Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Update on Super shuffle: Actually a Stunt?

It had the world winded up about a week ago, and for many Apple and iPod fans it is still one of the topics to talk about. Love it or hate it, Super shuffle wasn't real.

From Engadget article (from Jack Campbell's e-mail to Engadget):


"The Super Shuffle is not in production by LuxPro. There is no intent by LuxPro to ever put the Super Shuffle into production. The entire CeBit sideshow was planned from the start as a gambit to gain a hugely disproportionate share of the industry’s attention, so as to find a few customers for the Super Shuffle’s electronics."

Campbell's e-mail's concluding remark:

So, there will be no Apple lawsuits, no Super Shuffles fighting their way onto racks at Circuit City, no angry mobs of Apple lawyers storming the LuxPro factory.
This was not a prank, nor was it an act of blind stupidity. In my view, it was one of the most clever PR maneuvers I have ever seen executed by a small company.


The mail said it all about the reality of this Super shuffle gadget. It is not completely out of the realm of possibility, though, that someone, smaller makers possibly, might eventually rip-off some well-known devices (like the iPod and Rio's devices) and selling it somewhere. Bigger players will have to make the rip-off less obvious though (now we're seeing a lot of laptops that look in one way or another much like Apple's PowerBook, be it the current Aluminum line or the older Titanium one).

Let's back to the topic for now.

Even though the Super shuffle had turned out to be the publicity stunt, what I wrote in my previous weblog entry about it still holds true for all other devices. Just read that in a general way, I was talking much about the user experiences of the iPod (and actually a lot of Apple's products) that is an emergence result from the interplay between software systems, whether they will be interacting directly with users or not.

On the other note, this actually reminded me a lot about CherryOS, a product from Maui-X, that made a really really loud noise sometime last year, promising to deliver a great PPC emulation performance on x86. There was no actual product found at that time, only a few annoying video on the product's website. Well, Maui-X is a company doing video streaming. So by getting a lot of people excited about it, they get a lot of free test for their actual technology. Clever trick. Now when people demanding the product, they ended up violating GPL and use PearPC's code [PearPC is an open-source PPC emulator].

Sunday, March 20, 2005

"Super shuffle" ... another time when they get it wrong

Recently, a large portion of portable music player market went crazy when LUXPRO introduced a new MP3 player called Super shuffle which is basically an iPod shuffle RIP-OFF (and it's LAME).

Putting the two side by side, we see that the super shuffle is really a rip-off from iPod shuffle:




The advertisement is also a mere rip-off from the well-known iPod campaign:



So, with almost exactly the same look, more functionalities, does this super shuffle superior to the iPod shuffle and will take away the iPod market?

Not exactly .... because it's not about hardware, it's about user experience which largely due to software.

I doubt that super shuffle will have anything like the iPod-iTunes interplay, which creates a pretty smooth experience with as little interaction as possible. You plug the iPod shuffle into your computer, click a button, you're on the go. Apple's software does the rest for you behind the scene.

I have a certain level of confident that you will be using the super shuffle by manually selecting songs, dragging and dropping, fustration, etc; like a lot of portable music players before it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Power of Collective Cooperation: The AOL Case

After AOL changed its Term of Service (ToS) by including a highly privacy abusing statement:


"Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses.

[I highlighted this for emphasizing. The boldface didn't exist in the original ToS]...

Right after that, a lot of people who involve in some kind of online activities, like blogging and discussion, started talking about this like crazy. We see a lot of blog articles, a lot of online discussion, notably the Your Right Online section of Slashdot had a lively discussion twice (here, and here). Also a lot of well-known weblogs.

Finally, AOL had just revised its ToS once again and remove that abusive statement. Now the new ToS reads:

”Once you submit or post Content to any public area on an AIM Product, AOL does not need to give you any further right to inspect or approve uses of such Content or to compensate you for any such uses. AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating Content posted to public areas of AIM Products.”

Also notice that the new ToS clearly state that it only apply to the public area (once again, I highlighted that myself).

This is another proof, another example, of what a collective & cooperative behavior can do, even in the online world. You do what is good for yourself and effectively good for the group. It doens't matter how you as an individual think about this, if your action is in the same as the other, it can be formed into a collective behavior that can change something globally like this.

PB: Dual Core or G5? NO, it's not OR, it's *AND*!?!?

