Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Best Xbox 360 Scam Ever

Since it's nearly February, I thought I would drop into a few stores and see what the availability/demand were for the Xbox 360. I have seen comments on various blogs which equate paltry supply for massive demand (obvious falicy), but I am curious to see what actual demand is like versus supply. I first stoped into the EB Games in Bridgewater Commons mall. They had 4 Xbox 360 Core Systems late on a Friday night, so it was safe to say those systems weren't going to move until Saturday or later, very suprising to me. Either people have stopped looking because of the anemic supply, or demand has evaporated like water in the dessert. They had no Premium systems though. Yesterday I stopped into Rock & Soul, a music and electronics store on 7th Aveneue between 35th and 36th Streets in New York. I asked if they had Xbox 360 Premium systems, he said they did. I asked how much, he said normal retail, $399. Here is the kicker though, you had to buy 4 Xbox CLASSIC games to take home the 360. Best Xbox 360 Scam Ever!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Who Apple Should Buy With Their $7 Billion?

AppleMatters has an amusing article on what Apple should do with its cash horde and ever increasing stock market valuation. I posted this suggestion:
You forgot the one move that would make the tech world explode: Google - 126.8B Market Cap I know, you said Who Should Apple Buy?, but just imagine if Apple and Google merged. I think I hear Steve Ballmer screaming right now…

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Apple iTunes and the MiniStore Spying Controversy

UPDATE:Apple has updated the MiniStore functionality to tell the user what is going on and whether they want to use the functionality. Check out the details at Macworld. I wonder how apple has replaced the previous default MiniStore content without sending user data the first time the MiniStore is displayed. If they have pulled this off, iTunes is a flexible application indeeed. The net has been buzzing about the addition of a MiniStore to iTunes 6.0.2 and what kind of data it sends back to Apple and how it's used. Take a look at this Apple Support article for info on the MiniStore. This is how Apple describes the MiniStore on the product information for iTunes:
Looking for some new tunes? Tap into the 2-million-song treasure chest of the iTunes Music Store through the new MiniStore. While you’re browsing your own library or importing a new CD, MiniStore appears at the bottom of the iTunes window and shows you other albums from your favorite artists and artists like them. You can even see reviews of these albums plus what other listeners who like this artist purchased — so you’ll never be at a loss for new music to discover. When you’re ready to go back to full-screen mode, click an icon and MiniStore tucks away, ready to pop up again later when you want to explore some more.
When you download iTunes from Apple, this is how the MiniStore is described:
Discover new music as you enjoy your collection or import new CDs with MiniStore — right from your iTunes library.
This sounds like a potentially cool feature, my wife is always asking me how she can find new music based on something she likes, this fits the bill. How does iTunes provide recommendations? It sends information about the currently selected track to Apple, not whatever is playing as has been erroneously reported in numerous places, I think on purpose to make this look worse than it already is. Apple has responded to Macworld reports on the issue by saying they don't collect anything that is personally identifiable, but the CNET article linked to in the post title states iTunes is sending your iTunes account ID number. In the CNET article Apple says it
"does not save or store any information used to create recommendations for the MiniStore."
Isn't a feature like the MiniStore potentially very desirable? Uh yes, especially if you don't like it you can turn it off with 1 click as the Apple support article linked above states. So where did Apple go wrong? They went wrong in 1 way. They didn't tell people what the MiniStore was going to do, and how it worked, from within iTunes. On OS X, iTunes 6.0.2 was described as a minor release in Software Update. In fact no new features were identified, even though there are three: MiniStore, Sync home movies to iPod (automatically convert to iPod format!), and AirTunes Enchancements (stream to 3 home steroes or powered speakers simultaneously, in sync! That's a huge feature request). Apple should have gone with an opt-in dialog box for just this feature, just like it has you Agree to the new license agreement with every iTunes update. I can even see how they could have done this in a way where people would have embraced the MiniStore , just read the marketing text quoted above, sounds like a cool thing to have. What should Apple do now? Release iTunes 6.0.3 quickly with the opt-in dialog I mention. If this isn't addressed more definitively than press release statements, this PR disaster will get much worse, and I think Apple is going to lose some iPod sales if they don't implement my suggested fix. In no way does Apple want to be lumped into the "they are no better than Microsoft camp".

