Mercury in Retrograde

This week has been pretty crazy.

Our upstairs neighbor had his new-ish Toyota FJ cruiser stolen, right in front of the building.  

I found out a good friend of mine is pregnant. Well, he's not, but his girlfriend is. They're stoked.

Three people got fired from work today. Oddly enough, I started on the exact same day as one of them.

I have a meeting in about an hour during which my level of popularity in this office will go even lower.

And it's only Tuesday. 

The WWDC 2007 Keynote

So, it was kind of underwhelming. Of course, I would guess the biggest news is the announcement of Safari for Windows.

It seemed everything shown about Leopard was sort of a re-hash. We had already seen Time Machine, already seen Spaces. I am a little grossed out by the menu bar transparency – who thought that was a good idea?

Stacks seem like a good idea, but isn't this just a variation on a folder? As it is right now, I can have a folder in the dock, and right-clicking on it will show it's contents in a menu… am I missing something? The grid idea is cool, but again, can't I just have a window set to icon-view such that clicking the folder in the doc opens a window full of icons?

I'm on board with the "new" unified interface. It's about time for some real consistency.

CoverFlow in the Finder is a good idea, but I doubt it'll be too useful. Quickview is slick, but I just can't see myself using it too much. 

The improvements to iCal look good. Long overdue.

I think the thing that is generating the most hate right now is the announcement of the iPhone "SDK" – Apple basically saying you can build robust web apps using AJAX, CSS, HTML/XML and Javascript that would work in Safari. Not exactly what developers were hoping for, but more specifically kind of an insult. Gruber puts it best in terms of a shit sandwich:

"If all you have to offer is a shit sandwich, just say it. Don’t tell us how lucky we are and that it’s going to taste delicious."

Basically, devs are crying foul over the fact that not only did Apple not release an SDK for developing apps that would function the same way Apple's native iPhone apps behave, but that Apple treated the web app method as just as good. Clearly not the case, and anyone that's ever programmed either web apps, or Cocoa knows it.

iPhone Hysteria

Yeah, I'll admit it: I totally want one, and will be in line on the 29th. 

My personal fanboy-ism aside, the hype around this single device is getting a little out of hand.

This is what's going on in the iPhonosphere, as of today:

  • People are crying foul about it's lack of 3G and lack of actual tactile keyboard. See the comments on this post on Slashdot. The 3G stuff is mostly noise from spoiled Europeans, but I have to wonder about the keyboard; that's a lot of virtual keys to fit in a very small space. 
  • Employees of AT&T stores are starting to leak the "sales training manuals" for the device.
  • A few first hand reports are starting to show up in the usual places. See here and here – Note to self, never eat at Balthazar ($400 seeming like a "light" bill? No thanks.)
  • Apple posted the first three TV commercials on their site, and many an eagle eyed viewer found that the order and placement of the icons on the home screen didn't match the rest of the standard marketing materials available thusfar. When Apple posted the fourth TV spot, it was found that all of the other commercials had been edited such that now the icons are in the correct order and with correct placement (whereby "correct," I mean matching the original marketing materials.) See here, and then here. They also removed the small-print tagline mentioning the mandatory 2-year contract.

That last bullet has lead some to believe that there's going to be some kind of mystery iPhone app announcement at WWDC on Monday (or possibly before June 29th) but just as many people are guessing that the misplaced icons were an editing snafu. I, as I'm sure you could guess, am hoping for the former.

I can honestly say that I've never been this excited about an upcoming device. Three weeks from today, I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say about this.

We Had a Great Time

Dan and Josie came to the city for a visit last night. We cabbed it over to Vietnam Resturant and had awesome food and silly named drinks. We walked back to the apartment in the perfect weather.

Then we went to Flannery's:

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In the usual Flannery's tradition, Butch provided a free round. We had a great time.

Thanks for coming down guys! Sorry I forgot to charge the air mattress pump!

 http://mastrippolito.net/wp-content/uploads/CIMG0338.jpg

OSx86

When Apple announced they were moving to Intel hardware, a lot of folks (myself included) realized that there must be a way to crack it such that OS X can be installed on non-Apple Intel hardware.