I had posted a weblog article about my speculation of PowerBook's future, which might be using either a Dual-Core G4 or a G5. In which I wrote:


Personal Conclusion: I will take the Dual-Core G4 PowerBook over the G5 one anyday, when it comes out (and if it does come out; the rumor had re-surfaced, at least). Also when it comes to performance, I don't think the power-down G5 with smaller bus can perform any better the Dual-core G4. Actually, it can even be outperformed by the dual-core G4.

The only problem Apple might have for making Dual-Core G4 the next generation PowerBook: Marketing. They had created so much hype about one word: G5. Many people I know really believe that G5 is everything and being a G5 making it the fastest thing on this planet. If the Dual-Core G4 is outperforming the G5 ... then Apple has a problem.

Shortly afterward, Apple came out with the (probably) last update to the PowerBook line we know and love.

After the line was updated, all rumors about PowerBook went silent for a while, only to resurfaced again recently with a few exciting evidences which supporting the rumor:


People will now starting to speculate a Dual-Core G5 PowerBook. But before that, I think there are still some questions that needed answers:

  • Can IBM tame the chip well enough to put it into a compact and feature-rich space of PowerBook? (I haven't read the note posted by them yet. Still feel sick and headache).
  • Can Apple design the thermal control system good enough to control the heat in such a small space?


When Jobs debut the G5 PowerMac in WWDC 2003, he promised 3.0 GHz in a year. However WWDC 2004 had gone, and half a year after that the top of the line PowerMac is still at 2.5 GHz. Jobs mentioned the difficulties the entire industry had at the 90nm scale. In Steve's word: the entire industry had hit the wall.

So it seems to me that the current G5 chip has problem going any faster. So, if they are hitting the wall going straight, why wouldn't they just go around the wall to make it faster?

So, here come a new chip with new specification; the way to go around that wall. I rather think we will see this new dual core chip first in the new PowerMac, which should be announced by WWDC the latest. PowerBook just saw it last update not so long ago, so it would be WWDC the soonest (and most unlikely) that we will see another update.

Before I see any of this dual core G5 in reality and how much heat it produces and how IBM and Apple engineers tame it, I won't be betting any cent that it would be appearing in the next PowerBook; my current bet is still with the dual core G4.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Yet-Another-Weblog

"The Personal Side of Myself".

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Microsoft to kill MSN for Mac

From MSN for Mac OS X Official Website (microsoft.com):


After May 31, 2005, customers will no longer access MSN service by using the MSN for Mac OS X Internet Software. Instead of accessing MSN services using the MSN for Mac OS X internet software, customers will access MSN services and features with their preferred browser and by setting up a My MSN page as a portal to their favorite online destinations.

If you are a current MSN subscriber and you use MSN for Mac Internet Software, you will maintain your current e-mail address and still have access to your e-mail, contacts, calendar, and most other MSN services through MSN Hotmail and your My MSN page. To create, customize or view your current My MSN page, go to my.msn.com.

Don't confuse MSN service with MSN Messenger for Mac. MSN is an internet service, which you have to subscribe to use, while MSN Messenger is a free (as in free beer) instant messenger software, which some often called shortly just MSN.

MSN service is following IE route on the Mac platform. Seriously, I don't know how many Mac users are also MSN subscribers, but I think there aren't many. After all, to most people Mac and Microsoft are something that don't belong together (they use MS Office anyway, but that's another story, as Office is pretty standard software required by many. Also, MS Office on Mac is quite a good software, even compared to Windows version. This is quite an opposite case to many MS software/service on the Mac).

For MSN Messenger and Office, the Mac BU at Microsoft still planned to release the next version, 5.0 and Service Pack 2, respectively.

Ubuntu PPC on PowerBook 17"

I had been thinking of installing GNU/Linux on my PowerBook since I got my 15", and that was since October 2003. Now, with my master thesis done, not in a mood start packing yet, and waiting for graduation (and waiting to see my girlfriend), I decided that it's a good time to kill my boredom.

This is my first time to install GNU/Linux on PPC (or, basically, a non-x86) architecture. I am really at home with install any distro, including Gentoo, on the x86 and especially for the Debian (and Debian-based) distro, my hands and heart remember the installation steps.

I tried Ubuntu, Warty release with my new PowerBook 17" last night. It did work and installation went fine. I had problem with getting X11 works, or more precisely, get the graphics displaying, correctly. All I had were glitches, like a broken television.

