Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New York Apple Leopard Tech Talk

Last week I attended my first Apple developer event, the New York City Leopard Tech Talk. It was like a mini-WWDC, or at least that was what the Apple people told attendees, and after seeing the stuff that has leaked out after WWDC about features, that is understandable. One of the Mac developer blogs I read is Red Sweater, and he had some thoughts on the Boston Leopard Tech Talk

So what was it like? A lot like the previous MS developer events, i.e. PDC, but a bunch of things stood out (in no particular order):
  • MS and Apple presenters are pretty much equally good
  • If MS presenters would send you to a blog or point you at MSDN, Apple presenters point you to ADC, the Leopard Early Start Kit, but above all else if you wanted a feature or particular bug fixed, File a bug report and email a presenter
  • A piece of critical demo hardware always fails :)
  • NDA, NDA, NDA!
  • Apple doesn't do swag. Apple gave out an itenerary for the day. MS would have made sure you walked away with some glossy print material, a bunch of CDs, a plastic bag, even at a free event. You may have tossed that material in the trash almost immediately, before you even left the conference, but you know free stuff, even junk, makes you feel appreciated ;)
So how does Leopard look? Well what I saw was mostly developer features, all the end-user focused stuff is public knowledge, but boy do I want to build Leopard apps. Core Animation is amazing, that Leopard preview doesn't do justice to what is possible and how the new Xcode helps developers do things that were previosuly extremely hard. Speaking of Xcode, I can't wait to get my hands on this release. One of the issues I have had working with Xcode is that the workflow is so much different, and after years of trying I must say, worse than Visual Studio. It seems Xcode 3.0 with Interface Builder 3.0 and Xray 1.0 largely fixes these issues for me. Xray is amazing, an amazing piece of tech. I wish I had this available for Windows apps.

In short, no development technology I have seen in recent memory has me as excited as the Leopard stack.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Download experience from iTunes using the Verizon EVDO card

So I was looking through email, and I saw that iTunes has the America's Game TV show, which is an NFL Network original series documentary style about 20 previous Super Bowl champions. Being an NY GIants fan since childhood, I decided to download America's Game #13: 1986 Giants, which I have very fond memories of, using the Verizon V640 EVDO card.

Ah, the experience is a little rough along the Northeast Corridor NJTransit line. First, even at full signal strength, I don't think I was getting 3G speed. It took about 14 minutes to get to my first 10 MB of 496.5 MB. That is not very fast. After I got out of Newark though, I must have changed cells and got a huge speed boost, since the 26.3 MB came down in 5 minutes, now we're cooking.

Then some jackass drops popcorn on my MacBook Pro, since NJTransit was heavy delayed tonight, the train is standing room only, dude is hovering like right over top of me, eating popcorn, and I know it's just a matter of time before his butter fingers lose control of a slippery kernel, and boom, popcorn on my keyboard. So of course it happens, and I am pissed. I swipe my hand across the keyboard to remove the greasy invader, and what do I do, that's right, I hit the EVDO card, it goes flying across the train under popcorn man's feet, and he starts shuffling around to try and "help" me find it. I bark out the "don't move" command and he freezes. I as delicately as possible, so not to spill the laptop on the floor as well, get the card back.

In the meantime, OS X and iTunes yell at me. OS X tells me I can't take this card out while it's in use, and iTunes tells me some error caused my file to stop downloading. Thanks. Thankfully, I plugged the card back in and reconnected, and the result is the tale you have just read. My conclusion, even 3G at its speediest is no competition for actual broadband, look at the latencies I was getting to the Apple server that handles incoming iTunes Store URLs. Downloading is an exercise in patience, and I am not sure if I would do it even occasionally if iTunes allowed over the air downloads to the iPhone, for example.

What Apple TV (formerly iTV) really means to the TV industry

Looks like I am no longer one of the few that understand that Apple TV represents Apple trying to disrupt another industry, not just attach to it like Tivo or MS Media Center. Alan Graham over on ZDNet has done the work that I intended and laid out how Apple TV could come out economically favorable as a replacement for cable/satellite TV. Today the Blackfriar's Marketing links to Alan's article, and reiterates that he might be on to something

No doubt, and it's amusing to me that sites like PVRWire is over-hyped, cause, OMG, it doesn't have a DVR! I guess that should be expected from a site like PVRWire, but do a little creative thinking. iTunes is your DVR! Forget about Tivo season passes, get an episode of whatever whenever you want. Don't feel like watching TV, don't pay for it. Apple TV makes it that simple. Apple TV is the only way to watch TV shows ala carte and have total freedom over where to do it. On your TV, on your iPod, on your laptop or desktop. I mean, the only legal way :). Again the primary inhibitor to going all Apple TV is no live events. WIth a HDD in the Apple TV, how long before Apple starts cutting deals to watch live streams over the net that you can see on your Apple TV? My money is on sometime this year.

