5 May 2006

Whoa, fucking flashback.

12 May

@apple@

Ack. Bad software update, bad!

I hadn’t even noticed Mail.app was going to be affected by the update — but then, I don’t recall reading the release notes at all.

 

@apple@

John Gruber:

I continue to believe that the best reason to believe that Apple is going to do a mobile phone is that (a) you know Steve Jobs uses a mobile phone; and (b) there’s not a single existing mobile phone that’s good enough to make Jobs happy.

Or does he? Imagine the chain of events: Steve Jobs agrees to license iTunes to Motorola; then Steve Jobs sees what crap a Motorola phone is, and decides to limit the iTunes licensed software to one hundred tracks, because the ROKR isn’t worthy of Apple. That hypothesis only works if the Motorola phone is the first instance of a mobile phone Jobs has ever been closely exposed to — otherwise he’d have known in all of ten seconds that Motorola was the worst possible partner for this endeavor.

 

@apple@

Derek Powazek:

Apple thinks I am a whiny kid who looks like he sleeps under a bridge. A kid who murmurs snidely to himself. A kid who can’t grow a beard to save his life. Specifically, this kid.

Apple thinks I’m Warren Cheswick from Ed, Justin from Dodgeball, and Darry Jenner from Jeepers Creepers. All stammering awkward kids, played for a laugh.

Well, yeah. But he was cute in Jeepers Creepers, and he’s hot in those commercials. Perfectly fine with me. And, come on, you know he’s just the epitome of the Mac-using cool kid — and a young Steve Jobs’ slightly cuter, fitter alter ego. A perfect choice for the part.

15 May

@games@

So what if it were possible to hook [a Wii controller] to a Mac?” *drool*

A quick Google search tells me that the Wii has USB, so it’s quite likely the “wand” (the apparatus that you put on top of your TV and that seems to triangulate, or, uh… biangulate the controller positions, and likely also serves as an antenna) would be a USB device (worst case scenario, using a proprietary connector as a deterrent), so what would there be to prevent you from hooking it up to your computer?

I don’t know much about USB protocols, but hacking together a driver to interpret Wiimote data can’t be too complicated. Nintendo might as well embrace the market opportunity and release the drivers themselves, sort of their own version of Boot Camp.

It’s a damn shame that Steve Jobs loves Sony so much, or he’d already be all about licensing the technology for that ever-elusive Mac mini media center. Maybe he’ll be touched, though, by how Nintendo expressed their affection for Apple design when they gave birth to the DS lite and Wii.

 

@games@

Meanwhile… EyeToy Lemmings.

 

@computer@

Meanwhile… Clié customers who felt abandoned by Sony are going to be feel quite an itch.

16 May

@apple@

Yum. Well, I’d feel a bit oppressed in thirteen inches, but still.

 

“Glossy widescreen”? Aren’t screens supposed to be anti-glare these days?

 

As for the prices, they’re beyond understanding: no Core Solo even though that would allow for an entry-level model under the $1,000 limit, and the black version only exists for the top of the line model and… costs $150 more for the same configuration? ([15:50] Yes, I’m taking into account the BTO option for a bigger hard drive on the white model.) Even if there were a perfectly valid technical explanation (and there has to be… right?) it’d still be utterly absurd.

It’s hard to believe that The Day of Black iBooks Finally is going to become The Day of Seriously Pissed-Off Customers.

 

And what’s up with the lack of keynote? Is Jobs sick or something?

 

[15:50] Via AppleInsider, MacBooks Pro PowerBooks are available with optional “glossy” screens:

Choose the glossy widescreen display to make your graphics, photos, and videos appear with richer color and deeper blacks - great for watching DVD movies. If you prefer a display with anti-glare coating for a matte rather than glossy viewing experience, choose the standard widescreen display.

Wuh? If it boils down to removing the anti-glare screen because it dims contrast a bit, who could seriously want that on their portable computer, and why is it introduced first on the portable line?!