Enter the OSx86 Project. These guys are amazing. In particular, a fellow by the moniker of JaS has set about patching the various releases of OS X such that a normal DVD can be burned that vanilla Intel gear will boot from, and subsequently allow the installation of OS X.

In the previous post, I mentioned I had obtained a copy of such software. So, I tried it out.

Keep in mind, that this is illegal. In addition, one of the great things about Apple is that they are a closed eco-system: they build the hardware, they write the software for that hardware. They marry the ends together in a perfectly seamless, stable and powerful way. This marriage of hardware and software makes sense: they only have to write drivers for hardware they know they have to support. Which is precisely why they don't allow installation of OS X on vanilla hardware, because there are too many variables. It would be a black eye for Apple to have some schmoe install OS X on his two hundred dollar POS dell, but then not have any internet or sound support. For true blue Apple hardware, as the saying goes, it just works.

Using modified/patched software to circumvent intentional hardware limitations is sort-of asking for trouble.  Apple's Intel hardware has something called a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) that the software checks for. If the TPM is not present, the machine won't boot, or the software can't be installed. The patched copy by JaS gets around this, and allows the generic PC to boot from the DVD, as well as install the OS.

It came as little surprise then, that some stuff didn't work after installing. Firstly, the DVD didn't recognize the capacious 500 GB SATA drive because… there's no SATA support for my motherboard. No problem: there's a 10 GB IDE drive, just in case. It recognized the IDE drive, which I erased and formatted as HFS+. 

The installer hung up and crashed about 70% of the way through the first attempt. So I tried again, only this time everything went smoothly. 

Upon rebooting, I was greeted with a screen image that was rotated -90 degrees. I went through the registration process (which I didn't send, BTW) and rebooted again. This time, it came up rotated correctly, only it took up 1/3 of the screen. So, after some googling and terminal tinkering, I had added some resolution modes that were more reliable for my graphics card/LCD combo. One more reboot, and it looks perfect.

At this point, since it was a fully installed and native copy of OS X, I took a minute to click around in the search for what various forum dwellers would call "teh [sic] snappy" – and boy did I find it. Safari launches in less than one bounce. Mail, iCal, Address Book – pretty much all of the standard apps are blazingly speedy. Resizing of windows and moving windows around is ultra smooth.

So, next, I found that the built-in ethernet port on the MOBO isn't supported. It's a Realtek RTL8211 – so far no patches are available. As a workaround, I think I can install a PCI wi-fi card, which should be natively supported.

Also, the MOBO's built-in audio chip is not supported, either. I guess I could get a PCI audio card that I know to be supported, but I'm going to try looking for patched AppleHDA.kext's first. 

In any case, despite the crazy speed, the machine is not really usable as a production machine just yet. 

Maybe I should just round up all my hardware and sell it on craigslist – and take the money and buy a new Mac Pro

New Machine

I finally got around to it: I built my own computer.

I didn't expect for it to be quite as easy as it ended up being. I bought the parts, plugged them all in, plopped it all in a case, plugged in the power, turned it on… and it booted right up. 

The specs:

  • MSI P6N nVidia SLi 650i Premium  (Socket 775)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo 2.14 GHz
  • 1 GB ram
  • 500 GB SATA drive
  • 10 GB IDE drive (just in case!)
  • nVidia GeForce 256 MB DDR2 PCI-X x16
  • Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-500 tuner card
  • 650W ThermalTake Tough Power PSU

It runs exceptionally quietly. Compared to my G4 Sawtooth, this thing is silent.

It runs ubuntu like a champ, and I'm having fun with exploring the wide world of free and open source software. I'm fond of beryl.

I managed to get my hands on a copy of the JaS patched install DVD for OS X 10.4.8 – a little birdy told me that OS X running on new Intel gear is super speedy. Can't wait to try it.

Really, this is sort of a dream come true – I've always wanted to build a computer, but never had sufficient justification for doing so. On top of that, I've pretty much always used Macs (by choice, not by circumstance) and for the Apple hardware, there is no option of "build you own machine."

