Sunday, December 05, 2004

It's Been A Long Time

I haven't posted in a long time because I have been consumed with all the capabilities of my new iMac (digital video with iMovie) and have played too much World of WarCraft. This game is all consuming and I haven't been this addicted to a game since maybe Legend of Zelda on the original NES. I tried Star Wars Galaxies, it doesn't even compare. WoW feels like a revolution in gaming, SWG was just crap by comparison, which is really hard to say for a Star Wars fanboy that relished the idea of being a character permanently in that galaxy far, far away. Now if they only had a client for the Mac, I would probably give it another try since Jump to Lightspeed finally added space combat to the game.

iMac G5...First Impressions

When Apple announced the iMac G5, I was immediately in love. This machine looks like one of Wired's artifacts from the future. The iMac G4 hit my usage pattern right now in the sweet-spot. I have limited space to put a machine, but I wanted more than iBook power for less than PowerBook or PowerMac money. The new iMac was perfect. I picked mine up in at the Apple Store in Corte Madera, CA. This is the middle of the road model, which means: - 17" widescreen - 1.8 GHz G5 - 256 MB RAM - 80 GB HD - I added an Airport Extreme card In Short: The machine is fantastic. Out Of Box Experience One of the most impressive parts of the iPod experience is opening the box, you know you are getting quality, the box is meticulous. The iMac G5 also has an excellent out of box experience. After getting all the pieces out, first thing I did was open the back panel and install the Airport Extreme card. This is amazingly simple, and I just had to stare at the interior of machine for a few minutes, everything is so incredibly put together. Installing the card is a snap, even a little easier than in the iBook. I set the iMac on my desk and I again marvel at how well the unit balances. I plug the power cable in, mouse and keyboard (I use the Microsoft Intellimouse Optical, more on this bit later), and away I go. First Boot I can immediately see the iMac is a lot faster than my iBook G4. The system starts and launches into the new Setup Assistant. I had read about this and really wanted to use the Setup Assistant, but I have no Firewire cable, or so I think. I forget that the iSight uses a regular Firewire cable to connect to the Mac, so I actually don't run the Setup Assistant until after the system is up and I have moved some files over from the iBook using WiFi. Once the system is up, I run some apps and again I am really impressed by how fast the system is compared to the iBook. I love it. And After A Couple Days of Usage I finally realize I can use the iSight firewire cable and start Setup Assistant to copy all my stuff off the iBook onto the iMac. This process is tremendously easy, with a few minor unexpected results. First, there is an option to move Network settings from the old machine to the new machine, but no explanation as to what this means. It turns out it copies the machine name over from the old machine, so I have to rename the new machine back to the name I had given it, no biggie. Since I was on the iBook before, I had the battery meter in the menubar. The iMac has no battery, but the meter is still in the menubar. The Energy System Preferences don't contain an option to show or not the battery meter on a system without a battery. I command-drag the meter out of the menubar, no problem.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Star Wars Battlefront...On Second Thought

I blogged 9/23/04 (click on this post title) about Star Wars Battlefront on the Xbox. I finished the single player over the weekend, and I had a great time. But as I said, I got the game for the Xbox Live battles, and that has been a thorough disappointment. LucasArts released a patch about a week after the game came out which supposedly fixed some problems, but in the successive times I have played the game, Xbox Live plays just sucks. Servers can't be found, after you find a server you get dropped, if you actually get in a game, performance is atrocious. I might give it a few more shots, but with Halo 2 fast approaching, this one might find itself on eBay mighty quick.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Could the iPhoto Picture Store be far off?

With rumors of a 60GB iPod with Photo features already in production for release before the holidays and an update to iPhoto to enable synching capabailities just like iTunes, I started thinking about the big picture on what Apple could do with iPhoto. iPhoto is currently all about storing and sharing pictures you take with friends and family. iTunes is all about storing and listening to music you have purchased. What if Apple created an iPhoto Picture Store? I am thinking of iTunes Music Store but with "digital prints" from professional artists. I am a huge fan of Digital Blasphemy. The site contains both free desktop wallpaper and also members content. Members is a subscription based thing, and I don't need Yet Another Subscription™. If I could buy individual pictures for decent prices, lets just say, $0.99, I would have bought a bunch of pictures already. Another example is the Roger Dean Store. I don't know if $9.95 is worth it for a pack of wallpaper, but I surely would have bought a few wallpapers already at $0.99. Just think of all the prints in college book stores, print shops, and framing shops that could be rebuilt for desktop wallpaper use. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. The iPhoto Picture Store could also provide print to canvas or poster services. Apple already has a photo book ordering service, they could put high-quality framing services available in the store. For the consumer, you buy rights to the print, and you can always get another size digital print. I think you probably need a different file format because artists will want DRM, though this is debatable because artists like the examples I mentioned already sell their work without DRMed files. Licensing art for sale through the iPhoto Picture Store must be easier for Apple than licensing music. As a regular end-user, I could also upload my own photos to sell. Think of iMixes, but I think Apple has to approve you picts for sale to avoid the pornography issue. Effectively Apple becomes your gallery, so maybe it's like the iTunes Affiliate program, not everyone can try and sell their own photos. You also can provide subscriptions, perhaps to unlimited numbers of photos, but also to individual artists. Two different price points would obviously make sense here. You could then set your screen saver to the iPhoto Picture Store subscription and get constantly updated pictures. Can Apple make money doing this? I think they can because the licensing fees have to be smaller than licensing music. Will this help sell PhotoPods? This is more difficult to say, but it takes buying art in all forms to an innovative new level that opens up to just about anyone. Storing and sharing digital art with the PhotoPod would be a breeze, so I think it increases the value of the device. If Apple does launch a PhotoPod, I think it pretty much means that iPhoto gets ported to Windows XP. That by itself is pretty intriguing because that's almost half the iLife suite. I wonder if this counts as Prior Art when contesting a patent.... :')

