Archive for the 'Mac' Category

01
May
10

Deja Vu

Recently. I’ve found the incessant screaming debate about and between Apple and its ban on the as-yet nonexistent mobile Flash player to be somewhat familiar. At first, I thought that it was just because its been going in since 2007 with the original iPhone announcement sans Flash. But no, we’ve had this exact same debate before, in the very recent past. In fact, its so recent, I’m surprised that it took this long for anyone to bring it back up.

Flash isn’t the first major third-party format that Apple has refused to bundle with its mobile devices. Years ago, when the only iThing was the scrollwheel iPod, we had another debate that sounded pretty similar to the one we’re having today. All you have to do is take Flash and Adobe, and replace them with WMA and Microsoft. Oh, and you can replace wannabe iPhone Flash developers with Real, Napster, Sandisk, Rio and a host of other names that no one gives a shit about anymore.

Back in 2003-2006, there were a host of Microsoft-supported players and services that were based on WMA. In 2004, Microsoft introduced Plays for Sure with the promise that this huge ecosystem of devices, services and software would all, well, play for sure. The same people who today are complaining about Apple’s draconian control over its own platform are the same ones who were predicting that the iPod would suffer the same fate that the Mac did in the 90’s. (Ironically, these same people are now making the same prediction about iPhone OS devices vs Android, using the same flawed reasoning.)

Back then, there was a constant barrage of stories about how the iPod’s hardware could decode WMA, but Apple locked it down for their own (evil?) purposes. Or the fact that if some hapless Windows user ripped their CDs with Windows Media Player, they’d be confused and frustrated when they wouldn’t be able to transfer those tracks to their new iPod. Even though iTunes for Windows is able to transcode WMA files to MP3 or AAC. Of course, in 2006, Microsoft killed Plays for Sure when it introduced Zune, using Apple’s iPod (and later iPhone) model.

Oh, and about AAC. Did you know that it just isn’t that much better than WMA? Kinda sounds like the argument that HTML5 can’t replace Flash because it doesn’t do everything that Flash does. Of course those things involve stuff like slapping DRM on streaming video or installing spyware Flash cookies that advertisers can use to track you across multiple websites (and that you can’t remove or prevent without messing with the settings of a folder buried in your /Library folder. Something no normal user would ever even find out about, let alone do.)

Am I saying that the Flash/iPhone OS situation is exactly like the WMA/iPod issue? Of course not. But they are analogous. Both involve Apple exerting control over its platform in the face of intense pressure from industry and industry watchers. But then, as now, Apple argued that it was under no obligation to support its competitors’ technology at the expense of its own and of the open standards that it was supporting (MP3 and AAC then and HTML5, h.264 and Javascript now). Then, as now, people accused Apple of acting as a monopolist that should be forced to open up by the government, even though Apple has done nothing to prevent competitors from selling competing MP3 players.

The big difference between now and then is that the iPod was always an embedded device, whereas iPhone OS devices are computers. There wasn’t ever any real expectation that iPods would do anything other than media. The expectations of iPhones and iPads are much, much greater. I have to assume that most of these expectations are from a tiny minority of iPhone OS users, but they tend to be both vocal and influential.

I’m certain that Apple is eventually going to have to cede more of its control over the platform in the platform. In the meantime, Apple will be working to move the industry away from proprietary technology that it doesn’t control to open technology that no one controls.

Postscript

I’m not arguing that no one but Apple should have or use proprietary tech, or that Apple feels that way. Windows Phone 7 is completely proprietary to Microsoft, as is Blackberry OS to RIM, and the good parts of Android (and its web apps) are to Google. This is not a bad thing. I’m just arguing that its a good idea for any company to try to control its own destiny as much as possible. And that technologies that are cross-platform should not be owned by anyone, but controlled by everyone. Apple likes the web because it can do whatever it wants to advance the state of the art, and can adopt what others have done, at will. If this wasn’t so, then why would Apple ever have allowed such a powerful tool as WebKit into its competitors’ hands?

Adobe is as guilty of this as much as Apple, if not more so, since Apple isn’t dictating what Adobe should do with Flash, other than make it run well on Macs. People have questioned why Adobe cares so much about Flash, since it gives Flash player away for free, and makes all of its money on creative tools. Well, the answer for that should be obvious. Despite the claim that Flash is open, that’s not entirely true. Most of Flash is open, but one crucial part is not: DRM. No Flash player other than Adobe’s can use DRM Flash content. Guess who licenses that DRM to media companies? That’s right: Adobe.

Adobe desperately wants Flash on iThings so it can make money licensing Flash DRM to companies that want to stream protected video to those same iThings. I mean, how many sales of CS5 is Adobe really going to lose because Flash apps are now banned? This was never about anyone but Adobe.

