Wednesday, August 30, 2006

MacZot StoryZOT

This is weird. MacZot is selling an unknown application for $5.95 and saying that it's being or will be developed by a team of young coders. There is also some discussion about this being part of a story - I can't really understand it.

My first thought is that they are selling the app that's going to be developed by the My Dream App group, as many of the participants worked on apps featured by MacZot in the past - such as AppZapper, SubEthaEdit, and iClip.

But now, I'm not sure - the MacZot post is very vague...

UPDATE: Actually, the StoryZot was for 3 apps, not one. And these were revealed as: KIT, rooSwitch, and HawkEye. Good deal? Not sure.

My Dream App

This is a bit late, but here's a chance to submit your application idea, have it judged by a (Mac) celebrity panel, and have it created by a team of hip Mac Developers. It's called "My Dream App". My Dream App (MDA) is a unique contest of sorts, and to date there are over 2300 idea submissions. There's a discussion board so you can float your idea and have it critiqued, as well as general discussion about the MDA concept.

One thing though - you have to submit your idea by NOON August 30. That's like... now.

Saturday, August 19, 2006 Mac-UNfriendly

I've subscribed to MLB's Game Day audio since it came out a few years ago. Living in Japan, it was great to get live baseball audio in English to add a bit of sanity to my days. It was great to listen to at work or home in the mornings ( I work evenings). I grew up with baseball on the radio, so I've never missed the visual part.

At first I was annoyed that MLB took control of all local radio broadcasts, as I was always tuning into them on internet feeds from radio station. However, with MLB Game Day I could get any game I wanted live or archived. And for the entire season, it was always reasonably priced (~$15 this year, less after the season is half over).

I could always open the feed in Safari on the Mac, and in fact the FAQ on the site
says still Safari is the recommended Mac browser for GameDay Audio. At the beginning of this season, however, it became clear that Safari was no longer compatible, though the FAQ did not say this. You'll get a warning message, saying Safari isn't recommended. So, I used FireFox for MLB audio, and it worked fine, until a week before the All Star Break.

Essentially, I can no longer get any audio feed after you log into the site and choose your games. Zip - nothing - zilch. This is true for every browser available on the Mac (OK, didn't try OmniWeb) and on both of my Macs. I was able to get one feed in the last month - the AllStar game as covered by MLB radio. But none of the radio feeds work at all. And I've done nothing I can think of which would affect the playing of the audio stream, which apparently uses the WMV Flip for Mac plug-in.

I wrote MLB to alert them of the problem in July. They sent me this reply:

"Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

We've been having troubles with Macs and Game Day Audio lately.

The older Macs (PowerPC's, non-Intel) that are running 10.4.7 work fine
with the Windows Media Plugin, the problems tend to be with the newer
Intel Dual Core machines. Basically the WMP plugin is not being
recognized and Microsoft isn't supporting it anymore. Flip4Mac, which
was a workaround, hasn't 'officially' released anything that is
compatible for the new Intel Macs yet, so we're stuck between a rock and
a hard place. There is a BETA version of it which I did see work just
now. This hasn't been released officially, although they state it's
scheduled for release soon. We should have a solution to this problem
very shortly.

Thank you for your patience.

DB, Support"


I wrote back explaining that I didn't have an Intel Mac and that the problem had to be on their end, as I hadn't changed anything on my Macs.

This is the reply they sent me:

"Dear Fan,

Thank you for sending your email. We really appreciate your feedback and
comments and have forwarded your email to the appropriate person.

Thank you again for taking the time to write!


JB, Support"


I replied that their appreciation was not a factor, and that I wanted the issue fixed right away.

So, they (actually a customer response person) sent me the EXACT SAME first response, about problems with Intel Macs. It's insulting to get canned responses, but even more insulting when they don't deal with the problem at hand.

