Posted on Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
And so... to the surprise of nobody possessing an internet connection, Verizon announced that the iPhone will be available on their CDMA network on February 10th at long last.
As I usually do when faced with a difficult decision, I decided to make a PRO vs. CON chart in order to figure out whether switching from AT&T would be a good move for me...
|Might actually be able to make a phone call that doesn't drop!||Would have to pay out my contract with AT&T plus buy a new iPhone. $$$|
|I get 3G coverage instead of shitty EDGE in my podunk home town!||3G may be more widespread, but is slower than AT&T's 3G.|
|Data might actually be usable in my podunk home town!||No coverage outside of the USA for most of the countries I usually travel to.|
|Possibly don't have to pay for tethering to data I'm already paying for?!||You can't talk and surf at the same time, which is VERY handy.|
|MIGHT ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO MAKE A FUCKING PHONE CALL THAT DOESN'T DROP... I MEAN, SHIT, IT'S A FUCKING PHONE!||I've had pretty good customer service from AT&T, but had HORRIBLE customer service when I was with Verizon Wireless.|
When I first switched from Verizon to AT&T, I was actually very happy. I rarely had dropped calls, and the data service was pretty good over their EDGE network. Then something terrible happened. iPhone became a raging success, and the AT&T network couldn't keep up. The release of the 3G made the problem even worse. By the time I upgraded to the 3GS, things were so bad that I thought my new phone was broken because I kept dropping calls. The 4G came out and I actually got better signal than I ever had (despite "Antennagate")... but AT&T's network was still so shitty that it didn't help.
Because I stil have a year on my AT&T contract and Verizon has shitty coverage outside the USA, I am not ready to switch just yet. And if AT&T wants to keep it that way, here's three steps they could take...
Ultimately, this announcement doesn't affect me all that much. But, if AT&T doesn't DO SOMETHING over the next year in order to improve the shitty state of their network, it could very well be a very big deal in 2012.
Posted on Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
ZOMFG! I am so much cooler than you are right now. And let me show you why...
This crappy photo doesn't do it justice... the printing is incredible. Bright, vivid, accurate color.
My new MacBook Pro GelaSkins arrived!
Because these things are printed on demand, I was expecting the quality to be pretty crappy. I couldn't have been more wrong. These things are super-sweet, and look just awesome!
My one disappointment is that they don't give you a template to construct your art on. I ended up taking a screen-shot of their "skin-maker" and blowing it up so I could try and get the Apple logo right. Except there was no way of getting the placement exactly how I wanted because the screen-shot is just a blurry mess. Even worse, the "screen proof" they show you is shockingly inaccurate. This is pretty harsh. If they are going to offer a cut-out design, they should provide a way of getting a decent template to work on. Sure registration isn't going to be dead-perfect, but having a LITTLE bit of accuracy would go a long way.
Because this is what I was expecting to get...
But, as you can see from the above photo, the Apple cut-out ended up being considerably larger than their website depicts... this caused the thick outline around the Apple logo to end up way too thin. I mean, it doesn't look BAD by any means... and people would probably never notice if I hadn't pointed it out... but, for a guy who is hung-up on good design, things like this drive me bonkers.
Anyway, if you are looking to skin your electronics, I can't recommend GelaSkins highly enough. They're a big pricey, but the quality is definitely there. I just wish that they offered a proper template so people can have the artwork look as they intend it to be.
Posted on Friday, March 4th, 2011
As I've said a couple of times now, I have no use for an iPad. My iPhone and MacBook do everything I need, and an iPad would just be one more thing to carry. Sure I bought one. I kinda had to. I'm an iOS developer and needed to update app graphics for some of my clients so they work on iPad. But after I was done, I gave it to my mom. She loves it. For her, it is truly a "Magical and Revolutionary New Device," just as Apple said.
I recently started composing music again.
I used to write quite a bit of music when I was in video production. It saved me lots of time over collaborating with a REAL musician, which meant I could move on to my next project faster. Alas, eventually digital editing tools came along that made my kind of video work redundant. I stopped doing video projects, which meant I stopped making music as well.
But recently I got bit by the music bug again, and have been using Apple's "SoundTrack" and "Garage Band" apps to bang out some tunes on my Mac with an old keyboard I have. It's far from an ideal solution. I have to "fake" instruments like guitars, drums, brass, and woodwinds by "playing" them on the keyboard or using pre-made loops because I can't play them very well in real life. I can play keyboard decently. Electronic drums I'm okay at. I have played bass guitar a few times and can manage. Barely. Sax and clarinet I used to play well, but suck at now. Given my menial musical talent, I don't have much choice but to faux compose on a computer. But I manage and it works.And then I saw Apple's "iPad2 Event" and nearly crapped my pants.
They demoed the new iPad Garage Band app, and it's jaw-dropping amazing. I'd go so far as to say "fucking astounding," but I don't want to oversell things here.
Except it really is fucking astounding...
For $4.99 (FOUR DOLLARS AND NINETY-NINE CENTS!) you get such a jaw-dropping array of musical tools with such unprecedented interactivity and functionality that you would have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on real life instruments and gear to even get even close to what Apple is offering. But they don't stop there. For instruments you might not play very well, they include "smart instruments" which assist you in working with them. PLUS an amp with stompboxes (for incorporating real guitars) AND a frickin' eight-track recording studio...
The most amazing part is how much thought went into it. It's like Garage Band was designed by actual musicians who would know what's needed to make an app like this useful. Like using the iPad's accelerometer to sense how hard you're tapping a piano key or a drum. Like using iPad's multi-touch surface to do things you couldn't even do with a real instrument. Like including properties of actual instruments so their virtual counterparts play as expected (chord dampening!).
For the music hobbyist who wants access to a "home studio" full of instruments and multi-track recording equipment (like me!) the iPad is more than a frickin' bargain... It's almost free. $500 for the hardware plus $5 for a crap-load of exceptional instruments AND a recording studio? I mean, holy shit. How can I NOT want an iPad now?
It's like the Mac version is just a clutzy imitator, and THIS is was what Garage Band was meant to be all along.
Of course, me talking about it can't possibly explain just how wonderful the app is. If you're an amateur musician... or even somebody who just likes the idea of giving music a try, you owe it to yourself to watch the Apple keynote video here (the Garage Band stuff starts
As for the iPad2 itself? It's nice. It finally includes the front-facing FaceTime camera THAT IT SHOULD HAVE HAD ALL ALONG. There's other good new stuff too, and the bump in speed and graphics will make more complex apps function better (as well as opening the door for even more incredible stuff in the future). But the miraculous thing about the iPad is not its specs. It's the extraordinary experience of using one that gives Apple the edge. This is something that competitors simply don't seem to understand. It doesn't matter if you have a tablet with a faster processor or more memory or more ports than iPad... you're not going to make a superior experience to iPad in hardware alone. It's the tight integration of hardware to software when married to truly brilliant apps like GarageBand that makes an iPad an iPad.
It's almost frightening to think of where Apple maight take us next.
Posted on Monday, March 14th, 2011
Ask any web developer what the worst part of their job is, and they're almost certain to answer "writing hacks so pages display properly in Microsoft Internet Explorer." For years, Microsoft had a pile-of-shit browser that failed to render standard HTML properly. This means that every time you come up with a new design, you have to do a bunch of freaky shit... hacks, work-arounds, bug traps, etc... specific to Microsoft so that people using their crappy browser could view your web pages.
In recent years, Microsoft has gotten more proficient at making their dumbass browsers work better with web standards, but there are so many people using older versions of their bullshit software that it's still a problem even to this day (which is why Microsoft is begging people to upgrade).
Eventually, web designers built up a library of hacks that they could pop into designs that would handle all the Microsoft dumbassery. It wasn't an elegant solution, but it works. It works so well that I don't even think about it any more.
I never, ever thought that I would run across something that would be worse than the days I spent pulling my hair out at 2:00am trying to get a web page to display in Microsoft Internet Explorer.
I was wrong.
Welcome to Apple's iBooks...
When they first released iBooks, a lot of people were relieved to know that Apple had decided to use the existing ePub standard for their file format. This meant that the bazillion eBooks out there that were already in ePub format would work just fine in iBooks.
BECAUSE APPLE HAS SO HOPELESSLY FUCKED UP THE WAY ePUB DOCUMENTS ARE RENDERED THAT I FIND MYSELF LONGING FOR THE "GOOD OLD DAYS" OF DICKING AROUND WITH MICROSOFT INTERNET EXPLORER CODE!
I am not joking. Apple iBooks has so much incomprehensible shit going on that they should aspire to be Microsoft. In fact, Apple's iBooks team of 2011 could take lessons from the Microsoft Internet Explorer team of 2001 on how to comply with internet standards.
I have just spent SEVEN HOURS trying to get an ePub document to render properly in iBooks. And I'm still not there yet. I'm getting closer, but thanks to the totally fucked up way that iBooks dicks around with text when the "Full Justification" setting is on, I've still got a ways to go.
Apparently Apple has some magical document called iBookstore Asset Guide that is supposed to help, but the only way you can get it is to become a publishing partner with Apple. Yes, you read that right, in order to force Apple's piece-of-shit software to comply with OPEN STANDARDS, you have to get some kind of "secret document" not available to the general public.
It sure would be nice if Apple got the same kind of hatred-fueled uproar that Microsoft gets when they fuck up. Maybe then Apple would start listening to people, just like Microsoft was forced to.
In the meanwhile... fuck you, Apple. I thought I was done with this kind of hackery bullshit.
Posted on Friday, March 18th, 2011
Because I'm traveling on a restricted ticket, I ended up with an extended layover in London. Not that I'm complaining... I love London, and visit every chance I get (which would be a lot more often if the US Dollar wasn't rubbish against the British Pound). It's just that it's tough to be here when I don't have any personal time to hang out with friends that live in the area.
Hopefully next time.
Thanks to a patient taxi driver and London's excellent public transportation system, yesterday I managed to get a big chunk of the city's "Featured Spots" stamps collected from Gowalla. Then today before dinner I finished off the two remaining spots I needed. Some of the fringe locations (such as Wembley Stadium and the Prime Meridian of the World), will have to wait for next time, but I got all the biggies from the city and surrounds (you can click on them to see what they are)...
I maintain that Gowalla makes for an excellent travel guide when visiting larger cities, because the most popular tourist spots always seem to get "Featured" status. Out of the above stamps, I've been to these places multiple times. I admit it was kind of nice to be visiting them again not as a tourist, but as a collector! Thanks, Gowalla!
One place I haven't been to multiple times is the new Apple Store in Covent Gardens! It's the largest Apple Store on planet earth (at least until the New York Grand Central location is built). It's also incredibly beautiful, as Apple did an amazing job refurbishing the building. What I love most is how, from the outside, you can't really tell its an Apple Store at all...
Somebody just bought a new iPod!
No giant sign or anything... not even a glowing Apple logo... just elegance and class through and through. They discourage picture-taking inside, but Apple's official site has some beautiful photos you can look at.
The exact opposite of elegance and class would be the massive outpouring of tacky souvenir crap that's been unleashed in "honor" of the upcoming royal wedding. The stuff is everywhere. Plates, cups, notepads, stickers, cards, books, pencils, platters, postcards... you name it. I would not have been at all surprised if you could buy hemorrhoid cream with Prince William and Kate Middleton printed on the tube...
