Month: June 2016

Holy Headlines, CNN!

I’m not complaining or anything, but has anyone noticed how tabloidy the CNN.com front page has gotten lately? The subject matter is more topsy-turvy than ever and the headline writing seems deliberately offbeat.

“Libby’s Defense Tackles Bush’s Former Spokesman” (TACKLES?!?)

“Dead Soldier To Father Kid With Woman He Never Met”

“Idiot Window Washer Hangs By Toes 6 Floors Up”

A screenshot of the front page as of one minute ago is below:

Just to repeat, I’m not complaining, but I’ve definitely noticed a gradual change from CNN’s matter-of-fact hard news approach to a more entertainment-based approach over the last year. For better or for worse, I think most news outlets will move in the same direction if they aren’t already.

Oh, Minty Day!

A few minutes ago, The Wolf released version 2.0 of his highly successful and highly awesome stat package, Mint.

I’ve been beta testing it for several months now. It’s good. You should get it.

(Shaun also launched a new version of Shauninman.com because the paint was starting to dry on the “old” one, but we’ll ignore that for now.)

The Wolf has also figured out something Alan Greenspan never could: how to buck inflation. The price of Mint is still $30 and existing users can upgrade for a mere Jackson.

Anyway, that’s it. It’s a nice upgrade. My only beef is that the interface is de-Mint-ified a bit by default, but by throwing this hack at the end of your /mint/app/styles/vanilla_mint/style.css file, you can get green again:

/* BEGIN RETURN TO MINTYNESS */

.display table.striped tr.alt td,
.display table.visits table.striped tr.alt td
{
background-color: #F0F7E2;
border-top: 1px solid #E7F0D0;
border-bottom: 1px solid #E7F0D0;
}

.display table tr:hover td,
.display table.visits td tr:hover td
{
background-color: #F0F7E2;
}

.display table.striped tr:hover td,
.display table.visits table.striped tr:hover td,
.display table.striped tr.alt:hover td,
.display table.visits table.striped tr.alt:hover td
{
background-color: #cde9a7;
}

/* END RETURN TO MINTYNESS */

At the request of Chris, here is a sample of what the mod looks like:

Introducing the Newsvine Question of the Day

One question per day. 150 words or less per answer. One answer per person.

Those are the only rules for the freshly announced Newsvine Question of the Day competition, and thanks to the nice people at Nike, each winner this week will receive an iPod Nano and Nike + iPod Sport Kit as a victory keepsake. Did you know Nike means victory in Greek?

We’re very excited about the launch of the Newsvine QOTD because it’s the first in a series of “lighter” activities we’re prepping for debut on the ‘Vine. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood to read and debate articles and essays and would rather spend a minute or two here and there doing less time-intensive things. The QOTD is designed to be read quickly and answered quickly. We’ll see how it evolves.

So head on over to the QOTD landing page (http://questions.newsvine.com) and answer the first question. It’s about the public figure below:

24 Is Back — Please Kill The President

So the best show on TV — 24 — is back for a sixth season. If you missed last night’s two hour premiere, try and download it somewhere and then tune in tonight for hours three and four. This season, like all others before it, starts out with the sort of high drama that draws you in almost from the opening minute. I won’t give anything away for those who may have missed it, but I do have some concerns about season six so far:

  1. First and foremost, who the hell decided to cast D.B. Woodside (“Wayne Palmer”) as the President of the United States? Especially after last season’s great performance by Gregory Itzin. Woodside has been by far and away the worst actor in six seasons of the show and his portrayal of the president is laughable. Chloe O’Brien would be more believable. The actor’s previous career highlight was a largely inconsequential role in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The only rationale I can think of is that 24’s writers sometimes try to mirror things to real life and since we now have a less-able relative of a former president in the White House, maybe they thought it would be cool to do the same thing on the show. Bottom line: I hope Wayne Palmer is dead before the end of tonight.
  2. Early in the premiere I grew a bit worried about how Muslims would be portrayed throughout the season. In the past, 24 has not shied away from casting religious and ethnic minorities in questionable light and this season started out no different with Islamic radicals and suicide bombings dominating the plot. You can already see, however, that there will be efforts to separate these sorts of people from the U.S. Muslim population as a whole… and that’s good. For instance, one of the past terror leaders has already “turned peaceful”. Hopefully, by the end of the season, the public will come away with a higher opinion of U.S. Muslims and not a lower one. I think it is the show’s responsibility to keep the portrayal honest and socially constructive.
  3. I love seeing Kal Penn of “Harold & Kumar” fame in the cast! Although he plays a serious role as a complicit instrument of terrorism, I can’t stop picturing him with a joint in his mouth. Go Kumar!

