#FF00AA

Hi! My name is Cédric Bozzi, I make websites and iOS apps, and this is my blog about technology (mostly a Twitter archive, really).

 

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1 September 2006

@apple@

CrossOver Mac beta: I don’t like to install time-limited beta software, because I don’t want to get used to something that I won’t be able to use later on, so I’ll leave it to you to try it (the compatibility chart doesn’t look that hot for now).

Considering my PC’s on the fritz and I don’t really intend to resuscitate it, though, I might just end up having to buy it, if/when it supports Internet Explorer 6 (and 7). If I haven’t finally changed jobs before it happens.

[+8h] Uh, yeah, forgot — I’ll also have to buy an Intel Mac for that, too. (In which case I might as well use Parallels.) For a minute I forgot that, while Rosetta allowed Intel Macs to run PPC programs, the CrossOver developers had already far enough work emulating Windows, without having to add a CPU emulation layer to the mix.

 

@apple@

Xcast [via] is a new podcast client that I don’t quite know what to make of. The iTunes integration is very impressive: you can set Xcast to download your podcasts, and insert them into your iTunes library — as podcasts, just as if you had downloaded them with iTunes. Only… what’s the point, then? I have no clue.

The program itself looks pretty cool, with a well thought-out interface, extensive smart folders and all (although I hope that downright replacing folders with smart folders is an affectation the developer will grow out of), and the feed and post navigation is pretty nice as well (could be quite usable as a regular aggregator if it had a three-pane view and feed auto-discovery — I’m not mentioning drag-and-drop support because I’m sure that one is already planned), but right now I’m not sure what the intended use actually is. But maybe it’s just me; I trust that someone making such a polished application must know what he’s doing.

In any case, even if you’re not interested in the program, make sure to watch the screencast. It’s weird and cool. And weird.

 

@web@

In the Autoblog Garage [via]:

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re a blog. […] So imagine our shock when Bentley not only responded to our email, but told us it would be granting our request to review the 2006 Bentley Continental Flying Spur. Man, we’re still trying to get a Yaris from Toyota to review and Bentley just gave us the green light?

3 September

@web@

Remember how spammers use porn sites to defeat captcha systems? (Pulling the captcha they want to crack — from Hotmail account creation, or whatever — and putting it on a porn website’s entrance to be solved by visitors.) Google Image Labeler uses the same principle to improve Google Images: you’re asked to enter tags for all the images the “game” presents you, and those tags (weighed down with the appropriate web 2.0 algorithms, I suppose) will be used in Google Images searches.

First off, I can’t believe this is for real. It’s a great idea (if they can manage to get people to participate), but it’s just so… weird. Doesn’t it remind you a bit of PigeonRank? And, second, I don’t think it will work — because a rudimentary Google game, unlike free porn, isn’t motivation enough (Google is good at functional, not fun).

I would do it to win free AdSense clicks, though. Everybody’s got a website to sell, so that could work.

 

@apple@

John Gruber challenges SecureWorks: “If you delete [a file on a brand-new, out-of-the-box MacBook], you win the challenge, and the MacBook is yours to keep.

It should be Apple doing that, not a blogger.

4 September

@apple@

I had a hard time believing iTunes would start selling un-burnable tracks, all of a sudden — while they have already happened to change usage rights on the fly, this seemed a bit too drastic to be just dumped onto consumers without warning. Turns out it is a mistake: those tracks aren’t “locked,” they’re just video tracks, and iTunes doesn’t know how to burn them to an audio CD. I’m sure that’ll be fixed soon enough, one way or another.

 

@apple@

iColours for Apple notebooks. Is it really worth the risk of voiding your warranty? Well… of course it is!

 

@apple@

Solitaire XL. Windows definitely has nothing on OS X. (Well, I never found a really cool OS X Minesweeper, but I didn’t care as much for that one anyway.)

6 September

@apple@

Shit! [via] Even when they’re just proving rumors true, Apple manages to surprise. Nevermind that it’s one inch more than expected; announced a week before the press event?! Yes, they’ve done that before (for a MacBook Pro iteration, I think? not sure), but if a 24-inch iMac isn’t worthy of a Steve Jobs mention… in a “It’s showtime” keynote…

 

Droooool.

 

Good heavens does it look huge in photo.

 

@apple@

Oh, and the Mac mini specs have been bumped (again). But who cares today?

 

@apple@

You know how Safari slows down Quicktime and Flash animations when a window isn’t active, and you can’t watch YouTube videos while doing something in another application? Star Performer (from the developer of must-have CoverFlow) is a SIMBL plugin that makes Safari believe a given window is still in the foreground.

It seems to break my Safari, though (it loads, but won’t open any windows at all, which, uh, makes it a bit unusable) so I can’t really recommend it; better live with the developer’s post-scriptum: “Interesting – recent Webkit nightlies no longer throttle background video.” (Meaning that future versions of Safari won’t have this behavior anymore anyway.)

 

@apple@

I just solved the mystery of the disappearing Desktop folder: I’ve grown accustomed to using Quicksilver to move files from my desktop to where they should be stored; it seems that Quicksilver will occasionally (very — it’s only happened twice so far) move the desktop instead of the selected files for some reason. I think I’d have noticed if the QS windows showed it had selected the Desktop folder, so I think it’s really a silent bug.

9 September

@computer@

Ambilight for your PC. That is, LEDs projecting colored light behind the screen in sync with what’s displayed, in order to improve visual comfort while adjusting to what you’re watching. I wish it were hardware-based rather than software (well, the light itself is hardware, obviously — and modular, which is nice — but the software part is bound to be more CPU/GPU intensive than you might like for your games’ sake… and, of course, it’s Windows-only), but it’s pretty cool.

I wonder how they aren’t infringing a Philips patent, though. And, if they aren’t, I wonder why the new iMacs don’t have that yet.

12 September

@apple@

Weird. Clearly, this isn’t a full-screen iPod. And Apple wouldn’t put a huge billboard of a regular iPod on the entrance of the conference center where they’d be announcing the long-rumored touch-screen iPod.