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Rumored PhotoPod vs. Portable Media Center

Paul Thurrott asks Apple fans if we think the rummored photo iPod is "just right" compared to MS Portable Media Center based devices. Here is my response. It's obvious that viewing photos on a 1.8" (digital cameras) or 2" screen (iPod 4G) is too small to see detail. The 3.8" screen of the Creative Zen Portable Media Center is large enough for viewing some photo detail, but you are giving up a lot on the form factor. Here is a picture of the device: This beast is designed to be held with 2 hands. The iPod is designed to be held and all controls usable with just one hand. The Zen is far larger than even the speculated dimensions on the PhotoPod, which is designed to fit in a pocket, not a backpack. The Zen only has a 20GB HD, the PhotoPod is going to have a 60GB HD. The Zen has between 7-22 hours battery life, the iPod 4G has a 12 hour battery, I think it's likely that the PhotoPod has the same, but you never know, Apple may have a trick up its sleeve. No question the iPod is not going to do video or TV shows, but I question the usefulness of these features in such a small form factor. Everyone has music and pictures, taking video or recorded TV is still not as commonly done as listening to music and viewing photos with friends and family. I am curious what the sales are like on the whole Portable Media Center category.

Friday, October 08, 2004

iSight and iChat AV...First Impressions

I have been using the video and audio chat features of MSN Messenger on Windows for 4-5 years to keep in touch with remote relatives. My experience with the software has always been mixed. Sometimes it would work perfectly, other times I would see it be unable to make connections, dropped connections, poor audio, dropped video, etc. etc. I don't totally blame MSN Messenger for this, this stuff was definitely bleeding edge, but my expectations were always low for the user experience. And then I tried iChat AV and a friend's iSight. Wow! The video quality was phenominal, my first reaction was: "That is getting close to TV quality". The other truly surprising thing was that audio just worked and was in sync with the picture. MSN Messenger always makes you run through some calibration wizard, boy did my parents hate that! But this stuff would be totally useless if iChat AV didn't interoprate with AIM. Let's face it, an IM network is most valuable when you have a lot of people on, you get the network effect. If iChat was Mac to Mac only, the iSight would never have come home. So my complete smoke test was iChat AV to AIM on Windows, and I thought this was a good enough experience for the relatives. Since I recently completed elimination of all PC hardware from my home computing experience, I had to acquire a webcam for the Mac, and my positive experience with the iSight test made the decision easy. After I got the relatives setup on AIM, we just start making connections and it just works. Using iChat and iSight does consume all my outbound DSL bandwidth, so I might need an outbound bandwidth upgrade. Getting this whole rig setup was really done to keep the grandparents of my 4 month old son happy, one set is in FL and the other in PA, I am in CA. And I may just have started the ball rolling on another switcher. My mother-in-law using the AIM client only gets a small window of incoming video. When I told here that iChat can go Full Screen and the video if you have an iSight looks great, she is definitely enticed. This would be where my other suggestion that Apple needs a headless sub-$1000 machine makes so much sense, my son's grandparents would have already replaced their PC towers with Macs.

Which browser to use on the Mac: Safari or Firefox?

I have been using Mozilla Firefox on both Windows XP and Mac OS X since the 1.0 Preview Release came out. On Windows, I wholeheartedly recommend Firefox over IE 6.0 SP2. I have one caveat though. If you have to work routinely with a lot of Microsoft specific properties (SharePoint,, you are probably better off leaving IE as your default and manually choosing Firefox whenever you can. For non-work browsing on Windows, I always recommend Firefox and it's the reason I have the button on the bottom right hand bar of this blog. On the Mac, the browser recommendation is not so cut and dry. I almost always use Safari for a few reasons: - I like the elegance of the interface - All my bookmarks are already defined in Safari - I want sites to know that I am on the Mac, in case they don't break out Firefox for different platforms - Safari performs better for me. I do however have to use Firefox from time to time, mostly because some sites work on Firefox ( that don't work in Safari. The reverse is also true, was an example I ran into the other day. I love the idea of having the same browser on both platforms, but it seems like I will be using 3 browser for the forseeable future.

World of Warcraft Open Beta

I blogged about the World of Warcraft Stress Test Beta here Just checked out the beta website,, and the Open Beta is going to start soon!!! I can't wait.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Why Apple needs a "headless" Mac

Chris Seibold on AppleMatters recently wrote why we won't see a "headless" Mac. I recently posted why I Apple needs a sub-$1000 Mac. I expand on that a bit in the comment, reproduced here, that I posted on AppleMatters in response to how unlikely they view the "headless" Mac:
But I disagree with your conclusions. The point of a low cost Mac is not to maintain profit margins, those will have to be sacrified somewhat, but to grow market share at the expense of profits. Growing share diffuses one of the main criticisms from PC partisans, and it's also a defensive strategy as Linux desktop share grows. If Apple can get their share above 5%, the positive feedback loop of share driving software development decision efforts will guarantee the continued existance of the Mac platform. Apple needs to maintain existing app develeopers and expand the pool. A large percentage of growth in the PC market is coming from the low-end, and though a $1299 iMac is close, sub-$1000 is the magic number. I am not saying Apple is doomed if they don't get into the low-end market with a more PC-like headless machine, but I don't see them achieveing significant share gains without it.