Between the start of 24 and the restarting of the third season of Lost in a few weeks, 2007’s TV season is off to a great start.

iPhone: SAND In Your Hand

Back in the mid ’80s, when Apple was getting ready to introduce the first Macintosh, the company gave advance peeks of the new machine and operating system to a few key software developers, one of them being Bill Gates. Gates and his pal Charles Simonyi weren’t told the name of the machine for security reasons so they nicknamed it S.A.N.D., or “Steve’s Amazing New Device”.

It’s interesting to think of that acronym today in light of the day’s announcements because in 2007 terms, a computer is not generally referred to as a “device”. A phone, however, is the epitome of a device… and that’s exactly what we got today: Steve’s Amazing New Device 2007.

In my mind, the iPhone is the second most exciting technology product announcement of my lifetime, after the original Mac in 1984. It is to phones what the Mac was to computers. Jobs mentioned the iPod as the second “revolution” between the Mac and the iPhone but I think both the Mac and the iPhone are much more significant. Music is great and all but the relative importance of the sorts of things you do on a computer and on a phone (now) are several orders of magnitude higher.

There are so many things to say about this iPhone that it’s hard to know where to start. To me, the single most impressive thing about it is that, like a lot of Apple products but specifically this one, there is no other company in the world capable of inventing it. How many times do you see a new product come out and you think “Damn, I wish I would have thought of that!”

The iPhone is no such product.

You couldn’t think of it, and even if you did, your finished product would be a godamned fingerpainting compared to this. It is so fulfilling to watch technology unfold like this, in the hands of the most indispensable and world-changing CEO of our lifetime. It makes all other work you may be doing in the technology world seem like peanuts.

When Apple says they are five years ahead of every other phone on the market with this offering, they are being conservative. If many of the 200 patent applications filed in association with this phone are accepted, there is no opportunity to copycat. If a multi-touch interface turns out to be the panacea of the mobile device input problem, then what are other handset manufacturers to do while they are prevented from implementing it on their own? I mean seriously, how would you like to work at Palm, Motorola, Samsung, or LG right now? Those guys must feel like a nuclear bomb hit them.
Read more…

Earbud Impotence

So I ordered a pair of highly, highly, highly regarded Etymotic ER-6i earbuds the other day and I have to say, they have about as much bass as the iPod Nano’s built in speaker. I don’t get it… all over the web, people rave about these things. iLounge, a community of smart iPod fanatics, has 17 independent reviews and almost every single one gives the Etymotics five stars.

The one thing that makes me suspicious is that many of the reviews — as well as the instruction manual — stress the importance of stuffing these things as far into your ear canals as possible. Well I’ve done that, and with all four supplied earpieces. Still nothing. Any further pushing and I’m going to puncture an eardrum.

So my question is, has anyone else had problems with the fit of high-end isolator earbuds? I’m thinking that some ears are probably just incompatible with them entirely.

MacWorld 2007 Predictions: Apple No Longer Just a Computer Maker

UPDATE: Keynote is over… notes below. Additional post coming soon.


“I need the simplest phone you can produce, I need it to run WebKit, and oh yeah, I’m going to need a big “Apple” button in the middle of it.”

That’s how I believe the conversation started between Steve Jobs and the president of the handset manufacturer who will be proudly appearing with Jobs on stage at next week’s MacWorld Expo.

Well, that may be how the conversation started, but it certainly didn’t end that way. We got a whopper of a phone.

The 2007 MacWorld Expo is the most anticipated Steve Jobs appearance in years and for good reason. I have it on good word from trusted friends close to the situation that this one is going to be special. Really, really special. So don’t gear yourself up for a letdown, because it ain’t gonna happen. You might not get all 100 of the products you’ve been speculating about, but what you *will* get will be really, really good.