02
Feb
10

Use Cases

There have been more than a few good and thoughtful articles about the iPad over the weekend (along with a lot of stupid garbage). I wasn’t planning on adding anything else until I actually got my hands on one, but something interesting happened: everyone asked me if they should get one. I remain the sole tech person for two extended families, so that question wasn’t as straightforward as one might think. This is why there are so many reactions to the iPad and why so many “alpha geeks” hate it and swear they’ll never buy one, and why there are so many who like it. The question lies entirely in how the individual uses their computer. For the sake of brevity, I’m just going to present the use cases of a few people and then my own.


My Fiance

Current Gear: My old 2002-era 12″ Powerbook, iPhone 3G, 80GB iPod Classic

That Powerbook is a hell of a workhorse. It got me through the end of college and two years into my first professional job until I got the first-gen Macbook Pro that I’m using now. Since I gave it to my fiance, she used it through grad school and wrote her 900+ page master’s thesis on it. Its still going, but its time to move on. I told to wait until the Core i5 Macbooks come out before upgrading.

Despite not being a power user in the traditional sense, when she’s working, she is most definitely a power user. She really has no use for an iPad that I can think of. When she’s working, she spreads out all of her reference materials around her, so a single e-reader really isn’t going to cut it. The rest of the time, she’s happy to either use her iPhone or just grab my laptop instead of digging hers out of its bag (since mine’s always out anyway).

Verdict: She doesn’t need (or want) an iPad.

My Mom

Current Gear: Last-gen 15″Powerbook G4, Original iPhone

I would tell my mom to get an iPad in a cold second if not for two things. First and foremost, she’s a writer. She writes every day and has two published novels, and is working on numbers three and four, as well as a screenplay. She also wants to start podcasting her novels and blogging. The iPad simply doesn’t have enough content creation chops yet to pull that off.

The other reason is that she’s learning the more geeky parts of computer use. While the whole point of the iPad is that its for people who don’t care to tinker, the fact that both my dad and myself are such tinkerers always made her feel a little left out. Since he died, she’s had to learn to figure things out, and every time she learns something new or fixes some problem, she feels great about it. She spent her entire adult life thinking that she was too dumb to use computers, but now she knows what we all do: We’re not dumb, computers are, and we need to beat them into shape. She’s really enjoying herself, and I’m not about to take that away from her.

Verdict: She needs a new computer right now, that Powerbook is ancient. She wants a new laptop, but I think a 21″ iMac would be a better fit. Maybe an iPad for Christmas…

The In-Laws

Current Gear: Original Macbook, Blackberry Curve, Moto dumbphone

Not only did I suggest that they get an iPad, I suggested that they each get one and just use the Macbook to sync them. They need to use email and the web, but simply aren’t that interested in using the computer. There really isn’t all that much to sync, either. They don’t have any videos, audiobooks, apps, or anything beyond a few hundred music files. A single 16GB WiFi-only iPad is almost overkill, let alone two. In fact, the only reason why I suggested two is so I can set up each one with their own email accounts and avoid that bit of confusion. Depending on how powerful the maps app is, they might even be able to use it to plan directions. Or just use the web app’s printable directions. Assuming that the iPad really is able to send print jobs, they would almost never need to use the Macbook at all beyond firmware updates.

Verdict: Hell yeah, get two!

There are others, like my brother who should get one or my fiance’s brother, who doesn’t need one. It really all depends on the usage. So, what about mine? Like I said, I like my workstation setup the same basic way wherever I am.

Like this:
IM002672.JPG

And this:
IM002744

And this:
My desk RM313

And so on.

Basically, I like using the Macbook Pro as my main screen and use the secondary display for supporting tasks, like Mail, Omnifocus, iTunes and Preview. The main display gets Safari, Excel, Pixelmator, Scrivener, Lightwave, Xcode and the like. While I might move stuff around in the process of working, that’s the basic setup. Even the shot with the microscope is like that. In that case, the main work was counting hundreds of vials, so the laptop became the secondary display.

I was at a coffee shop on Saturday, trying to get some work done. While I was waiting for our latte, Claudia moved our stuff from our first table to a better one by the window. She mentioned that by bag was pretty heavy, and you know what? She was right. My bag is pretty heavy. I have the MBP, a Wacom graphics tablet and a book. I really don’t need to carry the tablet around, but I realized that I could really use an iPad as my secondary display there. I actually have a lot of ebooks and pdf’s already, but moving my active windows out of the way is a real good way to destroy my workflow. I can use iBooks, Stanza, Papers as reference when I’m writing or coding, and I can use the Photos app for visual reference when I’m using Lightwave. Additionally, I can use the browser, email and whatever else on the iPad instead of the laptop. The question there is do I want the 3G version, or can I stick with WiFi only? I suppose that depends on whether or not I can get on AT&T’s WiFi network without buying a 3G plan. There are an assload of Starbucks in San Francisco, and it would keep some strain off the cell network, but I seriously doubt that it’ll work that way.

