Saturday, December 30, 2006

Do you trust Google or not?

Blake Ross, one of the original FireFox developers, says that Google has lost his. Paul Thurrott ask Blake what took you so long because he has been banging this drum for a while.

Me? I mostly trust them for search, but the example Blake gives of putting ads for Google's own apps at the top of the search results without it being a search result really bothers me. The IE7 toolbar lockin is crazy, I chose to use the toolbar and your search Google, it doesn't mean I don't ever want to change. The privacy policy on the phishing filter is troubling, and privacy concerns is why I don't use GMail. I don't want ads in my mail, and I don't like the potential to have my mail mined whenever Google feels like it now, or if they update their policy.

That is one of the reasons I keep re-upping my .Mac account. It is reasonably private, and I have pretty control over spam. The other .Mac benefits sweeten the pot, but the easy publishing and OS X settings synching is extremely nice.

Obama is Ready...

I hadn't seen the Monday Night Football where Barack Obama gives an introduction, but the following video annotated by is fantastic:

I especially like the James Bond reference. Here is the segment from MNF without the annotation on YouTube.

I posted this because the annotated video is very funny IMHO and this is perhaps the best political ad I have seen in years. No mudslinging, make your candidate presidential, and keep him human at the same time. I can think of no other current politician that could have pulled this off. No wonder people are falling over themselves to get this guy to run.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Notes on a Scandal: The Microsoft+AMD Acer Ferrari Vista Laptop Giveaway

No, not the movie, I just liked the title for this post.

I am talking about the Christmas gift that Microsoft and AMD put together for a bunch of bloggers and influencers. Not clear how recipients got "on the list", but here is a sampling:

Laughing Squid - Scott Beale
Notgartner - Mitch Denny
Ed Bott
Marshall Kirkpatrick - Now MS wants he laptop back
Robert McLaws

I think this story started to explode when Scoble linked to Scott Beale, called it PayPerPost. Since then Scoble posted again saying he thought this was a great PR move, but the key question from a blogger ethical point of view was did you disclose? People are calling the "gift" a bribe.

Full Disclosure: I did not receive a laptop :-). If I had, I would have immediately disclosed that I had, any communication received from Microsoft, and what my intention was to do with the laptop (charity sounds like a great idea).

What would I have done if Apple had sent me a MacBook Pro for "review" and to keep it if I liked as MS has done? You have to disclose, and then you can't keep the machine. It really is that simple. Just because the "bribe" would be better since it would be a MacBook Pro instead of the Acer Ferrari doesn't mean you compromise your integrity. Handouts of any kind cloud your judgement, it really is that simple, which is why Ed Bott's stand against gifts is the only sensible option, but he's wrong that bloggers shouldn't be held to that standard just because they don't have journalism training. Bloggers can't have it both ways, you can't be journalist when it suits your needs, but bloggers when your getting gifts. Here is a link to The New York Times Ethics Guide (PDF) from 2004. Look at the "Accepting Hospitality from Sources" section for guidance on receiving gifts, in short don't unless completely impractical to the situation. Paying for Vista and your own hardware to review it is not impractical.

What really prompted me to post though was the unrepentant post by Robert McLaws on this situation. Here is an amazing quote:
When I got the e-mail giving me a choice betwen a couple systems, I was told that I could either give the system away, or keep it for myself. Being the selfish greedy b@stard that I am, and having dealt with the crappiest Tecra M4 in the world, I decided to keep mine. So, some people think that's bribery. Fine. Some people think the Holocaust didn't happen, too. You get SWAG for going to a conference, why is this any different? I was a Microsoft MVP for 3 years, which was a reward for past efforts with Microsoft software, trips, and buttloads of NDA information. Is that bribery too?
Yes Robert, that's bribery too. To even mention the Holocaust as passingly relevant to the giveaway discussion is disgusting. Here is the MS MVP FAQ, look at Q&A 6:
Q6: Do Microsoft MVPs receive any payment from Microsoft? A6: No. The Microsoft MVP Program does provide a small award of software and other benefits in its core program offering, but MVPs do not receive any monetary payment from the Microsoft MVP Program.
Somewhat stunning that MS does not equate software and benefits here with monetary compensation, when software handouts have been using to settle antitrust lawsuits, which is obviously compensation. In the MS MVP case, you were compensated for you time with gifts and a title.

Have I ever received something for my time in online community work that influenced me? Yes I have. Back when MS was launching their Broadband Networking hardware, I bought one of the 802.11b wireless routers. It didn't work with the Pacific Bell DSL I had because of some bugs with PPP dialing. I got into the newsgroups and provided logs, traffic captures, and general debugging to MS and the few other people that where in the San Francisco Bay Area having the same problems with Pacific Bell. One day I came home from work to find an 802.11g beta wireless router from MS for my "time" debugging, which I used and upgraded to retail code until I got my first Airport Express (for the streaming, my first Mac worked fine with the MS router). Did receiving the free router influence me? You bet, when I had thoroughly tested and debugged it, I recommended it to friends, and I moved a few SKUs. I would never have bought the 802.11g MS router because of the problems with the first one. If you haven't used your own money (or your publisher's money) to purchase products that your review, I think it's pretty obvious you are more kind to the product you are reviewing/using than if you had spent the money yourself. If Robert McLaws had to replace his crappy Toshiba Tecra M4 to run Vista properly out of pocket, it may not have changed his opinion all that much, but he would have been starting with a different mindset, and that makes all the difference.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tip: OS X doesn't have a defragmentation tool because user's don't need to run one

A co-worker asked me yesterday if he needed to defragment his Mac. This is my co-worker's first Mac, and after being conditioned to Windows defragmentation he thought he should ask so he could keep his Mac running at top performance. I told him right away that OS X doesn't need to be defragmented, mostly because I had done some research on this in the past because I was conditioned to defrag coming from Windows. I came to the conclusion it was unneeded because OS X automatically and silently defrags files, and moves heavily requested files onto the fastest parts of the disk (more on this stuff later). I also told him no defrag needed because I hadn't defragged any Macs in the 3 years of owning and using Macs. This is one of the "Windows taxes" that you forget to tell people about that they don't have to do when they use Macs, since the pain is gone you kinda forget what all the fuss is about.

But my VersionTracker for OS X RSS feed showed a new version of iDefrag, 1.5.8, available for download, so I read their documentation and then Googled for some more information on fragmentation on OS X, specifically the default filesystem HFS+.

A few minutes later, I found pretty much the authoritative article, Fragmentation in HFS Plus Volumes by Amit Singh. Amit it seems is becoming the Mark Russinovich of the Mac OS X kernel. Amit's book, Mac OS X Internals: A Systems Approach may be the equivalent of Microsoft Windows Internals, Fourth Edition. I hear Santa is bringing me the OS X internals book...

Anyway, here is the conclusion to Amit's article:
Defragmentation on HFS+ volumes should not be necessary at all, or worthwhile, in most cases, because the system seems to do a ver good job of avoiding/countering fragmentatio .
For the more curious, I encourage you to read all of Amit's article. Two features in OS X help eliminate the need to manually defrag, Hot File Adaptive Clustering and On-the-fly Defragmentation. Amit's article contains excellent descriptions of both. There is an Apple support article on why defragmentation should not be needed, but there are specific scenarios that might cause heavier then usual fragmentation and OS X built-in techniques wouldn't suffice. This has to do entirely with heavy large file manipulation, since those files aren't earmarked for automatic and silent defrag since they most likely exceed the 20MB rule Amit mentions.

For comparison's sake, Windows XP has had the Prefetcher which does essentially the same thing as OS X's Hot File Adaptive Clustering combined with On-the-fly defragmentation, with one exception. OS X will defrag any file on open if it hits a bunch of conditions, again listed in Amit's article, Windows isn't doing that, only for the most used files. Vista goes get an Automatic Defragmenter.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vista Annoyance #003: What driver was that please?

I finally got around to installing Vista in a Parallels VM on OS X. Parallels takes whatever remaining pain there is in installing Windows XP or Vista away by capturing all the information, like product key and username, at the start of the VM install and then automates the Windows install process so you basically don't have to do anything, it totally rocks.

What doesn't rock is that all the drivers it installs aren't digitally signed so Windows pops-up the following nag dialog:

Why is this a Vista annoyance and not a Parallels annoyance for the driver thing? Because Windows is showing the user the red shield and scary red dialog title and leaves out the most critical piece of information possible, what the hell is actually causing this dialog to pop-up? What process? What driver is being installed? Then look at your choices. Which one is the better option? Both have the green arrow next to them, why is that? Should I as a normal user exercise more caution if I decided to install the driver anyway?

Tip: Reducing OS X and Application disk space

In my experience, you can expect to recover between 2-5 GB of disk space by removing additional languages.