Something tells me this stuff doesn't have Her Majesty The Queen's approval.
I started out my day with the best breakfast in London at Pret...
It's heaven on a baguette!
The Egg & Roasted Tomatoes Baguette is so amazing that I ate a very light dinner last night so I'd be hungry enough to eat two. My biggest fear is that one day I'll come to London and they won't be making them anymore. For lunch I went back so I could have the Carrot & Humous Crunch Baguette. For dinner I went back yet again so I could have a Mozarella & Pesto Toastie. As usual, every single thing I've ever eaten at Pret has been delicious. And I love that they have so many vegetarian-friendly options. I keep hoping that Seattle will get a Pret, but in the USA it's just New York, DC, and Chicago for now.
Every trip to London I rave about how much I love the Johnston typeface which is used on all of the city's public transportation logos and signage. It's highly readable, yet somehow manages to be sublimely beautiful at the same time. Every time I see it, I fall in love all over again...
Hands-down my favorite sans-serif font of all time. If I ever redesign my blog, this is the typeface I'll be using.
The weather in London has been pretty much shit. It's been windy, cold, and rainy all day long. Seattle has a reputation for rain, but I've found London to be a much drearier place, weather-wise...
Still surprised when I hear tourists call this "London Bridge"... IT'S TOWER BRIDGE, YOU GITS!
The good thing about this is when the sun comes out in London, it's glorious (just like Seattle). I've had my share of beautiful London sunny days, so the weather hasn't bothered me too much.
And that's all she wrote from London. Tomorrow morning early, early, early I head back to the airport for my connecting flight. I'm hoping for better weather at my final destination. If I wanted cold, windy, and wet... I would have stayed at home.
Posted on Friday, March 25th, 2011
I don't celebrate my birthday, which is part of the reason I like leaving the country every year... it's a lot harder for your friends and family to throw a party or make a big deal over it when you're not around. That being said, the outpouring of birthday wishes from everybody is such a wonderful thing that I wish it could be my birthday every day! It's hard not to be happy when your email in-box, text messages, Facebook, and Twitter are jam-packed with well-wishers wanting to congratulate you on surviving another year. My hetero-life-partner even wrote a blog post for my birthday which, considering he almost never blogs anymore, was a really great end to an amazing day.
Which, oddly enough, was 31 hours long, since I started the 24th in London (7 hours ahead) and flew home to re-live a big chunk of my day all over again. I guess if it can't be your birthday every day, crossing time zones to make the one day you get last longer is the next best thing.
The flight home was somewhat torturous thanks to The Most Boring Man In The Universe sitting in the seat behind me. Seriously, this bastard rambled non-stop for nine-hours-and-twenty-minutes, loudly (LOUDLY) going on and on about mundane shit that even my iPod at full volume could not obliterate. Since he had an English accent, it was if I were trapped in the most horrifyingly boring documentary ever. I still have no idea how the poor person he was talking to the entire time kept from killing herself. I would have dashed my brains out on the seat-back tray after the first hour.
Coming back the USA was about as painless as it's ever been. I used to loathe going through border control and customs because the agents were always such assholes. But they truly have been improving over the past couple years, which makes foreign travel so much nicer. It's as if they knew people hated them and their hostile, shitty attitudes and decided to try being more pleasant. This time, I actually felt welcomed back to my own country, which would have been impossible for me to even dream of just five years ago. Having to wait less than ten minutes in line was also a nice bonus... especially after having suffered through Heathrow's 25-minute wait at border control twice. You'd think that one of the world's busiest airports could have more than two measly desks open for plane-loads of passengers, but apparently they just don't give a fuck. I kept looking for the sign saying VISIT THE UNITED KINGDOM AT YOUR PERIL, YOU FILTHY FOREIGN BASTARDS! But, being British, they're much more subtle about it. They just make you suffer a long wait in silence to show their disdain for your existence and their contempt at your desire to set foot on their soil.
But at least I didn't have to give my fingerprints, retina scan, and a stool sample like foreigners visiting these United States of America. I guess that's something.
My birthday also happens to be the birthday of Mac OS X, which turned ten years old yesterday! It's odd how Apple's OS is so young, but seems to have been around forever. I usually celebrate the occasion by booting up an antique Macintosh running an old, old, old version of Mac OS, just so I can appreciate how far we've come. The problem is that last year when I did this I actually came across some old features that I miss in the "modern" OS, so I'll probably skip this year. Nothing quite so sad as longing for technology advances from twenty years ago. What I wouldn't give to have each of my fucking folder windows remember their fucking Finder view selection and fucking sorting preference every fucking time I fucking open them... but, alas, that's only possible with technology from fucking 1990. Nothing like taking giant steps backwards as you head into the future, eh Apple?
And now I get ready to face my Friday, knowing full-well that there will be no Matt & Kim concert at the end of it. It's times like this I wonder how I manage to go on day after day, but I've got another birthday coming up next year where people will (hopefully) take the time to once again send happy thoughts my way... so I'll just hang on to that for the next 365 days* and see where that gets me.
*Usually, I'd be waiting 364 days, but 2012 is a leap year, giving me a whole extra day before my next birthday. How much does that suck? Thanks a lot crappy flawed Julian calendar system!
Posted on Sunday, April 17th, 2011
I can't believe it's the two-hundred-and-twenty-seventh episode of Bullet Sunday! That's like 60% of a full year's worth!
• Needle! Today is the 50th anniversary of the ground-breaking for Seattle's Space Needle. Originally created for the 1962 "Century 21 World's Fair," it quickly became a symbol of the city (if not the entire Pacific Northwest). What I love about the structure is that it doesn't look dated despite its classic 1960's styling. On top of that, it's a beautiful cornerstone of the Seattle skyline and a cool tourist attraction...
I've visited dozens of times, and the view from the top still takes my breath away. If you'd like to read more about the history of Seattle's landmark, there's a nice wrap-up at Wikipedia.
• Happy! What's kind of a mash-up between Friends and Coupling but somehow manages to be uniquely hilarious television in its own right? It's Happy Endings! I have to admit, I thought the whole "group-of-six-friends-half-girls-half-boys" sitcom concept had been played into the ground (usually to horrible effect). But I was dead wrong. Happy Endings is funny, funny, stuff. The premiere episode is available for FREE on iTunes and well-worth your time to check out...
• Proof? On the other end of the spectrum... the new television drama Body of Proof is just so bad. Dana Delany is great as a surgeon-turned-medical-examiner, but just about every other character on the show is total crap. The writing is so lame that it's almost comical. It's as if they set out to make everybody be intentionally annoying and unwatchable. I was hoping for another
• Collectorz. If you're a Macintosh whore who wants to enter your comic book collection in a computer database, you're pretty much screwed. Years ago I used a program called "ComicBase" which was originally created for Macs, but then they switched to Windows and dropped development for the Mac version (nice!). Over the years there's been a few new programs for Mac, but they haven't been very feature-rich. Enter "Comic Collector for Mac OS X" which is coming May 17th. It looks fairly complete and very affordable ($29.95 or $49.95 for a "pro" version)...
It pulls data and cover images off their web server, and allows for quick and easy barcode entry. In anticipation of its release, I've been using a trial membership for their companion "cloud" service: "Comic Book Collector Connect." It's a little cumbersome for adding comics, but still very cool. What's sweet about this company is that even if their OS X software sucks, I can still use the online Connect service to index my collection (unlimited access and database size for $19.95 a year!). If you're a fellow Mac whore with a comic book collection, check it out.
• AirPrint. One of the more serious omissions from iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.) was printing. Apple finally addressed this a while back with a technology they call AirPrint. The problem is that this "feature" is half-baked at best. First you either have to buy an AirPrint-Enabled printer or find a 3rd party solution which makes your non-Airport printer be recognized by the iOS. And then the fun begins... figuring out which apps can actually print worth a crap. Most don't. Apple's "Photos" app, for example, doesn't allow you to fill the page with your photo when you print it. Instead, it prints a tiny image in the middle of the page. Other apps print okay, but the lack of control over orientation, scale, and placement is a serious detriment. Only apps which are specifically designed for printing (like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) seem to produce expected results. This is kind of embarrassing for Apple. Usually they don't release something until it's polished and functional, and AirPrint isn't there yet. Still... it is a promising glimpse of the functionality that devices like these will need in a "post PC world."
Annnnnd... now it's time for the new Burn Notice movie... The Fall of Sam Axe! As a huge fan of Bruce Campbell, it's must-see TV.
Posted on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
This morning after my daily toast and jam, I checked my email and saw a new one pop up with the subject line "How does it feel?" which came from an email address I didn't recognize. Naturally, I thought this was some kind of creepy spam that was advertising male "enhancement drugs" or some other crap, but I was also curious because usually one of my two spam filters manages to intercept stuff like this. So I opened it.
Much to my surprise, it wasn't spam. It was a reader(?) who was overjoyed to be telling me that "Your hero Steve Jobs is spying on you" and was asking "How does it feel to have your privacy raped by Apple?" Then there was a link to a website for an application called iPhone Tracker.
Apparently, your iPhone is constantly keeping track of everywhere you go and "secretly" saving this data. Then, when you sync your iPhone with your computer, iPhone transfers this information to your backup file. It also transfers the data when you migrate to a new iPhone or restore your data for some reason. Two guys names Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden stumbled across it and decided to write a program that allows you to display the data on a map, like so...
Everywhere in the USA I've been for the past ten months.
The tracking is surprisingly deep. This is a drive I made out of Chicago last July.
Three or four trips to Europe, all tracked!
The dots are obviously not actual locations in Corsica I visited... probably just cell towers iPhone signaled.
A drive down the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
Now, my first reaction when I opened the program on my Mac was THIS IS SO AWESOME!! I mean, heck, I actually bought an iPhone app called "Trip Journal" to track my travels... I could have saved some money if I had known the feature was built-in! My only disappointment was that the data only goes back to June 30th, 2010 and I wish it went back further.
But then the implications began to sink it.
The iPhone Tracker developers don't believe that this data is transmitted to Apple in any form, but that doesn't mean that Apple couldn't take a look at it in the future. This alone doesn't scare me much since AT&T already has a record of everywhere I go (they log call locations for billing purposes). What does concern me is that Apple doesn't disclose that this data is being collected. If somebody were to steal my laptop, they could potentially see everywhere I've been and I'd be none the wiser because nobody told me it was there when I bought my iPhone. Not that I really care... I always blog where I'm at and log my every move with Gowalla anyway, but still... this is not a good thing.
Mostly because this data could be used in devious ways now that everybody knows about it. Want to know if your wife is cheating on you? Pull up iPhone Tracker and you can see exactly where she's been at any point in time. Want to know what your kids are up to? Run iPhone Tracker and know everywhere they go. Want to stalk somebody? Break into their house and run iPhone Tracker on their computer so you can track their movement patterns. The list goes on and on.
Obviously I don't think there's any evil motive behind Apple logging this information. They're probably working on some cool new feature for iDevices which will use the data in an interesting way. But they really, really should have warned people that their location is being tracked and definitely give people the option to turn this "feature" off if they should so desire. At the very least they should be encrypting it so that it's not so ridiculously easy to view.