Anyway, there is no way that an iPad could be a laptop replacement for me. But as a portable second screen that will replace a bunch of heavy stuff in my bag? And all I need to carry is something like this?That’s tempting, very tempting. And that’s just for doing work on the run. Like I mentioned earlier, my laptop is pretty much always on and out. Sometimes that’s because I’m working, but a lot of times, its also just because I’m browsing the web. I don’t need my laptop for that. An iPad would be perfect for the times when I just want to sit back and read. Or when Claudia takes my laptop out of my hands again.

I don’t really understand all of the anger about the iPad. Once you think about it, there really is a niche for it. Its just that its a different niche for different people. For some people, there’s no need for it, for others, it really is a laptop replacement for other people, its a nifty supplement. For me, its both of those. I’m keeping my iPhone, I’m keeping my laptop (at least until I can get a Core i5!!!) and I’ll be using an iPad as my second monitor when I’m out and about.

14
Nov
09

Comments and Trust

Some doughboy has a series going on how he is “freeing himself from Apple’s grip after being a fanboy for 15 years. Again, I could give a shit what kit someone else is using. As long as I don’t have to support you, go nuts. In fact, everyone should be familiar with the major computer platforms and at least handle the various smartphones. Competition is good and knowledge is power.

That being said, Mike Doyle seriously has his head up his ass about Apple. He complains that Apple locks people into their platform by doing such insidious things as including useful software like a web browser, calendar app and mail client. Or having said web browser include RSS functionality. Or by making and selling peripherals, which I assume includes input devices (mouse and keyboard) and a monitor.

Oh, and the iPhone is evil and tying OS X to only (reliably) run on Macs is wrong, despite a court defending Apple’s right to do the same. I left a rather lengthy comment on his site, but I decided to just publish it again here.

I just wanted to chime in and say that while its great that you’re exploring alternatives to the platform that you’ve been using, I don’t really understand where a lot of your anger is coming from. In your earlier posts, you complained that Apple was exerting too much control by including a lot of Apple software, notably Safari, Mail, iCal and iTunes. And that that Safari includes an RSS reader. (FYI, Mail has one too.) Are you really arguing that Apple shouldn’t include useful functionality out of the box? That makes about as much sense as the people who argue that Microsoft shouldn’t include IE with Windows. As in, none at all. So you just discovered Firefox, DragThing, NNW and whatever else. These are not new apps that suddenly broke through Apple’s tyranny. (Well, Picassa’s new, but that’s just because Google didn’t port it to OS X until this year. Again, not Apple’s fault.)

But that’s not because Apple didn’t want you to, otherwise this link wouldn’t make sense, would it? (BTW, that link is the #5 top download at apple.com/downloads.) Just because Apple doesn’t ship it, doesn’t mean they don’t want you to use it. Its not Apple’s fault that you didn’t discover Google’s apps until recently, or that both Mail.app and Mobile Mail have always supported IMAP. You know what’s even better than Google Calendar? Busy Cal. Check it out. It uses iCal’s open library database and easily syncs with Google.

Oh wait, did I say open? Why yes I did. Your iCal data is open and easily exportable, your Address Book data is open and easily exportable, your Mail.app data is open, easily exportable and uses open standards and your iTunes library is in an open file structure, in /USER/Music/iTunes/iTunes Library. Any Mac app that uses Core Data stores its data using SQLite. Address Book even directly syncs to Google. Don’t like iTunes? Use Double Twist. To the guy who said that Apple basically stole BSD: a) the BSD license is not the GPL and has no sharealike requirements and b) Darwin, OS X’s kernel is not BSD. It takes a lot from BSD, but it is its own open source project. Yes, that’s right. Apple’s kernel is completely open sourced, as is Webkit. Go look at Safari’s Help>Acknowledgements sometime. Hmmm, looks like BSD license, and GPL v.2 license in there!

As for that PC World article you linked to, please. The iPod/iTunes thing has been done to death. There are plenty of non iPod PMPs out there. Go buy one of those. BTW, the Zune uses the exact same business model as the iPod. iPhone and AT&T? Where are the howls of outrage that the Droid isn’t available on Sprint or that there’s no GSM version for AT&T? Carrier exclusivity is nothing new or unique to Apple. OS X and the Mac? That’s Apple’s business model. Apple is not Microsoft, Red Hat or Dell. Apple tried licensing the MacOS before, and it almost killed them. Oh and 10.6.2 didn’t kill Atom support, because Atom was never supported. Pushing unwanted software onto Windows users was bad behavior and was, frankly, inexcusable. But they must have figured that Windows users would never notice, since Microsoft does that all the time. And a patent? Tech companies apply and receive stupid patents all the time. Wake me up when that actually shows up in a real product.

