government strong."
October 12, 2011
...I was exiting the main building, Infinite Loop One, and just ahead of me was Steve Jobs, walking with the usual spring in his step that never seemed to go away even as he started looking more frail. Bumping into Steve was a surprisingly common occurrence for such a large company as Apple.
Steve was heading towards a car parked next to the curb with its door open, waiting for him. The car was idling. A family was standing near the Apple sign outside the building, a common site for people to take photos on their pilgrimages to Apple.
The father turned to Steve as he passed close by and asked, "Excuse me, sir, would you mind taking our photo?"
Steve paused for a moment as an iPhone was extended to him, realizing that they didn't seem to know who he was. With a hint of enthusiasm, he said "Sure!" as he took the iPhone into his hands.
Steve took a great deal of care composing the photo, backing up a few steps several times, tapping the iPhone screen to lock focus, then said "Smile!" as he snapped the photo, grinning a little bit himself to encourage the family to follow suit.
He handed back the iPhone and they said "Thank you, sir" as Steve stepped into his car, closed the door, and was driven away. The family looked at the photo that Steve had taken and all agreed that it looked great. Then the iPhone was pocketed and they were on their way.
And that was the last time I saw Steve Jobs.
October 8, 2011
Gesamtkunstwerk. Or, "In the beginning was the Word."
As happens often, I start responding to a comment, and then realize I've written something more, and I make it a blog-post.
David commented here, (thanks!) concerning Steve Jobs....
I recall you, John, saying the iPhone is a work of art. I think that's the problem. It's only a work of art. Steve Jobs really only distinguished himself from the rest because he made things others made look better. I would find his cult following a little disturbing if he were selling something more dangerous than a glorified phone. The American Enterprise Institute has an article debunking all the nonsense equating Jobs with guys like Edison. Except for the design and operating system, what part of the iPhone was actually made by Apple?
I didn't mean "work of art" to mean something that simply looks good. Or a painting on a museum wall. I meant that it's a "total" work of art, including all its characteristics. Hardware, battery-life, OS, and engineering; all are part of the same totality. Apps, both in appearance and in how they function. The box the phone comes in and the stores it's sold in. Ads and web pages, and customer-service.
They are all of a piece. My phone is a splendid example of both form-follows-function and function-follows-form. It is what was once called a gesamtkunstwerk, a "total work of art." That's a term from my favorite period, around the turn of the 20th century. Architects or artists back then would, when possible, create a home and all its furniture, and the carpets and dishes and everything, sometimes down to the gowns that the women of the house should wear.
The iPhone is just as much a "gem" in its gritty hundreds-of-thousands of lines of code as it is in its slick outer appearance. I've had mine for 8 months and only needed to restart twice. Other than that it's been on non-stop. (Yes, I think it does work better than other phones. But that's not quite my point.)
I would add that Jobs' aesthetic and vision is not mine. I think that, like most modern art, the vision here is spiritually flawed. But that is because creative artists always reflect the true "self" of their time. And I think our time is out of joint in many ways.
It's not Edison that Jobs resembled, but Ford and Disney. The world-changing cheapness and simplicity of the Model T resulted from an obsessive attention to every single part, and every detail of manufacturing, all ordered and inspired by the vision of one man. The Model T was a "gesamtkunstwerk." Its aesthetic was not one of beauty, but one of freedom. Ford's obsession was freeing people, especially the American farmer. (When Lefties like Obama obsess about trains, they want to do precisely the opposite. The want us "inside the barbed wire." They want to put us back in the box.)
Also, I think the "cult following" thing is much overblown. The cult is fringe; most iPhone or Mac users just like their machines. It's the same with any cool product. There is a "cult" of BMW drivers, but most people who own BMW's are not cultish. I love my phone passionately, but there's an Apple Store a quarter-mile from me, and I rarely visit it.
"What part of the iPhone was actually made by Apple?" That's Industrial Age thinking. The physical parts of everything are becoming less and less important. Boeing is right now assembling its awesome new 787 Dreamliner out of sub-assemblies that are manufactured all over the globe. So who "built" a 787? What the heck IS it? What's real? I'd say what's real is whatever's written with the stupefyingly powerful CAD software Boeing, and each of its subcontractors, uses. If every person and machine and building and "thing" involved in making 787's were wiped out, our world could get the 787 production lines running in a year or two. As long as we have those CAD files. Without those Ça n'existe pas. But those files are art, part of the real art of our time. Ignore the rubbish on the walls of MOMA.
It is spirit that is real, not matter! And we see this everywhere. iPhones are "made in China," but Chinese companies are now starting to out-source production to Brazil. And it won't be astonishing if in a few years the Brazilian companies outsource parts to Africa or Indonesia. And in a few more years maybe your home 3-D printer will make you a new phone.
This is all around us, but we can't see it. We are blind. If I told you the Cosmos is the Word of God (as it is), you would think I'm indulging in obscure superstitious mumbo-jumbo. Yet you are swimming in that Truth like a fish who is unaware of water. Art is real, God is real, material "stuff" is just the fog tendrils about the bridge of dreams.
October 5, 2011
Thank you, Mr Jobs...
...CNN, being CNN, misses the point. Mr. Jobs's contribution to the world is Apple and its products, [instead of corporate philanthropy] along with Pixar and his other enterprises, his 338 patented inventions — his work — not some Steve Jobs Memorial Foundation for Giving Stuff to Poor People in Exotic Lands and Making Me Feel Good About Myself. Because he already did that: He gave them better computers, better telephones, better music players, etc. In a lot of cases, he gave them better jobs, too. Did he do it because he was a nice guy, or because he was greedy, or because he was a maniacally single-minded competitor who got up every morning possessed by an unspeakable rage to strangle his rivals? The beauty of capitalism — the beauty of the iPhone world as opposed to the world of politics — is that that question does not matter one little bit.
Whatever drove Jobs, it drove him to create superior products, better stuff at better prices. Profits are not deductions from the sum of the public good, but the real measure of the social value a firm creates. Those who talk about the horror of putting profits over people make no sense at all. The phrase is without intellectual content. Perhaps you do not think that Apple, or Goldman Sachs, or a professional sports enterprise, or an internet pornographer actually creates much social value; but markets are very democratic — everybody gets to decide for himself what he values. That is not the final answer to every question, because economic answers can only satisfy economic questions. But the range of questions requiring economic answers is very broad.
I was down at the Occupy Wall Street protest today, and never has the divide between the iPhone world and the politics world been so clear: I saw a bunch of people very well-served by their computers and telephones (very often Apple products) but undeniably shortchanged by our government-run cartel education system. And the tragedy for them — and for us — is that they will spend their energy trying to expand the sphere of the ineffective, hidebound, rent-seeking, unproductive political world, giving the Barney Franks and Tom DeLays an even stronger whip hand over the Steve Jobses and Henry Fords. And they — and we — will be poorer for it.
And to the kids camped out down on Wall Street: Look at the phone in your hand. Look at the rat-infested subway. Visit the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, then visit a housing project in the South Bronx. Which world do you want to live in?...
(The above artwork, from a screen-grab from my iPhone, means something. Explanation here. Hint. The book on the table is titled Random Jottings.)
August 30, 2011
A few little things...
....That I don't have the time and energy to make whole posts about...
Art madness. Via my daughter, here's an art student who created an illuminated copy of Tolkien's Silmarillion. A huge amount of work, but he's won undying fame. Or at least notoriety. It looks great, maybe someone will print a facsimile...
Good reads! Charlene and I are enjoying I. J. Parker's series of mystery novels set in Heian Japan, about 1,000 years ago. It's the period of the famous novel Tale of Genji. We've spent twenty years or more wishing that there were more of van Gulik's splendid Chinese Judge Dee mysteries for us to read. Parker is almost at that level.
And if you've never read van Gulik, well, you have a treat you could indulge in. My favorites are perhaps The Chinese Bell Murders, and Poets and Murder.
Game recommendation. From ME? Absurd. I go for years without playing a computer game. But, I love the iPhone game Contra Jour. Playing it is sort of like falling into an odd spooky dream world. Silly, but charming. Contra jour, (literally "against the light") is the French term in photography equivalent to "back lit."
August 25, 2011
Steve Jobs story...
A sort of answer to those who imagine that Apple's success is just a matter of "marketing."
Steve Jobs called up Google's Vic Gundotra on a Sunday morning to get an urgent fix for something they were working on, and Gundotra was gracious enough to share the story on Google+."So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I've already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow" said Steve.
