Archive for the ‘Apple / Mac’ Category

Samsung’s iPhone Killer Won’t Kill a Fly

Monday, May 12th, 2008

I guess Samsung has decided to join the raft of players trying to come out with an “iPhone killer”. Or maybe we should just start calling them iPhone hangers-on? Check out a picture of it:


I’m sure if I actually used this phone I could come up with a whole host of reasons why this thing won’t come close to an iPhone. But just by looking at this image let’s go with:

Why have they taken up a giant chunk of the space on the home screen to inform me that I am looking at “My Shortcuts”? You know, it is probably a pretty intuitive guess these are my shortcuts since you know, it’s my phone and, well, these are the shortcuts on it. Seems to me like that screen space could have been used a lot more efficiently by showing an additional row of shortcuts or increasing the size of the same ones.

I’m sure Apple is trembling in their boots.

It Is Still Cool To Hate Microsoft

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Anti-Microsft sentiment is not really a new thing so you could say that I shouldn’t be surprised at some of the things I’ve been noticing recently. And yet, I am. I’m amazed at the consistent hate towards Microsoft in the media and software industries, and the subtle installation of those biases in the minds of others.

Exhibit #1 – “Mac Office users were Microsoft ‘guinea pigs’, MacWorld UK
This article from Johnny Evans at MacWorld UK was published after the public release of some internal Microsoft e-mails that discussed their plans for a Mac version of Office back in 1997. In the e-mail Ben Waldman, seemingly one of the leaders of the Mac Office ’97 team, implores Bill Gates and other Microsoft executives to come to a final decision on releasing the newest version of Mac Office they have been developing. His e-mail explains his motivations in detail but to sum up, he is most concerned with:

  1. Getting a great new product that’s almost ready to their Mac-using customers
  2. Trying not to crush the enthusiasm of what had to be a pretty large team of program managers, developers, and testers at Microsoft who had been working on Mac Office ’97 for months

Instead of focusing on or even mentioning the positives in Ben’s e-mail, Evans attempts to use this e-mail as proof of Microsoft’s evil tactics against Mac users. What he ends up doing instead is showing his complete lack of understanding of software development and sound business planning.

Despite the mud-slinging in the MacWorld UK and other articles, Microsoft’s tactic of trying things out on their smaller audience for Mac Office is actually “a good thing”. Since Mac Office is a product that is not as crucial to their business and bottom line, they have the opportunity to take some risks with it that they probably never would consider with the Windows version of Office. The outrage from their shareholders and the pundits would be huge if Microsoft tried out some risky or wacky UI ideas in the Windows version of Office that sent sales of the next version plummeting.

That’s not to say that the Mac version of Office should or would always get new features before they were introduced into the Windows version. It simply provides that opportunity for Microsoft. And if taken as a whole, Ben’s e-mail shows you that behind whatever legal or business wrangling was going on between Microsoft and Apple at the time, the people behind Mac Office ’97 believed in the product they were working on, worked hard to make it a good one, and wanted to deliver it into the hands of their faithful Mac-using customers.

Since when do we rip on companies for doing careful planning and testing of changes to the cash cow of their business?

Exhibit #2 – “Microsoft’s Meltdown, ZDNet UK
This article is just more of the sensationalist garbage that is typical of the media today. Maybe the media are producing more sensationalist articles and headlines because there are more things vying for readers’ attention than ever; they think it is the only way to find readers or viewers.

In an article attributed to the entire publication, ZDNet UK condemns every word Microsoft says and every byte of software Microsoft ships or has shipped until they can explain how there was a bug in OneCare, their anti-virus software. Apparently there was a bug in OneCare that, in some cases, would quarantine, not delete as ZDNet claims, a user’s entire e-mail collection if a virus was found in any one of the e-mails they had received or sent.

Is that a bad bug to have in an anti-virus program? Yes, definitely. Is it bad enough to condemn Microsoft forever as producing completely untrustworthy software? Not even close.

In a forum discussing the issue, someone from Microsoft stated that “this problem was found in beta and fixed

Expedia Travel Search Dashboard Widget

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

Screenshot of Expedia Search Dashboard widget

Download the Expedia Search Dashboard widget

A few weeks ago I noticed that Apple finally released a beta of Dashcode. I grabbed it of course and started to play with it; happy that widget creation wasn’t mind bogglingly annoying any more. This Expedia Search Dashboard widget is the first product of many from my tinkering in Dashcode.

The widget gives you a quick way to look up travel destination information, availability, and pricing. The whole thing is based on the Expedia Travel Search feature which is in Beta right now.