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

OpenOSX WinTel 2.0

I am dying to know how well OpenOSX WinTel 2.0 runs on the new iMac or MacBook Pro with Intel processors. The site claims nearly native speeds on the Intel Macs. Very enticing...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Windows Media Player on the Mac is Dead. Long Live Windows Media Support!

CNET is reporting that Microsoft has officially halted development of Windows Media Player for the Mac. This is no surprise to anyone that has ever used Windows Media Player 9 (the current and last version) on OS X, it's pretty terrible. I would say it works 80% of the time, and it's no media manager like on Windows, it is just a bare bones player. So drag Windows Media Player into the trash and then install Flip4Mac WMV for free, and Microsoft is hawking this on their site which set everyone buzzing the WMP Mac was dead in the water. Flip4Mac WMV installs codecs for QuickTime that allow you to play Windows Media files (nothing DRMed, but everything else) from directly in QuickTime, even QuickTime embedded in Safari (I haven't tried in Firefox yet). I tried this on a bunch of Windows Media Audio and Video files last night, it works, and it works better than WMP Mac ever did. How is it better? Audio and Video actually load in a timely fashion. I would argue that this is the kind of support that everyone wanted to begin with, so we all win, assuming that Flip4Mac (the company name) can keep pace with the latest version of Windows Media formats. The Microsoft site has a link currently to download the 2.0.0 release of Flip4Mac WMV, which has a compatibility problem with the recently release QuickTime 7.0.4. So go to the Flip4Mac site linked above and get 2.0.1. There is also pro upgrades available here for using Apple editing tools with WMV files, which is pretty sweet if you need to that kind of thing.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Visual Studio 2005 Setup Project Hopes Dashed

If you have ever created an .MSI through Visual Studio .NET 2003 Setup project, you know how frustrating customization can be. Here's a short list of things you really want in the editor that you don't get (in no particular order):
  • Change the fonts in the various UI dialogs
  • Remove the Disk Cost button from the Installation Folder UI Dialog
  • Have the Installation Folder UI dialog default to Everyone and not Just Me
  • Have the installer automatically launch your .EXE when install is finished
  • Detect if the .NET Framework is installed and if not, download it from MS
I could go on, but I think you can get around a lack of control for nearly everything else with Custom Actions, and being fair I think the above list should be in the Setup project editor. It was with great hope that I opened Visual Studio 2005 and created a new Setup project. It was with great disappointment that I could only find one of the options I think are missing from the 2003 Setup project editor in the 2005 Setup project editor, and that wasn't obvious. There is all of one new option in the User Interface section, the ability to hide if a user gets to choose if they want to install the application for Everyone or just the current user. If you choose not to show the controls, it is not clear at all if the default (Just Me) stays the same or not. For that, you have to look at the properties on the project itself (default click on SetupX) where you have the new option to InstallAllUsers, or not. *sigh* I guess MS doesn't want to cannabalize InstallShield or Wise sales, but come on people, you are already going to cut McAfee and Symantec antivirus sales out, who cares about a few InstallShield dollars. I am not even asking for you to build-in a way to solve the whole automatic update for 3rd party applications fiasco (? How many auto update threads are running on your system right now), I just want a little more control over what I do have (ok, the download of the .NET framework is an additional feature, but man do I need it) Update: Forgot to mention that you can get down and dirty and edit the properties of the MSI directly in the Platform SDK tool Orca if you need to change some of the things above. You really have to understand MSI strucutre, or just keep doing trial and error changes until you figure out how to manipulate some stuff, then save a transform and use the command line tool to apply it post MSI creation (don't remember the tool offhand). This all sucks tough.

Google Video really sucks

If you haven't looked at Google Video yet, you may not want to bother. If this offering is supposed to compete with Apple iTunes and those videos, Google is way way off the mark. The videos are total crap, just take a look at this preview of a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode. It's some of the worst video I have ever seen on a computer, there is no way I am buying a video after seeing this preview. iTunes videos may not be HD resolution, but they are crystal clear for the size they are, and if you scale them to the size of the Google preview video, they absolutely destroy Google Videos in quality. I am not going to even go into other issues with this, Google lost me at the preview.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

