Saturday, July 31, 2010

TheAppleBlog (8 сообщений)
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  • Apple is Shaping Our Future

    It’s just another day where I board the train and head home with an iPhone, iPad and MacBook in my bag. Since buying the iPad, I prefer it to the other three devices in nearly every situation except blogging, which still requires a real keyboard and at least a 13″ screen.

    Something sort of hit me in the head while reading the New York Times as Bob Marley played into my earphones: I have no visual or performance signs that a song is playing other than the music entering my head. Bob Marley is singing “No Woman, No Cry” and the iPad doesn’t signal to me that it’s actually doing that, which feels magical, but it made me think about the future and how Apple  is shaping it.

    In 2001, my iBook G3′s 500Mhz CPU would be 50 percent utilized while playing high quality music through the speakers. That number has dropped to basically zero while playing the same song on my Core i7 iMac, but iTunes is still open, taking up screen space even if it’s minimized or hidden. I know iTunes is open but the way I interact with iTunes hasn’t changed since iTunes 1.0 was released 10 years ago. The way my Macintosh organizes folders, plays music, and manages windows is unchanged, and it still takes a certain technical proficiency to understand this even if it is an easy-to-use Mac.

    Today, while music played on my iPad and I was reading the news story, I thought about how there’s nothing showing a song is playing other than a play icon at the top of the screen. When I change the page or zoom in to a photo, nothing about the iPad’s performance is compromised, even if that song is heavily compressed. Music is playing, and my iPad doesn’t mind.

    No other consumer electronics company has done this.

    That’s a bold statement coming from a guy that uses Apple products almost exclusively, but I’ve been looking for a product like this for years. The iPod did this, but when you clicked a button on the device, it would show you the currently playing song. It was single-purpose, even if it did come with a way to view your calendars (only view, not change). Devices like my Palm Treo did this, but the music app would crash, and browsing the web would have a 50 percent cut in performance while playing music. Yes, it’s been four years, and the Treo was much slower with fewer resources, but Apple has set us on course to a point where our kids won’t have that feeling of, “I shouldn’t open my web browser because the music might skip.” For those of you who used the original iPhone extensively, music skipping was very common when hitting the phone with heavy tasks.

    I didn’t see a huge change in how we interacted with technology until Apple came along with iOS and shook things up. The Mac and Windows experiences feel dated. There are power, usefulness and capabilities that iOS (and yes even Android devices) can’t do now, but it won’t be long before they can. In 2007, iPhone was cutting edge for having a tough screen that worked. These days, I can FaceTime with friends, download movies over the air, read the news as it happens, and always know the answer to what guy played in that movie within the time it would take to boot up the ole’ Mac and fire up Safari. Grab iPhone, slide to unlock, click Safari and search.

    I don’t give Apple all of the credit, but this is TheAppleBlog, so it’s good to highlight everything Apple got right that set us in this direction. Who was going to change things and set us onto the next era of computing? Microsoft is still introducing product flops (ie. Microsoft Kin) and Google’s business model is to create and leverage technologies in order to target ads to you. I can’t think of another company other than Apple that’s continued to pioneer the technology experience. Cisco is a distant 4th, but it’s too busy powering the entire Internet to make consumer electronics. Sadly, Sony (c sne) has become more irrelevant as simply “expensive” and not as breakthrough as it was in the 90s. I still buy Sony TVs, but only because it’s Sony and not because it’s doing anything truly remarkable over Panasonic or Vizio.

    Apple has set itself apart in the way it’s brought power to elegance — where the design of the software and form factor of the hardware fades away, and all you’re doing is sitting on a train, reading a news article while listening to a song. Of course, now that I think about it, that 3G connection to AT&T is ticking along as well. There was no application I had to pull up to initiate the connection (like on Mac OS or Windows 7), and there’s no thought to it. As soon as I leave the office, my Wi-Fi connection there drops and 3G starts. This kind of experience is something we all assume would be common in 2010 but you’d be surprised how many devices simply don’t do this in a way that the consumer can consume with no awareness of what’s going on behind the scenes.