As for your phone, this is a tricky issue. There is clearly a difference of opinion at Apple. Clearly they want the iPhone to be both a pocket computer and an embedded device, but it can’t be both. The situation with the App Store is bad, without question. Something has to give. The question is whether or not it will before Android gets better than the iPhone. The Droid and Android 2.0 are good, but not good enough to make a dent in the iPhone. Yet.

As for the legal stuff, you actually did commit at least one crime there. Seeing as how you used Pwnage instead of Blackra1n, you were a party to a violation of the DMCA on the Dev Team’s part and you violated copyright law when you downloaded that hacked .ipsw file from that Google link. Why do you think that the Dev Team doesn’t distribute those files? If you answered “Because that’s really fucking illegal and Apple would sue us and win?” then you’d be correct! Yes, you bought that iPhone and you can do whatever you like with it, but the OS is Apple’s and fucking with it is illegal under the DMCA and redistributing it is illegal under the Copyright Act.

Before you protest, EULAs like Apple’s have been held up in court, and no, the Psystar case has no bearing here because Apple doesn’t distribute the iPhone OS independently of iPhone devices. And don’t tell me about the developer builds because I’m an iPhone dev and you’re not and I had to agree to all sorts of shit, including agreeing not to fuck with the OS. That includes reverse engineering, decompiling, digging out private APIs and the such. That’s not Apple tramping on my rights, by the way, that’s a contract that I read, and agreed to.

And the baseband unlocking is another issue. Is it legal to hack the baseband? I don’t know, you tell me. Its a legal gray area, but not the slam dunk “its my right to do what I want with my stuff” that you think it is. If you want to run your own custom OS on the iPhone and still be legal? Then port Android. There’s no law (at least in the US) preventing you from doing that. The hardware does belong to you, but the software doesn’t. Don’t like it? Call your Congressman.

Also, do you know where you got that .ipsw file from. I mean do you *really* know? Are you aware that jailbreaking involves finding a security hole in the OS, you know like a buffer overflow that can enable arbitrary code execution? How do you know that you don’t have a keylogger installed, just waiting for you to go to your bank’s website? And of course, the answer is, you don’t.

I also jailbroke my 3GS so I could run GV Mobile, which is nice, but not OMFG nice. (Version 2 could change my mind, but since that’s not due until Christmas, I’m not going to hold my breath.) I used Blackra1n, which took about 30 seconds, much nicer than the hours of terminal voodoo the original jailbreak took, let me tell you! The difference is Blackra1n only installs itself and not anything else (a quick SSH session does wonders). The problem with jailbreaking is that it can render your phone highly unstable (my original required constant reboots until I got fed up enough to just rejail it) and removes code signing.

Also, if you haven’t already, get a terminal emulator and change your passwords (both the root and mobile user account use alpine as their passwords). type ‘passwd’ and your new password then type ‘su’ then ‘alpine’ then ‘passwd’ and then your new password.

And finally, don’t use iTunes to update your phone. This isn’t because Apple hates jailbreaking, its simply because jailbreaking is an unsupported hack. That means that Apple doesn’t support it, doesn’t test for it and doesn’t really think about it when they build new OS versions. The reason why you lose your jailbreak when you update is because the update overwrites the whole OS, but doesn’t touch the userland, kind of like how a major OS X update works. There is *never* any danger of bricking a jailbroken phone just from an update. The danger is when you update an unlocked phone, which is running custom baseband firmware. Again, its not because Apple hates you, its because you’re running an unsupported hack that may or may not be compatible with the upgraded firmware.

Since you’ve been an Apple user for so long, I’m going to assume that you’ve never had to flash new firmware onto a motherboard. Before Apple, that was a really, really scary thing to do. In fact, other than iPods, iPhones, Macs, PS3s, PSPs and Xboxes, it still is. Apple made firmware updates easy and reliable. Once you step out of there, its both hard, scary and often unrecoverable. Try recovering a bricked PSP after a failed firmware hack. Trust me, its a hell of a lot harder than simply plugging it back into iTunes for a restore.

This is already way too long, but I just want to say that I don’t really care what kind of computer or phone you use. I think that more people should experience as many platforms and ways of computing as possible. I just think you need to let go of the notion that Steve Jobs spends his days thinking about how to lock you into Apple’s ecosystem. You also need to not blame Apple for your failure to explore alternatives until now and to stop blaming Apple for things that are clearly not Apple’s fault.