Monday, September 27, 2004

GDI+ Detection Tool...Horrible

MS04-028 is perhaps one of the worst security vulnerabilites discovered in the recent past. Windows XP SP2 fixes the hole in Windows, but it seems like the afflicted DLL, gdiplus.dll, is everywhere. On, there is an open letter to Microsoft about how poor an implementation the GDI+ detection tool his. I just ran this tool and told my system is vulnerable, here is a UI fragment: When you click on the "Yes" button, the user expects they will see what they have to do to cleanup the latest security mess. Which takes you to this page: How to Update Your Computer with the JPEG Processing (GDI+) Security Update Step 1 on the page above is to run Office Update Office Update tells me I have no patches to install, so I go back to the GDI+ Security Update page and I read it again. I have nothing left to do because I am on Windows XP. Quick recap: I patched everything up, and the GDI+ Detection Tool still tells me I am vulnerable, but I am left with no instructions on how to fix it. Good Job Microsoft! I am not the only one, I am starting to get questions from users on this too.

NY Giants 27, Browns 10

I am a huge NY Football Giants fan, and they sure did look impressive today. Like a lot of people, I thought most of the team was suspect and might revolt under Coach Coughlin's regime. But they have impressed me so in the massive defensive assault against the 'Skins and the near domination of the Browns. With football I believe in jinxes, so I am knocking on the wooden table to ward off the spector of a collapse against Green Bay next week. This will be a real test, if the Giants can hold on here, we just might have a season!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Apple needs an Xmac, or iMac G5 Mini

I have seen this proposal time and again, here is the latest at The Mac Night Owl First off, I love the new iMac and intend to get one as soon as all my old PC components are sold on eBay. Apple pricing the iMac extremely competively. There is no premium price in the iMac compared to PC box builders all-in-one machines, look at the Gateway Profile That said, a friend is in the market for a new computer, and I mentioned the new iMac. He said is looking to spend about $700. He loved the look and styling of the iMac, but price is a sticking point. I believe Apple is leaving a lot of money on the table by not having a stand-alone consumer/busines computer without LCD. A lot of people already have LCDs or monitors that work perfectly fine (ugly as they might be). I would call this machine the Xmac, which fits perfectly in the naming scheme with Xserve, Xserver RAID, Xsan, and Xgrid. With the engineering brilliance demonstrated in the iMac G5, Apple could build an extremely small machine and price it in the $500-$700 range. This would look even more iPod like than the new iMac and sell like hotcakes. I too believe Apple has a lot of positive momentum, the stock price is sure banking on it. Another name just came to mind, perhaps even better branding and marketing synergies: iMac G5 Mini

Thanks Robert for organizing the Geek Dinner

Robert Scoble's Geek Dinner was a really fun event last night, thanks Robert!. Here are some attendees: Phil Kirby Jeff McManus

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Special Extended Edition

Details of the Return of the King Special Extended Edition were finally posted on

Thursday, September 23, 2004

I visited the Mothership

Did you know that Apple sells swag through their retail Company Store in Cupertino?!?!? I previously posted that Apple should sell swag (e.g. Mugs, T-shirts) in the Apple Stores. Last week my wife googled for places online that sold Apple gear. She thought our 4 month old son would look adorable in an Apple onesie, plus she wanted her own T-shirt. I have the t-shirt from the flagship Apple Store San Francisco opening, but I wanted another one. She found a couple places online, but she hit paydirt when she found a blog post saying Apple sold swag through their retail Company Store in Cupertino!! I can't find the blog post now, but if I do I'll link to it. I dropped the wife and son off at SFO yesterday to go see grandma in PA, so Cupertino was only a scant 30 miles further down the 101, so I decided to go. The store is only open 10-5:30 M-F. Since I live in the East Bay I don't get down that way often, so I had to go. I picked up a t-shirt for the wife and I and a onesie for my son. One t-shirt I really wanted said "I visited the Mothership" on the front, but they were out of my size (L), so I settled for a standard black with white Apple on the front. Here is a picture from my cell phone: I just found this prior art by The Mac Observer posted 3 years before me where they say Apple should sell merchandise in the Apple Stores, and executives were soon to put that strategy in place. I never said my idea was original, but looks like The Mac Observer timeline prediction was a little off ;-)

NetNewsWire Lite...First Impressions

I have been using NetNewsWire Light on Mac OS X as my RSS reader of choice (FYI I use RSS Bandit on Windows at work). Ranchero just released NetNewWire 2.0b3, and here's what's new. The Lite version hasn't received the mammoth overhaul the full version has, here are some notable features: - Atom Feed Support - Speed and UI Responsiveness Improvements - Simplified UI - Much improved application icon I am seriously thinking of getting the full version, but with Safari RSS coming out in 8 months or so, I just don't know.

MarsEdit...close but no cigar

I posted here that I really wanted a Mac OS X app to post to Blogger instead of using the Web interface. It felt like Christmas yesterday when I fired up NetNewsWire Lite and not only was it updated to 2.0b3 (more on this later), but Ranchero Software introduced MarsEdit, a new stand-alone blog posting tool for Mac OS X. Apparently NetNewsWire (maybe not the Lite version) has had some blog posting capabilities in the 1.x line, but I never realized it :). MarsEdit looks great and performs extremely well, there is just one problem, the Blogger API it supports sucks. Apparently the first Blogger API had no programmatic way to manage post titles!!! That seems like a showstopper to me on the API side, but who knows why you can't programmatically manage titles, but I sure get/set them through the Web interface. Anyway, Ranchero says the only way to get titles with Blogger is to use the Atom API, which they won't implement for MarsEdit 1.0. I think I am going to make a Blogger posting tool using the Atom API my first Cocoa dev project.

