So, I updated to version 3.0 3.0.1 (Oh, hey, yeah…could you update one more time, please?) of the AppleTV software for their self-described hobby project/media center device. I do love the end to end, just barely skirting this side of an antitrust lawsuit, seamless integration that the Apple experience provides the end user. It just works, it really does. Before the 3.0 3.0.1 (No, seriously, you’re going to want to update now – we released over the weekend even) software was released however, the AppleTV seemed to lack the polish that the other Apple products had like iTunes, the iPod, etc. The menu system and layout on the AppleTV seemed like it was there as a placeholder, ready to be swapped out at any time for the final, finished product. Functional, but it sure wasn’t much to look at.
With 3.0 3.0.1 (I’m not kidding, it’s in your own best interest to re-update), that’s changed quite a bit. Somewhat. When you first start up the system with the new software, the main menu now has the start of the high polished, Apple-style experience. Fairly logical left to right menus with the items to select in each menu appearing below when you move from section to section. Above the menu is a context-sensitive display of unplayed movies, TV episodes, podcasts, etc. at the top left and along the top right are the most popular or new from each appropriate category from the iTunes store. All with a little Cover Flow love where applicable. All very nice, all very respectable. Until you select one of those menu items and drill down to choose some media to play. Then it all falls apart. After you do something like say get to a list of your TV shows to watch, it turns into the same old menu sorting like in the previous version of the software. The same thought and touches didn’t get to this level for the user to appreciate, and it’s not like the menu system in use is the end-all, be-all. They could have put in a similar cover flow selection style for the sub-menus, and they may indeed try something like this in a future release, but it would have been nice to see a fully-finished product in 3.0 3.0.1 (Oh, in the name of all that is holy PLEASE DO THIS NOW AND UPDATE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!) and not a wonderful little tease of what it could be once the software is completely revamped. It’s moving in the right direction, I guess I just want it to move a little faster.
It’s been a while…
Working backwards: The Amazing Race has started back up. Watching the opening I almost thought that they would have the racers begin at Griffith Park Observatory. That would have made for some interesting moments as they tried to quickly make their way down the hill to the freeway to get to LAX. Survivor also started up. In HD this year. It looks weird in HD. But I attribute some of that to what has to be a fairly rugged HD camera type in use compared to a show like Mythbusters or even American Idol in HD. They also seem to be using some different editing techniques. It’s almost documentary-like in the first episode. The camera movements and zooms where much more noticable when the crews were back with the teams in their respective camps. They also managed to get rid of the two most annoying people right off the bat. Who will I learn to hate now? What is Survivor or The Amazing Race for that matter without the ability to be all judgemental based on an edit of footage shot of a person in a new, unfamiliar situation? That said, I expect Michelle to be annoying at all times now matter what sort of edit she got on the show.
The new season of Sarah Jane Adventures also started this week. I almost forgot. Is that bad?
The Torchwood radio show from BBC Radio 4 – Yeah. That was…bad. It was like the first draft of a regular Torchwood script. Some good could have come of it if they took their time and re-wrote it a bit. But that didn’t happen. Martha was also there apparently to ask everyone how they felt. I thought she was a medical doctor, not a psychologist or a therapist.
I may be doing a day trip to LA in a couple weeks for a special project for work. No details and specifics yet. Fingers are crossed.
I also got an iPhone app to post blog entries from. Naturally I haven’t tried it. What were you thinking?! Perhaps one day.
Lost has finally become semi-interesting late in the first season. I’m still at the “meh” stage.
Finally saw the first two Dr. Mabuse films. The original silent movie in two parts was better – and considerably longer – than the sequel which started to take a somewhat unwanted supernatural approach towards the end. I think this is a concept ripe to be re-explored again and to ressurect this forgotten character.
The iPhone 2.1 software – Oh, so that’s what you meant all along isn’t it, Steve Jobs? The 2.0.1 version is to show us the potential, the 2.0.2 was to keep all those nice apps from crashing every five minutes and the 2.1 version was to baby us in luxury and make us feel loved. Cell phone reception with it is also amazingly improved. Example: the comic shop I go to is traditionally a cell phone black hole. My previous phones were like this, the iPhone with the 2.0.1 and 2.0.2 were like this. You could get a call in there…maybe…and you had about 2 bars if you were lucky. New version? Full strength. Awesome. Lovin’ my iPhone and I’m finally gonna drop my land line once and for all, which will invalidate something that’s in Red Rocket 7, but progress is on the march.