Tip: Saving power when using the Verizon V640 EVDO card in OS X

When I posted yesterday about my EVDO card install experience one of the things that I didn't mention was the power consumption. In short, the EVDO card sucks down juice like Barry Bonds with a BALCO trainer.

So some things you obviously have to do to extend unplugged battery life:
  • Turn off the Airport Extreme WiFi card
  • Turn off Bluetooth
  • Change your Energy Savings setting to Better Battery Performance
  • Turn down the brightness on you LCD
One of the things I hadn't really considered necessary, and in fact their is no way to do this in OS X without at least some of the Xcode Developer Tools installed, is disabling the 2nd core on the Core Duo. Tom Yager for Enterprise Mac wrote about this back in March, but I hadn't thought about doing this until this morning. Wow. The same experience with the battery meter Tom saw back in March, I see now even post an OS X update (10.4.8 came out in September) and a MacBook Pro firmware update. This is actually great news, because after a 50 minute EVDO connection with 1 core running, I still have 1:20 of battery life left. The night ride home, I have ~20-30 minutes left. When you have the Developer Tools installed, you get a new System Preference, Processor, that gives you control over your CPUs (core or physical).

When you click on this System Preference, you see you can enable or disable the 2-n cores, and also add processor control as a menu item, great!
One core enabled Two cores enabled

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tip: Using a Verizon V640 ExpressCard with OS X, or Old Windows Habits Die Hard

A few days ago I was lucky to receive a Verizon ExpressCard V640 EVDO/3G card. Verizon also refers to this as WWAN, but simply it's Internet access over the cellular network, using 3G technology. My company provided this for the roughly 2 hours of commuting I do a day into NYC, that is a lot of non-productive time!

So I threw the CD in the MacBook Pro and installed away. The installer is pretty simple, run the package from the CD, hit a couple buttons, and then you are ready to go. Go to this GearLive Review of the V640 in a MacBook Pro for an installer picture. The tiny instruction booklet that comes with the card tells you pretty clearly not to install the card until you have let the installer have its way with OS X. Here is the Verizon Access Manager with the card connected:

But what would be better? Not needing the Verizon software at all! Due to a colleague that also got one not listening to my "don't plug the card in until you install" knee-jerk ground into my skull Windows-based reaction, I would never have known that Mac OS X (at least in 10.4.8) already has the drivers and UI to manage the card. You know how when you hear Macs "just work", this is an example, I really didn't have to install anything, it was already there, and it was dead simple. So I Uninstalled the Verizon software, rebooted OS X (the Verizon software says their drivers will hang around until you do) and then plugged in the card.

When I did, OS X displayed this dialog box, when I clicked Continue, the card was ready to go. You manage the card with a couple menu items on the left, and the signal meter tells you a little about the card: This is awesome stuff, and the speed for me has been excellent during my ride up and down the Northeast Corridor train line.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Jim Allchin on UAC and why he is still wrong

Jim Allchin, who has been the head of Windows development for a long time now, wrote a lengthy article on why User Account Protection (UAC) in Windows Vista is designed the way it is. It truly is a great article, I mean the great part is the fact that Jim felt the need to take the time to explain the design on this tells you how much heat Microsoft is going to take on this feature.

Heat? Why would anyone dog Microsoft on UAC in Vista? It is clearly better than Windows XP security situation, cut them some slack. That is the kind of refrain you will hear from Windows apologist, Vista security defaults are good enough.

But as Jim says the "Good Strategy" with regards to security is the Vista defaults, which are prompts for admin level tasks but no passwords. Too confusing he says. Jim also says the "Best Strategy" is to require passwords for standard users and local admin group users trying to execute an admin task, which you can enable in Vista. But lo and behold, the best strategy that Jim outlines is already what is enabled in Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger". This is where the Windows apologist will get mad, because hey you can just turn it on right, why are you dogging Vista on this? Easy, because disabling password entry for admin elevated tasks for usability purposes is wrong. People can easy adapt to this, my parents easily did when they got their iMac 2 years ago, the request for an actual username and password is reassuring. But you can turn it on right in Vista? Sure, and we all know how far most users deviate from the defaults, which is hardly at all. Hell, I have even stopped lots of Windows customization because it wasn't worth the time. Stuff has to be reinstalled so often, and backing up settings is questionable because you don't know if that's the cause of some problem, and its opaque in the registry, forget about it. Information Week has a great review on why the design of Vista is worse than OS X. Jim admits as much by suggesting, correctly, with Vista defaults there is a window of oppurtunity where someone could walk up to a machine with a user logged in with admin rights and do whatever they want because all they have to do is click a button to get through the task.

