In an interview with Reuters Steve Jobs is quoted saying that customers are “not interested” in a subscription-based model for buying music.
What? None of them? How many has he asked?
In an interview with Reuters Steve Jobs is quoted saying that customers are “not interested” in a subscription-based model for buying music.
What? None of them? How many has he asked?
What were they thinking? I mean Taxidermy is icky at the best of times. But to turn a dead animal into a productivity aid? Ewwwwwww. You’d have to touch the thing all day long.
And Sorrel suggests this idea could be taken further, to produce an iPod case.
Excuse me while I run to the bathroom to vomit.
In today’s Mac Devcenter article, I wrote that iQuiz Maker will not import raw data files for you to create trivia packs. However, iQuiz offers a nice feature that I did not cover in the article. It allows you to open and edit all existing trivia packs installed into the iQuiz 1.0 folder in your iTunes/iPod Games directory. “All existing trivia packs” includes the custom ones you build according to the directions in my article.
This means that you can use all the iQuiz Maker features with your custom trivia packs including its game emulator. So if you want to play an iQuiz game without your iPod, just launch iQuiz Maker, select your trivia pack and click Play.
For those of you who want to try out the multiplication and trivia packs I mentioned in the article, you’ll find them here. These include three variations on the multiplication game, the
C source used to create them, and a set of six trivia packs built using trivia data from the net that was represented as open-source and/or public domain on the sites I downloaded from. (If anyone knows otherwise, please let me know and I’ll remove them.)
At last month’s Musikmesse, there was good news and not so good news from Apple.
The good news is that this year saw Apple’s most eye-catching Messe booth, yet. Following Apple’s signature black/silver/white design, the booth was bigger than in previous years, featured a larger demo theater, and also boasted a more prominent location on the show floor. A welcome sign that Apple is serious about this industry.
The not so good news: Apple made no announcements whatsoever.
Late on Friday, Apple released a software update designed to fix performance of MacBook and MacBook Pro batteries.
But additional statements from Apple since that release have been a little more forthcoming. If the update doesn’t fix your battery, Apple may be willing to send you a free replacement, even if the computer is out of warranty.
The qualifying symptoms of a dead battery are:
Judging by the reactions in the Apple Forums, a lot of users are very pleased to see the release of this update (although a few have reported problems after installing it). It’s fair to say that battery performance, and stories of warping batteries, have been a problem for Apple for some time now. Some action to remedy the situation is welcome, although some sufferers of swollen batteries might wish it had happened sooner. Don’t forget, though, that there was a previous MacBook Pro battery recall in July last year, so it’s possible that some users will be getting a second replacement battery as a result of this new offer.
Personally speaking, the battery horror stories I kept reading were one of the main factors that stopped me buying a replacement portable computer earlier this year.
Brian and Richard, creators of the admirable FreeMacWare site, are handing it over to new owners. They’ve done a great job of highlighting decent Mac freeware, let’s hope the new team keep up the good work.
Script Software has released version 5.3.3 of cross-platform data analysis tool KnowledgeMiner.
Declutter your desktop; a simple desk-hack to help hide those pesky wires.
Tim Gaden’s on the top of all things email-related, as usual, and reveals that the latest WebKit builds improve your use of Gmail (and other webapps) in Safari.
“Steve Jobs solved my MacBook woes” - or words to that effect. Scrivener creator Keith Blount describes his awful experience with a first-generation MacBook and subsequent purchase of a MacBook Pro. In the post, he says:
After the discolouration issue finally got resolved (mainly because I wrote an angry ranting e-mail to email@example.com and had Corporate Relations sort it out for me), the notorious random shutdown issue raised its ugly head, necessitating a repair.
Fumo, the smokin’ Quicksilver interface. Personally, I’d prefer to stick with something a little less animated.
The makers of MacJournal have been busy; there’s now a Windows version called, um, WinJournal.
iStumbler Release 98: WiFi/Bluetooth Network Activity Monitor
The latest version of the freeware Mac OS X wireless network detection tool was released this past February.
iStumbler Release 98
iStumbler not only detects WiFi. It also detects Bluetooth wireless activity as well as Apple Bonjour network sharing.
A Dashboard iStumbler widget is also available from the same site.
Google Presentation (PowerPoint-like app) Hype
There’s been a lot of talk on the net about Google’s Eric Schmidt announcing that a presentation manager (PowerPoint-like) web application that will be available within a few months. The hype is that the Google Docs (word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation manager) will be an Office killer. I was there along with thousands of other people at the Web 2.0 Expo keynote presentation yesterday when Schmidt showed a few plain slides of black text on a white background before making the announcement. And, I think that most of the hype in the news is just that: hype. When asked, Schmidt himself said that it is Google Docs is not positioned to be an Office killer. He considers is complementary (as do I).
maccam: USB Webcam Support
I have an old 640×480 Intel USB webcam that I wanted to try with my 1st generation Mac mini (G4 variety). The camera is auto-magically recognized by Windows XP and works fine there. So, I was surprised how awful the image from it looked when I tried the Open Source…
maccam: USB Webcam Support for Mac OS X
But, your mileage may vary. So, if you have a webcam on the list of supported devices for this project and have a camera-less Mac, check out macmcam and see if it helps you out.