Herbert E. Chandler; 1924-2007

My grandfather passed away today, about an hour ago.

He called me M, which I have to admit is one of the coolest nicknames I've ever had the pleasure of being called, and one of which I am most fond. He called me M because of my middle name. Or maybe my last name. Either way, no one ever said M the way he said M. Eh-yem. Aym.

He fought in World War II, in the Air Force. My mom and her sister Nancy didn't know he fought in the war until they were grownups, when he was showing us his medals. Ironically, after surviving combat, he lost his leg in a civilian quarry accident at his place of work in Birmingham, PA. He used to put his cigarettes in the hole in his old wooden legs, and tell my brother and I that it was where the mouse lived. It always freaked us out.

He was a twin; his brother Hersey died a few months ago resulting from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Aside from Hersey, he was brother to Watson (aka: Bus), Erma, Frannie, Franklin, Alfred and Hazel (who died at 7 years old, or so.)

When he was a young man, his hair was so blond, it earned him the nickname Whitey. Yeah, it was that blond. Of course, when his hair actually started to turn white, the name seemed all the more apt. I didn't know his first name was Herbert until I turned 8 years old; everyone called him Whitey.

When I was very young, my mother worked part time at a Hallmark store in Kennett Square. Every Tuesday, I got to spend the day at her parents while she worked, since dad was doing his thing with the mushroom houses. These Tuesdays are chock full of stories, and endless jokes that only make sense in our family.

He let me play with knives, despite Mommom's protest. As it turns out, Mommom was right.

On his 40th wedding anniversary, my folks hosted a shindig to which a ton of people were invited. My mom made a huge sheet cake with white frosting and red lettering. I remember so vividly that when no one was looking, a 6 year old version of myself slid a finger across the icing and stuck it in his mouth. But it turns out Poppop saw; I turned around and he was looking right at me. But he didn't tell. 

He used to let me hide my peas, green beans, or pretty much any vegetable I didn't like, under his potato skins so that no one would know I didn't eat my veggies. It was a standing agreement at any family gathering. I always made sure I sat next to him.

Somehow, it became widely known that Poppop liked yellow socks. It was a sort of funny gag-gift after awhile. Every Christmas. Every birthday. For a long time. A few years ago, when he moved from Dilworthtown to Bethany Beach, they found endless packages of yellow socks that had never even been opened.

He liked to feed the birds. He always had binoculars close at hand to spot the first robin of the season, or a cardinal in the snow. His house was encrusted with bird feeders. Different feeders had different feed, to attract different birds. He had engineered a couple of crafty devices for keeping the squirrels away, too.

He knew everyone, and everyone knew him. He could tell you the first and last name of every neighbor within a 15 mile radius, and their kids names in order by age. He knew Dilworthtown like the back of his hand.

It sounds almost trite, but he had a rich, full life. He died knowing that his line hadn't ended. He had the pleasure of hanging out with his great-grandsons on a regular basis.

He'll be missed, surely.

The Next Gen iPhone

Sure, it might be a little early for speculation, seeing as how the current generation of the iPhone isn't even available yet, but I'm going to hazard a few guesses here anyway.

Since the gadget itself really consists of two major aspects, software and hardware, I'll break up the predictions into those categories.

HARDWARE:

  1. 3.2 MP Camera: this was something surprising about the 2 MP cam in the first gen model – why would Apple be a me-too in this area? Most higher end phones are pushing for higher and higher MP counts. (I'm waiting for Sony Ericsson to release a new 4 or 5 MP camera phone any day now.)
  2. Thinner chassis: This is almost a gimme. It's the natural order of things, after all.
  3. Integrated GPS: I mis-reported in my first post regarding the iPhone; the current unit does NOT have a GPS tuner. The Google Maps integration is web based only. However, with the kind of partnership Apple has with Google for this device, I'm thinking a GPS version with Maps support isn't too far off.
  4. 3G: A lot of phone snobs are making a big deal about this. The current version utilizes Cingular's (AT&T's?) EDGE network for high speed over-the-air downloads. EDGE is so 2005. I think Apple made a good choice with leaving 3G alone for now for a couple reasons: One, 3G is only available in select markets; and Two, 3G eats battery like nobodies business. BUT, in the next two years, Cingular/AT&T will have greatly expanded their coverage, AND hardware manufacturers will figure out ways to make 3G more energy efficient.
  5. Better Battery Life: 5 Hours of talk time + browsing is OK. 16 hours of playback is longer than the current iPod lineup. But, as more and more stuff gets crammed into this device, this is a limiting factor on the gadget's usability. Better batteries are a must.

