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The Migration

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:31 AM

Well, last night I was still busy copying stuff, so I didn't report exactly what I was up to. I copied any files of any importance onto the new hard disk I bought for my G5, then removed that drive so that Apple would be working with the warranted drive, and I would also have a backup of everything.

I also copied all files I expected I might want access to in the next week or two (most of my home directory) to my iPod. I then copied the 16.5 GB I placed on it onto my PowerBook, which is now serving as my primary system. (Thanks to .Mac sync, my PowerBook is usually already well sync'ed with the PowerMac, but I don't keep everything on it.) The only things I needed to copy onto it were my documents, photos and music. E-mail, being IMAP-based, was already there, and .Mac takes care of bookmarks, contacts and calendar.

I then brought the PB onto my desk and plugged it into my Cinema Display. The system happily woke up from sleep and automatically switched to the maximum 1920×1200 resolution of the display. I could almost forget I wasn't on my G5, if it was not for the fact that things are quieter, and my dock looks itty bitty on this screen (since its size is adjusted for the normal 1024×768 resolution of the 12” PowerBook).

The Apple Store said they weren't sure what was causing the problem: the SATA controller, one of the processors, the logic board as a whole, etc., but they were going to look at it today. Depending on what is needed, they may already have the needed parts in stock. That would be nice!

The Microsoft Surface Scandal

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 2:14 AM

A brewing controversy over Microsoft's Surface and Surface Pro have gotten all the more interesting today. The Surface has been critiqued for any number of flaws, but perhaps most troubling was the fact that a 64 GB Surface only had a usable storage space about half that size (making it nearly equivalent to a 32 GB iPad in practice). The Surface Pro makes the situation even worse — the entry level 64 GB Surface Pro has only one third of its space available to the end user — a ridiculously small amount of space on a tablet allegedly intended to be used more like a notebook PC. A reasonable person might expect some small amount of space to be used by the operating system and other essentials, but creating a system where two thirds of the storage is consumed before the user even copies a single document onto the device has entered the realm of the absurd.

Thom Holwerda sums it up nicely: “When I buy a box of 100 staples, I expect it to contain ~100 staples - not 50 because the other 50 are holding the box together.”

The Little Black Box

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 3:21 AM

I have in my possession one of the most coveted items of the year, and certainly the most talked about of this day. Yes, that would be an iPhone. In Apple’s usual style of quiet elegance, the box sits there revealing little (as if there was much that has not already been revealed through months of slow leaks of rumors). It is nearly begging me to open it, much like its call beckoned me into the AT&T Mobility store earlier this evening despite my better judgment. I have it, but do I open it? Read my musings on Open for Business.

The iPod vs. the iRiver ihp-120

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 9:20 PM

Firewire connectivity. It's hard to find a player with this, and as always, Firewire devices cost more. But, that “more” equates to faster download/upload speeds. Firewire 400, despite being burst-able “only to 400 MB/s” instead of 480 MB/s like USB Hi-Speed, can sustain much higher speeds, to the tune of 33-70% faster transfers. Since these little puppies are nice external storage mediums for any type of file, the Firewire 400 speed seems advantageous to me. Transferring songs is blazingly fast — an average of one second per song.

Elegant simplicity. This has always been Apple's “thing.” Look at the two players' fronts. The iRiver's controller protrudes from the front and looks rather counterintuitive from what I can see. The iPod's clickwheel is flush with the surface of the iPod so that it won't catch on anything and is extremely simple: slide your finger up (like on a touchpad) to move up, slide down to move down. Click on the side that has the function you want if you want to play, go to the menu, etc. I'd note what C|Net's James Kim said about the interface and control between the two players (note, the ihp-120 is a year older than the present iPod so the whole review is based on the 3G iPod). “We found the multidirectional joystick control on the front easy enough to use for navigating the deep menu structure, but compared to the Apple iPod's scrollwheel, it makes going through long lists of songs a tedious chore.” I'd also note that the iRiver is laden with buttons on the side, whereas the iPod only has three buttons/switches: the clickwheel, the center button and the hold switch on top (to disable the buttons when not in use).

