Labor Day: 30 Years of Not-Quite-Wisdom

Posted by:
Date: Monday, September 3rd, 2007, 09:03
Category: Opinion

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Welcome to Labor Day, 2007, here on the PowerPage.
The puppy in the picture has nothing to do with the iPhone.
With the rest of the country going through a national holiday, we’ve decided to do the same and queue up stories for tomorrow. Or at least use the opportunity to form a crude shanty town around our local Apple Store locations in anticipation of whatever they release by way of the new iPods at the special event slated to occur this week.
My 30th birthday was four days ago and, looking back at things, this was definitely one of the best ones I’ve ever had. Granted, I think I fit somewhere in the genus “Geezer” at the moment, but I’m calling it awesome on the whole. Between friends, family, assorted geekery and a cake that can become breakfast for a week (when you’re over 18, this is allowed) and a Clocky robotic alarm clock that flees from you via its wheels when you go to hit the snooze bar a second time, I’m calling myself ahead for the moment.
Here’s what I’ve learned in 30 years (there’ll be news galore tomorrow):
-The PowerBook 5300 series was a cruel, cruel joke and any remaining units should be hurled into the sea or the molten core of Mount Doom at the first available opportunity.
-When smoke rises from a SyQuest EZ135 drive you’ve hooked into a laptop running Windows 95, you’ve done something wrong.
-The eMac is a boat anchor. Anyone who tries to convince you is lying or already has too many anchors for their boat.
-Friends with OCD make for a strange mix. For this, I’m citing a friend who, in the dead of night, decided to get up and spend two hours reorganizing my living room. Upon waking up and wandering into the room, I found he’d moved my furniture, hooked up an unused speaker system to my tv and sorted my DVDs by title, genre and quality. He’s a good friend, but will one day reorganize and glue my office’s rolling chair to the ceiling to improve the room’s feng shui.
-Richard Dreyfuss probably fulfilled his role in the universe when he volunteered to be shark bait in the first “Jaws” movie.
-If you date a girl who’s willing to spend part of a weekend you to solder points on a circuit board, you’ve earned geek points.
-Jonathan Ive remains the best thing to happen to Apple’s design division. And if Apple needs to give him his own island-nation to keep him on staff, they should do so.
-There’s a good reason to have kids: their toys are going to be even more awesome than anything you grew up with. Never forget this.
-Perhaps the best thing ever:




-The top five arcade games of the 80′s, in no meaningful order: 1.) Dragon’s Lair. 2.) Spy Hunter 3.) Paperboy. 4.) Robocop. 5.) Gauntlet.
-The Mighty Boosh and Elephant Larry remain some of the best comedy to come around in a long time.
-The iPhone seems to be running on the “Six Million Dollar Man” and “Bionic Woman” development cycle. Give it time, training and enough interest from the development community and they will make it the coolest thing ever. On the day the iPhone becomes truly mighty, it will get its own Steve Austin-esque track suit.

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Why Lock DVD Players to a Single Region?

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Date: Monday, August 27th, 2007, 09:12
Category: Opinion

My MacTracker shows that I have owned 11 different models starting with the 128k original in 1984. Four are in the house with me right now (PB G3, PB G4, iMac G5 and MBP Core 2 Duo). I have dealt with the upgrades to System 7, 8, 9 and OS X as well as the jumps to PPC and Intel.
Through all of this I have been generally happy to be a Mac owner and user. For the past several years I have worked in IT Support in a Windows-only environment, which has given me a bit of healthy perspective about the pros and cons of each system, but my own investments have been in Mac hardware and software.
With that in mind I am truly amazed at how short-sighted it is of Apple to knowingly specify built-in DVD hardware that penalizes law-abiding citizens for the illegal activities of others. I’m referring to the built-in encrypted firmware that locks in the choice of DVD regions to a single region after a few switches. In my older machines I have circumvented this by using third-party software to reset the counter, but this option is not available on the latest hardware from Apple, and should not be necessary at all.
I am from the United States and return often for both business and pleasure, but I’ve lived in Europe for most of the past decade. My family and I have a variety of legally purchased commercial DVD’s from both sides of the Atlantic. I have yet to see any evidence that US or European law requires that DVD players be locked in to a certain region, and region-free players are legally available in all countries.
Steve Jobs has done more than any other single person to make legal, DRM-free music downloads available worldwide. If he is looking for yet another way to win friends, influence people and sell more hardware he can start by:
Read the rest by clicking on the headline…

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Opinion: Stick it to the Man or We Get No Respect

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Date: Thursday, June 21st, 2007, 08:39
Category: Opinion

