MacWorld SF 2008

Another year, another great day of news coverage. I’m obsessed with watching it evolve and monitor several sites throughout the keynote. As expected this was a pretty big one. I suspect this year will contain the most product announcements of any year for Apple. They have a lot of products due for a refresh and announcements expected. Even Steve himself said:

All of this in the first two weeks, and we’ve got fifty more weeks to go.

In all the keynotes I’ve followed, this was the most aggressive agenda. 2008 is going to rock for Apple products.

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AirPort Extreme’s Shortcomings

Apple is now shipping the AirPort Extreme. I personally think it’s a pretty nice wireless access point, but it has a few shortcomings which would make me a little hesitant. I’m hoping on the 2nd gen they fix it up a little. To be fair, I haven’t found the perfect Wireless device yet and AirPort Extreme’s shortcomings don’t exactly put it out of the running. For the price I’d expect to see more. Here’s what popped into my mind after reading more about it. Why is this on my mind? Because I just saw some great pictures on unboxing the AirPort Extreme.

  • 10/100 Ethernet – Now 100Mbps is pretty good, but when 802.11n is supposed to reach 540 Mbit/s, I expect Gigabit Ethernet. Especially on a device that expensive.
  • 3 Ports Switch – At first glance you may think the device includes a 4 port hub. The reality is it’s a 3 port hub. The 4th is the uplink (where you plug your modem in). Granted you can get a switch for cheap, it’s not the same. All that money, wireless capacity, and your sharing a wired 100Mbps port? Something is not right.
  • VPN Endpoint – Apple still hasn’t included a VPN Endpoint. Apple includes support for common VPN protocols like L2TP, IPSec, PPTP with Mac OS X for a while, as does Windows. A built in VPN endpoint would be a great addition.
  • Security – Documentation doesn’t mention anything about Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) or DoS protection. Instead it mentions a vague “NAT firewall”. Not quite sure what that exactly is.
  • Other Features – Also lacking is WMM (Wireless Multi-media) , IGMP snooping, and UpNP (though I don’t care too much about UpNP). If there is support for any of this, it’s not mentioned anywhere I could find. Not even a mention about WDS, which was the most surprising to be missing from the list of acronyms. According to a comment below WDS does exist.
  • It’s not 802.11n certified – Truth is nobody has certification because the standard isn’t official yet. I’d personally like to wait to ensure I get something that is certified.

On a sidenote, did anyone else notice that neither the Airport Extreme website, nor the Apple 802.11 page give any numbers in regards to 802.11n performance? It won’t say more than “Up to five times the performance and up to twice the range compared to the earlier 802.11g standard.” I found it very strange to see no numbers “up to XMbps”.

Apple 802.11n Upgrade Fee

According to CNet and Engadget, the upgrade for 802.11n support on Intel Macs will be $1.99 ($2 in my book). Not much, but rather sad considering you already purchased the hardware, this is merely a regulatory deal. I presume we’ll also see sales tax.

Now will Apple break the mold and deliver 802.11n upgrades for older hardware? I’d love to eventually upgrade my Mini, but don’t really like the idea of an ugly external adapter hanging around my desk. Internal is so much cleaner. If I do have to go that way, I’d likely buy an Ethernet bridge rather than any sort of USB adapter, since that doesn’t waste USB bandwidth and won’t hog a USB port.

SOX Tax for Upgrades?

A very interesting piece by iLounge is creating a little buzz today. Hopefully in the next few weeks it will become clear if this is really true, or just FUD. Given my development background, and business education (especially going to school post-Enron) this was particularly interesting.

Most software and hardware products these days are updated after release through software updates to enable features that either weren’t reliable enough to be turned on when released, or weren’t possible (waiting for standardization, licensing, testing, certification, etc.). It’s not at all uncommon.

It’s no secret Apple has been shipping computers for several months with 802.11g/n cards, but calling them 802.11g. Presumably all it takes is a firmware upgrade, and it’s ready to go. Now it appears that because of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) [pdf], they are required to charge a small fee to enable the feature because:

…supposedly prohibits Apple from giving away an unadvertised new feature for one of its products.

The logic in a way makes sense, but this raises a lot of business ethics. If an update enables added security (such as changing a default in a software firewall), does the software developer need to charge an upgrade fee according to US law? What about when Microsoft added support for WPA2? Presumably at least some of the buts utilized were in Windows prior to that update.

Here is an even more twisted example: Starting this spring with the new Energy Policy Act of 2005 in effect. Daylight Savings Time has changed. It starts earlier and ends later. For accounting and legal purposes you must correctly date your records, for example in Quicken/Quickbooks, or even timestamp on email could also be important. Does Microsoft need to charge for this upgrade to comply with SOX? Remember, this patch isn’t a bug “fix” since nothing was “broken” (the functionality was correct). This patch adds support for the new Daylight Savings Time. Hence it’s technically a [boring] feature to an existing product (Windows). Just like enabling 802.11n.

