Tag Archives: apple

The Mac Age

I warned you.

And now, it has happened.

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Look for a slew of posts as a guy who started on a Mac in the 80s and moved to Windows in the 90s re-enters the Mac Age.

I’m In Love with My Air

Queue the Queen song (Spotify link) and change a couple of letters.

So here’s how it went down.  First, Delaney made all A’s for the entire school year, thereby earning herself a MacBook Air.  She loved it from the first minute.

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Then Raina killed her 30th or so computer via some combination of misuse, her weird electrical charges and bad luck.  I talked her into getting a MacBook Air.  My thought was that it would be harder to kill than her 31st Windows desktop.  She loved it from the first minute.  It’s still alive after a couple of weeks, so it’s already outlived several of its predecessors.

Then I realized that I couldn’t really travel for more than a day or two without a laptop.  I love my iPad, but I have to have the ability to edit Word documents and whatnot.  I looked at my old, massive, HP laptop.  And said “hell no.”  No way I’m lugging that thing around.

So I bought my own MacBook Air.  And I loved it from the first minute.  The trackpad takes some getting used to at first, but after a day or two, you realize how well it is made and how logically it works.  I like it heaps.

In fact, after finally figuring out how to get video files from my camcorder into iMovie (the secret is to plug the entire camera into the computer, and not just try to import the stripped out video files; which is an annoyance, but by no means a deal stopper), I started thinking about going all-in.  I probably will, when my aging HP desktop bites the dust.  I see an iMac in my future- maybe.

I do miss Live Writer, though.  Not enough to install Parallels, but a lot.  It’s too bad there isn’t a Mac equivalent, but there isn’t.  And yes, I’ve looked at the available options.

So, I am now fully Apple where mobile technology is concerned.  MacBook Air, iPad and iPhone.  All that’s standing between me and complete Apple capitulation is a shiny new iMac.  Somehow I think resistance is futile.

Earl is going to tell me he told me so.  And he did.

In the Game of Clouds, You Win or You Die

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That collective sigh of relief you heard today came from Amazon and Google, happy that they will live to fight another day in the war for the cloud.

When Steve Jobs, the formidable Warden of the West, took the stage at WWDC today, much of the world expected him to land a killing blow to the aspirations of Amazon Cloud Drive and Google Music.  It didn’t happen.  While interesting, the much anticipated iCloud is not going to march through cyberspace like a host of digital Lannisters and ascend to the aluminum throne.

Not by a long shot.  In fact, Instapaper and Dropbox probably suffered more casualties today than any of the others who aspire to rule the cloud.

First of all, iCloud is not a streaming music service, in the way we have come to expect.  It’s more like a semi-automated Dropbox that syncs your music between up to 10 devices.  That’s great, but it is not a game changer.

Second, it doesn’t, at least as far as I can tell, create a remote backup of your music files in the cloud.  That would be pretty hard to do with only 5 GB of space.  Maybe you get to almost the same place if you can bulk download your songs, but even that would be Ned Stark to the neither rational nor reliable music industry, and the term and terms of its license agreements with Apple.  Stated another way, if I have to choose between the mild hassle of a one time upload of my music library (and the resulting certainty that I have accessible files that I own)  and $25 a year for the rest of my life (with only the right to access the songs based on the terms of the iTunes Match agreements), I’ll probably gut it up and upload, so I can keep the money, and the files.

At first blush, I think the music labels may have been clever like a fox in agreeing to this deal.  It must be refreshing for them to focus on something other than trying to find the digital cat to stuff back into the obsolete bag.  In that regard, I’d be shocked if part of the discussions that led up to Apple’s license with- and payment of big bucks to- the music labels wasn’t some express or implied assurances that the music label cartel will march against the digital lockers of Amazon and Google.

Third, how many people want all of their music converted to AAC format?  I have MP3s and don’t know that I want to move to another format just to avoid some uploading time.  A better bitrate is nice, but not enough for me to completely change formats.  Accordingly, anyone wanting to preserve their non-iTunes music in its current state would have to manage and backup two separate sets of music.  Their existing MP3s and the converted AAC files.  That is not the sort of cloud convergence I was hoping for.

Fourth, iTunes.  Frickin’ iTunes.  Even with all the automation promised by iCloud.  Even with the ability to sync wirelessly.  We still have to live with that blight and bloat called iTunes.  If Apple wants to change the world, it should start with iTunes.  Never before has a program so badly needed a do-over.  It needs to be completely rewritten.  It does not need to be the vanguard of Apple’s host- in the cloud or on the digital battlefield.

And finally, time.  Amazon Cloud Player (to all) and Google Music (to some) are available right now.  Presumably, Spotify is going to finally and officially launch in the United States at some point.  Meanwhile, iCloud is coming “in the fall.”  The fall, in online time, means a long time from now.  You can be assured that Amazon and Google know that winter is coming, and are hard at work trying to expand their lead.  It will be very interesting to see how much those services improve between now and the arrival of iCloud.