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Apple’s iPhone is scheduled for release only a handful of days from now, reader Kenn Marks voices his opinion on Apple, AT&T, unknown required contract details and the other mystery areas of iPhone ownership he’d like to see covered before he picks up Apple’s next generation cell phone:
Stick it to the Man or We Get No Respect
By Kenn Marks
With the iPhone just around the corner, as a loyal Mac enthusiast I’m beginning to feel like Rodney Dangerfield that “I get no respect” from the company I support, sometimes on the bleeding edge, like my desire to be one of the first iPhone owners. I’m also feeling some of my sixties roots in wanting to “stick it to the man” with Apple introducing the iPhone six months ago at Macworld SF and letting us know it’s going to cost us US$499 or US$599 plus the big AT&T unknown. Here we are, less than two weeks away from the big day and NO ONE can tell us what our monthly commitment to AT&T is going to be, or if there is a multi-year contract involved.
It’s like buying that new car with all the features we want at a great price then finding out once we drive it off the lot that it only gets ONE mile per gallon fuel economy (aka, consumption). I know I can trust Apple for product and service reliability, but what about the New AT&T, the old Cingular and the Old AT&T. What are they trying to hide with all the name shuffling?
I think it’s pretty arrogant of Apple and AT&T to introduce a new piece of hardware one day BEFORE the end of month and quarter and be betting the farm and their next bonuses on a great couple of sales days, while you and I might have to fork out US$74.99/month for an unlimited internet two-year contract (if a contract is required – “2 yr contract required” removed from advertising on June 7th). If that’s the price point, then it’s an additional US$1,800 commitment after purchasing the phone.
I feel that if we let Apple walk all over us this time when we have the opportunity to make our vote heard, we’ll all lose. We can take all the online polls we want and have no guarantee that Apple even looks at the results. In the construction industry, where there are such things as holdbacks to ensure that there are no problems down the road with your newly constructed project, we as potential customers, who hold the cash/credit card, can influence future company decisions on how they treat us.
Not buying gas on a certain day doesn’t even make a ripple for the oil company pond you are boycotting, but holding off your iPhone purchase until Monday July 2 could really make the bean counters scream. All that revenue they were planning for end of quarter just vaporized into Apple’s fourth quarter. Yes, it will affect the value of my Apple holdings, but I feel treating customers fairly outweighs making a bunch of shareholders rich. We can do nothing about what the CEO of our employer makes unless we work in a union shop. Our supervisor will call us a troublemaker and tell us to seek employment elsewhere and that we’ll be easy to replace. Unless Apple & AT&T publishes the rate plans necessary to purchase an iPhone by Monday June 25th I strongly suggest waiting two more days (you already waited six months) and buy the worlds greatest phone on Monday July 2nd.
An owner and loyal purchaser since my first IIe Plus.

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Opinion: Where to Get an iPhone at a…Discount?!!!

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Date: Thursday, June 14th, 2007, 09:38
Category: Opinion

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Where to Get an iPhone at… a discount?!!
By Steve Abrahamson
This morning, in his blog Converging worlds of IP Telephony, VoIP, Broadband,
Russell Shaw quoted Simon Croom, Ph.D., executive director of the Supply Chain Management Institute
at the University of San Diego, as saying this about the iPhone launch:
“Depending on reliability of the product, there may also be a rapid ramp
up in returns and warranty claims.”
That’s an excellent point. We all know that the v1 of any product is
likely to be just a little buggier than those that follow, so his
assertion is not really shocking. But wait a moment… what does Apple
do with those products it takes back on warranty replacement? Why, they
wind up on the Apple Outlet in the online Apple store, don’t they? For a
discount, no less.
Of course, this situation is a little stickier due to the AT&T interplay
and contract requirements and such, but it will be interesting to see if
ever-so-slightly discounted refurbished iPhones start to show up in the
Apple store. I’ve personally purchased refurbished merchandise from
there before, and it’s all perfectly good – maybe even better, being as
they are, as Garp so aptly put it, disaster-proofed.
Yet another interesting speculation surrounding the iPhone to sit and
idly watch play out.

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Opinion: Safari: Apple’s New Platform?

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Date: Wednesday, June 13th, 2007, 08:31
Category: Opinion

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Reader Tristan Louis has submitted a link to a thoughtful blog post regarding Apple, Safari, development for the iPhone, iTunes, Software Update and infiltration into the Windows platform via its new services and devices. He raises some good points and the entry is worth the read:
Yesterday’s announcement of Apple launching its Safari web browser for the Windows platform was a bit puzzling and I wasn’t sure of what to make of it at first. So I decided to read more about it and then install it.
Of course, day one is always amusing. First, it’s clear that the security claims are not fully justified. And moving from the confines of the OS X world, which is generally like a meticulously cleaned up suburban neighborhood into the wilds known as the world of Windows was bound to test some of Apple’s mettle when it comes to security. But that’s really besides the point: the software is not a full released
version and one can hope that it will be improved upon further down the line (then again, hope springs eternal.)
But all this is really besides the point. In order to see what is happening, one must start thinking about why would Apple think about a new browser today.
For the full blog entry, click here.
If you have an opinion on this, let us know.