I'm unsure how many Mac users there are of MLB Game Day Audio, but I think I've had enough. I've missed so many great Tigers games in the last month, and am absolutely seething at this point. Looks like ultimatum time.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

WWDC Keynote Hair of the Dog

Well, it looks like nothing on my wish list was announced. But 2 of my 4 reality check items were displayed: Leopard preview and Mac Pros.

Mac Pros
The Mac Pros seem to fit the bill, with fast quad core 64bit Xeon processors running up to 3 GHz. They use the same familiar enclosures the last G5 PowerMacs have and dual layer optical drives. You can see the specific stats here.

My take - these are nice additions to the MacIntel line and allows Apple to say it completed its transition on time. However, expect quality and design problems, as we saw with the early MacBooks and MacBook Pros, especially if these were rushed to market.

Leopard Preview
You gotta like Apple twisting the little knife it has embedded in Microsoft's side. But I wonder if this will piss of MS and keep them from developing Office Apps on OSX - or at least slow them down. MS today announced they would no longer develop VirtualPC - but that's a no brainer. MS is behind the ball, given BootCamp and Parallels are already vialble and available. And face it - why work on developing emulator software for Mac when you can't even get your own OS released?

Jobs and other Apple folks introduced 10 basic improvements or new features for Leopard.

64-Bit Goodness
Leopard is supposed to be 100% 64-bit, with ability to support older 32-bit apps.
My take: One wonders if this will extend to non-Intel Macs.

Time Machine
This slick looking app will work automatically to back up files automatically and supposedly allows people to go back in time for any app to retrieve files lost.

My Take: Better get a separate hard drive for this one. Also, it's not clear to me that this will be more functional that current back-up apps like SuperDuper or even a recently announced Synk 6, but we'll have to see. You gotta like the icon, though. :-)

Boot Camp, Front Row, PhotoBooth Standard
Now, these apps will be available for all Macs with Leopard. I think.

My take: We'll have to see if Boot Camp works with non-Intel Macs.

This is a 'desktop manager' that will allow users to switch between 4 different desktops. This allows different working environments on the same Mac - customized and optimized for the purpose at hand.

My take: The problem is that this feature is already available for Macs via the freeware Virtue. (Note: the Virtue link isn't functional as yet, and the MacUpdate download link is down too.) I worry that Apple is ripping off another small developer's idea without giving credit (See Konfabulator vs. Dashboard comparisons...)

Enhanced Spotlight
This was not demonstrated, but Apple claims the new Spotlight can search and index another Mac or network servers, and feature an integrated application launcher and recent item information usage.

My take: So? Can't I already search external devices and mounted volumes? Furthermore, it sounds like Apple is zero-ing in on the feature set of Quicksilver. Again, stealing from the developer base is not cool Apple, unless you give credit where it is due.

Core Animation
This feature allows developers to enhance visual aspects of apps with much less coding.
My take: OK...

Improved Universal Access
Apple will improve the computer speech, QT closed captioning and more.
My take: Good - Now do we need a new OS release for these things?

Enhanced Mail App
The new Mail will have stationary, Notes, To Do's.

My take:
Ummm... So they want to make Mail MORE like Entourage? Mail doesn't need this complexity, IMHO. Hell, I'll be happy if they just make it compatible with my employer's Exchange mail server.

Dashboard Improvements
Leopard's Dashboard will be improved - perhaps with the ability to run Widgets on the desktop. Apple will also make available consumer and developer apps for creating widgets.

My take: Ho hum...

New iChat
Apple will enhance iChat to allow tabbed chats, animated buddy icons, multiple logins, PhotoBooth effects, and more.

My take: Hello Apple? Heard of Chax? Most of this stuff is ho-hum anyway, as I can't get many of my relatives or long-distance friends to use iChat or even Macs at all.