 

[16:00] Infinite Loop:

The product literature claims that it sports one of those “glossy” screens that are popular with the Windows kids these days.

Ah, it all becomes clearer. I had indeed seen PC portables and didn’t understand why their screens were glossy — I’d supposed it was because they were the cheap thing. Or that Windows users don’t know what’s good for them. Looks like it’s contagious.

And, while I can understand offering it as an option on the Pro portables (I’m all for options — although it’s pretty contrary to the Apple principles of simplifying to the max), what’s the deal with forcing it on the 13-inches?

17 May

@apple@

David Weiss:

Just a few weeks ago my Dad asked me why his buddy’s PC laptop had this shiny screen while his PowerBook’s screen was not. I explained that this was for in store sales. I believe that glossy sells better on the show floor, even though in actual use the reflection is worse.

John Siracusa:

Glossy displays have effectively taken over the entire laptop market. Why are they so popular? Here are three possible reasons.

1. They are better than matte-finish displays.

2. They are cheaper than matte-finish displays.

3. People are idiots. […]

Walking into the laptop aisle, your eye was immediately drawn to the glossy displays. Aside from the shine, there’s also a perceptible difference in sharpness and color saturation on glossy screens. These things stand out.

In “shopping mode,” this is all people see. Shiny, saturated, sharp. Customers aren’t trying to read the screens or move the laptops to different locations in different kinds of lighting. Shopping is almost always an emotional experience, not a rational one.

I’m not sure whether you should blame Steve Jobs’s personal tastes (which is always a possibility) or plain, sad market realities. Apple switching to glossy screens because they’d lose sales to PC laptops due to (erroneous) user perception of display quality. Stores having to display Pro laptops with the glossy screen option, too, to avoid customer complaints that the cheap one looks so much better. Matte screen eventually disappearing from the Apple lineup because nobody buys it. Sad. Sad. Sad. What happened to Apple stubbornly sticking to less popular choices just because they were convinced it was better? It was all true, switching to Intel was one of the first signs of apocalypse.

 

And I don’t even have theories to account for the keyboard. The more I look at it and read about it, the more it looks and feels like a toy’s keyboard. As cool as the black GlossBook looks, the Apple laptop’s designs is really going the wrong way. (And is the black version really a $150 paint job that tears off at the slightest provocation? I can’t believe that could be true.)

 

Damn, if only there were an Apple Store in Paris so I didn’t have to judge by photographs. Hey, M., when are you getting yours?

@games@

Collision Detection further documents its obsession with the Uncanny Valley:

The concept is simple: When we look at a cartoon-like drawing of a person, like Charlie Brown, our brains fill in the missing information, and the cartoon seems warm, cute, and lifelike. But when an animated version of a human becomes incredibly close to being real, we start focusing instead on the tiny details that aren’t right. […] Paradoxically, the more realistic the human becomes – the worse they look. […]

The Uncanny Valley effect has become painfully, itchingly obvious in today’s video games. Whenever a game comes out with cartoonish and stylized humans – like the anime-style Final Fantasy series – they look wonderful and lively. But whenever the game designer gets obsessed with being “cinematic” and “superealistic” and producing “cutting edge graphics”, woof woof, meow meow, the results are just unwatchable – as with, say, the “lifelike” characters in Half Life 2 that cavort about like a corpsetastic army of zombies.

After hurling themselves against these shoals and crashing again and again and again and again and again, wouldn’t you imagine that game designers would learn their lesson?

But no. […] They’ve trudged in ever deeper. Check out this clip, in which a young girl does a “casting call” and delivers a long monologue into the camera. Prepare to scream and scream again.

Okay, that one is a particularly awful example (seriously, it takes some effort to make an animated face that horrible), but this post sums up the same thought I’ve had every time I’ve seen a 360 or PS3 game trailer. It is indeed getting worse and worse — and contributes to making me want to buy a Wii.