I'm not very paranoid by nature, but every time something like this pops up, I can't help but wonder what other aspects of my life are being analyzed and collected. Then I conclude there's probably no part of my life that isn't on a computer somewhere, and just accept the fact that very little of what we do or say is private.
If you want to spy on yourself, you can download the Mac app to view your iPhone tracking data here.
Posted on Sunday, May 22nd, 2011
ZOMG! IT'S BULLET SUNDAY!
• Stars. I swear, if there is a single thing in this world you can count on outside of death and taxes, it's that any time Justin Timberlake hosts Saturday Night Live you're in for one hell of a show. The May 21st season finale was no exception. Not surprisingly, I haven't laughed this much at an SNL episode since the last time he hosted. What was surprising is that musical guest Lady Gaga made a couple very funny appearances throughout the show. I may not be the biggest fan of her music, but she killed it last night in the sketches. As if that weren't enough, we got another The Barry Gibb Talk Show installment too...
Your eyes do not deceive you... that's Susan Sarandon and Patricia Clarkson
making cameos on the funniest SNL Digital Short since Dick in a Box!
Can I just say that I long for the day that the real Barry and Robin Gibb make an appearance on The Barry Gibb Talk Show? I think the universe would probably explode from so much awesomeness.
• Dogs. As I was spending my entire paycheck on a bag of groceries last week, I noticed that MorningStar Farms Veggie Corn Dogs were back. I used to love them, but they were recalled and discontinued a couple years back because of of a heinous contamination at the manufacturing facility. Apparently that's (hopefully) been all sorted out, because I've discovered a new magical formula...
Is there anything that Grey Poupon Mild & Creamy Mustard doesn't taste good on?
• Bears. One of the single coolest people on earth would have to be Bear Grylls. The guy has racked up so many amazing feats that he makes ordinary men look like hamsters by comparison. It all started when he was the youngest person to climb Mount Everest at age 23. Since then he's continued to make awesome expeditions, and even went on to become a best-selling author and (somewhat controversial) television star...
And yet, this morning as I was watching television, I heard something which puts all of Bear Gryll's astounding adventures to shame. His ultimate feat of coolness has to be naming his three kids Jesse, Marmaduke and Huckleberry...
"Holy shit, dude! My name is MARMADUKE!" (Photo by Rob Loud - Getty Images)
I don't know how to feel about Jesse. On one hand, he side-stepped a landmine by not being saddled with a name like Marmaduke or Huckleberry. On the other hand, he doesn't have a kick-ass moniker that guarantees him a reality TV show. Oh well. Goes to show that just when you think Bear Grylls can't possibly be cooler than he already is, something comes along to prove you wrong.
• Trains. Dear iOS developers... I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR GAMES, SO STOP MAKING AWESOME NEW APPS I WANT TO PLAY! Especially all these terrific new board game apps for iPad. As a board game addict, it is really cool to see great games like Neuroshima Hex and Carcassonne being released, but now Days of Wonder has gone and dropped the awesome Ticket to Ride game for a mere $6.99 (my board game version cost $25!)... and it is stellar. It's better than stellar. It actually improves on the original by making it easier and more straightforward to play. But they didn't stop there, they made it Game Center aware, so you can play against other people anywhere in the world...
The object of the game is to build railroads. You do this by drawing Destination Tickets which give you two cities to connect. You then play colored Train Cards to build your routes, with longer routes being worth bigger points. It's easy to learn, but the strategy is where the fun is. Do you complete your own route, or block your opponent from completing theirs? Do you risk drawing another Destination Card to increase your score, or do you play it safe because you're running low on train cars? The variations on play are endless but, just in case you get bored, you can add expansion sets with an in-game purchase.
This is the future of board games right here. You can play against your friends no matter where you are, or connect with other players online when you don't have somebody to play with! Granted, it can be tricky to get a Game Center game started up, but other than that it's a flawless app. About the only thing I miss is the socializing that happens when playing a "real" game in person (talking smack over chat isn't the same!), but that's a minor detail when you consider how hard it is to get people together to play in "Real Life." For iPad users, Ticket to Ride gets my highest possible recommendation!
• Trolls. This past week my blog was linked to by some kind of newsletter from a wacky organization seeking to "protect marriage." Since the post they linked to has me supporting marriage equality and calling equality opponents "weak," I suppose it was only a matter of time. I got around a dozen comments, all of which were deleted because they were nasty or didn't contribute to the conversation in any meaningful way. Apparently, their only argument against marriage equality was to bad-mouth me, which is not commenting. It's just name-calling. Somehow I am not surprised that this is all they have left, considering a recent Gallup poll now has the majority of Americans supporting gay marriage for the first time...
This has me envisioning a future where Americans look back at this point in time and think "What the fuck was that all about?" Which will be nice, because I can't for the life of me understand what the big deal is over a person's sexuality not restricting their rights. If somebody writes left-handed, you don't see right-handed people demanding lefties can't get married... so who gives a fuck about two consenting gay adults getting married?
A lot of very insecure people who are worried that they are going to be tempting into getting gay-married, apparently. Which brings me to something of sheer awesomeness tweeted to me by @Galaxyfighter (Not Safe for Work)...
And on that note, I suppose I should be getting back to work.
Posted on Monday, May 23rd, 2011
Tomorrow I leave for Chicago. And, despite having work piled so high that even light cannot escape its gravitational pull, I just spent the last 90 minutes playing Ticket to Ride. That game is SO addicting. Like crack cocaine. Or so I've heard. If I didn't already have an iPad, I'd probably end up buying one just to play this game.
I finally had to pull myself away from playing with trains so I could write in this blog.
Thanks a lot, blog.
In the interest of full-disclosure, however, I should tell you that I am not really concentrating on whatever it is I'm writing here. Most of my brain is still playing Ticket to Ride.
For example, when I typed the words "Tomorrow I leave for Chicago," I immediately started thinking of what route I would take to get to Chicago if I were playing the game. In case you're curious, it would probably look something like this...
Then I find myself compelled to count how many cities I haven't been to (Six: Winnepeg, Sault Ste. Marie, Duluth, Omaha, El Paso, and Helena). And note which are the most connected cities (Helena, Denver, and Pittsburgh). And worst connected (Vancouver, Las Vegas, and Boston). And calculate which route would be the most disastrous if your opponent blocked you (Seattle to Portland, which goes from one train car to fifteen).
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Like I said, my brain won't stop playing.
Maybe it will stop if I play just one more game?
Posted on Monday, June 6th, 2011
Well smack my ass and call me Sally... it's Bullet MONDAY?!? Given all the crazy crap that's gone on since yesterday, I guess it's going to have to be!
• STEEEEEEVE! I don't know what it is about a Steve Jobs keynote event that brings out my maternal instincts, but every time I see one I end up thinking about how much I'd like to have Steve Jobs' baby. Today's spiffy keynote from Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference was no exception. So much cool stuff in the pipeline for all my Apple Whore toys... including Mac OS X Lion... iOS 5... and the all-new iCloud service...
I could spend the next half-hour writing about the many new features which had me soiling myself with happiness, but that's a full-load in my pants that nobody wants to hear about. Might be better if everybody just watched the Stevenote for themselves and decide which features are worth freaking over.
• WEEEEEEINER! And so Representative Anthony Weiner now admits he's a freaky-ass pervert who likes to send shirtless photos and pictures of his schlong to young ladies. A few thoughts...
If I was in this good of shape, I'd send photos like this to everybody I know. Everybody.
So... to sum up... whatever. Color me disappointed, but not surprised. These asshole politicians don't seem to know how to act any other way. About the only positive thing I can say is that at least he wasn't a total hypocrite here. It's not like he railed against homosexuals and was then caught trying to hook up for gay sex in a bathroom somewhere. In any event... way to stay classy, Representative Weiner.
• LEEEEEE! In much sadder news... Lee J. Ames has died. You may not know who he was, but I assure you that you've undoubtedly seen the result of his efforts. In fact, since you are looking at this blog, I can guarantee it! Mr. Ames is famous for his art instruction books, of which I am a massively huge fan...
He has an uncanny knack of being able to effortlessly break down objects to base elements, and his "Draw 50" series of books taught me to see things this same way. Lil' Dave... Bad Monkey... and most everything I've ever drawn here... it's all using techniques I first learned from studying Lee J. Ames. As with all things which are done well, his books still hold up even today. If you know a kid who is interested in learning how to draw, you could do a lot worse than to track down these wonderful publications at your local library or art store. Rest in peace, Lee... and thank you.
• BULL SHEEEEEET! So much for the separation of Church and State. Such fucking bullshit.
• SLAAAAAAAAYER! It's the International Day of Slayer today!
♫ The root of all evil is the heart of a black soul... a force that has lived all eternity! ♫ A never ending search for a truth never told... the loss of all hope and your dignity! ♫
Annnnd... now I have to spend a couple of hours preparing for another long, hard day of work in the morning.
I'd add a long, hard photo here to drive that point home, but I think we've all seen enough wieners for a while.
Posted on Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
Getting a whole six hours sleep last night (pharmaceutically-induced, alas) was everything I dreamed it would be.
Anyway, just a few things I keep forgetting to review...
• Chilly Pad! A while back I was shopping for a soldier at AnySoldier.com (which I talk about here and here) when I was told about a product by Frogg Toggs called "Chilly Pad." It was billed as some kind of "cooling towel" that sucks the heat away via evaporation. That sounded like a load of crap to me, but who am I to deny a soldier something to make his life easier... especially if it only costs $12? Just for kicks, I ordered one for myself too.
Imagine my shock when, holy crap, it actually works!
Just pour some water on it and be amazed as the super-evaporation cells go to work, causing the darn thing to become cool to the touch! Amazing! For the ultimate test, I wore one around my neck on my trip to Waverly Hills where there was a heat index of 105° and was pretty darn comfortable the entire time. I now keep one in the trunk of my car and will always have them on hand to send with my AnySoldier care packages. Worth checking out! I got mine at Sports Authority, but I'm sure they're available other places too.
• Spotify! Europeans have been enjoying the music mega-service Spotify for years, but Americans have been left out. Until now. For those unfamiliar, Spotify has a massively huge database of music available for streaming. In order to get at it, you have to sign up for an account. Free accounts are ad-supported and have a song limit. Unlimited accounts ($4.99/mo.) are ad-free, allow unlimited songs to be streamed, and have added sharing and organizational features. Premium accounts ($9.99/mo.) have even more features (like the ability to listen offline and stream to your mobile phone) and better sound quality. Free accounts weren't available yet, so I went for the $4.99/mo. Unlimited package.
The biggest selling point of Spotify is that they have a plain crazy-huge collection of songs. They pretty much boast that they have any track you want...
Except they really don't. There are many songs both obscure and popular I wanted to listen to which aren't available. That alone is a bummer, but what makes it unbearable is that a big chunk of their library is karaoke versions of songs, and every frickin' search you make is literally overwhelmed with karaoke crap I have absolutely no interest in.
Here's an example. Today I wanted to listen to Miley Cyrus's The Time of Our Lives (don't judge until you listen to it... it's a nice song!). Spotify doesn't have it available. What they do have is four karaoke versions...
