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April 12, 2010 10:34 AM


ipad_overview-in-the-box.jpg

I'm writing this from an iPad, comfortably from my lap at just about the same word entry rate that I usually get on a real keyboard. I'm going to email this to my Evernote account (free) and post this tomorrow after doing some editing in TextMate (not free but is awesome). I haven't bought a single piece of software for the iPad yet and have been able to be productive. I've also had fun playing a few "freemium" games (eg, We Rule and GodFinger).

This isn't a review but here's a few things to think about...

  • The iPad is the Xbox of hand held computers. Think of it as a console rather than a "PC" and you'll be in a better mindset to make a potential purchase.
  • I'm not going to do html markup on the iPad. Getting to all the characters needed for that is slow and annoying. I'll finish this post in TextMate on my MacBook Pro (with an attached monitor, keyboard and mouse).
  • If you think about Apple's products you can place the iPod, iPad, MacBook, iMac and desktop machines in a line. If you have one neighbor of the iPad, you probably shouldn't get one, if you have two neighbors then I'd say that there's so much overlap in those devices that buying an iPad is a waste of money, for now. I agree with the sentiment that when these things are three or maybe even two hundred dollars, the industry will experience a sea change. iPhone OS4 on an iPad that weighs less than a pound at $200 would be the revolution Apple keeps talking about.
  • Due to the race to the bottom on game prices for the iPhone, I'm much more sensitive to iPad app prices. $10 feels expensive now even though I'd get a lot more use out of something like NetNewsWire than from a new Moby record (note: Moby rocks, not bashing Moby) that would cost a few dollars more. I'd buy a new record without thinking, but I hesitated to buy NetNewsWire.
  • The iPad has one critical issue, weight. It's way too heavy to be a hand held reader. It sounds pathetic to say that my hand and wrist get tired while reading on this thing, but, they do. The battery life is *so good* that I think they might have made a mistake by wrapping an iPod Touch around a huge battery. I'd think I'd prefer to have this thing weigh a half pound less and just deal with it having shorter battery life (it stays at home anyway).
I don't regret my purchase like some folks do if only because my career is better informed by having one. I also happen to like the device. If you're a open source libertarian, then this isn't for you in the same way that socialism isn't for a red state tea party attendee.

December 28, 2009 11:02 AM


IMG_0633.PNG I have an iPhone 3GS and six pages of apps (I try to keeps things tidy). I use about 20 of those apps on a frequent basis and am generally over-connected. For Christmas my daughter got an iPod Touch, and since she's so young (6), I turned off the wifi connection and then configured which apps should be installed. I learned a couple of things...

  • I have many apps (read: most) that are completely useless unless there is a 3G/wifi connection.
  • The app store has tons of app for adults, but precious few quality apps for 1st grade kids.
  • I'll only pay a buck or two for an app for me, but will gladly pay $5 for a good app for my kid.
  • The entire first page on my iPhone is made up of connected apps (except Calendar and 1Password) and my daughter's first page is all games.
  • My six year old kid knows how to use an iPod Touch with ZERO instructions, but if she had to use iTunes to get apps onto it, she'd fail miserably.

There's a market here somewhere.



November 19, 2009 11:19 AM


textPlus-app-icon_large.pngI'm talking about the 2.0 version of textPlus, which I use daily. Paying for texting makes me feel like I'm actually burning my money, so textPlus saves the day since it's free to use (but has a generally sluggish user experience).

Should you pay money for something better or deal with some frustration so you don't have to pay? Like I said, I'm using the app everyday, so I've come down on the side of "free is more important than performance" but that's not going to work for everyone.

These issues really need to be resolved before I'd recommend the app to everyone.