18 May

@apple@

Ooh, shiny. When I’d seen pictures of the upcoming Apple Store Cubed in New York, I thought that was it: a big, black cube with a white Apple logo, housing the store — like a big 2001 monolith, only thicker and, somehow, more ominous. I had no idea where it was or how big it was, and I didn’t read much about it, because… well, big cube in NYC, good for them, but I want me an effing Paris Apple Store.

Anyway, had I read the articles, I might have known the cube was actually obscured by black plastic to save the surprise. Man. Hottt.

Funny, by the way, that Apple would unveil the Cube today, when everybody is already comparing it to the Louvre Pyramid, and Da Vinci Code opened in France yesterday and opens in the US tomorrow. If Steve Jobs is a closet Dan Brown fan, I’ll… I’ll… well, he better release an iPodTablet for me to forgive him.

 

(Incidentally, I think the original 2001 script — the one that featured a science-fiction story — featured a cube, not a monolith. And transparent, not black. Figures. All that’s missing now is a three-story Justin Long hologram instructing passersby how to kill a PC user with a mere rock or stick how to use a GlossBook while avoiding glare from the big Apple logo. Big Apple. Hah.)

 

@apple@

[19:30] And it’s gonna be open 24/7. Where’s my green card?

20 May

@apple@

The latest evidence that Steve Jobs is as wacko as his detractors paint him: a mere three days after the iBook has been replaced by a 13-inch Core Duo laptop with a glossy screen and the first ever black paint job on an Apple computer, Apple’s home page prominently displays… the New York Apple Store (now with a neat time-lapse animation). You know, that place that’s just made to sell computers. (And iPods). Guess which of the two occasions was worthy of Steve’s presence?

But then, the store is a cube, whereas the MacBook… well, it has the right number of faces and corners, but it definitely doesn’t abide by the jobsian golden number.

 

@apple@

A comment on The Mac Observer (on an article suggesting that the next top of the line will be a pizza-box media center — nevermind that nobody has a big CRT monitor to place on top of a pizza box, and incidentally the reason towers are so big is that professionals need expandability):

Come on people. This is Apple we’re talking about. Steve Jobs. You know, the guy who designed the NeXT cube. The guy who designed the G4 Cube. The guy who already showed his hand on what the next Apple desktop will look like when he designed this.

Got to wonder how the iPod, and particularly the shuffle, evaded that trend. Maybe, if Steve Jobs wore baggy pants rather than tight jeans…

 

@apple@

[+15h]Will you marry me?

@computer@

JungleDisk [via] is a cross-platform (Windows / OS X / Linux) free beta program that lets you use Amazon S3 as an iDisk equivalent — that is, transparently accessible encrypted off-site file storage for $0.15 per GB-month of storage and $0.20 per GB of bandwidth (billed directly by Amazon).

In their forums:

There are several alternatives we are considering as well [short of royalties from Amazon], but it’s safe to assume that:

- There won’t be a subscription fee to Jungle Disk itself.

- A basic level of functionality will always be free. We aren’t going to lock anyone out of their data!

In addition, we’ve published open source code that demonstrates how Jungle Disk stores and retrieves data from S3. Several other developers are already planning on making their S3 utilities Jungle Disk-compatible.

That’s huge. Much more interesting, and reliable, than the Gmail filesystem hacks. (Well, yeah, less free, too. But that’s why it’s more reliable.) And I’m still wondering why Amazon didn’t release such a program themselves right away — maybe they saved that for later, rolling out S3 more progressively by initially targeting web developers?

22 May

@web@

Benefits of Removing ‘www’ From Your URL: I never really cared about the issue of redirecting ‘www.example.com’ to ‘example.com’, or the opposite, because I don’t agree with the general tendency in that matter and hence didn’t feel the need to waste CPU cycles on RewriteEngine, but that post makes the compelling argument PageRank dilution. So I just edited my httpd.conf to add ‘www’ for anyone who forgets to put it (and for some reason, unlike this blogger or John Gruber, I had to remove the trailing slash from before ‘$1’ — maybe an Apache version issue?).