WTF? And it gets worse when you do more generic searches like "Hall & Oates" where you get all kinds of karaoke shit mixed in. After a while, I figured out that you can do restrictive searches to cut out karaoke. Well, most karaoke... not all karaoke songs are described properly...
This should be an option in preferences to get rid of karaoke tracks if you don't want to see them, but I couldn't find one so I have to instead add "-karaoke" to every search, which is a pain in the ass. Other irritations? The Spotify app is clutzy and unintuitive compared to the iTunes interface I'm used to. I've also experienced "outages" of a sort, where certain artists simply will not play. Today I tried for quite a while to listen to Weird Al's new Alpocalypse album without success.
As you might guess, my final verdict is more negative than positive. I will be happy to keep my free account for occasional ad-supported listening, but I'm going to cancel my $4.99 "Unlimited" membership. Perhaps eventually they'll address my issues and I'll find it worthwhile, but for now I'm giving it a pass.
• Suits! Burn Notice. White Collar. Covert Affairs. Fairly Legal. Psych. When it comes to successes, USA Network has a pretty good track record for airing some really good television shows. Because of this, I'm willing to give any new show they come up with a shot. Their latest, Suits, sounded good on paper... but I wasn't sure how it was going to play out on the screen...
The story premise is that of a very smart guy with a photographic memory, Mike Ross (played by Patrick J. Adams) who tries to escape his dicey past by going to work at a prestigious law firm. He passed the bar on a dare, but doesn't have a law degree. His new boss (played by Gabriel Macht) is impressed enough to hire him anyway. The result is an uneasy partnership that is beneficial to both of them, even if they have to hide Mike's true nature from everybody at the firm.
And it works.
It works very well.
The cast is fantastic (Gina Torres!), the writing is sharp, the stories are smart, and the show as a whole is entertaining. My only concern is how long they can keep the premise interesting. Will people eventually find out about Mike? Will his scary past catch up with him? In all honesty, it doesn't really matter, and I hope they don't keep hanging the show on them when there's no need to do so.
Right now? Highly recommended. Only time will tell if they can keep it that way.
• Fotopedia! If you're a fan of travel photography and have an iOS device, run... don't walk... to the iTunes Store and grab everything you can from Fotonauts. Their Fotopedia apps have always been great, but the new stuff they've been cranking out has been amazing. North Korea (free) and Dreams of Burma (free) are well worth your time... but their latest collaboration with National Geographic, Above France ($2.99) is stunning...
They work on iPhone but, obviously, have a better presentation on iPad. Highest possible recommendation.
And now... bed. And hopefully another night of half-way decent sleep.
Posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
And so Apple released the latest iteration of their Macintosh operating system, MacOS X 10.7 "Lion."
As a Certified Apple Whore, I am compelled to blog about it. But it's kind of a silly prospect, because other sites have done such a comprehensive job of going over the features. What I think I'll do is just go over some of the things I really like and really hate. Starting... NOW!
• Installer. In a move that harkens back to the day that Apple decided to abandon the floppy disk with the iMac... then abandon the CD drive with the MacBook Air... Apple has abandoned the media for distributing Lion at $29. No installation CDs or DVDs... you buy the upgrade directly from the Mac App Store (though apparently there's a USB thumb-drive version coming in August for $69). This gave me some pause, but I had TWO full backups, so I just rolled with it. Everything went flawlessly. There's even some wizardry in the background to give you a "magical" partition on your drive so you have an emergency backup available if something goes wrong since there's no DVD to boot from. Nice! Eventually I probably will burn a DVD and do a clean install just to clear out some junk I've accumulated over the years, but overall, things couldn't have gone better.
SIMPLICITY FACTOR? 9.9 (out of 10)
• Fuller. One idea that I've historically hated is the idea of an app taking over the entire screen. It just "feels" wrong to not be able to see and manipulate stuff in other windows while you're in the current window. But after playing with iPhone and iPad for a while, you just get used to it. And now I actually prefer it. Yes, it makes things like "drag-and-drop" impossible, but the tradeoff is that you get maximum screen real estate to work with. On a cramped laptop, that's gold! Lion provides developers the ability to make their apps go full-screen with the click of a button. As of now, only Apple seems to have the feature baked in, but hopefully other apps will be getting the ability to go full-boat soon. HOWEVER... there is one small, yet highly frustrating, problem. When you go full-screen, the menu bar disappears. To get it back, you put your cursor at the top of the screen... AND WAIT AND WAIT AND WAIT AND WAIT! Well, that's an exaggeration, kind-of, but if I need my fucking menu bar, I NEED IT NOW, dammit! I have no idea if this is because of some animation going on or what, but it completely sabotages the usefulness of going full-screen.
It is absolutely ridiculous that you don't have an option to "Always Show Menu Bar" for full-screen apps! There's some useful shit up there... like a clock... and your battery level... and all kinds of stuff I want to be able to look at. But you can't until you shove your mouse up there and wait. And wait. And wait.
IDIOCY FACTOR? 10 (out of 10)
• Gestures. The "new school" way of providing computer input is "gestures," which is done by swiping, pinching, rotating, and performing other motions on a touch-screen or touch-pad or track-pad or touch-mouse. The iPhone and iPad have used stuff like this since day one. Want to shrink a photo? Pinch it! Want to enlarge a photo? Stretch it! I find such input to be natural, intuitive, and efficient. Apple obviously agrees, because they've expanded the use of gestures in a very big way. There's lots of them...
And, let me tell you, once you get used to gestures, you will never want to go back. Just having the ability to swipe with two fingers to go backwards and forwards through browsing history without having to move the cursor up to a button you press... well, it's genius...
I am adapting to the gestures very, very quickly. I love them. A lot. So much, that I will be buying a "Magic Track-Pad" for my desktop Mac.
AWESOME FACTOR? 9.9 (out of 10)
• Mission Control. Apple has done a really cool thing in combining "Spaces" (virtual desktops), "Dashboard" (widgets), full-screen apps, and open windows into a single interface called "Mission Control"...
And, thanks to gestures, it's always available! Just swipe up with three fingers and BLAM! there it is! In theory, I like it a lot. In practice? Not so much. Partly because its kind of a mess to take in all at once... but mostly because YOU CANNOT FUCKING REARRANGE YOUR "SPACES" VIRTUAL DESKTOPS! They're just stuck there. This sabotages the usefulness of another gesture I love... swiping right and left with three fingers to switch between your full-screen apps and your virtual desktops. Have ten Spaces open and want to arrange them so that you can swipe between them with the most efficiency? TOUGH SHIT! You can't! You have to swipe through nine fucking screens to get back and forth between two that you'd really like to have next to each other. Your only choices when configuring the arrangement of Spaces in preferences is whether you want them auto-arranged or not. NO option to manually arrange them.
DUMBASSERY FACTOR? 8.8 (out of 10)
• Save Me. The "Save File" dialog box is now hopelessly fucked for productivity. It used to be that you option-clicked on an existing filename in the dialog, and you would get that filename automatically populated in your filename save field. This is handy for overwriting a current file... but more useful as a way of modifying an exiting filename into a new filename (e.g. clicking on "BigFile_001.jpg" so you can save a file as "BigFile002.jpg". ANYWAY... now you just click on the filename instead of option-clicking, which is no big deal. But in MacOS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, the system highlighted the filename automatically (sans extension) so you could very quickly overwrite the name OR hit the right-arrow to add/change characters at the end to create the new filename. Now? Not so much. No text is automatically selected for you, so hitting the right-arrow key inexplicably sends you into whatever folder you're on. But even worse than all that? It takes FOREVER for your files to show up in the browser. (UPDATE! See below)
TIME-WASTING FACTOR? 9.2 (out of 10)
• Lag. UPDATE: Apparently the horrible performance lag was due to two things... my Mac re-indexing the drive for Spotlight searches and the presence of MacFUSE on my system (which is supposedly not yet compatible with 64-bit Lion). In addition to the delays you find when waiting for the menu bar to appear in full-screen apps and the file browser to be populated in the save dialog box... there are several other areas. So many things just seem... slow. It used to be you'd press the space bar to preview with QuickLook and a window would appear instantly. Now? There's a huge delay. A delay so long that I'd argue it's probably faster to just double-click on the damn thing to open it in an app. It goes on and on (just try opening a Finder window so you can count the SECONDS it takes for the files to show up). Again, this may be due to the fancy animations going on, I don't know, but it is absolutely UNFORGIVABLE. Why the fuck would you make an operating system slower so people are waiting around all the time? It's a productivity killer on a massive scale because all those wasted seconds add up. This alone has me hesitating to recommend the Lion upgrade... if, like me, you YOU WANT TO GET SHIT DONE! This is so very, very frustrating.
STUPIDITY FACTOR? 38.6 (out of 10)
• Dock. Some freaky-ass stuff is going on with the way applications are run. Part of this has to do with the way Lion is taking control of your apps to better manage resources. If it's running low on memory, it can now tell an app you aren't using to quit itself. Then, when you need it again, Lion will reopen it exactly in the state it was in when it told the app to quit. I don't necessarily have a problem with this, but... it's not working right. You now have a choice whether the Dock displays a little light under running apps, but it's lighting up under apps which I've quit before a logout. Other times it refuses to light up apps I've just run. It's irritating. There's an option to turn off the indicator light, but I like to have it... when it works.
CONFUSION FACTOR? 5.7 (out of 10)
• Login. I have no fucking clue how Apple ended up with one of the ugliest login screens I have ever seen... and I'm including DOS-based logins from the 1980's. How the fuck can Apple, who is so sensitive to beauty in design, botch something so badly?
This is a crappy photograph of a crappy login, because I can't take a snapshot of it directly.
Everything about it is off. The circular pictures with the high-gloss reflections are tacky as hell. The "linen" background is boring as fuck. The Apple logo is wandering and distracting. The buttons are diminutive and lost. Everything about this piece of shit design screams amateur hour, and I cannot believe that His Holiness Steve Jobs okayed this. I've come to expect shit like this from Microsoft. But I am both disgusted and deeply saddened to see it coming from Apple. And so THIS is what I have to look at every morning when I start my day at work now? Why? WHY, LORD, WHY?!?
UGLINESS FACTOR? 18.2 (out of 10)
• Backwards. In an effort to make window scrolling act more like an iPad, Apple has introduced "natural" scrolling in Lion. The idea is that you click and pull window content in the direction you want it to move... just as if your mouse pointer was your finger. It seems like a smart idea, but it doesn't work... at least not for me. On an iPad, my finger is moving the actual content. On a Mac, my finger is moving a pointer which, in turn, moves scroll bars. From this perspective, using "natural" scrolling is backwards from how it should be and is, in fact, not "natural" at all. I turned it off after only an hour because I could not see myself getting used to it, nor training my brain to make sense of it. If I ever get a touch-screen on my Mac, then sure. But now? No thanks.