    I don’t know what it is but, with Apple technology, I feel the future. It’s not a stylus smartphone with a hardware keyboard; it’s not a 24″ tall tower with a big power button on the front; and it’s not a mouse with a cord attached and a floppy disk that makes this wretched click sound while reading and writing data. Apple doesn’t have any of that, and it’s chosen to integrated technologies into an experience that no other company has.

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Bringing a PowerMac G4 Back to Life

    Under my desk is a PowerMac G4, sporting dual 1.42 PowerPC processors and a whopping 512MB of RAM. When I acquired the old boy, it was running Tiger and had files scattered all over its hard drive. It had been used and abused, and desktop support had put it out to pasture. I saw it huddled forlornly in the corner of a co-workers cube, and knew I could put it back to work. All it needed was a little TLC.

    Operating System Upgrade

    The first thing I did was upgrade the operating system to Leopard. It’s too bad Apple decided to drop PowerPC support with Snow Leopard, but I can understand why it did. The move to Intel chips has been a phenomenal success for Apple, and I don’t think anyone can argue that it was the wrong thing to do. Thankfully, Leopard is pretty close to Snow Leopard. It’s close enough that I’m only missing a couple of features, and it has the same look and feel as a modern Mac. A lot of my favorite apps have dropped support for Tiger, but not too many have dropped support for 10.5 just yet.

    Cleaning House

    The next thing I did was clean house. Opening up the hard drive in Finder was an interesting look into how normal people use a Mac. There were aliases to nothing, a few shared folders, old disk images, and, of all things, Netscape Navigator (hello, what are you doing here?) in the root of the hard drive. People drop files everywhere. There was also an outdated version of Norton AV running…that got the axe pretty quickly. The scattered files reminded me of how neat and clean iOS is when compared with OS X. OS X didn’t seem to mind where the files were as much as I did though.

    App Installation

    With the filesystem cleaned up and the operating system upgraded, I set about finding my “must have” apps. I created an “Applications” folder in my home folder, and downloaded TextMate, Twitteriffic, OmniGraffle, CyberDuck, Yojimbo, CoRD, and NetNewsWire. I don’t run apps like Yojimbo or Twitteriffic in the same fashion on the G4 as I would on a MacBook. In the interest of saving RAM, I’ve found it best to close any background apps. When I need them, I launch the app, then quit it again when I’m done. The same goes for Mail and Safari, apps I’d normally leave running constantly on a newer machine.

    Slow, Middle-Aged Champ

    The PowerMac still runs like a champ, but a slower, more middle-aged champ. He’s not the thoroughbred he used to be; it takes a bit longer for some apps to start, and from time to time the dreaded pinwheel pops up for a few seconds, but nothing earth shattering. Unfortunately, there’s still a couple of Windows apps that I need to run, so I keep my Dell laptop on the side to run the latest version of Lotus Notes and VMware VSphere Client. It’s not the perfect setup, and I’ll be upgrading to a MacBook Pro to replace both of them soon, but it’s been fun finding out just how useful the older G4 can be. There’s very little I’m unable to do with it, and I think if I had more RAM, the system would be much, much faster.

    The same setup I’ve got now can be had on eBay for less than $200, maybe even with a monitor to go with it. With a good Time Machine backup for peace of mind, and a little patience, a PowerMac G4 can still be a great day-to-day computer.

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Mactracker: A Mac Blogger's Swiss Army Knife

    When I write about Apple, I do my best to lay out some historical data and discuss where my experience came from as it helps put things in perspective for whatever I’m about to rant or rave about. There have been way too many times where I complain about the price of a machine, only to realize it’s actually cheaper than the last generation model.

    I wish meaningless facts like the viewing angle of Apple’s 23″ Apple Cinema Display and the price of the Dual 500Mhz PowerMac G4 were just stuck in my head, but they’re not. I cheat quite a bit, but not by running all over the web trying to find wiki pages and old press releases. Instead, I use Mactracker.

