Tag Archives: apple

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.

Why Jesus Was Wrong About Apple Television

Jesus Diaz, that is.

I don’t know if Apple plans to manufacture a television or not, but it should.  If I had to guess, I’d say it will and that the current Apple TV is giving up its name for its forthcoming big brother.

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Why should Apple make a television?  I’ll give you 6 reasons:

1.  The trend is towards content on demand, and away from traditional content providers.  Netflix, Hulu, etc. are prime evidence of this.  In fact, I’d dump DirecTV and its never-ending “Searching for signal in Satellite In 2” message in a heartbeat if I could access most of the shows I care about online.  Apple is very good at identifying and accelerating trends.  I think on-demand TV via the internet is the next big thing, and I think Apple may be the one to ultimately drive the masses that way

2.  Everyone hates their current content provider.  I have fought with DirecTV for months trying to get a permanent fix to my signal problem.  DirecTV sent yet another repair tech out a week ago Thursday.  A week ago Saturday, the message returned.  I’m paying for service I’m not getting, for months on end.  Cable is no better (though in the absence of a third option, I may soon be a cable customer again).  There is a very dissatisfied population of satellite/cable customers waiting for a way to stick it to their current provider.  Apple may show them the way.

3.  Everyone loves Apple.  Apple has incredible brand loyalty, which is why people (like, say, me) stand in line for hours to buy the newest iPhone.  Part of love is trust, which means that consumers will trust a product delivered by Apple more than one made by another brand.  Recent antenna problems notwithstanding, Apple has a pretty good track record of delivering quality products.

4.  Who cares if you can buy televisions for less than $2,000?  You can buy every single product Apple makes for way less.  Apple is living at the high end of the market, where $2,000 for a television is not the hurdle it would be at the middle and lower end.

5.  It’s not really $2,000 anyway, when you consider all the gear it would replace.  You’d no longer need a separate DVD player, home theater receiver (assuming the Apple sets have adequate speakers and audio outputs) or universal remote control.   Depending on the OS and available apps, you might be able to get rid of a computer and monitor or two as well, along with the associated peripherals.  $2,000 for the iMac of home theaters would be a pretty good deal.

6.  Perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t have to be an either/or thing.  By the time any Apple television comes to market, there will be even more streaming and downloadable content available.  An Apple set, with an OTA antenna or just basic cable service, would still be a whole lot cheaper than the couple hundred dollars a month many people currently pay their cable or satellite provider.  That monthly savings would allow for a lot of iTunes purchases.  I think that’s Apple’s end-game.

If I were a satellite or cable provider, I’d be very nervous.  As a consumer, I’m hopeful.

The Mac-age: I've Seen the Deal-Stopper, and Its Name is Video

It’s no secret that I have been considering going all-Apple, which at this point would only require that I dump my HP desktop for an iMac or more likely one of the forthcoming new Mac Pros.  All of my other important gear is already Apple.  Until last night, things were looking good.

I’ve concluded that routine computing (email, Google Reader, web browsing, Facebook, and word processing) works very well on a Mac.  In fact, in many ways I like the vibe and feel of OS X better than that of Windows 7.  I was surprised by how much I like Safari.  I still haven’t installed Firefox (fading) or Chrome (rising) on my Mac Mini.  Add the superior handling of audio-video content via Front Row and Plex, and it was starting to look like I might soon get my official Apple fan-boy card.

Prior to last night, the only things left to check out were video editing (which I do a fair amount of, for home movies and the occasional short film), and music creation (which I used to do all the time, haven’t done much lately, but may do more thanks to the reunion of my friend’s band (yes, that’s a hint of things to come)).  Given the conventional wisdom that Macs are so much better for creative work, I didn’t expect a problem.

Boy, was I wrong.

I bought Final Cut Express (called FCE by those in the know), and installed it on my Mac Mini.  The program has that odd Apple organizational structure all over it, but there’s no denying that it is a powerful tool.  So I concluded it would be just a matter of learning my way around it.  If I can figure out Photoshop, no software can defeat me.