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Opinion: Tail Wags the Dog

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Date: Tuesday, June 12th, 2007, 13:55
Category: Opinion

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At the WWDC keynote today, Steve showed off the new look of the Finder. I have seen the future, and that future is… iTunes.
That’s right: the Finder is becoming iTunes. Well, no, not literally the app, but it’s going to look and work just like it. The side bar is now a blue field just like on the left of iTunes, and in it, instead of big icons, is text and small icons just like, well, iTunes uses. The top is a Unified header with icon/list/column/coverflow buttons and a search bar; there’s a big content area in the center with 6″ icons on a black field with partial reflections below them. It’s iTunes for the Finder.
Seems to me like the tail wagging the dog. The OS is inheriting a look and feel from an app; isn’t that supposed to go the other way around? I’m not entirely convinced this is a bad design choice, but I’m far from convinced that it’s a good one. Personally, I still hide the frames on Finder windows to get rid of the clutter, and so long as I can do that and have windows without the left bar and with a title bar (but no header), I’ll be happy. But still, I’m left with an uneasy feeling as a designer that this isn’t the way you go about design progressions. I mean, I like iTunes as much as the next guy, but it’s not that good. It doesn’t feel good enough to me to extend over an entire OS. But it looks like it will.
Now, later in the keynote, Steve also announced Safari for Windows, leveraging the 500 million copies of iTunes for Windows that there are out there, and several things hit me. First, Safari 3 is not redesigned like iTunes, and if they’re doing this, Safari should look as much like iTunes as it can, but it still looks a little more like Safari 2.0 than iTunes. It does have a Unified header and the side frames are gone (both welcome changes), but I think they can go a little further.
But the second thing that hit me was this: if there are 500 million copies of iTunes for Windows out there (and if you’ve not seen it running on a Windows box, it’s totally Aqua), that means there are at least 500 million Windows users at least somewhat familiar with the iTunes UI… maybe substantially more, if people share a computer at home, say. And now Steve wants to go further and release Safari – also free – for Windows. Pretty soon those Windows users will be pretty accustomed to the iTunes UI, and Safari… and then, they’ll encounter a
Mac, which looks and works just like iTunes, and, as Steve is so fond of saying, boom.
So it’s not just the iTunes UI tail wagging the OS X UI dog, it’s the iPod division wagging the entire Macintosh division. They’re leveraging the wild popularity of the iPod to get iTunes in front of people to get them used to a good user experience and the iTunes UI, and then somehow get them in front of a Mac running Leopard, and the barrier to switch will be almost invisible. It’s brilliant.
Well, just so long as I can still hide it on mine.
Steve Abrahamson

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Opinion: Kudos to the New Apple Web Site

Posted by:
Date: Monday, June 11th, 2007, 16:59
Category: Opinion

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During Steve’s keynote for WWDC this morning, the Apple.com store went
offline with their now-familiar “We’ll be back soon” stickie. In the
past, this has been a guarantee of new toys – er, sorry – hardware from
Apple, as they take the store offline to revise the available lineup.
But Steve introduced no new hardware today. But when the store came back
online, the entire web site was redesigned; the header, which has used
the horizontal grey-on-white striping and large tabs that we had in OS X
10.0, has finally been replaced with a clean, stoic header brushed metal
header, and the Apple logo is chrome like might be found on an XServe.


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It’s about time.
While Apple has been criticized for having several UI schemes running
through the OS for a while now, it’s nice to see that they’ve finally
retired the last bastion of the original – and by today’s standards,
clunky – OS X theme and replaced it with something entirely modern.
Kudos, Apple. Nicely done.
Steve Abrahamson

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Little Green Apple

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 11th, 2007, 08:21
Category: Opinion

