5 of the Now


Apple Dogfooding

Apple has been seeing great success with Safari on the iPhone, but there's always room for improvement. On a recent trip to Chicago, I wanted to visit a local Apple retail store. The problem is that there are 7 of them in Illinois and I couldn't really tell you right off which one was close to me.

I was easily able to hit the retail site in Safari and figure out the store I wanted to visit, but then the gotchas started. The iPhone doesn't have copy/paste. Google Maps on the iPhone is superb, but you have to get the address in there. To transfer addresses from the web to Google Maps you have to play a game to have the people around you each remember a portion of the address and feed it back to you once you are on the maps screen.

I'd expect Apple to integrate this a little tighter. Perhaps they embed some geocode or microformats that Safari would know to pass to Google Maps. This is the kind of delight feature that Apple fans have come to expect ;)

I found a workaround. It still isn't ideal, but better than nothing. With the address onscreen in Safari, select the search icon. You can now type in the address that you can see through the shaded screen. When you search, Google will give you the Google Maps link at the top of your search results. If you select that link in Safari, the iPhone will launch Google Maps within the iPhone, not Safari. This is what I want, but with the extra step of reentering the address. As Josh mentioned in the comments, a context menu like you get in the desktop Safari with the option to "Search in Google" would be an even better answer. The end game is still a one click map-to-this.


Censorship and the DVD

The DVD release is an interesting chapter in a movie's life. For some, it is a wash of years old clothes that makes it look sparkly and new. For others, it is additional scenes to tell the story like it should have been told, at least as far as the director thinks. For others still, it is an opportunity to adjust the film to fit today's taboos and culture.

Wikipedia will tell you all about the scene in E.T. when guns were changed to walkie-talkies. We also have George Lucas altering the behavior of his reluctant hero Han Solo in Star Wars, Episode IV.

Modifying gun scenes is obviously not new. Imagine my surprise when I read that the newly released on DVD, Horton Hears a Who has a scene where a fish caricature of Peter Lorre shoots himself in the head. Surely they wouldn't ship that in today's world, right? Well, they did. I had my finger on the remote and skillfully skipped this 3 seconds of the Horton Hatches the Egg cartoon, and when I did I found myself thinking quite a bit about what I would and wouldn't let my kids see. This was over the line for me, especially for the age that these cartoons are aimed at. How about you? I'd love to get some reactions from folks that were parents when this cartoon first came out in the 1940s.


iTunes Pro

iTunes has grown quite a bit over the years. That growth has slowed a bit recently as Apple has focused on the other revenue streams that iTunes enables. That's probably a good thing. iTunes is getting dangerously close to doing too much. And what do you do when an app does too much? You make a pro version :)

I would pay for iTunes Pro if it had even a few of the following features

  • Real library sharing - Yes, I can listen to my library from my other computers, but that's about it. I can't change ratings. Play counts don't increment, and I can't edit metadata. I hate having to make notes to myself on things to change when I get back to my main library. Leopard's Screen Sharing feature makes it a ton easier to just jump in and do it right away, but I still have to share the screen and deal with the resolution differences.

  • Auto iPod convert - I'm sure you've seen the messages. "Blah blah wasn't copied to your iPod because it can not be played on this device." Fine, don't copy that one, but convert me one that will and put it on there. Let iTunes Pro come with a license for Quicktime Pro to make the transcoding possible.

  • Better handling of multiple libraries - You can use multiple libraries with iTunes today, but it feels like something that got slid in so no one would notice. Make this a prominent feature.

  • Stats - Plays per day, average rating, purchasing trends, most listened artists. I can think of tons, but then I like silly numbers like this :)

  • VIDEO_TS support - This would allow streaming a DVD rip to the Apple TV and perhaps even tie to the convert for iPod feature I mentioned. Apple's DVD player supports this, why not iTunes?

  • Codec plug-in support - Spread some love to the FLACers and Divxers. The iPod probably still won't play these. Hmm, maybe if there was a feature to auto-convert for iPod? Who cares if it looks like crap because of the transcode. If you don't want it to look like crap, turn off the feature and don't watch it at all.

  • Cross library consolidate - Rip a CD to the MacBook, have it sync back to the main library on the iMac.

  • Thru-sync - Plug my iPod into the MacBook, have it sync content from the main library on the iMac.

  • Library sync to other computers - I already talked about this one in another post.

  • Stat sync via .mac - As playcounts grow and ratings get added to an iPhone or iPod touch, let that data sync back to my main library via .mac. These are Internet connected computers. Let them use it and keep some .mac subscribers as a bonus. I want this so bad for keeping up to date on podcasts. I watch podcasts on at least 3 devices, but end up starting to watch ones I've already seen because I haven't yet sync'd the device that would tell my library I've already watched it.

  • Sell through iTunes - We know software sales are coming. How about a similar model to sell your own music through iTunes. We know the tool already exists for the labels to use. Spin that into iTunes Pro and make the iTunes store *the* indie store to beat.

Those are my wishes. What features would you like to see?


Apple TV Take 2 Review


  • Non-sync'd content from the sync source shows up integrated with the sync'd content. Thank you!