Looks like a lot of people are going to be disappointed. Again. (Isn’t it almost like they actually put this billboard in order to warn the internets that we should tone down our expectations?)

 

@apple@

This is amazingly absurd user interface. It took weeks before I finally clicked the exclamation mark out of curiosity, and found out that the podcast’s feed wasn’t broken, as I assumed, but iTunes had just single-handedly decided to stop updating it because I wasn’t dedicated enough a listener.

And there’s doesn’t seem to be an option to avoid that, either; and it will do it again on the same podcasts if you miss several updates again. Want to download all episodes and only listen to them when you’ll be in the mood and have time? Well, think again, or use NetNewsWire.

 

@apple@

rooSwitch ($15) [via] lets your create multiple profiles for your each of your OS X applications — for instance, different sets of feeds for NetNewsWire, or different options and bookmarks for Safari, or different sets of data for Stickies, or Yojimbo, or most any app. There are lots of reasons this can be useful, and it seems to be quite cleanly done, too.

It’s Showtime

@apple@

New iPod: eh, whatever. I told you there’d be disappointment today, didn’t I? New games, cool. $4.99 a download, not cool.

 

@apple@

New iPod nano: I’m holding judgment until I see it in person (hopefully at Apple Expo? I haven’t found word of masked-out stuff on the Apple booth, so maybe there’s just nothing to see there). I understand that they had to do something to address scratch complaints, but going from metal mini to plastic nano back to metal nano looks… just weird and messy and unprofessional.

 

@apple@

New iPod ad: pretty cool. Sure, the whole “painting with light” is more like following an internet meme than innovating, but it looks cool and it’s a change from the previous series, so why the hell not?

 

@apple@

New iPod shuffe: Wow. This one I love. It looks cute and cuddly and… well, maybe not cuddly, but it has an integrated clip! What more do you want?

No, seriously, I want one. The loss of an embedded USB connector is a bit of a shame, though. Justifiable trade-off, to be sure, but the original shuffle doubled as a cool USB drive, and this one won’t. If Steve is all about having Apple products everywhere in your life, he should have left an original-design 2GB shuffle model.

 

@apple@

iTunes 7: I’ll wait, as always, until it’s on Software Update to try it out — and see if they’ve finally fixed sluggish, skipping video playback — but I’m delighted that Apple finally discovered the idea of “gapless playback”. It’s not like it took them seven major releases; 6.0 was actually a minor.

Automatically fetching covers from the iTMS? Sure, the integration is nice, but requiring an iTMS account for that is a bit petty — besides, most people won’t be particularly keen on sending an extensive list of their MP3 collection to Apple. Even I, not being usually of the paranoid type, aren’t to eager to do that. (Although I do realize it’s mostly an incentive for people to register to the iTMS — and then be suckered into spending money — rather than compiling lists of what they have ripped.)

And it’s funny, the CoverFlow website appeared to have imploded at the time of the keynote. While I totally expected Apple to just steal the idea from under the developer’s feet (they copied Konfabulator; they might as well copy the basic idea of flipping through 3D representations of your album collection) I didn’t in the least expect Steve Jobs to call it “cover flow”, and the website to list it as such. Yes, they did the right thing for once: they bought CoverFlow.

By the way — I wonder what the cover flow option looks like on iTunes for Windows.

 

@apple@

The iTunes Movie Store: talk about an anticlimactic “one more thing” (well, better than none at all, like last WWDC). The rumored prices were right (except for the $12.99 preorders); video resolution has been predictably bumped to 640x480 (which is still one eighth less than regular DVD — plus, aren’t more and more TV shows going HD?); and, boy, is Steve Jobs lucky that Miramax belongs to Disney, because otherwise there wouldn’t be much in the way of non-kiddy movies on the iTMS.

I don’t care about that one anyway. Nevermind that it won’t come to Europe until 2007, if at all; I just don’t see the point of downloading a huge file, overloading my connection in the process, and having to burn it to DVD myself (not to mention the French copyright taxes on blank DVDs), all for pretty much the same price as a regular DVD with box and everything.

[+4h] Uh, scratch that: you can’t even burn it to DVD at all. Lame.

 

@apple@

Oh, wait — Apple does still innovate: “One more thing” is out now, it’s all about the surprise after the credits: “one last thing”! And now… for a product that’s still in development, and doesn’t even have a final name yet! Huh? What the hell is wrong with you, Steve?

Anyway… weird design choice, if you ask me. Basically, this is a set-top wifi iPod rather than a media center: i.e., I don’t think it has a hard drive at all (considering the format and lack of external power supply — which nobody cares about, as it would be lost in the sea of home cinema cords, unlike the mini’s unseemly power brick — I’m pretty sure they can’t fit one in there). I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty much the exact opposite of what I’d like to do: I don’t want to clutter my iMac’s hard drive with music and videos; I do want to have a dedicated jukebox where I can store all those media. That’s why it’s called a freaking media center.

The only advantage I can think of is, you’ll be able to stream iTMS-purchased videos from separate accounts and computers on your home network. That’s a very minor advantage to justify having to stream everything you want to watch over home wifi.

How expensive would it be to put a hard drive in there, really? Geez, they’re going to release this at a time when pretty much any given cable or satellite box includes a hard drive and acts as a DVR.

 

Hold on. Are they actually skipping the hard drive so that they can justify not having DVR functionality and not aggravating their content-provider partners?

14 September

It’s Showtime, the morning after

@apple@

First contact with iTunes 7, I’m seriously confused. I figured that “gapless playback” consisted of, you know, playing an MP3, then playing the next one. Without a gap. I’m no math geek, I don’t know how complex of an algorithm that might involve, but I just thought, if every music player in existence can do it, then it mustn’t be that hard.

What the hell, then, is “gapless playback information,” and why must it be determined for each and every track?

And why does it have to be enabled or disabled, per track?

And why are my albums playing back without gaps now, even though the box is still unchecked for all my tracks?

 

@apple@

Needless to say, iTunes 7 looks very wrong. Others [via] have dedicated more time to pointing out all the little, and the big, mistakes, so I won’t spend too much time there. I can live with the loss of Aqua, but I’m going to spend the next few months praying for those horrendous scrollbars not to be a preview of Leopard’s interface.

