Monday, August 9, 2010

TheAppleBlog (4 сообщения)
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  • iPad App Faceoff: Netflix vs. Hulu Plus

    There’s a movement underfoot. A movement to break free of cable providers’ high costs and poor service. A movement to time- and device-shift. A movement to watch what we want, where we want, when we want. For me, personally, there’s no way I can rid myself of my cable bill. My wife is the chief TV watcher in the family who also pays the bills, so, well, we’re getting cable. However, were I to be a single guy, I’d not pay for cable; I just can’t justify the money. Plus, I tend to get wind of the cool TV show to watch three years after it debuted, leaving me to play catch-up. Usually, that’s in the form of an expensive DVD set or iTunes purchase. I am also usually just as comfortable watching something in my office, or in bed on the iPad.

    This has made me take a serious look at Hulu Plus and Netflix.

    The CliffsNotes version of this article: if you’re a movie person, get Netflix, If you’re a TV person, get Hulu Plus. The reason: Hulu’s movie selection is completely abysmal, whereas Hulu Plus is good for current-run TV shows.

    Now, lets look at the apps. Our sister site NewTeeVee has a write-up covering the availability of shows here, so I’m not going to subject you to a large table in this post.

    Hulu Plus ($9.99 per month)

    There’s been a lot of bloviating about the short ads you’re forced to watch, even on the paid version of Hulu. They are noticeable, with an announcer’s voice that frequently grated on me. While I can kinda see the point, for me, it’s not a big deal; my cable-only channels subject me to longer, more frequent commercial interruptions. The ads on Hulu Plus aren’t a deal-breaker for me, but they are a point against the service.

    What’s more of a bother to me is how limited the mobile offerings are. Not all Hulu shows are available for viewing on the iPad or iPhone. Stargate SG-1 is available in its entirety on the web; not at all on mobile (according to Netflix, this will be available for streaming August 15, so we’ll see if it’ll be on Hulu Plus then). However, Hulu Plus’s offering are deeper — where the free version might only have three shows of a season, the Hulu Plus version is more likely to have the full season. I did find Hulu was more likely to have older TV shows, as full seasons of Hill Street Blues and the A-Team are available (and let me say, the A-Team does not hold up well after all these years). Hulu’s movie selection is very weak — no mainstream movies to be found.

    The app performs well. You can manage your queue, although, oddly, you can’t add a full season in one press. Because Hulu’s service is entirely streaming, I found the app a little easier to navigate than the Netflix app. However, in a curious technical decision, the Hulu Plus app doesn’t support the VGA output cable. Since I don’t have a 3G iPad, Hulu was the only one I was able to test over a cellular connection, and the results were fair, but from a small sample set: On the train to work, where AT&T coverage is spotty, the video was pixellated; at home with a better signal, it worked fine. One annoying feature in the Hulu Plus app is every time I launched it, it reminded me I was watching a video and did I want to continue watching it?

    Netflix ($8.99 per month)

    Comparing Hulu to Netflix is a lot like comparing iBookstore to Amazon’s Kindle store; like Amazon, Netflix has the benefit of a large library. As with Hulu, there are shows only available on Netflix — I could not find Nip/Tuck, Weeds, and Thirtysomething on Hulu; the complete offerings are only on Netflix. It also bears repeating for people who skipped my intro bit that Netflix is the place for you to go if you’re into movies.

    I found the Netflix app to be a little sluggish. The video playing was usually fine, but I encountered a lot of slowness browsing the libraries. It’s also hard to pull down the Genres list — postings at the bottom were cut off. In addition, it’s impossible to just search by the titles available for streaming. Unlike the Hulu app, Netflix actually uses the VGA cable.

    Final Thoughts

    I was hoping that, at least for TV shows, one service would be a home run. Sadly, that’s not the case. While I found more TV shows on Netflix than Hulu that I enjoyed, I could convince myself to pay for Hulu for a few months to re-watch Hill Street Blues as well as start House and Law and Order. I’d be well ahead of the DVD costs. Hulu also earns points for current shows.