Original Post
In the wild world of Windows, installing or using localized versions of Windows and programs is a conscious decision the user has to make. Installation programs are often split into multiple versions, one for each localization offered, and using a localized version of Windows means installing a completely separate copy. If anyone has had to use localized versions of either Windows or its applications, thats a complicated procedure and at the minimum a potential time waster.
With OS X and applications made for the platform, there is only one version of OS X for all locales its installed for, and Applications are the same way. This is great for usability, and makes buying OS X or apps less confusing, but the downside is that localizations eat up a lot of disk space. If you are not using the localizations, and you know you never will, why keep them around?

Fortunately, OS X provides UI to remove localizations, they are called Languages, from an application through the Info pane on the application.

You can go through every single app and remove languages you aren't going to use, but this will not remove the extra language files from OS X itself. You can choose not to install the Languages when you install OS X, but most people use OS X pre-installed on their Macs. There is a pretty great utility, called Monolingual, a Universal binary that allows you to remove all the languages you know you aren't going to use. Here is a screenshot:

Monolingual also allows you to remove PowerPC binary data from Universal binaries if you are using an Intel Mac, or Intel binary data from a Universal binary on a PowerPC Mac, but I don't recommend it for pretty much one reason. Developers may keep certain files in a distribution as PowerPC because there performance doesn't matter and Rosetta emulation is good enough. World of WarCraft had this issue when they first released a Universal binary.

Tip: OS X Finder Error Code -1309 Possible Meaning

If you are copying files from your OS X partition to external drive or a Boot Camp partition and receive Finder Error Code -1309, it most likely means you are copying a file greater than 4 GB in size, which is the maximum a FAT32 formated drive can support. That's because the 32 in FAT32 means it uses a 32-bit unsigned integer for the number of bytes in a file, so 2^32-1 is 4 GB. Wikipedia Reference

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Vista Annoyance #002: Shared By Me search folder does not appear to work

When I setup sharing on Vista because of the lack of ISO mounting software, I found Search Folders in Windows Explorer and was surprised that the Shared By Me search folder showed no results. Here is the final dialog on setting up sharing:

If you look on the dialog, you see the Show me all the files I am sharing link, which brings up the Shared By Me search folder with no results, days later even:

I have 2 files on my Desktop that I think should be showing up in the search results, a Visio file and the Visio ISO file. I thought this was a decent way to expose users to the search folders, give them hints when they use other functionality, until it didn't work that is.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Vista Annoyance #001: No ISO mounting software built-in

This is hardly the first annoyance I have already had with Vista RTM, and I am barely a few hours into using the final version, but the issue I am going to talk about is the most infuriating from a MSDN subscriber point of view.

I started using Vista for real today, installed the RTM and Office 2007 from DVD/CD (I burned both on OS X with the included Disk Utility, assuming I would be passing the discs around), and then realized I wanted to take a look at Visio 2007. So I started downloading the ISO from MSDN. I expected that MS would have finally included ISO files as mountable images, you know, in the OS. OS X has supported mountable disk images, both its DMG format and ISO formats for a while now and I certainly expected that MS would copy this with Vista. I mean every MSDN subscriber has to mount ISO images, why wouldn't you include a driver to make ISO appear as volumes?

While waiting for the download, I tried to install the unsupported Virtual CD driver for Windows XP on Vista, which failed spectacularly, so I actually was more encouraged that Vista had ISO image support built-in. Unfortunately I was wrong, Vista doesn't know what to do with these files. The good news though is that setting up a share on Vista was a lot easier than on Windows XP because I had to enable one so I could copy the ISO file over to my MacBook Pro, mount the ISO, and then copy the contents back over to the Vista PC I am testing with. The other good news is that Windows File Sharing worked perfectly between OS X 10.4.8 and Vista :-)


Hard to believe this is the 200th post to my blog, I feel nearly like an old timer ;-)

I really do feel like an old timer with this observation. I am installing Windows Vista RTM on the test box, so I revert to my Windows NT 3.51 or greater installer experience and format the previous Vista RC1 partition.

The interesting part to me is that:
  • When you click format, you get the hourglass for a few seconds, and then its done. This is clearly not a traditional format. Not sure how I feel about this, but I always wondering why you had to go through that laborious format process instead of just fixing the file system to say it didn't have any files.
  • One format to rule them all, NTFS. You cannot choose FAT32 here. I think that is a good thing

One more thing, good riddance to the hideous text mode setup.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tip: Using Parallels for Mac with Check Point SecureClient on OS X

UPDATE: Installed the latest Parallels beta, 2.5 Beta 2 Build 3094, and in the limited testing I have done so far, CheckPoint can be connected to the Intranet before the VM is up. Once the VM is started, it just figures itself out. This is with Shared Networking in the VM, which has worked great.

Original Post
Since I am doing all my development work in Windows on a VM in Parallels for Mac, I need to use Check Point SecureClient VPN in either OS X or the VM to connect back to the corporate network. The majority of my day to day apps, Notes, TestTrack Pro, MS Office, Safari and Firefox, iChat and Adium, are running in OS X so for some of those I need the VPN connection available to OS X apps. So I can use that same VPN connection with my Parallels VM too right?

You can, but it turns out there is a little trick, at least I have found that to be the cause. The VM has to be running before SecureClient VPN is connected to your corporate network. Why would it matter? My guess is that SecureClient patches routing tables during its connection sequence, but doesn't do the same when new network interfaces come active, well at least the way Parallels does it. Also, didn't seem to matter in Parallels if I used Bridged Networking or Shared Networking (new in Parallels Build 2.2 Build 1970). Again just a guess, I am too lazy to dig that deep :-)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I can't buy Gears of War

Retail stunts like this make me furious. My wife just stopped into a GameStop in NJ, and I called over to one in Manhattan, neither will sell a copy of Gears of War unless you had reserved it. I have an extremely hard time believing that this is a supply issue, and extremely easy time believing this is an artificial way to "punish" people that weren't good and pre-ordered through GameStop. Thanks GameStop for teaching me a lesson, I will make sure to not buy anything in your stores again over this stupidity. There are plenty of other retailers and e-tailers out there.

[UPDATED] So I got Gears of War afterall :-) I don't understand what scheme *cough* scam *cough* Microsoft and GameStop/EB are running. Target will not have the game in stock at the Bridgewater, NJ location until Thursday 11/9, Best Buy Bridgewater, NJ was not going to have the game until today, Wednesday 11/8. But I called the EB Games in the Bridgewater Commons mall when I got home last night, and they said sure they would sell me a copy if I walked in, but not the collector's edition. So I went, and even then the guy behind the register hesistated a second when I told him I wanted Gear and I hadn't pre-order. He then pushed, hard, for me to pre-order Halo 3 or buy the $3 disc insurance for a year, but I had none of that and walked out of the store with game in hand.

Gears itself, oh my. The graphics are easily the best seen so far on the 360, but you know the graphics really don't matter if the game play sucks. But Gears doesn't! Far from it, the "pop and stop" action is furious. The AI is very good, and the game is funny, at least to me, it seems to embrace and at the same time make fun of huge military action movies, Arnold Schwazengeer's Predator (one of my all time favorties) comes to mind "get to the chooooopper!!!" My only serious complaint at this stage is that I was wishing the moving from one cover location to another was more sticky, but maybe I just don't have the complete hang of the controls yet. If you have ever liked action games, you really have to pick this up.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Making a MacBook Pro my development machine, or Joining a Windows Server 2003 SP1 Parallels virtual machine to Active Directory

As I casually mentioned in my last post, work got me a MacBook Pro Core Duo to replace the aging IBM ThinkPad T42 I came to loathe on a daily basis.

Why the Mac? Easy, it runs Windows and OS X if we decide to support OS X in the future, and it came in $100 cheaper than an identically configured new Lenovo ThinkPad with our supposedly steep corporate discount, and no I am not kidding.

So how am I going to work? That was kinda the mystery part. I wasn't sure if I would use Boot Camp or Parallels, but the intention was to start using Parallels with a safety net Boot Camp partition for testing at full speed

I was also taking time with this change to move over to Windows Server 2003 SP1 because of work I have been doing on I did the equivalent of 40 hours worth of work on a feature that is basically in stasis because Jeff and I couldn't get it deployed since the config is so different between IIS 5.1 and IIS 6 for the feauture I built. I promised I would never let that happen again, for a work or side project, and just develop everything under IIS 6.

So I installed Win2K3 R2 SP1 in Parallels Build 1940 for my work VM, and then tried to join it to the domain and then I wait and wait until I see The remote procedure call failed and did not execute. I was stunned, fear stricken actually, that my whole scheme of using the MacBook Pro with OS X and Parallels had just gone up in flames. It took me a week of testing, Googling, forum crawls, and a fair bit of praying, but I finally cracked the problem.