Star Wars Battlefront...It's Ewok Hunting Season

Lucasarts done right. They finally released a Star Wars game that combines battles from Episodes 4-5 and 1-3 into a single package on Xbox and the game doesn't suck. Far from it, this game rocks. Gamespot gave it an 8.2 rating, and on rating aggregtor, its got an 80% rating. I played single player for 2 hours tonight, completely addictive. I never played Battlefield 1942 or its sequels, so maybe I have been missing out on something big for a while. Regardless, the developer of Battlefront, Pandemic Studios, has done an amazing job of putting together infantry, vehicles, and ships all on huge maps to fight it out on either side, Rebels or Empire, Republic of Sepratists. The single player is fun, but is really just training for multiplayer. I really got this game for Xbox Live battles. Unfortunately when I tried to test this tonight, the servers were overloaded. I don't think they expect the apparenthuge demand for this game.

Star Wars Triology DVD...WOW!

Got the Trilogy on Tuesday and watched Episode IV: A New Hope (I just had to type out the whole title) immediately, and I was in slack jawed amazement at what I was watched. The visuals and sound were simply stunning. A friend of mine still has the Trilogy on VHS and did a little side by side comparisions of the DVD, he couldn't believe he was watching the same movie. The team at Lowry Digital that did the restoration and clean-up really earned their pay. Check out this article for a description of the process. I was thinking "impressive, most impressive" as I read this part:
At the Lowry Digital Images facility, over 600 Macintosh dual-processor G5 computers utilizing over 2400 gigabytes of RAM and 478 terabytes (over 478 million megabytes) of hard drive space processed each of the classic Star Wars films for over 30 break-neck days to create the stunning new versions fans will see in the Star Wars Trilogy DVD set.
If you have ever enjoyed Star Wars, you simply have to see the Trilogy like this. And it looks like George is going to make crazy money on this.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

iMac G5 First Impressions

Finally got into an Apple store over the weekend to get a first hand look at the new iMac. I am absolutely getting one of these, the design is fantastic. I wan't the 20", but the 17" might fit better in my apartment, decisions decisions. Don't listen to the naysayers either, like this from Mary Enderle:
What bothers me most about the iMac is that the design seems rushed. The base seems too narrow for safe use and appears to be directly pulled from Apple's monitor line. On monitors the screen is relatively light, but when you add the PC functionality, you also add a lot of weight. This shifts the center of gravity up and makes everything less stable.
Full article here. This is just plain wrong. Go to the Apple Store and move the display around, the unit is perfectely balanced, wires and all because the display models are not wireless. Or you could buy the Gateway Profile. Wow, this thing hit every branch of the ugly tree.

Blogger Growing Pains

I have been blogging with Google's Blogger since June and have had a generally positive experience. Only issue I have had with the service has been the absence of RSS feeds instead of Atom. I don't care about yet another standards war. But lately I have started to see performance problems with Blogger when accessing my blog administratively, creating new posts, and publishing updates to the blog. I guess this is a sign of a blogger explosion, but I might have to investigate alternatives soon. I especially want something with a Mac OS X application I can post from, but I just haven't had time to do the research yet.

Are you ready for Halo 2?

I am a huge Halo fan, so I read the guide posted here with amusement and excited anticipation. About the only thing I won't have on this list if a day off from work, everyone at the office games, it's just to obvious and it's probably going to be a company holiday anyway ;-) Scoble provided the link to the Halo 2 readiness guide here

Monday, September 20, 2004

A hoax or a good joke?

Scoble has unsubscribed from Manalang because of a hoax photo. This seems like a big over reaction to me. I am one of your readers and I don't feel like you lost credibility, I had a good laugh, real or hoax.

Are bots playing online poker?

I haven't been playing a lot of online poker, and never for money yet. And maybe I never should as MSNBC raises the spectre of bots raking in the dough in this article

8 ways to get this blog discovered

Scoble has posted 8 ways to get your blog discovered. So I am following Step 1 and linking to the man. Help me get Scoble to subtly notice me by clicking on the link to his post, that will get my blog in his referrer logs. I could just email him, but this is more fun. :-)

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Group Policy Management Console incompatibility with Windows XP Service Pack 2

I may have missed the boat on Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) reports (had a lot of other stuff going on to create this post), but I hope this helps someone having the same problem I was. I have been using Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) SP1 to configure policies that are deployed via Active Directory to our Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 machines. The settings are largely based on the Windows XP Security Guide and the Windows Server 2003 Security Guide When configuring settings for System Services (i.e. NT Services) in GPMC SP1, an incompatibility is created for a few (that I have found) specific services in SP2. This incompatibility stops, at least, Automatic Updates and the Windows Firewall services from starting even when set to automatically start. With XP SP2, the Automatic Updates service is required for access to Windows Update. Tracking this fact down alone took some time, because I hadn't seen it mentioned publicly anywhere. When you configure a Service in GPMC, it prompts you to define an Access Control List (ACL). An ACL you ask, Services don't have ACLs! I had no idea on this either until this incident, but yes Services have ACLs. Of course you can't look at the ACL on a service (e.g. by looking at the Properties on a Service and viewing the Security tab like on every other OS object with an ACL), you can only see the ACL in a binary value in the Registry. Here is the ACL for the Automatic Updates service in XP SP2: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\wuauserv\Security\Security How do you see these binary value ACLs in human readable format? I can't find anything to do this, and the only tool that allows you to set the ACL is GPMC. This MS Knowledge Base article has the details on this and the steps needed to configure your machine: How To Configure Group Policies to Set Security for System Services The article has one critical flaw though. It says the default ACL GPMC creates for your services contains the permission of Everyone - Full Control. Under XP SP2, this is not true. The default ACL looks like this: Administrator - Full Control Interactive - Read System - Full Control For Automatic Updates pre-SP2, this setting does not present a problem. Under SP2, it would appear that both the Automatic Updates and Windows Firewall services are configured to run as Local System, but in fact launch threads running as Network Service. What clue do I that this in fact happening? I happen to have failure audits on through Group Policy, and the Network Service account on the Object Name wuauserv was generating a failure that it didn't have Accesses: READ_CONTROL... As soon as you add Network Service - Read to the ACL for Automatic Updates, everything operates flawlessly. Windows Firewall would seem to operate the same way. If I hadn't turned on failure audits, Windows just silently fails the Automatic Updates service since it actually starts, then kills the process once the thread logging the failure can't read to service configuration. My main machine is in a Windows domain of course, so the Security Center would not normally be enabled to notify users that the Windows Firewall is disabled, but I enables this XP SP2 feature to look the screens. This took close to an entire day to debug. It halted my companies XP SP2 rollout until I figured out what was causing the problem with Windows Update. I just happened to stumble on the Windows Firewall having the same problem because we wanted to set that to Automatically start like Automatic Updates, and it started failing on my test machine in the domain. This is one of those gnarly problems that is just not obvious while testing on a single machine, you need all the pieces together to expose the issue. Nasty.