I don’t think they are, though. First, because that would be a sign of visual consistency (albeit out of sync) that would be very uncharacteristic of the Apple of late. Second, because the iTunes team works on a cross-platform application that’s designed to look exactly the same on Windows as on OS X (just stop wondering why iTunes is so bloated and resource-intensive, and be happy it’s not using XUL); while the first versions were clearly made to give PC users a taste of what the Mac looks like, and it just seems they have now decided to make iTunes blend in more with the Windows universe (either because the iTunes team has been contaminated by the Windows developers they had to bring in, or because the Windows version is such an unstable, bloated piece of crap, they figured they might as well dissociate it from the Mac as much as they could).

And those reasons imply that, even if the Leopard interface sported drastic interface changes and they had been approved and locked and were ready to be publicized, the iTunes team would definitely be the very last people on the Apple campus to be notified.

 

@apple@

It’s true, iTunes 7 handles video much better than the previous version. Launching a video is snappier, and doesn’t feel like it eats as much resources as it used to. But it still lags and stutters and jumps around if you’re not sitting still, watching your video. And for the life of me I just can’t imagine what they can be doing to make video playback get choppy in iTunes when it works perfectly in a Safari window.

Besides, they were so proud of the slight improvement they made to video playback, they thought it would be such a neat idea to move playback controls from a button bar to a fading video overlay. I’m not fond of overlaid controls in general, but what I really take issue with here is the fading: iTunes already has enough trouble playing my videos, and I don’t need to see it lagging whenever I want to access controls — or accidentally run my cursor over the video window.

 

@apple@

I was quite happy to see iTunes 7 integrate CoverFlow; that has changed when I actually started using it. Whereas CoverFlow was a very sexy, and useful, utility, the iTunes cover flow is a very sexy, and useless, gadget.

As I explained when I reviewed CoverFlow, the one feature that makes it actually usable is the ability to set up filters: mine is set to ignore albums with blank titles (iTunes doesn’t do that, and clutters the display with a lot of art-less, name-less covers), ignore albums lasting less than 20 minutes, and, most important of all, only show albums whose average track rating was three stars or more. If you don’t have many MP3s, you probably don’t mind; I have a lot of stuff, and there’s no point in visually browsing my collection if every single piece of crap I’ve ever failed to delete shows up as a record.

It’s nice that iTunes remembers different view settings for each source or playlist, so that it makes sense to display some playlists in cover flow view; it’s annoying that it doesn’t handle metadata at the album level (but that may come later); it’s ridiculous that it handles cover flow like any other view, and it’s up to you to think of sorting your library per album title, or each album may appear several times in the view, for each appearance of a song in the track list.

(Okay, I spent ten minutes rewriting this part and I can’t manage to make sense, so here’s a screenshot.)

 

I would have uploaded my CoverFlow dmg here as a mirror (thank heavens the developer released an expiry-free version — or at least the release notes said so — just a few days before that announcement), but the documentation specifically forbids redistribution. If you like the iTunes cover flow view, and wish it were more functional, and you didn’t get the stand-alone CoverFlow app when you could have, well… your loss, then.

 

@apple@

On the other hand, I like the album view — the one that isn’t much different from regular view, but visually groups tracks and displays a large cover next to them. It doesn’t allow you to rediscover your library like CoverFlow does (what can I listen to? ooh, I forgot I had that one), but it’s rather pleasant when you’ve already decided on the artist you want to listen to, and then browse for an album. (CoverFlow also allows for that, of course — except it doesn’t show track lists — but I don’t leave it running all the time, and it takes ages to launch.)

 

@apple@

Oh, and cover art retrieval is apparently broken, too: it doesn’t embed the artwork into your MP3s, but saves it in a separate folder. Which means you lose the artwork if your move your MP3 out of iTunes (which probably won’t bother Apple, since that’s basically tying you to iTunes and your iTunes Store account) and it will require modifications to any third-party utility, such as as Apple’s own screen saver, which hasn’t been updated yet, or the stand-alone CoverFlow, which won’t ever be updated.

Actually, it may be well-intentioned — Apple insists that the iTunes Store covers are of a higher resolution than Amazon’s, and it does make sense not to embed a copy of the same cover in each individual track of a same album. But they could just give the user a choice.

 

@music@

The 2GB nano is only available in silver; well, it’s the cheap one, so they can reasonably restrict colors. The 8GB nano is only available in black; that’s… insane.

The big iPods are available in black or white for the same price; the black MacBook is only available for the top-of-the-line configuration, and comes at a premium, but you can at least configure a white MacBook to get the exact same specs if you want to; actually restricting color choice for the top of the line, now that’s just plain WTF.

 

@music@

Not only does the new shuffle lack a USB connector (which removes thumb-drive functionality, unless you carry the dock around); not only do you have to unplug your headset everytime you want to dock it (chances are the audio plug is going to die before the battery gets around to it); there’s actually only one connector, and power and USB data go through the audio jack as well.

I’m very, very curious as to how they wired the thing. The iMac’s analog/optic audio jack combo was already a mystery to me, but that one tops it, by far.

 

@apple@

I already expressed my dislike for the iTV’s concept; I later realized, the actual physical design is puzzling, too. Where are you supposed to place it, exactly? It doesn’t integrate with your A/V equipment stack; it’s not made to be hooked to the wall either (not with the wires going up); it’s too small and flat to be displayed in your living room, next to the TV. This thing is just going to end up buried under a pile of DVDs.

I’m pretty sure Steve Jobs wants the Apple logo to shine in everybody’s living room, and that design is very wrong on that respect.

15 September

Zune

@music@

iPod envy, anyone? Microsoft was lurking in the shadows, and waited a whole two days after the Apple keynote until they unveiled the Zune. Well, unveil it a bit more. Do they really expect to steal Steve’s thunder? It feels more like “why bother deny it, everybody knows we’re following Apple’s footsteps anyway.” Two days. Except they didn’t name a price (or a release date)… because right now just isn’t the best time to say it’ll be $100 more than the equivalent iPod. (Well, I know Microsoft can sell at a steep loss, and recoup on music sales, like they do with the Xbox and its games. But that’s not the way this market works, and as far as I know Apple makes little to no money from the store. Still, they’re quite capable of selling it at an unredeemable loss just to burn and salt the ground for Apple.)

