2007-12-31

Macworld 2008 Predictions

What's an Apple fan to do while waiting for Macworld Expo to arrive? Post their predictions of course, just like I did for WWDC.


  • No tablet - I still don't see this happening.

  • The heavily rumored ultraportable is just the return of the 12" PowerBook as a MacBook Pro. The 12" PowerBook is/was loved by those that have/had them. I'm really surprised we haven't seen it return already. I imagine they were waiting for a case redesign, which I do expect for the MacBook Pro. The existing MacBooks won't change much at all. I think a Blu-ray drive will be an option for them.

  • The 12" MacBook Pro will not have an optical drive (but the other ones still will). This isn't the machine that you use to rip CDs and you'll just have to deal with not watching DVDs, unless you rip them or use the external drive. Treat yourself and buy a fresh movie over Wi-Fi while you wait for your plane to board.

  • iTunes movie rentals. I'll guess $2.99 for 48 hours, but I would like to see a model similar to Netflix, without waiting for the post office. Pay $19 a month and have 3 movies out at any time. Return one and you get to download and watch something else. How cool would it be if Apple built in BitTorrent tech to save their bandwidth bill?

  • New Cinema displays, hopefully at more competitive prices.

  • We'll get iPhone SDK details and see demos of some apps in progress from some big names, although I can't really think of who.

  • 16 GB iPhone at $499 pricepoint. No change in price on existing models

  • Apple TV software update - I love my Apple TV but folks don't seem like they'll be happy until it dies a painful death. Apple is certainly going to give it one more wave of software at least. I doubt the hardware will change, even though I would like to see my Mac nano dream come true.

  • Steve will tell us all about Leopard being the best OS X ever. Vista is flopping and folks are switching.



Those are my predictions. Feel free to mock me when I'm wrong.

2007-12-27

Albums of the Year: 2007



  • LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

  • Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City Bloc Party - A Weekend In the City

  • Aesop Rock - All Day: Nike+ Original Run Aesop Rock - All Day: Nike+ Original Run

  • Underworld - Oblivion With Bells Underworld - Oblivion With Bells

  • The Chemical Brothers - We Are the Night The Chemical Brothers - We Are the Night

  • UNKLE - War Stories UNKLE - War Stories



Not much to say other than these albums were the ones that got repeated, consistent play throughout the year. Some discs spent months in the truck CD changer before ever making it inside the house for an iPod rip. iTunes, Beatport, and Amazon now let me buy plenty of individual tracks, but I still have massive respect for the album. To create an inspired and varied, yet cohesive, body of work will always be an amazing feat. Long live the album.

What were your favorite albums of the year?

2007-12-26

Sexy Sub

Leave it to my mother. I tend to think she over-decorates. Here's a good example. It's the holiday season, so we have to make the subwoofer look festive, right?



It looks like a garter. We have women's clothing decorating the home theater. What's next, a flat screen mini-skirt?



How about a loudspeaker bra?



Do you find this as ridiculous as I do?

2007-12-21

I'm Jimmy From the Blog Next Door

Just a quick pointer for those of you with Blogger blogs that you can turn on OpenID commenting.

I wasn't aware of OpenID [wikipedia] when I wrote my earlier comment post, but it sure seems like it provides the follow you identity that I want.

The Big Book

I know some readers of this blog are actively seeking better and bigger storage solutions. After a long search, I decided to go with the Western Digital My Book 1TB Studio Edition. This is the mini-review.

Design - This is a great looking drive. It was even smaller than I expected it to be. To give you some perspective, I photographed it next to an iPod.



I've also found that you can stick this between the iMac foot and screen. You don't lose any desk space this way, but it looks a little silly and puts the light in a place that is distracting. I still have it there, but I plan to move it to a shelf up behind the computer soon.



The Studio edition is formatted for Macs, and they did a decent job matching the silver of Macs. It isn't exactly the color of the latest iMacs, but it is really close and you really can't tell unless you shine some direct light. I'm also happy that the power supply is a small wall wart. Some folks don't like wall warts, but I hate the inline bricks even more. It's really hard to hide wires when there's a box of animal crackers in the middle of the wire.

Noise - The drive is fairly quiet. You can hear the tick tick of the drive head searches, but only when it is quiet. I have not heard a fan spin up loudly like some other external drives.

Software - If you're like me, you don't want software to run a hard drive. The drive came with a "button controller" for OS X that is supposed to control the fuel gauge light on the front of the drive. I installed it, or at least I think I did. It gave me no indication that it worked or not. I never saw the drive light behave any different in a week of use, so I uninstalled the driver.