HandBrake 0.8.5b1 Released for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux
First there was HandBrake (the premiere Open Source DVD to MPEG4 solution for Mac OS X), then it slowed down, then MediaFork picked up the slack, then they announced regrouping and working together. And, now, here’s the latest version:
While it is great to see the project reinvigorated, the big news, I think, is that it is no longer just a Mac OS X based project. There is also a Windows and a Linux installer available with this release (as mentioned by the MediaFork people earlier in its development).
There are some applications that I just can’t live without.
A week or so ago, I performed a complete re-install of my main working computer. Part of the process included going through my Applications folder and trashing every app that I just didn’t need, cutting it down to the bare minimum. As it turned out, I only ended up keeping half of all my existing apps in the new set-up.
1. iPhone looks like it will ship on time.
2. Apple hinted that supplies may be initially limited, saying that iPhone availability will depend on initial demand.
3. In January, Apple suggested that revenues would be down now that the holiday season had passed–and they were not.
4. Europe will get the iPhone in Q4 this year
5. I’d love to see Apple’s definition of “incredible”, particularly in regards to Apple TV’s “incredible reviews”. Most of the reviews I’ve seen so far have been mildly positive to quite negative.
Over at Mac OS X Hints, an anonymous poster has discovered that Apple TV retains whatever sort order you set in iTunes. If you want your music to show up in alphabetical order, make sure you click on the Name header in iTunes before you sync to Apple TV.
Apple just had a Q2 2007 Financials conference call and mentioned Apple TV and a subscription model–but for free software updates not for content–would be implemented. From what I gathered, iPhone and Apple TV will use subscription-type accounting to provide free upgrades that will “surprise and delight” customers. If anyone has further details about what this “Apple TV Subscription Model” refers to, please feel free to elucidate in the comments or drop me an e-mail.
By the way, Apple declined to announce the number of Apple TV unit sales to date.
Over at AppleTVBBS, poster mtech figured out how to stream Internet radio using VLC. He installed a copy of VLC and my perlbin plug-in and then created individual “station” files in /Users/frontrow/perlbin along the following lines:
#!/usr/bin/perl use strict; use warnings; my $status = system("/Users/frontrow/VLC.app/Contents/MacOS/VLC http://wnycam.streamguys.com");
According to a follow-up post, you can also create a pls playlist for use with the ATVFiles plug-in.
Browsers are everywhere and nowhere, they are getting built into applications so that soon one will not need a stand-alone browser, you can just use whichever app you have at hand or your file browser. The most recent example is Coda from panic software, but it by no means is alone. Coda may be a little different from other apps in that it is purpose built as a web development tool, and it looks to be a mighty good one at that, still lots of applications these days are network-aware and/or have plugins to the network to get data. In fact nearly all of the apps open on my Mac right now have a network component; the Dashboard apps, iCal, iTunes, and Terminal, not to mention Safari.
It is an interesting development that browsers as well as network-aware applications are starting to proliferate since it offers us a counter-weight to the view that applications are migrating from the desktop to out on the network. What if the network is migrating to the desktop?
These applications are breaking down the binary opposition of ‘desktop’ and ‘network’ applications, the distinction in computing between ‘local’ and ‘remote’ resources. They can do this because of two chief reasons;
1. Apple has provided the software to build browsers easily with WebKit
2. Network connections are becoming faster and ubiquitous
Are Coda and other applications, not just Shiira, the logical outgrowth of Apple Open Sourcing WebKit? Is this the kind of innovation that keeps Apple at the forefront of usable computing? If the answers are yes maybe Apple should open up more. I think Apple should continue to share important parts of its proprietary technology to allow innovation that gets incorporated back into the OS in the form of third party applications. Look at Coda and iWeb, they are similar aren’t they? Which one would you like to have? Wouldn’t Coda be a persuasive argument for buying a new Mac if it was bundled in? I think so.
Another thing that makes this possible is the ubiquity of network connections and the seamless way they integrate into desktop applications. Now you can unplug your apps and the network appears to remain, all the functionality is there, the data is just time shifted to the point where the network connection is active again. This makes the network irrelevant, or at least transparent in the sense that you do not need to be “online” to get your work done; you will be “online” eventually and your work will propagate to various servers once your connection is live again so one can just work without worrying about network presence.
The recent release of Coda has been splashed all over the Internet over the past few days. As usual, the Panic team has done an outstanding job and delivered an application that is both visually innovative and quintessentially Mac-like. Coda, unfortunately, does not fit into my already Panic-powered workflow, except for one little gem, that I already cannot live without.
