3 February 2007

Adium 1.0

@apple@

Adium 1.0 is finally released. Wow, didn’t expect that would actually ever happen.

But there isn’t much new functionality in comparison to the latest betas: the contact-list lets you change your status (which I was quite interested in when I discovered it in unstable-beta screenshots, but now I’ve changed visual styles and it doesn’t apply anymore); you can auto-hide the contact-list on a screen side, like the Dock (that one’s convenient); and the log window has been reworked to be more convenient. Not much else to notice.

Unfortunately, since the actual network part is handled by an external library the Adium developers have no control over, there isn’t much change on that level — still no webcam, in particular. (And, considering that libgaim comes from Linux, and I doubt that Linux manages webcams too well, that’s unlikely to change any time soon.)

1 February

@apple@

The orange iPod shuffle is a response to the Zune’s brown, right?

 

@apple@

Seeing Mac pundits say that Steve Jobs needs to introduce Leopard’s killer features right now to pull the rug under Vista’s feet, I realize that you might actually imagine that could have been part of his motivation for not mentioning the Mac at all at Macworld. If Leopard is at all better than Vista (and, uh, honestly, how could it not?), if it has any sort of impressive feature left unannounced, what better time to introduce it than when people are actually considering their Vista-related options? And what better time to introduce sexy improvements to the Mac lineup, too?

So, here it goes: if there’s a big announcement within six weeks, I’ll officially rescind my paranoid comments regarding Steve Jobs abandoning regular computers (after all, he loves toying with Keynote, so he definitely has to use a Mac for that). It might be a valid strategic move. It sure as hell didn’t feel that way at the time, but it’s not like Apple’s stocks sunk after the iPhone announcement, so the world could easily forgive him.

Damn, I’m speculating — and, what’s worse, hoping — again.

 

@windows@

Word is, there’s a workaround to the Vista upgrade refusing to do a clean install: you don’t need to install XP first, then Vista over it. You can just install Vista first, then Vista over it. That, uh… makes sense. Or something.

5 February

The Lost Wow

@windows@

The Lost promos double as Vista ads [via], showcasing Flip 3D and ending with the Vista logo. What the hell? Is that a hoax?

Apple gets patent-happy

@apple@

Latest Apple patents: a secure iTunes Store for iPhone and hot-unpluggable iPods. Sure, future iPhone users are allowed to consider both of these to be good news but, really, why the hell are either of these concepts patentable? (I guess both of these are just applications, but given the state of the USPTO who would expect them to be denied?)

For instance, an iPod would be accessible to the host computer during synchronization but then unmounted once synchronization has completed.” Christ, that’s so revolutionary and non-obvious that I’m mentally peeing my pants right now.

Children film sex on their mobiles

@phone@

Picture Phoning:

Two weeks ago a 13-year-old boy was caught with footage on his mobile phone of two fellow pupils aged 15 having sex near their school in Warwickshire. In another case last summer a 16-year-old boy used his mobile phone to film a 14-year-old girl having sex in a bedroom at a house party in Perth and sent the images to his school friends.

Well, what do you expect, with videos from Paris Hilton et al. circulating on the net? (Not to discount the media’s propensity to make a big deal of small occurrences.)

6 February

Gandi vs. GoDaddy

@web@

After that whole thing about GoDaddy cutting off the domain name for a mailing-list archive mirror that happened to include a list of MySpace passwords, French registrar Gandi’s official blog emphasizes how they treat their customers better, with many a heavily documented and nominative example:

Mr.” X,” website designer, gets a phone call from Gandi informing him that one of his clients has been hacked and used in a phishing operation. The call is followed by an email explaining to him where the incriminated file can be found so he can delete it.

I’m rather glad that Gandi, whom I use to buy most of my domains (because I’m used to them, but also because they do inspire more confidence than the usual hard discounters) aren’t as quick to boot a domain name off as GoDaddy was (but then, in GoDaddy’s case, the original call came from News Corp., which does bear some more weight than a little phishing scam), but that doesn’t respond to the main concern one might have had hearing about that case: how is that any of the registrar’s business?