Same goes for the software… no one wants to hassle with complicated software when your out and about and want to listen to music. The iPod software is the simplest I've seen, but still does everything you'll likely want to do. It has multiple On-The-Go playlists that you can create using only the iPod, you can rate songs while they are playing and then the shuffle function will play your favorites more frequently, you can play Audible.com Audio Books (including some free ones) and much more. Simplicity doesn't mean it lacks miscellaneous features — it still has a place to read notes you've placed on the device, a calendar, contacts, three little games, a music game (where you try to identify short clips from your collection) and so on. Simplicity means everything “just works.” It even has touches like automatic pausing if you remove your headphones.

Accessories. Since the iPod outsells its competitors by about 3:1 (if not more) in the hard disk unit arena, if you want accessories, you'll have a lot easier time finding them with an iPod. Want a dock with speakers built into it? You can get one. Not satisfied with just any speakers? Get the iPod-exclusive Bose SoundDock. Want to store digital photos on your player during a long trip? Choose from adding a memory card reader or a USB port that will download photos straight from your camera. New cars (Minis and BMW's so far, but I expect more affordable fare in the future) now come with iPod support, new car stereos as well… Need a case? Choose from dozens of models that fit every need. With hp now support iPods, expect even more stuff to be available.

Software. Now this doesn't matter as much under GNU/Linux (although once CodeWeavers finishes its work on iTunes support it will)… the iPod/iTunes combination is far more elegant than any other I've seen. Auto-sync on docking (including, on Macs, auto-sync of contacts, calendar, etc.), easy organization tools, smart playlists that add music automatically based on select criteria, etc. As I understand it, the ihp-120 uses drag-and-drop manual uploading instead and requires you to manually run a playlist updater afterward if you want your selection menus to have your music in them.

Both iTunes and the iPod support Apple Lossless, which gives a completely lossless encoding that is 50% smaller than normal. Both support Apple Advanced Codec (AAC), the MPEG-4 based open standard format that produces file sizes dramatically smaller than Ogg that also sound better.

iPod is also the only player with a cross-platform music store for when you only want to buy one song (for instance, I bought the Michael W. Smith single “Healing Rain” two months before anyone not using iTMS could get it). iTMS music can go on five computers, be burnt in the same order 10 times (and burnt in different orders unlimited times) and go on unlimited iPods. At first I never thought I'd use iTMS, but over the last year and a half of its existence, I've found it useful numerous times. Will I buy a whole album through it? Not likely, but for individual tracks its great. As an aside, by purchasing an iPod your going with the only major player that does not work with Windows Media-based online music stores — yet, you are getting the only player that works with the world's most popular online music store. Therefore, it is a win-win situation: (1) the record labels cannot be content to work merely with Microsoft and its partners and (2) you aren't hurting yourself by choosing the iTMS compatible player, you are getting access to the online music store with the most tracks.

All this, plus a similar battery life as the iRiver (only more efficiently, since the AAC format requires less hard drive accesses, since the files are smaller — it also supports MP3), in the new 4G iPods (that's any iPod with a clickwheel). According to C|Net's tests, the same music player reviewer gave the iPod a 9 to iRiver's 8.7 and so on — despite the fact that the iRiver came out nearly a year before the 4G iPod and therefore should have had an easier time obtaining that “9.”

Aestitics. Sure, looks don't make a good player, but if your stuck around this thing all the time, its nice if you like the look. I've always been someone who appreciated simple, clean industrial design: the exact thing you get with the iPod.

Overall. I think it all comes down to what you plan to use it for. Some people will want a player with an FM tuner, on the other hand, if you are like me, the only radio you listen to (other than at Christmas) is AM talk radio — 50,000 watts of Rush Limbaugh, yeeeeaaa! —-so an FM tuner is just something else that can end up breaking on me. Others will want to be able to record sound, but I already have a PDA and a cell phone that do that (and Belkin makes a recording accessory for the iPod). On the other hand, the features I do want, such as an easy to use interface, sleek (and non-mechanical) control mechanism and iTMS support are available almost exclusively with the iPod.