Drive light - You'll love this or hate it. The light slowly pulses when the drive is asleep. It marquees Knight Rider style when the drive is being accessed. I wish I could turn the light off completely.

video

Interfaces - I'm using FW800 (remember kids, USB drives burn processor, FW doesn't). It seems fast, but I didn't benchmark it. It cranked across nearly 500GB in the first Time Machine backup.

Power - The drive has a feature where it will turn off completely when the computer is off. Folks tell me this is pretty common, but I've not had this on previous external drives. My Kill A Watt says the drive has used less than a KWH in 8 days of use and that includes a few days of Time Machine activity.

2007-12-18

Worthless Double Covers


Allow me to pick on the Simpsons, again.

What is the deal with the cover over the DVD cover? Why do so many DVD releases add this extra packaging that is nearly identical to what is under it? It is such a waste. It's an extra step between me and DVD and what good does it do?

Ohh, they put some puffed up graphics on the cover. Do they think this makes me buy it? It doesn't. It hides the plastic wrap and makes it more attractive to buy. Again, I'm not buying DVDs because of cool covers. Never have, never will.

The only good use I have for these superfluous covers is placeholders when I loan the real DVD out! When I find the empty box in my shelf I remember "ohh yeah, Jimmy has my Simpsons DVD. Jerk!"

2007-12-07

XPS One vs. iMac

I've been trying to get my parents to switch to an iMac. While thinking about it, I wondered how the iMac stacks against the recently released Dell XPS One. I picked a common price point that my parents would probably buy at. Here's the raw facts.



Before today, I didn't know that Dell was bundling Adobe Elements studio. That is a decent bundle to lay against iLife '08 even though they aren't exactly made of the same types of applications.
It is only fair to point out that the XPS One also has a built-in TV tuner (nice). So what else did I miss? Leave a comment.

Which do you think is the better deal?

2007-11-30

5 of the Now


  • Underworld - Beautiful Burnout Underworld - Oblivion With Bells - Beautiful Burnout [I'm loving life. A new Underworld album is in hand and it's far better than I expected. This album is quality. Underworld has wound the clock back a bit. I'm guessing it is no accident that the Oblivion With Bells coverart resembles dubnobasswithmyheadman. They have a similar feel and that is a very good thing. Beautiful Burnout has taken up residence in my head. This track has patience and a deep energy. I want this track to come on at mile 35 of a 50 mile bike race when I realize I haven't trained enough. I think I'd cry with pain and joy.]

  • The Mighty Underdogs - Bring Me Back [Just a great, fun track. Big thanks to Jason for digging up the direct order EP. The Mighty Underdogs are The Gift of Gab, Lateef The Truth Speaker, and Headnodic. Act like you know. Hear more at their MySpace.]

  • The Postal Service - We Will Become Silhouettes The Postal Service - Give Up - We Will Become Silhouettes [I picked up this video from iTunes and just really dig the whole thing. Odd subject, even weirder video. The video makes the song. Bah bah bah bahhhhh. Do doo do doo do doo.]

  • Wahoo - Make 'Em Shake It (Stanton Warriors Remix) Wahoo - Make Em Shake It - Single - Make Em Shake It[I hope your system can hit the low stuff. "Are you here to stand around or do a little dancin'?" ]

  • Placebo - Running Up That Hill Placebo - Meds - Running Up That Hill (2007 Digital Remaster) [It's a Kate Bush cover and a great one at that. You may have heard this on a recent CSI episode.]

2007-11-24

Inconsistent Time Sliders

One of my favorite features for the new DVD player in Leopard is the time slider that hides in the bottom frame of the window. I like that it gets out of my way when I don't need it, but it is still right there when I do.
If you read yesterday's post, you'd know that I'd notice that this time slider is different than other time sliders that Apple uses in a default install. I wanted to explore this further, so I grabbed some screen shots from time sliders in various apps.



Wow, that's a lot of differences for such a simple user interface component.


  • Diamonds vs. triangles vs. dots for time line indicators

  • Time text at the end of bars vs. under the bar vs. none at all

  • Play indicators vs. none

  • Hours placeholder vs. none

  • Controls with the same icon, but different treatments (volume, full screen, play, pause, skip)

  • Different colors, different transparencies

  • Even silly things like rounded vs. squared



Of course not all of these differences are bad. It makes sense for the transparencies in some apps vs. not in others. QuickTime is also showing its age. The thing I want to know, is what's the optimal placement of these controls? Should Quick Look and QuickTime share the iTunes time slider? Should DVD and Front Row be more similar? I didn't even show the iTunes Cover Flow controls which, while not a time slider, still has many of these same controls and presents them differently yet again.