Steve Jobs is not your friend. Apple is not your buddy. Apple is a publicly traded, multinational, multibillion dollar corporation, which like all such entities, exists to make money. They happen to make the most money when they build high-quality hardware running unique, high-quality software that provides an excellent customer experience. The things that Apple gives away, its does so for its own advantage. Such advantages might help the open source community, or potential rivals like Google and Palm. Don’t forget that Google is exactly the same. You are not Google’s customer. You are a set of data points and a pair of eyeballs that Google sells to its real customers.

PJ over at Groklaw, while discussing Apple’s victory over Psystar, mentioned that if what you’re really after is software freedom, then you need to go somewhere other than Apple or Microsoft. Or IBM or Adobe or Oracle or really Google for that matter. If that’s what you’re really interested in, then its open source only for you. That involves a lot of work, but its doable. I tried it and its not for me.

The other thing to be aware of is that the GPL is exactly the same as any EULA from Apple or Microsoft. Its just that the GPL favors “the community” over a corporation. Your usage of the code is still restricted and still bound by copyright law. The GPL would have no teeth without copyright law. There’s no open source free for all and there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

My comment about running a black box iPhone ipsw file? The same concern applies to Google and Android. Google doesn’t disclose what it does on its servers, nor does it disclose how its closed, proprietary Android apps work. Additionally, there is no requirement for handset makers or carriers to disclose the changes they make to Android before you get your hands on it? How much do you really trust Google? How about Verizon, Motorola or Samsung? Its in Apple’s best interests not to fuck its users, because Apple sells directly to those users, and it knows that trust lost is never regained. Google “sells” Android to handset makers and carriers, not to end users. Google just needs to keep them happy, not you. Google doesn’t sell you email, calendar service or maps. It gives them for free so that it can harvest data to sell to its customers, who are advertisers. Google makes its money from advertisers, not from you. Google is selling you to advertisers. How much do you really trust Google?

25
Oct
09

Clueless

You have to wonder how clueless someone has to be to write something this stupid, particularly someone who does an Apple-centric podcast that features intelligent and thoughtful guests. It would be someone who regularly has Dildo on and whose other podcast is completely retarded insane a little weird.

The question of whether the Mac Pro might be on its way out is even more stupid than wondering if the Mac Mini might be dying. Even ignoring the fact that the Mac market is growing by leaps and bounds, the fact is that the Mac Pro is a niche product, by design. Yes, the high-end iMac will take a few sales of low-end Mac Pros away, and that’s probably the point. I think that its easier to upsell people to a Core i7 iMac from an Core 2 Duo than it is to upsell someone from an iMac to a Mac Pro. Apple probably feels that the only people who should be buying Mac Pros are people who actually need them. Would I like a spec’ed up Mac Pro? Hell yeah! Do I need one? Not so much.

Nothing I do with my computers is really workstation-class computing. I don’t crunch huge datasets in massive, multi-GB databases that I keep in memory using the 64-bit kernel. I do 3D rendering, but only now and then, and only just for fun. I write software, which needs to get compiled, but I’m not very good at it and the stuff I compile doesn’t really tax my 2006 Macbook Pro that much. The fact is that very, very few people need a Mac Pro, and most of them are already Apple customers.

Most of Apple’s new market share is coming from Windows customers, who are used to junky, low-end garbage running an eight year old OS. These people are NOT Mac Pro users. These people buy Macbooks (maybe a Pro here and there) and iMacs. From what I’ve heard, PC people who buy Mac Minis tend to be software devs who want a cheap and easy way to try out The Apple Way or write iPhone software without a big investment. As for Mac people, the same is generally true as well. While I wouldn’t exactly complain if a free Mac Pro showed up on my doorstep, I’m not going to be buying one soon, if ever. In case anyone cares, my future upgrade plans involve a pair of 13″ Macbook Pros for myself and my fiance, a Mac Mini server and maybe a 27″ iMac. The Pro never really entered into my thought process. Again, this is by design.

None of this is secret, hard to find or even really hard to figure out. The fact that a professional Apple pundit would write something so stupid would boggle the mind if not for the fact that computer pundits tend to be stupid in general. As usual, some of the best thoughts about where the new iMacs live in Apple’s lineup come from a non-pundit. Marco Arment wonders aloud if Apple is trying to make desktops desirable again. He even points out that the new iMac is priced such that a Mac Pro could use it as a display that’s superior to the 30″ Cinema Display and then have a whole extra high-end computer bolted to the back that they’ll have to figure out what to do with.