  • It's sluggish! Almost everything you do requires some sort of loading or syncing that takes time, and texting is an inherently "NOW!" activity. While syncing and loading whatever, the app locks up, even if you are typing. You can keep typing tho and the iPhone's buffer will hold your keystrokes until the app becomes responsive.
  • When you start up the app to read or respond to a text, it has to load up an advert, and sync your current convo from the server. Even if you've received a text and saw it on screen, it usually won't immediately show up in the app since the app is syncing with the server. I just saw the message as an alert, and a preview when I loaded the app, but when I click the person's name who sent the message, it doesn't show up until the app syncs.
  • Somewhat often it will glitch in one of two ways, it will fail to connect to the servers (I usually blame AT&T for that) or the UI won't update correctly. The UI will show two texts overlapping and you have to back out and start back up to see everything correctly.
  • New in 2.0 is a bug where you'll see the app has a number badge on it indicating unread texts AFTER you've read all texts. You can reset that by opening the app, reading the unread texts from each conversation and then going back to the conversation list before quitting the app.
  • I think this might be unfixable, but the user experience from people receiving texts from you is less than optimal. The message isn't sent from your phone number, so they have to send the name you put in the app. Most phones use the phone number together with the phone book on the phone to show who sent the text. That gets broken and the result is a fairly verbose message. My wife told me to not send texts to her from the app because of this.

Everything actually works though, so it's worth giving it a try. Hopefully, over time, the app will become a lot snappier.



November 9, 2009 2:36 PM


canabalt.pngCanabalt is an amazingly simple yet fun game to play, but that simplicity results in some terrible UI issues. The only interaction you have in the game is to touch the screen to jump. If you die, touching the screen restarts the game and you're running for your life again, but the result is that there's no way to see high scores without restarting the app.

Another issue is that you have to 'click' on the screen to jump. Many iPhone games share this issue, but since the game is a fast scrolling game, every last pixel of the screen is precious. Hovering your big fat thumb over the screen so you can jump is either a nasty side effect of the iPhone's interface, or an added difficulty bonus (ie, it's not a bug, it's a feature!). To me, it's an unfortunate side effect.

Also, I find the ease of posting to Twitter compared to the difficulty of seeing your high scores to be a funny little commentary on the game.

There's also no online leader board, so I have no idea if this 7k run is good or not. But I's only $2.99 and is a great distraction during commercials or when recovering from yet another wipe on heroic 25 man Anub'arak. You can play it online for free.



January 29, 2004 10:47 AM


Copyright Extensions Ad Infinitum?Many of us older nerds have played with MIDI files before and played them on our old crappy computers and enjoyed popular songs played out in the style of childish muzak. On the Mac, Quicktime Instruments (a plugin) did a better job than that old Amiga at playing these files, but GarageBand improves on that be several orders of magnitude. Here's how to have some MIDI fun in GarageBand...
  1. Use a Mac that is pretty fast (because GarageBand is kind of a pig)
  2. Go download Dent du Midi
  3. Find a MIDI file of a song you like, in my case, I used Google to find a MIDI file of the old "Popcorn" song by Hot Butter. There's plenty of files out there.
  4. Install Dent du Midi, open it and drag and drop the MIDI file you downloaded onto the Dent du Midi window. Look on the desktop for a folder with the name of the MIDI file with "-GB" attached to the end.
  5. Start a new song in GarageBand and drag the .aif files onto the GarageBand window (dragging the hole folder won't work).
  6. Start applying instruments to the various tracks and have butchering your old favorites into bloody mess.
<sarcasm>
Hey Kids! Now you can violate copyrights in a new way! Releasing your own remix of old one hit wonders (or even new classics like the Simpsons theme) may be annoying to the original copyright holder due to the quality of the output you can achieve with GarageBand. So, get that Eurythmics groove going again and record you own voice over your own mix, edit the ID3 tags to look like the real thing, and upload it to Usenet (using Unison of course) and make it available on Kazaa (with your PC)!

Better yet, why not just steal the baseline from one song, the drums from another, and the keyboards from another and just sequence them together with zero effort in GarageBand. No one will be able to tell when you distort the hell out of everything so you can call it your own and sell it on your very own website!
</sarcasm>

Spin faster Mr Bono.



January 26, 2004 11:54 AM


GarageBand Turntable IconI was at the Apple Store (in meatspace, not online) and was tooling around with GarageBand on a dual proc 1.8gz G5. Loading loops was taking longer on that machine than my G4, so I thought that was weird, but even more weird, and kind of amusing was that Terminal was, in a way, disabled on the machine. They had stuffed the file into a password protected archive which made it hard for me to scp my GarageBand file to my host (instead of being evil and rf -rm'ing the filesystem in Terminal).

I had been noodling around in GarageBand for about 5 minutes and came up with a set of loops and arrangement I liked and wanted to keep the file, so I just downloaded Transmit, connected to the host, uploaded the .band file, disconnected, cleared my connection from the 'recent connections' list, trashed the app and the .band file and walked away (after setting the music to play in a loop on the machine). It's WAY too easy.