Tingelets

@web@

There are many, many bookmarklets designed to help webdesigners and webmasters, and I never got around to actually using any of them. Tingelets are new, so I don’t know if I’ll use them in real life yet, but I like them: click a bookmarklet, and all your <h2> are highlighted on the current page; click another one, type in a class name or tag ID, and the corresponding elements are highlighted too. It’s well done, and I’ve often needed something like this. (Tested in Safari, so I guess it works everywhere.)

Plenty of new GTD stuff

@apple@

Ghost Action [via] (shareware) is more of a GTD-oriented to-do list, sorting your items according to projects and contexts; a rather no-frills approach, with iCal synchronization, that wouldn’t do it for me (I have no use for a pure to-do-list manager) but seems pretty functional.

 

@apple@

SpotMeta [via] (open-source) lets you define your own Finder metadata sets, tag any file with a right-click, and create smart folders based on that custom data. Much more structured than the usual web 2.0 free-form tagging, which can be an advantage or a flaw depending how you like to work — I like the concept, but wouldn’t really want to use it.

 

@apple@

Punakea [via] (freeware) is the free-form, del.icio.us-like alternative. You drop a file onto an auto-hiding sidebar to tag it, browse your tags with a “related” system, and create smart folders simply by dragging a tag onto the desktop; the feature I like most, the one that integrates best with my workflow, is that you can set Punakea up to automatically move any dropped file into a special folder where all your stuff will reside, making it the one-stop dropzone I always wanted to have.

I’d be using this at once if it weren’t for two problems: first, I don’t really, fully trust OS X not to lose Spotlight metadata at some point and make the whole mess unsortable; second, Spotlight is dog slow on my machine (I think there are way too many small files on my hard drive), so my good old manual folder structure is much more usable for now.

I recommend you do give it a try, though; it’s really well thought-out — even if to use it as a simple bookmark manager, a kind of local del.icio.us.

Cancel or Allow?

@apple@

The Macalope, about the new “Security” Get a Mac ad:

OK, it’s really funny but it’s kinda not what the Macalope had in mind when he asked Apple to demonstrate that it takes security seriously.

7 February

Steve’s Letter

@apple@

From here on, February 6th will be remembered for two things: my birthday, and Steve’s open letter [via] justifying why Apple adds DRM to the tracks it sells, and needs to keep FairPlay closed and secret.

However, a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable on unauthorized devices, we have only a small number of weeks to fix the problem or they can withdraw their entire music catalog from our iTunes store.

But would they, though? At the time this was negotiated, they had no idea the iTunes Store would actually work and get them a non-negligible amount of money, and they just needed all the easy ways out they could get.

The problem, of course, is that there are many smart people in the world, some with a lot of time on their hands.

Heh.

The most serious problem is that licensing a DRM involves disclosing some of its secrets to many people in many companies, and history tells us that inevitably these secrets will leak. The Internet has made such leaks far more damaging, since a single leak can be spread worldwide in less than a minute.

This is the same Steve Jobs who doesn’t want to allow third-party software on his iPhone. In other words, I don’t really doubt that he’s sincere on this point. (Whereas I don’t think he’s completely honest when he says that, because only 3% of all iPod music is FairPlay, the lock-in is totally negligible.)

Plus, it’s likely much easier for them to make a tiny modification fixing FairPlay after it’s been “blindly” cracked, rather than re-engineer the whole thing after hackers have been supplied with the entire, precise DRM blueprint.

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. […] This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. […] Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. […] No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

Wait, what? You were doing alright so far, but the last part threw me off. Sure, if you want to be nitpicky, CD protection isn’t exactly DRM, but that’s still a very weird assertion. (Not that CD protection actually works.)

Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free.

Agreed. But the recent evolution of European law seems to indicate that music companies are much more effective at lobbying than Apple is.

Who needs an Optimus keyboard?

@apple@

Silicone keyboard skins for MacBooks [via], for those who haven’t memorized all of Photoshop’s keyboards shortcuts yet. The concept isn’t new at all, but the nice thing is that the MacBook’s keyboard looks like it’s made for it — all their other keyboard skins (including their MacBook Pro ones) look terrible, but the MacBook looks alright and probably feels fine, too.

The only downside being that the MacBook is the least appropriate computer for Photoshop.