Why do I prefer to homogenize on ‘www’ rather than without? Because, basically, people are already equating web and internet enough without adding that bit of confusion. How do you write your web page address on your business card / your T-shirt / a bar coaster? Writing just ‘example.com’ is imprecise; ‘http://example.com/’ is awkward; ‘www.example.com’ is just perfect, and anyone, as unexperienced as they are, instantly recognizes it for what it is.

(You’ll tell me that ‘example.com’ is clear enough, and who cares about users confusing web and internet? Sure — but how clear and fool-proof is ‘ff00aa.com’ by itself? Okay, there’s still dot-com, but what if it were another suffix? How self-evident would something like ‘ff00aa.tv’ be, for instance?)

 

@apple@

Black GlossBooks don’t normally have crappy, flakey paint jobs; it’s just that there’s been a inordinate number of lemons among early production models. In a world where each customer is a reviewer with a potential audience in the millions, maybe it’s time for Apple to investigate that ‘quality control’ concept and quit having its hardware beta-tested by early adopters? Oh well, who am I kidding — as long as it sells…

 

@apple@

Lovely Apple Store Fifth Avenue QTVR panorama. (No direct link because that page resizes browser windows.)

 

@apple@

A leather case to protect the Apple Cube?

 

@web@

Infinite zoom. Cool. But it would be so much cooler if the zooming were seamless.

Dans le genre taré, ça se pose là. J’ai lancé Firefox parce que je pensais que c’était un problème de compatibilité avec Safari avant de cliquer sur le bouton “En savoir plus”, pour voir — parce que cette nouvelle débilité n’est pas le moins du monde annoncée.

Résultat ?

Bordel de cons. Et la cerise sur le gâteau, c’est le formulaire de contact :

Rhaaaaaa. Je vais aller ouvrir un compte épargne à la Poste, moi.

P.S. Aaaaargh c’est contagieux. Qu’est-ce qu’ils ont tous, aujourd’hui ?

23 May

@misc@

Email: an author’s guide [via]. A very good read; I’m quoting the most important excerpts here because I had to translate them for my French readers.

Short emails rule. When I get an email that’s several pages long, I have to make some decisions: do I have time to handle this now? Is it important enough to come back to? Can I pass it on to someone else? If I can’t say yes to any of these, I will probably never get back to it. […] Supporting material or other important info can be attached, but keep it separate from who you are, what your issue is, and what you want from me. […]

[If you’re] getting a lot of responses asking, “What do you mean?” context is your problem. When you’re asking a question, anticipate any missing details that could cause an extended back-and-forth. Each time someone sends you a reply, you’ve gone to the back of that person’s line. Do what you can to make your emails count the first time. […]

Make your requests clear. […] You should set them apart from the rest of the message by paring them down to one sentence, with white space before and after. […]

Don’t give people an excuse to misread you. If you’ve written a request at the end of a long paragraph, or been passive (“it’d be nice if somebody could…”), it’s likely to have been missed on the receiver’s end. If you sent an email, you have a point. Get to it.

@apple@

Fast OS Switching on MacBook [via]. Hot damn.

 

@apple@

Apple Store, Fifth Avenue - MacBook Winners Gallery [via]. Die! Die! Die!

 

@apple@

I’m hesitant about the “DarthBook” appellation — sure, it sounds cool, but isn’t it too obvious? Plus, who still wants to provide George Lucas with free advertisement by now? “GlossBook” isn’t quite as cool, but at least it has a reason to be.

 

@web@

Until now I was glad to live in a country where Javascript button madness hadn’t hit banking sites — it’s over now, both my banks sport user-hostile login forms now. Which is nothing else than a case of the whole world having to because of the omnipresence of Trojans on Windows systems (and I’m not only saying this, safe from the Mac side of things — I’ve never had a Trojan on my PC for all the years I’ve been using Windows, and my last virus dates back to ten years ago, when we were still passing them around on floppy disks, old-school, like STDs).

 

@web@

#FF017D [via]. WTF?