BIZARRE FACTOR? 8.0 (out of 10)
• Dash. Apple's widget repository, which they call Dashboard, is a nice feature that I use all the time. My "Dashboard" is filled with widgets which do everything from give me the weather forecast to track packages to taking notes to dozens of other things that widgets let you do. But not is all wine and roses in WidgetLand. The first time you open Dashboard, you have to WAIT AND WAIT AND WAIT AND WAIT for the widgets to activate. Subsequent access is still slow, but not horribly so. It's always been like this but, for some reason, I really thought they would address it in Lion. I'm sure it's a memory thing (why waste resources if somebody isn't going to even use Dashboard?) but I am ALWAYS using Dashboard, and the waiting drives me insane. If that wasn't enough, Apple changed some of the widgets so they're uglier. The font in calculator doesn't even frickin' fit in the display properly.
BOREDOM FACTOR? 5.1 (out of 10)
• Mail. If there's one program in OS X that I borderline hate, it's Apple Mail. It sucks on so many levels that I end up wanting to punch my computer at least once a day. It's slow. It's illogical. It's stupid (functionality-wise). It's unbearably frustrating for anybody who does more with email than just the basics. Well, Lion's new-and-improved Mail is, in fact, new-and-improved in many ways... but still kind of stupid in others. You get a new GMail-inspired "conversation view" but it ONLY displays your replies if they were written on the computer you're using! It doesn't matter if you have IMAP and store messages on a server for ALL your computers... Mail completely ignores anything you replied with when using other machines. This is almost laughable in just how fucking stupid it is. At first I thought it was my fault... I had stuff configured differently between them so Mail couldn't figure it out. But I use iSync, so that can't be the reason. So why? Did nobody TEST for this? Inexplicable bullshit like this drives me fucking crazy. Hopefully I'll eventually get it figured out, because right now "conversation view" is less than useless when it's incomplete. And yet... there are other things. Other cool things. I LOVE LOVE LOVE being able to flag mail with different colors. That's been a LONG time coming since I had this in every MacOS 9 mail app I ever used in the 80's and 90's! I still have a lot of exploring to do but, in the meanwhile, color me half-impressed.
INDECISIVE FACTOR? 5.0 (out of 10)
• Miscellany. I've only been using Lion for half-a-day, so this is going to be a really incomplete list. Some things I haven't experienced yet... like auto-file-versioning, AirDrop file sharing, and some of the security features. Other things I've run across have been cool, but not yet explored. Like the new three-finger-double-click to get a contextual dictionary...
And the hold-key character-picker...
And the three-finger-pinch Application Launcher "Launchpad" which is SO much nicer than digging through the Applications Folder...
Still other things are just plain crazy... like the new-and-unimproved tiny-ass window control buttons...
Annnd... there's a lot more... I really like the new "All My Files" view available in the Finder windows. The whole-disk encryption is a godsend for somebody who travels all the time like me. There's additions to iCal and Address Book that help them not to suck so terribly. There's tiny little improvements everywhere that are nice. For the most part. I just wish Apple had taken a little more time to get rid of those frustrating changes and omissions that can make the OS less than what it could be.
AND FOR FUCKS SAKE, GET RID OF ALL THE LAG-TIME THAT MAKES ME WANT TO PULL MY HAIR OUT EVERY TIME I OPEN A FUCKING WINDOW!
FINAL SCORE? 7.5 (out of 10)
Posted on Thursday, July 21st, 2011
I am writing my Thursday post on Friday morning.
Not because I wanted to or I ran out of time... but because I had to. After a full day-and-a-half with Apple's new "MacOS X Lion" installed, I started experiencing one catastrophic system failure after another. For no discernible reason, the program I was using would suddenly lock up, followed shortly thereafter by the entire system. I'd then have to do a complete power-down and reboot. Again and again. I have tried disabling every extra system extension I can find, but nothing I try does any good.
I have no clue what's going wrong. I think it had to do with the file system crashing at random and taking my entire computer with it. Most crashes happen when I am trying to load/save, but not always. This morning my MacBook crashed when I was adding an attachment to an email. I pulled up the file browser to select the files and... nothing...
After a few minutes of Mail going non-responsive, the program fails...
After a few more minutes, the Finder and everything else goes non-responsive. The system has died.
I've got a 2.53 GHz Core Duo MacBook with 4 GB RAM, so my machine is more than capable of upgrading to Lion. And yet... something is going wrong. Some hidden extension that I've got installed somewhere is not compatible. Or so I'm guessing. All I can say for certain is that I have lost an entire evening's work because of this crap.
Guess today I get to do a Clean Install.
My hope is that this will not only stop the crashing... but also solve the riddle of my slow-to-respond file system that I was bitching about yesterday.
I guess sometimes Apple doesn't "just work."
Posted on Thursday, August 4th, 2011
After a week, I can't say that I'm a big fan of Apple's new "Lion" OS.
At least not yet.
So far for me it's been a buggy, slow, crash-prone pile of crap. But so many people are raving about it that I'm sure it's just some legacy stuff from four years ago that's lurking on my hard drive and causing problems. Doing a clean install tomorrow should fix things right up.
At least it had better.
Because I am sick to death of having to reboot a minimum of twice a day... and if I get one more "Application Not Responding" freeze I'm going to go all homicidal...
In the meanwhile I've got one last task left to do tonight before I wipe my hard drive. After that? Say good night, Gracie.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to a Very Special Episode of...
... nah, that would be telling!
UPDATE! Wheee! In the 35 minutes it took me to complete my project, my MacBook froze twice, had to be rebooted once, and started sporting really odd behavior in the Finder with files popping up which could not be deleted unless I restarted it...
WHY THE #@$% NOT?!? IT'S NOT BEING USED... HELL, IT DOESN'T EVEN REALLY EXIST!!
I hope everything goes well tomorrow so I don't have to set my laptop on fire.
Posted on Sunday, August 7th, 2011
YEEEEEEEEE-HAW! It's a rootin' tootin' six-shootin' Bullet Sunday!
• Masked! I am not such a big fan of the new TNT series Franklin & Bash. Nobody likes a smart-ass more than I do, but the lead characters all too often cross the line from smartassery to dumbassery, and I spend much of each episode rolling my eyes back into my head...
Judge: You're asking to bring a corpse into my courtroom?
Franklin: No! That would be ridiculous!
Bash: We want to bring the court to him. Jury field-trip to the morgue!
Prosecutor: A field trip. Really. You sure you got signed permission slips from your moms?
Franklin: Actually, we got one from yours.
Bash: Last night!
Bwah ha ha ha! From your mom... LAST NIGHT! How high-larious is that?!
Who wants to listen to lame, cliche, stupid-ass dialogue like this? However, the show has Malcolm McDowell in it, which is one of my favorite actors, so I keep watching.
This dedication to Franklin & Bash was rewarded in their season finale which featured a guest-appearance by the delicious Tricia Helfer! But the bigger surprise was a guest-star playing a masked Mexican wrestler named "Ultimo" involved in a lawsuit...
Until he removed his mask at the end, I had no idea who it was. And this drives me nuts, because I should have known! I'm a big fan of the actor! (SPOILER! Highlight the inviso-text if you want to know: Danny Trejo). Oh well. The series has been renewed, so I'm hoping that the writers go more "smart-funny" in season two.
• Roar! I finally did a clean install of Lion on my crippled MacBook. I was going to attempt this with the "recovery partition" that Lion makes on your hard drive, but decided instead to start over from scratch by making a bootable Lion Installer on a USB drive. Cut to a half-hour later, and my computer was operating "normally" again. I still have some real problems with the way Lion does certain things and some of the choices that Apple made, but at least I have a useable computer. Now starts the scary task of reinstalling my software in the hopes that one of the programs I rely on wasn't what was causing all the problems.
• Hidden! And speaking of installing my software... I ran into something new in Lion that I can't figure out. Why has Apple decided to hide the "library" folder in a user's home directory? At first I thought it was to protect all the settings, preferences, and support files from being tampered with... which I kinda get... but then why wouldn't they hide the "library" folder for the System? In any event, this makes it tough for people to transfer their prefs or delete faulty prefs when there's a problem. Fortunately, you can show hidden files in the terminal with...
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool true
And you can hide them again with...
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool false
• Wrong! Since I haven't installed Photoshop back on my laptop yet, I started up Apple's photo manager/editor Aperture 3. All I needed was to crop that wrestler photo, so it wasn't a big deal. Except it was. I cropped the image to 500 x 330 like I wanted...
But when I open it... not so much...
Which finds me once again wondering who in the hell is beta-testing Apple's shit. The more I use their software lately, the more problems I run across. Problems which should have easily been caught during beta testing. I mean, seriously, if you were in charge testing of testing the crop tool, wouldn't you VERIFY that it actually crops to the size that it said it cropped to? Wouldn't that be job one? This is beyond lame and has me wondering if Apple has gotten too big to give a fuck anymore (see: Microsoft).
• Reed! A while back, a company called "Black Pixel" bought out the awesome feed reader I use, NetNewsWire. They promised to give us a road-map of future released after WWDC back in June... but... nothing. So I decided to check out the Mac version of the feed reader I use on my iPhone, Reeder. It's nice. It's polished. But I couldn't find a "next unread" shortcut when reading through my full list. This is a pretty basic feature, so now I'm looking elsewhere. Sometimes "progress" can really suck.
• Cloud! I have entirely too many computer files. So many that I could never store them all on my laptop. So I went and signed up for DropBox, thinking I would be getting a magical hard drive in the sky where I could remotely access my files without taking up local hard drive space. WRONG! DropBox doesn't have a cloud storage option... anything you put there is mirrored on your hard drive which, while useful in some cases, is the opposite of what I wanted. Sure you have the ability to not sync certain folders, but then you have to either sync them when you want to use them (a huge waste of time and bandwidth) or use their web browser interface (slow and inconvenient). Enter ExpanDrive! Available for both Mac & Windows, this nifty app can mount remote volumes (such as FTP or Amazon S3) as a local drive which acts the exact same as a drive plugged into your computer. It works shockingly well, and assures me that I can have easy access to my files even if I don't have room for all of them on my Mac. If you have a need for such a thing, there's a free 30-day trial available for download.
And, on that happy note, I now get to sort through a batch of crap that I took out of my storage unit a couple months back. That aught to be a boat-load of fun.
Posted on Monday, August 8th, 2011
"Some men just want to watch the world burn."
— Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight
In total seriousness, why can't I block incoming call numbers on my iPhone?
Or, to be more accurate, why do I have to "jailbreak" my iPhone to block incoming call numbers on my iPhone?
How "smart" can a "smart phone" be if you can't tell it to block calls you don't want?
Last week somebody had my mobile phone confused with a FAX machine. For two hours. After the first hour, I added the caller to my address book so I could assign a "silent" ringtone. Because that's the absolute best you can do with an iPhone. For the past couple days I've had to once again ignore my phone because of a number I don't know keeps calling. Today I couldn't stand it any longer and answered. It was a company wanting me to take an opinion poll. My opinion was that they could shove their fucking poll up their ass since the call was eating into my minutes.
The fact that Apple doesn't allow people to manage who has access to them is pathetic.
In other bad news, this is London...
The above map shows incidents of "rioting" in The City and its surrounds.
I can pretend to understand the thinking that would cause somebody who feels poverty-stricken, oppressed, and abused by The System to resort to violence and destroy the property of innocent people who are just trying to make a living... but not really. Especially when people are being endangered and hurt.