    This donation-ware application that’s available for Mac and iPhone is a tool I fire up before starting a blog post about Apple or Macintosh products. In addition to price and technical specs, Mactracker also contains history of models, their code names, and the startup chime associated with that machine. As a blogger and fanboy, this application can keep me entertained for hours, and I’m never caught wondering what stock hard drive came on the 600Mhz iBook G3 (it was 20GB).

    I hope you’ll download this great application and send a nice little donation off to the developer. I discovered Mactracker in 2004, but the developer has been updating it with info since 2001, which is quite the commitment from one guy.

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Why Do You Need a Computer to Use an iPad?

    One of the first disappointments a brand new iPad owner often faces is the fact they can’t use their magic new toy right out of the box. New iPad users turn on their device and what greets their eyes? An iTunes activation screen; the same screen iPod touch and iPhone users see. To setup an iOS device, whether iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone, you need a computer running a compatible version of iTunes.

    But why?

    Other smartphones, tablets, and media players don’t require a connection to a computer before you can use them. Moreover, iPad users learned recently what iPhone and iPod touch users already know: to upgrade their device’s OS, they again need a computer. Other devices can do updates over the air. Software updates on a Mac or PC don’t require a second computer, so why should iOS devices?

    The initially obvious answer is the fact you need an account with iTunes to fully use an iDevice. That account manages the purchases you make on your iOS device. Since many users already have an iTunes account, this argument doesn’t make sense. A new iOS device owner should simply be able to enter their account info (or create an account on the spot) when turning on the device for the first time. Instead, new owners have to hook up to a “real” computer.

    Again, why?

    Of course, having a computer synced with your iOS device is handy. You can back up your data and quickly sync data from your computer. Documents, music, movies, pictures, calendars and contacts all easily get transferred from the desktop. However, with our lives existing more and more in the cloud these days, transferring this data via a computer running iTunes seems to defeat the independence of the iPad. With the camera connector kit, the argument has even less relevance. We can use the iPad anywhere, but we have to race to a computer with an Internet connection to do updates or move content back and forth.

    Why? Why? Why?

    Cynics would say that it’s about making sure that iPad sales don’t cannibalize traditional computer sales. With Apple’s market share though, sales shifting from desktops and laptops over to iPads is actually a benefit to Apple as evidenced by the recent earnings conference call when this issue was discussed.

    There are probably a lot of PC users with older Windows machines who would be happy to replace their old PC with an iPad, which would handle almost all their computer needs. Apple’s “walled garden” approach really shines through for these users. No worries about competing browsers and email clients, downloading and installing software (even in the Mac universe, how many times do you see people running apps off the disk image rather than dragging it to the Applications folder?) Malware isn’t currently a concern, and the parental controls are quite handy. The price helps bridge the digital divide, making powerful computing accessible to everyone. That goal was one the motivators of the netbook movement. Apple changed the rules and added a new one: this magical and revolutionary device still needs a traditional and mainstream copy of iTunes running somewhere for setup and maintenance.  Again…why?

    Because Steve said so, that’s why!

    Ultimately the iPad will probably gain independence. But for now, regardless of logic, market conditions, or technology, Steve Jobs sees the iPad as a companion rather than a replacement for the traditional desktop or laptop. It’s both something more and something less than the typical computer. Will we see the day when the umbilical cord between traditional operating systems and the iOS devices is cut? One can dream.

    Do you think iOS devices should require a separate computer? Why or why not?

    Related GigaOM Pro Research (subscription required): Can Anyone Compete With the iPad?

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  • 7 Safari Extensions to Install Now

    Extensions have now gone public with the newly released Safari 5.0.1. Here’s a list of seven extensions you should install right away. Also, be sure to read our previous list of 25 extensions worth checking out.


    Firefox users should recognize this popular extension. This one’s an offshoot of AdBlock for Chrome, which itself is an offshoot of AdBlock Plus, the original Firefox extension. AdBlock does what its name implies: block ads. I installed it just to block that obnoxiously huge banner ad on YouTube’s homepage. If you’re not the type to ever click on ads anyway, then why not cut down on the visual (and sometimes audible) clutter?