You can read my Parallels Forum Post, I am murdocdv, for the solution, but I will repeat here. Windows Server 2003 SP1 changes the way RPC packets are formed to increase performance. The details are in this MS KB article. This change though causes some VPN and firewall software to block the RPC packets because it doesn't understand them, and it dawned on my at some point that perhaps the way Parallels bridges the OS X networking to the guest VM networking is close enough to a VPN connection that the hotfix and registry change in the KB article might allow Win2K3 SP1 to join the domain. That is exactly what happened, but you have to follow the directions exactly. Install hotfix first and reboot, then change registry and reboot, then join domain. Not having W2K3 in the domain would have been a dealbreaker, so I am exremely relieved to have fixed this problem.

Parallels Desktop 3.0 Build 5608 still has the domain joining issue, at least for me. You still have to manually change the way Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2) RPC works to disable RPC negotiation. I forgot about this issue for a few hours before using the right terms in Google the other day. Actually, I think I had eliminated this from the probability matrix for troubleshooting my domain joining problem because surely, *surely*, Parallels had updated their networking stack to work with RPC negotiation, but I was wrong. Also, I misremembered the Knowledge Base article. I thought that with SP2, the don't negotiate behavior was going to be the default, wrong again. I am probably going to have to print out this KB article and hang it on the cube so I don't forgot again :-)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

How iTunes saved my vacation

In my Email to Steve Jobs... I told his Steveness that
...I will not buy another video from iTunes until they reach full HD resolution, 1080p.
Allow me to now come clean and say I have already bought several videos from iTunes at 640x480, meaning I paid for them they were not free, and DVD ripping is pretty crappy and on anything but the latest hardware.

Why did I eat my own words? Well I travelled to Italy earlier this month (which was fantastic, highly recommended if you like historic stuff, beautiful country, or wonderful food) and had a pile of DVDs for my 2 year old son to watch on the flights. Well inexplicably, Alitalia refuses to let you use and CD/DVD drive while inflight, even once you have hit cruising altitude! I was actually furious, and thankfully going to Italy the Alitalia leg of the trip was only from London to Rome, but going home it was the Rome to NYC direct 9 hour flight, the kid was definitely not going to hold out that long. The first week of my trip was spent without Internet access in a Tuscan Villa, courtesy of Rentvillas (one of the sites I helped develop while at Vertigo Software), so I couldn't get Handbrake to start ripping DVDs on OS X until I got to Rome.

Once I got to Rome, another wrinkle was that I couldn't rip while I was touring the Collesium or walking the streets because the hotel room power was shutoff if you didn't have the keycard in a slot while in the room. So I only had 2 nights to rip some DVDs, and holy cow is it slow. On the iBook G4 933 MHz OS X machine, it was running between 6-8 hours to rip 1 hour of video! So unless I bought some video off iTunes, I was going to only have 2 hours of video for a 9 hour flight. Sure, some kids will watch the same video over and over again in a loop, but not my kid, he watches the same thing over and over, but there has to be breaks. So I bought a couple episodes of Dora The Explorer, Little Einsteins, and the Pixard movie A Bug's Life. This all downloaded in far less time than ripping a single hour of video and made the flight home a far more enjoyable experience for all.

Just for comparison's sake, when I got home I fired up my new MacBook Pro Core Duo (obsoleted yesterday Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros, damn you Steve Jobs) that work has provided as my main development machine (more on this latter) and ripped some video with Handbrake. OMG, it only takes about one hour to rip one hour of video! This is getting into the realm of usable and has be seriously considering making a run at ripping all my DVDs in preperation for the iTV. Also, my son just beats on the discs he uses and I can't imagine rebuying anything that he watches.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Review Update: Xbox 360 and the Xbox Live Marketplace

Just read a Blackfriars' Marketing: Zune Marketplace pricing too cute by half by way of MacDailyNews and it got me thinking about the 40 MS Points I have sitting in the Xbox Live Marketplace, time to provide another Xbox 360 Review Update
For all that Microsoft got right with Xbox Live, foisting an alternate currency on consumers to buy anything is just wrong. I am not complaining about that cost of the service because I think it's perfectly reasonable to charge for something like this, I am purely worked up because this is entirely anti-consumer, and MS is trying to expand their currency to the Zuna Marketplace and anything else that involves a monetary transaction.
Apparently MS doesn't have enough money in the bank. What gets me the most is that, as the Blackfriar's Marketing points out, you are giving one of the biggest companies in the world, $40 Billion in the bank, a LOAN. How is this? You cannot buy just the points you need for a transaction, you have to buy them in preset denominations that are almost guaranteed to leave you with a balance, so MS has some of your money and you get nothing.
MS Points make me LESS likely to buy, not more. Say I see something on the Xbox Live Marketplace that I want to buy, they are actually making it hard to spend money. I would nearly always have to add points to my Xbox Live account, then buy the item with points. If MS had just used dollars, the transaction would have been over a few steps ago. Why? I have to figure out the stupid conversion to dollars to see if the item is worth me spending my money on it. MS you really think people are stupid enough to not feel when they are getting fleeced just because you have this points barrier in the way?
What is that exchange rate again?Right now, $1.00 is worth about 78 points, so a point is worth $0.0125 dollars. Say I have 40 points sitting in my account, that's $0.50 worth of points. What happens when MS decides to inflate the minimum amount of points needed to buy something, my points are suddenly worth less than when I bought them. Can I "cash out" my points? No. Whatever balance I have in my account is totally at the mercy of Microsoft's accounting department, everything costs more than listed because you can't just buy that item, you have to buy a pack of points. Insane.
Bye Bye Xbox Live Marketplace. So with all that said, I have decided I will not be buying any more items from the Xbox Live Marketplace. The only way MS understands that the scheme they hatched sucks is if consumers vote with their dollars, or lack of dollars. I will still download demoes, videos, anything free, but MS you can forget about me buying anything ever again. Enjoy the 40P/$.50, I am sure you can compound interest that into hundreds of dollars before I die.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Visual Studio 2005 Badness

Working with VS 2005 today I was just editing some code and I see the following dialog pop-up

This is followed by a crash dialog, which I dutifully report to the mothership, and then nothing. VS doesn't crash, it just hangs there and I can't kill the dialog, notice the Cancel button is grayed out. If pop-open process explorer because Google reveals that this has been an ongoing bug in VS 2005 since before it RTMed and it had something to do with handle counts. My VS handle count is 1,261.
I manually crashed it, and this time I DID lose some code because the nice Visual Studio Recovered Files dialog was nowhere to be found. If I wasn't going to trash this machine in a few days I would be installing VS 2005 SP1 beta right now. And good call not waiting on Vista compatibility fixes VS Team, get that SP out the door!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Windows Developers: You are not upgrading to Vista anytime soon

Well I just applied for the Visual Studio 2005 SP 1 Beta Program through Microsoft Connect. When I mentioned my recent Windows hangs in A Feature You Don't Ever Want to See it seems like it may be related to VS 2005 running. I can't say definitely it is VS 2005, but I want into the Beta if they will have me.
This was all prompted by this Visual Studio 2005 SP1 Beta and Visual Studio support for Vista post. Talk about burying the lead, me that is, but in that post, it is revealed that VS.NET 2002 and 2003 are not going to be supported on Vista, so for anyone that needs to develop for .NET 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, or 3.0, XP SP2 will be it, well, forever. You are going to need a VM, or even more likely another machine to see the full Vista UI meal-deal, but you are only going to test on Vista or develop .NET 2.0 + 3.0 applications only with VS 2005 on Vista. That situation isn't possible for me right now, so it looks like I will be running XP as my main development OS for the foreseeable future, and so will a lot of Windows/.NET developers.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Feature You Don't Ever Want to See

All of a sudden this past week, Windows XP SP2 stopped groggily (If you have never seen a Mac wake from sleep, it is stunning the first time you see it since OS X is ready to work with full WiFi in 5 seconds tops) but reliably waking up out of sleep mode, Windows was just hung tight, had to power off. This has happened a few times since yesterday and I haven't started the investigation yet, but I might not even bother since I am getting a MacBook Pro as my One Computer To Rule Them All and the day job is buying. Score!
Most of the time a Windows hang wouldn't matter because I have been conditioned by Windows past and present to save compulsively. But here is a downside to working with OS X part-time, I get lazy with saves sometimes because OS X sleep/wake cycle just works. So this Windows problem is hitting me hard because I was doing some development work for (more on that in another post) and I was in the middle of a session when my train pulled into Penn Station and I had to put the ThinkPad to sleep and forgot to save everything first. I nearly cried and it was with concerted effort that I didn't stab a pencil through the LCD when I tried to wake the ThinkPad when I got into the office on the day job, and I had to hard reset. I actually didn't relaunch Visual Studio 2005 for a day because I wasn't looking forward to figuring out where I was when Windows keeled over.
But behold, I present the Visual Studio 2005 Recovered Files dialog, which was able to get all my work back

I had no idea this feature was added to Visual Studio 2005, but I am extremely grateful it is. I can only hope I don't need it much if ever again, and I hope this is the first and only time you lay eyes on it as well dear reader.