I just noticed that Tim O’Reilly blogged about the Better GMail Firefox extension. As a GMail user, I think that this extension is a great addition, but it makes me wonder — how long before Google absorbs it into the core GMail application and renders it obsolete? And if that should occur, does it conflict with Google’s “Don’t be evil” mantra?
Perhaps I’m speculating a bit to assume that Google would even consider incorporating all of the Better GMail features and render it useless — but why wouldn’t they? After all, they have an incentive to make GMail the best possible application that it can be so that they can continue harvesting data, targeting advertisements, making a profit, etc. Besides, there are all of those IE users who will probably want those extra features too, right?
So…would Google stealing someone else’s GMail hacks constitute any form of evilness at all, or is it fair game? When would they be crossing the line? Could Google could avoid these predicaments by handing out spot bonuses for ideas that are good enough to “steal”?
Panic Software’s new Coda app offers a new approach to web site development, claiming to offer everything you need in “one window”.
The very first thing that struck me about it was the eye candy. Create a new site, fill in some of the server details and click “Save”, and the sheet you were filling in doesn’t slide up like most sheets do; it elegantly swishes out of view, flipping itself over in the process. It’s the kind of thing we’ve got used to seeing in Dashboard widgets, not desktop apps.
The second thing I noticed was the toolbar is not a toolbar, it’s a means of switching between modes. In fact, it’s not even customizable in the standard way. There are no other toolbar buttons other than those used to switch from one mode to another, and the search box.
There are lots of controls everywhere else though. Above and below the edit window you’ll see various contextual buttons and twiddles that change as you move between modes.
The code editor at the heart of the app is SubEthaEdit, which means it has Bonjour network sharing built-in. There’s a neat toggle button for switching the sharing on and off.
I haven’t yet got my head around the handling of CSS. It’s possible to create a .css text file and edit it by hand; it’s also possible to use the CSS mode to access a GUI for creating CSS using good-old point-and-click. The hows and whys of which system to use, and when, escape me for now. But as the title of this post says, this is just about first impressions.
UPDATE:Steven Frank’s overview adds more context and is well worth reading before you dive into Coda.
I’ve dabbled in Perl, messed with csh, but I always seem to come back to C (and her sisters) and Smalltalk. Now I have a little space in my life to learn a new language. Help me figure out where I should direct my energy and let me know why this will take me to new and important places development-wise. Thanks!
So here it is. The proof of concept Finder Hiding widget. So why did I bother? What’s the big idea? It goes basically like this: Apple TV (and, presumably the upcoming iPhone) can run many Intel Mac OS X applications because Apple TV is, essentially, an OS X computer that runs a slight variant on the OS. However, Finder wants to take over and control the way users interact with the unit. It refuses to hide, it refuses to hand over control to another app.
More after the jump…
It looks like iChat in Leopard is going to be more scriptable than ever before according to this article from Apple. You’ll be able to use Cocoa to access iChat views and write to them from your applications:
IMAVManager *manager = [IMAVManager sharedManager]; [manager setVideoDataSource:myView];
But what really interests me is the enhanced AppleScript access that will allow you to start video chats, send messages, and create iChat event handlers.
See that picture? That’s what happens when you attempt to hide Finder.app using releaseAllDisplays. Yes, you can kind of get Finder to hide but then when you launch another application, things get confused as to who is allowed to draw what. This shows me opening what should be a menu and revealing part of Finder.app’s screen saver.
With the help and knowledge of AwkwardTV’s Eric III and Alan_Quartermain, I did manage to create a plug-in that hides Finder but I can’t seem to launch a program successfully and get it to take over the screen. My greatest success involved launching VLC from the command line and having it play back a movie full-screen. Finder stays hidden and VLC’s constant video updates and redraws prevented the issues seen here. Unfortunately, you could not control the video playback at all using the remote control.
In other related news, Alan_Quartermain has posted an advanced Apple TV coding tutorial about creating custom controls that is well worth checking out.
Ack. A bit lighter than usual for last weeks collection of Freeware and Free & Open Source Software for Mac OS X last week. If you have any suggestions of F/FOSS Mac OS X apps that I haven’t already mentioned in the past months, please let me know!
SuperDuper! Mac Backup
SuperDuper! is a Mac OS X freeware application that can perform scheduled backups from hard disk to hard disk (e.g., internal HD to external Firewire/USB HD). More advanced features can be obtained by paying $27.95 to upgrade it to the for-fee version. But, the free version looks usable and useful to a lot of people.
Jaiku: Twitter Wannabe? Twitter Killer? Or Something Else?