And then I tried to import some AVCHD files.  You know, those HD files that just about every HD camera in the known universe uses.  No go.  Can’t do.

Seriously?  I thought Steve Jobs’ General Order #1 was to make things easy for the consumer?  Isn’t that why Apple keeps competing apps out of the App Store?

I understand and sometimes even agree with Apple’s app-control policies (for example, I’m glad Apple tries to keep certain family unfriendly content out of the App Store).  But Apple is simply not going to change the entire home video industry by limiting AVCHD compatibility.

Someone is going to tell me how you can import AVCHD files into FCE, if you do it directly from the camera or maybe if you copy over the entire file structure from the camera.  Well guess what?  That’s not how I do it.  I copy all of the video files into production folders on my network storage and then pick and choose from there.  This works just fine for Windows applications (though I remain worried that Corel is going to screw up Video Studio Editor, which is my Windows app of choice; and I have to point out that VSE doesn’t like QuickTime files either).  I don’t know the background of this frustrating incompatibility, but Corel and Apple need to face the fact that (a) most video cameras record in AVCHD and (b) all iPhones record in QuickTime (.mov).  All of these things need to play well together.

Someone else is going to tell me about these programs that will convert the AVCHD files to MP4, which FCE can import.  Why?  Why in the world should that be necessary?  Furthermore, I tried one.  It took forever to convert the files (remember my theme that time is a precious commodity), and the quality of the converted video was close to horrible and far from HD.

So, until further notice, my all-Apple plan is on hold.  I’m not going to pay a fortune for a Mac Pro only to make tasks harder.

What a shame.  I was looking forward to getting my fan-boy card.

The Mac-age: Could the New Mac Pro Cause Me to Go All-Apple?

image When I bought my first iPhone back in 2008, I was a dedicated Apple skeptic.  I hadn’t used a Mac since the Lisa 2 era, and had no plans of ever using one again (unless Apple were to issue a new version of my beloved Odyssey: The Compleat Apventure; I’ve always said I’d switch my entire computing universe to Macs, if I could play that game again).

Anyway, I now own an iPhone, an iPad, and two Mac Minis, which as I noted the other day are the best home media option.  I like Front Row and, thanks to a comment to my last post, I installed and really like Plex.

As a matter of fact, I am seriously considering dumping DirecTV (and the never-ending “Searching for signal in Satellite In 2” message that keeps denying me True Blood) in favor of some combination of an OTA antenna, Netflix, iTunes and, maybe Hulu Plus (I got my beta invite a couple of weeks ago, but haven’t checked it out yet).

My only holdout remains my desktop.  I use one of the Mac Minis on the desktop periodically, and have become very comfortable with OS X.  Some things, most notably web browsing, just seem to look better in OS X.  I recently bought and really, really like dual Dell UltraSharp U2711 monitors (these beauties are so bright and vibrant that I feel like I need shades to use them; and I mean that in a good way), so an iMac in not an option for me.  It might be an option for my wife, who seems to destroy any electronic device she uses semi-regularly.  I genuinely think she has some electro-magnetic aura that kills electronics.  It would make a great X-Files episode.

Neither she nor I are computer gamers (again, in my case, pending the return of OIdyssey), which may be a good thing if either of us ends up with an iMac and a Magic Mouse.  Here’s the quote of the year so far in an otherwise positive Engadget review of the new iMacs:

[W]e don’t think hardcore gamers are going to flock to the Mac at these numbers, but you’re not going to be unhappy if you’re just looking to have some fun. (Playing any of these games with the Magic Mouse will make you tear your hair out and light your skull on fire, however, but that’s a different story.)

This leaves the forthcoming Mac Pro, as the only carrot that could draw me across the all-Mac line.  I still think they are too expensive.  However, the beautifully designed and easily upgradable case is very appealing to me.  I have even convinced myself that I don’t need Blu-ray on my desktop (though it is irritating that Mac Minis don’t have Blu-ray, as that requires me to keep a stand-alone DVD player).  What it comes down to is noise.  Or the lack of it.