Monday, September 18, 2006

iPod Tip: Using the Equalizer

One part of the iPod user interface that has always been mysterious to me, and thus is really a design flaw, is the equalizer setting, EQ for short. No I am not talking about being able to adjust various iPod equalizer settings outside of the presets, nor am I talking about a visual equalizer, cool as Apple might make that look.
No I am talking about knowing that the equalizer setting I configured on a song in iTunes is being using by the iPod. I always took the iPod UI to mean the EQ was either Off, Flat (normalize everything to flat sounding), or a specific preset which overrode your song setting, I never understood any of the EQ settings to mean use the iTunes setting. Well this Apple Support article clears up my confusion. This is the summary of Eq settings
  • Off - EQ is not used. Songs songs as they were encoded
  • Flat - Songs without and iTunes setting play as they were encoded, if you have an iTunes setting the iPod uses it. JACKPOT
  • Other - Songs without a setting use the iPods setting, songs with an EQ setting use that, though you can override that per song if you go into the EQ setting and select a preset while the song is playing
Note: Using the EQ on the iPod drains your battery faster than normal.

Friday, September 15, 2006

685 Pagefile Fragments can't be Good, or Top Sign a Windows image needs to be destroyed

No I am not talking about spyware or virus infestations silly, take a look at this screenshot from the excellent Sysinternals, nee Microsoft TechNet, tool PafeDefrag and tell me this Windows instance doesn't need to be blown up

You might answer that I should just run the tool, well I have, several times, and instead of defragmenting this terrible pagefile situation, the tool crashes and nothing is done, one of the few times I can remember a Sysinternals tool crashing.
Let this serve as a reminder about why you don't let Windows grow the pagefile as needed, you configure a fixed size and only change it when adding RAM, or you install applications, *cough* Exchange, that want voluminous pagefiles.

Update The first commenter said that many fragments shouldn't cause the tool to crash, and I would agree, but here is the Application log entry from good ole Doc Watson - Event 4097
The application, C:\pagedfrg\pagedfrg.exe, generated an application error The error occurred on 09/15/2006 @ 13:12:47.270 The exception generated was c0000005 at address 00401CBC (pagedfrg)

And here is the generic Application Error in the Application log, Event 1000
Faulting application pagedfrg.exe, version, faulting module pagedfrg.exe, version, fault address 0x00001cbc

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Email to Steve Jobs: iTunes 7 needs DVD ripping + burning, downloaded media auto-upgrading

I am not going to comment step by step through Apples Its Showtime special event yesterday, Daniel Eran at RoughlyDrafted Magazine has a good summary up here and this time Paul Thurrott puts together a some pretty good comments, though with the usual backhanded compliments. I actually think Paul goes a little soft on Apple, as you can see by the folllowing email I sent to Steve Jobs
Hi Steve,

I would be highly impressed if this made it to you Mr. Jobs, but I hope it does.

I wish I had the research in front of me to justify what I am about to say as "facts", but I dare not, my sample size is 1, my family.

Last year when you announced the 5G iPod with video that played TV Shows, I was cautiously optimistic. The new form factor was a great improvement for music and photos over the 4G iPod photo that I am still using today. The unknown quantity was TV Shows. You launched with 320x240 resolution video files, which fits the 5G iPod screen perfectly and kept the download to a reasonable size, perfectly understandable, but it wasn't a long term solution for the HD era. No doubt the videos were encoded with the best protocol possible, H.264, so they looked beautiful at their native resolution, but watching a 320x240 video on a 1024x768 display (my 12" PowerBook) or 1440x990 (first generation iMac) was passable but not pleasing. I was also worried that any videos purchased at 320x240 would not be automatically upgraded when the inevitable resolution bump happened. I was also heavily disappointed that iTunes could not do DVD ripping + burning of purchased TV Shows. For comparisons sake, their is no way that iPods that only play music are such a smashing success if people can't rip their existing extensive CD libraries into iTunes or could create audio CDs to bridge the gap where iPods are tough to connect, e.g. legacy cars.

I haven't watched the September 12th Special Event "It's Showtime" event yet, the server was overloaded when the stream became available, but I have read all the coverage and have iTunes 7 installed on 2 of my 3 Macs. iTunes 7 is a great piece of work, it's addressed many a long standing issue with iTunes. The top has to be reverse synching. I can't tell you how many times I have wanted to buy something off iTunes and didn't have my full library on the computer I was at, be it work or if I was either one of my laptops, but stayed my hand because my library was on the iMac. Money was left on the table more than once.

At the special event you announced TV Shows had been upgraded to 640x480 bringing them on par with the new Movies, finally hitting native resolution of SDTV. Thank goodness, but the truly sad part if nothing changes, is that if I bought a 320x240 TV Show from iTunes up till Sept. 11, I am stuck with it. True, if I bought a VHS tape I couldn't "upgrade" to DVD without paying for it, but this isn't physical media. I could have at least eBayed my old VHS tapes like I did when DVD came out, not true of DRMed media files. If you stick with this policy, you are leaving a lot of money on the table in more ways than one since I don't believe I am alone on these issues. First, I will not buy another video from iTunes until they reach full HD resolution, 1080p. You might think this is extreme, but I am not going to be left with a bunch of 320x240 and 640x480 videos if you upgrade next year to 1280x720 (hey that is 720p in HDTV parlance, getting pretty close) and then 1080p. Secondly, you aren't going to get an iPod purchase from me until the 6G iPod with a 16:9 ratio screen comes to market. See, if you announced today that everyone that bought 320x240 videos received upgrades to 640x480, the precedent would have been set that iTunes consumers weren't going to be milked for cash every-time the source content was re-encoded. I would have bought the 5.5G iPod and bought the 6G iPod Widescreen iPod too when it came out so I could enjoy all the benefits of downloadable TV Shows and Movies now. The key is knowing that I haven't made a mistake with video purchases. I have wanted the iTV for literally years now for music and photos, downloadable TV Shows made this more acute, and downloadable Movies make having a device like this a no brainer, I find it hard to believe you are going to miss the Christmas 2006 season. But if I buy videos today in 640x480, the iTV upscaling for my HDTV is only going to look so good, I will need higher resolution videos, so again I might skip the iTV until you have full resolution videos or announce an upgrade policy. If I haven't beat the drum enough, not having an upgrade policy in place leaves an opening for HD-DVD and BluRay to gain a foothold. If I knew that if I bought today and could get full resolution videos later, me and I suspect many others would skip the next physical media for video battle entirely.

And that brings me to my last point. I noticed the iTV has no DVD drive. I also have a lot of movies on DVD sitting on my bookshelf. I have a few TV show seasons on my bookshelf. There is no way on earth I am going to buy Pirates of the Caribbean from the iTunes Store when I already have the DVD. How am I going to watch the DVD on my iPod? How am I going to serve that movie to any TV that has an iTV? I can't, not with iTunes, and as I suggested above, iTunes absolutely needs to be able to rip DVDs, just like CDs. I know, there is some encryption, there may be a legal issue, but you know what, as a consumer, I don't care, and you already have a solution. You could create protected video files from my ripped DVDs, I am wiling to concede that for the convenience. Ripping DVDs is to slow? True it is slow on older computers like the ones I have, but you have Core Duo and Core 2 Duo Macs on the market right now, ripping a DVD is only going to get faster and faster, and besides, I don't care how slow the ripping process is since I only have to do it once. How about for TVs that already have a DVD player attached, anyway I can watch TV Shows or Movies downloaded from iTunes? That would be a no since iTunes can't burn a video DVD. How come I can create audio CDs from the music I buy on iTunes but I can't create DVDs of TV Shows or Movies? There is consumer confusion there, the more video diverges from music in capabilities, the more restrictive it is compared to music, the less iPods and iTVs you are going to sell. I know, you are already battling the studios on the terms you have set for Movie downloads and DVD ripping and burning is a concession, but you have only sold 45m videos compared to 1.5b songs, I think these points are some of the reasons why.

I would love to hear from you.

A long term customer,

Apple's Media Strategy: For All Those That Don't Appear to Get It

Daniel Eran at RoughlyDrafted Magazine has posted How Apples iTV Media Strategy Works which Apple telegraphed with the iTV in yesterdays Its Showtime event. Daniel doesn't address one of the chief complaints other bloggers like Paul Thurrott have which you can read in his thoughts on the Its Showtime event, which is DVR functionality.