    Type-To-Navigate is a mouse-hater’s dream. It lets you navigate links by simply typing the name of the link. So say I wanted to view the About page of a blog, I’d just type “about” and Type-To-Navigate will highlight the link and display an attractive popup of what I’d written (“about”). The only places where this extension doesn’t work are in text fields and when the link is attached to an image. However, it should find any text link with no problems. Another neat thing you can do with it is to press certain shortcuts while the link you’re searching for is highlighted. You can type ⌘G to find next, ⌘C to copy the URL, and ⌘I to send it to Instapaper.

    Invisible Status Bar

    Another neat extension from the developer of Type-To-Navigate, Invisible Status Bar gives you a Google Chrome-like status bar that pops up when hovering over links, and even tells you how big a file is when you’re hovering over a download link.


    This feature was originally pioneered by Opera back in 2001, and it’s kind of amazing that it’s taken this long to get it into Safari (at least officially). If you’re unaware, mouse gestures are where you hold down a button on the mouse (normally the right or middle button) and move the mouse to perform a gesture. Gestures can do things like go back a page, or reload. MouseGestures only offers four gestures right now: up, down, left, and right. Assignable actions run the gamut from going back a page to closing the active tab. Unfortunately, there are no customizable gestures like in Opera yet.

    WOT (Web Of Trust)

    Another popular Firefox extension, WOT offers better security when searching the web by ranking pages based on their content, with other WOT users providing the rankings. The green WOT symbol means the site is safe, and the red means it’s unsafe, with several degrees of safety in between. The only annoying thing about it is that it pops up a little indicator in the top left of the window whenever you visit a new site, but fortunately, it doesn’t popup when you visit a site you’ve already visited.

    Gmail Counter

    For those who don’t use anything other than Gmail’s web-based interface, this extension is rather useful. It adds a new toolbar icon that shows how many unread messages are in your inbox. Clicking on the icon also takes you to your inbox, so you can get rid of your Gmail bookmark, if you have one.

    Reload Button

    This one was made by the venerable, and über-critical, John Siracusa, to address his annoyance with the location of Safari’s reload button since version 4. It adds a reload button to the toolbar that’s freely movable, unlike the default reload button. There isn’t much else to say about it, unless you like Safari’s default reload button, in which case, what’s wrong with you?

    You could install most of these from the Extensions Gallery, but I’ve elected to link directly to the developers websites, as Apple doesn’t have individual pages for extensions yet.

    Have you been playing around with Safari extensions? What are your favorites so far?

    Related GigaOM Pro Research (subscription required): What Does the Future Hold For Browsers?

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Could the EU's Digital Agenda Force Apple to Put Flash On the iPhone?

    An ongoing digital strategy by the European Union (EU) could force Apple into allowing Adobe’s Flash to run on the iPhone.

    The incomplete plans, known as the Digital Agenda, not only aim to redefine how antitrust rules are practiced, but also hope to see an overall improved digital economy in place by 2020. In order to reach this goal, the EU plans to work with a number of individual companies, relevant organizations and governments. The efforts carried out with these various groups will involve working through seven key points. The second point of this seven-part plan is one which may be of concern to Apple.

    Point two of the Digital Agenda highlights the need for set standards and interoperability between devices. It specifically states:

    The internet is a great example of interoperability — numerous devices and applications working together anywhere in the world. Europe must ensure that new IT devices, applications, data repositories and services interact seamlessly anywhere — just like the internet. The Digital Agenda identifies improved standard-setting procedures and increased interoperability as the keys to success

    How This Could Affect Apple

    It’s no secret that the European Union isn’t shy to flex its muscle when it comes to competition rules. In the past, it has fined various industry heavyweights including Intel and Microsoft. In fact Microsoft has found itself in the firing line on multiple occasions.