As anyone who knows me (for example, my neighbors with the barking dog) will confirm, I am very sensitive to noise.  I’m a super-light sleeper, and anything more than a pin drop will wake me up, and keep me awake.  My current HP desktop isn’t loud, but it isn’t quiet either.  I’d probably pay a premium for a Mac Pro- if it were really quiet.  I’m betting it’s not, but I’ll certainly inquire once the new models hit the street.  A rocking new Mac Pro, with my current monitors and Parallels installed in the name of Live Writer would work nicely.  Very nicely.

In the meantime, here’s some bonus video of yours truly playing Odyssey: The Compleat Apventure in 1985.  I really loved that game.

Why doesn’t someone port this game to the iPhone/iPad?  I’d buy many copies, just to show my thanks.

Bonus tech support for Google searchers who will have this problem: if you buy a Dell UltraSharp U2711 monitor and have a bad picture, be sure you are using dual-link DVI cables (one came in the box with the monitor).  They look similar to, but are not the same as, older DVI cables.  You can’t use your existing standard DVI cables.  Trust me.  It took me about a half hour to figure this out.

Why a Mac Mini is the Best Home Media Option

Like a lot of techophiles, I have struggled mightily with bringing computer apps and internet content to my home theater set up.  I’ve tried full size computers, small computers, various streaming solutions and all sorts of other equipment, all in the name of television and internet convergence.

Everything works a little and it seems like nothing works really well.

image This weekend, I found my answer.  A Mac Mini.  It’s not perfect, but it’s the best solution I have found so far.

By a wide margin.

Sure, I tried a Mac Mini before.  But it died a premature death so I took a while to try again.

I also recently tried a Dell Inspiron Zino. These are nifty little computers, and its small footprint will find it a place in the house, likely as a replacement for my kids’ older and bigger shared computer.  Plus, it has a Blu-ray drive, which the Mac Mini stubbornly lacks (thereby prolonging the need for a stand alone DVD player).  But the Windows big screen media experience is just not satisfying.  I don’t like things to be too simple in a desktop environment, but when you’re on the couch chilling, simple is good.

And for better or worse, Apple tries to make the media process pretty simple.

I also tried- and loved- Apple TV.  But three things make the Mac Mini a better choice.

1. It does what the Apple TV does, plus the entire range of other computer and internet functions.

2. I don’t know what Apple has in store for the Apple TV, but the two most likely things are massive changes or death.

3. Parallels.

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Parallels is a pretty nifty program that lets you run Windows 7 and Windows apps inside of and along with OS X.  So I can have the best of both worlds.  As we speak, I am installing Windows Live Writer on my Mac.

Scary thought: if I find little or no performance degradation when running Windows apps on a Mac via Parallels, it could lead me to make my next desktop a Mac.  I just need to find an extra $10K or so to recreate the dual monitor Windows setup I have now.  People try to tell me that Macs are not overpriced, but one trip to the Apple store to configure a Mac Pro with lots of storage and two monitors proves otherwise.

Front Row is a beautiful app for viewing photos and videos and for listening to music.  I just wish it had iTunes store integration so I could buy movies from within the app (and completely avoid that blight that is the iTunes app).  The inability to purchase media within Front Row and the need to suffer iTunes  is, by far, the biggest feature deficiency in the Mac Mini as home theater experience.

But it’s still the best option out there.

At the end of the process, I’ll probably have two Mac Minis in operation.  One in my study (where the current one resides) and one in the theater room, so my wife and kids can access our music, photos and home movies.

It’s hard to believe how far I have come in my Apple journey.

Why You Should Dump Your iPad

And why I’m not.

Vivek Wadhwa at TechCrunch sets forth the best argument I’ve ever read for dumping your iPad.  He sets forth various reasons, but it really comes down to three.  No useful way to use Microsoft Office, reliance on the outdated, ugly and unnecessary iTunes, and the lack of a camera.

