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Apple Google Hardware Mozilla Web Development

WWDC 2007

Here’s my take on WWDC happenings for this year. These must be fun to be at. Especially in recent years with all the buzz about Apple. Yes this is a long post, but this is one of the big events of the year for developers and Mac users. Being a web developer with some software orientation, and a Mac user, it’s highly relevant. So here we go…

General

  • Webcast – Once upon a time Apple used to webcast the big events, why has this gone away? In the age of video, why has Apple exited? They used to claim records for it. Thankfully many websites post live updates of what’s going on (even with images) to keep those not fortunate enough to attend informed.
  • Apple Redesign – To accompany the announcements they redesigned the site a bit, redoing the tabs on the top that have been there forever with a more modern look, it’s also only top level sections now. Looks like the site is powered by prototype.

Mac OS X Leopard

Leopard

  • Stacks – Awesome. This has a slight resemblance to the old “Launcher” Control Panel, but much better.
  • Finder Cover FlowThe new finder looks sweet, likely useful for images, but little else. For some reason I don’t think sorting through spreadsheets and word documents (or source code) is going to be that great. I could be wrong. PDF support is a nice touch though. I wonder if it will read iTunes data for MP3’s and use the right cover art, or just show an generic MP3 graphic.
  • Search other Mac’s over Spotlight – Cool, but having cross platform support would be even better. And much more attractive for “switchers” and those who use dual platforms on a daily basis.
  • Leopard 64bit – Hopefully this won’t result in compatibility problems (they claim it won’t). Other than that… sweet. Oh wait, I have a G4 Mac Mini at home. Blasted!
  • Quick Look – Another sweet enhancement. Hopefully the delay in slower computers won’t be to the point where the word “Quick” is like a cruel joke.
  • Core AnimationCore Animation is awesome. I do wonder what this does to battery life on laptops. I wonder if this will be like Aero is to Windows Vista, and known as a battery sucking waste. I hope it’s at least able to be disabled, or ideally automatically scaled back when on battery.
  • New Bootcamp – Nothing really groundbreaking here. Just hope it can be done so Parallels or VMWare can share the same install as Bootcamp.
  • Spaces – I’ve loved this on Linux for a long time. I’m glad to see Apple adopting it. I think Mac users who haven’t used it before will really appreciate it.
  • Dashboard Widgets – I’m a moderate widget user. I’ll be spending more time with them in the near future as both a developer and a user. I think we can have some fun together.
  • iChat – Do people still use that? I guess some do for the video part, though I wonder how many know others with such a setup, and the bandwidth/willingness to use it. I would have thought Adium would have destroyed it’s market share a long time ago. That said I WANT the R2D2 Leia projection.
  • Time Machine – This is a great utility. Really nice. I wonder if Apple will start making dual hard drive computers standard and push for using 1 dedicated for backup. Considering the price of disks, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Notable exception being laptops.
  • Pricing – $129 for 1 license, $199 for family pack (5 licenses). That’s a great deal. A 5 pack for less than Vista. Actually a little less, since I can get a corporate discount as many can through their employer, or if your in school through them. So when are pre-orders taken?

Safari

Safari 3.0

  • “Most innovative browser” – Really? Yea, your tabs are really innovative. Never seen that before. Ooh extensions? No that’s a Firefox thing. Tabs aren’t innovative for several years now, they are in every application/website on the net. They were innovative in 2000. Safari has a minimal UI. Sell simplicity not innovation.
  • On Windows – My testing showed it to be fairly stable on windows, and pretty fast. Looks like it uses NPAPI so it uses any plugin Firefox or Opera uses. Overall very easy for most web developers to support. Only bad thing will be developers who assumed Safari was Mac OS X only when sniffing the User Agent. I don’t think there are too many cases like this, but those could cause problems.
  • Widget Theming – This is what I was most curious about. Safari does use Mac widgets for buttons and other form inputs. I presume this was done to keep things as consistent as possible across browsers. Looks a little strange on Windows, but not bad. Then again, I’m a Mac guy.
  • Security – I have a feeling this will make it much more of a target to hackers. So far Safari has faired pretty well. I guess we’ll see.
  • Anti-Aliasing – Very well done!

iPhone

  • App Development – Didn’t get a clear picture if apps all run online or are run offline. If they are offline, that makes for 3 current offline support specs. IMHO that’s a disaster in the making. I’d like to learn more about this though. This could be a lot of fun. Perhaps by 2nd Gen or 3rd Gen I’ll get an iPhone and play.
  • Google Development – Mention of Google developing apps this way. I guess it is possible/likely to see YouTube featured on the iPhone. I’m pretty certain GMail and Google Reader will be supported.
Categories
Apple Around The Web Software