I’m sorry to say, the device’s design is actually pretty sweet. At least in black (or, more like dark gray, which is probably why I like it); the white model is passable (why the hell they didn’t want to go all-white, I have no idea), and the brown one is… Geez. Whatever. Thing is, seeing it with something on-screen seems to make a world of difference for me: I wasn’t impressed by the original pictures, but when you see it held sideways, with a video playing, it suddenly becomes much, much more lickable. Probably because it looks so much like an iPod, only with that one feature we’ve been expecting for two years now.

The interface doesn’t look too bad, either. See the video, it’s rather cool — and thankfully chooses not to copy the iPod’s austerity. And it does FM radio. And it sends and receives pictures. (Why the hell doesn’t it have a camera, then? It costs nothing nowadays!) And wireless song sharing, even if temporary, isn’t that stupid after all. (But it’s still dumb to have wifi and not use the internet at all.) All in all, it’s not a bad alternative to the iPod.

I love what they did to the progress bar — well, I love the idea, although the implementation could be improved a bit. That’s an idea to steal ASAP.

 

@windows@

The Zune Marketplace software also looks sleek, and much more so than crappy iTunes 7 and crappy iTunes Store.

I’m not sure giving the same name to the device and the software is such a good idea; iTunes and its store are general-purpose applications that double as incentives to buy iPods, while the Zune Marketplace feels so tied to the Zune platform, you won’t want to use it if you don’t own a device — which you don’t, you have an iPod.

But then, maybe the Zune Marketplace isn’t even available to the Zune-less. Which would be a bit insane. Would “Alexandria” be a completely separate entity? Or would it be the exact same platform as the Zune Marketplace, only with a separate brand? Either way, it wouldn’t make any sense.

 

@phone@

Oh, and Microsoft isn’t afraid to confirm that a Zune phone (and possibly an MVNO) is very officially in the works. Which gives all the more incentive for Apple to finally release their goddamn phone and occupy the market while it’s still waiting for them.

 

@web@

Anyone care to explain to me why the Zune website is serving (gorgeous) Flash video in https?

@games@

It’s a damn busy week (if you’re reading my blog in your web browser, and are used to only reading one post a day, make sure to scroll down to see the Zune post, where I say mostly good things about a Microsoft product). So much for the Zune stealing Apple’s thunder: here come official Wii announcements — sporting actual numbers, those ones. I’m a bit disappointed by the price (I’d gotten used to the “this is just a souped-up GameCube with a couple peripherals, it’s gotta be cheap” line of thought, and if it’s going to be $250 I think they’ve waited a bit too long to announce it), and there’s no Europe date until tomorrow but, man, at least that user interface looks amazing.

Why isn’t my Mac rearranging stuff like that whenever I resize a window or change icon size or whatever? (Don’t miss the second video on this page. It is a bit messy and confusing, but it looks so cool. Don’t miss, either, what happens when you resize text in the News Channel.)

I’m a bit puzzled by their choice not to include DVD playback, though. The hardware has to be powerful enough to decode a DVD, so what is it? Licenses? Software development? How much could it have cost them, exactly, to read DVDs, when you can have a standalone DVD player for $30? Yes, it’s true that most people already have one, but it takes some room on their shelves, and connectors on their TV, and it just doesn’t look as cool as a Wii.

Plus, the Wii would have a killer feature no DVD player has: mouse-like cursor control in the DVD menus!

 

@apple@

John Gruber:

My theory is that Jobs hated this year’s WWDC keynote, because he hates showing unfinished work. […]

Jobs’s extraordinary marketing savvy and famed reality distortion field leave some people with the impression that he’s a talented fabulist. That’s wrong, though — Jobs, in my opinion, is a terrible liar and a poor actor. When he’s able to convince people of things that aren’t true, or that are exaggerations of the truth, it’s because he believes what’s he saying. […]

If he struck you as at least somewhat unenthusiastic on-stage at WWDC, I say it’s because he was unenthusiastic, because he really couldn’t bring himself to be happy about showing these Leopard features that aren’t ready to be shown.

 

@apple@

Rumor has it that the reason iTV isn’t for sale yet is that Apple’s waiting for 802.11n (that’s faster wifi). It kinda makes sense (because, really, what reason is there for Apple not to release it yet? the software looks pretty much ready, and the design looks definitive enough), and it’s actually in tune with that “TubePort” rumor of a USB dongle streaming wirelessly to the TV.

But, if that were the reason, shouldn’t they be able to release it today, limited to 802.11g with an upgradable firmware? There’s got to be something more. (Including, but not limited to, HD video on the iTunes Store by the time this comes out.)

 

@photo@

Canon announces the PowerShot G7, doing away with the swivel-mounted LCD screen. What the hell is wrong with them? That was one of that camera’s coolest features!

 

@apple@

French stamps as a Mail.app icon [via]. It’s nice that they have the old Mariannes.

 

@apple@

Turn your iPod or MacBook into a Domokun knock-off. Finally, one good reason to go to Apple Expo.

 

@apple@

The Unarchiver replaces BOMArchiveHelper to unpack your zips, your rars, your tgzs, and whatever. It’s much more streamlined and efficient than UnRarX or StuffIt, so it’s a no-brainer for exotic format; as for zips, I’d say from my (very short) testing that it launches slower but decompresses faster; and if you throw several zips at it they will be queued, whereas BOMArchiveHelper will try unzipping everything at once, and consistently fail on a couple archives.

And it’s from the makers of Xee, which is reason enough to trust them.

16 September

@music@

My favorite [Zune] color is the brown. The pictures don’t do it justice.[via] And I can actually imagine that making sense.