  • Buying content from the Apple TV is fantastic. It is so much nicer to pick something from your couch and watch it instantly instead of going to the computer, picking something, then waiting for it to download, and then maybe waiting for it to sync to the Apple TV before watching.

  • Purchased items sync-back - Buy a TV show, watch it, Apple TV syncs it back to your main library. This is very nice.

  • HD movies look great. I saw no compression artifacts and no skips the entire playback. It was awesome.

  • You can play rented movies multiple times. Ignore the lies in the other blogs that say you can only watch the movie once. After it got done playing, I simply selected to watch it again and it started right up. You can also forward and rewind just fine.


  • Menus are slower for me and they seem to get slower over time

  • I hate the top menu. Just as Apple's menu bar is great because it has infinite height, the old Apple TV menu was great because the top level menu also had infinite height. Well, sort of. No matter how deep in the menu structure you were, you could just hammer the menu button a bunch of times to get to the top. Any extra presses just resulted in some clunk clunk "you can't do that" sounds. With the new menu, you better hope you pressed the button in extra multiples of 2 because an extra press will dismiss the menu as the top menu expects you to arrow around rather than hit the menu button. I also really liked that you only used 3 buttons for navigating before. Menu, up, and down. Now you have to add left and right and it just feels slower.

  • Further hate for the top menu comes with them pushing iTunes store content a little too hard. For instance, items like Search show up, but that's to search the store, not my content - boo. Music videos shows up as a top layer music menu, but that's to buy music videos from the store, not to watch my music videos - boo. I have to go an extra layer deeper to get to my music videos, most of which I bought from the store! At least give us an option to disable some of the pointers to the iTunes store, or even put them lower on the menu. Yes, the menu does remember where you were in it, usually. Sometimes this resets for no apparent reason too.

  • Responsiveness - I know this isn't the most powerful box in the world, but I want it to respond to all of my remote button presses when I press them. The old Apple TV would queue up button pushes, which was sometimes annoying, but if you remembered how many times you pushed it, you'd get where you wanted to go. Take 2 seems to toss out button pushes that occur when it is busy doing another task. This is especially annoying as the old Apple TV trained me to wait a few seconds to let it catch up to my button pushes. Now I don't know if it is catching up or ignoring me. This is very frustrating.

  • Long menus still "reboot" while browsing them. I don't know why, but sometimes as you go down a long menu, it will jump back up to the last thing that was playing and you have to re-scroll down the list. This is not new, but still a dislike.

  • 24 hour rental - This is terrible for people on schedules, like families. If my wife and I start watching a movie at 9pm and she falls asleep an hour into it, she will not see the end of that movie, period. There's no opportunity to watch the rest of that movie before 24 hours will roll by, so she'll just miss it. If the period were simply extended to 36 hours, it would give her the opportunity to watch it as the "free time for movies" would be available the following night before the rental expired.

  • In theory, surfing podcasts without requiring a subscription is cool. In practice, the servers the podcasts sit on aren't fast enough to feed it to you as you want to watch it so you spend a ton of time looking at still frames of the podcast you are trying to watch. Not fun, but not really Apple's fault.

Overall, I like what they've done in Take 2, but they also made the product harder to use and slower to perform. If it weren't for integration of non-sync'd content, I think I'd find a way to downgrade.


5 of the Now

It has been awhile, but I finally made it to another concert. It was Sia, with Har Mar Superstar opening. The concert was at Park West in Chicago which is a great venue. The place was clean, good sound, nice balcony seating, and they let you just walk in with whatever you are carrying. Most concerts I go to result in a pat down, so this was refreshing. I'll definitely go back.

Huge thanks to Shadowsarah for posting videos of Sia's performances. You obviously can't capture the truth of a concert with a compact digicam, but it is better than nothing. Sia's Breathe Me was absolutely amazing and goosebump generating. I was also excited to hear her perform Destiny and Somersault from her Zero 7 days.

  • Sia - Breathe Me (Live at Park West, Chicago)
    As is yelled as she starts, "best song ever". Maybe not, but it ranks up there.

  • Sia - Day Too Soon (Live at Park West, Chicago)

  • Sia - Buttons (Live at Park West, Chicago)
    This is the Jimmy Kimmel performance, but it is pretty much the exact same thing.

  • Sia - The Girl You Lost to Cocaine (Live at Park West, Chicago)

  • Har Mar Superstar - EZ Pass (Live at Park West, Chicago)
    I picked one track, but these guys just rocked the house. The whole thing was great. Har Mar is entirely too talented at dancing sexy. I highly recommend you do a Google image search and get an idea of the performance. Better yet, check Shadowsarah's flickr page.


Shapes and Colors

Yes, this is another color blind post.

When the iPhone came out, I complained that their availability chart was poorly designed because it only used color to convey meaning. Even worse, they picked colors that are commonly known as colors that color blind people can't tell apart!

I was delighted to see today that they've made things better. The current availability chart for the MacBook Air uses colors and symbols to convey the meaning. Yay! The world is now a more accessible place.

Thanks to Engadget and TUAW for the source images for the above image.