Want to express yourself in 140 characters or less? There are at least two well-known web services that let you do just that. I mentioned Twitter a while back. Now, I’m trying out…
Jaiku has a few more features like the ability to add other RSS feeds (including Twitter) to your stream. But, I think Twitter is easier to read with its slightly larger font. I find this whole co-presence idea interesting. It really does play into the notion that in an Attention Economy privacy is being defined as openness.
The grand jury has closed the books on the Cobb County, Georgia iBook-purchasing scandal.
Helvetica, the typeface, has been a part of Macintosh since way way back. One of the most widely used sans-serif typefaces, it gained much of its current popularity because of its Macintosh bundling and its presence as one of the four core fonts bundled with Adobe PostScript. Inspired by and representative of the Swiss school of typography, it’s still in use on newer OS X Macintoshes and has expanded into a three face family: Helvetica, Helvetica CY and Helvetica Neue.
Now the Globe and Mail reports that Helvetica has inspired a new movie about the typeface, its history and its use. (I wouldn’t mind catching a showing if it pops by the art theater in town.) Want more? You can read Lars Müller’s “Helvetica: Homage to a Typeface” (availabe at Amazon) or pop by Mark Simonson’s website to learn about the Scourge of Arial, an Helvetica wannabe, typeface-come-lately.
Lots of new stuff on the Apple TV front today. Here’s a brief rundown of it all:
Elgato released EyeTV 2.4. Download it here. Lots of bug fixes and, best of all, Apple TV export. Here’s a screen cap from Monday’s “Drive”, which I recorded in High Def and then exported to Apple TV format. It automatically loaded into iTunes. Unfortunately, you really do need to sync these things or use 802.11n because streaming playback with this bandwidth nearly killed my 802.11g network. Lots and lots of pauses. Also, the detail looked very soft to my eyes, not nearly as crisp as the High Def original.
Screen shot from “Apple TV video” exported from EyeTV High Def content. [Click to open at full resolution]
I completely rewrote all my plugins. Here are updated versions of the two I’ve previously talked about and a new one. The URL appliance lets you load video from the Internet by supplying URLs in a text file. The Perl appliance runs any perl file you drop into /Users/frontrow/perlbin. And the new one, Quit, lets you quit form the Apple TV UI. I tried uploading the project sources but I ran into a file size limit with the O’Reilly server. If you want copies of the source, just send me e-mail. The new versions should all run concurrently on Apple TV without interfering with each other the way the earlier prototypes did.
URL Appliance: Download file
Perl Appliance: Download file
Quit from UI Appliance: Download file
Speaking of the URL appliance, readers have asked me if I could mod the plug-in to allow users to label their URL files. You can actually do that right now without any modifications. Just put text labels into your urldata.txt file. If you try to load a label, Apple TV will simply tell you that “no content was found”. The URLs should load normally.
Create your own organization in the urldata.txt file. [Click to open at full resolution]
The OmniZoids have just released OmniPlan 1.1. From the announcement:
The new version contains several stability, import/export, printing, and AppleScript support improvements.
The update is free to license-holders. The release notes are here, and from them you can see that nothing’s changed since 1.1 RC 6. OmniPlan users: what do you make of it?
Apple posted a list of the new Bug Reporter features, which include an improved look & feel. If your bug is closed as a duplicate, you can now find the id for the original bug report which remains active. The active reference number appears next to “State: Duplicate”
Shortly after completing my article about Google Desktop for Mac, I decided to remove the application from my system. Why? Because:
Which is a long-winded way of saying: it didn’t feel right for me. But that’s just a personal view. If you have either warmed to Google Desktop, or similarly removed it from your computer, I’d love to hear why.
In case you haven’t seen it: The Joy of Tech’s “The real reasons Mac OS X Leopard is late…”
I like the “Someone keeps pressing the Time Machine button..:” reason best.
Apple just updated a bunch of their high level Developer Notes that provide developers with technical descriptions of Apple products and capabilities. The updated items include Audio (both analog and digital capabilities), Bluetooth, Ethernet, FireWire/1394, Mac Pro, PCI, RAM expansion, USB and video.
One nice thing about Mail is the Redirect feature, which lets you forward mail to a particular address so that it does not appear to have been forwarded from you. The final recipient sees the message just as you did when it arrived in your inbox.
One annoying thing about Mail’s Redirect feature is that it cannot be used on more than one message at a time. You can’t select, say, the entire contents of one mailbox and tell Mail to redirect all those messages to your Gmail account. If you select more than one message, the Redirect menu item is unusable.
Google Data APIs provide a standard interface to access Google-based data stored on Google Base, Blogger, Google Calendar and so forth. Today, Greg Robbins announced that he created a Cocoa-friendly Objective-C API/framework. You can read more at his blog post, which is here.
Looking for an iSight replacement? iChat supports some USB cams in 10.4.9, but it’s not easy to find the right ones.
I was away on vacation last week, so I missed all the fuss about Apple’s announcement postponing any release of Leopard until October.