Airport Express...More Impressions

I have had the Airport Express now for a few months and been using it a pretty good amount. I finally settled on using it connected to my stereo in conjunction with my existing Microsoft MN-700. I had to change the wireless channel on one of the devices to use them sitting right next to each other. I read this in a forum somewhere that I can't find the link to right now. The wireless channel I guess should have been obvious, just like a cordless phone, but I just never had to do this before so it wasn't obvious to me. One of the things the AE was touted as was a portable network solution, and I have really been using it like this and it rocks! First I took it to a friends house to use their broadband with the iBook. This worked very well once I reset AE to wipe out my existing home configuration, which was configured to join a wireless network, not create one. Then I took it to the Reno Hilton and plugged it into their ethernet connection in the hotel room. This worked really well, as I could use the iBook from an adjoining room flawlessly. I used the same configuration from my friends house without incident. Good thing I had the extension cord from the iBook that is interchangable with the AE since the Ethernet connection was nowhere near a power outlet. Here is a tip though, if you setup AE to use the 'net access in the hotel room, don't disconnect AE and use your laptop directly or you might get double billed. A lot of hotel rooms authorize based on MAC address. I switched to the Ethernet port on the iBook to see if this would happen and it did, but the hotel was kind enough to wipe out the double charge and all other Internet charges for my "inconvenience". Sweet!!!

World of Warcraft....WoW

MMORPG's as a genre have always intrigued me, but I could never justify paying $50 for a game that I have to pay $10-$15 a month extra for to play. The game is a total paperweight if you don't like it. That said, I tried Star Wars Galaxies because I am a huge Star Wars fan and I just couldn't resist the concept. The price was always a sticking point for me though. I played for about a month, and I just couldn't get into the game. Things didn't feel done, player cities felt busted to me since no one ever had a reason to go there, and the mission grind felt just like that, a grind. But WoW feels different. I only played the game for a couple days, but I am impressed and I am defiinitely getting the game. First the graphics, character and world, just feel polished. SWG never felt awe inspiring, occasionally that was true, but in general I was not completely impressed. WoW really stands out. In one of the early Orc cities, I climbed to the top of a structure just to look out on the landscape, it was that good. Character models are equally fantastic. But the part that really stood out in WoW was the way the newbie area leads you into missions. Everything is well laid out, and you just don't kill monsters on the landscapel, you actually get into a dungeon on like the fifth mission! Maybe other MMO's are like this, but after SWG this felt like a revelation. The friend that got me into the Stress Test got to a lot higher levels than I did, so he got to experience the PvP, and he sounded like a heroin addict that can't score another fix for a long time :)

Mac Gaming: Better Than Expected

I loaded up my first Mac only game experience this weekend. This means I never played the game on the PC, I only played it on the iBook. That would be World of Warcraft (WoW), Blizzards upcoming MMORPG. I got into the Stress Test Beta for a days from a friend at work. First off, the minimum CPU for the game is a 1 GHz G4, this iBook has a 933 MHz, so the game tells me things may not work. My first thought is, I didn't buy the iBook for gaming, so let's just give this a try. WoW launches and just like everything on the Mac, the attention to detail stands out. I am talking about the transition from Desktop to Game and Game to Desktop. On Windows, this transition is almost always seen with crazy painting problems. Explorer slowly repaints the desktop, the disk grinds for a while as apps come back into memory and repaint themselves. In a word: ugly. Not so on the Mac, transitions are nicely faded or without repaint problems. Moving out of Full Screen to Windowed mode is also seamless. In Blizzard games anyway (I don't have any others to test) the command is Apple-M. WoW itself ran pretty good once I turned down the graphical detail. The only thing that was absolutely necessary was a 2 or more button mouse. I have been using my Microsoft IntelliMouse Optical with the iBook pretty much since I got the iBook, it worked nicely in WoW. Since all the PC propoganga goes out of it's way to suggest there are no games for the Mac and that they suck anyway, I was pleasently surprised by my experience. Blizzard rocks.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Fixed .Mac iDisk Syncing with....Windows XP

I previously blogged about my .Mac iDisk synchronization problems I finally fixed my issue with Windows XP. This is not a Mac slam, but it does show what happens when you hid stuff from users sometimes and the software can't fix itself. I installed the iDisk utility for Windows XP to upload an image to my iDisk's Public Folder while I was at work on my XP box. You could say I was surprised when I saw a hidden .Something file in the Public folder. In my previous post, I mentioned that I was trying to upload a large file, and the upload timed out at one point. Well it seems pretty clear that the .Mac iDisk sync engine can't sort itself out in some cases, because it left this dead file behind and on the Mac as a regular user, wouldn't tell me about it. I deleted the file from Windows XP and got all my space back. I could have solved this on the Mac too by telling the Finder to show me hidden files or using Terminal, but I just expected this to work, even the failure cases, and it never occured to me the iDisk sync wouldn't keep a record of the attempted file upload and clean-up after itself. I suppose a transactional file system would have solved this too, perhaps "Tiger" will match the transactional NTFS in Longhorn, if it isn't cut :)