The iPhone Conundrum

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:59 AM

Steve Jobs is known for being able to pull a rabbit out of his hat fairly regularly – far more regularly, anyway, than almost any other CEO. Like most Mac users, Timothy Butler finds himself anxiously awaiting the likely announcement of the Apple phone tomorrow. That people are excited would seem to be a good thing. But, given the amount and kind of hype, could it be that Apple is faced with demand for something it cannot provide? Read more on Open for Business.

The iPhone as a Camera

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:05 AM

Derek Powazek demonstrates the impressive camera capabilities of the new iPhone 4's camera. I think Apple might be on to something with this.

HT: John Gruber

The iPhone 4 Antenna Song

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 2:42 AM

Apple showed this video from YouTube today at the iPhone 4 Antenna Q&A. Classic.

The iPad, Flash and Proprietary Integration

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 8:47 PM

CNet blogger and Canonical COO Matt Asay wrote an opinion piece today in which he applauds an earlier piece at sister publication ZDNet alleging Apple to be on an increasingly proprietary path. The quoted ZDNet writer Jeff Foremski writes,

Since the introduction of the iPod, iPhone, and now the iPad, Apple is becoming less and less open, is using fewer standard components and chips, and far fewer Internet technologies common to Mac/PC desktop and laptop systems.

The iPhone and iPad, for example, don't support common Internet platforms such as Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight. That means you cannot watch streaming video from Hulu, or Netflix.

And while iPhone chips are available from other manufacturers, the iPad runs only on the A4 processor—an Apple designed chip that no one else can buy.

Let's consider these claims. The Apple A4 processor that runs the iPad is based on the same ARM architecture pretty much everyone in the mobile space is focused on at the present time. While Apple certainly likes vertical integration — because it lowers its dependency on outside suppliers and drives down costs — to say that Apple is becoming proprietary because of an in-house chip design is absurd. An Apple A4 is compatible with other ARM processors. The iPad CPU does not make the iPad more or less compatible with other systems than the iPhone's chip; as a matter of fact, neither chip has any influence on Apple's devices being able to interoperate with competitors' devices.

Foremski's second claim that Asay quotes is that Apple is utilizing “far fewer internet technologies” (implied: “open internet technologies”). By this, he apparently means Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, neither of which are open nor standards. Only Adobe Flash is even a de facto standard, albeit one conspicuously missing from most mobile devices at present. And since when does omitting two plugins become equivalent to supporting “far fewer internet technologies”?

Foremski's other mutterings about Apple in the piece Asay links to are similarly bizarre for someone writing at a quasi-respectable tech media outlet. He suggests Apple came to the PC side, for example, by supporting USB. He fails to mention Apple helped drive the adoption of USB, with the original iMac making waves via its USB-only approach. He also suggests Apple made its “disk operating system files compatible with the PC world,” but fails to explain what he means by that. He can't mean that Apple finally supported reading PC-formatted disks (Apple has supported reading DOS/Windows-based disks for decades) nor that Apple has switched to Microsoft's formats for native disks (it hasn't).

As much of a pain as it may be that Apple is refusing to support Flash on the iPad and iPhone, the company is right in saying that it is pushing for something far more open than Flash. Call that decision whatever you'd like, just don't call it “being proprietary.” Asay, who is a smart chap, shows poor judgment in agreeing with Foremski on this.

The iPad 3

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:38 AM

Gruber writes about the AP's suggestion that the iPad 3's specs indicate a “modest upgrade:”

I suspect this is a prelude to much of tomorrow's post-event coverage, echoing the initial tech press reaction to the iPhone 4S. But if a faster processor, more RAM, a double-the-resolution retina display, a better camera, and maybe even LTE networking make for a “modest” update, then what would it take for the iPad 3 to be deemed an immodest update? A fusion energy source? Teleportation? A camera that sees into the future?

The Human Side of an Icon

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 4:39 AM

Lisen Stromberg writes observations on being a neighbor to Steve Jobs:

While Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal and CNET continue to drone on about the impact of the Steve Jobs era, I won't be pondering the MacBook Air I write on or the iPhone I talk on. I will think of the day I saw him at his son's high school graduation. There Steve stood, tears streaming down his cheeks, his smile wide and proud, as his son received his diploma and walked on into his own bright future leaving behind a good man and a good father who can be sure of the rightness of this, perhaps his most important legacy of all.

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