"I've been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I'm not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn't have the right yellow gradient. It's just wrong and I'm going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?"
Of course this was okay with me. A few minutes later on that Sunday I received an email from Steve with the subject "Icon Ambulance". The email directed me to work with Greg Christie to fix the icon....
You can see the offending icon at the link.
I can only think of a few comparable business leaders. Henry Ford was the same sort of obsessive perfectionist. And Walt Disney. (Terry recommended the book Walt Disney, by Neil Gabler, in a comment at my post on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Good book! I was astonished to discover that the ambitious 20,000 Leagues was the company's first live-action film made in the US. They had made a couple of films in Britain, including Treasure Island, to use money that was stuck there due to post-war currency controls.)
Update: This also is an indicator of why Apple has always been lousy at anything network-ish. Networks of any kind are inherently messy and imperfect. They can never be gem-like objects. Apple's attempts with things like dot.mac and iDisk and Moblle.Me have been huge disappointments. I'm hoping that iCloud will break the jinx.
May 20, 2011
Here's a little bit of the fun I'm having with my iPhone. The first picture is my home screen. If you click on the icon "Photos," you will find not only the expected photos of my children, pets, trips etc. But also my art galleries. I've been inspired by this marvelous little machine to systematically collect all the images which give me delight. (Not just in the category "art," but that's what I'm writing about today.)
The second screen is one of my albums. Shin Hanga means "new prints." It is an early 20th century Japanese movement, a new wave of woodblock printing. The artist is Yoshida Hiroshi, one of my favorites. You can see his work here. Cool stuff, eh? You'll notice that some of the images I have are similar to each other. That's because each run of prints tended to be different, so it's interesting to place different impressions adjacent to each other.
I'll put some more below the fold...
If I could be "any artist," Jules Guerin is the guy. 1866 to 1946. (Despite the name, he's an American, from St Louis, and I'd hazard a guess that is name was pronounced, "Jools Goorin," not "Zhool Zhur-AHN.")
Someone described his work as "Art Nouveau combined with meticulous draftsmanship." That to me is about as good as it gets! Real and concrete things, rendered with love, and respect for their true qualities. And at the same time infused with the mysterious profundity and beauty we sometimes glimpse, but can hardly express.
The first image is Guerin's painting of the Arch Of The Rising Sun, in the Court Of The Universe, part of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition, in San Francisco. (second image is a photo of it.) It has a special meaning for me, because my grandfather, a recent immigrant from Sweden, made his way from Visalia to SF, to see the amazing exhibition. I recently learned that Guerin was the Director of Color for the exhibition, and created a color palette that the entire exhibition had to follow. Right down to the color of the sand spread on the paths! A first in history.
Check out this page for some good Jules Guerin images. Click on the pictures to get to the large versions.
This is a miscellaneous album that's especially interesting to me for illustrations by Louis Darling of Eleanor Cameron's books, which influenced me in my childhood. That's where the name Random Jottings comes from. (More here.) The enlarged picture was on my first version of this blog, once I grasped that it was possible to add pictures! (My ignorance was profound. For instance, I had no idea one could link to a particular blog-post. But that was in 2001, which in Internet Time is about 70 years ago.)
When I was young, a person would have to be a millionaire to possess the amount of art that I'm carrying on my belt.
May 16, 2011
Cringely:Microsoft bought Skype to keep Google from buying Skype.This is Cringely at his best. I think he's nailed something true: Ballmer doesn't now and never has understood Apple. He doesn't understand what Apple does, what it aspires to, or what consumers see that's so appealing about Apple's products. But he understands Google, including the ways that Google's products threaten Microsoft's.
Notice I didn't mention Apple. In terms of being the baddest MoFo in the market Apple has no peer, but Apple is following its own very different course. Apple isn't the next Microsoft, you see. Apple is not the next anything because the role it aspires to transcends anything imaginable by Microsoft, ever. Google is the next Microsoft, so Google is seen by Ballmer as the immediate threat — the one he has a hope in hell of actually doing something about.
Remember when Ballmer made a fool of himself in 2007 by laughing about the iPhone's prospects? That's because he didn't get it. It wasn't just bluster or spin — I think he truly believed that "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share." I don't recall him ever exhibiting a similar blind spot regarding Google. That's not to say he knows what to do about Google, just that he at least understands it...
Actually it fascinates me how many people don't "get" what Apple is up to. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I've "drunk the Steve Jobs Kool Aid." Actually I now have—Ta Dah!—an iPhone, and I didn't even go into our nearby Apple Store to get it. I asked Charlene to pick it up at the Verizon store near her office.)
What is an iPhone? It's a work of art. When art historians of the future write about 21st century art, this will be on the cover of the book. And the filth and garbage in our "museums of modern art" will be forgotten.
Jobs and Jonathan Ive and their crew are the real artists of our time.
I should write a post on what I'm doing with me little gadget, just in case anybody's interested. Soon.
April 30, 2010
Public Service Announcement
If you are tempted to buy the new Mac program, Quicken Essentials.... Just don't.
My guess is that Intuit came to the point of revising the Mac version of Quicken, and realized they'd larded it up with so many features (none of which I've ever wanted) that it would not be economical to upgrade for the smaller Mac market.
So they decided to make a new program out of it, so no one could compare its feature-set to the old one. And they got really cute. Quicken Essentials constantly guesses what you are trying to do, and does it for you, without any announcement. So it seems like nothing is stable; nothing is fixed. Just what you need for your financial records! Ugh.
And it doesn't export. Not even in the Quicken format, which is almost universal. Crazy.
January 30, 2010
Even your old grandma can do it...
Fraser Speirs on the iPad.
... I fear this January-26th thinking misses the point.
What you're seeing in the industry's reaction to the iPad is nothing less than future shock.
For years we've all held to the belief that computing had to be made simpler for the 'average person'. I find it difficult to come to any conclusion other than that we have totally failed in this effort.
Secretly, I suspect, we technologists quite liked the idea that Normals would be dependent on us for our technological shamanism. Those incantations that only we can perform to heal their computers, those oracular proclamations that we make over the future and the blessings we bestow on purchasing choices.
Ask yourself this: in what other walk of life do grown adults depend on other people to help them buy something? Women often turn to men to help them purchase a car but that's because of the obnoxious misogyny of car dealers, not because ladies worry that the car they buy won't work on their local roads. (Sorry computer/car analogy. My bad.)
I'm often saddened by the infantilising effect of high technology on adults. From being in control of their world, they're thrust back to a childish, mediaeval world in which gremlins appear to torment them and disappear at will and against which magic, spells, and the local witch doctor are their only refuges.
With the iPhone OS as incarnated in the iPad, Apple proposes to do something about this, and I mean really do something about it instead of just talking about doing something about it, and the world is going mental....
Is the radical simplicity and ease-of-use of the iPad the real point? As a Mac user I've seen this aspect growing for a while now. Especially in the way all those apps that begin with an "i" work together. I don't actually like it very much; it always makes me feel cranky and rebellious. I never download pictures from my camera into iPhoto, I'd rather arrange my own folders.
But as soon as I get into some aspect of computing that I'm not familiar with, the same ease-of-use is liberating. I recently helped start a group in our parish that wanted to put podcasts of sermons on the web site. It seemed like an impossible mountain of technical juju to climb, and we assumed we would have to recruit "experts". I wanted to be my own expert, but I didn't have the time. I kind of jump-started things by making a sample podcast in Garageband. Then clicked one button to put that into a "blog" in iWeb. Then clicked another button and uploaded it to my iDisk.
I hated working in an Apple environment that assumed I was a "lifestyle" person (iWeb I mean, not Garageband, which I recommend.) But I loved being able to whip something up myself in a hour, and send a link to the group to see, and make them think, "Yes, we can do this.". (Here's a link to our website. The most recent podcast is on the right, and the podcast page is linked on the left. Not fancy, but a start.)
August 7, 2009
No new features! Yay!
Any of you Mac users can pre-order OS-X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) by clicking here. (I think the concept of this new version is majestic; there are no new features! All the changes are under the hood, to make OS-X run smoother and faster!) And I can offer you a special Random Jottings price of $29.00! How's that for cool? ;-)
And just to show I'm an even handed guy, You can pre-order Windows 7 here too...
If the above plethora of possibilities is, um, er.....confusin', there's a handy chart here to lead you through the jungle...