I finally got Quicken 2004 for Mac to work with Citibank

In my campaign to go Mac only at home, the last piece of data to get migrated was my MS Money data. I thought this would be a no brainer since Quicken 2004 for Mac was included with the iBook and everybody reads QIF files. I read in a Macworld forum that with Quicken I could directly download transactions from Citibank from within the program and pay bills, I didn't have to use the Citibank website and no double data entry like I had with Money!!!! This may not seem like a big deal, but I started using direct online banking with First Union (nee Wachovia) in PA. When I moved to CA, no bank offered direct banking and I hate double entry, in Money and on the Citibank website. I stayed with First Union for months to avoid double entry. But with Quicken 2004 for Mac and Citibank, single data entry was again a reality. I enrolled in the Citibank Direct Connect program ($9.95 a month, no double entry is worth it) and patiently waited for my connection kit. I got that in early July, promptly did the setup, but no transactions would download. A call to Citibank revealed I was using the wrong Customer Number, they wanted my wife's SSN, and it wasn't specified on the setup document. With that problem solved, I was making a connection to Citibank, but still no transactions. Citibank didn't understand the problem, so I couldn't get my transactions. I resigned myself to either falling back to using Web statements or switching to another program on the Mac. Web statements looked unpromising, because the Quicken Web Connect format wouldn't import and I had to use the Quicken '98 QIF format. This meant no transaction matching on import, which is totally unacceptable. I started researching why Quicken Web Connect, which does have transaction matching, wouldn't import. The Web Connect file is an XML file, how hard could this be to suck into Quicken? I opened the file to have a look, and I was also seriously thinking of started my own develop effort, and I noticed my Citibank account number looked a bit dodgy, but I couldn't put my finger on it, maybe too short, it didn't hit me yet. I installed and setup another finance program on the Mac (here is a list on Macworld) called Moneydance. This too can download transactions directly from Citibank. I picked up a Citibank statement since I couldn't find the checkbook, but the info in Moneydance, and in a John Madden BOOM, I had transactions. And then all the pieces fell into place in my head. When I had entered my Citibank account number in Quicken, I happened to have the checkbook handy and read the number directly off of that. The account number on my checks looks like this: 0123 4567 8912 In the Quicken Web Connect file and on my paper Citibank statement, the account number looks like this: 123 4567 8912 You will immediately notice there is no leading 0. I changed the account number on the Checking account in Quicken, and now I have every transaction with, so far, really good matching on already entered items. What a timesink. In total, it took me 2 months to debug this and I never saw anyone else online mention this when having problems getting transactions from Citibank with Quicken.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Switching to the Mac at home

Even though my job is as a Windows Software Developer, I am switching over completely at home to Macs and using MS Remote Desktop Connection on the Mac to get to my work desktop or use my work provided laptop. I never develop on my home PC, and the experience on the Mac has been so good for all the things that are important to me, digital photos, music, home movies, that I am just going to completely switch. As for games, one of my big leisure time activities, since I got an Xbox, I hardly ever play PC games. Doom 3 is the first I have played in a long time, and it is going to be the last because my hardware has already fallen behind the curve for the best experience. I intend on posting me experience here, as I have already started, about the switch. I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Framed My First Comment

When I started the blog, I didn't know what to expect with regard to number of visitors or people commenting. I was happy to receive my first comment the other day from the Blog Bloke In the tradition of businesses framing their first dollar, I have "framed" my first comment. Seeing this comment also spured me to add Site Meter stats to my blog. Thanks Blog Bloke

Friday, August 20, 2004

I want to invoke the right of parley, or: how MS missed an opportunity with SP2

The title of this article was insprired by the excellent article on Daring Fireball XP SP2 is absolutely an essential upgrade, everyone should install it, even though there might be some problems with it (more on that later). The opportunity MS missed was shipping the .NET Framework standard with SP2. The redistributable installer is on the SP2 CD, but the SP2 installer does not install the framework. As a developer, I have given up all hope of seeing Windows Forms as a viable deployment platform. This was the last best opportunity to push these bits onto the client platform and they just didn't do it. I would love to know why we ended up in this mess. And I just don't buy the arguement that this is because of the legal stuff with the DOJ, Europe, and Japan. If that were true, why does SP2 update my media player to Windows Media Player 9? A sad day for .NET developers. The platform may rock, but if I can't depend on the bits being on the client, and I want to minimize my installers size, I am stuck in VB6 or Win32 for client apps...*sigh*

Sunday, August 08, 2004

.Mac iDisk Synchronization in Panther

When I got my iBook, I signed up for Apple's .Mac service for my wife because we wanted drop dead easy photo publishing of our, at the time (Dec '03) upcoming son. We love that functionality and it works beautifully from iPhoto. iPhoto uses your iDisk to store the photos and HTML pages that are visible from[membername] This weekend I pushed .Mac and the Panther synchronization capabilities to the limits and I am not impressed. I added a large, 47.5 MB file, to my iDisk. With my other stuff and the default limit of 100 MB, the iDisk sync with my local copy basically ended up in an infinite loop. OS X 10.3.4 would try and synch the file, fail with an out of space error which was very pretty, and then just keep trying again. The out of space error was particularly frustrating, since I should have had 13.3 MB of free space after I uploaded the file. I pushed out over 1.26 GB of data as of my last attempt. Even more frustrating, since I have a local copy of the iDisk, I can't see if the copy on .Mac is out of storage, OS X just redirects me to my local version (using the Finder -> Go -> iDisk -> My iDisk). I hope they fix this stuff in 10.3.5 or Tiger, but this is a disappointment.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Batman Begins Trailer Up

I am a huge Batman fan. I loved the TV series as a kid.