14 February

The Radical Radiators Of The Future

@misc@

Beyond the Beyond:

On the contrary to what it might seem, this complicated volume is quite easy to build, the first modules are made of existing plumbing joins fitted together by rotation. […] The final 34 cm³ structure achieves an excellent heat output thanks to a 2 m² surface area.

Uh, sure. Plumbing joins fitted together. Talk about maximizing leakage opportunities, too. (But it still looks awesome and I want twelve.)

27 February

Radial menu launcher

@apple@

Trampoline [via] is a new (well, not very new since it’s up to version 2.0) launcher for OS X that displays a radial menu when you press a hotkey / click an extra mouse button / move the pointer to a hotzone. Radial menus being the epitome of usability for mouse usage (it’s kinda odd, by the way, that OS X still ignores them), that’s a good thing, and the program seems to be well developed throughout. Twenty bucks, however, for a single launcher to store a dozen of your favorite apps?

For the record, you can do the exact same thing with Quicksilver, with more versatility and no cost at all — except that of figuring how exactly to set Quicksilver up, which is a rather geeky task. One of these days I’m going to make Quicksilver video tutorials, but in the meantime:

And there you go:

My radial menus are a bit on the large side, but that’s entirely configurable.

7 February

3 Ways The Beatles May Change iPods and Apple

@apple@

iLounge [via]:

Apple now owns “all of the trademarks related to ‘Apple’ and will license certain of those trademarks back to Apple Corps for their continued use.” What will this likely mean for Apple and the iPod going forward?

Apple could sell CDs and bundle music with iPods: The old agreement (at Sections 1.3 and 4.3) seemingly prevented Apple from selling music on physical media, such as CDs, even though it could sell music through the iTunes Store. […] This was one of the reasons that the prior U2 Special Edition iPods didn’t actually include U2’s music — Apple’s contract with The Beatles forced you to buy it separately online.

I’d read the headlines, but not the posts themselves, regarding the new Apple / Apple Corps agreement, and I had no idea they had actually bought the trademark. No wonder Steve Jobs decided to go the exact same route with iPhone, forcing his way through it.

8 February

FairPlay vs. Windows Media

@apple@

There have obviously been an awful lot of responses to Steve Jobs’s open letter; I’m not really interested in debating Apple’s “all or nothing” position on DRM (refusing to sell some songs DRM-free on the iTunes Store, even when their publishers would want them to, because it would be confusing or something), but this article makes a good point (emphasis mine):

In the timeframe that FairPlay was [compromised] or circumvented at least four times, Windows Media DRM was verifiably cracked once that I’m aware of, last August. Microsoft patched the August hack in a few days’ time, and had the patch out to licensees in that same timeframe. Another “crack” could purportedly strip DRM from videos that you already purchased, but it was never fully verified, and Microsoft released a general Windows Media update that appeared to stop discussion of the matter. […]

As Jon Johansen points out, the [security through obscurity] angle is “not a valid argument in this context since Steve was claiming that sharing DRM secrets with lots of licensees will inevitably lead to one of those licensees leaking secrets. As far as I know, none of the MS DRM breaches have been due to industry insiders leaking secrets.”

9 February

The usability calendar

@web@

NetLife Research [via]. There are a few good months in there.

10 February

Non-Native UI Sucks

@web@

Coding Horror:

Safari is, of course, a completely competent browser that stands on its technical merits, very much unlike IE6. But if you ask Mac users why they chose Safari, and if you keep pressing them, you’ll probably find the deciding factor was that Safari feels like a native Mac app. […]

Most of all, I find myself empathizing with Mac Safari users because I haven’t been able to switch away from IE7 on Vista. Firefox feels so dowdy in Vista. It just doesn’t fit in. It scrolls very slowly, the keyboard stops working at random, and the overall GUI is jarringly out of place, including the legacy main menu.

12 February

Another take on full-screen applications

@apple@

PresentYourApps [via] is a little freeware hack that lets you auto-hide the OS X dock. Uh, wait, I could already do that. But it also lets you auto-hide the menu bar — and, unlike MenuShade, which just dims it, PresentYourApps really sets it to auto-hiding, just like the Dock, so that your entire screen is usable space and you can move your cursor to the top of screen and get the menu bar to slide back down, just like it does when you’re using some media apps in full-screen mode.