October 16, 2008
If you are interested in tools, machining or manufacturing, you will want to watch this video about how the new Macbooks are made. The bodies of the laptops are individually milled, with exquisite detail and precision, out of solid blocks of aluminum!
Unbelievable. Future ages will NOT look back on us as barbarians devoid of art. They will just disregard the nihilist sludge that is seen in "modern art" museums, and focus on our technological poetry...
September 11, 2008
I'm sorry, but this is just crazy. People in 1800 were more sane than we are, at least architecturally and acoustically....
Being one of the busiest retail chains in the United States, and being lined with stainless steel, the noise level in Apple's stores can rise to an uncomfortable level. The noise has apparently become so bad that it affects One-to-One personal training sessions that occur on stools near the back of the store. So some stores are now using a headset-based intercom system during training to allow clear communications between the presenter and student even as they sit side-by-side, less than 18 inches apart. See a photo after the break. [link]
Clean crisp modern design is appealing in a certain way, but it is basically inhuman. Stainless steel rooms are for holding frozen produce, not people.
September 7, 2008
Technical blogging trivia....
For any bloggers with Macs, I'm now using MarsEdit, from Red Sweater Software, instead of Ecto, as a blogging client. I like it a lot so far.
October 16, 2007
Step right up, folks...
Mac OS-X version 10.5 is now available for pre-orders at amazon. shipping 10-26. You can just click right here, get a very good price, and a small percentage will be given to a person who is battling like a daily Laocoön to preserve Truth, Justice and the American Way of Life. (That's me)
Alas, if you are among the eager throngs lining up to buy Windows Vista, it does not seem to be available at amazon.com. Sorry, not my fault.
PS. It's not clear in those amazon contraptions, but the more expensive one is more expensive because it includes five licenses. But I don't think anyone checks up on you if you use one license for multiple machines.
September 3, 2007
The metaphor of the "page"
I've never liked using Microsoft Word, so I was primed to enjoy this piece by writer Steven Poole, Goodbye, cruel Word:
....The second crucial thing was an answer to prayers I hadn’t even known I was praying. It was Full-Screen Mode, which I first discovered in WriteRoom. WriteRoom’s slogan is “distraction-free writing”, and it does just what it says on the tin. Your entire screen is blacked out, except for the text you are working on. I now use WriteRoom for all my journalism. When I’m working, the screen of my MacBook looks like this....
[picture of orange text on black screen]
.....Pretty old-skool, huh? It’s perfect: far less temptation to switch to a browser window, much better concentration on the text in front of you. WriteRoom has a “typewriter-scrolling mode”, so that the line you are typing is always centred in the screen, not forever threatening to drop off the bottom, and what you have already written scrolls rapidly up off the top of the screen, dissuading you from idly rereading it. It’s a bit like the endless roll of typewriter paper on which Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road.
So WriteRoom allows me to turn my whizzy modern computer into the nearest equivalent possible (allowing for modern conveniences like backup to the internet and so on) to my old Brother typewriter and its six-line LCD. The focus is on the words and nothing else. Except for that line you can just make out at the bottom left of the screen. That’s the Live Word Count.
Microsoft Word still uses the metaphor of the page, the computer screen that imitates a blank, bounded sheet of physical paper. For me, this is outdated and unimaginative. It has become a barrier rather than a window. And there is always the distraction of changing font and line-spacing, jumping ahead too quickly to imagining the text as a visual, physical product instead of a process, a fluid semantic interplay. Instead, turning my MacBook into a kind of replica 1980s IBM machine, with the words glowing and hovering in an interstellar void, is liberating: as though I am composing the Platonic ideal of a text that might eventually take many different forms....(Thanks to Gruber)
When I first encountered it the metaphor of the "page" seemed so utterly cool. WYSIWYG, and all that. And of course it still is, for many purposes. But it can also be so very irritating. I suppose I ought to take a look at the two programs he uses, WriteRoom and Scrivener. But I probably won't find the heart to do so. The truth is, I fell in love once, with the old WriteNow, and since my sweetheart perished along the cruel upgrade trail, I've never looked at another.
Poole's book Unspeak: How Words Become Weapons, How Weapons Become a Message, and How That Message Becomes Reality looks like it was a good idea—analyzing the loaded language of politician's sound-bite phrases—that was deformed by his leftist bias. From a reader's amazon review: "...Bush and Blair's 'war on terror' is asymmetric warfare: 'we' are fighting a war; 'you' are not, so you cannot be prisoners of war, only 'enemy combatants' and 'terrorist suspects', so 'we' can imprison you without trial and torture you..."
Uh, sorry to break this to you pal, but if the terrorists are fighting a war, then they are committing war crimes daily, and we could, and probably should, execute them on the battlefield. Under the Geneva Conventions POW status is a reward for following the rules of war. It is Rumsfeld & Co who are being asymmetricly humane and decent.
And I can bet he never once contrasts the terrorist's phrases with the simple fact that any Coalition soldiers captured by al Queda have received torture and death, and usually had their bodies booby-trapped to blow up others... That kinda stuff is OK with a lefty; only Bush and Blair are real, and merit criticism.
July 6, 2007
I finally got a chance to play with an iPhone, now that the crowds have left the Apple Store. Ten minutes at most, but that was enough time to try a lot of things.
It is beyond awesome. (Yes, yes, Scott, I knows about all the various things it won't do, and I'm sure that if I were away from WiFi the EDGE network would be a big negative.) I have a good phone, and Charlene has a Treo, but this is just another world.
You know that old SF cliché, about how any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic? It was sort of like that. I was riffling through a photo collection by flicking it with my finger, and almost immediately lost any sensation of working with a machine, or with data, or files. Or pixels on a screen.
I took the picture below, first try, and e-mailed it to myself, without any feeling that I needed to consult the owners manual. I just did it. The keyboarding is weird, but I improved quickly. I bet someone soon invents a stylus that mimics the electrical qualities of human skin, to use with iPhones...I started tapping with the corner of my finger, to be more precise...
May 23, 2007
Late to the party...
I haven't bothered to write about Macs vs.PC's in a long time. (Last one 2 years ago.) I'd just be stating what's become obvious. Knocking Microsoft now is like kicking the Soviet Union in 1989. Stating the obvious is boring. But what is interesting is that the "press" has started to catch on!
From a Macworld piece by Christopher Breen...
What was unusual about that coverage was that—for once—it didn’t portray Apple’s products as pretty but overpriced and Apple’s customers as artsy-fartsy kooks. Rather, the press seemed willing to entertain the notion that Mac users might be savvy consumers seeking quality and ease of use in an attractive wrapper.
As someone who has followed Apple for the better part of two decades, I’ve seen the company go through plenty of highs and lows...
....Through it all, one theme remained constant in the coverage of the company: Apple and its customers were an anomaly. This was frustrating. Knowing what the Mac was capable of, seeing how god-awful clunky Windows was, and glancing at the declining rate of Mac adoption, I’d wonder, “What am I missing here?”
It’s that disconnect between how I see Apple’s products and how the mainstream media portrays those products that’s changing....
When Apple started stumbling back in the 80's it was unfortunately cocooned by the press, which continued to crank out stories about Apple-as-fabulous-innovators blah blah blah for long after it was true. They finally switched the story-line to Apple-the-stumblebums-marginalized-by-the-Microsoft-powerhouse. They are now starting—years late— to catch on to the current story...
April 6, 2007
Funny for the day...
big announcement! Danger, danger, a virus threatens your iPod!!!
Kaspersky [Laboratories] states that the virus will only work if Linux has been installed on an iPod. Also, the user has to load the virus onto the iPod...
December 15, 2006
This made me laugh. It's from a blog, the (fake) Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. Here is Steve explaining why the long-rumored Apple iPhone has not appeared....
...Anyhoo, once we've got the ad campaign, then we get to work on the product. But we don't start with the actual technology. We start with design. Again, different. Jon Ive will bring me, say, fifteen iPhone prototypes. These are all beautiful phones, better than all of the phones on the market today. But you know what? For Apple they're not good enough. Not even close. I take them into my meditation room and just look at them. I go into a kind of trance. And here's the key part: I don't think about them. I don't think about anything. Not so easy to do, to think about nothing. Try it and see. But after years of practice I can empty my head and get into this non-thinking state in about fifteen minutes. I'll spend a few hours just sitting there, non-thinking about the fifteen prototypes, and gradually, very gradually, I begin to become aware that one is emerging from the others as the best of the bunch. When that happens I'm done. (And I'm usually so exhausted that I just go home and sleep.)(Here's a link on Ive. Cool guy.)