Jim also suggests in one facet UAC is better than the UNIX way, which of course means OS X. He says UAC elevates only the particular task, not the whole process with admin rights. What could this mean? Elevation at the thread level? Kill the thread when a task is complete instead of the process? That's interesting because from a usability perspective, users don't want to see multiple UAC prompts for something they consider a task, like installing some software, not what the system does. OS X prompts once and then you get your work done. In Vista, since its elevating at the "OS security task" level, it will prompt repeatedly for something a user considers a task. That is bad usability, and that is the security vs. convenience trade-off that should have been made. It's great that Jim wrote the article, but it also means I can call it wrong if I disagree with his design decisions.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A dangerous precedent

Update A few articles have done the work of talking to actual accountants about what Apple could have done with this $1.99 fee. Ars Technica has a good write-up and CNET has their take. In short, it seems Apple didn't have to charge for this unless they wanted to defer revenue on a computer sale until all features where delivered. Here is a quote from Ars which is itself a quote from a Wall Street Journal source:
"If Apple had given the enhancement away free, Apple's auditors could have required it to restate revenue for that period and could possibly have required Apple to start in the future to defer all the revenue from computer sales until all such enhancements are shipped," according to WSJ's source.
I still don't understand what this means for future software only updates, as those have in the past frequently included new features that weren't part of the original sale.

Original Post It has been all over the web that indeed Apple is charging $1.99 to enable 802.11n in already shipped hardware, unless you buy the new AirPort Extreme with 802.11n already enabled, then it's "free".

The supposed reason for the fee is an accounting rule. I have no idea if that is true, but it seems so ridiculous to me for Apple to change $1.99 and then blame it on accounting rules that it must be true. And if it is true, what would this mean for any software upgrade to a product already sold coming for free. Is it only for hardware sold? The ramifications if this is true are far more disturbing than the cost for this upgrade, I hope some accountants chime into the conversation and either confirm or call bullshit on Apple for this move.

What a Windows BSOD looks like in Parallels

Actually, just like a Windows BSOD on real hardware:

I posted this to the Parallels forum, here's what I did to "trigger" this BSOD on Parallels for Mac Build 3120 (which is supposed to be RC1):
I resumed, Parallels switched to full screen with heavy distortion, so I switched to an OS Window and then the BSOD.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Full Video iPod still to come? *Shock*

When the iPhone was announced, people questioned if an Full iPod Video, the true holy grail of portable media players, would arrive from Apple. The cry was "but I just want a true video ipod with an 80 GB hard drive, I already have a phone".

I just had to chuckle because it seemed obvious to me that the version of OS X in the iPhone is going to be the platform for all future consumer electronics devices from Apple. Just think about this for a minute.
  • Apple has a multi-touch interface with a complete iPod software implementation
  • A large percentage of mobile phone customers are already locked into a contract
  • A large number of people buy iPods in addition to a mobile phone
  • No way Apple is going to make everyone that wants an MP3 player with video buy only an iPhone
So today MacRumors says the Full Video iPod is coming. Hold on, I just had to get back into my chair after falling on the floor from the shock... ;-)

How not to report PC market share

This eWeek article is the first one I have seen that reports PC market share for the 4th quarter and thus the year based on IDC and Gartner reports.

While some of the data is buried in prose, this is just about the worst way you could report numbers. Can't eWeek put together a table?!?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

On 3G networks and the iPhone

One of the supposedly deal-breaking missing features in the iPhone is lack of 3G cellular networks. Just a thought, I was killing time this morning on my Blackberry 8700 and in Somerset, NJ I was switching between GPRS and EDGE, that's 2G and 2.75G...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Tip: Some free image manipulation on Mac OS X

I have started playing with another image editor for OS X that is closer to MS Paint or Paint.NET than Pixen, which is called Seashore. So far, it seems pretty good.
Anthony from On Various Things pointed me toward Pixen in a comment on this original post. To create the screenshot for my most recent post I had to crop the Parallels image from a full desktop screenshot (CMD-SHIFT-3) and then scale it to fit in the space Blogger has allocated for posts on this 800x600 template. Copying the Parallels pixels in Pixen, no problem, creating a new image from the pixels on the clipboard, slow but usable, trying to scale the image with any of the 3 supported algorithms, Pixen crash! I then went back to ImageWell to get it done. Sorry Pixen, you have been Trashed.