25 May

@computer@

Samsung laptop with 32GB flash drive. Sure it’s a $900 premium to end up with a 32GB drive, but given Steve Jobs’s obsession with all things teeny and silent I still don’t understand how Apple didn’t premiere that technology. Plus, they have a volume discount on flash memory — but then, Samsung is the one actually manufacturing the chips, so maybe it does make sense for them to try and get this market started. Anyway, for such sexy technology, their laptop is particularly fugly.

 

@apple@

Black-and-white MacBook. “Now let’s see a lid color swap and we’ll call this project complete.

 

@apple@

DashCode? Isn’t it a bit too late for Apple to introduce their own Dashboard development environment? Seems to me what little excitement there may have been has passed now.

 

@apple@

The making of Apple iPod+Nike Sport Kit: “Other technical challenges [designing the sensor embedded in the new Nike Moire] centered on the duration of the battery power (close to 1,000 hours).” What? How on earth does the shoe not convert the energy from running into electricity?

 

@apple@

Mac Slapping: “I find it highly amusing that the sudden motion sensor in recent Mac portables, added to prevent damage to hard drive in the event of a drop, has lead to a trend of people slapping, swinging, and generally flailing their computers around.” Agreed — I’d never, ever consider playing with MacSaber if I owned a MacBook.

27 May

@games@

Nintendo Wii to have voice-over-IP support? Can you believe just how much cooler the $200 system will be than all others? The PS3 better have videophone functionality with EyeToy, for the price.

(And, yeah, I realize we have reached Apple levels of speculation around the Wii. Goes to show: all you have to do is cover your appliance with shiny white plastic and enjoy the free publicity.)

 

@computer@

Ant Farm [via]. I had no idea that was possible at all, yet judging by the comments it seems almost common — must be a shocker, especially in the middle of a big, expensive Cinema Display.

 

@apple@

Dropped by the Fnac today, to check out the MacBook. You can’t play at all with computers there (keyboards are locked under thick acrylic panes) but (a) gee, that’s too tiny a screen for anything serious, how could people ever really want to use a 12-inch PowerBook, and even complain that the 13-inch MacBook is too big? and (b) compared to a nearby MacBook Pro, screen reflections are insane. I don’t care how much brighter and more saturated images are (incidentally, the vertical viewing angle seemed rather poor), I don’t want that on my computer, ever.

 

@linux@

Google releases Picasa for Linux. (Picasa is the iPhoto clone for Windows that Google acquired a year or two ago. Funny thing that nobody could ever really figure out why they bought it, and their strategy regarding it still evades me. Clearly, it wasn’t so much about using Hello’s technology in a hypothetical Google instant messenger.)

Okay, it’s more like a Wine-compatible edition of the Windows program (plus 200 hundred patches contributed to the Wine codebase), but still — wow, and, also, what the hell? Are they just throwing darts at a spinning wheel nowadays to decide which projects to give time and money to? Or are they really just placing their pawns to launch their great offensive against Microsoft? (If so, they should probably revise their strategy and not base it on Wine.)

 

@windows@

Microsoft plans to take on JPEG with its own Windows Media Photo format. Ungh.

Microsoft and file formats, that’s a bit like… Microsoft and any other technology: scary. They lost the WMA vs. AAC battle because they had no leverage on the music player business (plus I suppose most Windowsians want to use anything but Windows Media Player to listen to their music — from what I’ve seen, the next version will lift enough UI from iTunes to remedy that); they only decided to (let a third-party) release WMV codecs for the Mac when they realized they just weren’t going to win that fight either (maybe because too many webdesigners were on Macs, hence using Quicktime to publish videos, which Apple hadn’t neglected to distribute to Windows users — and pirated videos used DivX, and now everyone uses web-based cross-platform solutions); even though they had not proprietary format to push on that front yet, they managed to block PNG adoption just by being too lazy to implement alpha channels in MSIE. Why aren’t I thrilled that they’re going after a new target now?