However…the Macworld keynote recap
That Macbook Air is also pretty sweet. The sealed battery is cause for hue and cry among those who love to mindlessly hue and cry and are generally irrational Apple haters anyway. Of course they deny it and try to pretend to be rational and call everyone else who disagrees mindless fanboys for not climbing on the “Look, Apple is successful, it is only right that they be hated” bandwagon.
Still, do comment on the sealed battery – do you need another one immediately? Do you not understand that to get the system engineered to be the size and design that it is that it kinda had to be sealed? Do you care in the slightest that the replacement cost doesn’t seem that out of line with other laptop batteries, at the very least other Macbook batteries? Or that the cost of labor to replace the batteries is included in that? Or are you too busy frothing over little things to also ignore nice stuff like the recyclables in the product that they were touting. No, no…feel the hate…it’s post Macworld keynote and the crazies come out like everyone’s favorite Mr. Always Wrong, John C. Dvorak.
Another unexpected surprise, the Time Capsule – I know someone right now who needs one and I hope gets one. A convenient and clever combination of 802.11n router and hard drive to perform automated Time Machine backups. I’ve got an external drive for Time Machine right now, but I may go for one of these, just for the convenience of it all.
Movie rentals – I’d almost side with the haters on this, but the 24 hour viewing restrictions weren’t Apple’s idea – they were apparently put in to placate cable and satellite companies. These same companies (and let’s face it, television networks), who are probably starting the process of wetting themselves as they see the future unfold before them. Television shows and movies on demand for rental/purchase. It’s got some hamstrings in there on the rentals thanks to those cable and satellite companies, and only being able to rent HD on the AppleTV is annoying for those without said devices. However, I can see studios freaking out at the thought of an HD movie even touching a hard drive of a computer where all sorts of nasty haxoring can be done to it – because we all know the AppleTV is a deadlock sealed box that nobody can get into…
YOU SERIOUSLY EXPECT ME TO HAND OVER $20 TO GET THE REST OF THE RELEVANT APPLICATIONS FROM THE IPHONE FOR MY IPOD TOUCH? WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE? SCREW YOU, JOBS! SCREW! YOU!
Ahem… I may yet do that – but I assure you, as I hand over the credit card numbers, not a hit of a smile will dare cross my face. I would hope that some reconsideration of explanation will be forthcoming. A clear explanation of accounting rules would actually go far to placate me.
Creature Features tomorrow – American Idol notwithstanding…
At last all the legal hurdles have been overcome, all parties have made their agreements and fans across the world can have the one, the only, One True Batmobile. This of course from the very serious 1960s crime drama (to the eyes of a 5 year old) Batman. Apparently this is a very hard to find Hot Wheels edition of the car. Later in the year there will be larger scale versions, which, of course, I will have. But for now, this will go quite nicely on my desk at work next to my Batmobile of 1950, which is a close second for best all-around Batmobile. Admittedly this isn’t the best picture, and I blame the equipment. I believe that you should find the overall composition and so on more than adequate. I just couldn’t get it to auto-focus on the car. End of excuse.
But man do I love this car…now just please get the tv show on DVD and I’ll be a very happy camper.
Meanwhile, in technology news…I just wanted to let the dust settle for a while over the iPod announcements and iPhone fallout. Sheesh – you thought that the world was coming to an end over some of them. So the iPhone drops $200 in price and some are up in arms. Mind you, dropping that fast after 2 months is bound to cheese some off admittedly, and Apple is aiming to get aggressive in the coming months for the holidays, so it is a case of not being able to please everyone. So the $100 credit for early adopters is at least some small way to take the sting out. At least I didn’t take the plunge and since I am tied to Verizon for at least a few more months, it’s probably just as well.
So how about them iTunes ringtones? Yeah…so you pay $.99 for a song and another $.99 for 30 seconds of that song to use as a ringtone on your iPhone. How about a heaping helping of “NO!” there Steve Jobs? Yes, it’s much cheaper than what other carriers charge, and you do get the whole song with that as well. But really…this has got to be the record label’s idea there to do this – after all they came up with the brilliant “Ringle” after all. Still, I don’t think there is a better recap of the whole thing than what Daring Fireball has to say on the subject.