Today while reading OSNews (this topic), I learned that Ubuntu had released the preview of their upcoming 5.04 (or Hoary) release. Both the installation and LiveCD. So I gave it another shot.

The LiveCD works fine and the graphics now displaying properly. So I had my fingers crossed and install it for real.

The installation was flawless. Ubuntu installer (Debian installer, actually) works really fine. It is still in text-only mode, which is quite less attractive than Anaconda installer of Fedora-based distro. I like it more than Anaconda, however. All I had to do was hitting enter and telling the name of computer and my name. All hardware were correctly detected, with exception of Airport Extreme card, which had yet to open the spec, so it is not supported entirely.

After a few minutes (10 maybe), the installation was done, reboot, greeted by GDM, then GNOME desktop, do the software update. Beautiful. Here's how it looks like (which doing software update):




I like the new default desktop. I always think the default Warty desktop was a bit dull, especially comparing to the default Mac OS X desktop. I know I can change this later, but still ;-)

The Software Update works fine (was doing it in the screenshot).

More on this later, with might be a full article about experience and installation guide. Now have to go back to OS X to reinstall things and copy data back from backup ;-)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Is Apple the "New Microsoft"?

Forbes's article: Is Apple the New Microsoft had brought a lot of hot and interesting discussions. Most noticably, interesting and informative, as well as insightful ones are


I recommend skimming/reading both threads.

I won't going to discuss the thing discussed in Forbes article, though. I will, however, discuss here the more fundamental question ... is Apple, behaviorally, actually better than Microsoft in anyway?

I have to tell you first that I am a Mac user and I like lots of Apple products, hardware and software alike. They make really cool hardware and easy to use software. The user experience I got from their product is superb.

However, here is not a discussion about how cooler Apple products are compared to Microsoft's. It's the discussion of behavior alone. So, put all your bias about the coolness of Apple aside.

Even before starting my discussion, I will say that I will disappoint all of you right here, right now. I'm happier that Microsoft is ruling the world, not Apple. I am on Microsoft's side of the coin this time.

Apple are not a bunch of nice guys making things for the sake of the world, or doing the world a favour in any sense. They are basically the same as Microsoft; a company that doing business and care for its profit. Jobs might be differ from Gates and Ballmer in the how to do the business, though.

Most people have bad images about Microsoft. This happened because many of us keep talking about Microsoft in a very bad way and projecting Bill Gates as a very bad guy. I like Gates personally, though.

I won't go into the details here; OSNews and Slashdot threads have them all of the why Apple actually has more of dictatorship than Microsoft. If you don't have time to read both; go for OSNews.

Had Apple won the 1984 war, the face of the world will be entirely different today, of course. We will have NO, let me repeat, NO variety of choices between computers even the software.

Don't get me wrong; I love my PowerBook (and is now waiting for my new PowerBook 17"). I love my iPods. Apple makes great products and really satisfying customers, like me. However, that doesn't make Apple a nice guy who can never do a bad thing. Apple is not a savior of this world from Microsoft. They are Microsoft in their own world. Maybe even worst (again, go read /. or OSNews to find out more).

Changes in Sony

From MacWorld article


Sony's Chairman and CEO Nobuyuki Idei and President Kunitake Ando are stepping down as the heads of the company.

Idei will be replaced by Howard Stringer, vice chairman and chief operating officer (COO). Ando will be replaced by Ryoji Chubachi, executive deputy president and COO.

Several other positions will also change.

Many had foreseen this happening. After all, only thing that never changed ... change itself. And only thing that is ever certain is uncertainty. However, I guess not many had foreseen it happening this fast, and now.

While Sony remains one of the biggest players in world business, in electronic devices and entertainment (mainly Music), Sony failed to materialize the digital entertainment market. Considering its power and ability, its share in music market (especially after merging with BMG) and digital devices, Sony failed miserably to let the digital music market (currently dominated by Apple's iTune Music Store and its iPod) slipped through its own fingers.

Also, talking about Computer industry. I quite like Sony Vaio's recent product lines. The design is pretty impressive for most models, the hardware spec is pretty good, even though comparing with other PC makers, seem expensive (even when comparing to Apple). However, Sony is about the only PC maker that had attempted to provide more than hardware for users.