There has to be a better way to do these sliders, if for no other reason than to make them familiar to users across applications. Do you agree? Please discuss.

2007-11-23

New, Different, Better?

I ran across a nice article about Sam Lucente, HP's vice president of design. Most interesting to me was this visual gathering of navigation controls in use on HP's products.



Most people couldn't care less about this sort of thing. Me, I can't help but notice. It amazes me to see product attributes that appear over and over, especially within the same company, end up being different. Is it because the engineering teams don't talk to each other? Is it because the teams suffer a bad case of not-invented-here syndrome? Is it because it gets designed by someone that isn't thinking about this sort of thing? Uhhh, yes.

The article also details how common design can save a company money. It makes sense to me. You can have a dozen engineers spend time designing a navigation control, supporting circuitry and software, or you can do it once and reuse. I'm not saying things shouldn't ever change, but I'd prefer the change be because the new iteration is better, not because someone felt like doing it their same and different way.

I'm with you HP and Mr. Lucente. I like your Q Control and hope to see it everywhere (because it isn't showing up on the iPaqs yet :)

2007-11-19

Leopard Loves Content Only

Web clips weren't even a feature I was excited about in Leopard. I gave it a try and it is now a must have feature. Too many web sites, especially sports websites, drown the content in ads and other junk on their pages. One example of this is the nba.com TV schedule.

First of all, I'm thankful to the NBA for even having such a page. I haven't found a page that makes it easy to see what NFL games are on TV. I still don't like all of the junk on that page. I just want a quick look to see who's playing in the next few days and on what network.

I now have a clipped version of this schedule in my dashboard. It auto-updates and gives me just the content I want. Thanks Apple.

*BTW, I'm aware that I didn't need leopard to do this, but I rather like not having to seek out the functionality and remember to install it on all of my computers.

2007-11-18

My New Hybrid

No, I didn't buy a new car. This hybrid is an analog/digital TV receiver for my Mac.

I've had my eye on Elgato forever. They always seemed to have great products, but I never really had a need for any of them. For many years, I relied on my trusty ReplayTV. My ReplayTV is in my top 3 of best purchases of all time, so Elgato had their work cut out for them. I had to put the ReplayTV in early retirement when I got rid of cable. The ReplayTV can't record HD and I can't get an analog OTA signal worth recording, so it is temporarily useless.

I do get decent signal quality on a handful of ATSC HD stations. I really missed having a DVR, so I decided to give the eyetv hybrid a try. I especially like that the hardware is a dongle that I can use on the go with my MacBook if I like. It's a nice small size and has a coax connector built-in. You can hook up other analog sources with the included break-out cable.

Bottom line is that I'm loving the product so far, but it isn't perfect.

The Good
* It records the full HD stream! Hope you have lots of disk. A 1 hour show will gobble more than 6 GB.

* It can automatically encode for iPod, and more importantly for me, Apple TV. When you setup a recording, you can choose to have it export in h.264 for Apple TV. This is great. eyetv will even throw it in iTunes for you with the correct show type (TV) and descriptions that it copied from the TitanTV guide data.

The only problem with this functionality is not Elgato's fault. Even a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo with 4 GB of RAM is taking nearly double the length of the show to encode. If you want to use the hybrid like a DVR and pick up a show while it is recording, you'll have to do that at the computer. Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a Mac hooked to your TV rather than an Apple TV. If you record a night's worth of primetime television, the last show won't get done encoding until after midnight.

* The TitanTV guide is nice. I find it to be just as good as the ReplayTV guide and there's even a full screen mode that the software can run in which is very ReplayTV like.
* You can configure the keyboard to skip how ever many seconds you like forward and backward. The default 7 seconds back and 30 seconds forward is just how I like it. 7 is enough for the "what did they say?" moments and 30 forward let's you jump commercials with ease.

The Bad
* At first, I had my antenna positioned poorly. Hiccuping HD is one thing, but the software would actually get stuck if I fed it poor signal quality. It would tell me there was no signal, but if I changed the channel to something else and then back, it would start working again. This is annoying when watching live TV. It is death when you setup a record. I came home to find the Bears game didn't record a lick. I wasn't a happy person. I think I shouted something like "The Replay would never do this s**t."
* I'm still trying to pin this down, but when watching live TV and changing channels, the viewing window was creeping on me. The window will auto-size between widescreen and 4:3 content. When you stay on one channel, it will shrink and grow in a fixed location. When I was surfing, it would shrink from one channel, and then grow when I changed the channel, but to a different location than before. I need to watch this closer to figure out exactly what's happening.

I bought my eyetv hybrid from Amazon. They've since dropped the price.