MacBook Pro: Not My Holy Grail...Yet

The main reason I would have placed an order yesterday for a MacBook Pro was the ability to run both Mac and Windows on it. If your a new reader, you don't know that I bring home the bacon being a Microsoft .NET C# developer by day. I was looking to the Intel-based Macs to allow me to consolidate down to a single laptop that I could use for either my day job, or whatever else. But word is that Windows XP will not boot on Intel Macs because XP can't boot using EFI, the replacement for the ancient BIOS standard. Only Windows Vista will be able to boot from EFI with a 32-bit processor. This doesn't mean that some enterprising person or group won't figure out a way to get XP loaded, but it's not as simple as popping in the XP install CD. I will certainly wait until other people figure this out and it's easy to do before I plunk down the cash for a new system. Dual-boot was my minimum acceptable level, what I was really hoping for was something like Darwine built-in to OS X 10.4.4 to run Windows apps side-by-side with OS X applications. Darwine may be what I am looking for, version 0.9.5 has been released, but it's ppc only right now, now x86. This obviously needs to get sorted out first. Also, I don't know how Darwine is going to run Vista native apps, so might need a combination of dual-booting and Win32 API implementation. Darwine is not emulation, like VMWare, its an implementation of Win32 on *nix for anyone that hasn't even periperally followed Wine. Then there is the Microsoft Wild Card. When will they ship a Virtual PC for MacTels? Will it be pure emulation, or built from scratch to use the virtulization capabilities of the Intel Core Duo to run 2 OSes at the same time. Microsoft has committed to Virtual PC for MacTels but we will just have to wait until more information is available. Until these issues are sorted out, I think a lot of people are going to be sitting waiting to place orders. I keep seeing people in forums asking why would you want to run Windows on a MacTel, and I think the answer is pretty clear, there just might be an application you need to run on Windows, and consolidated hardware is now just *that* close.