    Given the economics, it’s not a requirement for an either-or service, For less than $20 a month, you can have access to a great library of movies and TV shows. The ads on Hulu Plus are a bummer. You get no commercials and larger selection (including movies, on Netflix) but Hulu Plus also lets you stay current on your shows. If you’re just staying current,  and not digging through a backlist, there’s little reason to sign up for Hulu Plus.

    Looking Ahead: My Wishlist

    Both these apps are fantastic, but operate under the necessity of an Internet connection, which means you’re screwed if you’re on a plane or in a bad cell area without Wi-Fi. What I’d love is for these apps to have the ability to also download movies into their device library for off-line viewing. I’m not sure how the licensing or logistics would work, but I hope that’s in their plans.

    Which app do you prefer, and why?

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: Three Reasons Hulu Plus is No Threat to Netflix

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • One Week With the Magic Trackpad — No Pain

    A week ago, the FedEx guy brought a Magic Trackpad from Apple. The Magic Trackpad takes all the good things about the trackpads on the MacBook Pros and incorporates them into a large, standalone peripheral designed to replace the mouse that many folks (like me) have used for so long. Does the Magic Trackpad succeed in knocking the mouse off the desk? Mostly.

    I’m a big fan of both the lowly computer mouse and the MacBook trackpad. I carried a mouse in my gear bag to use with notebooks for years, until getting the unibody MacBook with its large trackpad. I liked that trackpad so much I stopped carrying a mouse in my bag, although I kept one on my desk in the home office. The MacBook sits on an elevated stand on my desk, which makes using the trackpad not impractical. When Apple announced the Magic Trackpad, I ordered one right away to give it a try.

    I work at my computer at least eight hours a day, and I’m trying to provide an ergonomic setting for that prolonged usage. My Bluetooth keyboard sits on a tray designed for that purpose, and is a good height for proper ergonomics. The mouse I used until the Magic Trackpad arrived sat next to the keyboard. As good a setting as this is for prolonged work, at the end of the day, my right wrist would often feel a little pained, and sometimes a bit numb. My only reason for getting the Magic Trackpad was to see if it would alleviate this discomfort at the end of the day.

    Now that I’ve used the Magic Trackpad for a full week, I can state it achieved my goal. The discomfort in my wrist has disappeared; it did so in just a few days. The angle of the Trackpad and the method of working with it have improved the ergonomics nicely.

    The Magic Trackpad was easy to set up; I unboxed it, hit the power button,and then paired it with the MacBook. It’s designed to sit next to the Apple wireless keyboard. The Trackpad is a full multi-touch device that’s large by trackpad standards — 5.17 x 5.12 inches. There are no mouse buttons; the entire Trackpad clicks when you press it as the sensors are integrated in the feet.

    The Trackpad is configured by default to move the cursor with one finger, with two fingers used for zooming and right-clicking. You have to click the Trackpad to trigger a left-click, but there is an option to allow simply tapping the Trackpad for the click. I tried this for a while, but kept accidentally triggering clicks I didn’t want, so I went back to enforced push clicking.

    One of the most useful settings of the Magic Trackpad isn’t active by default –the three finger dragging. Dragging items on the screen normally requires pushing the Trackpad down while moving the finger. It’s not that hard, but it’s much easier to enable this setting and drag things using three fingers on the pad. Don’t overlook this setting if you think it would be useful.

    The Magic Trackpad has handled all aspects of my work very well. I can use it all day and never miss the old mouse; my wrist is happier with the mouse in the drawer. I find the Trackpad to be worth the rather expensive $69.

    The only area where the Trackpad hasn’t done a good job is one I didn’t expect it to do well. Using it for gaming has been a mixed bag, and downright frustrating at times. I’ve recently started playing Starcraft 2, and when things get hectic in interstellar war, there’s no room for mousing error. I find the Magic Trackpad makes it too hard to jump around and click things very quickly. I’m now in the habit of turning on the Magic Mouse when it’s time to play some games.