I thought it was obvious, but obviously not. Microsoft and Tivo for example are trying to add computer technology onto the legacy TV distribution technology, be that cable or satelite based. Apple is trying to REPLACE two legacy content distribution systems, cable/satelite TV and physical media distribution. Not only that, but they are trying to blow up the standard TV business model. I think Steve Jobs hates subscriptions to content where you just rent and rent and rent. The philosophy of subscription rentals encourages gorging, its eat as much as you can, it doesn't make you think about how much you are consuming because the primary inhibitor to stop consuming is spending more money, which you already did, you better get your monies worth

I may eat my words at some point, but I truly believe Apple will never release anything with DVR functionality, why would you need a DVR when you can already get Season Passes to iTunes and download the shows. I think there are some very big holes in Apple's strategy which I will talk about in my Email to Steve Jobs.

Monday, September 11, 2006

OS X vs. Vista: Pressing your computer's physical power button

One of my friends and former co-workers at Vertigo Software, Eric Cherng, wrote this excellent article Vista - Start Menu Power Button for the Vertigo Software Blogs, which is an excellent resource btw, on how complex Microsoft made just shutting down your computer.

Go read Eric's articles, then just look at this dialog box, which is what OS X shows you when you hit the physical power button

Say your a Windows and you are gunshy about using the physical power button it never does what the user wants and is vendor dependent. In OS X you would click the Apple Menu, the blue Apple in the menubar) where anything "System related" is and you would see the following

I had a related reaction to as Eric when I tried to restart Vista, you have to click the little right arrow next to the lock button to see, drum roll please, a menu!

In OS X, you actually can't change from System Prefernces what the physical power button does when it's pressed, I don't know about fiddling with preference files in Terminal, but why would you bother when OS X already asks you what you want? I could go on about how needlessly complex Vista's power management "options" are compared to OS X, but it is hard to find joy in making fun of the handicapped.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Top Current Windows XP Annoyance: Stopping Office apps launching inside Internet Explorer

I get a lot of links to MS Office documents emailed to me. Something typically like
The problem with links like this is by default, Word will open inside of Internet Explorer, which is just ugly and makes Word functionality harder to use than it already is. Here is how to turn it off (I am using Microsoft Word as an example):

Open any Windows Explorer window, then go to the Tools menu, Folder Options, and click the File Types tab which gets you something like this

Click your file extension, e.g. DOC, that you want to change and click the Advanced button. You will see something like this

Uncheck Browse in same window and click OK and then Close.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Funny Mac Reference

I was watching the SciFi channel show Eureka last night, the Right as Raynes episode (link is to the SciFi site, the episode isn't up on iTunes yet) when I bust out laughing.

In the episode, a computer virus has infected the custom operating system that the runs this government town, to which Sheriff Jack Carter says:
You guys should've switched to Macs.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

More Blogger Beta Problems

I just had a bear of a time getting Leaked Vista Pricing vs. OS X pricing to get posted all the way through Blogger Beta. It's finally done, but putting that out took far longer then it should have.

First, I had to turn off Convert Line Breaks for the blog when creating new posts to get the tables to show up, I mean blogger was just stripping everything out of the rest of the post. This was after I started doctoring the tables I already had created with nicer layouts in Dreamweaver to the simplest table definitions possible.
After the tables started showing up, I debugged through multiple post cycles that the appearance of any question marks or colons in normal text cause the parsing enging to stop displaying any text past that point, including tables after the first table displaying past the first colon.

Since I signed up for the beta, where can I provide this feedback (notice I can't use a question mark here). I looked, there is nothing obvious. Why did I sign up for this again (question mark)

Leaked Vista Pricing vs. OS X pricing

Robert McLaws at the Longhorn blog posted Windows Vista US Pricing and Launch Date Revealed! He has a nice table that summarizes all the leaked info, from, but the leak train started with Microsoft Canada’s site. Amazon reveals the launch date:

January 30th, 2007

Comparing this to OS X pricing is a simple exercise in the simple case. Windows Vista Home Basic Upgrade (brilliant up-sell marketing, do I really want to buy something that is called Basic) is cheaper at $100 than buying a license to OS X Tiger at $130. If you only have two computers that need upgrading to Home Basic, OS X is more expensive by $9 because you would buy the $199 family pack, but with Vista Home Basic you would buy any additional license at $90 for a grand total of $190.

But those are the only cases when Windows Vista pricing comes out cheaper than OS X Tiger pricing. If you need to pay the regular price on any version of Vista, Home Basic starts at $199, OS X is still $129. If you need to upgrade Windows XP Pro, you would start with Vista Business and that upgrade is $199, again OS X is $129.

It is hard to call MS restrained with pricing because they are playing a shell game. The equivalents of XP Home and XP Pro are Vista Home Basic and Vista Business, and the pricing is exactly the same for the Vista equivalents to the XP versions. MS knows though that a majority of users, whether they are home users or not, simply buy the most expensive version of Windows because they don’t know what they don’t need when they buy a computer and they don’t want to get left out in the cold buying a completely new Windows license. Vista has addressed this with the Anytime Upgrade functionality, where you can buy the next level of functionality by being up-sold while you are using Vista! I don’t think pricing has been revealed to do an intra-Vista upgrade, but I think a good baseline is the difference between each retail and upgrade price.
Installed Edition Target Edition Installed Upgrade Cost Target Upgrade Cost Intra-Vista Upgrade Cost
Home Basic Home Premium $99 $159 $60
Home Premium Ultimate $159 $259 $100
Business Ultimate $199 $259 $60

I skipped Home Premium to Business because I think this upgrade path is restricted. I also think it a relatively good bet that there will be some kind of penalty baked into the pricing for buying a cheap version and moving up to more expensive version instead of buying expensive versions earlier, that’s money MS could have had in the bank! Here are the differences if they go with the retail pricing.
Installed Edition Target Edition Installed Retail Cost Target Retail Cost Intra-Vista Upgrade Cost
Home Basic Home Premium $199 $239 $40
Home Premium Ultimate $239 $399 $160
Business Ultimate $299 $399 $100

I have a hard time believing that many people will have to pay full retail prices. I mean doesn’t everybody already have 2 or more Windows licenses to upgrade from.

Food or Windows Vista Upgrades

I posted Windows Licensing: The Price of Greed in response to McLaw’s Windows Licensing: The Price of Success. I kindly pointed out that Apple has figured out how to create Family Pack pricing at $199 that doesn’t feel like a rip-off. Robert McLaw’s Longhorn blog has a follow-up post to the leaked Vista pricing called The Mechanics of Pricing Additional Vista Licenses Lower. Robert really gets it with respect to families, and this time he specifically mentions and links to the OS X Family Pack. I actually feel bad for Robert because he wants to love Vista, wants it to eliminate all the pain XP caused, but faced with the hard numbers of upgrade pricing, his faith is shaken and he knows it is going to be hard a very hard sell to families. I have spent the last 3 years of my life trying to convince people to move to Macs and OS X whenever it makes sense for them to avoid all the problems with XP that Vista purports to solve (I lost me faith in MS promises 3 years ago), so I think Robert and I are more alike than different.

While a multiple computer house may not be the 80% case, more and more families have 1 to 1 ratio of computers to people, and some might even have 1.25 to 1 computers to people if you have computers for dedicated purposes.  This is where Microsoft is nearly at an insane pricing level. If I have three computers (the minimum family scenario in my opinion) to upgrade to Home Basic (upgrade + 2 additional licenses), the price is $280 + tax. If you are in the same situation with OS X, the price is just $199 + tax. The OS X Family Pack is $199 for up to 5 computers in one house, which covers the 1.25 to 1 ratio problem, or even the 1.66 to 1 (e.g. 3 desktops + 2 notebooks for 3 people) issue. It is actually pretty easy to get to a 5 PC house with 2 Media Center PCs, a gaming PC, and a couple laptops. You can run scenarios all day long because of the number of Vista editions and additional licenses. But you hit $1191 plus tax ($1274 total in NJ) to upgrade a 5 computer house to Vista Ultimate!

It is nearly impossible to give families an estimate on what their Vista upgrade costs can be without going over the edition matrix with a fine tooth comb and asking users a lot of questions about their usage patterns. It’s clear though, Vista upgrades for families will neither be cheap nor easy for users to decide on. I don’t  know about other families, but $1274 is more than a month of food for fine, and I have a tremendously hard time choosing a software upgrade over food.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

XP "Luna" Theme Back On

Since I Turned off the Windows XP "Luna" Theme back in April, I have been completely happy except for one deal breaking problem. Trillian, my IM client, does not flash the taskbar button without the theme on. I am not sure if this is an XP thing, or a code problem with Trillian, a couple quick googles yielded no results. This problem is infuriating since someone will start chatting and I will be involved with something else and completely miss a conversation for a while because of it. The XP Themes are not good, but missing important conversations is far worse.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Is Windows inherently more vulnerable to malware attacks than OS X?