January 23, 2004 2:22 AM


GarageBandBeing the Mac dweeb that I am, I of course am playing with GarageBand and have a few opinions to share ("opinions are like assholes..."). Primarily, it's an interesting application for non-musicians like myself who want to fool themselves into thinking they created some music. Without ever playing an instrument, you can fake it enough where your wife will believe that you created the music coming out of the speakers, and that can be pretty satisfying in itself.

Really though, GarageBand is a grokkable composition and arrangement application offering you some flexibility in modifying, tweaking and embellishing the (MANY) loops provided for you. And you can add in your own noodling with a keyboard and microphone, but I'm inept and will mercifully keep my talent out of the ears of others. And again, in spite of that, I was able to fool my wife into believing that I created the music and she was actually interested in knowing how I did it. I don't think i want to show her because the bloom will be off the rose at that point, and I think that might be the Achilles heel of this application for the masses out there (ie, I don't see any Billboard hits coming out of this app, but who knows...)

What I'll really be looking at when I use the app and when I hear the songs created by GarageBand users is the compositional quality and arrangement skills of the song and author. Lots of electronic music out there is anchored in composition with a veneer of beeps, twitters and synth chords (a delicious collection to be sure) so, I figure that I'll be able to use GarageBand for a long while without missing out on the creative process that is solely based on loops arrangement (in my musically untalented case, maybe not yours). There's enough value in that for me to justify the price of iLife 04 (of which GarageBand is a part).

In terms of user interface, I utterly loathe the wooden UI elements surrounding the main application. It's cheesy, ugly and matches nothing else in the Mac OSX software pantheon, and the brushed metal theme on other iLife apps don't fill me with dreams of derivative experimentation (like Kaleidoscope did for some reason). Luckily though, the app is simple enough to allow for this multiple document interface paradigm (I loathe that word more than any other). Adding in tracks and fiddling with output levels and timing is pretty straightforward, but the process of importing loops or other sounds is completely undocumented (afaict).

After using offline help (and failing) and online help I was able to figure out how to import loops into GarageBand thru drag and drop. Just drag a folder of loops onto the loops area of the window and it will import them. However, it won't highlight that area when you are dragging the folder over it, so you have no indication that you are doing the right thing. There is widespread absence of contextual hinting in the app's UI...

  • There are zero contextual menus in the app
  • Tooltips are non-existent, and there are several buttons in the app that are completely new to me and new to Apple iApps
  • Selecting a track will subtly highlight the instrument in the track and un-grey out the loops that may be in the track. This needs to be made more obvious.
  • Like I said before, droppable region hinting isn't there and the Help application shows no info when you search for 'import'.
The only hinting that I can see is a line appearing in the main composition window when you drag a loop into the area (the line shows where, in time, that loop will start). So called "Real Instruments" and "Software Instruments" can only be dragged onto certain types of effects filters so the line will only show up if you are making a new track by the drag and drop action, of if the loops is compatible with the effect defined in a track you have already created. It's annoying (to me, the neophyte) that there is this compatibility issue in there when it comes to loops and effects.

Still though, it's a fun application to use and it passes the 'wake up' test for me, which works like the following...

  • When I wake up in the morning, do I think about the application and feel motivated to get out of bed and use it?
  • When I use the app, does it make me think differently about things?
When the answer is "yes" to both questions, I get excited.

January 6, 2004 4:16 AM


Apple says that for fifty extra dollars, you can get a way better portable music player than you typical flash memory based unit. Well, for fifty extra dollars over this new iPod mini, you can almost quadruple the amount of storage (from 4 gigs to 15 gigs) with a less-than-modest increase in size. Essentially, the difference is $50, 2 ounces and 11 gigabytes. Somehow Apple has managed to make something less expensive and make it more of a luxury item.



October 29, 2003 9:28 AM


Firing him will generate more bad press than his blog posting would have. I would never of heard of this unless the news of his release from MSFT was put on the various Mac news sites. Everyone is going to see this story today, but I'm going to post about it here anyway.

Now really, it seems to me that MSFT must need to buy some Macs so they can be sure their Mac software actually runs, right? What's the harm in showing a pallette of G5's (some of them knocked over) on a truck? If they poster didn't say it was at Microsoft building, you would be able to tell.