Here are my Batman movie reviews:

  • Batman - 4 stars
  • Batman Returns - 3 stars
  • Batman Forever - 3 stars
  • Batman & Robin - 1 star
Now comes the trailer to Batman Begins.

Wow,this and Episode III summer '05, I can't wait.

Apple should let Harmony be

As most everyone looking already knows, Real announced technology called Harmony that allows songs, 192 kbps DRM, bought on their music store to be converted into Apple AAC Fairplay and played on iPods. (Note: This is only true on Windows, Mac users still only get iTunes) Apple responds by calling Real hackers and threatening to break the AAC songs on any iPod sourced from Real. Real counters with we are not hackers, this is perfectly legal reverse engineering, and you can't make us stop. I have no particular compulsion to buy songs from a store other than the iTunes Music Store (iTMS), but Apple should just work out a licensing deal with Real to make money off of this and let it be Why should Apple agree to lose sales on iTMS? The simple view is that Apple allows a duopoly market for legal downloads that work on the iPod to exist. Apple works out a licensing deal with Real, which will be happy to agree to something like this to stave off the potential lawsuit. This could greatly help Apple in the coming battle with MS over music stores. The criticism that you only have one store to buy music from with Apple, with MS you have x, mostly goes away. The old adage the enemy of my enemy is my friend applies here. Apple should seriously consider this point above all others when ordering priorities. That said, there are a number of potential business reasons Apple might have for locking out Real. First is they are trying to keep as many eyeballs glued to iTMS because they squeak out a tiny profit. I don't think this a great defense, the margins are on the iPods not iTunes song sales. Another reason Apple locks out Real is because they are planning on reselling, just like Real plans to with Harmony, their music store technology to other parties to generate another revenue stream. This is a lot more intrigueing. If Apple endorses Real, they immediately have a competitor in this upcoming market. A competitor here they are probably willing to live with, but giving that competitor a very strong bonus, compatability with the most popular portable music player in the iPod, that Apple was counting on to drive sales of it's packaged music store software, probably seems onerous to Apple. With Real's Harmony technology, they can target not just the iPod with AAC Fairplay, but any Windows Media DRM device as well. On a more fundamental level, if Apple endorses Harmony, the winning format could be not AAC, not WMA, but Real. If you buy everything off of the Real store in Real's format, but they convert to everything else with no lose in quality, from a consumer standpoint why not go with Real because they just solved the format becoming a Betamax problem. AAC and WMA, before the market really even gets rolling, have been commoditized to just another format. An analogy is HTML applications running on Linux, Mac, or Windows. The OSes are commoditized because they all run HTML equally well. Why target a format which limits your reach when you can reach every music device with the Real format and Harmony? Again these are business decisions for Apple to mull over. As a consumer, the prospect of another music store that supports the iPod is enticing because competition always breeds better prices and products in the end.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Airport Express Experience

Got an Airport Express on Friday. I am using AirTunes right now to listen to music off of my iBook. Once I figured out how to get my Dolby Digital receiver to change its input mode from Digital to Analog on the CD line-in, this stuff just worked. My iBook immediately recognized that the Airport Express was operational, but I lost internet access through my Microsoft MN-700 Wireless Base Station (802.11g) because it looks like the signal from AE just overwhelmed the MS device. They were within 3 feet of each other near my TV/Entertainment Center. The Airport Express Setup Assistant did pick up 2 other WiFi networks, one a floor above my apartment using an MS router (I installed the wireless base station for the people above me) and another network I haven't seen yet using a Netgear, so it wasn't a problem with AE not detecting the wireless network. Instead of moving the MS router, I disconnected the MS router from my DSL modem, connected AE, and after I remember my PPoE password, AE just worked to establish my Internet connection. This was a great relief since the MS wireless routers (the 802.11b MN-500 and the 802.11g MN-700) had always been sketchy on this issue. I have had PPoE problems on both devices, apparently related to something special SBC does, with various versions of the firmware for each. Anyway, the MN-700 PPoE had worked flawlessly after the first firmware update to the device the end of 2003, but there were still a few tense minutes where I struggled with my PPoE password until I got connected. What a relief. Since I disconnected the MS router, my 2 wired ethernet devices, the Xbox and PC, no longer have 'net access. I have 2 choice to fix this problem. I can move the MS router to another room so AE doesn't overwhelm it, or I can get a wireless adapter for the Xbox. I am in the process of selling off the PC parts to get more Apple gear (I see Powerbook in my future), so that doesn't concern me much. Overall though, the Airport Express has been fantastic. I had music streaming to it from my iBook for about 12 hours straight before I turned it off yesterday, beautiful.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Finally some objective thought on Dashboard vs. Konfabulator

It continues to amaze me how people jump to conclusions on things before either thinking them through or doing a little bit of research. Tiger's Dashboard vs. Konfabulator is just the most recent example. This post Daring Fireball Dashboard vs. Konfabulator does an exellent job of presenting what I think is a more balanced view of the issue.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Apple WWDC 2005 Keynote Reaction