Tom Yager at InfoWorld must have his flame-retardant suit on today because he asks the question if Is Windows inherently more vulnerable to malware attacks than OS X? The first question for Mr. Yager is why was he swapping out an Xserve G5 for a Windows server anyway? The next is why was the Windows Server service Internet accessible in the first place? It's been a recommended best practice since worms starting targeting this service in Windows 2000 to make sure that is firewalled off from the Internet, and with Windows Firewall you can configure it to only respond to requests from internal IP's However, his billion (million just not being what it used to) dollar question still stands. I dont' remember anyone of any serious technical depth truly going on record and declaring OS X superior to malware by design and enumerating a number of reasons why they believe that to be the case. I don't think its very controversial to say that Windows has some serious design flaws that cause a number of problems, and those design flaws make eliminating or preventing malware much harder than it should be. I think Mr. Yager lists a good number of them, but he does make a few mistakes. In Windows XP and 2003, not all services (daemons in UNIX verbiage) launch as SYSTEM (LocalSystem in the Services MMC), there are two lower privileged accounts that are used, Local Service and Network Service. A TechNet article has the details, but the summary is:
  • Local System - Exactly as Yager describes, it is the SYSTEM
  • Local Service - Equivalent to an account in the Users group, it access network resources as a "null session with no credentials"
  • Network Service - Equivalent to an account in the Users group, but it accesses network resources as the computer account/
On my Windows XP SP2 system right now, I have A LOT of services running, 48 of them, it is a constant source of worry, e.g. do I absolutely need all this stuff running, here is the breakdown on service accounts:
Local Service4 services
Network Service2 services
Local System (i.e. SYSTEM)42 services
That is a lot of code that could potentially compromise any system, and it's not all Microsoft's, Symantec, Lotus, Apple, Check Point, and IBM all have services running as Local System. I am nowhere near technically competent on UNIX or OS X specific internals to suggest that Mr. Yager is correct about OS X's design. My deepest technical knowledge is on the Windows and .NET stacks, so there is no way I can judge if the list of OS X design choices absolutely prevent malware, but if Mr. Yager is correct in his OS X assertions, that sounds like better more manageable design then what MS has ended up with in the production versions of Windows. I don't think it's controversial to suggest MS is well aware of these problems is making a lot of changes in Vista, the most visible being User Account Control. this link details the "Security and Data Protection" improvements in Vista, and there is a section on Windows Services hardening. This is particular telling about previous versions of Windows:
Windows services represent a large percentage of the overall attack surface in Windows—from the perspective of the quantity of overall "always-on" code footprint in the system, and the privilege level of that code. Windows Vista limits the number of services that are running and operational by default. Today, many system and third-party services run in the LocalSystem account, where any breach could lead to unbounded damage to the local machine—including disk formatting, user data access, or driver installation.
Read the whole article for the steps MS has taken in Vista to harden Windows Services. Will these protections make Vista more secure than XP? I would put money on it. Riddle me this: When Vista comes out and the security design changes, which emulate OS X security design decisions from years ago, result in a reduction in malware, spyware, virus, etc., would anyone ever again seriously claim that OS X was more secure primarily through obscurity instead of primarily through better design and implementation? I am not looking forward to Vista from an end-user perspective, but I am eager to see if the security design changes make computing more safe for Windows users.

Upgraded to Blogger Beta...might be a mistake

When I logged into Blogger this morning, I saw the link to upgrade my blog to the new Blogger Beta. I have been a Beta junkie for a long time, so I took the plunge with Blogger. First the good news, Blogger Beta is a lot faster than the last Blogger release, so less annoyance with posting/publishing cycles. Labels (I call them Tags on the actual posts) are finally available, something I wish had been here all along, but I guess I am going to have to edit 2 years worth of post to get this meta-data in, I am anal like that. Overall though, upgrading might have been a slight mistake. First, you have to link your previous Blogger account to a Google account. I choose my Gmail account, and I should have known better, now any Blogger related mail is going to Gmail instead of my main email address. You can't seem to control this, since it's a GMail Google account, I can't change where mail is sent, I guess I could remove GMail as a service from my account, but I should have used my non-GMail Google account. The new Layout Editor is pretty nice, it does most of what you would want to do with rearranging page elements and putting a GUI on editing the CSS and HTML. But I can't edit the actual HTML, that isn't working yet, so I can't replace the default header image with the one I recently created, lame. The JavaScript code for AdSense isn't working in the HTML/JavaScript page element that comes with the layout editor. Not a huge deal, I am not raking in the money with the Ads, but still another annoyance. The other think I did to the base template was remove the border around images I put in the posts, and I can't do that yet so like on my last post has a border around the image. The biggest disappointment by far is that the templates are still designing for 800x600. I hate his, maybe before I do any customization I need to run through all the templates and see if any are optimized for at least 1024x768. I started trying to change the old template to make it work on 1024x768, but I would have had to customize a lot of images and I thought Blogger Beta might have had some options with regard to template size...*sigh*

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tip: Quickly opening an Apple Mail message reply from your Inbox

The other day I stumbled on a bit of subtle UI that is actually useful in Apple's In pretty much all other mail clients I am using, an indicator that a message has been replied to is just that, a static image. Not in Mail, here you can click on the icon and see your reply to that message immediately. Now that I found this feature, I wish it were in Notes and Thunderbird, the two other mail clients I use day to day.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Visual Studio .NET SP1 - Released

Microsoft has released the long awaited (by me anyway) Visual Studio .NET 2003 SP1. I have only been running it since yesterday (I got into the beta program, but I missed the window to download it from Connect, damn) but everything seems fine. The link has the list of fixes, tops on my list are the crashers. If you have ever experienced some of these crash bugs, you know how maddening they can be. I told a co-worker about the release, he couldn't care less because he hasn't seen any problems with VS.NET. I don't think I have ever done anything very taxing to VS.NET 2003, so I guess he has been exceptionally lucky ;-).

Could Apple replicate the iPod+iTunes model to video chat?

One of my primary use cases in October 2004 for getting a Mac was the quality of video chat with an external iSight and iChat. The system has worked beautifully even as I moved from CA back to NJ and went through a number of ISPs before getting to my current configuration. The iSight+iChat experience has been so much better than anything else I have seen, anything on the PC (though I haven't tried the latest Windows Live Messenger, it's like why bother, iSight+iChat is awesome). I even tried connected the external iSight (I am making a distinction here because Apple has an embedded iSight in most new products) to a Windows PC back in 2004, but the results were not good, including garbled video and Windows crashes.

What's changed?
A few new pieces of information have surfaced that have led me to question if Apple isn't missing out on a huge opportunity with there iSight+iChat combination. First, Apple released Boot Camp 1.1 Beta, which includes a number of enhancements, but the one that's relevant here is:

Support for built-in iSight cameras
This reads like its only the embedded iSights which are supported on the Intel Macs, but that would leave Mac Pro buyers out in the cold because the Cinema Displays don't have an embedded iSight. It was only a matter of time, but Mac Only confirms the new Windows iSight driver supports the external iSight as well. iSight+iChat for Windows I am not suggesting the iSight driver is proof of anything other than Apple's intention to completely support the hardware in their machines completely under Windows. If there was speculation to the contrary, this Boot Camp update should put that completely to rest. What I am suggesting though is that Apple is closer to and could release an iSight+iChat for Windows combination, ala iPod+iTunes.

Reasons why Apple won't release iSight+iChat for Windows
There are many reasons Apple won't do this, or wouldn't be as successful as with iPod+iTunes:

  • iChat feature enhancements are a key selling point to OS X upgrades, and by extension a key differentiator of the Mac
  • iChat has no incremental revenue model
  • Video chatting has been historically so poorly implemented it might be difficult to convince users this is real
  • iChat can't call mobile or land line phones
  • Crowded market for IM/video chat/audio call applications on the PC
  • Porting iChat to Windows adds another Windows application that needs to be supported
The hurdles are pretty significant or with significant downside risk (OS X appeal reduced somewhat).

Reasons why Apple should release iSight+iChat for Windows

  • iPod is nowhere near as successful as it is today without iTunes for Windows.
  • Yahoo, Windows Live, Google, and Skype are all going to or already have started to attack the video chat market with force. iChat as a OS X differentiator from Windows might be in jeopardy anyway if Apple leaves iChat on OS X
  • iSight+iChat for Windows gives those users another taste of the OS X world, it's an upsell opportunity to the sacred applications of OS X, the iLife suite.

Enhancements iChat needs to truly make this model succeed
On either OS X or Windows, iChat needs a number of important + fun enhancements, not just fun enhancements to remain competitive or increase it's lead over other applications in the space.