While I could think of a few things to do with that much extra iMac, I don’t think that’s the point. I think Apple’s just doing what they’ve done before when they updated the Macbooks right before the Pros got a serious update. I’m pretty sure that we’re going to see new Mac Pros rather soon, along with a long-overdue update to the Cinema Displays. People get too stuck on certain things, like raw market share. Just like how Ballmer likes his company’s logo on cheap shit, as long as there’s a lot of units, people think that low-volume Macs count as a failure. However, Apple isn’t afraid of niche products, as long as they’re profitable. The niche that Apple likes to play in the most is content creation, which the Mac Pro is best at. The Mac Pro isn’t going away any time soon, and anyone who says otherwise just isn’t paying attention.

21
Sep
09

iTunes 9 Review

I didn’t rush out my iTunes 9 review, simply because I felt the need to actually use it for a while to see how I felt. Also, I’m not a gadget blog, so I can take my damn time. Anyway, my feelings and wants for iTunes are no one’s but my own. Anyway, I wrote a little wishlist before Apple’s music event, which if I had to sum up, was for iTunes not to suck anymore. While that didn’t entirely come true, iTunes 9 sucks a hell of a lot less than before.

First of all, iTunes 9 plays much, MUCH nicer with my dying iPod than 8 did. It manages to sync the first time, almost every time. It may not seem like much, but its a vast improvement. Its also quite a bit faster with the 3GS. It still beachballs for a second when I connect the phone, but it takes (subjectively) less time than before. Switching views from Music to Podcasts to Applications is very fast, with no beachballing at all. Note that I have just shy of 10,000 tracks with 984 artists, 45 podcast subscriptions, and 96 apps. ITunes 9 seems to have pulled a lot of its speed by drawing icons on the fly after the view switch. I’d far rather switch fast and see the icons drawn while I’m interacting with the window.

Which is not to say that I don’t have problems. The first and worst is that smart playlist sync seems to be broken between iTunes 9 and iPhone OS 3.1. I mainly listen to podcasts on my iPhone, and exclusively while commuting. I set up a smart playlist that grabs podcasts as they’re downloaded, and I’l go in and manually arrange the order. I did this because my car’s iPod connector only sees playlists, artists, albums and songs, so I had to make a playlist to listen to my podcasts in the car. It actually turned out to be a really convenient way to consume them. The problem is that the podcasts showed up in a random order after the update. This seems to be a problem with iTunes, rather than the iPhone OS, since turning off live updating solves the problem. Its annoying to have to do additional steps, but I’m sure a fix is coming.

I only had one crash, right after I updated. I still had to wait while iTunes checked the library, but it only took about a minute. I’m sure that this is a result of iTunes’ Carbon-ness and inability to use Core Data. (I’m making the assumption that Core Data will handle crashes more gracefully than whatever it is that iTunes does now. We all know about assumptions, right?)

As far as the rest, I can’t use Home Sharing, because I have one updated machine and almost nothing from the iTunes Store. I tried Genius Mixes, and while the feature is cool, its not my cup of tea. I love the ability to arrange apps from iTunes and really wish it had been there last year, but what can you do? Clearly, Apple didn’t expect people to put hundreds of apps on their phones, so it took a while. I don’t like the white background behind the icons. The black background provided more contrast and was easier on the eyes. Maybe a background preference?

So, yeah, I’m really happy with iTunes 9, and hope that it just keeps getting better. ITunes is home to a lot of stuff and it takes some serious UI mojo to keep everything simple and tidy and fast. While I still say that iTunes has some suckage to work out, its with the understanding that a lot of work goes into it.

08
Sep
09

Music Event Wishlist

I’m not going to predict anything about tomorrow’s event, mainly because other people are far better at it than I. That, and I could give a shit about the Beatles or even new iPods. Although I might pick up a current-gen Classic if it gets the cheap refurb treatment, since my 4th gen is dying. No, I shall again engage in pointless and useless speculation. This is what I want from tomorrow’s event:

I want iTunes to not suck any more.

That’s it. iTunes is slow, oh so slow. It takes forever to load, to check the library, to switch between music, podcasts and iPhone apps. God help you if it crashes, because it has to “check the library” until I get a gray hair.

I don’t care how Apple pulls it off. I don’t have to code iTunes, so I don’t care if its Carbon or Cocoa (even though it has to go Cocoa sooner rather than later because everything has to go Cocoa) or if its a glorified WebKit shell talking to a CoreData blob. (Like my mindless name drops there?)

Just let iTunes not suck. This not not involve adding a fucking Facebook or Twitter button to spam everyone with my favorite embarrassing music or anything stupid like that. We’re in the Snow Leopard era here. Less is more. Smaller and faster is better. That is my wish, and I’m not even sure I’ll get that.