Original Post
When I posted about my first Mac OS X annoyance, I had already known about a couple gems for image manipulation on OS X, but these didn't fit my pixel pushing needs.

First up is ImageWell, which is a very good and free image editor, but its not Photoshop Lite. It's more like a blogger best friend. Get an image processed maybe with some text on it, and then send it off to the net. This is working out pretty well since I can post an image to my .Mac hosting folder I use for all my images in 1 click.

The other one that has been very cool is Ping!. This app is very simple, you just drop PNGs on it and it optimizes the file size very small without any degradation in image quality. I kept the icon in my Dock, then I drag any number of PNGs onto it. Ping! will launch, optimize, save the images in place, and then quit. For example, I take screenshots in OS X all the time (Apple-Shift-4) and OS X saves these to your Desktop as PNG files. A recent screenshot I took weighed in at 20 KB, but after Ping put it on a diet, it was down to 16 KB. The only thing I don't like about the application is the name, to me ping will always be a network utility.

Blogger Delight #002: Custom Domains

I logged onto Blogger earlier today and was surprised to see that you can now use a custom domain instead of innerexception.blogspot.com for example.

The really cool part about this is that your *.blogspot.com domain will redirect to your new custom domain. I had registered innerexception.com and innerexception.net last year since they were available and in anticipation of being able to do this, or actually I was thinking of moving entirely to using iWeb and the iWeb Extender. But the difficulty of getting my content out of Blogger and into iWeb always prevented me from investing the time. I had always setup my domains to forward to innerexception.blogspot.com, but using my actual domain name was what I always wanted of course.

Now if only they had control and storage for favicons...

Mac OS X Annoyance #001: No built-in image manipulation software

It never really hit me before, but it is almost inexplicable that OS X (up till 10.4 Tiger that is, hopefully Apple has something in 10.5 Leopard) has no included image manipulation software. What about iPhoto? iPhoto is not included in OS X, yes you get it free with new Macs, but you only get it going forward with iLlife upgrades. Besides, you can't arbitrarily draw lines, boxes, and add text to images with iPhoto. It is designed to correct digital photo problems like red eye, color levels, cropping, but it doesn't overlap with something like Photoshop.

I am not saying Apple needs to add Photoshop, or even Photoshop elements to OS X, but something more along the lines of Paint for Windows. I think Paint sucks in a lot of ways, but it can get you the basics. Come on Apple, make it happen!

I actually got so annoyed with the various image editing apps on OS X, none freeware and they watermarked the image I was editing (which is actually the new header on the blog), that I fired up Parallels and installed Paint.NET to bang out the change to my header image.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Blogger Delight #001 - Mass Post Tag Editing

I realized today that you can edit the labels/tags/metadata en masse when managing the lists of posts. This is pretty nice, retroactively tagging old posts is just a hassle, but I am anal like that so eventually I will have to go back and tag everything. This makes it just a little bit nicer. I don't know when this feature was added, but I clearly missed it.

On the so-called Month of Apple bugs

UPDATE: Updated through Day 12

By know you might have heard that two hackers, LMH and Kevin Finisterre, have a little project running called Month of Apple bugs. Here are the issues so far:
DayIssueOSes AffectedOS X Issue (Yes, No)
1 MOAB-01-01-2007: Apple Quicktime rtsp URL Handler Stack-based Buffer OverflowOS X
2 MOAB-02-01-2007: VLC Media Player udp:// Format String VulnerabilityOS X
3 MOAB-03-01-2007: Apple Quicktime HREFTrack Cross-Zone Scripting vulnerabilityWindowsNo
4 MOAB-04-01-2007: iLife iPhoto Photocast XML title Format String VulnerabilityOS XNo
5 MOAB-05-01-2007: Apple DiskManagement BOM Local Privilege Escalation VulnerabilityOS XYes
6 MOAB-06-01-2007: Multiple Vendor PDF Document Catalog Handling VulnerabilityOS X
7 MOAB-07-01-2007: OmniWeb Javascript alert() Format String VulnerabilityOS XNo
8 MOAB-08-01-2007: Application Enhancer (APE) Local Privilege EscalationOS XYes
9 MOAB-09-01-2007: Apple Finder DMG Volume Name Memory CorruptionOS XYes
10 MOAB-10-01-2007: Apple DMG UFS ffs_mountfs() Integer Overflow VulnerabilityOS X
11 MOAB-11-01-2007: Apple DMG UFS byte_swap_sbin() Integer Overflow VulnerabilityOS XYes
12 MOAB-12-01-2007: Apple DMG UFS ufs_lookup() Denial of Service VulnerabilityOS X