I'll send the "emergent design," as we call it, back to Jon Ive and tell him to start all over, making a hundred or so new prototypes that branch off from this one. From those hundred they will winnow down the pool, relying on their own meetings (which can get quite heated, believe me) plus some contributions from consultants that we bring in to check out things like the feng shui, emotional balance, interior and exterior harmony, and so forth. When they've got another batch of fifteen "winners" they bring them to me, and I return to the meditation room once again and empty my mind and choose the next "emergent" design....
September 20, 2006
clarity = beauty
BusinssWeek has a good piece on Apple VP for Industrial Design Jonathan Ive...
....Ive had his own ideas from the start. Born in a middle-class London neighborhood, he was consumed with the mystery of how things are made by his early teens. Upon enrolling in the design program at Newcastle Polytechnic in 1985, his talent and drive quickly became obvious. During an internship with design consultancy Roberts Weaver Group, he created a pen that had a ball and clip mechanism on top, for no purpose other than to give the owner something to fiddle with. "It immediately became the owner's prize possession, something you always wanted to play with," recalls Grinyer, a Roberts Weaver staffer at the time. "We began to call it 'having Jony-ness,' an extra something that would tap into the product's underlying emotion."
By the time he graduated, Ive was already something of a legend in British design circles. Grinyer visited him once in his flat in the very tough Gateshead section of Newcastle and was shocked to find it filled to the rafters with hundreds of foam models of Ive's final project, a microphone and hearing aid combo that teachers could use to communicate better with kids with hearing problems (not surprisingly, in white plastic). "I'd never seen anything like it: The sheer focus to get it perfect," recalls Grinyer....
One rarely hears about Ive, and I'd guess that's just how he wants it. He's a real artist, and it's not about him-- the work is its own reward.
May 23, 2006
If want an example of what a twisted parasitic evil the "Plaintiff's Bar" has become, you might want to read Jason Tomczak's Open Letter. He's the "Lead Plaintiff" in the iPod Nano Scratch lawsuit, a class-action suit against Apple Computer because the screens of the iPods supposedly scratch too easily! In fact, he never agreed to be part of any lawsuit...
On October 19, 2005, my life changed due to the unauthorized conduct of others. From that date forward, countless numbers of people around the world were driven to hate me and slander my name, sometimes using foul and threatening language.
Since October 19, 2005, my name has been infamously tied to the iPod Nano "Scratch" Class Action law suit filed against Apple...
...David P. Meyer & Associates used my personal comments and opinions as the basis of the iPod Nano suit. To my knowledge, there was no actual technical study done on the iPod Nano before the Class Action suit was filed....
....The senior partner of David P. Meyer & Associates and one of his representatives called me during the afternoon of October 21, 2005 to urgently request my signature on an attorney-client agreement - two days after the Class Action suit was filed; two days after they began their action against Apple; two days after the press had begun running the story. They then warned me that my family, friends, clients and I should expect to hear from the media and others interested in the iPod Nano Class Action suit....
UN-beleivable. A beautiful example of the "class-action" scam at work.
April 26, 2006
My days of feeling special are over...
Being a long-time user of SketchUp has always made me feel like I was a step above the common rabble. Then last month @last Software was bought by Google. What was going to happen to my most important app? And to my self-esteem?
Big doings. Google is giving SketchUp away for free! (Windows version, Mac coming soon.) Now any Tom Dick or Harry can be as cool as me. Well, not quite. The Pro version will still do a few things that the free version doesn't.
The big Google conquest-of-the-Galaxy plan is still mysterious and opaque, but this is surely a part of it.
(Here's what the SketchUp crew themselves have to say.)
April 20, 2006
"deeply intricate Mac and web nerdery"
My favorite Macintosh pundit, John Gruber, is trying something awesome...
There’s no other way for me to start this other than by firing away: Last week I left my full-time job at Joyent, for the sole reason so that I can write Daring Fireball as a full-time job.
Two years ago, when I made tentative steps in this direction, it was like I put the idea out there and then poked it with a stick to see what happened. What I’m doing now is like jumping out of a plane with this idea as my parachute.
When I launched the membership program two years ago, I wasn’t sure whether it would be a failure, a bonanza, or something in-between. Ends up it was something in-between. I mean that in a good way, because it was way more successful than I honestly expected. But it was also less than I had sort of secretly hoped.
What I wanted was for this to be easy — for the revenue from the memberships and t-shirts sales to amount to something that, when combined with the money from a modest dose of advertising, would clearly constitute a reasonable full-time salary.But there’s a reason why you can’t say, “Wow, look at all those people supporting their families with their weblogs devoted to deeply intricate Mac and web nerdery,” or, really, why there aren’t that many people supporting themselves full-time from their weblogs, period. That reason is because it isn’t easy....
I've taken a membership, and wished him the best. Lots of what John writes is too intricate for me. Angels dancing on the heads of GUI pins. (Though this, on the "brushed metal" look in Mac applications, is hilarious.) But he also sometimes writes things that make confusing developements in the world of Apple "make sense" to me. which is very very satisfying. (In this, as in everything in my life, I'm an oddball, because I'm a generalist. The specialists are in way deeper than me, and everybody else is not much interested at all. So I have nobody to talk to. But there is always......The Blog. You must suffer....)
April 5, 2006
Mac/Intel stuff. Not of interest to most...
Lots of people are writing right now about Boot Camp, the Apple software that lets you install Windows XP on one of the new Intel Macs. It's awesome, but I don't have anything special to add to the discussion...
But I was most interested today in some stuff that probably won't affect me for a few years...multiple threads running on multi-core Intel processors!
Mac OS Rumors: A critical component of not only Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard," but also the Cocoa/Carbon for Windows package (more details in linked article above) will be new code co-developed with Intel that helps break up tasks into multiple threads -- therefore achieving considerably better efficiency on the next generation of multi-core Intel processors. The results we've seen on systems with up to 16 cores of Intel's next-generation "Conroe" desktop CPU architecture were amazing...
...The problem is, simply, getting all of those cores to have the maximum possible positive effect on the performance of each application. When simulating the realistic workloads of almost every kind of user, more than four cores rapidly lost any effect because there just weren't enough threads, efficiently enough balanced, to make good use of more CPU's.
Leopard changes this in every way that Apple and Intel have been able to devise. The techniques employed include tricks that both companies have been holding at ready for years, and some new things that have been developed in the past year or so to specifically address the way the "Core" (Yonah, Merom and Napa-Merom) and Codename 'Conroe' architectures work. Most of it goes beyond our technical competency; we're sure that the folks at Ars Technica will have a lot to say about this in the next few months as more details leak about the hardware and software involved in these enhancements...
Wild stuff. 16 cores. 32 cores. The mind reels. And it tends to support those who said that having Apple and Intel working together was at least as important for Intel as for Apple. Intel needs exciting new developments in computing, to give people a reason to buy the most expensive new chips. Commodity Wintel box makers don't have any interest in such stuff. Nor does Microsoft.
April 1, 2006
Notes from "The Decade Taste Forgot"
Remember these guys? La Revolution? The campesinos marching, the fall of El Presidente, the young men in berets seizing power, the mass executions, land-confiscations, the adulation of Western...
Oooops, sorry, that was some other revolution! I get them confused. But after all it was 30 years ago...
(Thanks to Mike Evangelist)
January 11, 2006
Mac fans are very happy with the new Intel Macs announced at MacWorld yesterday. New Powerbooks and iMacs running Intel dual-core chips. Awesome, and awesomely fast footwork by Apple for shifting an entire platform.
One little caveat. Tom Yager points out that the performance boost announced is somewhat bogus:
..Apple uses SPEC*_rate2000 tests as a foundation for claims that Intel-based Macs outperform PowerPC G4 and G5 by a factor of 2 to 5. Well, yeah. A dual-core anything outperforms a single-core anything else by a factor of 2 to 5 in benchmark tests that make use of multiple threads or processes, tests crafted specifically for the purpose of stressing SMP-based systems. It's murky marketing, and the sad part is that Apple didn't have to resort to it to make Apple's PowerPC-to-Intel switch look like a smart one. Mac users have no choice, and users also know more or less what to expect performance-wise....