Yep, not disappointing at all. Best MacWorld ever.

The world clearly doesn’t need another post speculating what will be announced but I’m going to do one anyway. I claim no detailed inside information, no clairvoyance, and no 100% certainty. These are speculative statements, just like all MacWorld predictions.

iTheater

While most people are occupied with thoughts of an Apple phone, the one thing I’m most confident about is that this year’s MacWorld will be largely dominated by the big screen. I expect a full Netflix/Blockbuster killer here and I expect at least one, but probably all of the major studios to already be on board or close to it. iTheater will likely be available as an add-on box for your current TV and also possibly integrated into an Apple-branded, Samsung (or Sony) manufactured LCD TV… probably in two sizes: 37-inch and 50-inch (or thereabouts). Most of the world’s plasmas and LCDs are already made in only a handful of factories so slapping an Apple casing and some extras on shouldn’t be overly difficult.

iTheater will be dead-simple to use, and initially it will only do two things: download movies for $5 and play them. The DRM scheme will be simple: three plays or three months… whichever comes sooner.

iTheater will eventually pull down video from all sorts of places, most notably Google Video, and by extension, YouTube… but for now, the proposition must remain simple: forget Netflix and Blockbuster… iTheater is where you should rent your movies. I also expect live and recorded concerts to be a part of this offering shortly. Remember, Steve Jobs doesn’t hate the TV as a medium… he just hates the TV ecosystem.

Partially correct on this one. No integrated TV sets or one-click downloading (yet), but Disney and Paramount are now signed up and more studios will follow. I think Apple TV is a good start and not too different than what people were expecting, but it didn’t blow me away. I will not be buying one until it solves a real world problem for me. I was also wrong that the big screen would dominate the show… the little screen clearly dominated.

MobileMe

This is the phone we’ve all been waiting for. It may not be as mature as we’d like it to be, but it will be a fascinating start. In listening to Dan Benjamin’s podcast with John Gruber, I noticed that the majority of their skepticism around an Apple phone revolved around the problem of keeping it quiet. While Dan and John both think an Apple phone may be announced, they had a hard time believing there haven’t really been any solid leaks yet given the extraordinary amount of non-Apple people that must be involved in such a thing (e.g. your carriers, your hardware manufacturers, etc.). While I think this is a valid concern, look again at the first sentence of this blog post. If Apple were to make a phone, there is a sliding scale of how many non-Apple people they could involve.

The end-all, be-all phone with every feature under the sun might involve the help of many external resources. But imagine the other end of the scale for a moment: what if you could pack all data capability into one lightweight framework? A framework that supports http data transfer, html, javascript, cookies, and the rest of the toolbox we seem to rely on for all of our data needs these days? Oh wait, you already can. It’s called WebKit and it’s been embedded in many Nokia phones for several months now. It’s the same engine that powers one of the best browsers in the world: Safari. Has anyone ever used the WebKit browser on Nokia phones? It’s the best mobile browser I’ve ever used.

So if Apple confined 90% of their data features to a simple instance of WebKit, what sorts of things could they provide in an easily accessible way via the default start page (something like mobile.apple.com) that would come up every time you hit the Apple button? Google Maps with Live Traffic. Access to your contacts stored on .Mac. Access to your email (anyone notice the nice new web interface to .Mac mail?). Select video clips. Google searches. Wikipedia searches. What else do you really need? It’s all available in HTML these days and with a little server-side simplification, it can be made to look really pretty via Mobile WebKit.

It’s possible the integration goes deeper, but under the scenario I just described, Apple needs very little help from anyone. Just a simple handset with an Apple button that launches WebKit. This will be the Expo where WebKit goes primetime and busts out of the browser. In the phone, in the iTheater, and in whatever other devices Apple may come out with.

The words to express exactly how significant this device is cannot be contained in one update box. There will be a separate post on it. Simply put: best electronic device ever, and I haven’t even used it yet. I was correct in that it appears to make heavy use of WebKit and other existing Apple web technologies, but incorrect in that it’s a flat out jawdropper of a device, complete with OS X and deep integration with the wireless carrier. I guess people outside of Apple *can* keep a secret. A big part of this is because Apple really was able to leverage most of their own technologies and simply provide Cingular with a spec for what *they* needed to do in order to support it.