So then new iPods! Whoohoo! Overall, I’m rather pleased with the changes and were I not immediately enthralled by the iPod Touch, I’d probably be very interested in an 80 gig iPod Classic. The new iPod Nano with its new video playback capabilities reinforces the direction Apple is going with their iPods with just the Classic being the only hard drive based media player. All others being flash memory based now. While the Classic is the most recognizable of the iPod designs, I expect that in the next year or so when Apple can produce iPods of a capacity similar to the Classic without the hard drives, the Classic will simply go away and the Nano will take its spot.
But that iPod Touch – boy howdy…for someone like me who 1) Doesn’t want to necessarily want to use AT&T and 2) Stuck in a cell phone contract anyway, this is a dream come true. The iPhone without the phone bits. However, there is a downside to not getting the iPhone – namely the software. No email client like the iPhone is included and with the Calendar app you can’t edit or create entries. However, you do have twice the available storage on the Touch than the iPhone (16 gigs vs. 8 gigs). So there is give or take. I think that Apple will eventually add the missing functionality to the Touch eventually so it doesn’t completely cannibalize iPhone sales. While I am nearly overcome with lust for the iPod Touch, I’m going to sit this out for the meantime since I’m very happy with my 30 gig 5th gen iPod and it’s nearly full with music and a rotating set of podcasts to listen to and videos to watch. So call me when Chairman Steve introduces at least a 30 gig Touch and we’ll talk.
That’s all for now…time to go load some new images up on Mike’s site and get ready to call it a night…
Not quite. Yes, it integrates with the new iLife ’08 better, I guess. A new photo gallery feature, which I am sure is actually very nice is added. But really, all they seemed to do is just throw more storage at the users. Not that more space is anything to sneeze at. But really, Steve Jobs is quite seriously missing the point with .Mac. At least at the level of the more advanced user. For the Average Joe who only wants to sync his email and contacts and bookmarks and have a (now) reasonably sized amount of online storage for his iWeb-based website, I guess .Mac fits the bill.
But lets say that Average Joe is now Somewhat Clever Joe and has been learning about PHP and/or MySQL or just wants to use something other than iWeb for his blog. Maybe he really likes WordPress or Blogger as an option. Can he use any of this with .Mac? Nope. If he wants any of that nuts and bolts type stuff he’s got to look elsewhere as far as hosting. Either his own ISP, or GoDaddy, or whatever.
Now for Average Joe, that isn’t a problem. For Somewhat Clever Joe who still loves him some Macintosh and the like, it’s a little frustrating. Could Apple set up some sort of preference in the .Mac settings when logged into the web interface to turn on “Advanced” options like PHP and MySQL support…oh and maybe website visitor stats…that’d be nice. Something a little beyond a simple counter of the number of hits.
Yes, the .Mac situation has vexed many Somewhat Clever Joe users for some time. Give us that “Advanced” setting and retain the drag and drop uploading of files to our (now) reasonably sized online storage and we’d probably be very happy campers and shut the hell up about it finally. I’m sure there’s a couple more things I’m forgetting that need to be added, but PHP and MySQL support and by extension support for installing external blogging solutions are near the top – at least for me and others.
They’re purdy. So shiny and purdy. And svelte I might add. I want one and will see what I can do to make that happen. Here are the obvious (to me) caveats:
1. They’re (as mentioned above) shiny. That is, specifically, the display is glossy. I’m honestly not a fan of glossy displays. I can probably get around this and get used to it after some settling in and adjustment time.
2. The keyboard – oh the much vaunted, oh-so sexy, very much an obvious Apple-designed keyboard. It certainly does look good, doesn’t it? I hate it. No. I HATE it. Wait…I HATE IT! It looks good, but is one of those form over function mistakes that Apple has been known to make (original iMac hockey puck mouse, anyone?). My major issue isn’t that it’s a metal keyboard (the IBM XT keyboard was metal, and it’s amazingly my all-time favorite keyboard – you could drive a truck over it and it still worked), or that it does look like you could cut yourself on it (I’m sure you can’t), is that the keys are right from the Macbooks and with the complete lack of travel that you get with a laptop’s keyboard. The previous Apple keyboard was actually pretty good, and I might try to get another one to have as a backup down the road.