2007-11-04

Leopard Loves A2DP

It took a week, but Amazon finally got me my preordered copy of OS X 10.5 Leopard. It's running on my MacBook at the moment and I'm loving it so far.

Almost immediately, I had to go check out the new Bluetooth items. More than anything I wanted to see if A2DP was included because my Moto S805s could really use the work. I'd seen mention that it was in the beta versions, but it seems like a feature as big as stereo Bluetooth support would be listed in the 300 features, right? Nope.



I'm delighted to report that A2DP is included and working great. A2DP's buddy, AVRCP is included as well so you can control your music from the controls on your headphones or stereo.

A2DP really opens up the audio from your Mac. Many new stereo receivers are supporting A2DP, both as a source and as a sink. That means that if your Mac is within range of your stereo, you get free AirTunes-like functionality.

This is a great first step, but I won't be truly happy until the iPod/iPhone can do A2DP natively as well.

2007-10-31

5 of the Now

2007-10-26

Day Job OS

My employer is a Microsoft, and thus Windows, house through and through. I'm not a Windows hater, but I do find features in OS X that I'd love to use at work. I often wonder if I could talk my manger into letting me have an iMac with Parallels as my main computer. It's the best of both worlds and I do think I would be more productive. It will never happen though. Letting employees pick the computer they want to use is a slippery slope.

So if I could, what would I use?


  • Notes in mail - I send myself email all the time to get data in a spot that is remotely accessible without much effort. Leopard's notes in mail is the effect, but a much slicker method.

  • Spotlight - I waste so much time searching for files. I use Google Desktop search, but it won't let me specify searches as specifically as I need to. I get too many results for a search. Microsoft's Desktop search was terrible. I uninstalled it and went back to the original search functions built into XP. I'd really like to let Spotlight give it a go at work.

  • Create a search in Finder - Spotlight technology in quickly accessible and frequently used searches. This would be fantastic. I don't think I'll need these much at home. I can see myself using these daily at work.

  • Time machine - Our backup procedures are less than ideal. This would save thousands of dollars around the company. Buy everyone a TB drive and just let it run.

  • iChat Theater - Netmeeting works, but it feels old and rusty. I think I could really get behind video chats at work. You get so much more out of the conversation when you can read body language, see gestures, and the rest of the non-verbal cues that occur in conversation.

  • Watch for my name in iChat - If you haven't been following Leopard closely, you probably missed this one. If you are in a group chat, you can have iChat notify you if your name appears. This would let you ignore some conversations that aren't relevant to you until you were needed.

  • Data detectors in mail - Hey, we're having a picnic on Friday - put it in your calendar! How about you just send it as a calendar entry? No, fine, I'll let my software be smart enough to detect that event data and let me click it to add it to my calendar.

  • Resizable text fields - We have one particular web app that wants you to enter paragraphs of information in a text edit that is 15 characters wide, and it isn't a Firefox problem. It happens in IE too. I'd love to just drag these bigger.

  • Spaces - I said I wouldn't use them at home, but I think I would at work. Communication (email, IM) in one space. Browsing in another space. Source code in another space.



What features from an alternate OS would you like to have at work?

2007-10-24

Evangelizing OS X

I tend to evangelize things that I enjoy. ReplayTV and adidas are good examples of that. Obviously Apple products are things that I enjoy, and I evangelize them as well.

I've been working on my parents to switch for awhile. Thus far it has been casual pressure. It pains me to watch my father toss good money after bad software as he is on his 3rd round of Norton Systemworks. It pains me more when I have to sysadmin their computer. Even with all of that protection, they've still managed to pick up some nasty viruses. One afternoon troubleshooting a computer these days is too much. I've spent more than one working on that Sony beast.

Beast is a good word to describe it. It was a nice machine at the time, and my father got a good Black Friday deal at Best Buy, but it is old, slow, and worst of all, loud. Their office is attached to their bedroom and there's no way I could sleep in the same room as that pile of whine.

In my opinion, an iMac is perfect for them. Very few wires, no extra tower, quiet, and more than powerful enough for them. The sticking point has been OS X. I don't blame them. Switching your OS is not an easy thing. Lucky for them, you can now drift from Windows to OS X. Between Parallels and Boot Camp, you have a great Windows crutch.



My latest tactic has been to sell them Leopard, not so much because they'd like Leopard better than Tiger, but because Apple is selling Leopard with their great guided tours. I decided to burn the Leopard and iLife '08 tours to DVD for them to watch. They don't have broadband, so it would be a tough sell to have them download the tours themselves. I fired up iDVD (for the first time) and was delighted to see how easy it was to get the videos in the DVD. I was even able to pull the iMac commercial from apple.com and drop it in the animated drop zone. It turned out slick and I hope they actually take the time to watch it. In any case, it was fun to make.