08
Sep
09

Fights With MacMacs

Earlier I made the mistake of commenting (negatively) on a RoughlyDrafted.com post here. I’m not innocent here as I flame-baited the thread by linking to John Welch’s immensely entertaining takedown here. Dilgar seemed to be getting a bit defensive, so when I posted my own comment here, he got all pissy about it.

I’m posting my response not because I feel wronged or offended, I just wanted to share the stupid, especially when it comes from a real-life Artie McStrawman.

[Disclaimer]

I am not an IT goon and have neither an Exchange server nor a Snow Leopard server lying around to play with, so my response is written from the perspective of a knowledgeable user. You have been warned.

[/Disclaimer]

I think your perspective has been contaminated by the vitriolic strawman attacks posted by John C. Welch in his franticly unprofessional frustration outlet known as Bynkii.com.

Just because you think it doesn’t make it so.

When you say “the idea that MobileMe is a credible Exchange alternative is a joke,” where did you get the impression that I wrote of MobileMe as a drop in replacement for the majority of Exchange shops?

When you wrote this: “With Snow Leopard and the iPhone each now providing their own client layer for accessing Exchange Server, Apple can now offer its users alternative access to other server products as well, from its own MobileMe and Snow Leopard Server offerings to web services from Google and Yahoo. This effectively turns Microsoft from a direct seller into a wholesaler that has to deal with Apple as a middleman retailer.”

That very strongly implies that Exchange and MM are in direct competition. While SL Server is a more credible drop-in replacement/alternative to Exchange, MM is most certainly not. MM is just that: all about me. It has no groupware functionality at all, even between members of a family plan. In order to share calendars, I had to build a hack that goes through Google calendar and BusyCal, which requires at least one of our Macs to be on to sync everything. Its an ugly solution for something that should be built-in, especially considering how easy it is to share calendars using Google. If it wasn’t for the fact that Google tends to mangle my contacts, I would seriously be considering dropping my MM.

Your next line, “The fact is that MobileMe is and always has been a consumer solution, and Apple has always billed it as such (Remember “Exchange for the rest of us”?)” is correct, and harmonizes with what I did write, that MobileMe offers an Exchange alternative for “us,” that is users who don’t need or want to spend $25,000 on an entry level Exchange infrastructure.

Then why compare them? As if a $25k solution is in the same ballpark as a $100 one. An apples to apples comparison should be Exchange vs SL Server and/or MM vs Live/MyPhone vs Google. Exchange is not a consumer product and MM isn’t for business (or even for groups). They’re totally different markets with different needs. If there’s any confusion on my part, its the fact that you weren’t clear about the distinction between them.

The problem with reading delusional, fact bending, strawman burning, poop flinging rants like those published by Welch is that you end up repeating talking points that have no connection to the discussion at hand. You might as well sit in front of an AM radio spewing lather about death panels, Kenyan birth certificate forgeries, and how public insurance will turn the USA into Nazi Germany.

Frankly, I don’t even want to address the knuckle dragging, sexualized fantasies Welch manages to inject in every rage tantrum he writes, even if they might include random jabs as me.

His point, that there is only one market on earth, and only one problem solved by one solution, is so simple minded that it doesn’t deserve discussion. Apple is rapidly selling its services to users who don’t need Exchange. Nobody is suggesting that Exchange Server installations are directly competing against MM or SL Server, any more than FileMaker Pro is pitted against Oracle or SQL Server. There’s still a big market for FM Pro.

OK, exactly which of his “talking points” did I mindlessly repeat. He brought up some very specific technical inaccuracies which you failed to address. I pointed out the obvious (and non-conspiracy theory) reason why MS would license Exchange to Apple (and Google) and mentioned my personal experience with MM and connecting a SL Mac to an old Exchange account. Neither Welch nor I insinuated that there’s only one email market, but there two markets that use Exchange: Big organizations and SMB. MM is a poor solution for either one. Its that market that uses Exchange, and since you were comparing it to MM, the logical conclusion is that you were mentioning those markets.

Also, for the AM-radio crack: fuck you. Using flowery language to hurl your shit doesn’t make it smell any better.

In the mobile market, MM offers a superior alternative for anyone who wants a personal account that provides desktop/mobile sync and push messaging, and lacks a connection to a huge corporation that has invested millions in building an Exchange infrastructure.

Clearly, but that’s like being surprised that the sky is blue. (Although, I’ve lived in SF long enough to know that it is a pleasant surprise when there’s a blue sky, but you get the point.) Again, no one uses Exchange who isn’t using it for business, so why bring it up? Consumers use Yahoo, Hotmail/Live and Gmail or their ISP for email. So yeah, if you want the features that MM offers, its a good value, but that’s hardly worthy of analysis.