iLife ’08 was shown off as well. The new iMovie looks good as does iPhoto, and I would like to play around with iDVD once I get my hands on it, but Garageband does nothing for me and the .Mac Web Gallery, while I am sure is very cool, well…if it’s tied down to .Mac and I can’t upload it to say, my own domain…well…
iWork is Apple’s quiet little way to say “sit and spin” to Microsoft now that they added the spreadsheet, Numbers to the mix alongside Pages and Keynote. I haven’t been able to look at the iLife section of the Apple website in detail, but it does look like Pages and Numbers, while never going to be the feature-laden applications that Word and Excel are, will probably be able to hold their own against them. They will also be more than enough for Average Joe (and Somewhat Clever Joe) and just one more reason to not upgrade to Office 2008. If you don’t need all the bloat and the files are interchangeable… Keynote as always makes Powerpoint look like an Etch-a-Sketch, so no need to belabor that point.
The forlorn Mac mini also got a slight update in the form of a processor bump. The only mention of that was after a direct question from the audience. No love for the mini…
So, today’s announcements, they were cool, and there was some neat stuff. Not overwhelming, and no, certainly not 100% perfect. But this also wasn’t a regular MacWorld or WWDC-type keynote, so the Whiz-Bang levels aren’t expected to be as high as they are on Holy Keynote Day.
But now I do need to figure out how to justify changing my perfectly good and useful iMac in towards this new, lovely, aluminum model…
This week is WWDC, like Christmas for Macintosh developers and headlined by a keynote from Chairman Steve himself. Yesterday’s keynote was pretty much all about Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard and all of the keen features it will have when released this October (well, 10 of the 300 apparently). However, there were a couple of the infamous “One more things…” in store at the end. Firstly, a public beta of Safari 3 for both the Mac and Windows and that if you’re a developer and want to write apps for the iPhone, right now you’re going to use AJAX and Ruby and it’s going to run within the Safari browser on the phone itself. Needless to say the reaction from developers on this was muted at best. If you’re going to write first class applications for the phone, you want to write them as full fledged applications, and not so much web-based applications within a browser. However, I suspect that this is a temporary situation and by this time next year there will be a full developer’s kit add on for XCode and everyone will be a happy camper once again.
Then there was the Safari announcement. Some were puzzled, some were offended, some seemingly didn’t care, and most didn’t quite get the point because they were distracted by the smoke and mirrors of the Reality Distortion Field. Steve stood there and said they wanted to grow the Safari market share past what it could be with the installed Macintosh user base, and sure, that’s fine, and a sharp stick in the eye is better than using Internet Explorer, but what really would be the reason for porting it to Windows, then release as a beta version? Don’t get me wrong, on the Macintosh, Safari is a great browser, and I’m not saying that porting it to Windows is a waste of time, or that web browsing on a Windows machine is inherently better by any stretch. But right now if you’re on Windows and are looking for a better browser experience, perhaps Firefox may be more to your liking.
The timing for the release of this beta could not be more obvious. The release of the iPhone is now just a few days away on the 29th of June, and there are people interested in developing for it, and some of these people do not have Macintosh systems with Safari and very likely do not necessarily wish to purchase a Macintosh just to get access to Safari to test their application out with the same rendering engine that Safari on the iPhone uses to display web pages. Thus, to get people started on writing applications for the iPhone on both the Mac and Windows, Apple is throwing the beta out there for users. They can crow all they want about it being about growing the Safari market, and if it does get widespread adoption, it can help with those few weird websites that don’t adhere to proper web standards and render their information properly only in non-compliant browsers like IE and make the developers write their code properly.
But the big thing is the iPhone. Because now, no matter if you use Windows or a Macintosh, all you need to write for the iPhone is server space, a copy of Safari and plain old Notepad on Windows or TextEdit on Mac OS X (and massive brainpower). Of course, if you’re a real developer you would have a real development environment to do syntax checking and to colorize keywords and tags, do line counts and power searches and so on, but simple HTML (which, really, any iPhone app will have more than this) can be done with a no frills text editor. So substitute that with whatever your favorite web development environment happens to be and with a healthy knowledge of Web 2.0 you’re ready to start writing for the Phone of the Future.
Last week at the All Things Digital conference there was a very historic on stage discussion between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. If you’re at all interested in how it all turned out and the perspective of these two on the very brief history of personal computing, it’s worth checking out at the D5 website.