As it turns out, I just returned from vacation.  10 days in God’s country (that would be South Carolina for you geographic heathens).  My job requires that I be generally accessible and have the capability to review and approve Word documents (for those who haven’t read Newsome.Org in a few days, no one in corporate America uses or in my lifetime will use any of the so-called Office alternatives, and any argument to the contrary is naive).

All of this left me with a packing dilemma.  I love my iPad and use it all the time.  I haven’t carried a laptop since I bought my iPad, and I haven’t needed one.  But I also hadn’t been away from home and the office for 10 straight days.

So I got nervous, pussed out and, along with my iPad, toted a laptop and all the related gear all the way to Pawley’s Island.  I felt more comfortable knowing that I could review and revise Word documents from the beach.

The thing is, I never used it.

image Sure, I was in contact with my office and clients every day.  But I did it all via email, on my iPad.  While the lack of Office is a big issue for iPads, there’s no denying that you can easily read Word documents.  It’s only when you want to revise or create one that the frustration level skyrockets.

And the fact is that at this point in my career, I’m much more likely to be reading, commenting on and approving Word documents than writing them from whole cloth.  And I found it to be easy enough (enough being the operative word) to copy and past portions of a document into an email, then paste such portion again below and revise it the way I wanted.

At the end of the day, many of my vacation emails read something like this:

“Change this part:

‘The problem with the iPhone 4 antenna is massive and should be the subject of a massive recall.’

to this:

“‘The problem with the iPhone 4 antenna is a partially a common cell phone issue exacerbated by an Apple design choice and largely bad editorial choices by lazy media.’

It’s not perfect, but it worked well enough for me.

So while the iPad most certainly needs a better way to work with Office documents (Microsoft being the only solution), and a camera or two and while iTunes is perhaps the worst application ever, I’m keeping my iPad.

But you’ll probably see my laptops on Craigslist before long.

Compression Depression & the iPhone 4 (Updated)

Yes, I stood in line for hours.  Yes, I’m a nerd.  And yes, the new iPhone is awesome.

One of the biggest reasons I was willing to get up at 5:00 a.m. and trek off to the dreaded mall is the new camera features.  Front and back, flash and high definition.

Which is all great.  In theory.  Unfortunately, I have run into two hurdles that are all but killing my iPhone video buzz.

Buzz Kill 1: Too Much Compression.

Videos shot on the new  iPhone look great, on the iPhone.  And it simply could not be easier to upload video from the iPhone to YouTube.  The big, massive, honking problem is that somewhere between the iPhone and YouTube the video is compressed so much, it looks like something from the nineties.  As in the 1890’s.

Here’s the way my test clip looks on YouTube.

 

Now on Vimeo

That’s a lot better, although it still looks a little grainy when you view it full screen (see the little icon with four arrows).  Why in this age of infinite cloud storage and broadband do we compress video at all?

There’s no excuse for over-compressing it the way the YouTube process does.  In a few years we’re all going to have the same dilemma we faced after initially ripping our CDs at 128 Kbps.  Those who forget history, and all that.

All of this makes the iPhone largely unworkable as a camcorder substitute, particularly if you aren’t near your computer, because. . .

Buzz Kill 2: No Easy Way to Move Videos

Even if I was willing to forego the convenience of an immediate upload and work with the native video files, there is no way to easily move video files off of the iPhone when you aren’t in front of your computer.  Sure, Dropbox lets you upload video files easily, but they are over-compressed before they are uploaded, even if you select the highest quality in the app settings.

32GB is a lot of space when you’re near home, but not when you go on a vacation.  And plan to take your iPad in lieu of a laptop.

There may be a workaround for this series of problems, but I haven’t found it yet.

I’m still mourning my buzz.

Update:

It looks like the inability to upload videos in HD over the air is a known and much bemoaned feature deficit with the new iPhones.  The man himself says we’ll be able to upload in HD “in the future.”

A commenter on the post above says that the Pixelpipe app will upload HD video to YouTube now, but I don’t have that app so I can’t verify it.