Macworld 2006 Thoughts

Yesterday was a tough day for me. The Macworld Keynote is like Christmas Day for me now, especially with the rumors swirling around about what was going to be delivered. Unfortunately, I couldn't spasm refresh the browser at work to see any of the live blogs because I had a lunch meeting about what the future direction of my department was going to do after some recent staff changes. But I couldn't concentrate on it, for the first time, I tried using the browser on my Blackberry 7100 during the meeting to see what was announced, but that was a total disappointment. The screen on this thing is pretty good, things should be readable, but it can't render some sites (it only does HDML), what a piece of junk. I haven't followed the whole mobile browser stuff. Then the few sites it could show were coming back with HTTP 500 errors, you know the internal server error, so I was totally in the dark until the end of the keynote when a friend emailed me some live blog notes. I had to laugh at myself, frothing at the mouth to here Apple's latest instead of concentrating entirely to the future of my job. :) I never comment on keynotes until I see them myself, and that was a chore itself. Seems like every person and their dog was trying to get the keynote stream last night between 9-11 PM EST when I stopped watching. Frequent timeouts, drop-outs, audio not synching with video, etc. I started questioning if this was due to the 10.4.4, iTunes 6.0.2, and Quicktime 7.0.4 update trifecta, but I tried it on downlevel versions and on Windows and was having the same issues. I was even having some trouble getting connected from work this morning, so clearly the traffic going to Apple's and Akamai's networks is staggering. MacTel So to anyone that just got back from a desert island, Apple unveild two new Macs using Intel Core Duo CPUs. They announced a bunch of stuff, but this was the main event and it didn't disappoint. The iMac has had its guts replaced with the Intel CPU/motherboard, everything else largely remains the same, including the price from the previous two models, but you get 2-3x the performance over the iMac G5! eWeek's Enterprise Mac blog is saying Apple is playing games with the performance claims, but I am indifferent on the claims of performance shell games. Of course, the new iMac has 2 CPUs in it, logically you would expect it to be 2x faster than a comparable CPU, so it looks like at nearly the same Ghz as the G5, the Core Duo is that much better an architecture, performance and power consumption wise. Plus, some logic here, as Jobs says in the keynote, everything isn't going to run 2-3x faster, the disks aren't 2-3x faster, this is a CPU benchmark. Still, you know this kit is going to smoke the G5. The new iMacs are shipping today. The PowerBook G4 15.4" has been replaced by the MacBook Pro 15.4". The new MacBook Pro also has the Intel Core Duo in it, with two different GHz, 1.67 and 1.83. This is quoted as the CPU being 4-5x faster than the previous G4. Anyway you slice it, these new laptops are going to bury the G4 PowerBooks, but there is only one screen size available for the MacBook Pro now, the 12" and 17" are going to replaced sometime this spring according to rumor. I think it's a certainty they are going to have more screen sizes than the 15.4 inch they announced today, so if that wasn't the one you wanted, just wait, I think by June all PowerBooks are will be replaced. If you were looking for an iBook replacement, again I think by June those are doing to be replaced as well. I think the iBook is going to replaced with a MacBook without the Pro suffix. Just makes sense, and as Steve says in the Keynote, and quoted on MacRumors, Apple wants Mac in the name of all its' computer products. The new MacBook Pro's ship in February, and I would say get in line if you want one now. Oh and the one question on every Windows user's mind is can I get Windows running on these? The answer appears to be yes according to Phil Schiller, VP of Marketing, in this MSNBC article. If this is the deal maker for you, I would wait until some people start getting their iMacs either late this week or next and get Windows running on these. Design is largely the same, except the new books are just 1 inch thin. iLife 06 I want this now, but I am torn because you get it free with any new Mac. What's to want? You have to see the keynote or go to the iLife site and take the tour. I use iPhoto exsclusively for photo management, I give photo books created with iPhoto as gifts to the grandparents, its creat. Now you can create calendars and cards right in iPhoto, the editing tools are amazing, nothing is this easy. Everything else gets reved as well, the podcasting studio in GarageBand looks so easy, I want to start a podcast. That's the thing with iLife, you just want to create stuff. iMovie with the new Animated Themes looks amazing. And finally iWeb. This might be one of the last blog entries using Google because of the blog posting capabilities in iWeb. The templates, the media management, and the publishign ease look real good. Blogger is just totally stale, and it's starting to annoy me. One note, iTunes was billed as part of iLife, but now that they have a iWeb to round out the suite, iTunes has been removed from the packaging. iTunes always seemed out of place since it was free anyway. iWork 06 For anyone that doesn't know, Apple has a fledgling office suite that they have been working on. I have used Keynote a bit, and PowerPoint was quickly a distant memory. I have used Pages much more primarily because of the templates, they are awesome. Of course, both apps export to MS formats, and I frequently start in Pages, get things polishing up, then export to Word format, and if any changes are needed, make them there. The templates in Word just look anermic by comparision. Pages 06 gets a new calculating table object. That's right, most of the functionality people use Excel for when creating documents has been added to Pages. iWork 06 is a bit of a disappointment due to no dedicated spreadsheet or database programs bundled in, well at least until Macworld 2007. I sure the new functionality is nice, but I don't know if I will be dropping the cash on it. Final Thoughts Apple's stock closed yesterday way up at $80.86, no joke and how fitting. It is going to be a very exciting year. If you are a Windows user and have been curious about Mac OS X, as Apple adds more Intel models there will be nearly no excuses to not get an Apple laptop and use it as a Mac, Windows, and Linux box if you are in the market for a new computer. Compare the new MacBook Pro at $2399 (have to normalize the memory down to 2 Dimms like the Dell) to the new Dell Inspirion 9400 at $2699. The Dell has a 17 inch screen, but the other details appear largely normalized, and you have a $300 price delta in favor of Apple. Of course, you get the 17 inch screen, so we will see when the 17 inch MacBook Pro comes out what they list at. The point is, that as Apple adds models, they are already competative on price and will continue to do so as they fill out there product line. One More Thing... You have to watch this video with stuff from Mac OS X set to the description of an MS Product Manager describing Windows Vista. There is no doubt, Vista, like Windows 95 before it, is a direct rip-off of Mac OS of the time. As we found out last week, the Aero Glass UI in Windows Vista is the final interface. There will be no magical innovative version of the shell, you get the Mac OS X knockoff version. But that's only half the story, MS has nothing like iLife (they are stealing iPhoto with the Vista Photo Gallery), and if they decide to copy that entirely, how long is it going to take for MS to get it right?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Gone in 11 minutes

The New York Football Giants had 6000 playoff tickets available for sale at 1 PM on 1/3/2006. I decided to get in line at a Ticketmaster location in Manhattan. I was 36th in line at the Broadway and 66th St. Tower Records. I think 13 people got in the door and got tickets before all 6000 were sold out across all of Ticketmasters retail locations. It was raining and real cold, but it felt good to at least try and score tickets. On Giants.com, it says the tickets were gone in 11 minutes, which seems about right to me. No permanant link on the 11 minute stat, its just there on the main page.

Happy New Year

I decided not to offer any greetings to anyone that weren't known to be OK with Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays because of the "Christmas Controversy", so I offer to one and all a Happy New Year, because how could anyone get upset with the wish that you are happy in the new year!