But now, catching up on the news and reading a week’s worth of email (and at the risk of finding myself tagged as “hoi-polloi”), it doesn’t sound like much of a big deal. I’m certainly not bothered about it. In some respects, I’m pleased.
First, it means I don’t have as much pressure on me to upgrade my hardware. I was seriously thinking of buying new kit, and have been for some time, but my existing Macs run 10.4.9 very happily and there’s no need for me to spend money replacing them until Leopard is released, or even some time after that. This delay gives me some extra time to save up some cash.
Second, I’d rather whatever got released is good stuff, and if that takes a few more months, so be it.
And third, the rapid development of earlier versions of OS X is not necessarily the pace that all versions should be developed at. As a community, we were treated to an incredibly swift path from 10.1 to 10.4, and now that 10.4 has matured I see no reason not to work happily for it for a while. There’s no need to change just for change’s sake.
As I was browsing through some Google gadgets, I ran across To Do List and was incredibly impressed with it. I’ve been looking for a simple, elegant, web-based way to organize my various todo items for some time and have often thought that the ideal place for such a thing would be somewhere in GMail. Well, sticking a todo list on my customized Google homepage is the next best thing and works just fine for me. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s a sample screen shot:
As you can see, the interface is simple and clean. There are no advanced settings to speak of, or anything else relatively complicated for that matter. You simply type in an item to stick it on the list. From there, you can delete it, edit it, or change the priority. I can’t speak for anyone else, but that’s about as complicated as I need it to be.
Also, these things look like they’re as fun to develop as they are to use based on the information in the developer’s guide. Can anyone attest to that?
Is anyone else finding these neat little gadgets to be a useful as I am?
BitRocket: Mac oS X BitTorrent Client
I mentioned the popular multi-platform Open Source Azureus BitTorrent client a while back. One comment to that blog item was a recommendation to try…
The Open Source OpenOffice.org’s Mac OS X version requires X11 to run. However, this is a native Mac OS X port…
Google Desktop for Mac
Google Desktop has been available for Windows for a couple of years. On April 4, Google released the Mac version…
Google Desktop for Mac
The installer also includes Google Updater which checks all installed Google products and lets you know if one needs to be updated.
The indexer is still indexing my Mac and is saying that it may take a couple of hours. So, it will be a while until I can search through my system. However, even with a partial index, it looks pretty good even with Spotlight already available in Tiger.
Speedtest.net: Check Your Broadband Speed
There are a number sites that provide an estimate of your broadband speed. However,…
…has the advantage of having a nice UI with good feedback during testing. It claims my system has 4.9Mbps downstream and 312Kbps upstream speed with a 70ms latency.
auch - audio–checker
Here’s an interesting FOSS app that describes itself as s a gnuplot-like program to visualize harmonics and test the effect of digital and analog filters…
auch - audio–checker
It might seem a bit on the esoteric side, but go take a look at the graphical representation of sound it produces. The Windows version has been out for a while now. The Mac OS X version (Tiger only) is labeled as experimental.
Apple has just released a statement today postponing the planned “spring” release of Leopard until October. Apple blames the engineering drain the iPhone project has caused for them internally. Many developers with early access to Leopard are not surprised by this announcement, as the recent seeds have still looked far from ready for production, but it is an unusual move by a company that nearly always makes its stated due dates.
From the release:
iPhone has already passed several of its required certification tests and is on schedule to ship in late June as planned. We can’t wait until customers get their hands (and fingers) on it and experience what a revolutionary and magical product it is. However, iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come without a price — we had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS® X team, and as a result we will not be able to release Leopard at our Worldwide Developers Conference in early June as planned.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself this last week. Since Sunday, I’ve been programming Apple TV plug-ins. They aren’t big programs to work with–more like programming haikus–but it reminds me again how much I adore Cocoa and Core Foundation and all. I spend most of my programming time these days writing scripts to scrape webpages and access web APIs.
I’ve also been rewriting (or to be more correct, rerererewriting) an article about developers adapting sample Cocoa code to a shipping product. I also wrote about adapting sample code here. All this has brought me to the piece I’ve missed talking about, which is the role Google plays in Cocoa programming. The Foundation docs at Apple tell you what’s supposed to work but it’s all the developers out there in searchable google-land that tell you how to get around the known bugs and errors and how the method calls really work.
Thank goodness for Google.
Devcenter reader Dick Applebaum writes in to report that the URL plug-in works with good results. He’s been able to play several videos including live and archived streamed .wmvs. The files stream properly in that you don’t have to wait for the entire file to load before playback begins.
Unfortunately, some the live streams he’s accessing (as opposed to archived ones) stop playing after 5 minutes. It seems like the live source sends five minute segments. After that time, the plug-in returns to the main menu and he has to select the URL again to get to the next segment.
So all you streaming experts out there: do you know a workaround that I can put into the QT Player part of the plug-in to make it try to keep grabbing video? Or is this a problem at the server end? I posted the code I’m using a few posts back.