But what about Nintendo Wii or Playstation III which will presumably be getting firmware updates along the way to enable new features. I’m pretty sure Sony would be bound by the same laws. Not sure about Nintendo since it’s traded on the Nikkei Stock Exchange.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. I hope the Apple lawyers messed things up here and really misinterpreted the law. Since this is pretty messed up. I have a good feeling we’ll be learning more about this in the upcoming weeks.

Update [01/19/2007]: It’s Apple speaks: It’s $1.99.

Update [01/20/2007]: It’s not SOX, it’s GAAP causing the issue. CNet discusses.

MacWorld SF

It’s MacWorld tomorrow. I’ll be watching the net closely to see what the almighty Steve announces. I’ve got the following predictions:

  • Mac OS X 10.5 Announced (99% Chance) – That means I get to be a geek and preorder from the Apple store.
  • More Video/Movies On iTunes (95% Chance) – This will be a big focus since Apple really wants this market.
  • .Mac Overhaul (80% Chance) – Don’t really care about this one personally since I don’t use the service.
  • iTV (72% Chance) – I doubt it’s ready. Either an announcement to expect summer delivery, and/or a more detailed preview. I could be wrong, but I don’t think they are ready.
  • Incremental Bumps For Various Computers (70% Chance) – Rather lame and generic for a prediction, but I think at least 1 computer line (most likely iMac, and Mac Pro) will see a speed bump. For the Mac Pro it would make most sense, since Intel just announced Quad Core Xeons.
  • Airport Extreme 802.11n Edition (68% Chance) – The rumors exist, and I think there is a decent shot. They likely need it for iTV.
  • Phone (60% Chance) – If it is, it will be the fabled ‘iPhone’, though likely under another name. Only reason I give it 60% odds is because of all the press. Otherwise I’d put it down to 25%. I don’t think it’s extremely likely, but there is to much press to ignore. Then again, I’m still waiting for my Apple PDA (ended up being the iPod).
  • New iPod (51% Chance) – I’m going out on a limb here. Despite pretty much no press, I think it’s time for the full screen iPod, with a true chipset designed for the purpose of video. I mentioned this before.
  • Software Upgrade(50% Chance) – Very likely some software, either an iWorks upgrade, or iTunes version.

So there are my predictions. I do believe it will be a very busy MacWorld with more announcements than usual. I expect volume to be one of the more notable things. A lot of things on all fronts. Not so much of a war on Microsoft, but a big grab at the “digital lifestyle”.

Lets see how I pan out this year.

Mac Mini Getting Wired Up

Called the Apple Store this morning and they got a “limited quantity” of Mac Mini Airport Kits after all my waiting. Went there today and there were 2. So I got one and they took mini-me to get it installed. It should be done by tomorrow. Ends up being $99 + tax, installation included. Not a bad deal actually. $99 isn’t a bad deal for install included. Done by an Apple Certified Technician.

According to Apple Insider:

The upgrade kit will be available from an AASP and will include an adapter mezzanine board, a Bluetooth board, a AirPort Extreme card, and antennas for both AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth modules. The kit is not user-installable and must be installed by an authorized technician. According to documentation, the mini’s Bluetooth module is located on its own USB bus.

When configured with internal AirPort and Bluetooth modules, the antennas for AirPort and Bluetooth are located in the top of the Mac mini. More specifically, the AirPort antenna is located in the top, rear left-hand corner above the mini’s power button, while the Bluetooth antenna is located in the top, front right-hand corner of the computer.

Due to the placement of the antennas, users who stack other computers or displays on top of the Mac mini may experience reduced wireless reception. For the best wireless performance, Apple suggests that users do not rest anything on top of the Mac mini, or stack other Mac mini’s on top of one another.

So I should get it back tomorrow. Just in time to go back to school. Oh well, it’s something to look forward to all week ;-).

Mac Mini Wireless Upgrade

Just got off the phone with the Menlo Park Apple Store regarding getting my Mac Mini a Wireless Upgrade.

The card should come in soon (will call me when it’s in). They told me last week it should have been in sometime this week, so I assume that means it should be in relatively soon. Should be priced around the same as the Apple Store ($99). Installation may be $30, depending on the date of purchase. Not bad. I’m guessing since it’s such a new product, there won’t be an installation charge. But it should cost less than $130 to get WiFi. A little more than a 3rd party adapter would, but this way I don’t have extra adapters on my already somewhat crowded desk.

Haven’t seen any reports of people getting their mini upgraded yet, so I assume the kits just haven’t shipped yet. Hopefully in a week or so I’ll get the call that they have some (and hopefully they will still have some when I get there).

I shall call him mini-me

That’s right folks, the Mac Mini has landed at my house! Part of Geek Christmas (got a Firefox shirt too). In all it’s sexy glory.

Plugged in the mini real quick to take it for a test drive. Rather zippy for such a small package. I need to get a display for my desk now so I can set it up in all it’s glory… and a KVM to go with that.

Overall a quality product by Apple. Later this month the Airport Extreme upgrade for the mini should be available at the Apple Store, so I can take a trip and get it setup for wireless access.