Where I work, we have a Standards of Business Conduct thing that you agree to work there, which I read carefully, and it suggests that giving away corporate secrets will get you into trouble. That's why I didn't post pics of AOL's blogging system while it was in beta, and why I don't make all of the corporate logos available for download in vector format. Those would be obvious violations of trust between me and the company that feeds my family.

IMHO, a picture of a pallette of G5's being delivered to a company that writes Mac software is not grounds for removal. But who knows, this guy could be a major asshole who was on a 'work performance plan' and the company was looking for an excuse. Who knows. I don't, but the whole thing is pretty crazy.

October 21, 2003 9:12 AM


iTunes IconDave Fester, General Manager of the Windows Digital Media Division has a few things to say about the iPod and iTunes on the PC (and what a coincidence, the article was posted the day before Apple announced iTunes for PC). Even though he looks sprightly and offers you a high rez portrait of himself (oh joy!), he is less than enthusiastic about one more digital media application being written for his platform. Here's a quick look at the FUD...

iTunes will still remain a closed system, where iPod owners cannot access content from other services.
Nice FUD buddy. The last time I checked (which is every day for the last several months) I was able to put music on my iPod from non-iTunes based music services (eg, eMusic, MP3.com). Don't take my word for it though, just look at Apple's tech specs page for the device...
Audio formats supported:
  • Mac: AAC (up to 320 Kbps), MP3 (up to 320 Kbps), MP3 Variable Bit Rate (VBR), WAV, AIFF, Audible
  • Windows: MP3 (up to 320 Kbps), MP3 Variable Bit Rate (VBR), WAV, Audible
WMA is of course missing. <sarcasm>WMA, that really open file format that lets you do whatever you want with the music you bought.</sarcasm> What he really meant was that iTunes and the iPod do not work with BuyMusic.com, Napster or the other WMA specific music services currently being offered in the marketplace. IMHO, that's a good thing.
Additionally, users of iTunes are limited to music from Apple's Music Store.
Now, that's true, but only if you limit the scope of that statement to "in terms of buying music and putting it on your iPod without leaving one application" then it is indeed true that users of "iTunes are limited to music from Apple's Music Store." But, again, the last time I checked, music that I bought at eMusic.com, and downloaded off of MP3.com can be placed on my iPod using iTunes.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a drawback for Windows users, who expect choice in music services, choice in devices, and choice in music from a wide-variety of music services to burn to a CD or put on a portable device.
The last time I checked the flexibility offered by paid music download services that use WMA for the format, none of them match the iTunes service (10 burns per playlist, files can be on multiple machines, etc). Some only let you stream the music. And others only allow one CD to be burned. If you take a look at BuyMusic.com which uses WMA you'll notice that "BuyMusic's terms of sale also shut out several major digital music players from receiving downloads." More precisely...
The company specifies that devices are allowed to store digital music files and play them back in analog form but must not be able to transfer them on to other electronic devices. For example, consumers with an Archos device, an iPod competitor, would not be able download music, because that system allows them to transfer music to other devices. -C|net
Why isn't Mr. Fester complaining about BuyMusic.com's obvious lack of 'wide-variety' of support for portable devices? Oh yeah, they are WMA based. Ok, more on iTunes and music devices...
Lastly, if you use Apple's music store along with iTunes, you don't have the ability of using the over 40 different Windows Media-compatible portable music devices.
Is he trying to say that the iTunes application breaks all other music players? I'm guessing he meant to say something like 'syncing to a Rio doesn't work in iTunes' but the actual statement is kind of odd and FUD-like. I'll assume he's not being smarmy and meant the more benign interpretation, and I'll simply say, 'so what?' I own an iPod for a few good reasons, and one of them is the integration with iTunes and my Mac. 750,000 PC users have bought iPods for their own reasons. iTunes integration can now be added to that list.

The bottom line is that Apple brought iTunes to the PC to sell more iPods. God forbid they make iTunes work with the iPod and any MP3, ACC, VBR MP3, WAV or Audible file that you might have, regardless of where you got it (and if you are like me, you don't care that WMA and other DRM based music file formats aren't supported).

[I've been on a real tear with the Apple/Mac postings recently, and MacSurfer has been linking to those posts. Thanks for the links and thanks for visiting.]

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