Paul Thurrott has written up his take on the keynote with his, as usual, unique view: Paul Thurrott's Internet Nexus. Here is my take on the keynote. In general, I came away positive. Spotlight vs. WinFS. Suggesting that the bits Apple shipped yesterday where in some way a response to the PDC or any build of Longhorn is just insane. The kind of functionality Apple demonstrated yesterday with searching does not get built in the 8 months since PDC 2003, the first public talk about WinFS. Those bits hardly worked. My take so far, Apple's stuff works in their preview build, WinFS still doesn't fully work in any public preview build. Mac OS X. Man this is so easy to get correct, it's right on the slide in the keynote. Jobs said there are now 12 million Mac OS X users, 50% of the installed base. Here is some simple math, 2 x 12 is 24. SafariThis is completely subjective, but after running RSS Bandit on .NET for the last month, I have been thinking of building my own browser that unifies Bookmarks and RSS feeds right into a browser shell. Safari is also my favorite browser, I can't wait to get my hands on 2.0 with RSS. And the built in Spotlight search looks great. Core Image and Core Video. The demo in the keynote with a quick homegrown app called Funhouse on this functionality was hella good. As a developer, being able to apply quality motion effects and filters with it baked into the platform is very enticing. I have watched a bunch of stuff on Longhorn Aero and Avalon, I don't remember seeing mention of funtionality like this. Just because MS is going to draw the UI and do compositing with the GPU on your applications behalf is not the same as giving you filters and effects to use in your apps and doing all the hard work for you using the GPU, which is what Apple is doing. Dashboard I totally want this functionality. It's nice that the guys at Konfabulator have a similar implementation, but I am not paying $25 to get this, sorry. I wonder if there is some bad blood between Apple and the Konfabulator guy? That's no excuse, Apple should just dump some money on this guy from a PR standpoint. Automator. Can't wait to get my hands on this to see just how much I can automate with Visual Scripting. This is just about as close as anything I have seen to answering one of the big issues of CLI guys with GUIs, no way to make the output of one app the input of another without code or some intermediary like files. iChat. I love iChat. This functionality is amazing, 10 people audio conference and 3 + me video conferencing, and it even looks like we are all looking at each other. The really big deal is the H.264 codec. iChat with the iSight was already really good quality, this looks seriously better. My only complaint with iChat is the AOL only integration. I hope that's changing, the iChat icon lost the AOL buddy. It just speculation at this point, but I hope. Tiger. I can't wait to get my hands on this release. My only true disappoinment was no Xcode 2.0 demo yesterday.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Wish List for the Apple Retail Stores

I was in the San Francisco Apple Store yesterday, and started talking to one of the employees, Zo I believe. One thing he had obviously put some thought into, he told me he used to work at Liquid Audio, was the need for kiosks that you could jack you iPod into and get new music instantly. This would be awesome. Imagine that you are on a road trip, or walking around the city, and you want some new music on your iPod. Unless you have a wireless laptop with you and find an access point, you can do this, but what if your traveling light, just your iPod. You go to any number of outlets, like ATMs, and get new music. This would totally rock. You don't have to limit the kiosks to just Apple Stores, but it's such an obvious synergy, you gotta start there. One stumbling block, Apple must reverse themselves about pulling music off the iPod to whatever computer you use, no small task, so that this works end-to-end. I think Apple is leaving a lot of money on the table not having Apple branding swag in the retail stores. Mugs, T-shirts, keychains, yo-yo's, the possibilities are endless. Apple has one of the most well known and regarded brands, this is such a no-brainer I am stunned it hasn't happened already.

Movie: Spartan

Watched Spartan last night, the David Mamet written and directed thriller starring Val Kilmer. I picked this up at the video store cause Val was the star. Some might think, Val Kilmer, what happened to that guy and why rent anything he is starring in? I have liked Val Kilmer because of Top Secret!, Top Gun, Willow, Tombstone (his performance here always makes me laugh), and Batman Forever. The flick was definitely entertaining, I would recommend the rental, in part because it didn't feel like a typical thriller to me, dialogue is really different than typical hollywood flicks and the meat of the story isn't revealed until about 40 minutes in, but I was hooked the whole time. I am not a David Mamet fan. I rented The Spanish Prisoner a while back, and really disliked it, probably for the same reasons I liked this, but go figure, I guess Steve Martin in that didn't really work for me. If I had realized that Spartan was by the same guy when in the video store, I probably wouldn't have rented it. Glad I was pleasently surprised.

Joel, MS, and APIs Oh My!

Joel on Software really stirred up a hornets nest with his How Microsoft lost the API war article. Scoble as usual has done a commendable job linking to some of the best response commentaries here. The problem I always run into when pitching rich .NET client apps to customers is the fact that the .NET runtime is only built into one shipping version of Windows, Windows Server 2003, which doesn't do a thing for client machines. When I explain to customers that in addition to deploying our app we have to deploy the Framework, it is always a major stumbling block. If we require the Framework on the client, are we then as the developers guarenteeing that installing this will not break anything else in Windows or the users apps? That is certainly the implication since MS hasn't figured out a way to get it on to every Windows release supported on the Framework, true or not. I know, how can MS entice users to get these bits installed? A sticky situation, but if they wanted to rejuvenate "rich" apps vs. "reach" apps, here is my proposal. .NET runs on everything from Win 98 up (Redistributable requirements here). Spend some of that $56 billion cash horde and produce one more service pack for everything Win 98 and higher, roll in all current security fixes and backport at a minimum the Windows Firewall from XP SP2, and distribute the .NET runtime with the package. Take a page out of the AOL playbook and carpetbomb the world with these CDs. You solve 2 problems: Trojan attack vectors drastically reduced, and .NET for brand new rich client API on a large portion of Windows machines. Is this feasible from a business standpoint? Don't know, but if anyone can do this, MS can.

Let's Get Started

I don't know if this is the obligatory first blog post, everyone does it kind of like a superhero origin story, but here goes. I am a software developer and systems engineer for the last 9 years, all on the MS Windows stack of various versions. I have been a home user of MS product for the last 14 years. My first computer though was an Apple IIc, which I have very found memories of. Here is some history on the Apple IIc: I haven't had an Apple computer since the IIc until Dec '03, when I got an iBook G4. This blog will be about my experiences and opinions using the iBook, developing software and using Windows, and anything else that I find intersting, like movies and video games. Enjoy, Dave