SOFTWARE:

  1. Adding a GPS tuner might give way to a host of location-aware applications. Maps is the most obvious example, but what about automatically geo-tagging pictures taken with the built-in camera? Or some kind of buddy finder so you can see the long/lat of the person on the other end of your current call.
  2. I'd love to be able to have the iPhone paired with my Mac via Bluetooth, and use a "capture-only" version of Delicious Library to scan bar codes using the built-in iPhone camera. Then, the desktop version of DL would accept that scan and then act the same way it would if I had just scanned something with a wired FireWire cam. Perhaps even a method to store those scans, and then sync them via Bluetooth at a later point in time.
  3. Exchange Support: This one is also kind of a gimme. Apple has already shoe-horned something like this into Mail.app on their desktop OS, so why not add it to a device that would clearly appeal to business users? Business users that probably work at companies that only use MS Exchange Server for their mail. 
  4. Video Recording: Since it comes with a camera, it only makes sense that this thing could shoot stills AND video. I'm placing this under software because I'm willing to bet that the current iPhone will be able to shoot video, if only via a software update.

I guess this list could go on and on, and who knows? Maybe we'll see some of this on the FIRST iPhone. 

 

 

More Thoughts on the iPhone

After some further review of the announced specs, as well as varied input from the Mac community, here are some revised/additional thoughts on Apple's new iPhone.

NO FM RADIO – I don't think anyone will care, myself included, but this is something I feel like I have to mention. A lot of higher end phones seem to have this thrown in, because it's such a gimmick. I'll admit that when I was looking into buying my K750i, the idea of having a ubiquitous FM tuner on hand at all times seemed great. In reality, though, I never use it.

NO FLASH/TORCH/LIGHT – Something that I do use frequently on my K750 is it's built-in high intensity LED. It works pretty well for brightening photos in darker environs, but I more frequently use it as a straight-up flashlight. You'd be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't) at how handy this thing is – I look under the couch with it at least once a week.

NO SWAPPABLE BATTERY – This is very much in line with Apple's iPod strategy, where you cannot remove or replace the built-in battery. There will be battery recycling/replacement initiatives, I'm sure, but at what cost to the consumer?

NO USER UPGRADEABLE MEMORY – It appears that there will be no expansion slot for the inclusion of larger capacity flash disks. My K750 has a memory stick pro duo slot, in which a 2GB chip currently sits. Sure, I might not use more than 2 GB in a regular cell phone, but I would imagine that 4GB or 8GB in a smartphone that will handle movies, music, photos, etc might get a little cramped. I shouldn't have to buy a whole new iPhone just to get a memory upgrade.

NO WIRELESS SYNCING – This is something I heard from David Pogue's quick hands-on notes. I'm sure this refers to the lack of an ability to sync wirelessly via wifi for use with photos and music and movies; I can't imagine Apple would not include their stupid-easy Bluetooth contact/calendar syncing via iSync. It's something I've come to depend on really, so I hope I won't have to resort to using a [*shudder*] USB cable to do something I've been doing wirelessly for years.

NO THIRD PARTY APPS – Granted, we're WAY early in the game here, but I've heard various rumblings about the iPhone's lack of an SDK. Developers need an SDK if they're going to be able to write apps that will run on the device. Developers also need time to develop apps. Even if Apple releases an SDK and dev kits to developers NOW, that only gives them about 5 months to learn the SDK and build their apps. That might be a little bit of a cramped time-frame. Like I said, it's still early; Apple could easily surprise us by proving that yes, this thing actually does run OS X. If that's the case (which I find sort of unlikely…) then it should be no problem to just move the app over to the device.