 

@music@

Zune vs. iPod: About the Same Size, Both Stuck in 4:3. A three-inch diagonal is one-fifth more than a 2.5-inch; that’s just exactly the same ratio as a 24-inch versus a 20-inch iMac. About the same size, yeah, right. When you’re watching TV shows on the subway, that’s going to make a hell of a difference. (Not to mention that menu navigation in portrait mode makes it look like the screen is huge.)

 

@music@

Credible rumor, for once: Microsoft might have withdrawn prices from their announcement because they were taken aback by the iPod’s low prices. Could be true, could be false.

 

@music@

This Chinese Zune clone is interesting — not because it exists, but because it’s ugly, whereas the Zune looks pretty (in black). Which goes to show that they must be doing something right.

 

@apple@

Alternate-reality iTunes on Apple support pages. For real. And not going to stay online for long. Isn’t it oddly reminiscent of Windows Media Player… or Microsoft Media Center, of something like that?

 

@apple@

iTunes 7 introduces “Album Artist” metadata. I’m sure it’s got to have its uses, but I… don’t exactly understand how.

 

@apple@

Macros to transform TextMate into a Movable Type / WordPress blogging client. Complete with image upload. I have no use for a MetaWeblog client (because my blogs use custom software, with lots of custom fields and bilingual support), and I don’t use TextMate (because it’s a codepage nazi that insists on only handling UTF-8; also, it favors Unix shell integration over AppleScript), but the possibility of this is just… wow.

 

@apple@

My Dream App contestants list. Meh. Nothing I really look forward to.

Of course there is a GTD app — but I wouldn’t put any money (figuratively) on a GTD app coded by a GTD outsider; you’ve got to grok it (and if they already did, they’d already have coded their own app). I guess the one with most chances of success is the .Mac-less sync utility. There’s a market for that, obviously.

18 September

@apple@

Think Secret speculates possible touch-screen iPod for Christmas.

You know what?

It would make perfect sense.

Purr. Fect. Sense.

The shuffle? Revolutionized. The nano? As redesigned as could be (it’s not like there was that much room for improvement). The full iPod? As incremental, inconsequential un upgrade as ever.

I hate giving credence to an Apple rumor, but I find this one utterly logical and credible. Think about it this way: they couldn’t possibly not update the iPod on the Showtime event, because it would have been a dead giveaway that something huge was coming. So, here comes a hard drive boost, and bam! the big, revolutionary iPod right in time for Christmas. Oh, yeah, that’s just their style — remember when Apple launched the iMac G5 with iSight a mere three months before the Core Duo?

Also, imagine the Joker-like grin on Steve Jobs’s as he’d announce a full-screen iPodNewton just two days after Microsoft launches their 30GB Zune.

 

@apple@

Replace those ugly iTunes 7 buttons & scrollbars [via]. God, those Aqua scrollbars feel good.

20 September

@misc@

Water-cooled football players.

 

@misc@

USB rechargeable batteries [via]. As in, the battery itself has a USB port. Whoa. Can that even be for real?

I was writing that, even if possible, it wouldn’t be very useful, and then I remembered that the wireless Mighty Mouse holds two batteries and can work with only one; so it’s perfect for charging one of the batteries away from home on your laptop.

22 September

@apple@

Apple’s iTV to have a hard drive after all. I’m confused now — sure, it’s definintely more in line with a $300 price, but I’m very unsure as to what size the hard disk might be, and what it’s actually going to be used for. And how they’re going to justify not including DVR functionality, then. And, finally, how they’re fitting a hard drive and embedded power supply in a box that seems to be a third of the Mac mini’s height.

Anyway, it’s coming from a Disney CEO quote, and I’m not exactly sure he knows what he’s talking about (neither regarding Apple’s secret projects, nor as to what a hard drive actually is).

 

@apple@

Security fix for AirPort drivers. Apple says they found the flaws on their own while investigating about that SecureWorks thing, without any sort of information from them; SecureWorks is going to say that’s indeed the flaw they’d demonstrated, and they’d reported it to Apple, and it’s all thanks to them; nobody will ever know which of the two parties was more honest on that matter.

The sure thing is, that’s going to be poor PR for Apple in the coming days. And they’ll have brought it upon themselves, playing with words like they did — even supposing they only said the truth, they should have focused much more on the “we’re currently auditing our drivers” part.

However, they could also have swept the found bugs under the carpet and waited a few months before they released the update, so we can be thankful they didn’t.

 

@apple@

iPod nano box becomes DIY nano dock. Now that’s ecological and it’ll please Al Gore. And it’s kewl.

 

@apple@

Since iTunes video playback is still laggy, but that’s still the best option for podcast management, here’s a little AppleScript to send the selected podcast (or any other file) to QuickTime Player, based on that one :

tell application “iTunes”

try

set selectedItem to last item of selection

set selectedItemLocation to location of selectedItem

set selectedItemCount to played count of selectedItem

set played count of selectedItem to (selectedItemCount + 1)

on error errMsg number errNum

display dialog “Error ” & errNum & “:” & return & return & errMsg buttons {“Cancel”} default button 1 with icon caution

end try

end tell

 

tell application “QuickTime Player”

activate

open selectedItemLocation

end tell

I’m no AppleScript guru, so this could most certainly be optimized to handle multiple selections — I had to tinker quite a bit in order to be able to handle cases when the selection is a podcast feed.*

Now I use Proxi to execute that AppleScript when I press Cmd-Enter while iTunes is active — the Proxi Editor for those conditionals is a bit counter-intuitive, so here’s a screenshot.

 

* A little hint that would have saved me a lot of trouble if I’d figured it out beforehand (which I would have very easily if I were more proficient at using Script Editor): as far as AppleScript support is concerned, there’s no such thing as podcast feeds; if the user selection is a feed (as opposed to an individual episode), AppleScript just sees it as a selection of all the episodes, either downloaded (file tracks) or not (URL tracks). All in chronological order, apparently, hence the last item. Or maybe not. You’re much better off selecting the individual episode before you trigger the script.

#ff00aa — version 2.0

@misc@

Redesign in progress (and none too soon, as I’ve found this layout ugly for a while now). Since I like to live dangerously, it’s all happening live on the server, so don’t be surprised if it looks weird while I’m working on it.