At the end of the day, consumers are caught between three armies, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Amazon has integration with Amazon’s MP3 store.  That alone will carry it a long way on the path to fealty.  But Amazon’s web player is a little kludgy (though less so than iTunes).  On the downside, there is little chance that an Amazon Cloud Player app will find its way onto the App Store.

Google has the most elegant interface.  It is the one I use the most, with Spotify looming as a contender, if it every officially launches in the United States (I still think Spotify is pretty cool, but I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to officially use it).  But there is no embedded music store, and the process of getting your music into Google’s cloud is not as simple as I’d like.

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Apple has iOS and the hardware that runs it, and, more importantly,  the keys to the App Store, which is almost dragon-like on the battlefield.  I have an iPhone and an iPad, and whatever apps I use are going to have to work on those devices.  And, of course, Apple has the Warden of the West, who can sell ice to Eskimos purely on personality.  But, again, the feature set of iCloud is pretty underwhelming.  And the entire infrastructure is tainted by the mere existence of iTunes.

Generally speaking, competition is good for consumers.  That’s probably the case here.  However, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that there will not be, at least any time soon, a one stop cloud for all of my digital content.  I was expecting to be blown away today.  Instead, it looks like cloud music will require a combination of services, and maybe some work-arounds.  Much the way Google Voice requires some work-arounds to dial out.  It works, but not as well as you want it to.

So here we sit, Ned Stark like, in the dark, waiting for someone to free us from our digital dungeons.  Wondering what’s going on out on the battlefield and worrying that whatever happens probably won’t be what we planned.

Here’s hoping Amazon and Google unite their banners and lay siege to the scourge that is iTunes.  It probably won’t happen, but it would make things interesting if it did.

Why Chrome OS Will Change the Way You Compute

Sadly, I haven’t received my Cr48 yet, even though (are you listening Google?  Email me and make me happy) I am a devout lover of Chrome and have moved most of my computing life into the cloud.   But there is no doubt that Chrome is about to change the personal computing landscape.

Paul Thurrott explains why it is a huge threat to Microsoft in the latest installment of his excellent Google Chrome Vs. the World series.  If there were a Pulitzer for blog writing, this series should win it.   Probably the best tech read of the year, in part because a guy who likes Microsoft is trying to save Microsoft from itself.

Yes, Chrome is going to hurt Microsoft, and yes it will further extend Google’s empire.  And it will be very good for consumers.  Shoot, if I ever get a Cr48, it will immediately become my primary mobile computing device.

But I think Chrome will also help Apple, by being the final element in a lot of peoples’ decision to leave Windows forever, if not for Chrome, then for OS X with Chrome, in browser form or otherwise, installed.  Sound crazy?  Then consider this.

Just about everyone has capitulated to the iPhone.  Yes, some geeks like Android, and there is no denying that it is a good option.  But it just doesn’t have the penetration into the non-nerd set that the iPhone does.  I know one person in the real world (e.g., people I regularly see face to face) who has an Android phone.  I know one person in the real world who doesn’t have an iPhone.  It’s the same guy.  NOTE: Yes, I am excluding the sad masses who are chained to Blackberries because their companies have not realized that Blackberries are on the Palm road to obscurity.

Apple is soundly winning the handset war, at least for now.  The new battle is for the everyday computing device.  You know, what netbooks (ugh!) were supposed to be, but were not.  Make no mistake, this battle will be fought in the browser.

And as I have told anyone who will listen, Chrome is by far the best browser.  It’s not even close.

There are only four things I have to do regularly that I can’t do right now in a browser.

1. Edit photos with Photoshop.  I can’t do that (yet) in Chrome, but I can on a Mac.  Imagine if you will a MacBook, with the Chrome browser (if not somehow the OS in a Parallels-like configuration) installed.  I could do just about everything in Chrome, and drop into OS X when I need to work with Photoshop.  Nice.

2. Edit videos in a sane, easy Format.  I am on record as to my dislike of the Mac video import and editing process.  I certainly can’t (yet) edit videos the way I want to in a browser.  For people like me who do a lot of video, this is a big issue.  For most people not so much.  Plus, at some point someone will come up with a workable cloud-based video editing solution.  All of this doesn’t scream for a MacBook+Chrome device, but neither is it a strong enough chain to bind many folks to Windows.  Yes, I know that many people believe Macs are infinitely better for video.  I disagree, but all of those who feel that way are certainly not likely to choose a Windows-based computer over a Mac.

3. Manage iTunes.  I’m also on record about the train-wreck, Apple-hampering mess that is iTunes.  I hate it, but I have to use it for my iPhone and iPad.  Once again, a MacBook+Chrome device would let me drop into OS X when needed.  Certainly no reason to stay with Windows.