  • Phone calls, both mobile and land line. This is such a no-brainer, Apple already has a billing relationship through the iTunes Music Store with millions of customers
  • Micro-transactioned content - Similar to songs on iTunes, emoticons, pictures, backgrounds (look at the green screen style background stuff in Leopard), and ringtones all purchasable through the iChat Store using your iTunes account

Apple's Endgame
iSight+iChat for Windows could be the first step to expansion into another market with the iPhone. Online presence and communication can be unified using this device. Move from a Mac at home, or on the go with the iPhone, or at work on your Windows PC and maintain the same friends list and high feature parity between all platforms, with text, audio, or video dependent on the hardware (PCs can do it all, iPhone does audio and video, or all 3 with a BlackBerry style device). Everyone expects the iPhone will be a cellular based technology. It's possible Apple is going to go the WiFi, or WiMAX route, or even a hybrid approach that uses cell or WiFi depending on the network technology available wherever you are. Vonage and Skype are releasing WiFi phones that are modeled on cordless telephones, not very innovative thinking. The Vonage V-Phone a USB keychain that lets you take your Vonage account to any PC to turn it into a Vonage compatible phone looks a lot like an orange iPod shuffle, why can't Apple put iChat on all iPods? iChat on OS X is using the same network technology, SIP, as Vonage, so network connectivity can't be a major hurdle.

Apple's iPod millions should allow an expansion into another market. Apple's CFO Peter Oppenheimer said recently when asked about cell phones eating into the iPods market for stand-alone music players:

...we're not sitting around doing nothing.
I think that's clear they have to enter the mobile phone market, exactly what form that takes is the question. If they port iChat to Windows and unify the friends presence and communication problem across PCs, Macs and mobile devices, I think Apple could be a hugely disruptive force in the mobile phone market. Even if Apple just released the iSight+iChat properly for Windows, it could be very disruptive. Microsoft is now selling webcams in the same price range as the external iSight, and as this article about the announcement of the MS webcams states the webcam market is growing, Logitech reported earnings of $273 million with 36% growth. With Apple's great looking iSight and the elegance and ease of use of iChat, I easily think they could have a winner on their hands.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

RoughlyDrafted just went up in flames

A few days ago I recommended Daniel Eran's RoughlyDrafted Magazine as one of my favorite writers on the interweb. Today Daniel posted Windows 5x More Expensive than Mac OS X and the site has basically gone up in flames because of the article. Daniel makes some good points on maintenance costs for Windows due to antivirus programs and updates for normal users (i.e. those that aren't geeks). I know multiple family and friends that are on the yearly subscription plan for Norton AntiVirus because it is the easiest thing for them to do. I just recently learned of free antivirus, so I will probably start switching people over after I have looked into how good or not this stuff is. I think Daniel's point still stands, a lot of Windows users are paying Norton or McAfee an annual fee for antivirus. Daniel goes off the rails when he suggest that Windows user's are paying BestBuy's Geek Squad $200 a year, $1400 since XP came out, for spyware and security cleaning. I don't know anyone that has used that service, they usually find a geek like me to clean up their machines or live with the infestation. I did recently find out my parents paid someone $90 to do a secure wipe of the hard drive on an old Windows 98 computer before getting rid of the machine (which was replaced by an iMac), so maybe there is something to it after all. But Daniel can't pin the Geek Squad fee on the annual costs of Windows with no supporting evidence, that's just bad reporting. Daniel I expect better.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mozilla Thunderbird Theme Recommendation: Tiger Mail

With both Firefox and Thunderbird, I have in general stayed with the default theme. For Firefox, I am using the 2.0b1 and there aren't a lot of themes compatible, or if there are, the Firefox add-ons site does a real poor job showing me what is compatible, I can't find a way to tell it just show me themes for 2.0b1 and greater, you get everything so it turns into a fishing expedition. Anyway, there is a theme for Thunderbird that approximates the look of Apple's Mail in OS X Tiger so well it has become my default, aptly named Tiger Mail. It feels like Thunderbird is more usable now because most of the UI elements are more obvious with Tiger's graphics. I then rearranged the main toolbar buttons to be in nearly the same place as Apple Mail. Highly Recommended.

Configuring Mozilla Thunderbird to work with .Mac Mail's Trash Folder

I use Mozilla Thunderbird on my work PC to check my .Mac Mail account. All in all, it's a good program, with one nagging problem with .Mac, the trash folder name expected by Thunderbird is Trash, but .Mac's trash folder name is Deleted Messages. I have basically been living with this problem for years by configuring Thunderbird to "mark message as deleted" and "expunge on exit" combination, but it's sub-optimal since messages that get moved remain in your Inbox folder until you exit, although marked for deletion. I kept thinking this would get "fixed" in a newer release, or at least the ability to change the name of the Trash folder. After reading through the lengthy Thunderbird 2.0 Alpha 1 changlog and not seeing any mention of this specific issue, I went looking in the MozillaZine Knowledge Base, which I never thought may have existed and I never googled on this issue because it is obvious in the UI changing the name of the folder Thunderbird uses for Trash is not possible. But it is! You just have to know how to create a user.js file in your profile folder with the right command. The instructions are at MozillaZine KB - IMAP Trash Folder.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The misinformation that Mac OS X users are zealots

In the comment's for Daniel Eran's article, The Time Machine Rip-Off Myth at Roughly Drafted Magazine, I said the following in response to commentors suggesting that Daniel unraveling some myths being perpetuated about the Time Machine feature in OS X Leopard:
Another good article. It should be obvious to anyone that Time Machine is a tremendous advance in usability and capability over Volume Shadow Copies by allowing browsing and restoration within the native apps UI, making it within the realm of possibility that mom can do it on her own. The first part, the unraveling of the Paul Thurrott's "Secret Formula" is probably necessary, seems like he has spun more out of control than usual. Too bad it has come to this, I too would like reasoned intelligent analysis vs. the kind of stuff Thurrott has been doing lately. As for the Mac "haters" posting here saying that Mac users think they are better or smarter than everyone else, for most of us that's simply not true. A lot of us use Windows, OS X, and Linux and are just looking for the best technology that allows us to get more stuff done, with less hassle, than the other tech out there. If 1 million people say OS X is better than Windows, it means its better for them. If you talk to them about it and their use cases intersect with your use cases and you are not using OS X and its apps, most of the time OS X users are going to suggest why they think OS X might be better for you. Obviously, as with anything in life, some people that have discovered OS X before others believe they are better for getting their earlier, it validates them. Just like people that find good bands before others, you kinda have to ignore those people for being pompous about it. What Daniel does here, and hopefully from time to time I do on my blog, is show people what is better in OS X and why compared to primarily Windows since it has the market. This isn't some superiority complex, I think we are both trying to help people save time in their lives if something works better, because after all time is the most precious commodity we have.
Daniel is one of my favorite writer's on the interweb, I highly suggest you subscribe to his feed.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Windows Licensing: The Price of Greed

Robert McLaws article Windows Licensing: The Price of Success has to be one of the best pieces of un intentional comedy writing I have read in a while. It gave me a good laugh. Here is the short short version. *ahem* Microsoft please don't be as greedy with Vista licensing as you are with XP licensing since it might cost $675 to upgrade a 3 computer home, assuming Windows Vista Home Premium at $225 per copy. I offer instead for your reference what Apple does. If you have upto a 5 Mac household, the same upgrade from OS X 10.3 Panther to OS X 10.4 Tiger is $199 with the Family Pack. That is only $39.80 per computer if you have 5 machines, $66.33 per machine for a 3 computer household. Apple does this, because like a lot of things, they has already figured out this problem. Peruse the Apple store for Tiger pricing. The single licenses upgrade, btw, is only $129. What's that? Apple releases OS X so much more frequently than Microsoft releases Windows (that is already a joke, do they actually release Windows?) that you end up paying more for OS X than Windows, so Windows is cheaper! You would have to buy the Family Pack for 4 releases in row to costs more than a single Windows upgrade cycle example above. I can't wait to run the scenarios when MS announces final retail pricing. There is no reason to believe Apple will be charging more for Leopard upgrades than for the Tiger cycle, whereas MS has already increased prices through additional editions Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate. Paul Thurrott has a good breakdown of the Vista editions. Choose wisely, and enjoy the ability to be upsold to an even more expensive edition of Windows Vista with Anytime Upgrade.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Leopard Preview Revisted: 64-bit and why it's a big deal