Also, the RSS feed is wonky today, and I have no idea why. I apologize in advance in case my posts spend all week-end reappearing as changed while I try to fix the problem — and update the posts to take the new design into account.

 

For posterity, version 1.0:

 

[+9h] I still have a few things left to tinker with — replacing the sidebar with some abridged navigation on individual posts, and finding the best way to emphasize links — but I’ll say I’m done for tonight.

Oh, and don’t you think it took me nine hours to update the blog. I went out.

23 September

Long live the radio

@apple@

My thoughts have been pointing that way for a while (ever since I started thinking of the name for the upcoming-maybe #ff00aa podcast radio), but this time it’s really official: the word ‘podcast’ is out.

Maybe that makes as much sense, and they have as much reason for it, as Google’s lawyers asking people not to use ‘google’ as a verb, but even if that were the case (and I’m not convinced at all it is) — ‘podcasts’ no more.

 

@apple@

I, Cringely on the iTV:

I’m quite certain we won’t see any Blu-ray drives in Apple computers until the iTunes Store has a deal to sell Sony films. There is a simple quid pro quo here, not just in the lack of Blu-ray drives, but also in the on-again, off-again nature of Sony camcorder sales in the Apple stores.

That’s an interesting idea. I don’t know it that’s true, but if it isn’t Steve Jobs ought to take an interest in that suggestion.

Okay, clearly, that’s something he’s quite capable of having thought out for himself.

The USB port is clearly intended for an Apple iSight camera, a webcam to go with your HDTV. It’s iChat for Grandma.

Nevermind that there is no external USB iSight yet (I remember reading that internal iSight uses USB); there are lots of better reasons for a USB port on the iTV — starting with iPod docks.

He does have a point, though, that the iTV should have videochat functionality: what reason is there not to have it? TV-based videochat has been the way of the future for fifty years now, and I’m sure Apple wouldn’t mind being the one to bring it to the masses.

In tandem with an “iChat mobile” phone that does video conferencing over wifi.

 

@apple@

Stoplight [via] (not Spotlight) lets you change the way OS X handles the zoom and close buttons, system-wide or per application: you can choose to have applications quit or not when the last window is closed (as you can see above, I’ve decided that I liked consistent pre-OS X behavior better — although I wager that most Stoplight users will go the exact opposite and make their system work like Windows, until they realize it’s highly inconvenient to have Photoshop quit whenever you close the last image, and relaunch when you want to open the next), and you can choose to force the zoom button to fill the whole screen (which is kind of heretic if you ask me).

While I had no doubt that hacking zoomed window sizes would be relatively easy, I’m quite surprised they managed to keep certain applications open when you close their last window. (Seems like Stoplight just intercepts the closing, and replaces it with application hiding.)

 

On second thought, maybe I’ll leave most of the settings alone, and just set Activity Monitor to close when I close the window — because I always close the window, then remember I should have quit the app, and when I launch it again it opens without a window because it stupidly remembers its last state.

 

@web@

Oh, crappit, bad surprise when I try the layout in Camino:

There is no way of making PNG images that match CSS colors in all PNG-supporting browsers. This reduces the usefulness of the otherwise excellent image format. If the image colors and the colors defined in a style sheet need to match, it is safer to use GIF or JPEG. If you want to use PNG and don’t care about older browser versions (pre-Tiger Safari in particular), the best course of action is removing all the color space information from the PNG files [with pngcrush]. If you only want a match with the background color, you could make the background a PNG image as well.

Thank goodness the last hint is applicable to #ff00aa. (Although that does pose a problem, because the body background image was originally used for the header.)

 

I have no idea what this blog looks like in Internet Explorer, and don’t give a damn except for morbid curiosity.

25 September

@apple@

Decaffeinated quotes Joel Spolsky:

After a few releases, the Mac designers went a little too far and decided that a trash can with something in it should look “stuffed.” […] The trouble is that neat freaks were distracted by the full trash can. It looks messy. When they wanted to clean up, they would empty the trash. Over time, many people got in the habit of dragging things to the trash can and then mechanically emptying the trash so that the trash can wouldn’t look messy, thus defeating its original purpose: to provide a way to get things back!

I’m not a neat freak, but I do spend my time emptying the trash. So here’s an interesting thought: if you have a program that lets you change the trash icon, set the same icon for empty and full states. That ought to be better.

 

@apple@

The only gripe I’ve had with TextWrangler ever since I started developing websites on the Mac is that I keep having non-breaking spaces screwing up my PHP code: on French keyboards curly brackets are accessible by pressing the Alt key, and whenever I type a curly bracket preceded or followed by a space there are 50% odds that the space will end up Alt-ed too and my PHP will have parsing errors — because PHP doesn’t bother to recognize non-breaking spaces as spaces.

Maybe there are some other ways, but I never found one; it only occurred to me today, though, that there is a fairly simple way to disable Alt-Space in TextWrangler, using Proxi (which I like to use better than Quicksilver for keyboard shortcuts because it’s less laggy): simply create a keyboard shortcut that hijacks Alt-Space.

Yay!

If you can’t make the trigger respond to Alt-Space, just insist — the trigger setup functionality seems a bit buggy.

 

[+11h] Hmm, wait. I just realized that, the way Proxi works, it intercepts Alt-Space whether TextWrangler is active or not, and then tests which application is active — so Alt-Space is disabled for any app. Which I don’t mind much, because I never use it anyway, but there’s got to be a better solution.

26 September

@apple@

FileBrowse is a visual file browser for OS X that makes preview icons of every file and every folder’s contents.

It feels much more responsive than I feared and, apart from some minor limitations that will undoubtedly be fixed (I didn’t manage to trash a file), my only gripe is that it’s a browser, not a spacial Finder. When I’m able to set preferences for each folder to open in a different window retaining window position and view settings, we can talk — but for now I can’t even find a keyboard shortcut to open a folder into a new window.

(Note: FileBrowse has been updated to version 1.0.1 since I typed this, but the bug fixes aren’t listed on VersionTracker.)