I'm sure the new machines are faster, but real-world software will only get a "factor of 2 to 5 boost" if it is designed to use dual-core chips. Games or high-end graphics apps will likely be able to do that soon, because it's worth money. The extra speed is something people will pay for, or switch to a competitor for. But Ma and Pa Average-user will see a more modest performance boost.
But the really important point is that Apple has solved its biggest hardware problem. As Steven den Beste pointed out years ago, Apple, as it seemed, could never solve its chip frustrations, because Apple was not a big enough part of IBM's or Motorola's business to justify the necessary investment...
...Steve Jobs is dancing as fast as he can; he's doing what he can to mitigate the damage. But in the long run the only solution, besides praying that Motorola suddenly passes a miracle, is to abandon the PPC and switch to something else which is more competitive, from a source which will do a better job of keeping up. (And short of going x86, it's difficult to conceive at this point of just who that might be.) But if it's a different and incompatible architecture, such a switch is going to take a very long time and be very painful. It took at least ten years to ultimately make the cutover from 68K to PPC; it surely would take at least five to do it again to something else...Well, they did switch to x86. And obviously it's not going to take 5 years. The trick was that Apple has been pushing its developers hard to move to its own development platform, X-Code, rather than using CodeWarrior. And secretly it's been readying X-Code to easily produce "dual binaries," programs that run natively on both old and new chips. So most programs created with X-Code will make the move easily. Unfortunately that doesn't include MS Office and Photoshop. But Office will probably be tolerable running in emulation. And Photoshop is probably scrambling to switch, since the Mac is too big in graphics for them to ignore.
September 2, 2005
July 22, 2005
Adventures of those far-travelling lemmings, part 392
SAN FRANCISCO, July 15 - Add personal computers to the list of throwaways in the disposable society.
On a recent Sunday morning when Lew Tucker's Dell desktop computer was overrun by spyware and adware - stealth software that delivers intrusive advertising messages and even gathers data from the user's machine - he did not simply get rid of the offending programs. He threw out the whole computer.
Mr. Tucker, an Internet industry executive who holds a Ph.D. in computer science, decided that rather than take the time to remove the offending software, he would spend $400 on a new machine....(Thanks to Jeff Powell).
I won't get into the contentious issue of rather PC's or Macs are better, but I have to say there's hardly a week goes by when I don't see evidence that contradicts the idea that PC's are cheaper than Macs. (Yes Scott Chaffin, I know YOU can build a 5-buck PC in a cigar box, with parts scavenged from broken garage door-openers. But I mean, for the ordinary Joe who just needs a machine that works.)
The "Internet industry executive" in the story probably thinks he's saving money, but what's his time worth? Or your time, or mine? How many hours do you have in your life, that you want to throw some away? I guess you could say this guy is saving time by tossing his CPU rather that fighting malware, but why even live in the swap if you are not an alligator?
I've been using Macs since 1985, and currently have 6 running on a network, and I've never encountered a virus in my life! I've never purchased or used anti-virus software. How many hours has that saved me? What are those hours worth?
July 16, 2005
I think this makes sense...
Om Malik writes;
A few months ago I wrote that start-ups are missing out a big opportunity by not addressing the Mac market first. Mac users are early adopters and amongst them are many bloggers/media people who can help create the buzz for the product. Apparently someone was listening - Michael Robertson’s latest effort, The Gizmo Project....
Mac users are probably less jaded, just because fewer new projects are aimed at them. Or so I suspect. So a start-up has a better chance of being noticed and talked-about in the Mac realm...(thanks to The Apple Blog)
July 11, 2005
Good cell-phone resource...
I did a lot of Googling when I chose my new phone, an LG VX-8000. The results were disappointing, and various questions went unanswered. And when I got the phone (which I love) and read the manual, they were still unanswered.
The place I should have been at was PhoneScoop.com. It has scores of reviews, and a busy forum of VX-8000 users. My biggest question has been: Can you upload photos via a USB cable, rather than paying Verizon to e-mail them from the phone? The silence on that one was, to use le cliché juste, deafening! Verizon doesn't specifically say it's not possible, they just let you infer it.
Turns out, yes I can. Bitpim is the software to use. [Open Source; Windows/Linux/Mac OS-X; works with many CDMA phones.] And eBay has inexpensive cables. (I don't have my cable yet, so I can't be sure all this will actually work.)
Speaking of forums, I'm always surprised at how hard most people find it to clearly communicate questions or answers. Or even just write a Subject Line that will attract the one person who might have an answer. If your Subject Line is "Help!!!!" or "PROBLEM," busy people may just skip over your forum post, rather than waste time on what will probably be of no interest. I sure do.Update: I got my cable, and all seems to work as advertised. BitPim is a touch awkward by Macintosh standards, but no real problems so far...
June 10, 2005
Brian Tiemann has a good post on an interesting idea that's going around--that Apple's move to Intel chips is at least as important to Intel as it is to Apple. Why? Because if Intel is to keep growing, there must be compelling reasons for people to buy new computers. And Intel has some of the best engineers, and lots of cool ideas that can potentially help make that happen.
But, they've been stymied by the PC makers and by Microsoft. The Wintel PC vendors only want cheap and simple. And Microsoft only wants to sell its ponderous software, and not to help nurture exciting new hardware. Apple may be Intel's chance to break free and show what it can do. I'm excited.
Brian also agrees with my impression, that this transition to Intel processors is going to be pretty painless, with a lot of apps moving quickly to universal binary form, which will run on both Intel and PowerPC chips. Most of what's happening will be transparent to users, who won't even need to know what chip is inside their machine. And the gains in power and speed and price will follow much the same curve they are already on. SO, probably you should buy a new Mac when you need it, and not worry about choosing the right moment.
May 11, 2005
The importance of arrogance...
I'm going through Ars Technica's Tiger review. The first thing that surprised me (in a good way) shows up on page 5, launchd. This really shows the benefits of Apple arrogance and anal retentiveness as applied to longstanding Unix world problems.
Launchd does just that, it manages startup of the various system services in a unified fashion instead of the "patch on top of patch" system that Unix has lived with for decades. As somebody else described it late last year "Launchd is kinda init, mach_init, xinetd, cron, System Starter (seems very nice indeed, drop XML files into a dir saying I want to receive network connects on this port, start at this time, when load is so low etc)". Launchd is represented in the article as an open source project but I couldn't find it. It should be available as part of Darwin, though so the fact that it's not listed separately is not very important.
The absolute arrogance of thinking that you can swim against the tide and change something that basic and functional to the operation of Unix and get enough people to go along with you is breathtaking. It's also a core differentiator and competitive advantage of Apple.
It will be interesting to see where this leads. I'm not a Unix guy, but I'm savvy enough to be aware of it underneath me while I use my Macs. Using OS-X is sort of like riding in one of those little decorated gondolas bobbing atop a very large elephant. If I were young and had lots of spare time I'd learn to ride the elephant itself.
April 18, 2005
Mac OS-X tip...
In cocoa programs, if you don't know how to spell a word you can type in a few letters, then hit f-5. (Or Option-Escape) You get a list of possibilities...
But what, to me, passes all understanding, is why software developers create cool features and then don't tell anybody! I've never heard of that, and the people at this forum hadn't. So odd.
February 21, 2005
Industrial design triumph
As you have probably noticed, I sometimes fail to observe strict journalistic neutrality, and let it slip in some small way that I have a bias in favor of Apple computers.
But I'm afraid the good days may be almost over. A crackerjack new design team at DELL is pushing the envelope. A secret source has sent me a photo, and, hard as it is to believe, Dell may have leapfrogged Apple, and one-upped the design of the famous iMac.
I'm not able to post this on the main page, but if you click below you can have a sneak preview...
(Just teasin'. The Dell gadget is some sort of space-saver rack, and not an attempt to make a Gosplan iMac. Thanks to MacMischief)
February 10, 2005
Just kinda hilarious...