Issue Stats
  • 75% are Apple bugs
  • 42% are cross platform
  • 8% work on Windows only
  • 50% work on OS X only
  • 58% are OS X operating system bugs (Day 5,6,8,9,10,11,12)

Day 10+11+12 Comments
Integer overflows in the DMG UFS (Unix File System) mounting code, Day 10+12 are functions shared with FreeBSD 6.1, Day 11 in a function Apple needs to make the switch between big endian and little endian byte orders seamless. Day 12 presents no risk of code execution, it is purely a denial of service issue. As always, only open files from trusted sources. If you are using Safari, you should once and for all disable Open "safe" files after downloading to prevent any "drive-by" DMG download and opening issues like this:

Day 9 Comments
Seems like Day 9 is a variation on CVE-2006-6061. In short, don't download untrusted DMG files and uncheck the Safari option to "open "safe" files".

Day 7+8 Comments
The Day 7 vulnerability in OmniWeb 5.5.1 has already been addressed with a new release, 5.5.2. You can read the release notes here or download the update if you use this browser.

Day 8 has vendetta written all over it. Seems like the MOAB folks have been rebuffed by Landon Fuller when they offered to coordinate bug releases with bug fixes. I have to agree with Landon's decision not to coordinate with MOAB because I agree it's irresponsible to announce exploits with proof-of-concept code with no vendor warning. I say this is vendetta day because the MOAB bug of the day is reported as an exploit in Unsanity's Application Enhancer, which is the utility Landon Fuller has been using to patch the MOAB issues as they come in. Also, look at the stats, only 38% are OS X bugs. I am counting Day 8 as an OS X bug because there is at least a problem in the OS X permissions on /Library/Frameworks

Day 6 Comments
At first I thought LMH was taking credit for this Adobe Acrobat flaw which appears more serious than originally thought, but I don't think that is the case. Looks like he has an entirely new flaw, but again this isn't an Apple OS X flaw, it's a flaw in one of the most popular file formats in use on the Web and it affects close to all OSes in use. Yes, Preview (the OS X PDF viewer and web plug-in) is affected and I have counted this as an OS X issue, but again this is not a uniquely Apple problem. Curiously, if you upgrade to Adobe Acrobat 8.0, neither the PDF cross-site scripting problem will affect you or this MOAB issue. If you load the sample bad .PDF from MOAB in Preview, you experience a denial of service for Safari and have to Force Quit it, but on a Core Duo, this is almost more an annoyance than an actual DOS. LMH doesn't say whether Preview could be remotely exploitable, but its probable with the wide variety of applications affected here that at least one instance could be exploited. For now though, this isn't critical.

Day 5 Comments
Finally. Day 5 is an actually OS X operating system vulnerability. LMH and Kevin Finisterre didn't discover this:
This issue is being actively exploited in-the-wild and we would like to thank an anonymous contributor for bringing the 0-day to our attention, taking advantage of this issue.
They say they did the exploit work. This issue can't be exploited without being combined with another issue, like the QuickTime RTSP Handler issue on Day 1, but MOAB claim it is being exploited in the wild making it a zero-day bug. Landon Fuller's post summarizes nicely the key points:
Today's Month of Apple Bugs issue permits a local admin account to gain root access, without any user interaction (ie, an authorization dialog), by exploiting a combination of vulnerable disk permissions and Disk Utility's repair permissions functionality.
You can prevent being exploited by this issue even by a remote exploit by running the following command:
sudo chmod -s /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/DiskManagement.framework/Resources/DiskManagementTool
This may cause some issues if you have to run Disk Utility, run the opposite command before running Disk Utility, or when Apple releases a patch:
sudo chmod +s /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/DiskManagement.framework/Resources/DiskManagementTool
What issue would LMH and Kevin Finisterre have had for us today if they hadn't received the anonymous tip on this issue?