    But what could the Digital Agenda truly mean for Apple? Comments from European Union commissioner Neelie Kroes hint that she is giving Apple’s business practices a serious review. According to a report from Rethink Wireless, the commissioner has concerns that the current smartphone market is too closed, detailing that consumers are currently limited when coming to choose what software is present on their selected handset.

    With the Digital Agenda in place, dominant market figures, such as RIM and Nokia, will not be the only ones to receive official practice reviews. Figures that are deemed significant, such as Apple, will also be called upon. Kroes detailed that:

    “…significant market players cannot just choose to deny interoperability with their product. This is particularly important in cases where standards don’t exist. This is not just about Microsoft or any big company like Apple, IBM or Intel. The main challenge is that consumers need choice when it comes to software or hardware products.”

    With Kroes’ comments in mind, it seems that Apple’s banning of Flash could come under serious investigation from the EU. Other blogs have speculated on how the Digital Agenda’s rules may apply beyond Apple’s Flash ban. Some have suggested that this digital strategy could be applied to change the closed nature of iPhone development via Xcode, whereas others have expressed thoughts on how iTunes’ restrictive style could be an issue — especially considering the whole Palm Pre syncing drama.

    With the U.S. Fair Trade Commission looking into Apple’s ban on Flash and the European Union also casting an authoritative eye over the issue, it will be interesting to see how Apple would handle the Flash ban if any official body were to make a move.

    Whatever happens, with both Apple and Adobe picking and choosing both open and closed formats and practices, one thing is clear: nobody’s perfect.

    Related GigaOM Pro Research (subscription required): A Brighter Week Ahead for Flash

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Kindle vs. iPad: You're Both Winners

    Amazon has announced a new Kindle that most bloggers are calling Kindle 3. The new device seems pretty awesome, both in features and price. It’s important that we declare both devices as winners in their own right and set some things straight for anyone calling iPad a Kindle killer or the other way around.

    Kindle as a service

    Kindle is a service that allows consumers to buy books from anywhere in the world as long as there is an Internet connection. Books can be purchased via any device with a modern web browser and you can read those books on any device that supports Kindle software like your Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Android and Amazon’s own Kindle hardware.

    Amazon’s strategy is different from Apple’s. Apple developed the iTunes Store as a service to drive the sales of its hardware. Kindle software and hardware was created to drive the sale of books and other downloadable content. Kindle is huge for Amazon because going digital isn’t just convenient to the consumer. It’s great for Amazon because it doesn’t have to keep a stock of books and worry about paying to ship those books and the consumer wins by having that book accessible across multiple devices instantly. All Amazon has to do is ensure its selection of books is higher and its price is lower than the competition.

    Kindle and iPad finally coexisting

    Until today’s announcement, Kindle as a device was scrutinized against the Apple iPad, because while you could read books on both, the iPad was only $150 more than the smaller Kindle and a few bucks more than the larger Kindle DX.

    Amazon aggressively slashed prices on the device in a way that made everyone think they were just being defensive and fearful of iPad but today, that all changed.

    Kindle 3 is priced at $139 (Wi-Fi only) and an International version with 3G is only $189 (3G via GSM). TechCrunch Reports:

    In addition to the price and screen change, the redesigned body is 21% smaller and 15% lighter, down to about 8.5oz. If their press release is to be believed, it's also got twice the storage (4GB) and significantly improved battery life over the old Kindle.

    Kindle is priced so aggressively that true book lovers can buy the new Kindle at a price that’s simply a no brainer considering that Kindle books cost considerably less than real books and you’re saving on shipping and the pesky 3-7 days it takes for a book to arrive at your door. No longer is there a decision to make between buying a Kindle device or simply paying $150 more and having an iPad that does books and so much more.

    Amazon is finally showing the industry that it doesn’t want to make millions selling Kindles. It’s about the sale of digital books.