Microsoft Corporation has reached an agreement to acquire the anti-virus software company, Sybari Software Inc. Microsoft aims to expand its security software product portfolio with this acquisition....Sybari Software, with more than 10,000 corporate clients, specializes in software products that block e-mail viruses. The statement added that Microsoft was planning to offer its enterprise customers a new line of products to fend off spam, viruses and worms....[link]
I's only medium hilarious that Microsoft is making money selling products that try to fix problems with other Microsoft products. I'll hold off rolling on the floor until people have to pay for something that fixes a security vulnerability in the Microsoft anti-virus software...Update: Wellll... This was fast: Microsoft's AntiSpyware product is threatened by a Trojan horse that also tries to steal online banking details... [link]
January 17, 2005
If anyone's interested, John Gruber has some interesting thoughts on the Mac Mini and the iPod Shuffle. (One detail I was pleased to learn; it's recommended that a technician install memory in the Mini, but apparently it's not hard to crack the case and install it yourself.)
....My mistake was not realizing that a low-cost iPod wouldn’t entail Apple joining the current market for low-end players, so much as Apple redefining the market for low-end players. Not because the iPod Shuffle has amazing new features (it doesn’t), but because Apple is going to sell so damned many of them, and everyone knows it.
I mean, does anyone doubt that the iPod Shuffle will soon be the best-selling sub-$200 music player in the world? If not by the end of this month, certainly by the end of this quarter. This means Apple is able to purchase components — specifically, flash-memory chipsets — in quantities that their competitors can’t. Which means Apple gets a lower price on components, which means Apple can afford to put 512 MB of memory into a $99 player, a price point where the competition only has 256.
This is worth restating: Megabyte-for-megabyte, the iPod Shuffle is cheaper than its competition. To my memory, this is the first product in Apple’s history where this is so. With the iPod, the tables have turned and Apple is on the right side of the volume discounts that come with majority market share....
The dangers with Apple introducing inexpensive products are both diluting the brand and, of course, not making any money. (Critics of Apple praise the makers of those cheap PC's but never mention how often they end up in or near bankruptcy.) The current pizzaz and trendiness of the iPod may have given Apple an opportunity to make mass-market products without becoming a "low-end" company.
Update: By the way, if you are thinking of buying peripherals for your Mini, here are some amazin' cheap prices...I had no idea. A GEM LCD for $169? Whoa. Gotta look into them.
January 15, 2005
Wandering into thickets...
DrunkenBatMan has an interview with one of the college students who is getting sued by Apple for passing around developer builds of the next version of OS-X. It is interesting to me as an example of how easy it is to wander into a legal and ethical morass with hardly a thought. Among other things, the kid signed an NDA, but didn't read it because he treated it like all those licensing agreements that come with our software. Who reads the things?
There's way too much bogus "law" these days. For instance, all those things we all sign where we accept that the product is dangerous, so we can't sue if our toe gets chopped off? Truth is, you can still sue. Charlene could cut through any of those things easily, if she were on the Dark Side. (Actually, she says the one exception is ski resorts! Those agreements have always been upheld by the courts.)
This is a different case than that Apple suit against a "blogger." Actually I don't think ThinkSecret is a "blog." I've read it for years without ever thinking "this is a blog." (And I've been blogging since 2001. That's decades in Internet time—I should be considered an expert witness on what's a weblog!)
I don't presume to say who's right or wrong in these cases. But I think there's a of of double-standarding in the way Apple gets criticized by people who blandly stand by and watch Microsoft obliterate entire companies. As Brian Tieman said recently, it's sort of like the phonies who wax indignant about Abu Ghraib while winking at the murders of Hamas or the Taliban or Saddam....
I suspect his pessimism is unjustified...
...Well, wait until they get home with their Mac Mini, only to find that neither their keyboard nor their mouse will work with it, despite Apple's claims to the contrary. Remember that perceived notion of compatibility? Gone. Instantly. Long after that Mac Mini gets taken back for a refund, the disgusted customer is still going around telling everyone that Macs aren't "compatible" after all. Regardless of the fact that it's the PC companies' faults for (still, even here in 2005) shipping PS/2-based peripherals with their many of their low-end models in order to save fourteen cents, the public will still blame Apple. Techincal explanations about the virtues of USB aren't gonna cut it. And should we even address the fact that a Windows-based keyboard has a number of different keys, in different locations, than a Mac-based keyboard? Should we even think about how ugly that's going to get when the poor sap tries to follow directions or get Mac help from a book? Forget about it...
I hope it's not that bad. I rather think it's not. I wasn't even aware they still make non-USB keyboards. Surely even PC manufacturers couldn't be that tacky! Palmer must be exaggerating. Any USB peripherals like keyboards should work fine with any USB Mac, perhaps after downloading a driver. And I'm pretty sure any ordinary monitor will be OK. I use Windows-style keyboards without trouble.
And I for one can see an advantage in buying that cheap Mac Mini precisely so I could afford a fancy expensive monitor. I'm very a visual person, and lust painfully for those big luminous screens. And come to think of it, I've usually replaced our Mac keyboards and mice with Logitech ones. I'm the one who should complain, paying for a bunch of keyboards and mice I don't use.
The recent Mac keyboards are great, by the way, but the ones from a few years ago were too cramped. Mac one-button mice are just for beginners.
I don't know enough to comment, really, except to say that it's sure frustrating when you buy something and then discover you have to buy 3 other things to make it work. Charlene bought one of our boys World of Warcraft for Christmas. It was left to me to install a faster processor in his G-4 to play the game properly. And since it's one of those games where you interact with thousands of other Trolls and Wizards around the globe, you have to subscribe to the service. So the game itself was the cheap part....
But it's a very cool game. I don't play any these days, but I hugely admire the technology. Amazin'.
December 26, 2004
Uncancelling the project...
magine you are working for a high-tech company, and you've put a year of hard effort into writing a piece of totally cool software...and then the project is cancelled and you are out of a job!
Here's a story (thanks to Brian Tieman) of a guy in that situation at Apple computer, in 1993. Ron Avitzur decided to just keep working, as a sort of parasite-in-reverse. He still had a badge and an office, and so he carried on as if he were an employee. The result was the delightful Graphing Calculator. (It's still part of OS-9, and can be found in Classic Apps. And a new Graphing Calc is coming as part of 10.4)
...I was frustrated by all the wasted effort, so I decided to uncancel my small part of the project. I had been paid to do a job, and I wanted to finish it. My electronic badge still opened Apple's doors, so I just kept showing up.
I had many sympathizers. Apple's engineers thought what I was doing was cool. Whenever I gave demos, my colleagues said, "I wish I'd had that when I was in school." Those working on Apple's project to change the microprocessor in its computers to the IBM PowerPC were especially supportive. They thought my software would show off the speed of their new machine. None of them was able to hire me, however, so I worked unofficially, in classic "skunkworks" fashion....
...I knew nothing about the PowerPC and had no idea how to modify my software to run on it. One August night, after dinner, two guys showed up to announce that they would camp out in my office until the modification was done. The three of us spent the next six hours editing fifty thousand lines of code. The work was delicate surgery requiring arcane knowledge of the MacOS, the PowerPC, and my own software. It would have taken weeks for any one of us working alone.
At 1:00 a.m., we trekked to an office that had a PowerPC prototype. We looked at each other, took a deep breath, and launched the application. The monitor burst into flames. We calmly carried it outside to avoid setting off smoke detectors, plugged in another monitor, and tried again. The software hadn't caused the fire; the monitor had just chosen that moment to malfunction. The software ran over fifty times faster than it had run on the old microprocessor. We played with it for a while and agreed, "This doesn't suck" (high praise in Apple lingo). We had an impressive demo, but it would take months of hard work to turn it into a product...
December 8, 2004
"So let's get this puppy configured..."
Why should you buy a Mac, when there are PC's for under $500? Bill Palmer plunges into the thickets of PC websites to try to find these beasties, and see how they compare with the lowest-priced Mac, the $799 eMac:
...I mean, this is the world's number one seller of computers? I read yesterday that Dell wants to be the "WalMart of personal computers". With a site like that, Dell would struggle to be called the K-Mart of computers. But I digress. I came here to find myself a sub-$500 computer, and while I had no idea whether I would find that in the "work" or the "home" section of the site, I figured I'd go with "home", since that's what (I think) I was in on the H-P site. I guess I picked the right one, because I found myself a model that wasn't just sub-$500, it was way sub-$500. Yep, I found myself something called a "Dimension 2400" for a mere $449. Yowzah!
So let's get this puppy configured. Let's see how cheaply I can put this thing on par with the eMac. I click on the Dimension 2400, and it presents me with what appears to be a feature list, with a series of defaults already selected for me, so just because Michael Dell dresses like a trustable fellow, I go with the defaults without looking at them (because an honest, upright company would certainly have the least expensive options selected as defaults, right?), and suddenly the "new" cost of my $449 computer has conveniently been adjusted to $846.