2007-10-21

Looking Forward to Leopard


At first I was underwhelmed by Mac OS X Leopard. Then, just like some of my favorite albums, it began to grow on me. The more I looked, the more I thought yes, I will use that!. I preordered a family pack this morning and am eager for it to arrive. Here's the features I'm most looking forward to.


  • Stacks - These look brilliant. I like to keep things on the desktop, but I like things clean too. This is the answer. I also love that stacks make use of so many of the principles from The Laws of Simplicity. Hide and Reduce for starters.

  • Coverflow in Finder - An interface for previews that looks like it will actually work.

  • Updated sidebar in Finder - Hide and show categories. iTunes like - nice

  • Easier file sharing on the network - This isn't as easy in Tiger as it should be. I have lots of problems getting my machines to talk to each other. Half the time I use .mac as a shared drive or I send the files over Bluetooth.

  • Spotlight across shared computers - Nice, this will help find that document that I thought I made on the MacBook, but it was really on the iMac.

  • Create your own search to put in the sidebar - I'd kill for this at work

  • Path bar - I try to not care about directories, but I still do

  • Back to my mac - There are all sorts of remote access tools available today. I hope this works better than all of them and requires no additional mucking on my part.

  • Time machine - Specifically Spotlight in Time machine. Backup that I don't have to think about. The only problem is that my clean desktop will get another external drive. The funny part is that Time machine has an icon in the dock. Dear me I hope I don't need quick access to this feature.

  • iChat theater

  • New Automator actions

  • Front row looks like Apple TV

  • Tabbed terminal - Tabs are nice, but I want them to blow the tabs out in Expose so it is easier to find the terminal I want.



There are some things I'm not looking forward to...

  • Transparency in menu bar - I throw up a little bit everytime I see a Vista screenshot with those annoying titlebars.

  • Spaces - In my dumb terminal days, I'd use screen all the time. At home I just really don't work that way anymore. Expose meets my needs. If it didn't, I'd love spaces.

  • iChat backgrounds - I doubt I'll ever use these. Kids and teens might love them.



* The fun Leopard image is from Elmer's Friends by David McKee

2007-10-11

Wasted Taskbar Space

A UI discussion broke out at work and I couldn't resist documenting these complaints.

In XP, I put my taskbar on the side because that's the only way I can read any of the descriptive text for running tasks. Without a decent task switcher in XP, I rely on what little text I can see. The problem is that the Start button doesn't change size, even though it has plenty of room to expand with the width I give to the Taskbar. I have a blank area, nearly as big as the Start button, that is worthless, wasted space. Seems to me that Microsoft should just extrude the Start button to fill the space. This saves me time as I don't have to go as deep into the corner to hit the button. It's also easier to hit because it is bigger which allows quick, sloppy mousing.



A similar issue exists in the notification area. I like having the date available on a quick look, but I don't need the day of the week, and I don't need huge empty areas around the information because the column is wider than the info. Compress that down and give me space for one more task entry to show before it switches to a two column display (which again makes the descriptive text worthless).

2007-10-08

Mac nano Thoughts


First, I didn't originate the name of Mac nano. I think it started here, way back in March. Rumors of a Mac nano have started back up. Let's see if I can wrap together some rumors with some circumstantial evidence and come up with some halfway believable speculation. Ready, go.


  • Apple TV is rumored to get an update

  • Apple TV is rumored to get an optical drive

  • Mac mini has been rumored to die off for months, but it hasn't happened yet.

  • Mac mini has been rumored to be selling poorly, but it is still an important product in Apple's lineup as it is the switcher Mac. I'm one of those switchers that started with a first gen Mac mini.

  • The "mini" brand has died with the iPod. The "nano" brand is strong and Apple might want to apply that to their Macs.

  • Apple TV runs a stripped down OS X

  • Front Row in Leopard has been reworked to look like the Apple TV UI. You'll also notice a DVD menu option, so the Apple TV code appears to be DVD ready.

  • The Mac mini is similar, but not the same 7.7" form factor found on the latest Airport Extreme and Apple TV.



Could it be that Apple plans to make the Apple TV a software product that can run on any Leopard Mac? For those wanting Apple TV hardware, there would be a minimally spec'd Mac nano. This would allow Apple to improve margins as they consolidate on hardware. Apple could standardize on the 7.7" form factor and hopefully get the power supply from the Mac mini internal. The Apple TV power supply is already internal. The only hitch here is that folks would want to run that minimally spec'd Mac nano as a computer as well. Could Apple put out a $299 computer? Would they want to? That's a price point $300 lower than the current low end Mac mini. I think they'd want to maintain their current pricepoint spread. That low end Mac nano could be a hacker's paradise though.