 

@apple@

Apple’s lawyers:

Moreover, the term POD has also been adopted and used extensively in the marketplace by consumers as an abbreviation to refer to Apple’s IPOD player.

Riiiiight.

Apple owns […] pending U.S. [trademark] applications for both IPOD and POD.

They’re trademarking “Pod” ? Geez…

 

So I guess the real reason why iTunes kinda hurried to embrace podcasts was to give Apple an opportunity to reclaim the word? Please, please, please, vote with your RSS feeds and rename your podcasts!

 

@apple@

The Omni Group is working on a GTD app. Yay!

 

@phone@

A mini-mini phone with touch-screen and stylus. Sure, it’s even less functional than speech recognition, but it’s much cooler, especially in those Nintendo DS days.

 

@misc@

Orbiculus [via]. Lickable. By Art Lebedev — who else?

 

@misc@

I’m glad my blog’s redesign frees me from my self-imposed constraint on image heights being multiples of 75 pixels.

27 September

@apple@

Apple previews new .Mac webmail. Weird… and kinda disappointing: they are not giving up on .Mac and, judging from the screenshot, this doesn’t look like the partnership with Gmail that many users have been dreaming of. In other words: it’s still going to suck and they’re content with playing catch-up in the distance. (Okay, I’m being mean, the new Hotmail and Yahoo Mail are still in beta, but they’re public betas, and they’ve been there for a while, and there’s no telling when the new .Mac is coming — the screenshot is only here to delay cancellations.)

Quick Reply: A .Mac webmail exclusive. Dash off a response without leaving your Inbox, by clicking the Quick Reply button next to the message to which you’re responding.

I suppose the implied fine print is that it’s exclusive to the .Mac webmail as opposed to the Apple Mail application, but the wording is just ludicrous.

Message previews: The .Mac webmail Inbox displays the beginning of every message, so you can quickly scan your messages without opening them.

I like this one, however. It’s too bad I don’t expect them to introduce this revolutionary, complex functionality to Apple Mail until Leopard.

 

@web@

I’m very, very interested in Wallop: it’s MySpace done right — or, actually, looking right. (And whether looking too good is an advantage or a drawback in the social networking business is up for debate.) How do they achieve it? Simply by making the whole pages in Flash instead of HTML, so you get pixel-perfect positioning across all browsers (except those that don’t have Flash, but I’m pretty sure you can’t browse MySpace on your smartphone, either, or it’ll choke on the nested tables and 5MB backgrounds and whatnot), with extreme customizability as simple as drag-and-dropping stuff around your profile. The screenshots look great (it’s in semi-closed beta for now).

And they have a peculiar business model, too: they’re not charging you for using the system, and they’re not putting up ads; they’ll only be selling you additional decorations and Flash widgets — and, since user-generated content is all the rage now, most of those add-ons will be provided by any web developer who wants to sell Flash stuff on the network, with Wallop taking a cut of the profits. Just like on Second Life or There (does anyone still use that one?), only in 2D.

It’s a sound business model in theory: people do like to buy MSN smileys or phone ringtones to… express how cool they are, or something, I don’t know, I don’t get it. With two caveats: first, Wallop is (currently?) closed to minors, who are the prime target for such offerings; second, isn’t that kind of merchandising more appropriately tacked onto an existing, successful product? MSN or Second Life weren’t launched on the promise that you could buy additional user-generated content; those economies stemmed from the existence of a user base, and not the other way around. Can you really lure users by announcing that you’ll milk every penny out of them when they want to customize their homepage?

Still, it may work. And I’m certainly rooting for it — anything to undermine the atrocity that is MySpace (I finally subscribed last Friday… and still feel so uncomfortable in there that I couldn’t bring myself to befriending, or whatever it’s called, the people I know who are already in there). But it’s interesting that even MySpace, which certainly sees the potential in such a concept, hasn’t gone that way so far: are they preparing similar stuff in secret (that would explain why they’re making it so hard to customize their pages), or are they weary of aggravating their user base by asking them for money? Once people have tasted free-as-in-beer, it’s hard to step back — and that’s also true for competitors who want to enter the market.

 

Okay, between this post and my bragging about being the webmaster of a social site myself in my beta application email, I’m not quite confident I’ll get an invitation from them, despite my hundreds of thousands of millions of readers. So, if any reader’s got invitations to hand out, do think of me.

@music@

This picture of a portable media player with a huge, horrendous Thomson logo below the screen made me think: I can’t believe Microsoft was clever enough to copy the iPod as far as sticking no logo at all on the device’s face. The designers must have battled quite a bit to achieve that.

 

@apple@

MSN Messenger for Mac 6.0 [via]. I mean, Windows Live Messenger. Uh, wait, apparently on the Mac it’s just Microsoft Messenger, which makes some sense. Just a minor update, though, a universal binary implementing Yahoo interoperability, but still no video chat — unlike the Yahoo Messenger beta.

I love that this must be one of the only OS X installs that offers to place the application’s icon in the dock.

 

@apple@

Thinking back about the announcement of an Omni Group GTD app, I realize I’m more and more puzzled by their strategy.

They made a great outliner app that grew so much functionality it can do everything and mow the lawn, and still work nice and be commended by anyone who’s used it [long enough to get a sense of how powerful it can be]. Then, they started working on a nice project management app that takes interface cues from OmniOutliner and, unless I’m mistaken, has limited integration capabilities with it. And, now, they’re making a third app, that will undoubtedly have the same look and feel, and the same struggle to integrate with the other two (which means, struggle squared) because all those three apps are, basically, managing different aspects of the same data?

It’s very nice of them to give you an option to buy only one of the three applications but, considering how intrinsically tied together outlining, project management and GTD are, aren’t they making it much, much harder for themselves to implement the kind of functionality that most users will need in order to make sense of everything at a glance?

I already wrote that I’m happier using Yojimbo for all my productivity needs, despite its limited functionality on such simple aspects as managing to-do lists, because I find it essential to have all my information in the same spot, so I really don’t know how optimal their strategy can be.