Computer is not (only) about hardware, it's (also) software, stupid! [If you want to make it very extreme, take out things in the () ]

Sony had been trying to create user experience for Vaio, by bundling loads of software that should make life of Vaio users better than other PC users.

I don't own any current Vaio model, but I always playing with them (with their software, of course). While I don't really think Sony bundling is doing as a good job (providing good user experience) as software on the Mac, it's not that bad either (but the software on Vaio feel heavy...). Relying on Windows and making moderate wrapper to Windows system won't, and cant' be as good as all the native things, built from ground up, of the Mac.

Nevermind what I think and say here, I have no number with me, but I don't really think Vaio is contributing much factor to Sony's entire business core. After all, Sony wasn't a computer company, but an entertainment and home electronic devices and music company.

I don't really know what this shift in power inside Sony might mean. Would it bring Sony up again against Apple in the dawn digital entertainment era? Or would Sony instead make alliance with Apple in the DRM war with Microsoft (+ the rest, i.e., Napster and Real)? Will .... [whatever]?

Wait and see.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Intel unveiled Mini PC concept

CNet news article: Intel shows off Mac Mini-like concept PC.

Read the article first. Then, if you are interested and have time, here is Slashdot discussion thread for it: Intel Flaunts Mac mini Knock-off (slashdot.org).

Here is the Mini PC in question, compare with Mac mini:



And here is the comparison when Steve holding one in his hand during the Keynote and when Intel VP Don MacDonald showing off the Mini PC's Sleek Concept.



Judging from the look of the hardware alone, it's a rip-off from Apple's product, obviously. However, Intel's design is still only a dream and an empty plastic box. Nothing is real yet. I also have highly doubt of whether any maker in computer industry can turn this into reality or not. It seems too small, almost the size of the optical drive alone, which leaving almost no room for anything else.

Anyway, let's assume that one day, someone (Sony maybe, they are capable of making nice and sleek computers sometime. Forget about Dull, oops. .. Hell ... oops, I mean Dell)..... then, is it the end of Mac mini phenomena?

No, it's not the hardware ... it's software, stupid!

PC makers will one day match the design of Apple product (one day ... no-one know exactly when .. but let's assume the design space is ergodic, then one day the trajectory will cover the entire space given enough time. Hence, one day it will. Nothing come close to the PowerBook yet, though .. even the current PB-line is old and badly needed major update).... one thing they have to understand and can't, probably, match the Cupertino's offering:

Software

True. Design is one thing. But design isn't bound to the look of hardware. That can of course attract users, but it won't create any user experience. It's the software that does the job. You need to design the software properly so it creates good user experience.

For example: I probably won't be considering a new PowerBook if it runs Windows XP, not Mac OS X. Another example being .. no matter how cool the iPod is, I don't think people will like it much if the software really suck and hard to use; now you just plug it in and it works.

The Mini PC, if it ever be realized, will be running Windows by default (assuming using current market status), ridden by all problems (securities, virus, maintenance, etc) and unsleekness of Windows, which directly defied Intel's Sleek Concept design proporsal. Nothing will just works like the Mac and Mac mini. There will be no substitute for iLife

I like the look of a lot of mobile phone ... but I found many of those cool looking ones to be difficult to use, over featured (in simpler word: bloat) in many areas, and not simplified enough in area that should be simple. So, while I might like their looks, I prefer something that I can actually use.

Get it?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

In Which OS Do You Feel More Productive?

From Slashdot thread with the same name.


HTMLChecker asks: "I found an article in which the author talks about how she is more productive using Mac OS X. What about the people of Slashdot? Where do you feel more productive, in Linux? Windows? DOS? Mac OS X? Also, what is the best way to rate productivity in an OS?"

The linked article had also became OSNews thread article: From Gui-Hater to OS X.

While I'm too lazy (and not too stupid) to make the poll by counting people preferences from /. (slashdot)'s thread of more than a thousand posts, I am under impression that many people found Mac OS X productive. A lot of people also say GNU/Linux. Windows is probably the least. This is not surprising result considering nature of /. readers.

For me, I would love to give Mac OS X and GNU/Linux (especially Debian or Debian-based distro) an equal marks as productive working environment, with slightly more points to, surprise, GNU/Linux.

Why?