Now, for all the times that you or I might use "LOL" in online conversation to suggest that we're laughing out loud, there are in fact very few times where most of us are sitting at the computer and are compelled to literally laugh out loud. This was one of them. I also fell out of my chair. Literally. Of however few times you find yourself slumped to the floor, overcome with laughter, this was one of them for me....
... Oh, I went back and began to try to fiddle with the add-ons to make the thing a bit cheaper, but as I added $89 for a Combo Drive and $50 for a FireWire "IEEE 1394 adapter" (an adapter?), I gave up. At least H-P managed to keep up the sub-$500 charade going until the process was nearly complete. But Dell? They only lasted two clicks before admitting that their cheapest model is more or less price-comparable to the eMac as well...
The tricks used to sell "$500 PC's" at the price they really want to sell them at are pathetic. Pay extra to get a word processor! Egad. (eMac comes with Appleworks, Quicken, GarageBand, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD.) Or the "option" for an extended warranty that can't be turned off? Or CD burner or Firewire not included...
September 27, 2004
I just wanted to mention--I'm not AR-GUING with anybody, just mentioning— that I was reading about viruses/worms/Trojan horses/crapware/adware/spyware—and, Mac user that I am, I realized I have only a vague understanding of what those things are. I mean, I know in theory what they are, but I've never encountered any of them in life...
Here's a very interesting essay by John Gruber on why that is. The author makes an analogy with the "broken-window" theory of crime control, where zero tolerance of all sorts of disorder is a powerful deterrent to crime...
...My answer to question posed earlier — why are Windows users besieged with security exploits, while Mac users suffer none? — is that Windows is like a bad neighborhood, strewn with litter, mysterious odors, panhandlers, and untold dozens of petty annoyances. Many Windows users are simply resigned to the fact that their computers contain software that is not under their control. And if they’ll tolerate an annoying application that badgers them with pop-up ads, well, why not a spyware virus that logs every key you type, then sends them back to the creator? (That’s a real virus, by the way, Korgo, which hit Windows at the end of May and is spreading quickly.)...Well, that's true. Particularly, as Gruber points out, we have zero tolerance for vulnerabilities. Someone points out a theoretical OS-X vulnerability, and it's NEWS! And the complaining starts. "This was pointed out two days ago! When is the Apple Security Update coming out? What's the matter with those guys!"
...The Mac is like a good neighborhood, where the streets are clean and the crime rate low. You don’t need bars on your windows in a good neighborhood; you don’t need anti-virus software on the Mac...
...Arguing that it’s technically possible that the Mac could suffer just as many security exploits as Windows is like arguing that a good neighborhood could suddenly find itself strewn with garbage and plagued by vandalism and serious crime. Possible, yes, but not likely. The security disparity between the Mac and Windows isn’t so much about technical possibilities as it is about what people will tolerate.
And Mac users don’t tolerate shit.
August 7, 2004
"riding on top of everyone else's platform"
Drunkenbatman has a fascinating essay called Convergence Kills, about where Apple might be heading with its new technologies. He argues that convergence (the gradual merging of all our digital gadgets into one) is going to take the path of mobile phones eating everything else. Why? Because your phone is the one thing you always carry. Phones are already turning into cameras and PDA's, and also Internet browsers. Apple has just partnered with Motorola to include their music technology into the next generation of phones, which will work like iPods, though only holding 15 songs!
Apple has claimed that its iTunes Music Store is mostly a loss-leader to sell their very profitable iPods. Maybe it's the other way around:
There's an old adage about magicians; if you want to learn the trick, close your ears and open your eyes. Well it might not go exactly like that, but that's the lesson I took from it.Apple has a head start, but a lot of other players will be trying to do the same thing...Good luck.
When people are talking, you have a natural inclination to look at their eyes, and if they're doing something with one hand chances are you really need to be watching the other if you want to see what they're really up to. In other words, watch the hands. And Apple is particularly adept at misdirection...
. . . . . . . .
...Apple is playing towards that exact same endgame, but with a twist: they're creating a new light-DRM [Digital Rights Management] platform that is riding on top of everyone else's platform. iMacs, Windows, mobile phones, everything. Google is also creating a platform riding on the backs of other platforms... except its based around becoming the access point for all things internet. Apple wants that, but for DRM content.
They weren't kidding around with their vision of the computer as a hub for your digital life, they just forgot to mention that the hub will come with a lock. And guess who owns the keys?(Thanks to Joe Katzman)
My next cell-phone will have a camera for sure. I'm always seeing odd things and wishing I had a camera handy. And look at this--one inch hards drives for phones! It's coming.
February 29, 2004
Just some more Mac stuff..
Anand Lal Shimpi is a very savvy guy with a popular hardware site, who's been blogging his switch to a Mac. I'm just posting this morsel as a correction to a common misunderstanding�I'll have it up my sleeve the next time someone tells me Macs won't work on a Windows network....
...I realized today that I hadn't touched on network interaction between Macs and PCs yet so let's talk about that. Networking was horrible under desktop PC OSes until Windows 2000/XP, but now we've all been spoiled with networking that just works. This directly corresponded to my expectations when I tried networking the G5 with the rest of my PC-ridden home network. OS X's Windows file sharing is made courtesy of samba, and although I've heard many criticisms about samba - under OS X it just works. I didn't bother burning any of my old documents, music, etc... off my old PC, instead I relied entirely on OS X's ability to see my PC's shared folders to get my much needed files onto the G5. As you can probably guess, if things hadn't gone smoothly my first blog would have been a much more complaint-oriented one :) I don't know why this impresses me, but the fact all of the 6 PCs I've got on this network right now can be seen by the G5 (and vice versa) is something I definitely appreciate. Gone are the days when Macs and PCs didn't like to cooperate, it truly is a harmonious hardware home here.Printer sharing under OS-X still amazes me, though I've been using it for several years now.
I bought a HP Laserjet 4000 years ago, and it's served me well. The problem is that it's a parallel port model and the G5 has no legacy ports: what a great test for Windows printer sharing under OS X :) OS X had no problems finding the printer on my network and I've been using it ever since. Drivers were already available on OS X, making the process as painless as possible. Now onto CD burning and imaging...
January 17, 2004
You get what you pay for...
I don't ever expect to penetrate the walls of ignorance behind the "Macs are too expensive" meme, but this article has some useful figures...
A true story: A neighbor of mine asks me for advice on buying a new computer, his first. He tells me he wants to use it for editing home movies, playing music, surfing the web, email, and he would love to make his own DVD�s. I tell him to look at an iMac or eMac and he says they are way too expensive. He then says he sees TV commercials offering Dell�s for $500, and wants to know why Macs are so much more expensive. I ask him if he really wants to make his own DVD�s and edit home movies and he says �yes�. I tell him to call Dell and ask them to configure a PC that can do that. He does, and then comes back over and accuses Dell of �bait and switch�. They want $1500!!.....
January 8, 2004
I've heard a lot of disappointed groans because when the rumored new Mini iPods were announced this week, they were priced at $250�just $50 less than the cheapest regular iPod. There had been speculation about $100 or 200.
But I think people are missing the point. With gadgets, if you buy the "newest and smallest," you often pay more. Small means tricky engineering or the newest components. Charlene's cell phone is 1/3 the size of mine, and she had to pay extra for that. (Me, I prefer my big clunky Nokia. I could hit somebody with it in a pinch.)
The iPod is already surprisingly tiny and delicate. I'm guessing that when people actually can touch the new ones, they will not think "little," they will think "elegant," or "jewel-like."
Our daughter asked Charlene for an iPod for Christmas, and mentioned that they cost $500. Charlene told her firmly to forget it, we couldn't afford one. Of course I knew that that was the top-of-the-line price, and that there were cheaper ones. We bought a 10-Gig, and because of Charlene's very convincing refusal, Besty was completely surprised, (and very happy.) I packed the distinctively-shaped iPod box into a round box, and told her it was a "Legolas lampshade."
Also announced by Apple was the program GarageBand. My musically talented (He sure didn't get it from me) son William has been starting to wrestle with MIDI software, and the stuff seems painfully awkward and hard to learn. I think GarageBand is going to be heaven for him....
iPod Update: Wallet-size? I found this an interesting take:
...What I noticed is that women writers on the web love this thing. Why? Believe it or not, it was not the pretty colors. Women are not as stupid as most men think. They really can and do make sensible purchases. The core reason was the high quality, the usual list of iTunes/ITMS access, cool accessories, etc. that makes the standard iPods a great buy, combined with the tiny form factor. It fits inside those humongous wallets women use. A standard iPod can't do that. Neither can any other hard drive based player....