Make sure you’ve installed Flip4Mac in your /Library/QuickTime folder if you want to play with WMV files and streaming.
As a final note, Dick mentions that he ported SQLite over to the Apple TV without any trouble.
So it turned out that my plug-in that I posted about yesterday worked much better than I thought it did. If you feed it a URL and the data can be downloaded (rather than streamed from the server), it will download and play back. Here are some results of testing the plug-in last night.
RocketBoom: I connected to a RocketBoom .mov file. It took a minute or two to download to disk and then played back perfectly. Video was good, audio was good. I could not, however, start playback until the entire file downloaded. For RocketBoom’s relatively small video files that wasn’t a big deal.
[Click to open at full resolution]
Lots more after the jump…
Would you want your tax dollars going to buy someone else’s kid an iPod? I sure don’t.
So I wrote this plug-in that takes a URL and attempts to connect to it and play it back. To test, I used the recent Apple Keynote (http://stream.qtv.apple.com/events/jan/j47d52oo/m_8848125_350_ref.mov). I get the audio just fine, but the video is all white. I checked out my codecs and they seem fine. So you all QuickTime experts out there, any hints as to where I might be going wrong? A similar test with a Comedy Central FLV stream failed completely. Just a black screen and an infinite wait loop(http://a25.c.akamai.net/n/25/9950/v001/comedystor.download.akamai.com/9951/_!/com/southpark/1011_cake_480.flv?__gda__=1176235556_733620de7b3346f8ad188c52111702d1)
My URL test plug-in. [Click to open at full resolution]
The QuickTime Keynote streamed audio but not video and displayed this white screen. [Click to open at full resolution]
The Comedy Central FLV source did not stream at all. [Click to open at full resolution]
On Sunday, with a hundred better things to do but no incentive to do them, I put together an Apple TV plug-in that allows you to run any Perl script you place into a folder in your home directory. (/Users/frontrow/perlbin). The idea is this: a lot of people know how to write Perl who don’t want to learn to program Cocoa. And you can add new scripts from your normal office work computer (via ssh) but have them all available from Apple TV. You can do date & time, calendars, stock quotes, weather, and so forth. Scrape web pages, subscribe to RSS feeds, whatever.
The plug-in is here, and here are a few screen shots showing the plug-in in action. You can click each thumbnail to view the shots at full resolution.
The Perl plug-in in the main menu.
The submenu shows all files in /Users/frontrow/perlbin
Perl scripts, which are easy to create, can perform simple tasks like checking the date and time while displaying them in the Apple TV interface.
More complicated scripts can scrape webpages to gather information like this up-to-the-minute weather report.
You need ssh access to your Apple TV. Drop the plug-in into /System/Library/CoreServices/Finder.app and from there into Contents/PlugIns. You then have to kill and restart Finder.app. (Do a ps -x to find the process id).
What the plug-in does: I wrote it as a proof of concept for testing running command-line utilities through the Apple TV interface. “Weather” gives you a weather report for Denver. (You can modify the zip code in the plug-in bundle in Contents/Resources/Weather.perl.) “Time” tells you the time using /bin/date. There’s also a “Foolery” option that simply displays a static string. Finally, you can “Quit” from the Apple TV UI. (Not very useful unless you’re hacking.)
Use at your own risk. Give feedback. Don’t sue. How-to hopefully to follow.
Update: Just for the hell of it, I also wrote up an appliance that allows you to run any perl script you stick into your /Users/frontrow/perlbin folder. Feel free to test it:
It will be tough for the Boinx Software team to get to WWDC this year - at least if we follow the Google Maps directions:
(Item 33: Swim across the Atlantic Ocean; Thanks to Michael for finding this gem.)
BusinessWeek argues that the Apple/EMI DRM-free tunes deal is a huge boost for AAC as a standard. Is it that simple?
Joost, with its limited beta and coveted invites, has become the next hot thing but unless you’re in on the beta program, there’s not too much information out there about what Joost is. So I thought I’d jump in here with a quick summary.
Joost is from the Skype people. The same people who founded Skype are behind the Joost effort.
Joost offers free streaming ad-supported video. Joost provides fast and efficient video streaming at surprisingly high quality given the actual bandwidth they use.
Joost plays back better than NBC Replay, CBS Innertube, etc. The video is smooth and watchable, far superior to what you find at the network sites.
You can’t skip the commercials. Joost isn’t TiVo.
Joost has premium content. Although the current content on offer is very similar to what you’d find for free on on AOL TV, Joost has obviously penned deals with Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and BET, because some of their shows are already available for viewing. These are not the greatest shows, or even the most current shows, but they do provide a proof of concept that robust and watchable ad-supported TV-on-demand can be delivered effectively.
I love Rocky & Bullwinkle. And there are lots of episodes to watch. Plus Mr. Magoo. And, despite the Garnier and Eclipse gum commercials, my kids are learning to love them too.