"London shops that survived the German blitz bombings and fires, now being burned to the ground by their own in 2011."
— @felix85, via Twitter
Sadly, this kind of mentality feels like a sign of things to come. And it's only a matter of time before it reaches our shores. With each passing day, US citizens grow more and more tired of the fucked-up political bullshit that's destroying their lives and this country. There's no respect, compassion, understanding, or compromise any more. Just hate. And all that hate has to go somewhere.
It's just a matter of whether the world can survive it.
"No, I don't mind being the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one."
— Adrian Veidt, Watchmen
Though right now, I'd settle for a smarter smart phone.
Posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
Hero worship is a strange thing.
Mostly because people who don't have the same hero as you will never understand it. And believe me, I get it. I have a friend who worships the singer Adele. Can't get enough of her. Listens to her music constantly. Would sell their should to attend an Adele concert. Of course, I don't understand it at all. Sure Adele seems to have some talent, but I can't stand her music. Every time Rolling in the Deep is playing, I just roll my eyes because listening to it makes me want to stick my head deep into a microwave.
So when I tell people that I worship Steve Jobs and they roll their eyes at me, that's okay.
I've been getting the same reaction for 27 years...
Of course I knew of him before then. He (along with Steve Wozniak) was already famous in 1979 when I got my hands on an Apple ][ plus. But it was his legendary introduction of the Macintosh on January 24th, 1984 that make me such a big fan. This was a man who believed in changing the world but, unlike so many, he actually did stuff to make it happen.
And my hero worship of Mr. Jobs never abated. No matter where he ended up. Even his time away from Apple while heading up NeXT was an amazing era to be a Steve Jobs fan. And, naturally, things only got better from there...
Now that he's stepped down as CEO of Apple, my feelings haven't changed.
His legacy there will touch every product that comes out of the company... and untold other companies... for decades to come.
Speculation is that Steve Jobs left his position because of his continuing health problems. I can't imagine him leaving otherwise, so all I can do is reiterate my best wishes for his recovery. And be grateful that he'll still have a voice at Apple as Chairman of the Board for the company.
Because I am now, as I have been for most my life, an "Apple Whore to my Core."
Posted on Saturday, September 3rd, 2011
One of the projects I worked on this morning required that I access some old design files from 1996. And while 15 years may not seem like a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, in "computer years" it's positively ancient. This poses a number of problems.
The first problem is that the files were on an Iomega JAZ disk. This is a hard disk cartridge drive that was discontinued almost a decade ago. Fortunately, I have one of these drives... and it still works.
The second problem is that a JAZ drive uses a SCSI interface to connect to a computer. Apple hasn't had SCSI ports on any of their machines since 1999. Fortunately, I also have an old Power Mac which can handle a SCSI peripheral... and it still works.
The third problem is also the biggest. SCSI sucks ass. It never worked very well, and just getting a drive to mount can be a long and frustrating experience... back in the 1990's. Today it can be almost impossible. The drivers are incredibly old, and so the OS you run it on also has to be old. Needless to say, there's no technical support. Fortunately, after hours of goofing around... I got it to work.
What a wake-up call this has been.
Legacy format obsolescence happens all the time. 8-inch and 5-1/4-inch floppy disks were replaced by 3-1/2-inch floppy disks. Floppy disks were replaced by CDs and ZIP disks. ZIP disks were replaced by DVDs. CDs and DVDs are being replaced by large-volume hard drives.
Now hard drives themselves are being replaced by solid-state drives.
And it would seem that online "cloud" storage is eventually going to be replacing everything.
Guess it's time to get all my data off of CDs and DVDs. Apple has already eliminated these drives from their MacBook Air and Mac mini machines. I'm betting that MacBooks will lose them any day now. Will the desktop computers be next? Since Apple has distributed their latest OS upgrade online and seems intent on selling their software that way too... I'm guessing yes.
How long until we just plug this stuff directly into our brains? Most people don't seem to be using their heads for much anyway... might as well put them to good use.
Posted on Sunday, September 4th, 2011
This morning I woke up, decided life wasn't worth it, then went back to bed. But after I realized I didn't have any bread to make toast, I had to get up so I could go to the store. Without toast, life isn't worth living.
• Star Redux. I've been in a real renaissance with the original Star Wars films lately. I've been re-watching the real movies on LaserDisc... taking another look at the amazing "Making of" books... re-reading the novelizations... going through the comic book adaptations... that kind of thing. This is probably in anticipation of the movies coming out on Blu-Ray later this month. And even though there's a lot of controversy raging over George Lucas once again crapping all over the films, I still can't wait to see them in high-def. I especially can't wait to have all the deleted scenes with one of the more interesting characters in the entire franchise... Biggs Darklighter...
Now, if you've only ever seen the original movie, you might remember Biggs being mentioned in passing when Luke is whining to Uncle Owen... and again when the Rebels are off to attack the Death Star... and then again at the end where he gets blown up by Darth Vader. But, in the original Star Wars script, there is more to the character than that. Unfortunately, those scenes got cut (though some snuck through to the novelization). And while these cuts were probably a smart move story-wise, they're disappointing fan-wise... especially for fans who have read Biggs' back-story in the "Expanded Universe" books and comics. These rumored "never-before-seen scenes" will help add yet another dimension to an important character we only thought we knew (or didn't know).
• Dance Redux. On a list of things that I couldn't possibly give a crap about, Dancing with the Stars would be near the top of the list. As far as entertainment goes, it's right up there with Pauly Shore movies and diarrhea. But once I heard the controversy over the casting of this season's contestants, I decided to investigate who would be on the show. After taking a look, I admit that I am very upset. I simply cannot fathom how such a popular program would intentionally decide to attack this country's sense of decency and our respect for the Natural Order. I am disgusted at the thought of children tuning in and being exposed to a total freak show and abomination towards God. I am mortified that this "person" will be given even more media exposure so they can further destroy all that is good on this earth with their reprehensible behavior. I am, of course, talking about Nancy Grace...
This vile, disgusting, evil, pathetic excuse for a human being has absolutely no business being on television. And it only goes to show that the people behind Dancing with the Stars only care about one thing: stirring up controversy to get ratings. Just like Nancy Grace, they obviously don't give a fuck how many people they hurt in their effort to attract viewers. For once I agree with the lamestream conservative media... this is absolutely disgusting, and just one more reason I won't be tuning in for this stupid shit.
UPDATE: Oh. Some readers have pointed out that all the controversy isn't about Nancy Grace after all (as one would expect)... it's instead over Chaz Bono?!? I don't get this at all. So he used to be a woman. Big deal. I'd argue Chaz Bono is more of a man and less sexually confused than Marcus Bachmann or "Doctor" Keith Ablow, yet you don't see anybody complaining about them being on television...
What a crock of bullshit. I have to wonder if all the people in an uproar over this are just confused about their sexual identity, and are taking it out on Chaz Bono because he has the balls to get it all sorted out. Or they are sexually attracted to Chaz Bono and don't know what to do with their self-loathing. Or they really, really hated being subjected to Cher's auto-tune travesty, Believe, being constantly blasted on the radio in the late 1990's (if that's the case, I guess I see their point... Cher's not on television much anymore, so I suppose torturing her offspring is the next best thing?). Whatever the case, I find it fascinating that people are still freaking out over this kind of stuff in the year 2011.
• TV Redux. I have more than a couple friends who are "periphery Apple fans." Meaning that they're not Mac users, but they do like their iPods, iPhones, iPads, and whatnot. This morning I got a call from one of these friends with an Apple TV. He knew I had one, and was wondering why I haven't blogged about it...
I explained that my older television didn't seem to support it because the picture was all fuzzy and jumpy. And since I'm unable to use it, the thing has been collecting dust in my closet for over a year. That's when he drops the bomb and tells me that the Apple TV firmware had been updated a while back which fixed the video display problems for a lot of people. So I dig it out, plug it in, and apply the latest software. Now it works perfectly. And it is awesome.
I love being able to use "AirPlay" to stream stuff from my MacBook, iPhone, and iPad. I really love how much easier it is to use Netflix Streaming (compared to using my Xbox like I do now). And iCloud makes it dead-simple to stream all the television shows I've purchased right to my TV without having to download them to my Mac first. It's an amazing little device and, now that I can use it, worth every penny of the $99 price tag. If you've got an HD television with HDMI, it's worth a look.
You can get your copy at Amazon and have it sent to your Kindle or any device with Kindle Reader installed (like Macs, PCs, iPhones, and the like). It's funny and it's free, so what are you waiting for? Go and get Mercury Swings today!
And that's all she wrote for this edition of Bullet Sunday. Tune in next week when all my bullets will be double-jacketed.
Posted on Saturday, October 8th, 2011
As I write this, I am sitting in the beautiful Air New Zealand lounge at Sydney International Airport. Very soon now, I will be hurling back across the Pacific Ocean to go home.
But I'm not thinking of my impending trip yet to come, my mind is set on October 6th. Which was still October 5th back in the USA. Time, like all things we experience and attempt to describe, is relative to the observer.
After a run with the dolphins the boat headed back to Fiji and dry land. As we approached the shallows, my mobile phone came into cellular range and I heard a muffled "beep" telling me that a text message had arrived. I ignored it while I loaded up my gear and went trudging to the shore. I had intended to check my new text as I waded back, but the sandy floor was squishy and slick with plant growth. This made the risk of slipping and dropping my iPhone into the ocean a bigger risk than I was willing to take.
So inside a waterproof pouch which sat inside a waterproof bag, my iPhone waited.
As did I.
And it was a torturous wait because I rarely get texts. Especially when people know I'm out of the country. On those rare occasions when I do get such a text, it's almost always bad news.
My mind was not in a very happy place when I finally got back to the Scuba Bula shop. A part of me wanted to continue ignoring the text for fear of what it might say but, as you can imagine, this is really impossible.
Of the hundreds of nasty scenarios that went through my head, a text from my brother telling me that Steve Jobs had died never entered my mind...
As I said, texts always seem to bring bad news.
One of my heroes for the past 27 years was gone.
As anybody who has read this blog for any length of time can probably guess, I was devastated.
I tried to avoid the crush of chatter online, but you couldn't be online without reading about it. And so much of it was beautiful and touching and everything one would expect. But not all of it. A common thread emerged mocking those who were grieving by saying "How can you be so sad and pathetic? You didn't even know him!"
Which is wrong, of course. So very wrong.
Just as you can come to know an artist by their art... Steve Jobs was probably one of these easiest people on earth to get to know through the products Apple makes. And though a great many people contribute to the design, manufacture, and experience that makes these products intrinsically "Apple"... Steve Jobs' fingerprints are on everything. It's his beautiful, singular vision that drove the company to it's massive level of success and created legions of fans worldwide.
As I type this blog post on my MacBook Pro while uploading television episodes for the flight to my iPad and charging my iPhone, I know Steve Jobs. He surrounds me every day. I spend more time with him than I do anybody else.
And so I grieve as I would for any friend who has passed on.
And I remember, because it's impossible for a Certified Apple Whore to forget.
I'm sure this is not the last thing I'll have to say, but it is the only thing I can say right now.
I've got a plane to catch so I can travel back in time.
Posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2011
Where to start.