Junk in Preloads

The Lenovo Blogs are just fantastic examples of corporate blogging. A great example is this rather candid post on Junk in Preloads. There isn’t much that’s really “new” in the post, but the amount of honesty in it is somewhat refreshing. My favorite quote is simply:

Now let’s be honest. We load up this software because we receive money from the vendors to do so. You as a consumer are much more likely to buy the full or upgraded version of a program if you already have it preinstalled. This is worth real money to PC vendors. On the other hand, it works both ways. It is this revenue from the software that helps fuel the PC price war. You all directly benefit from this practice. Without it, PC prices would be more than a few dollars higher.

How many would expect a PC vendor to say something like that in the past? They also seem to be using Flickr.

Dell is now getting in on the action as well with it’s own blog.

Still no true Apple blog. People have become desperate enough for a blogging presence that even Apple’s age-old Hot News has been referred to as a blog a few times. Most recently in regards to Steve Jobs Thoughts on Music. One day…

Categories
Apple Mozilla

Walmart Blocks Other Browsers/Platforms

Walmart Video Downloads blocks all browsers but IE on Windows. I tried it from Safari on Mac OS X 10.4 and still wasn’t able to get in (they wanted me to still download IE 6). As noted by TechCrunch, initially it looked like someone didn’t include the stylesheet correctly. Now it’s blocked with a formal error page. Initially it worked with a reload, now not at all. Spoofing the UserAgent let me in, and revealed only a small CSS goof with the header. Didn’t try a purchase since there’s nothing there I would really want. I guess this could be considered a feature: My browser prevents me from downloading You, Me, and Dupree.

Apparently they use Windows Media Player for the DRM. I’d be surprised if it didn’t function properly in WMP when downloaded with Firefox. Thus far I haven’t seen any real difference between Windows Media Player 11 on IE and Firefox. It’s a great thing that Microsoft has drastically improved support.

I’m surprised they didn’t just redirect to a more compatible store.

There has been a fair amount of improvement in website compatibility with Firefox and Safari over the past 18 months. Unfortunately this isn’t an example of that.

Categories
Apple Hardware

Post MacWorld SF Observations

My predictions, like many others were mostly off. So here’s my observations of todays festivities and announcements.

Categories
Apple Funny Software

David Pogue’s Windows Vista Review

David Pogue’s Vista Review has to be one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve been a fan of his for years, but this has to be one of the funniest things he’s ever done. Being a Mac fan of course I really understood the joke, though Windows people would too if they were honest with themselves. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. Apparently he upset a few people who didn’t quite get it.

Categories
Software

Windows Vista Pricing

Am I the only one who thinks Microsoft went a bit over the top with Windows Vista pricing? Looking at the pricing for Windows Vista I’m starting to wonder how “worth while” it really is. It seems when you look at it, you very quickly get pushed to Windows Vista Ultimate (which is super expensive). Wikipedia has a decent rundown on differences between editions and pricing

And of course, if you use a PC who ships the OS in an image format (like IBM/Lenovo among others), the “upgrade” editions only work if you install the previous OS first. Making the task of reinstalling on a system just that much more complicated. I had that drag when upgrading a system from Windows 98SE to Windows XP. That’s right, I had to install Windows 98 on a new drive, before I could install XP! What a mess.

Come on Microsoft… make the pricing more reasonable, or perhaps have some financing options on the site, so it’s more like buying a car.

I just can’t imagine the average end user spending that much cash to have the headache of installing a new OS. So I’d assume this is just an effort to get people to buy new PC’s, rather than upgrade their old ones. I just don’t see average Joe spending hundreds on the nightmare that is OS upgrades. I really don’t see it. From what I’ve seen, most people are fed up with paying for a nightmare experience like that.

Categories
Software

Hibernation Fix

It’s about time we see a fix (KB909095) to one of the most annoying issues I’ve encountered inWindows XP SP2. I first mentioned this bug back in November. They had one of those patches you could call up and request (because it wasn’t fully tested), but it didn’t work to well for me. I’m hoping this will serve me much better.

Categories
Mozilla Security Software

Windows Vista

Foreword: This is somewhat of an informal rant, it’s pretty much my notes tinkering in Windows Vista.