Here are some examples of searches you can do with this Dashboard widget:

  1. General Destination Search – “Atlanta” will take you to a page with deals for traveling to Atlanta and information on attractions for when you get there.
  2. Flight Search – “Seattle New York” will show you results for round-trip flights from Seattle to New York City in departing in two weeks. You can also specify a date range (6/21-6/26), a month (June), or a season (summer).
  3. Hotel Search – “Hotels in London” will show you results for hotels in London in two weeks. You can get specific with dates and months just like the flight search.
  4. Rental Car Search – “Cars in Miami” will get you the results for rental cars in Miami; same date stuff applies from flights and hotels.
  5. Cruise Search – “One Week Caribbean Cruise in July” will get you results for 6-9 night Caribbean cruises leaving in July. You can be less specific with the length of the cruise or the date range if you want.
  6. Popular Destination Search – “Disneyland” will get you to a page with deals and packages to visit Disneyland.
  7. Itinerary Search – “[your itinerary # goes here]” will take you to an updated view of your saved or booked Expedia itinerary. If you don’t know your itinerary number, you can search for “My Itineraries”.
  8. Flight Status Check “Flight Status AA 495” will get you the status of American Airlines Flight 495. You have to use the airline’s two-digit code for this one.
  9. Check the Weather “Weather in Seattle”, or any other city instead of gloomy Seattle, will take you to… a weather forecast for that city. Surprise!
  10. Currency Converter “Currency” or “Currency Converter” will take you to a currency converter.

Oh and remember:

  • Anything you search for is NOT case sensitive.
  • If you don’t enter a date, it will assume you’re leaving in two weeks.
  • It will remember your last ten searches. Just click on the little magnifying glass to get a drop-down selection.

That should be enough to get you started. Wow, this little guy sure does a lot. But remember, the text search feature at Expedia is in Beta and it’s not perfect. I know the guys at who built it and you’re more than welcome to leave your feedback on this widget, and the Expedia Travel Search feature in general, right here in the comments for this post. I will relay any non-widget-specific feedback to the search guys. And just to be clear, this is not an Expedia-endorsed product. I built this on my own, in my own time.

Next time I will try my hand at an Expedia Fare Calendar Dashboard widget. In the meantime, you can check out the official Expedia Fare Calendar Google Gadget that was just released.

Enjoy your trip!

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You Are Buying Windows Vista, Cancel or Allow?

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

On last night’s Daily Show I caught a glimpse of a new “Get A Mac” ad from Apple. You know, those fun little 30-second spots featuring John Hodgman as a PC and Justin Long as a Mac.

In this one, PC’s new Windows Vista operating system is serious about security. So serious the it comes with an “agent”. See what I mean…

I thought this was funny since I have heard about the semi-intrusive feature in Vista that repeatedly asks for permission to do simple things. Despite that, and some other egregious user interface and general user-hating flaws in the system, I will probably be the owner of a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate by the end of this day. That’s only because I will be getting it at the extreme discount that Microsoft employees get it for. It can’t hurt to have a copy of Redmond’s latest and greatest around, can it?

…”You are attempting to install Vista on your awesome MacBook Pro, cancel or allow?”

Snowfall and Treemaps

Monday, January 16th, 2006

I came across a couple of cool pieces of Mac software and thought I’d share them with the two Mac-using readers I’ve got.

Snowfall is a neat screensaver that basically has snowflakes falling down your screen. The cool bit is that the pictures of the snowflakes are not something drawn by an artist but are in fact from pictures of snowflakes taken from the archive of thousands Wilson Bentley.

The other is a utility called Disk Inventory X. This little applet is for those times when you’re trying to figure out where all of your hard drive space has gone. It will take a quick peek around your drive and tell you exactly where it’s gone, both graphically using the aforementioned “treemaps” as well as the usual text/list interface. Its a brand new app but I used it shortly on lots of data and it didn’t seem to choke.

I know about, and use, quite a few more little useful applets on the Mac and I suppose I might start posting about them a few at a time.

Camino is Coming

Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

Camino is the web browser you should be using if you’re on a Mac. If you know what Firefox is, and if you don’t by now please ask me or someone else, then here is how I’ll explain Camino to you. Camino at its core is built around the same technology that is in Firefox. However, Camino is built for Mac OS X only. That means that it:

  • Runs faster
  • Looks better

WWDC Update #1

Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

Wow. I am loving WWDC. It has been great so far. Its the second day of the conference, although the students here on scholarship, including myself, started a day earlier.