Well, I don't know about anybody else, but Apple's release of iOS5 and iCloud have proven to be an absolute and total failure on every possible level for me. My Apple TV is dead. My mom has lost all her photos and her MobileMe/iCloud/Apple ID is so hopelessly fucked up that she can't even send email. My computer is in some kind of hybrid MobileMe/iCloud state that doesn't seem to work with either. My keychains are no longer syncing. Every single device has some kind of problem.
Here's the rundown of my day...
MobileMe to iCloud Migration...
UPGRADE? Failed. "Cannot be completed at this time."
UPGRADE, TAKE TWO? Failed. "Cannot be completed at this time."
UPGRADE, TAKE THREE? Failed. "Cannot be completed at this time."
UPGRADE, TAKE FOUR? Failed. "Server connection lost."
UPGRADE, TAKE FIVE? Failed. "Cannot be completed at this time."
UPGRADE, TAKE SIX? Success.
Mac OS X Lion Update...
NOTES: Converted MobileMe crap to iCloud crap, but kept me subscribed to both, forcing me to manually go through and delete all the old MobileMe crap that wasn't going to sync anyway. But it's still trying for some reason. iCloud no longer syncs Keychains between my Macs, which was one of the major reasons I signed up for MobileMe in the first place.
iPhone 4 (Mine)...
UPGRADE? Failed. No explanation, just a reboot.
UPGRADE, TAKE TWO? Success.
NOTES: Lost all my app data and have no idea how to recover it.
iPhone 4 (Mom)...
UPGRADE? Failed. Unknown error occurred (-18).
UPGRADE, TAKE TWO? Failed. Unknown error occurred (-18).
UPGRADE, TAKE THREE? Success.
NOTES: Apple ID is now hopelessly screwed up.
iPad (First Generation)...
UPGRADE? Failed. Some kind of "update can't be verified" error.
UPGRADE, TAKE TWO? Success.
NOTES: Deleted all images from Photos with no warning and no way to recover. Apple ID is now so hopelessly screwed up that she can't send email.
Apple TV (Second Generation)...
UPGRADE? Failed. Generic "Update Failed" message.
UPGRADE, TAKE TWO? Major failure. Unit goes dead with rapidly-blinking light. Trying to restore direct from my Mac (with unsupplied cable) doesn't work.
UPGRADE, TAKE THREE? There is no Take Three. I now have an Apple TV paperweight that will have to be sent to Apple to be fixed. Or whatever.
So, in the end, Apple is running 0 for 7, and I've got days of troubleshooting, recovery, and research to do in order to get things running properly again.
Starting with my poor mother's screwed-up Apple ID. The problem being that I have no fucking idea where to even start. Probably with a call to Apple because I don't have an Apple Store handy, but I have no idea how to approach it or who to call.
She registered her Apple ID with an Gmail address, but now Apple doesn't like that, so she switched over an Apple me.com address. Except now I can't get rid of the Gmail address. When I try, I get a nonsensical error message...
Well, dumbass, if THAT'S now her Apple ID, then why the fuck can't she actually USE it as her Apple ID? Why is Gmail stuck there? And why can't she use the iCloud SMTP server to send email? Oh probably because it will only send for an Apple email address, but there's no way of defining that address as the sender address because I can't change the Gmail address.
What a clusterfuck.
Apple is the new Microsoft. Nothing works right.
The only difference being that once you finally get all the myriad of problems solved, at least you can enjoy using the Apple products.
Apple had better get their shit together before somebody comes along and does it better. There's only so long that people will put up with stupid crap like this.
Posted on Thursday, October 13th, 2011
It took several hours, but I managed to un-brick my Apple TV and fix all my iDevices. There's still some issues (Apple ID is a creation of Satan... except, unlike the devil, Apple doesn't give you tech support in exchange for your immortal soul), but at least everything is mostly working as it should.
Now I need a drink.
Sometimes being a Certified Apple Whore is a lot more work than it should be.
Posted on Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
I'm kind of late to the AppleTV game. Unlike just about every other Apple product, I didn't jump in with AppleTV 1.0 because it was something I simply had to own. For one thing, there just wasn't much content available. For another, it was basically just a big hard drive with video output. Not very compelling considering hard drive space eventually fills up. Or, worst case scenario, the hard drive fails and you lose everything.
But then AppleTV 2.0 came along. It most decidedly wasn't a "hard drive with video output" because it didn't even have a hard drive. It streams everything from the internet, including any television shows you've purchased from the iTunes Store, streaming video from Netflix, Vimeo, and YouTube, streaming photos from Flickr, Podcasts, and even iTunes movie rentals. As if that weren't enough, you can use Apple's "AirPlay" technology to stream video, photos, and music from your computer, iPad, or iPhone.
All in a tiny, tiny little box...
Thanks to Apple's new "iCloud" technology with "iTunes Match," AppleTV is becoming even more useful. Soon you'll be able to stream all your music not from your computer or iOS device, but from the internet. I am hopeful that eventually digital movies you purchase will also be able to be streamed.
What Steve Jobs once described as "just a hobby" is quickly becoming a core Apple device as it matures.
And, apparently, the game isn't over yet.
The internet is abuzz with juicy details coming from the Steve Jobs biography about his plans for an actual Apple Television. As told to biographer Walter Isaacson, Jobs said "I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
Just one look at Job's philosophy for remote design should explain exactly why this is such a tantilizing prospect...
My Logitech "Harmony One" remote on the left, AppleTV remote on the right.
I, for one, welcome our new television overlords.
First of all, I'm excited about the idea of just paying for what I want to watch. Right now, if you have cable or satellite television, that's not an option. You purchase "bundles" of channels that includes crap you may never want to watch. For example, I have an "Expanded Basic" package bundle so I can watch Food TV, USA Network, and some other channels I enjoy from time to time. But that same package also includes stupid shit that I would NEVER want to watch (like FOX "News") but I pay for it anyway because I don't have an option to remove it from my bundle. The cable company controls where the money goes, not the consumer. If Apple's plans for television change this, I would be thrilled not having my hard-earned dollars going to support crap I hate.
Second of all, I really like the idea of not having to pay for shows when there's nothing new being produced. In other words, I don't want to pay to watch reruns. Now when you purchase a show via the iTunes Store, you can re-watch it as often as you want on any of your Apple devices at no charge. You've already paid for it, and you don't have to pay again.
Thirdly, I am really, really freaking out over a the business model which could arise from all this. Rather than advertisers paying networks to pay studios to pay for television content, you'd just pay the studios directly. Voilà, no more having your TV shows interrupted by annoying ads.
But the biggest bonus of all? Apple could take down the whole television network system.
Think about that for a second.
Let the ramifications of that really settle into your brain.
No longer will networks control what shows make it to air... which shows are renewed... which shows are canceled. Consumer purchases decide! Sure Apple is going to get a cut of the money that studios take in, but you're purchasing from the studios directly, so the majority of the purchase price goes to the people producing the content. All of a sudden, the fate of amazing shows like Veronica Mars aren't being sabotaged by network execs who require a massive profit margin so they can get paid to sit on their stupid asses and ruin television. The studio either gets enough money to produce the show and continue doing so... or they don't get enough money and the show is canceled. And I'd like to thank that it would be more profitable for them with only one middle-man in the mix (Apple) instead of the dozens of greedy assholes with their finger in the pie now. Suddenly, smaller shows and smaller studios actually have a chance at survival. Instead of competing against stupid reality show juggernauts and network money-makers for ad revenue, they instead compete for viewers directly.
This will require a radical shift in how television is produced, but I think it will be worth it. Perhaps television networks can reinvent themselves as television investors or something... I don't know. All I do know is that putting the consumer in control of the shows they want to watch and giving control of the content back to content producers is a very good thing.
Though there are many problems to address. How does a new show get noticed? Maybe by giving the first episode away for free? Perhaps Apple's "Genius" technology can be used to recommend shows you might like based on what you watch. And how are advertisers going sell their shit? Well, maybe through sponsorships. Choose to watch an ad, and maybe you get the television show for free for your trouble. Consumers get to decide how to spend their time and money. And when they do decide to watch an ad, they can get ads tailored to them so advertisers are getting the most for their money too. Win-Win.
Not that there won't be losers, but there are always losers.
So long as I win in the end, I'm okay with that. Ask consumers, and they'll probably agree.
But a part of me thinks there will be a lot of other winners if this plays out the way it should. Technology can not only be used to deliver a better experience for television viewers, but for advertisers and content providers as well.
I want my Apple Television! It's long overdue.
Posted on Monday, November 14th, 2011
Sorry, but this is a geeky computer post most of you will probably want to skip.
And so Apple finally unleashed their iTunes Match service today. I say "finally" because we were told that it was going to be released on October 31st, but then it wasn't. I can only guess that it wasn't ready yet, and Apple wanted to take some extra time to make sure everything was working perfectly before launch.
Because, from my experience, iTunes Match is mostly crap. For now, anyways.
The idea is that you pay Apple $25 a year, and they manage all your music for you via iCloud. Songs in your iTunes library that Apple sells in the iTunes Store, regardless of how you acquired them, are immediately available online from Apple's servers. Also... no matter how poor quality your music files are, Apple automatically upgrades them to high-quality 256-kbps DRM-free files. You can then either A) Stream these files from iCloud over the internet to your computer or iOS device any time you want... or B) Download them to your computer or iOS device any time you want for offline listening.
If the song is not sold by Apple, it will be uploaded to iCloud so you can access the original file via streaming/downloading as stated above. It will not be upgraded in any way, however, because Apple doesn't have it for sale.
When it works... it's pretty special.
For example, I bought the CD Cruel Summer by "Ace of Base" years ago and ripped it into iTunes. Since the album is also sold by Apple, I am supposed to get the full benefit of iTunes Match. But not really...
Above you see iTunes Match in action. Or not.
The songs with NO cloud icon after them have been recognized by Apple as being sold in their store and I can stream or download them immediately to any device or computer I have registered with iCloud (but my original ripped file is left untouched on this computer). The songs with a dotted cloud icon after them are in-process and may or may not be recognized... if NOT recognized for some reason, they have to be uploaded. The songs with an exclamation(!) cloud icon after them have some kind of problem and return an undefined error when iTunes attempted to match/upload them...
What's the cause of the error? Who the fuck knows! This is APPLE we're talking about!
Usually re-processing them will work, but not always.
Anyway, to demonstrate how iTunes Match is supposed to work, I am going to delete the Ace of Base song Adventures in Paradise from my library (since it's one of just three measly songs iTunes Match has recognized off this album as being sold by Apple)...
Note that I am net telling Apple to delete the song from iCloud. I'm guessing that I would lose it permanently if I did this (assuming I hadn't backed it up). From what I can tell, ONLY songs you purchased directly from Apple are permanently available from iCloud (whether your membership is current or not).
After the song has been deleted, the file is no longer on my MacBook, but the song is still listed as being available. I can then click the standard little "Download from iCloud" icon to the right of the title and get it back. Here it is downloading to my MacBook (a little "progress pie chart" is on the left there)...
Now here's the cool part...