December 14, 2003
Apple pelted with rotten fruit...
Since I often post stories about how much I enjoy our Apple computers, it's only fair to add that their Customer Support can be as frustrating as that of most computer makers.
Here's a cool story about how a clever protest helped force Apple to change a lousy iPod battery replacement policy....
November 17, 2003
For Mac users ...
I just installed a very useful piece of OS-X freeware, XShelf. It fixes one of the little annoyances of the Mac OS (I have no idea if this is a problem in the rest of the world). That is, that the huge convenience of being able to drag-and-drop things is marred by by the nuisance of needing to have both the source and the destination in view on the screen. If I drag a file from folder A to folder B, both folders have to be visible at the same time.
XShelf provides a spot to park things until I'm ready to finish moving them. For instance, I frequently drag URL's out of web pages and into my TextEdit blog-post template. Now I can drag them onto the "shelf," (which only appears when you drag something to it) and let them sit there until needed. I just noticed it also works with pictures dragged off of web pages...
I just read den Beste's long post on all the little "itches" and bothers he has in Windows. Well, using a Mac certainly has its own itches and frustrations, but nothing like his list.
And people complain because Apple seems to be coming out with annual updates to OS-X, and charging $129 for each one. But every one of those updates, among other things, gets has eliminated a bunch of small irritations. (And this time only added one�the mysterious disappearance of the Favorites menu...) I think all the OS-X updates have quickly paid for themselves in saved time and frustration.
Andrew deprecates, in the comments, the Apple one-button mouse. It is indeed unsatisfactory, except for awkward beginners, who like the simplicity. But Macs can use other mice happily, and I myself could hardly imagine existence without my Logitech domestic rodent...
October 29, 2003
More Mac stuff ...
I'm really enjoying Panther, (OS-X 10.3) not so much for the big features, but for a great many little improvements that make my life easier. Many things that took 3 clicks now take 1 or 2. Somebody seems to have scrutinized every detail and given a lot of them some tweaking and polishing. Which is rare, usually with software the relentless drive for new features means polishing is a low priority...
I liked this article in Business Week, the author notes the same things that impressed me. And this was interesting:
...And Apple thoughtfully included a new anti-spam feature in Apple Mail that strips out a piece of code many junk mailings contain to notify the sender that the message arrived and that the address belongs to a live e-mail account....I didn't know about that problem. Is this common knowledge? Am I clueless? Anyway, I'm glad it's being stopped...
October 26, 2003
Some mac stuff...
I've started installing Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) on our computers. So far I'm very impressed. Everything runs faster and smoother. Until now there was a noticeable speed-hit in OS X that I felt was just the price I had to pay for the sophisticated graphics. Wrong! The graphics are even better in 10.3, yet they move with palpably greater speed and authority...
It's going to take a while to get organized to take advantage of all the new features. I'll probably want to get a .mac account, because you can now put items in a .mac folder and they will sync automatically in the background. Off-site backups painlessly! Now what would happen if I put an alias of my Quicken accounts in that folder? Will it do a back-up every time I enter something in my check register? Hmmm.... Wish I had that book right now. But it's fun to just figure it out myself.
September 6, 2003
Don't stare, children, he's just talking to himself because his mind was shattered in the wars...
I promised myself not to write about the OS wars. Them what knows, knows, and no one else wants to hear. But Brian Tieman just blogged about an article in PC World, on how to reinstall Windows with blithe ease. Like a veteran having a flashback, I was once again in the One-Eyed-Man Brigade, as the armies of the sightless zombied their way over the globe.
...Cause here, via J Greely, is an in-depth PC World article on how to reinstall Windows without losing your data.That's a joke, right? Two days? I mean, I've installed OS-X as an easy background activity while helping the kids with their homework...
It's six pages long.
Six pages.Before you begin, gather your Windows and application CD-ROMs. Back up your data files (just to be safe), and then clear two days off your calendar. If everything goes smoothly, you can reinstall Windows in a few hours. But you have to assume something will go wrong: You may not be able to find a necessary CD, or data won't be where you thought it was, or something will simply refuse to work.
Un-blankety-blank-believable. Six pages of this glorp. I think it's like when you join the mafia or the revolution, and you have to "make your bones." Then you stay loyal ever after because you can't admit to yourself that you killed someone for no good reason...similarly you stay loyal to Windows because you just can't admit to yourself that you've thrown a major chunk of your life-supply of psychic energy away on a piece of dung.Select Start, Programs, Accessories, Command Prompt. Type cd "\documents and settings" and press Enter. Then type xcopy administrator\*.* administrator.computername /s /h /r /c, replacing computername with the last part of that folder's name (after "Administrator.") in Documents and Settings. Now press Enter, and when you're asked about overwriting files or folders, press a for All.
Charlene's little firm uses PC's, and I hear about how much money they saved by ordering everything from Dell. THEN I hear how they've had the computer-consultant in FOR A WHOLE DAY swapping network cards, whatever they are, to try to get these machines talking to each other. And THEN I hear that they are going to toss them all out like so much wilted lettuce and get better machines so they can run XP! (BTW, I've installed OS-X on a 6-year-old 233mz Powerbook without a hiccup.) I think they should buy new PC's every month, and then the money saved would be so much they could retire.
And think how this helps the economy! A perfect example of the Broken Window Fallacy.
August 27, 2003
A rose by any other name would be an AROmaZaPo960-D ...
For my my birthday Charlene bought me a Canon CanoScan LiDE 30 scanner. So far I'm quite pleased�it seems to pack a lot of value for a trifling price. Also, it's very slim and the only cord is the USB cable, which also powers it. So you can easily stash it away, and just grab it and plug it in when needed.
But I have to say that it's incredibly stupid marketing to give a product a name that people won't know how to pronounce! There goes the word-of-mouth advertising. And what kind of word is "LiDE" anyway? Something that made sense in Japanese, but didn't translate? Something that made sense to the engineers? Words are important, and products need good names. A null-word like LiDE makes it hard to think about the product, hard to talk about it, hard to remember it, hard to spell it if you are trying to Google...
The worst name-morass is with digital cameras. If you read a favorable review of something called an SBZ-601-Zoom, how likely is it that you will remember that name? And how likely is it that you can keep from confusing it with the SBZ-401-Zoom or the SBZ-901-Zoom? Blehhh. It probably means that the engineers are running the company. And while I yield to no one in my admiration for engineers, there are certain teeensy-weensy little slivers of life where their skill-sets are not optimal, and where they would be advised to hire someone who loves words...(My consultant fees are very
reasonable high�that proves that I'm valuable.)
August 13, 2003
Monoculture farming perilously vulnerable to disease ...
An interesting letter:
Dear MacDailyNews,It'll never happen. Function is much less important than "looking businesslike" and not standing out from the crowd...and the IT Department will embrace, of course, the Brezhnev Doctrine.
What a day! And night. Yesterday at work, the whole place was down due to the Blaster worm. Computers freaking out more than usual, except mine. Nobody could get online to access the web or get email and the IT staff, a third of whom were on vacation, were losing their minds.
This is the same IT staff that fought me tooth and nail when I requisitioned my Apple Macintosh computer (PowerBook G4 15-inch). They said at the time that they couldn't support multiple platforms, that I wouldn't be able to access the network - all of the usual falsehoods many others experience every day. What I went through to finally gain approval for the Mac purchase I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy! But, in the end, I got my Mac.
Well, yesterday, my Mac was the only functioning computer at work. My Mac handled several important emails which resulted in sales (revenue) for the company - this would've been impossible to achieve had we been stuck in a homogenous Windows situation as IT wanted. Basically, without the Apple Mac, no business would've been conducted yesterday.
The Mac was used for the first time by several top managers to communicate with their business contacts throughout the day and into the evening. Many of these people came away with a very positive impression of the Mac and seemed bowled over by Mac OS X. The fact that the Mac just worked and all of the Windows PCs didn't was not lost on these upper management people. In fact, several have scheduled meetings with IT to figure out how to prevent such a mess in the future and one thing they seem to want is to "mix in some Macs around here for safety," as one manager put it...