Also, the WebKit folks (the open source components of Safari) have created Bug 12107: Security Regression: Plugins load remote javascript in embedded page's context for the QuickTime XSS issue (Day 3). What's interesting is that FireFox on OS X, IE 6, Opera 9.10 on OS X, and a few others (read through the comments in the bug) all show the JavaScript alert that is the payload of this Landon Fuller Test, but I don't see it! The comments on the bug suggest it may have to do with 3rd party QuickTime components changing the way handlers are resolved, so you might have to remove them for the exploit to be run by the QuickTime Plugin. Day 4 Comments
VLC, the day 2 vulnerability, has published an advisory and the issue has been fixed. Download for Windows here, OS X here.
The iPhoto Day 4 vulnerability is more interesting to me than the previous 3 because it's the first that is OS X only. Either way, check the MOAB Google Group Landon Fuller created which has the fix contributed by one of the group members, William A. Carrel

Day 3 Comments
InMuscatine has an amusing take on today's "issue". Let's review. This Quicktime bug only affects Windows users as Landon Fuller says, OS X 10.4.8 is not vulnerable to this attack

Day 2 Comments
First, Landon Fuller is posting patches to each issue as it comes in. So if you can't or don't want to wait for vendor fixes, then you can use these. VLC has already patched the holes in source, now we wait until the app actually gets released.

Second, of the bugs released so far, 50% are actually Apple bugs, and 100% are cross platform and affect Windows as well. I was expecting ACTUAL OS X ONLY bugs, not application bugs that also work on OS X. It's early in the month. I can imagine these attention whores holding out on their big gun bugs until Macworld (1/9/2007), these are probably just the warm-up, and they do appear serious, but on day 2 to announce a cross platform application bug and say this is an "Apple bug" seems desperate to me.

What is annoying is some of the media coverage. eWeek's Security Week titles their articles "VLC Media Player Bug Bites at Apple" which is, I believe intentionally misleading since this is at least a Windows and OS X issue. Here is the comment I posted:
So this is a bug in a cross platform application that affects at least both OS X and Windows, so how does this just bite Apple? The headline is misleading, as I suspect you know. This is no different than a bug in Firefox, or the previous one in Quicktime, or Skype, Word, Excel, the list goes on. Also, does the version of OS X mater? Does the version of Windows?

Surprisingly, CNET's article about day 1 called "QuickTime zero-day bug threatens Macs, PCs" is a more fair and accurate report. I will most likely keep this updated over the month.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

System Error: Charles Petzold

Charles Petzold is one of the personalities in the Windows developer community, along with people like Mark Russinovich and Jeffrey Richter, that have helped countless Windows developers through their books, articles, and blogs.

I mention Mr. Petzold and he gets my new award, the System Error. I named the award after the PC character in this funny Get A Mac ad called Goodwill, in which the Mac and PC are supposed to play nice for the holidays, no comparisons or jabs, but the PC let's one slip and blames it on a system error, brilliant.

The Mac guys consternation at the system error was exactly how I felt when Mr. Petzold's Christmas post It Just Works. In this post, Mr. Petzold rants and raves about how his mother's iMac doesn't "just work" and how hard and dreadful it is to do anything on his mother's iMac. It gives me no pleasure, but I feel it my duty to dissect this post.

The part about the name "Finder"
Mr. Petzold bought his first iMac on August 15, 1998. How do I know this? It was the first iMac model ever made. He used this for research into user interfaces for his purportedly excellent book Code. I personally haven't read it, it was always on the list of stuff I wanted to read just never got to. I guess I will had to move it higher in the queue because I am fascinated to read what he writes about user interfaces since the Mac's "intuitive" user interface apparently "baffled" him. So what version of Mac OS was so confusing? That would be Mac OS 8.1. What "feature" was so bewildering? The name, the name, of the application that you use to manage files, the Finder. When I read this, I said to myself you have to be kidding. Microsoft obviously used a word that was close in meaning to Finder, a person who finds someone or something, and choose Explorer, which has as synonyms: traveler, discoverer, voyager, adventurer; surveyor, scout, prospector. Here's Mr. Petzold's parting shot about how he felt about his Mac experience:
Why, for example, would the primary Mac app be called the Finder? Does stuff on the Mac get lost really easily?
This is so silly, and I think it's meant as a nail in the Mac OS coffin, that you almost just have to laugh, like the crazy uncle that says something kooky at Christmas dinner. So for Mr. Petzold, why would the primary app on Windows be called Explorer, do I need to be a traveler, discoverer, voyager, adventerur, surveyor, scout, and this one really tickles me, a prospector, to get my stuff out of Windows? Oh wait, on second though, maybe this was an MS Freudian slip back in the Windows 95 days.