On the LEFT is the new high-quality Apple file I just downloaded. On the RIGHT is the original low quality file I dragged from the trash. iTunes Match is working as advertised. I just traded my old "low-res" music file for the fresh "hi-res" one that Apple sells in their store. Assumably, since the file was uploaded direct from the record label, it's the best possible version of the song available in a condensed digital format. To do any better than this I'd have to rip the file from CD in a "lossless" uncompressed format... but I don't have room on my MacBook for large files like that and, given that I'm not an audiophile, probably wouldn't notice the quality improvement anyway.
BUT... what if you don't want these audio files hogging up space on your hard drive? No problem! Apple allows you to "stream" songs to your computer for listening without downloading. KINDA. Technically the files are downloaded to your computer to a temporary buffer. This way, you can fast-forward, rewind, and skip around instantly... which is something you can't usually do with streaming music. As to how big this buffer is and how long it lasts, I have no clue. But it's a very nice way to handle streaming audio. To "stream" music that's not on your computer/device just click play or double-click the song anywhere except on the "Download from iCloud" icon.
So, yeah, when it works, Apple's new iTunes Match is pretty darn cool.
But, for a huge chunk of my library, it most definitely does NOT work...
And here's where it gets strange.
Just for kicks I deleted a song that I know Apple does not sell... The mono version of Baby's in Black from the album Beatles for Sale (2009 Mono Remaster). Apple only sells the Stereo version (which is not the version I want because true fans know that The Beatles only cared about the mono tracks on their early albums... stereo releases were considered a novelty at the time, and the band was rarely involved in making them).
After deletion, I immediately clicked the "Download from iCloud" button to get it back. Now, since Apple does not sell this song, I should have gotten the same mono version file I just uploaded. But, as you can probably guess, I didn't. I got back the stereo version that Apple sells... but they left the song label the same...
A quick look at the graphic equalizer confirms that this really is the STEREO version with two unique left and right channels...
Just to be sure, I also took the graphic equalizer to my original file so I could confirm is really is the MONO version with the same channels...
So, to sum up my iTunes Match experience...
Sometimes it works as advertised and it's all good. But an alarming number of times there are problems...
Needless to say, this is a bit frustrating. Whether or not Apple can fix this is anybody's guess but, for me at least, I just paid $25 for something which is fatally flawed.
What Apple has to do is find some way of letting customers manually correct the iTunes Match information. The problem is that I can't even figure out when Apple has made a match... or when there was no match and they had to upload my files (UPDATE: Actually, I can, see below). So even if I could correct the data, I wouldn't know which files needed it. Unless I delete each and every one and downloaded it back. Then matched files would be flagged as "Matched AAC Audio File."
In the meanwhile, there are still a lot of questions to be answered. Like... what happens to all my downloaded "Match" files if I don't renew my membership? Do they evaporate? What happens when a record label jerks their music from Apple's store? Do you lose your music? And so on. And so on. Since this is only my first day with the service, maybe my questions will eventually be answered. But Apple is Apple, so I've resigned myself to the fact that they probably won't be.
As for iTunes Match?
The potential is there... but I can't recommend it. Yet.
Check back in a bit.
UPDATE: iTunes does have a column you can turn on which will show you the iTunes Match status of your music...
Still no way I can figure out why some tracks are recognized and others are not on the same frickin' album. You'd think that once Apple figured out I own the album, they'd recognize ALL the tracks. But, alas, no.
Finding this feature lead to my discovering something very interesting...
a-ha's amazing final album, Foot of the Mountain, was never released in the USA. I had to import the CD and rip it into iTunes. HOWEVER... iTunes Match totally recognized and matched it! Apparently, iTunes Match gives you access to ALL of Apple's music stores worldwide. This is very cool, but is it intentional? Time will tell.
UPDATE: One of the reasons I was so keen to sign up for iTunes Match was that I could finally get rid of all the DRM-Protected music I bought and replace it with fresh DRM-Free downloads. I had already upgraded most of my music to "DRM-Free iTunes Plus" but there were some songs that never wanted to upgrade for some reason. Such as the album Play by Moby. iTunes Match recognized all but one song (even though I bought it from Apple!), but I deleted them all anyway so I could test whether songs I uploaded were still intact when I downloaded them. Sadly, the answer is NO! Trying to download the DRM-Protected song I had uploaded fails completely...
Needless to say, this is a load of shit. I BOUGHT THIS SONG FROM APPLE AND YET APPLE CAN'T MATCH IT? WTF?!? Just goes to show... buying DRM crap will only end up punishing paying customers instead of the criminals it's supposed to.
UPDATE: And things just keep getting worse. Holy crap is iTunes Match a mess! Take a look at this...
This is an album I bought from Apple's iTunes Music Store. Note that all songs are recognized as having been purchased. Note also that the status of the songs in iTunes Match is "Matched" or "Purchased" or "Uploaded"... seemingly at random. ALL OFF THE SAME ALBUM! They should all be registering as "purchased" but are not. If Apple can't even get the stuff THEY SELL YOU right, how in the hell can they be trusted to figure everything else out? And who do I talk to about getting all this straightened out?
UPDATE:I was hoping that re-importing a CD directly into iTunes with Match enabled would make it so that the entire album was recognized instead of just random songs. No such luck. iTunes is apparently matching by digital fingerprinting... and doesn't have very accurate fingerprints from CD rips to match against. Crap. I can only hope that their service will get smarter in time.
UPDATE: Despite a few minor bugs (like skipping to the next track when the current song isn't buffering fast enough and iTunes runs out of data to play), I have officially deleted (almost) all my music files from my Home Mac, my Work Mac, and my MacBook Pro. The only files I keep are unmatched protected songs, which won't play from iCloud for some reason. Since I mostly only use these devices when I have internet, it seems crazy to waste the hard disk space when I can just stream everything. For plane rides sans WiFi or other situations where I don't have internet, I'll just listen to the music I've got loaded on my phone (which is always with me). I gotta say... if Apple could just do a better job of recognizing the 800+ songs that are currently "unMatched" in my library, this whole iCloud thing would be absolutely killer. Until that day, it's just merely awesome.
Posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2011
And so tomorrow I'm flying to Atlanta.
Assuming the snow that's been forecast doesn't close down the airport. That would be a huge problem for me. On the bright side, being stuck at home would mean I could stay in bed all day. I've been working from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed every day for the past three weeks, so I could use a break.
Hopefully all will go as planned, in which case I'll just have to take my break on the plane. I've become addicted to digital comics, so I've got a bunch of those loaded up on my iPad... along with episodes of the Hey That's My Hummus podcast... so I should be good to go.
Well, maybe not "good" to go... probably more like "good enough" to go.
In other iPad news, one of the best iPad games ever, Ticket to Ride, has been shrunk down to fit on the iPhone with Ticket to Ride Pocket. It only has the USA map, and internet play is absent, but it's a very good translation (and you can still play against somebody on iPad/iPhone/iPod locally via Wireless or Bluetooth!). I thought the game would be hard to play on the small screen but, thanks to the iPhone's Retina Display, it's actually quite easy...
If only I had time to play it.
And now it's probably time to pretend I don't have insomnia and go to bed.
I've got a long day tomorrow.
Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011
It's Bullet Sunday on Monday from the great state of Georgia!
• Hurt! After arriving at the gate of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I was pulling my backpack from the overhead bin when some guy decided he simply couldn't wait for me to get out of the way... and pulled down his pack right into my face. He had some kind of wooden easel or tripod attached, which ended up scraping across my eyelid. So now I've got a good cut there that's nice and swollen. His excuse to being such a dick? "Sorry, I've got a tight connection." And if my eye would have been poked out? Well, he's got a tight connection, so sorry about that. I swear that manners and courtesy go right out the window when people get on an airplane. The really terrible part? This is not the first time somebody has nailed me while retrieving their crap.
• Dino! Since my work was pushed back until late Monday, this left me all day Sunday to goof off in Atlanta. I started out by visiting The Fernbank Museum of Natural History, as suggested by Coal Miner's Granddaughter and The Muskrat...
It's a very cool museum... though a bit expensive at $17.50. As a holiday bonus, a group of young girls were dancing Christmas-themed ballet amongst the dinosaur skeletons in the main atrium. I wish I could say that was the oddest thing I've seen in a museum but, alas, no.
• Shop! From the museum I went to the Lenox Square Mall so I could go to The Apple Store. Along the way, I passed the shameless PC-based copy that is The Microsoft Store. Inside there were a handful of customers and a small group of employees. Once I got to The Apple Store, however... madness. Dozens of employees were helping wall-to-wall customers. The place was packed. And while there were a lot of people just looking, a good chunk of them were buying, as customers were leaving the store with Macintosh computer boxes and Apple-logo bags at a steady clip.
This is kind of an odd turn of events given the sorry state Apple was in just fourteen years ago. I remember a time when there was a very real possibility that Apple was going to fail...
Microsoft isn't going to lose their massive PC market share over Apple any time soon, but it's nice to see how well Apple is doing now-a-days after being an underdog for so long.
• Pig! In previous years coming to Atlanta during the holiday season, I was introduced to Priscilla The Pink Pig. It's a train ride for kids that is put on by Macy's each year. As you might imagine, it's a very big deal. And, if you must know, I'm kind of obsessed with The Pink Pig...
One of these years I'm going to ride that pig. Probably because my love of Invader Zim demands it...
• Eat! Copasetic Beth and Houston's Problem were kind enough to join me for dinner at The Varsity. For anybody unfamiliar with this Atlanta institution, it's "The World's Largest Drive-In Restaurant" located near Georgia Tech. Their menu is pretty limited and not very vegetarian-friendly, but they have a "Frosted Orange Drink" that I love, so I end up eating there every once in a while...
What makes the place interesting is that employees accepting orders will start screaming "WHAT'LL YA HAVE? WHAT'LL YA HAVE? WHAT'LL YA HAVE? at the top of their lungs when they're ready for their next customer. The first time I ate here (again with Copasetic Beth and Houston's Problem), the woman at the counter yelled "HAVE YOUR ORDER IN MIND AND YOUR MONEY IN HAND" at me as I approached the counter. For people not accustomed to it, this can be a little intimidating. But, given the sheer volume of customers streaming into the place, they have to do what they can to keep the line moving...
With practice, I now know to pass over my $5 while saying "GIMME A REGULAR F.O. AND FRIES!" so I don't get an eye-roll by not being ready and not knowing how to order properly...
It's like an Orange Creamsicle in a cup, and oh so delicious!
• Sew! When I was fairly young, my grandmother taught me how to sew. She figured I should know how to hem a pair of pants or repair a tear if I had to. I was never really good at it, but I did manage to use what skills I had to make Halloween costumes and stuff...
Since sewing is a handy thing to know how to do, I've always wanted to take a class so I could be better at it. The problem is that enrolling in a class requires you to be at a certain place at a certain time and adhere to a class schedule in a way my work and travel makes impossible. Enter Whipstitch and her e-courses, which allow me to take a "virtual class" which is a lot more flexible. The reason I bring this up is that you can now pre-purchase any of the 2012 courses (including the Sewing Basics class I'll be taking) for just $99... which is up to 45% off the regular price! If you've ever wanted to bone up on your sewing skills... or learn something new with the skills you already have... you can get all the details over at the Whipstitch Blog!
And now I should probably try and get some rest since there's no telling what time I'm going to be woken up for work.