Microsoft has a very strong position in corporate messaging, but it isn’t making much headway in mobile messaging, thanks in part to the failure of Windows Mobile. RIM has eaten up Microsoft’s business prospects in the mobile push messaging arena. That’s why Microsoft is desperate to associate the iPhone with Exchange. It’s also happy to have SL apps working with Exchange.

I don’t know what you mean here. If you’re talking about BES, then we’re still on Exchange. If you’re talking about EWS, then we’re STILL on Exchange, but including WinMo, iPhone, Pre, Symbian and HTC Android builds. Basically every non-BB smartphone and a bunch of dumbphones. MS isn’t doing nearly as much work to integrate the iPhone and OS X with Exchange as Apple is. Apple has far more to gain from the proposition than MS does. Again, we’re dealing with entirely different divisions of MS here. Exchange cares about Exchange, not WinMo.

Will SL apps help Microsoft sell upgrades to the now two year old, current version of Exchange? It doesn’t matter if it does. Mac users who think Apple should have made SL apps support old versions of Exchange dating back to 2003 or 2000 are simply pinning the problem on the wrong vendor. It’s Microsoft that has changed its strategy and API enough to leave Apple with less than ideal options.

The new Outlook for Mac will likely also use EWS, as even Microsoft sees MAPI as a pile of old spaghetti code.

SL is not at all likely to get companies to upgrade their Exchange servers, which as you like to point out, is a very expensive undertaking. I also don’t think that either Apple or MS is to “blame” for anything. Clearly, MS is going to be using its own new standard for upcoming products. Whether or not Outlook 2010 will be backwards-compatible remains to be seen. Also, MS now isn’t allowed to break from the past or update their API’s? I thought we all wanted MS to embrace the future (or at least the recent past). That’s why people are still bitching about Win7 still having the registry, etc. Apple building its own apps to connect to other people’s services is nothing new. Office for the Mac has been shitty for years, but MS screwed Apple over by switching to something new? Something Apple likes to do itself quite a bit, BTW. Color me unconvinced.

Apple is adding Exchange support to SL to increase the visibility of Macs and bypass the third rate clients Microsoft has provided Mac users. The fact that Microsoft keeps moving its own goalposts in terms of the latest Exchange features is no surprise. It’s not Apple’s goal to beat Microsoft at its own game. Look at how unwinnable that has been for WINE, OpenOffice, or any other attempt to clone Microsoft’s proprietary protocols.

Which is why Apple licensed it. The reason why all of those projects suffer from such high levels of suck is because they have a religious devotion to the GPL that Apple doesn’t share. Updating their software with new features is hardly “moving the goalposts,” especially since this is the first time that Apple has offered this level of integration.

As I pointed out, Apple’s goal is to offer workable Exchange support while focusing on delivering products targeted to its own customer base, sharing much of the investments made. Apple isn’t trying to make SL apps on par with Outlook, it’s making its own MobileMe and SL Server on par with its own support for Exchange, enabling and encouraging Mac users to switch to Apple’s own offerings wherever possible.

But you were talking about MM in comparison to Exchange. Users don’t use Exchange or SL Server, they use Outlook, Entourage or Mail.app. Mac users aren’t going to switch from Exchange to SL Server; that’s generally not a decision they get to make. MM exists in parallel to Exchange. It offers value for an individual similar to what one gets from Exchange, but since one generally uses Exchange for work and MM for personal stuff, there is little room for overlap or “switching.”

If you doubt that, come back in 5 years and tell me how MobileMe compares to MyPhone or whatever Microsoft is offering for its dwindling Windows Mobile platform. Then tell me how much progress Exchange has made in expanding its market share compared to SL Server. Exchange will certainly still be making Microsoft money, and more money that Apple makes in the enterprise by some factor of ten, but Apple isn’t about winning dominance, it’s about making a better product. And for many Mac users, MM is a superior alternative to running their own Exchange Server.

You’re asking me to predict what an Apple service will look like in 5 years? I can say pretty confidently that MM will still be a consumer product and will not be a viable replacement for Exchange. And since MM is already superior to MyPhone/Live (even though both have features that the other lacks), I don’t know what point you’re trying to make here. As for the progress part, I think you got turned around. Its Apple that needs to catch up to MS. Apple is adding features to OS X server that make it more enterprise friendly, but here Apple’s solutions are immature. I have no doubt that Apple will continue to improve OS X server, but MS’s services are robust and mature already. Hell, Apple HAD to use EWS for the iPhone, since OS X server only gained the ability to remotely manage iPhones with SL. Its nice that Apple finally supports its own product that’s been on the market for more than two years, isn’t it?