I was never a fan of the pre-OS X version of Mac OS, I liked the Windows 95 Taskbar to see running applications vs. the pre-OS X application pull-down menu, and Windows 95+98 was a better multitasker than Mac OS 9.x and below in my experience. But to call out as the best example of UI you didn't like in the old Mac OS the naming of the file manager is just kinda crazy.

The part about giving away the original iMac to mom, then buying her another one
Mrs. Petzold goes from this:

To this
It's not clear how long mom had the Bondi blue iMac before the power supply died, but up until that point she must have been using it for email quite well because then Mr. Petzold goes out and buys her another one. The first domed iMac goes on sale on January 7, 2002, with the final revision being released on November 18, 2003, putting the original iMac between 3.4 and 5.3 years old. Since there are no clues, I'll average them and say the original iMac was 4.3 years old. That doesn't seem unreasonably old for a dead power supply, even on the low end of 3.4 years old, not bad at all, especially with power supplies easily fried with electrical events if not properly protected. But somehow it is suggested that the life of the power supply has any bearing on if Macs "just work", like somehow Mac hardware is magically immune to failure. From my experience with the original iMac, my last company had a slot-loading iMac for browser compatibility testing, and that was either purchased in 1999 or mid 2000. When I left the company in early 2005, it was still going strong because it was running on my desk until a couple weeks before I left, so that puts it at 5-6 years old. My data point is only one of many, as is Mr. Petzold's, but this anecdote on power supply failure only makes me ask another question. If the original iMac was so hated, why would you buy mom another newer one? Was a Windows XP box so bad?

The part where Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar should have no bugs, and won't be updated
This is the part where I start to get angry, let me quote some:
For awhile she had a problem where certain spam emails would hang the email program upon viewing, but they couldn't be deleted without first being viewed. (Gosh, that was fun.) Presumably some patch to fix this little problem is among the 100 megabytes of updates waiting to be downloaded and installed, but my mother has a dial-up and we're forced to forego this 100 meg download. And besides, the slogan isn't "It just works with 100 megabytes of updates."
Would Mr. Petzold let his mom run Windows (already a no, but bear with me) and not install Service Packs? Of course not, he would find a way, including over dial-up, to install updates. No one has ever said Mac OS doesn't have bugs, and if they have that is insane, but refusing to install, or even think of a way to deploy updates in a dial-up scenario is the kind of laziness that I have no patience for. So how the iMac get updated? Just dial-in and let it download the bits. I used this File Download Calculator. If the iMac really has 100 MB of updates to download, that would take 4 hours and 9 minutes with a 56k connection. Sounds like enough time for a Christmas dinner or so.

But forget about that for a minute, even if you didn't want to wait it out, the minimum you could do would be to update to the last software update for 10.2, 10.2.8. That is only 40 MB and would take 1 hour 39 minutes to download over 56K dial-up. That is practically a lunch. But even if you didn't want to wait that out, you could download 10.2.8 from Apple on a PC and burn it to a CD and then just run it on the iMac. This really isn't a tough "problem" to solve.

Mom gets a new printer for Christmas, it doesn't work with Mac OS X 10.2
This is part is really silly:
We were very careful to buy an HP inkjet that was purportedly Mac-compatible and said so right on the box. Regardless, for weeks I've been dreading Christmas morning when I'd have to actually hook it up to the iMac and persuade it to just work. This morning, before even opening the printer box, I carefully read the system requirements and discovered the printer required OS X version 10.3 or 10.4. Alas, my mother's machine is running version 10.2.
I can't imagine how anyone could say they were careful when buying something when they didn't even check the most important dependency of a computing peripheral, operating system version compatibility, you need to do this for any OS dependent addition. Nearly ALL HP printers are listed as Mac compatible, they have been in the business for years, just as Epson and others are as well. I even accidentally have an OS X compatible printer, the HP PSC 2110, which I bought when I was Windows only, has OS X drivers going back to 10.1! You know what, I wouldn't mind a printer upgrade, I would be willing to sell at a nice price for anyone looking for a 10.2 compatible printer.

The part complaining about broadband web sites, Get A Mac ads, and OS X upgrades
Mrs. Petzold lives in Jersey, I live in Jersey. Mr. Petzold was born in New Brunswick, I live in Somerset, just about 3 miles from New Brunswick, I ride the train into New York most days through New Brunswick. It might be that Mrs. Petzold and I are even neighbors. I wish I could make this stuff up, but New Jersey apparently Leads Nation in Broadband Penetration, with 48.6% of residents enjoying broadband access. Not sure if Mrs. Petzold can use my 1 and only possible broadband provider, Patriot Media, but they have been doing a bang up job with cable modem access so far. Sorry, but it is a broadband world.