There were a few other Leopard features mentioned or hinted at, and the rumor sites have been adding more. However, I can't get over how most of Leopard features are really incremental in nature. Cult of Mac on the Wired site comments that this is because OSX is already a mature OS that only needs tweaking. I partially agree with this, as the model is working well for me so far. The author, Leander Kahney, also comments on how Jobs did not impress with this keynote, looked sickly, and had others help him present. I don't know about that, as I'm not into watching Keynotes. However, I can say I wasn't that impressed with what was announced. I suppose we all want something better than the Hi Fi. And I want something that doesn't push currently available apps to the endangered species list without some compensation.

Monday, August 07, 2006

WWDC Pep-Rally

I'm back from a week in the Ryukyus and somewhat slow internet connections. I'm just in time to give you my pre-take on the big Mac shindig about to start in a few hours. Let's see if my hopes or my 'reality checks' hit the mark.

If you've been paying attention to AppleInsider, PowerPage, and ThinkSecret - you've heard some general things, and some specific predictions. These range from expectations of a bounty of new desktop, laptop Macs, iPhone, and Leopard, to just Leopard previews and desktop Macs, or just and iPhone and delayed updated iPods. It wouldn't be surprising for Apple to plant some false rumors with some bloggers to keep us off guard. Mac maniacs are even analyzing conference banners hung in advance the last couple days to predict what will be released.

My crystal ball is a little warped, so I'm gonna give you my 'wish list' and my 'reality check' of what will likely come out.

Wish List:

1. A TRULY portable Mac. I've harped on this before, and I'll continue to until Apple gets it right. The MacBrick, err MacBook is an inexpensive portable, but it's too freaking big for public transport commuters. It's not a suprise that Apple's sales figures in Japan were down in the last quarter. Any laptop heavier than 2kg is not going to appeal to Japanese people, when they can get products from Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi, and other that are smaller, lighter, and at comparable prices.

2. iPod with a PSP-sized screen. Watching vids on the current iPod is a joke. The next iPod release needs a watchable screen - touchscreen or not, not some incremental pap. With Zune on the horizon, Apple needs to move the ball up the field while it still has possession.

3. iPDA. We have lots of PDAs to choose from, but none of them are very Mac-friendly or use the MacOS. This would be a big coup for Apple if they can impart their style and functionality on a PDA for the rest of us.

4. iTunes 5.o. I like iTunes and feel that it deserves the bulk of credit for success of the iPod. However, iTunes is starting to show it's age and parts of it seem kludged together (like podcast subscriptions). Yeah, maybe this will come with Leopard anyway, but sooner is better.

5. iPhone. A true iPhone could serve as a PDA, if done right. If it was a VOIP phone, it could be used anywhere in the world with WiFi. Otherwise, it won't see the light of day outside the US for a couple years. (Remember how long it took for the iTunes store to get finalized in Japan?!)

Reality Check:

Apple has many contraints, and has worked hard to avoid promising too much given the big disappointment with the Apple HiFi event. Smart money says they'll suprise us with a couple of things, and upgrade other things incrementally. Here's what we'll likely see...

1. Leopard Preview. Apple is going to hammer Microsoft on the lack of Vista by showing off its new OS incarnation and giving a realisitic release date. It's clear from the banners at WWDC and the leak on PowerPage that Leopard will be showcased. However, don't expect Leopard to be so different from Tiger it will be incremental. I wasn't so impressed with the PowerPage previews of Leopard - mostly eye candy.

2. Intel Desktop Macs. It's likely Apple will get their whole line on Intel soon, and WWDC seems to be a good place to announce this. Expect two Intel Macs with two speed configurations, and some whizbang hardware doodad, like dual layer optical drives.

3. Updated Nanos. The easiest thing to upgrade in iPod land is to increase the capacity of the Nano - up to 8Gb. However, these could be delayed a month if there are flash memory supply contraints.

4. MacBook SpeedBumps. The Pro line could see some speed increases, but they don't need WWDC to announce these.

OK - that's it for my preview post. I think it's best to have low expections, so we can be suprised. However, Apple hasn't surprised me much in the last year.