On the one hand, WMPhoto has even more reason to fail than WMV did, considering the stronghold Apple has over the webdesign market; but you can expect that format to be used in Windows Vista to save and publish a user’s photographs — not to mention Office documents. Sure, considering the tangled mess of image format patents, having a big player step in and define a new format for the whole world’s sake is nice — if it’s anyone but Microsoft, please!

CoverFlow

@apple@

Ha! As soon as I found out about CoverFlow (cool OS X utility that lets you browse through your CD collection, with lovely 3D effects), I thought it was a shame it didn’t take song ratings into account, and damn would it be cool to have a program display all my albums with an average rating of three stars or more, especially now that I’ve got 100GB of music.

Well, turs out CoverFlow can do just that — only instead of an easily accessible and easily changeable menu option it’s in the preferences and you won’t find it if you don’t look for it (I know I didn’t, until today).

Now I can really browse a collection of my favorite records as if I were looking through my shelves — allowing me to rediscover records I had forgotten, whereas with Clutter I ended up only listening to the twenty or so records I had thought to put on my desktop.

I still wish there was a way to move through the collection faster, like having the covers form a two-dimensional matrix that moves faster as your mouse moves toward the edges, but… ooh, the scrollwheel works, too!

Now why exactly doesn’t Front Row look and work just like this?

28 May

@apple@

Former Genius says thermal paste quantity doesn’t seem to change much of anything to MacBook temperatures, and why would it matter anyway since excess paste will be squished aside when everything is pressed shut (makes sense), and how unexpected can it be that Steve Jobs would have his laptop firmwares design so that he’d rather scald his lap than hear fans spin?

 

@apple@

Apple Store Fifth Avenue elevator freezes. Nevermind that you gotta admit it’s an apt metaphor for Rev. A Apple hardware, what puzzles me is that the people who got stuck in a glass case for 45 minutes reportedly didn’t receive any compensation whatsoever. What kind of business practices is that?!

 

@web@

AllYouCanUpload: upload your images there, and display them on your blog, forum or whatever — nothing new, except it’s all free, there’s no upload or bandwidth limit, and you don’t even need to register.

Not sure whether “You can [only] post photographs you have taken or other images you have created” is just the usual legal disclaimer or they really intend to enforce it, though (I have little doubt that the ban on pornography will be enforced, however). Still, a completely free image hosting service that’s part of CNET networks and doesn’t even require registration or your e-mail address, that’s pretty nice.

 

@web@

INSERT ON DUPLICATE KEY UPDATE. Yay. Had no idea. Should read the release notes more often. “30% speedup should be typical.” I’m glad I upgraded the new webserver to MySQL 4.

31 May

@apple@

Gadget review: Apple MacBook:

[Todd Benjamin, director of Apple portables worldwide,] is clear on this point: Black is cool, and the black-as-coal version is aimed at MacBook fans who want something a little exclusive (and who might miss the now-discontinued diminuitive PowerBook).

“We looked at the user who was buying our 12-in. PowerBook, who wants the smallest laptop Apple makes and wants a professional look,” he said. “It is black throughout. There is not one grey accent that got left on there. It’s a subtle approach that’ll appeal to the professional user. It’s kind of the ultimate MacBook.”

Okay, I’m not quite sure here — on the one hand, he emphasizes the attention to detail (such as the plastic inside USB ports being black, not white or grey), which does understandably cost money; on the other, he’s so unapologetic about the cost, you’d think Apple really has no good reason for the $150 price hike other than making a cooler version for pretentious bastards.

And it’s not like “the user who was buying a 12-inch PowerBook” might want a non-crappy video chip, or a 7200-rpm hard drive, or even more minimum RAM — nah, I’m pretty sure it’s just about the paint job.

He compared the new LCDs to TV screens, many of which also have a shiny coating that brings vibrancy to whatever’s showing. The comparison is apt.

Oh, I’m sure it’s apt: most people certainly use their laptops in the dark, like they watch DVDs on their home cinema; plus, 13 inches is totally the most common form factor for LCD TVs. Yeah.

I’m a bit scared — this guy is just a marketing rep, right, not someone involved in any decision-making?

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