    Apple and Amazon are both winners

    When you’re just talking hardware, Apple will continue to sell millions of iPads to people who want books, games, movies, apps and the web and the Kindle will continue to sell in the millions for book lovers. This is a huge win for consumers because our decision is made for us and bloggers can stop comparing both devices like they’re the same. I’ll be buying a Kindle for my sister who reads books every day and an Amazon gift card so she can buy a few books to get started. It’s a much easier gift than paying $499 for an iPad that she’ll mostly be using for books, anyway.

    So who are the losers?

    Basically, everyone that’s not Apple or Amazon. For now and the foreseeable future, Amazon has done a phenomenal job getting Kindle on millions of computers, phones and other handheld devices. Its goal of selling books by the truck load is working well as it just announced Kindle books are now outselling physical books after only three years. The losers are Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Sony’s E-Reader, and any other devices that don’t either work with Amazon or have their own book store. B&N has a fighting chance but Amazon’s user base of passionate book buyers will stay true to Amazon and Apple has over 100 million accounts with credit cards who will dive right in to iBooks. Sorry, but it’s clear who the winners are in the digital book sales space.

    What about iBooks?

    Amazon and Apple may not be competing when it comes to Kindle hardware versus iPad but they’re still competing in the book sales space. I’ve been meaning to write this for a while but I won’t buy a book via iBooks outside of the free section. The reason is that Apple hasn’t convinced me that my digital DRMed books are safe with them. In the same way that my iTunes movies and music (prior to iTunes Plus) are not playable on other hardware other than Apple’s. Amazon has displayed the right strategy that any device or platform that comes out in the future will eventually get Kindle software and those digital books I bought in 2007 will sync to that device without fail and Amazon is a large company that I trust. iBooks may win me over eventually but for price, selection and compatibility, Kindle (the service) has me hooked.

    Kindle versus iPad is a dead argument. You’re both winners. No one is arguing the iPad isn’t better hardware for much more than books but that comes at a price and, even on the iPad, Kindle is just one tap away via its own app.

    Related GigaOM Pro Content (subscription required): Evolution of the e-Book Market

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • iOS 4 On iPhone 3G: A Little Performance Relief

    I decided to upgrade one of my iPhone 3G’s to iOS 4 and leave the other one on iPhone SDK 3.1.3 after purchasing two new iPhone 4′s. Realizing that the upgrade did not have much to offer, the fate of the iOS 4 iPhone 3G was to be utilized as more of an iPod touch for my six-year-old daughter.

    I followed some of my own advice and started turning off many features that I felt my daughter wouldn’t use like Notifications, Sounds, Vibrations, Bluetooth, Location Services, 3G Data, Cellular Data, Data Roaming, iPod Controls. I even placed the iPhone in Airplane Mode and turned off Spotlight Search. I did turn restrictions on, if for no other reason than just to disable iTunes, Installing Apps, and especially In-App Purchases. I loaded up the iPhone with no less than 100 Apps (almost all were games), her favorite television episodes, movies, music, and family photos. Wi-Fi was enabled around the house and she’s been using e-mail as well as Skype to communicate to family and friends.

    What I didn’t realize was that I was unknowingly configuring the iPhone 3G for the best possible performance running iOS 4. The battery life has been phenomenal since the update with the feature configuration I used for her, almost on par with our family iPad (which is also a Wi-Fi only device).  Several blogs have reported that simply turning off Spotlight Search (Settings > General > Home Button > Spotlight Search) is all it takes to get back some of the performance lost when upgrading from iPhone SDK 3.1.3 to iOS 4.0. While I haven’t determined if this configuration change alone does the trick, I can say that I have not seen the same severe degradation in performance the others have reported. Keep in mind that I turned off way more than just the Spotlight Search, and have no reason to turn those other services back on in the near future.

    iOS 4 Home Button Settings

    Now that users seem to have accepted the iPhone 4 issues, attention is shifting to the older iPhone 3G and its issues when upgrading to iOS 4. It is unknown if the just-released iOS 4.1 beta 2 will address any of these performance issues, or if it’s just wishful thinking. I for one will be keeping my second iPhone 3G on iPhone SDK 3.1.3 for a little while longer.

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »

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