    I’m pleased with the Magic Trackpad, but some folks who’ve tried it haven’t felt the same. Our buddies at TheAppleBlog, normally happy Apple fans, did not see the magic in the Magic Trackpad. I would recommend if you are curious about how your reaction might be, visit an Apple Store and play with one if possible. After all, there’s magic, and there is Magic. For the high price of the Magic Trackpad, you want to get the capital “M”.

    Related content on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d): Can Anyone Compete With the iPad?

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Quick Tip: Obscure Your Address Book Data

    With recent security flaws found in both the iPhone and Android platforms, and the numerous iPhone apps which can scan your address book, your private and confidential contact information is at risk. With both the iPhone and Mac address book syncing to Google or MobileMe, your address book data can be hacked without access to your actual phone. It’s time to think twice about what you store in your address book.

    This is especially important if you, like many people, store information like credit card numbers and passwords in the address book. Ideally this private information is stored in a separate app on your iPhone such as one of these Weldon reviewed. However, not everyone is going to do that, and I have a possible compromise for those who want to store sensitive information in their address book.

    The basic technique is to hide the sensitive data in plain sight, as part of what looks like just another ordinary contact. While it sure makes life easier to store your American Express card number under "American Express," it also makes it easier for a criminal. If you absolutely need to store a credit card number, don't be so obvious about it!

    For credit cards, I suggest filing under a false name that only you know such as "Dave AX Smith." Then use your own scheme of hiding the number as a combination of the street address and phone number, possibly across multiple contacts. I'm not going to tell you my exact strategy for storing this information, but it's something I know and use for multiple credit cards. In this example, it’s an American express card with a number of 123456789012345 with an expiration of 09/12.

    Here's the way the card looks. It would be very unlikely someone browsing the address book could figure out it is a credit card.

    A variation of this scheme can be used for passwords to websites or other sensitive information. If you think your address book is private, it's time to get over that fallacy and take steps to protect the data within. While you may not choose my exact method, please be aware of the risks your address book is subject to and come up with some way of obscuring the data. If you don't want to use a separate app for storing sensitive information, that's fine, but I’d suggest you consider this middle ground.

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Relax, iOS Isn't Going to Replace OS X

    A prediction has been going around the blogosphere for a few months saying that Apple will eventually replace OS X with iOS, and a lot of people seem to agree. I don’t. That prediction has never sounded to me like something Apple would do, but it’s more than instinct: Steve Jobs has said himself that it’s false.

    Back in June, Dan Lyons wrote an article for Newsweek that claimed that OS X was dead and that Apple was ignoring it in favor of iOS. Later, Dennis Sellers of Macsimum News emailed Steve Jobs himself about the article, and his response, in his characteristically concise form, was: “Completely wrong. Just wait.”

    Another email sent to Jobs a month before WWDC 2010 from Matthias Gansrigler asked him about the lack of Apple design awards for Mac applications at the event. Jobs response was: “We are focusing primarily (though not exclusively) on iPhone OS this year. Maybe next year we will focus primarily on the Mac. Just the normal cycle of things. No hidden meaning here.”

    Of course, you can argue that those emails were faked. I’m sure people have faked emails from Jobs before. However, the cycle described in the second email certainly fits with how Apple does things, as related by Sachin Agarwal, who used to work for Apple on Final Cut Pro. He states that Apple has engineers who work in small teams, and may not be working on the same thing all the time:

    Apple doesn’t build large teams to work on every product they make. Instead, they hire very few, but very intelligent people who can work on different projects and move around as needed. One day you might be working on the Remote app, and the next day you might get pulled on to another project that needs your help. The engineers on the Mac OS and iOS teams move back and forth between the two projects based on release cycles and what needs to ship next.

    If that weren’t enough to convince you, Apple posted a job listing for someone to develop a “new and revolutionary” feature for OS X. Doesn’t sound like something Apple would do for a dead OS, does it? (Though I’m sure someone will argue that this new feature is iOS on a Mac, which I doubt, based on the emails mentioned above.)

    From this evidence it looks like people are making a big deal out of nothing. But what do you think? Would you want to see iOS on a Mac?

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: Mobile OSes Are No Longer Just About Mobile

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »

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