I love OS X and it is, IMO, the best OS we have out there right now. It is very easy to use, very easy to configure, (almost) everything just work, good applications available, many UNIX-apps compiled and run with not much problems on X11 and some even have native aqua port. Xcode is also great (but the editor can be pretty slow when editing large file, with the code-sensing turned on) and Cocoa is really a time-saving when making apps.

However, one problem: Games.

While there are a lot of games on GNU/Linux as well, none of them had really taking my time for work, not as much as Windows games that had been ported to the Mac. So, working in GNU/Linux, while I feel less pleasure, there are less things that can taking my working time away from me, too.

I know it's the matter of controling myself. However, let's put it this way: if there's nothing, then I have to control nothing, I will be just working, too.

Taking games out of equation, however, Mac OS X eats everything else for breakfast.

If you have time, I recommended reading the /. thread. Very entertaining and there are a lot of old-fashion bashings, like some clueless who has been living under the rock in the end of the cave at the bottom of the ocean bashing X11 ;-)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Three weeks with iPod shuffle

Despite the nature of my traditional blog articles and the name of this entry, this will be a short review of my newest Apple gadget, iPod shuffle (1GB model), which I waited 3 weeks since ordered it right after Macworld Expo, and had been using as my primary portable music player since I got it (with occassionally switching back to my 1st gen iPod mini). So here we go:


  • First off, a little surprise on a box ...



    notice that, while the official website for the iPod still say Mac+PC for every model, the iPod shuffle box clearly says PC+Mac (same as the boxes for 2nd gen iPod mini. I have no idea about the revised iPod photo). This change maybe subtle, but nevertheless an important one. With PC users outnumbering Mac users anywhere in the world, having the word emphasizing that it would work with the PC will ensuring much higher number of potential customers, that the shinny iPod will work with their computers. A surprise nonetheless.

  • Talking about size, this iPod shuffle is amazingly small. I hardly notice it at all when I put it either in my trousers or shirt pocket. It is even smaller than my old USB memory stick. I would very much like to have the aluminum version, though ... (even though I don't think Apple will eventually make one).

  • Shuffle only. This is the feature many people who never actually try it are complaining the most. After all, we are accustomed to being able to choose songs/playlists we want to listen. However, I found out after trying out the shuffle mode in my iTunes and iPod mini, that shuffling is actually a good way to listen to music.

    I autofilled my iPod shuffle from my top rating songs, 5 stars only (or now, 4-5 stars), and not classical musics (which are usually too long and not suitable for listening on the road). Then, no matter what is coming up, I'm sure I will have no problem listening to it. Also, with the skip and repeat button (forward and backward), I can skip things I don't feel like listening anyway.

    Now, why is this a good thing? Well, when given less choice (i.e., I can no long choose the song myself), I became less and less selective about the song. This mean, I can focus more on what I'm doing, like coding (programming), writing articles, making class handouts, cycling, etc. Also, I have less feeling of the routine in my life. After all, I cannot predict 2-3 songs in advanced any more (and guessing what is coming up next had been a game I play with myself for fun).

  • It doesn't work with my Bose speakers. I just tried plugging it in, and it doesn't seem to have enough power to drive my Bose speaker. Not a surprise, and this does not give this iPod shuffle any minus point. After all, iPod shuffle is a device for listening to music on the go, not in the room. For that, I use my old 3rd gen iPod or iPod mini, or directly from iTunes.

  • A real minus point here: while it can be put into sequential playing mode or shuffle mode, it does *not* have the repeat one song mode. Sometime, it shuffled up the song I really like, and I really in the mood for listening to that song 3-4 times. All I could do is keep pressing the backward button. A minus here for me.

  • Interface. Whille it is still symmetric like the iPod remote control, which had confused many people (and, one of the worst design out of Cupertino in my opinion), it is less symmetric (the placement of the entire interface) and therefore giving less confusion. The status-indicating LED took me a while to get used to, and now I have no problem reading it.

  • Talking about LED, well ... the battery indicator could have more work. After all, I want to be able to distinguish between 51% charged and 88% charged. Now the LED only change the color after the batter is down below 50% (maybe?). Battery life is pretty good though.

  • Haven't tested it with the car adapter yet. (I love using iPod while driving ... but I have no car in Japan, will test it when I go back to Thailand, soon).


So, that was my review. Longer than I initially thought ;-)

Conclusion: iPod shuffle is clearly a winner, if you want some music in your ears on the go, and help you focus on your works without worrying at all about the music.