I love the idea, but the implementation is crap. You have to manually enable hidden mode for each and every application, and it only works if your account has administrative rights (because the hack consists in editing each application’s plist) — instead of asking you to authenticate, it just restarts the app as it’s intended to, without any error message at all, but hasn’t actually done anything to it. By the way, I do not like some third-party software restarting my apps for me. And check out the icon. Yes, it matters.

Basically, this program is doing every single thing wrong, I don’t trust it, and I’ll wait for somebody else’s version. Why the hell isn’t that standard OS X functionality anyway?

 

P.S. [+3h] Ah, I knew I’d seen something like this sometime before — but I didn’t try it, because it’s not freeware, so I forgot about it. Thanks to Mika for pointing me to Menufela, which is the right way to do this thing, in a simple preferences pane with one checkbox (and another one to hide that unseemly Spotlight icon if you will). I don’t like buying hacks, but I think I might actually want to pay (five little bucks) for this one, if it turns out to be as reliable as I expect it has no good reason not to be.

Oh, and now that I’m trying it out, I have to add this good reason to do the same: prevent menu bar burn-in on your monitor.

16 February

17 February

Why Apple didn’t want to be an MVNO

@apple@

The Wall Street Journal, quoted in a MacRumors comment:

Early on, both sides determined it would be a bad idea for Apple to offer its own cellphone service, leasing access to Cingular’s network. Even though Virgin Mobile USA and other startup cellphone operators were using that method with some success, Mr. Jobs was cautious. He viewed the cellphone business as an unforgiving one, where carriers are blamed for network problems and overwhelmed by customer complaints.

Taking credit for the iPhone, and letting Cingular take the blame for anything that goes wrong? Why, yes, it makes perfect sense. (But then why doesn’t Apple migrate .Mac to another provider?)

27 February

Cover Flow on iPod?

@apple@

The video of Cover Flow on an iPod has been seen pretty much everywhere; some say it’s a fake, some say it’s an upcoming firmware update for all 5G iPods.

On the one hand, if it’s a fake, it’s a damn good one (although uploading it to YouTube makes it easier, because video compression mangles any revealing details); on the other, I thought it was pretty much established now that Apple was using accounting rules as an excuse to never ever add a feature to products that have already been released ? Even if they were to include Cover Flow in iPods (which I doubt — that’s the iPhone’s thing, and as far as we know the Apple TV doesn’t have it) why would they start releasing upgrades for existing iPods?

28 February

Does Safari slow down your Mac?

@apple@

There’s been some discussion yesterday that just having Safari open would slow down your computer, but I wanted to wait until Dave Hyatt replied on the Surfin’ Safari blog: there it is.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t say much other than: your methodology sucked, it’d be easier to debunk your claims or fix our performance if you’d been a little more consistent and specific. He then proceeds to list every web feature that slows down web browsers, and how Safari is or has been improving in each category (which makes an interesting read for Safari users).

I’d like to first state that it’s dangerous to jump to any general conclusions when the sample set of pages is very small. In the example article cited above, the author visited five Web sites and clicked around within them. It’s possible that this pathological behavior is specific not just to one Web site but possibly even to one specific page on that Web site. In order to identify the problem it would be better to try the test again with each individual page.

And I can’t really blame Hyatt for using that reply, because the other reason I didn’t post this earlier (beyond the fact that my brain has been in a semi-coma lately) is that the Macenstein post left me with the same feeling. You don’t publish such inflammatory graphs without providing a precise, definite, scientific walkthrough to replicate them.

Start++

@windows@

Start++ [via] takes Vista’s start menu search box that much closer to Quicksilver by letting you define commands and abbreviations to open any kind of programs or web searches: type “w steve jobs” to open the Steve Jobs page on Wikipedia; “g copycat” for a Google search; “play britney” to launch an m3u playlist; etc. All of that just a Windows key press away.

Simpler than Humanized Enso or whatever else shareware passes for Quicksilver clones on Windows; pretty cool assuming it works if advertised.

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