Could the Mac nano be the first flash based Mac? A 16GB fanless computer would be plenty good for lots of folks, especially as secondary or kids computers. Ditching the fan would help chop the height a bit too. I 'shopped up what a Mac nano might look like over on the left. I'm sure you can piece it together, but I started with an Apple TV, cleaned the top and put on the black apple from the new iMacs. I then raised the top a bit and added in the optical drive and IR sensor from a Mac mini.

I personally don't think the $299 price point would be possible for what I'm suggesting here. $399, maybe. $499 definitely.
In any case, it seems the Apple TV and Mac mini are too close to not merge in some form.

2007-10-03

Ahh, That's Better

I couldn't stand that old theme. It was the best one at the time I picked one, but I never liked the images, and I never liked the column spacing.

If you happened to hit here in the past hour or so, you saw the old theme hacked up as I tried to expand the columns (for probably the 3rd time). It looked ok, but not great. I like the new theme a ton better. I swapped in my own color ideas, and I'm colorblind, so that's my excuse. Actually my blog looks alot like the walls in my office now. I reduced the title font. My goodness they wanted that big. I also chopped margins and padding here and there to tighten things up a bit, again, mostly in the title. You come here for the content, not for 20% of your screen saying "Thoughts Abound".

I also made use of Jason's trick to hide the blogger nav bar. I liked the "search this blog" function and found this new search box to replace it.

2007-10-01

10 Things About Amazon MP3

1. You get a free track when you install the downloader app. Did they pick an artist with Apple in it on purpose?


2. There's no Wish List in the MP3 section. WTF guys? iTunes doesn't have this either. Why do I have to keep a Google Notebook entry with the stuff I want to buy? Why do you make it hard to give you money?

3. Things aren't priced the same as iTunes. Ok, you already knew that you could get some stuff for 89 cents, but did you know that some stuff that is album only on iTunes can be had for $1.94 on Amazon? Lots of iTunes album only tracks are over 10 minutes, but not all of them. Check out this EP with some remixes demanding double cost.


4. The selection pales to iTunes, except when it doesn't. I've found stuff on Amazon that I would have expected on iTunes, but it isn't there. Definitive Jux Presents III is one example. iTunes has II, but not III. Yes, I bought it. That's a great price and great music.

5. The interface sucks. The iTunes walled garden is pretty. Amazon's alley shop is ugly. Scroll down and see what I mean. Customer reviews about unrelated crap. Scroll, scroll. Flip video camera? Scroll, scroll. Instant rebate on Laffy Taffy. Tremendous. Scroll, scroll. Budget rent-a-car ad. Scroll, scroll. Feedback, where's my stuff, recent purchases. Why is this on every page? Scroll, scroll. Bunch of links I'll never use to sites that don't apply to me.

At least the track listings respect browser width. Too bad you have to hunt for the playing track. Will it work? Of course it will, but it still bugs me.

6. Album art and album details come nicely loaded in the purchased music. Music (all?) is encoded with VBR.


7. An amazon download ID also comes loaded in the purchased music. This doesn't bother me. I can actually use this to build a smart playlist of Amazon purchased music. This will be necessary for backup purposes because this music won't just drop in my automatically backed up Purchased Music.


8. The Amazon downloader will stick stuff in iTunes, but it doesn't give you a link to play the stuff you just bought! You'll make good use of that Recently Added smart playlist. They'll let me reveal in finder, but not play the silly thing? I don't need to know where it lives, I just want to hear it. If you'd take me to iTunes, it will show me where it lives too.


9. Amazon's old free MP3s links now redirect to the pay site. You didn't know that Amazon used to have hundreds of free MP3 downloads? Ahh, you missed out.

10. You can browse by genre, but the links are hidden down in the product details of a release. You can't browse by label, but you can't on iTunes either. Beatport knows what's up.

Sync or Stream

The Apple TV has a problem. You can hardly blame the little guy. I'm sure the decision was made in his best interest. He had to be introduced to the world and given a chance to grow.

The problem is that the Apple TV thinks its an iPod...at least as far as the iTunes management goes. Apple TVs sync like iPods. You pick what things you want to sync and iTunes will make that happen. This is a problem because the Apple TV is a far more capable product than the iPod. It spits out HD content, and lets you stream from a number of sources. But HD burns disk, and streaming presents a different use model than iPods. It wouldn't be so bad if the Apple TV support sync and stay. In other words, you could drop content on it and remove it from your local drive so you wouldn't be burning 2x the space. Unfortunately, you can't. You can go through some sync'ing gymnastics to let stuff live a little while, but that's mucking, and mucking is not allowed.