Leopard

Expect plenty of Vista bashing here. When Leopard was first unveiled, we were told “many” of its features would be revealed at a later date, so expect a few biggies to be shown off. I’d love to see built-in virtualization, but for some reason Apple is still pushing the whole Boot Camp approach. I tend to think Boot Camp is more proof-of-concept than anything else, and virtualization is really what 95% of users will care about and use (if they must). I’d love to see some implementation of Jef Raskin’s “interfaceless interface” principles in Leopard as well. For instance, if you sit down at the computer and start typing “59 x 20”, the calculator should just automatically pop up and compute it for you. Same thing if you type something like “Dear John”; your word processor should pop up and begin a well-formed letter. Who knows what else Leopard will hold, but I expect several more showstoppers.

Nothing on Leopard, unfortunately, although we did see some Raskin-esque interface principals on display in the phone.

Laptops

I think the only thing we’ll see on this front are new MacBookPros. The MacBookPros, to me, are a poor value proposition compared to MacBooks right now and that situation is bound to change soon. If not here, then a few months down the road. I expect subtly new cases and I hope a new subnotebook species.

No new laptops. I still expect an update shortly.

iPods

The only new iPods I can see coming out are video iPods with a different form factor and bigger screen. I don’t know how well the current video iPods are selling, but they are the only model that I never really hear anybody talking about. Revision one seems far from perfect to me and an update here would be nice. A touch-screen could also be included on these units.

No new iPods but does anyone even care anymore now that they’ve seen the video capabilities of the iPhone?

Blu-Ray

If Apple hasn’t already internally jumped off of the Blu-Ray bandwagon, they have to be thinking about it. Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are in a battle for hearts and minds right now and a lot of people I’ve talked to, including Danny over at Mavromatic, think Sony is losing the battle so far. Apple did Sony a huge favor by supporting Blu-Ray early on, but things may have shifted since then. I wonder, in fact, how the latest discussions between Steve Jobs and Sony have gone:

Sony: “Hey Steve, how’s the weather in Cupertino! We’re still on for co-branding those 50 inch Sony LCDs, right?”

Jobs: “Can you guarantee me they won’t catch fire like those laptop batteries you sold us?”

Sony: “Hee hee! Sorry about that! Yeah, these aren’t battery powered. We’re still on for Blu-Ray, right?”

Jobs: “We don’t comment on future product announcements.”

Caveat: I’m not a good person to ask about the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD debate. I think by the time it’s all decided, we’ll be doing most of our stuff over IP anyway.

Nothing here either. Not surprising. The DVD format wars are a buzzkill.

Mystery Google Integration

I expect Apple’s increasingly cozy relationship to Google to get even cozier at this year’s Expo. Maps on the Apple phone would be one possible integration point, as well as maybe something on the video front. Vague, I know… but it’s hard for me to believe the two companies haven’t been working behind the scenes on *something* lately.

Correct on this. Eric Schmidt got on stage to explain how many of the iPhone’s search and mapping technologies were co-developed with Google. Location-aware Google Maps… money!

iMac

Don’t care… they are already cool enough.

Nothing. Who cares.

PowerMacs

Don’t care… they are already overkill for everything except video editing.

Nothing. Who cares.

Wrap Up

When you give detailed predictions about things, you’re bound to be wrong on at least some counts, but one thing I’m fairly sure of is that 2007 will be the year that Apple starts to shed its image as a high-end computer company. To some extent, they’ve already accomplished this with the iPod, but the next wave of product releases — encompassing things like phones, living room technology, and possibly another gadget we aren’t even expecting — will begin to move Apple out of the high-end computer zone and into the digital lifestyle zone. They’ve already mentioned this shift before, but my feeling is that next week is when it really comes together.

All in all, the iPhone stole the show like no other Apple device ever has. My last paragraph here, along with the very title of the blog post was underscored by Jobs’ final announcement of the day: Apple Computer is no longer Apple Computer. They are “Apple, Inc.”. I actually almost penned this as a prediction as well, believe it or not… but I didn’t, so no credit. All in all, the predictions were a mixed bag. But more important than that, we got a great show.

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