It’s still beta. So sometimes there are program interruptions, and sometimes parts of some menus don’t display, but all-in-all it’s watchable and fun.
Intel Mac only. Joost does not support PPC. But it does run on Apple TV.
PagePacker: Create Your Own PocketMod Booklets
I’ve mentioned PocketMod, the un-PDA, before. I actually use my Pocket PC and Smartphone quite a bit. So, I haven’t really used PocketMod creations much. However, I do like the idea of a old fashioned convenient to carry paper based product.
VIM: Vi Editor
If you grew up on UNIX or Linux, the venerable vi editor is probably still a mainstay in your toolset. You don’t have to use UNIX or Linux to use this lightning fast text editor. There is an enhanced Open Source version available for many operating systems.
VIM The Editor
Baen Free Library: Science Fiction Books in Various File Formats
This blog entry introduces a little wrinkle to my coverage of freeware and Open Source applications for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. This is something I’ve been wanting to add to my coverage area for a while: Free downloadable content. First up in this category…
Baen Free Library
Candy Crisis (game)
Here’s an Open Source game originally developed for Mac OS X and then ported to Microsoft Windows.
It looks like an action-puzzle type game somewhat related to the Tetris genre. The game requires a registration code. But, it looks like you don’t need to provide any personal information. The username and code are freely available one of the site’s pages at…
Candy Crisis Registration Information
Gubb: Web List Manager
Calling Gubb a web list manager in the title doesn’t really tell the full story. I only learned about it 3 days ago. But, I’ve really learned to like it a lot during this short period. This is the first tool I’ve had that I can use easily from a desktop (or notebook) computer, a PDA (Pocket PC in my case), or a Smartphone. If your phone doesn’t have a web browser, you can use SMS to manage and read Gubb lists. If you prefer email, go ahead and use an email client to work with Gubb. Its appeal to me lies in its multiplatform and multimodal flexibility.
For the moment (and it’s probably only a moment), two white LEDs illuminate the fronts of two Apple TVs. One poor unit has been hacked so much that it takes several tries, several blesses and several plugging-and-unplugging sessions to get it to start. I think I’ve messed up its recovery partition beyond repair. (This is the one that got attached at one point to the G4.) For the record, I ended up having to bless both the CoreServices folder *and* the boot.efi file inside it. The command was:
bless --folder=/Volumes/OSBoot/System/Library/CoreServices --file=/Volumes/OSBoot/System/Library/CoreServices/boot.efi --setBoot
The other unit is newly factory restored (the first won’t factory restore at all any more–it just reboots into the blinking question mark if you try) with spanking fresh hacks, ATVFiles, Perian, and Joost. It’s working great and sits (albeit with its innards still exposed to daylight) in its proud place on a ceramic trivet next to my TV. The other one gives it dirty looks through my office wall and sulks in look-what-you-did-to-me-and-now-I’ll-only-boot-up-if-I-feel-like-it demeanor.
But they live. And for now, that’s going to be enough. I’ve got to head off to CompUSA to swap out a Seagate 120 drive that’s been making horrible clicking noises. It never ends.
Anyone have any requests for AppleTV ports? Any software you’d like to see on it? Ideas for custom plug-ins?
A bit of good news, a bit of bad news.
The good news is that I brought my bricked Apple TV back to life by blessing its Core Services folder. I then did a complete system restore, and then starting from scratch installed ATVFiles and the latest Perian and I can now play AVI files directly from the Apple TV interface. Woo hoo! They look fabulous and high def. (Take that Peter Svensson of the Associated Press.)
Also running: the latest beta of Joost, but with the SVG font issues other people have reported. (If you go back about 3 or 4 betas, Joost didn’t have the font issues. They’re working on fixing them now. If you’re having problems with Joost, make sure you copy both preferences files from an Intel Mac installation from ~/Library/Preferences (there are two) *and* also the Joost Application Support folder.)
The bad news? I connected my “good” Apple TV disk to my 733 G4 and now it won’t boot. Surely there will be a time when both units are up and running at the same time? Does anyone know a quick and easy “bless” solution without having to rebuild the entire disk from an image? Blessing Core Services didn’t work.
 For the curious, the way I bricked it was this. It was about 3 or 4 in the morning. I just got my youngest child back to sleep. Suddenly I had an Idea. (Never trust Ideas at 3 or 4 in the morning.) I decided to put a blank disk into my Apple TV, connect the good disk via USB and then press Menu-Down during boot. It was not a Good Idea. It was a Bad Idea. Hello Question Mark of Doom. The current bricking comes from having connected the other disk to a G4. Frack.
Spring can officially get started now that the baseball season is underway. And with baseball comes the necessity to keep up on your favorite players and teams, whether you’re a stat-obsessed fantasy player, or just a fan of Your Team.