4. Write Blog Posts with Live Writer.  How bizarre is it that Live Writer is the biggest thing tying me to Windows?  I can’t overstate my love for Live Writer.  But like Romeo and Juliet, it is a love that won’t last.  There are too many forces aligned against a desktop based editing app and pointing to the cloud.  The standard WordPress editor is not horrible (unlike the iPad app, which is).  At some point I will have to say farewell to Live Writer.  Unless, oh please, it finds a home in the cloud.  Then I could use it in a browser.

Taking all of this into account, it seems to me that there are three paths to travel.

A. Chrome OS on a Cr48 or its successors.  I sure would like to try this, Google. . . .

B. A MacBook+Chrome device.  But for the video thing, I’d probably be there now.  At a minimum, I expect Chrome in some form to become my primary day to day computing platform.

C. The status quo, via Windows. I’m not going to sell my Windows-based computers, but I am beginning to wonder if I’ll replace them when they grow old or die.  Even now, the large majority of my computing is being done via the Chrome browser.

All paths involve Chrome in one form or another.  One path definitely benefits Apple.  Unless something unexpected happens, Windows may end up on the path less traveled.

As a less desirable metaphor.

Did the Fighting Dinosaurs Just Get Gobbled Up Like an Apple?

You just have to feel bad for Google.  Poor little thing.

It’s running around, buying everything in sight, trying to cobble together something that can avoid being immediately killed by Facebook, and here comes Apple, announcing Ping, a social network built around iTunes (and its massive day-one user base).

It reminds me of those Saturday afternoon movies, where one brave but doomed dinosaur is bravely trying to fight a bigger dinosaur, only to have some bigger, larger, scarier creature stomp up out of nowhere and devour them both.

I don’t know that Ping can unseat Facebook as the sharing, dating, time wasting, etc. hub for the masses, but I know that it has a better chance of competing with Facebook than anything I have read or reasonably imagined about the forthcoming (for months) Google.Me.

For a company that makes its money via advertising, Google seems unable to properly market itself.  Everyone from Amazon to Roku saw this coming and at least tried to make a pre-emptive grab for relevance.  Meanwhile Google just keeps buying arms and legs, leaving us to wonder what manner of creature it is assembling.

I’d like to be wrong.  I’d like to see Google get it right and release something powerful, and elegant.  Not tossed together and crammed into Gmail.  I’m trying to keep my hopes up, but that rumbling sound in the distance scares me.

Poor Google.  It just can’t buy a break.

Did Apple Just Take Control of My Home Theater?

Everybody knows that I’m a big fan of the up until this moment woefully ignored Apple TV.   Everybody also knows that I am itching for an opportunity to ditch DirecTV, cable and all the other old media and over-priced methods of obtaining my television programming.

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It looks like Apple may have just given  me that opportunity.  Maybe.

I really like the (tiny) look and details of the new Apple TV, announced by Steve Jobs himself at today’s Apple Fall Event.  I’m totally cool with the rent-only, no local storage thing.  I’m very cool with the 99 cent HD TV show rentals.  I love the way Netflix has been incorporated (as an aside, Netflix seems like the big winner here, and Redbox the big loser).

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Some details  I need to see include:

1. The other networks need to join ABC and Fox in capitulating to the inevitable dominance of Apple in the TV content provider space.

2. The cost of movie rentals  needs to come down a little.  $4.99 for a 48 hour rental doesn’t seem like much of an improvement.  I’ll pay a little extra for first day access, but I’m thinking $3.00 would be the sweet spot.  Maybe Apple will charge less for movies that have been on DVD for a while.

3. I need to know that I can get cable TV shows on the same basis.  I’m not asking for True Blood for 99 cents, but I should get regular cable programming at the same price.

4. I need shows to be available sooner.  The same day would be awesome.  Days later is not awesome.

My initial reaction is that for the massive amount of money I currently pay DirecTV, I could probably rent all of the shows I really care about.

I just need an acceptable combination of content, speed and price.  It’s too early to tell if we’re there yet.

But we’re definitely closer.

Update: Roberto Bonini asks some good questions about the new device.

Is iTunes an Unreliable Alternative TV Show Provider?

It looks like my plan to dump satellite and cable TV and give Apple all of my money has hit a snag. For that to happen,  iTunes would have to be very reliable in getting TV shows up and into the iTunes Store.

Based on my experience so far, that ain’t the case.  I bought a season pass to Big Brother 12.   The double elimination episode (Episode #22) aired on Thursday night.  It’s Sunday afternoon, and it’s nowhere to be found on iTunes.

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There’s another episode on tonight.

I’m not the only person who’s noticed this.

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My thoughts exactly.