Am I the only one who is not very impressed with Windows Vista? Several things so far have just shown to be a complete turnoff:

  • It warns me about everything. Warnings stink, people just ignore them if they happen to often. This will prove to be effective security for about 2 weeks. After that, people will click OK without reading a thing. I got a security warning trying to show processes from all users in the task manager. Why? How can a Microsoft App not trust another Microsoft App? I’m guessing the next step is a CAPTCHA on each dialog.
  • Learning Curves are evil. The new Save dialog isn’t totally evil, but it’s quasi evil. It took me a few seconds to figure out how it works, and still feels really really awkward no matter what method I use to navigate. On a somewhat related note, took a while to find the familiar command prompt (it’s nested deep in the start menu now). Is there a “classic view” for the control panel like there was in XP? This “intuitive” stuff is just extra clicks and a waste of my time.
  • Despite my best effort, I’m still not sure why I’m denied permission to my own Application Data directory. It’s my data!
  • Start menu with scroll bars? Maximizing a folder caused scrollbars! Oh come on, that’s awkward, as if the old design wasn’t bad, now I have to scroll as well? What I’d really like is programs get sorted by category in the Start Menu (tagging) rather than how the publisher thinks they should be. That way you don’t get programs all over the place.
  • Killer feature? This is my biggest complaint. Other than shiny menu’s (which I’m not to fond of) and some new icons (which I do like), I don’t really see much in here that says “this is worth money”… not to mention in many cases you’ll want “Vista Ultimate” (or Vista ‘Take a Loan From The Bank’ Ultimate) if you want some of the features from various different editions they will be offering. If they include them all on 1 media anyway, why not let me pay per extra feature? Rather than these bundles? Perhaps I want some of the mobile and some of the business stuff, but don’t need the kitchen sink, dishwasher, and knit toaster cover.

But is there anything cool besides the icons? Well I tried out the new Parental Controls on a profile, and to my surprise, they don’t just effect IE, but everything including Firefox (because it’s likely sniffing the TCP/IP stack like it should). Of course a very fitting screenshot:

Firefox with Parental Controls

And for those wondering, it does give what seem to be pretty nice HTTP Headers, so it would be possible to sniff and serve up our own pretty error pages to keep a consistent UI if desired. I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of the filter, since I haven’t tested it for what it filters, only how it interacts.

So will I upgrade? I’m really not sure to be honest. I see a few things that make me hesitant:

  1. Will my Thinkpad T43 handle it well? Or will it be sluggish and annoying (I’m running it virtualized right now, hence I said nothing about performance). I know the minimum specs are pretty low, but typically the minimum specs are nothing but a pipe dream, nothing you could use on a daily basis.
  2. I don’t want to pay extra to keep the features I have with XP Pro.
  3. Annoyances fixed… the above is really annoying stuff. Really annoying. I don’t think I’d be able to tolerate warnings all over the place. It’s just to distracting if even simple tasks involve signing wavers and sacrificing your first born child.

Perhaps I’m just fussy, or maybe I’m selfish for wanting an easy to use OS, that doesn’t have an abrasive security policy, is secure without locking me out of my own files or nagging me with warnings, and doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg to upgrade my somewhat new (less than a year old) hardware.

As far as next-generation OS’s go, my initial impression says Mac OS X, and Ubuntu still have a lead over Vista. If Apple can get Windows binaries running from within OS X (virtualized as rumored), that could be a crushing blow to Microsoft.

Hopefully someone at Microsoft is listening.

Categories
Software

How to install software ‘by hand’

Installers suck for 1 key reason: you have no control. They put whatever they want on your computer. You may just want a driver, but your getting a whole package of garbage you don’t want. There is a workaround for this that works in most cases. It’s semi-technical.

Get Cygwin

You’ll need to install cygwin through the installer if you don’t already have it (yea installer, but it’s pretty handy stuff and a good installer since you select what you want)… In the “Archive” group select ‘cabextract’. I’d personally recommend you leave the rest alone, though you can slim stuff down if you want. Install.

cygwin

Get The Installer you hate

In my case I’ll use the Logitech QuickCam driver.

Extract

In the cygwin command prompt, navigate to the file, and use:

cabextract installer.exe

Where installer.exe is, replace with your installer. In a few seconds you should see something like this:

cabextract

Install

Now navigate to the driver or file you want.

In my case I want a driver, so I can right click on the INF and “Install”.

Install INF

Perfect. It now works, and I don’t have those “utilities”, “updaters”, or what ever garbage they think I actually would want.

Categories
Apple

Boot Camp

All I can say about this is WOW. Kinda makes me want to add an Intel Mac to my collection (though I think I would really want a tower with dual processor or something really beefy, rather than current models).

What I really wonder now is, why they don’t make Boot Camp so that you can boot from an infinite amount of OS’s including Linux? Hopefully that’s under way.

Either way, really cool, and makes me love Apple hardware even more.