The 40GB drive in my Apple TV is hardly big enough once you start tackling movies and TV shows. If you just want to sync music, that's alot of songs, but I don't want to just sync songs. This is not an iPod. This is a remote enabled interface to my entire iTunes library. The 160GB drive option really wouldn't be much help. I'd still have more content than would fit on it, so I might as well have no hard drive and just stream everything.

The streaming functionality is technically great. I rarely see skips or glitches. Content is quick to play, and browsing remote libraries is just as fast as the sync'd library, once you get connected to it :) What sucks is that the computer that I have designated to by my sync source is also considered to be a remote library. If I want to look at a podcast that isn't synced or I want to watch a feature length movie that was too big to fit on the Apple TV, I have to menu back out to the top and pick a whole new source to browse. That's unacceptable and needs to change. Apple should build a way to view the synced content and at least the other content of my sync source within a single set of content. If the sync source is unavailable (asleep, off, network down), they can gray those selections in the content and it won't be a problem. They could provide an option to disable this feature for those that use the Apple TV in a mostly offline mode.

I have to believe the Apple TV engineers have thought of this and want to do it. I think they haven't because they wanted to reuse the iPod sync model as a first step to get the product out the door. Here's hoping for this in the next release.

So, if they made it easier to access multiple stream sources, how about we ditch the hard drive altogether? Could they knock another $50 off the price if they had no disk in there? If that 40GB drive and hard drive controller cost them $25 in parts (which might be high), then it isn't unreasonable for that to translate to a retail price of $50 less. They could skip a price drop and switch to flash. Maybe just a few gigs of flash to hold the OS. It would be nice if the device ran a bit cooler.

One last stream wish. Let me stream DVD playback from my Macs to the Apple TV. I don't want a DVD drive in there. I have a perfectly fine one already available on my network in a Mac. This would allow me to watch Netflix on TVs that have nothing hooked to them but an Apple TV. You're probably thinking "damn, how many TVs does this guy have?". You'll be surprised at the answer. I have 1 TV, and it is only a 26" :) I do like to keep my options open though.

2007-09-29

Saved by Broadband

Good luck to those that have dial-up and want to keep their computers up to date these days.



That's nearly 300 meg of updates for this round.

2007-09-26

The Dream iTunes Disk?


The dream part will make a little more sense once I finish up a post in progress.

LaCie just announced a new hard drive with iTunes Server support! We've been talking about this at work. We want an iTunes data store that isn't chained to a computer. I don't want to have to run a 200W computer just to access some podcasts on my Apple TV. This looks perfect. From their manual...


Apple has its own protocol known as iTunes. All HipServ’s include iTunes Server support. Computers and DMPs with iTunes support can enjoy their media that is stored on the HipServ. Selected protected content using Apple’s FairPlay DRM will need to adhere to the rules that the content creator has specified. HipServ complies to these requirements and will allow playback if those requirements are met. When UPnP sharing for a folder on your Ethernet Disk mini Home Edition is turned on, the device will appear in iTunes under Shared.


I read that as supporting protected content, as long as the playback device is authorized. Hopefully that includes Apple TVs, and not just authorized computers. This drive isn't nearly as good looking as the new Western Digital My Books or Iomega drives, but it isn't bad, and I should be able to hide it away. Half of me wants to preorder right now. The other half says wait for a review about Apple TV support.

2007-09-25

5 of the Now


  • The Chemical Brothers - The Salmon Dance The Chemical Brothers - We Are the Night - The Salmon Dance This was an instant favorite from the new album. It's wacky but a good tune. The video is great, and kids love it, which makes it nice that they edited the track for the video. Here's the YouTube copy. If you like it, I suggest you pick it up from the iTunes store.


  • Scissor Sisters - Take Your Mama Scissor Sisters - Scissor Sisters - Take Your MamaI was jamming to this the other day and realized I haven't had any Scissor Sisters in the 5otn. This 30 second preview doesn't really capture the fun and energy of the track. This is a great album.

  • The Crystal Method - Cherry Twist The Crystal Method - Vegas - Cherry Twist I had the good fortune of seeing the Method live, twice, back in '97 and '98. They've just released a deluxe edition of their album Vegas to celebrate its 10th anniversary. It really is one of the great electronic dance music albums. Cherry Twist didn't see as much success as some of the other tracks on the album, but I especially enjoyed it live.