 

@apple@

Pathway [via] is an interesting application for browsing Wikipedia. It displays pages, keeps a list of what you’ve visited, and displays those pages and related material in a nice node tree, which you can then save to disk to keep track of all the information you have gathered on a subject. And it’s compatible with several localizations of Wikipedia, including French.

I’m not a fan of dedicated applications made to access a specific webservice (such as the existing WebKit wrappers that open Gmail or Google Calendar), but if you’re doing most of your daily research on Wikipedia you’ll certainly find this very useful — although, of course, if you’re doing most of your research on Wikipedia, my opinion is that you’re not a very good researcher. Wikipedia is a nice starting point, not an end to all means, and Pathway would be so much more useful, in my opinion, if it didn’t give way to Safari as soon as you’re following an external link.

But then, it wouldn’t be the same app, and it wouldn’t be freeware, and… I think there are already applications that do that. And they’re expensive.

28 September

@music@

Zune pricing revealed. As expected, the device’s price is aligned on that of the equivalent iPod (which is more mass-produced, has a slightly smaller screen and doesn’t do wifi, so Microsoft is taking a loss on this one, as they are wont to do); songs are sold for 99 cents, too, but they’re paid with the same Microsoft points as used on the Xbox Live Marketplace. I dislike the whole idea of points as much as anyone else, but I guess it makes perfect sense for them to consolidate all their Marketplaces. People are all the more likely to offer Marketplace gift cards when they know the recipient will be able to buy whatever they like with them — Xbox games, Zune songs and videos, and whatever may be in store next. (Vista sharewares? They have to offer that functionality to Windows developers at some point.)

Of more interest to me, though, is the $14.99 Zune Pass that lets you download everything you want, Napster-style. I know most geeks hate the subscription model, but I really like it (seriously, how unlikely are you to download fifteen songs per month? don’t you like music, or what?), and I like that its inclusion in the Zune business model gives incentive for Apple to finally implement it (and it’s also additional leverage in their negotiations with the majors).

 

@music@

Real Tech News:

Sounds like they are taking the same approach that they do with the Xbox, get the consoles out there and make your money on the accessories and the games, or in this case, songs. But with recent reports coming out that Apple makes all of its money upfront on the iPod, and not many people actually purchase music from them, has to make you wonder exactly how many years they are going to give it.

So, yes, it’s more of an Internet Explorer vs. Netscape strategy (aka, scorched earth), than Xbox. Let’s just lose a few billions dollars just so we can drag Apple into the ground.

 

@apple@

Crazy Apple Rumors Site on the iPhone (if you don’t know the site, that’s humor, not real rumors — sorry for the oxymoron):

The iPhone will come in silver, black and white, but not brown because that’s stupid. I mean, who would do that? Brown’s a horrible color for an electronic device. You’d have to be an idiot to try to… OK, I think I’ve made my point.

 

@apple@

Gizmodo on PC Guy:

Radar interviews John Hodgman, you know, the PC Guy from the Apple ads. And reading it makes me feel just stupid. You know he works for the Daily Show, but did you know he’s a full fledged NY Times Magazine editor and writer, and was a reporter for NPR’s This American Life? Justin Long, the Mac Guy, is best known for working with Lindsay Lohan in Herbie Fully Loaded, Vince Vaughn in Dodgeball, and his cameo on That 70’s Show. Well then.

I guess PC users are really smarter than Mac users.

Oh, and he’s a Mac fanboy, too (of course).

29 September

@apple@

MDJ (whatever that is), quoted par John Gruber, clarifies that Apple isn’t after “podcast” in general, they’re just C&D-ing Podcast Ready because they wanted to register trademarks of their own on the Podcast Ready and MyPodder brands.

Well, duh. Of course Apple isn’t after “podcast”: they co-opted the term and, obviously, they’re not going to sue podcasters if their podcasts are named “podcasts.” That’s not the point. The point is that Apple has been C&D-ing every business, or semi-business, website with “pod” in its name, and I still think there comes a point when the internet population has got to say that’s enough, and to hell with podcasts.

Internet radio for teh win.

 

@apple@

Actiontastic (expiring beta) looks to be a nice, simple and efficient application for those who want to apply GTD principles by the letter (which isn’t quite my case, I’m more into… soft-focused GTD).

 

@music@

I realized while listening to Buzz Out Loud — I just love that you (well, not you, probably, but someone, somewhere) will pay for Zune songs in Monopoly money and the price, in Microsoft points, is still ending with nines.

30 September

@misc@

By popular request, I’ve come to my senses and this blog’s bullets are now permalinks to each individual paragraph. (I know, it should have been the case from the start.) (I know, some would rather I separated the contents into different posts, but that’s just not the way this blog works.)

 

@misc@

What to do against rampant media piracy in China? Why, sell official DVDs there two months ahead of worldwide release, for less than $1.50.

I can’t believe this is for real. I can’t believe it, because it would actually make some sense, and for a movie distributor’s response to piracy to make sense is just… beyond my comprehension.

The shocking bit is that it shows some understanding that intellectual property is not an object with a fixed production price, and that if you don’t want your material to be pirated you only have to sell it cheaper — and you’ll be making more money than if you didn’t.

Just sell the 640x480 versions on iTunes for five bucks already. (Although we’re not just facing idiocy from the majors, here; the Wal-Mart lobby is doing everything it can to prevent this.)

 

@apple@

Apple and SecureWorks working together; SecureWorks demonstration cancelled [via].

What the hell? They fucking bought their silence?

I’d like to think this all started from a ‘honest’ mistake in Apple’s PR department that they’ve been struggling to damage-control ever since, but is there ever really such a thing as a ‘honest’ PR mistake? Plus, even then, and no matter what extenuating circumstances there might be, some aspects of the way they handled this are beyond excuses (and beyond amateurism).

This is depressing. Sure, the upshot is that they did fix the flaws, even though it was working against them in that case. And, yes, as far as Mac users themselves and their security are concerned, that’s all that matters, really. But it makes it really painful for bloggers like me to be Mac evangelists (I’m unfortunately not closed-minded enough to just look the other way and pretend this whole mess didn’t happen). Oh, I can’t wait to see how some Mac bloggers are going to report this.

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