Apple released Xcode 2.4 today. This release fixes a number of things, and adds some features, all detailed in the Release Notes, ADC account required. The part that I want to call attention to is the new 64-bit support in Xcode 2.4, as detailed in the release notes:
Xcode 2.4 adds support for 64-bit Intel development, with support for creating four-architecture Universal applications (32 and 64 bit for both Intel and PowerPC).
Now the pieces of why 64-bit Leopard are a big deal fall into place, contrary to what some are saying about it. Here is a quote from the Leopard Preview site:
Leopard takes 64-bit computing to the next level, while maintaining full performance and compatibility for your existing 32-bit applications and drivers.
There will be just 1 version of Leopard, and it will be 64-bit with full 32-bit non-emulated support. It's now obvious that starting with Xcode 2.4, the Universal binary format has been extended to support 32-bit and 64-bit for both PPC and Intel inside the same file, quad univeral binearies! Users don't have to choose between 32-bit or 64-bit, either at the OS or application layers, it's all abstracted from them. The Mach-O object file format has been extended again to great utility. Read more about Mach-O and Fat Binaries on Wikipedia. The differences between MS and Apple on the transition to 64-bit couldn't be more stark, assuming Apple executes as it has with the Intel transition and ongoing PPC support. With MS, I have to "choose" between the compatibility of 32-bit vs. the possible improvement of a 64-bit version, with a lot of downside, as Paul Thurrott reported last year about XP x64, and again with Vista, based on Thurrott's advice for buying a Vista PC. This is a nice quote:
I do recommend x64-compatible chips, but those who upgrade to Vista in the next year or so will likely want to stick with the 32-bit Vista versions for the short term.
Paul's Vista Feature Focus: 64-bit has a Final Thoughts section that I could quote wholesale, it's all germane, but this is the saddest part:
...the x64 versions [of Vista] are also far less compatible than their predecessors, with both hardware devices and software, and these incompatibilities will ultimately make the x64 Vista versions less attractive to most users. Within the next few years, the majority of Windows users will almost certainly move to x64-based PCs. But I'm guessing that the 32-bit versions of Vista will dominate throughout this product's lifetime because of compatibility issues.
No one can say right now whether Apple will be able pull off inclusion of 64-bit as smoothly as they are suggesting until applications start getting compiled and testing using Xcode 2.4 (and later Xcode 3.0) on Tiger and Leopard, but Apple has certainly maneuvered themselves, and their developers, to provided 64-bit support to those users that need it with none of the problems that Windows 64-bit, either XP or Vista, are plagued with. You need only look at how smoothly PPC to Intel was delivered to make some good bets. 64-bit in Leopard is not just an important end-user feature for the Pro community, it's an amazing piece of engineering, and again demonstrates Apple's seemingly unique ability to take complex technical problems and simplify them. Hide all the hard engineering for the majority of users, but with OS X expose it for those that want it. Anyone saying that the 64-bit situation with XP or Vista is in anyway analogous to what is coming in Leopard has blinders on.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Apple's Leopard Attacks Part 1: Microsoft Exchange Server

Update Roughly Drafted has started publishing articles on this very topic. Of course Roughly Drafted has a lot more history on the topic of groupware and email servers in general.
Apple Takes On Exchange Server
Apple's Open Calendar Server vs Microsoft Exchange
MacDailyNews has has picked up on Roughly Drafted's articles and I posted a comment on the article saying I originally talked about this back in August 06.

Original Post
Leopard Server was not demoed in the WWDC 06 Keynote in any capacity, but the preview site and subsequent reports (see the References section at the bottom), makes something very clear. Apple is about to attack Microsoft at it's linchpin server product, the one enterprises get shackled to first: Exchange Server.

Microsoft's Server Playbook
Microsoft Exchange Server (4.x-2003) is a Trojan Horse, it gets other MS server products in the enterprise. This plan become obvious once Exchange 2000 was released. In one of the most stunning instances I can remember of tying two software markets together, Active Directoy in Windows 2000 Server was required. Exchange 200x will not function without it. Why is this is insidious? Look at the cost for a medium sized company from the MS Exchange Server site and theWindows Server 2003 R2 pricing site:
ProductNumber of UsersCost
Microsoft Exchange Server Standard EditionN/A$699
Microsoft Exchange Server user CAL50$67
Microsoft Exchange Server device CAL50$67
Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition5$999
Windows Server 2003, Client Access License 20-pack x 220$799
Organizations can acquire the licenses listed above at lower prices through volume licensing, but that is exactly the point. The list prices are so high (I haven't even added in hardware and possibly consulting costs), organizations feel like they are getting a bargain if they sign for volume licensing, they are getting a "deal". Once an organization signs on for volume licensing, they hardly ever switch away from MS, the opposite happens, they add more products (e.g. SharePoint Portal Server, SQL Server). The entire machine is too costly to replace, you have the Exchange Server admins, the experts just to understand all the licensing and audit them, the backup specialists, the AD specialists, I am sure I am missing someone. Volume licensing is the same reason MS with their partners have been pushing rental music (wrongly called subscriptions): they automatically get paid every day/month/year whether they deliver you something new or not. The revenue is guaranteed. Customer aquisition costs are high, if you can't cut that costs out of every sale, it's nearly like printing money. Make no mistake, figuring out the licensing and pricing if any organization thinks they might be interested in MS products is a full time job, there are so many possible permutations, and the wording so ambigious at times, you are never perfectly sure you have only the licenses you need and nothing more. Often you are penalized if you guess wrong, because features and capabilities are walled off from use unless you get the higher priced version, and there is no incremental upgrade costs if you aren't on volume licensing. Look again at the table above, MS is getting organizations that sign onto Exchange for 2 CALs per user, 1 for AD and 1 for Exchange, and for additional CALs if you use your SmartPhone/Blackberry/Outlook Web Access terminal to get your mail.

Apple Attacks
Before OS X, Apple did not have an OS capable of being a true server operating system (i.e. no preemtive multitasking). This point is important because gaining traction with a server OS takes years. It took MS 8 years before Windows NT, rechristened as Windows 2000, really took off (it helped that Windows 2000 was also the best version of the product at the time). But what was the appeal of Windows NT vs. Solaris/Digital Unix/AIX? NT used cheaper commodity (Intel) hardware, undercut the pricing models of the big Unix servers, met the needs of the bottom end of the market first (small and medium businesses), specialists were cheaper, and yes NT was easier to use in a lot of cases for people that grew up on Windows. Now look at the moves Apple is making with Xserve and Leopard Server. Apple has moved to Intel hardware. An Xserve with Leopard Server starts at $2499. That includes Mac OS X Leopard Server for UNLIMITED users (retail is $999 for the upgrade) and includes a number of servers built-in (Mail, Calendaring, Directory, DB, Teams) which MS charges seperate CALs (AD, Exchange) and seperate servers (Exchange, AD, SQL Server, SharePoint) for very low pricing. In Leopard Server, Apple looks to be targetting the bottom end of the server market first with the new Server Assistant and Server Preferences. No administrators required, just plug in your Xserve, run through the Server Assistant, and you are ready to use. You have to wonder how realistice "No administrators" is, but that is a huge chunk of cost if Apple can reduce the number of servers operators to near zero. What about backup? Imagine if Time Machine is built-into Leopard Server? Who needs to manage backup when its always running and the bits are just there if you go looking for them, as long as you have enough disk space. Notice I mentioned Server Assistant and System Preferences. If anyone can focus on a hard problem and come up with an easier way to convey the same ideas as others, it's Apple. Take a look at Time Machine for an example. If you have ever seen the MS Exchange Management Console? Be afraid, be very afraid. This is very telling, listed on the iCal Server preview page:
Networks with an existing directory service — such as Active Directory — can deploy Leopard Server for local hosting of all calendar and collaboration data while continuing to use the existing directory for user log-in and authentication.

How can Apple offer all of this at such low pricing?
Create a disruptive union of open source and closed sourced development models. Apple has been on this path for years, using the parts of various open source project that best met its technical and licensing needs. Apple announced the most recent and obvious commitement they have ever made, Mac OS Forge, including there iCal Server that is going to be in Leopard. How is this cheaper? Open source has a near chronic inability to put the finishing touch on any project (exceptions exists, e.g. Firefox), but that's one of Apple's core strengths, meticulous attention to detail which distills a problem down to its essential parts, and bubbling that to the surface. Add to the fact that iCal Server has been open sourced.

Worms in the Apple
Will Apple have problems executing this plan? You bet. Enterprises are steadfast that they need multiple hardware sources to use with their monopoly software, with Apple you are stuck with the hardware and OS, but not that Apple is Intel, if OS X Server doesn't work out, you could always install Windows anyway. But that's not the rub, its that if Apple makes the hardware prices really undesirable, you can't move your software elsewhere. Another issue will be getting the data out of Exchange. MS and Lotus have both spent millions writing conversion tools, sometimes even for different versions of their own products. If Apple doesn't have a way of getting data out of Exchange, their market is only the companies that don't have a solution already, not very appetizing. Apple needs to start pounding he pavement to once Leopard Server is out the door to get people to convert if it wants to sell Xserves. But they really don't have to sell a lot, take a couple percent of the Collaboration Server market, and it would be tremendously disruptive. Finally, since the server is open source, you will get people that build iCal Server on Linux and deploy for free. But the geek's that do that aren't the market Apple is targeting, so I don't think this is a huge worry either.

Apple is being very aggresive, they want a piece of the enterprise. If this wasn't clear before, it certainly is now. Exciting times indeed.

References Some people have started to put this together, it's there in bits and pieces, so instead of linking it all above, here are my sources so far for this info:,1759,2001617,00.asp?kc=EWRSS03119TX1K0000594