  • Moby - South Side (Hybrid's Dishing Pump Remix) Chem Bros, Crystal Method, Moby, and Hybrid. Is it the late 90s? Gwen Stefani helps Moby take it up a notch and then Hybrid knocks it out of the park. I'm a sucker for strings in electronic music.

  • Adam Freeland - Silverlake Pills Adam Freeland - Silverlake Pills - Silverlake Pills Rockin

2007-09-18

Lock it Down

Electronics have lots of buttons. Sometimes you don't want to press those buttons. You just want to leave things the way they are. iPods have Hold switches. Phones allow you to lock the keys and unlock with a key sequence. Windows Mobile PDAs allow you to lock and unlock using the touch screen. Modern cars let you lock the window controls. The thing is, these are all mobile devices. Are they the only ones that can use a lock feature?



How about locks for all types of electronics? I want to be able to lock my TV, DVD, and receiver controls. If you have kids, annoying friends, or even drunk uncles, you know that there are plenty of people that want to push your buttons when you don't want them pushed.

Give me a software lock. Put it on the remote next to mute. Put up a small, translucent, lock icon when operations are attempted while locked. Remove the lock when power to the device is interrupted, just in case you lock it and lose that remote :)

2007-09-06

The Other iPod Dock

It's not the thing that goes on your desk. It's the thing that now looks more like your desk, with icons on it.

The new iPod touch dock doesn't match the iPhone. Instead, it matches the new dock coming in Leopard.



Isn't it funny how Apple can make basically identical products look different? The do the same thing with apps. Aqua, brushed metal, dark gray. Ugg, it annoys me.

2007-09-05

The New Apple Keyboard and VI Pain

So far, I've been pleased with the new Apple keyboard...except for VI. I'm a heavy VI user, and if you're familiar with the text editor, you know that you use the Escape key, a ton. That's bad news for the new Apple keyboard. The esc key is now a half-height key, up with the F keys.



This is terrible for my VI usage. I miss the key all the time. Sometimes when I miss, I hit F1 and dim my monitor because that's the brightness down key! Grrrrrr. The esc key on the old Apple keyboard was not only full size, but double wide. I had no problems hitting that one. I'm going to give it a little longer, but I can't suffer when using VI.

2007-09-04

Quick is Key(words)

Tagging your photos is a grueling process, but the end result is magical. You feel so great when you type your friend's name into the search box and up pops all the pictures of them.

As an iPhoto user, I previously used KeywordAssistant because the tagging tools in iPhoto were just too slow. iPhoto '08 has fixed that. The new keyword tools are amazing. You can now easily enable keywords and tab between photos to fill in the keywords. I suggest using the View menu to enable keywords and disable everything else so you can quickly tab and type.



Even better, you can promote your most used keywords to your Quick Group. This will assign one letter quick keys to your keywords. Hit the letter to add the keyword, hit it again to remove it. You can tag hundreds of photos in minutes, all from the keyboard. I will use this a ton.

2007-08-31

Presence Pitfalls

Away messages, busy icons, and green dots. Online presence is becoming common and people are relying on it more and more.

Outlook does a good job of tightly integrating Windows Messenger presence. If the person is in my Messenger client, I'll get presence icons in emails from them. This is nice, but I really don't find myself using it that much. What would really be useful to me is tight integration with the out of office reply.

Summer is the season of vacation. Every week there are a handful of people that I need to work with, but they are on vacation. I know this because the email I sent them came back with an out of office reply. That's great, but that information is just a blink. I read it, delete it, and then forget 2 hours later when they are returning to the office. How come Outlook, especially Exchange connected Outlook, can't integrate that presence? Make that icon work for me. Instead of an away icon, show me the out of office icon. Let me hover over it and see their out of office message.

While we're at it, if I'm sending a message labeled high priority or scheduling a meeting to a known out of office recipient, Outlook should warn me. Finally, you could take this out of office data and generate a report showing who is out for the current week. It would be very helpful. I can barely remember when I'm supposed to be on vacation. I don't know how I'm supposed to remember when you will be.

Note: I'm running Office 2003 at work, so if things have progressed since then, let me know and I'll retract my rant.

2007-08-21

Design Touches in Apple's New Keyboard

I'm such a Mac geek. Check out the desing touches of the new Apple keyboard. I have to believe the designers have a pile of Apple gear at their disposal and the design isn't done until it looks good with all of it.

It's old school, but I still use it. When I plugged in my shuffle to sync, I found it fit perfectly in the gap between the keyboard and the desk surface.



Far more folks will have iPod docks ready to plug-in. Notice how the USB plug housing blends perfectly with the keyboard lines.





I love it.