OS X – Ok, so that last bit segues nicely into this next bit. What makes this thing tick? Steve said it runs OS X, but that was about it. Just by looking at the interface, it's pretty obvious it's not any version of OS X with which even the most evangelical of Mac enthusiasts is familiar. (Something that would be awesome to see: a new version of Xcode that has a new compiler checkbox: add "iPhone" to the already existing "PowerPC" and "Intel.")

No MIDP/JAVA ENVIRONMENT – Something else I use a lot on my K750i, is it's Java environment, by way of MIDP 2. I can install and run any variety of third party java apps or games. Since the desktop variant of OS X uses Java as one of it's foundation layers, I'd be surprised to find that the iPhone doesn't include something similar. After all, it runs OS X, right?

 

 

Thoughts on the iPhone

If you've known me for any longer than 5 minutes, you know that I am a phone whore. I like the small form factors, the feature robustness, the pervasiveness of portable technology, the pace of new models being released – I love mobile devices.

If you use a cell phone, you're probably used to your interface. You've used it often enough while trying to make calls or send text messages that you've merely gotten used to it. In general, cell phone interfaces are abysmal. They lack key visual clues. They often lack a straightforward way to accomplish a straightforward task quickly. Guess what? It's a mobile phone – things should be fast and intuitive. If I wanted to spend 10 minutes trying to figure out how to send a picture to a friend, I'd do it in front of a computer, not my phone.

A lot of people have been saying for a long time that if Apple were to enter the mobile handset market, they would turn the whole industry on its ear.

Now, Apple has done exactly that. 

My personal thoughts, as they occurred to me during today's keynote: 

  1. I wish they'd stop talking about the AppleTV
  2. Whoa, is that a phone?
  3. Holy cow – this trumps almost all of the features from the K790a I almost bought. Except the camera.
  4. I bet a lot of folks at Moto and Nokia are upset right about now. And so are their shareholders.
  5. Hey, wait, I'm already a Cingular subscriber! 
  6. How much does it cost. When can I get one? 
  7. Stop yapping and tell me how much it costs and when I can get one!
  8. Ouch. That's a lot of clams. And June is so far away.

So, to me, it seems like Apple basically took a good long look at the existing smartphone market, and said,  (in a very typical Apple style) "Nah, let's try something else." So they scrapped all of the conventional wisdom, and built their own gadget from the ground up. Some noteworthy specs:

  • 2MP camera (this would be a lateral move for me – I had planned on upgrading to the SE K790a's 3.2 MP camera with AF.)
  • Integrated Wi-fi
  • Quad-band GSM/EDGE (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz bands – this is a WORLD phone!)
  • 4GB or 8GB storage
  • All touch-screen interface – no buttons. Killer. This item hearkens back to the original point I was making at the beginning of this post: Apple has pretty much re-invented the phone interface. Multi-touch support, which means you can have more than one finger doing different things at the same time. To top it all off, it's so pretty, just like real OS X. For the most part, everything looks fairly intuitive, and more closely resembles what I feel a mobile device's interface should be.
  • Accelerometer – it knows when it's oriented as landscape or portrait and automatically adjusts the display to suit. Magic.
  • Proximity detector – turns off the touchscreen when it's next to your face (so you don't accidentally hang up on people or send the phone into some crazy application.)
  • 3.5 in. screen – apparently super high quality. I believe it – c'mon, it's Apple. 
  • Runs OS X – this amazes me. What kind of architecture powers this little thing?
  • Handles Desktop-class applications, natively (again: I'm amazed.) 
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR and A2DP – also things I would have gotten in the K790a, and in this day and age, I can't imagine a phone without bluetooth. 
  • Everything else…

And there you have it. I'll be placing 20 dollars a week into an envelope, and in 25 weeks, I'll be buying one of these.

June or bust!