The Keynote
There was Steve’s keynote where he delivered the blow that shocked the PC world. Apple is not only switching the processors being used in their computers to Intel or x86 based processors but, they have been secretly been building, running, and testing Mac OS X on such systems ever since its inception. This is incredible since almost all of the software that Apple produces for the Mac (I’m not sure about the Pro Apps) seems to be already ported and ready to go for the new platform. Now its up to the rest of the developer’s to kick it into gear and do the same.

I finally got to see Steve speak live instead of on a webcast. He’s got showmanship and charisma to spare. He controls a room of 3,800 developers as easily as a pen on paper. (more…)

I’m Going to WWDC

Friday, June 3rd, 2005

Europe… didn’t… happen. For various reasons out of my control. There is no use stressing or being disappointed about it. It will happen when its meant to happen, I am sure it will work itself out soon enough.

Instead I am headed back to San Francisco and Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference. I was invited there on a student scholarship and I’m very much looking forward to it. Hopefully I’ll learn a lot and meet a few interesting people in the process.

In preparation for WWDC I installed the copy of Mac OS X 10.4 or Tiger as its better known. There are a number of improvements throughout the system which I like but to be honest I don’t think its worth the extra $100 or so for most people. Spotlight and Dashboard are cool but hardly the bee’s knees.

I also have a bone to pick with Spotlight searches: (more…)

Why Apple Makes a One Buttoned Mouse

Sunday, January 30th, 2005

I used to be one of the people who complained that Apple only included a one-button mouse with their computers. I just couldn’t understand why they were sticking to such an outdated thing. Then I did a couple of things that opened my eyes and changed my mind.

First, I became a salesperson at the campus computer store. There I had the privilege of working with computer users of every technical level including those at level ZERO. Second, I bought a Mac and have been using it for over a year. In that time I realized the subtle differences that make Mac applications easier to use than their Windows equivalents and the one-button mouse is a contributing factor to this as well.

So the first reason the one-button mouse still exists is those level zero users. Helping them over the phone especially, once you tell them to right-click something, you will inevitably hear every time after that when you ask them to click on something, “Should I left-click or right-click?” Hey, its happened to me and if you were helping all your family with computers, its probably happened to you too.

The second reason is more subtle. The fact that such a large part of the Mac user base only uses a one-button mouse, forces those who develop applications for the Mac to design with these people in mind. And what that ultimately results in is programs that don’t have useful features hidden away somewhere in one of their “right-click menus”, and only there.

Well, don’t take my word for it. Andru over at GearLive has written a nice article explaining all the right reasons why Macs still ship with one-button mice. Check it out… Gear Live | Why Apple Makes a One Buttoned Mouse

Objective-C & The Digital Brain Fart

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

So, where to begin? I’m living in Berkeley for the summer in the apartment Ara and I will be sharing in the coming year. For now however, my apartment-mate for the summer is Mario. Mario just got his M.S. in Structural Engineering from Berkeley. He needed a place to chill while he looked for jobs and that?s how he ended up here. He’s a nice guy and it’s working out really well. So well in fact that we sometimes end up in really long conversations bashing, in no particular order, President Bush, the education system in the U.S., and of course the wonderful “two-party democratic” political system in the U.S. Suffice to say that we’re both itching to see Fahrenheit 9/11. If you don’t know what that is, please go check out the trailer.

Meanwhile, Berkeley is a huge bore. Nobody is here, plus I don’t have my car. And please don’t ask me if I’m meeting my In N Out consumption quotas because I’ll be too ashamed to answer. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a million things that I’d like to do, they just can’t involve too many people since, there are none remember?

I’ve started reading a book to learn Objective C. I looked around at reviews on a lot of books on developing for Mac OS X and between those and my sensibilities, I decided that it would be better for me to learn the programming language and the API’s for the OS separately. Otherwise it might be too many new things to digest simultaneously and I don’t want to confuse things in my head. If you know me you know that I love to have a solid and thorough understanding of anything before I can be comfortable with it. So anyway, the book I decided to read is “Programming in Objective-C”.

I just had the funniest thing happen to me. Know when you’re about to say something and then forget what you were going to say? Of course you do. Well what’s the digital equivalent of that? I wanted to send an e-mail; by the time I opened the new e-mail window I had completely forgotten the person I wanted to send something to and what it was about. I sat there chuckling for a couple minutes at this new digital version of a classic brain-fart, then I remembered what I was going to write and I got crackin’. Lots more to come soon, stay tuned.