Greenpeace has been putting pressure on Apple to go green for years and it appears to have finally born fruit. In a recent letter, Steve Jobs said that he was surprised to find out how much Apple was doing and that he was delighted to learn how far along Apple is in dealing with these issues. He is a very hands on guy, but this makes it seem as if he has been out of the loop. Think of him as a product guy, not a process guy.
So, LED backlights are coming to our displays. LED backlights are a great product and green, but in a relatively small way. The big fluorescent tubes in our workplace are the real issue because some contain mercury. While the tiny CCFL tubes in current LCD backlights may contain mercury, the amounts are minute, but good riddance to any toxic waste. To my surprise, LED efficiency has improved to the point that they are about 12% more efficient than CCFL tubes when used as a backlight.¬†This was not the case a few years ago. Why do I think they are better? Efficiency translates to longer battery life or smaller batteries. LEDs are trivial to dim compared to CCFLs. CCFL’s change color when they dim unlike LEDs. And, I am sure you have noticed that your LCD screen’s brightness falls off with age. LEDs promise longer life with little fall off in brightness. They are worth the money because they make your screen a better screen and more to the point, they make it better longer. Apple computers are reputed to stay in use longer than PCs, keeping them out of the waste stream and at work that much longer.
I think Apple did a significant amount of good when it helped lead the industry away from CRT monitors. Filled with toxic materials, they take a lot of energy to make, to run, as well as ship and introduced a significant volume of toxins and non recyclable material into the waste stream. They even emitted radiation at the user as an added bonus.
There is a lot of hype surrounding sustainability. The question here is whether Apple will follow through in a systematic way to reshape the way it does business. This is more process than product. There is a dark side to outsourcing in countries where there are little or no protections for the environment or even basic human rights for that matter. People will pay for better and greener technology like LED backlighting, but it is tough to tell your suppliers to do the right thing and then pass the costs on to the customer. It is clear that this has generated a lot of positive press and even a reactive Apple stands to win big with such an initiative. Steve may have shown little interest until now, but this is a hot button issue for Apple customers and he gets it. It appears that the Apple, Inc. settlement with the Beatles included the green logo from Apple Records.

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PC World: 10 Things We Hate About Apple

Posted by:
Date: Monday, May 7th, 2007, 10:10
Category: Opinion

Hear, hear on #1 guys. Love ya :)

The company formerly known as Apple Computer and now called simply Apple, Inc. is unique in many ways–including in its ability to drive even folks who admire it positively batty. It makes great products (usually), yet its secretiveness about them borders on paranoia, and its adoring fans can be incredibly irritating.

Of course, its fans have to put up with some irritations, too: Simply being a member of the club still means you must endure unending jabs from the other side of the socio-political-techno aisle. But do they have to wear their suffering as a badge of honor?

PC World – 10 Things We Hate About Apple

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Played

Posted by:
Date: Friday, April 6th, 2007, 12:53
Category: Opinion

Steve Jobs is no friend to the music industry. He is just an astute businessman who knows a vacuum when it enters his reality distortion field. When he penned his open letter decrying DRM protection, few knew that this was part of an orchestrated move that might force the music industry to do something that is ultimately in its own best interest — sort of. When the man is right, he is dead on. CD’s are the primary source of pirated music. Rip one unprotected song from a CD and there you have it. It can be shared with friends or the entire planet, with nothing for the publisher or the artist. Compression and broadband conspired to make the iPod king of mobile music. Movies are somewhat different. DVDs have some protection built in and the file size is much bigger. Unlike an album full of music, you really want all of the scenes from beginning to end, unless it is just a great car chase scene in an otherwise dull movie. And that tiny screen.
We may be entering an era where the bulk of the value offered by music is provided by the artist and the cost of production and distribution is of little value. Look at the travel business. The Internet has stripped out much of the value added by agents. No longer do you have to sit in an upholstered chair while watching the travel agent peck at the keys and read the options off a CRT. The Internet is transforming the world of sales agents and distributors – real estate, cars, music.
If this move works, it is a huge win for Apple and for the consumer. No DRM limitations. Higher music quality. Near total interoperability. All for twenty nine cents more. What of the iPod? Losing the integrated vertical monopoly with iTunes and Fair Play could kill it you say. Ridiculous. The vast majority of music on iPods is ripped from CDs. Legitimate fair use as well as pirated. Death blow to Zune or boon? Death blow — what a lousy product. What of WMA and RMA? Footnotes. AAC is open source and better than MP3 without the onerous lawsuit that hangs over MP3. Long live iTunes and Quicktime. These technologies are at the core of future Apple success.
Already, the spotlight is turning from the perceived Apple monopoly in the distribution of digital music towards the record companies and their role in the variable pricing of songs for iTunes in Europe. Perhaps Apple could take over the music business by leasing iMacs preloaded with Garage Band to every potential new artist and just post the tracks on iTunes for a fee. Price songs by popularity. Ten cents each until they get popular. Then charge Fifty. Who needs a music industry when you can just put a do it yourself version of American Idol directly onto the iTunes Music Store.

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