Mr. Petzold really hates those Get A Mac ads:
On Apple's home page, the most important information they deemed necessary to convey to me was that I needed QuickTime 7 to view even more of those insufferable TV ads where that smug goateed glazy-eyed dork tries to make closed architecture and a complete disregard for backward compatibility seem cool.
The ad on the home page is the Goodwill one I referenced early in this post. Yes it requires Quicktime 7, which requires OS X 10.3.9 "Panther" or later. Is that a "complete disregard for backward compatibility"? I don't think so. OS X 10.3 was released on October 24, 2003. That would have been 10.3.0, all 10.3.x releases were free. OS X 10.4 "Tiger" was released on April 29, 2005. Same versioning scheme applies. In some ways, Apple has been better at backward compatibility through virtulization (OS 9 running entirely on top of OS X) or emulation (Rosetta, emulating PowerPC CPU on Intel Macs to run non-native applications). Apple can run applications developed for an entirely different CPU architecture seamlessly on Intel Macs, but Microsoft continues to have problems getting 32-bit Windows apps to run on 64-bit Windows. It gets increasingly hard to listen to the myth perpetuated by Windows only computer people about OS X that because Apple has decided to eschew the major.minor.revion numbering scheme so they could continue to market OS X that each release is only minor and not worth paying for. Get over it already, can it really be so hard to adapt? And you can of course get OS X 10.4 "Tiger" from a retail store, Apple has nine in Jersey, including one in Bridgewater Commons. I am sure if you brought the iMac in to the Apple Store, they would update it with all the latest patches and configure it to work with a new printer if you bought the printer there. Then the old saw about Macs being a "closed system".
There really isn't enough to go on with the browser hanging issue. Which browser? What version? If it is IE, please stop. Use Safari or Firefox, minimum requirements for Firefox for Mac are 10.2.x. Safari gets updated when you update OS X.

Maybe this article for a "safe" Windows developer audience that would just nod through all the anti-Mac rhetoric and then go back to trying to figure out why they should care about XAML. I really don't care if Mr. Petzold likes the Mac or not, its the hypocrisy (Macs shouldn't need software updates) and inflexible thinking (Finder, NO, Explorer is the one for me) that are so frustrating. I guess I expected more.

AppleCare Customer Service

Robert Scoble recently said Never Piss off a 12-year old. He is talking about Apple's service toward his son's new MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo. I posted the following comment:

I sent in a 3 year old iBook G4 on 12/24 (box arrived 3 days earlier, got DHL to pick up on the 24th) to fix 5 different problems (wife’s computer, she beats on it) and it came back on 12/28 completely repaired. Great customer service. A friend’s MacBook Pro Core Duo needs to have the keyboard replaced. Apple told her it would take 1 week to order the part and another 2 days to do the repair. That is bad customer service, especially for such a seemingly simple repair as a keyboard replacement. We have 1 MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo with zero problems, 1 month old.
Then I followed up with this:
So I think the trend might be that supplies are tight on MacBook related parts, but plentiful on older G4 related parts, thus customer service is taking longer.

Playstation 3...In Stock!

Update X2
Now this is really starting to get annoying. I was in a Wal-mart tonight and they had 3 Playstation 3s, all 60 GBs, but no Wiis! Also, I see stacks and stacks of Xbox 360s, I wonder what will happen to all of those if Microsoft announces the Xbox 360 v2?

I was in the Bridgewater Target last night. I stopped by the electronics department on the off chance they had a Wii (nope), but instead they had 3 20GB PS3s. I would say unbelievable, but I think demand has really started to crater for the PS3 if I see stock in 2 different places within a few days of each other.

Original Post
Last night I was out at a Toys "R" Us in Raritan, NJ looking for a Nintendo Wii and came away stunned to find 2 Playstation 3s in stock but no Wiis! By the time I left the store at 8:41 PM, both PS3s were unsold. One was the 20 GB model, the other was the 60 GB. I thought the rumors of unsold PS3s were just that, but seeing it in person is shocking. I did stop into this GameStop in Bridgewater, NJ and they had sold out of their stock of both Wiis and PS3s earlier on Friday (12/29), so I guess the PS3 isn't sitting unloved on all store shelves.