Michael Calore over at Wired covers a number of utilities that’ll keep you informed all day long, in Let’s Play Two. Or Three. Baseball Widgets for Your Desktop.
Now, you could just download and use the pre-made ones, but as Michael points out, there’s lots of room for customization:
Just want updates about the Mariners? Are you a Yankees-hating Boston girl? The best way to track a single team is to make your own custom widget. All of the official Major League Baseball team pages have RSS feeds. News articles, opinion pieces, player trades and official wrap-ups — basically every bit of news about your favorite team — are served on these feeds. Send them to your RSS reader or your Ajax-powered home page, or use a widget platform like SpringWidgets to build an embeddable widget for your blog.
You can also send RSS feeds directly to your phone via SMS, Google Homepage for Mobile or one of NewsGator’s mobile options — these are great ways to get score updates when the boss calls an emergency meeting in the bottom of the sixth with two men on.
Whatever your druthers, the blessed Internet will keep you in touch.
While others are in the midst of blogging about exciting things like Apple TV, iTunes DRM, and other high visibility trends in computing, I’m here blogging about….NeoOffice again ?!? Yes, it’s true. This is a product that I follow closely, am very excited about, and is making steady, predictable progress. In fact, I’m blogging about it at this very moment because version 2.1 just hit the streets recently.
While this release just introduced support for MS Office 2007 OpenXML documents, integrated OpenOffice.org 2.1 updates, added support for MS Excel macros, and incorporated a slew of other minor features, I think you’ll be quite pleased with the progress that’s being made. Why not take a few moments to go download it and show your support?
I blogged the other day about how I couldn’t get iTunes to play some of my music. I connected this with the EU’s “statement of objection” regarding “territorial restrictions.” I wanted Steve Jobs to persuade the record companies that the territorial restrictions were arbitrary and I felt that would solve my problem.
I filed a bug with Apple regarding this issue. They nearly instantly replied that this was not a bug in the engineering sense, the software was behaving as designed, and I needed to reauthorize my account with the email address and physical address with which I bought the music. I changed my settings and the music was authorized. Problem fixed.
I think I acted hastily and blogged when I should have tried to fix my problem through other means. I feel now that I ought to apologize to Apple and to my readers for not being more thorough and accurate. I hereby apologize and prepare for a large helping of crow.
Moreover I am a bit wary of the EU commission’s stated goal now upon realization that Apple is not in fact denying legally purchased music to be played in iTunes in different countries.
If their goal is to establish a single price for each song on iTunes regardless of country of purchase, shouldn’t they make sure that every country in Europe has an effective method to calculate prices across borders? Isn’t that mechanism called the Euro? Why doesn’t every country in the EU use it then? Perhaps the countries that do not use the Euro prefer the method of setting prices in their own currency but the side effect is always going to be a price difference in goods and services when currencies get converted. I think the EU does not really have much of a case, at least against Apple.
This shell scripting primer from Apple has been around since May of last year, but it was new to me when I found it today on Apple’s RSS feed. It introduces basic shell concepts and shows you how to create subroutines, use regular expressions, and perform math. A nice find for pointing people to who are just getting started with scripting.
A couple of days ago, I wrote in “What’s Cooking?” about the lack of Apple news for the Mac. In the meantime, I’ve had time to ponder this with colleagues and friends and today I found a weblog post from early March by Thomas Fitzgerald with an interesting theory:
Apple isn’t releasing new Mac stuff because they made it dependent on Leopard when they thought it would ship much earlier.
This sounds actually quite reasonable regarding software such as iLife and iWork. If it were true for hardware, it must be something really unique that depends on more than just a couple of new drivers.
Or maybe the integration is not so much about code as it is about design and Mr. J. does not want to spoil the effect with prematurely releasing brand new hardware designs without the software to match. Don’t dismiss this idea too easily, after all this is the guy who just invented the update fee for songs that haven’t changed in decades.
One thing is sure: since sales are reported to be better than ever, Apple doesn’t have much pressure to come out with new hardware. And news such as the iTunes DRM announcement keep Mr. Jobs occupied anyways. Even if one cannot help to notice that, once again, as with all the recent announcements since AppleTV’s surprise appearance in fall, it came an untypically long time before implementation. As if Apple tries to stretch the news out to spread over a gap…
UPDATE: Just a bit more than 18 hours later and Apple finally has some Mac news: the 8-core Mac Pro. Exciting? Kind of. If only CNET hadn’t put the Xeon 5300 processors into their Mac Pro in November, just over 4 months ago, proving that it would not require any changes to neither hardware nor OS. Apart from the usual ramp up in production volume, what took so long?
Amadeu writes “Hi Erica. One thing I have not yet seen in your series: how does the AppleTV compare with the MacMini, as for output quality? The AppleTV has a better graphics card but does this result in noticeable differences when displaying pictures or movies on the TV?”
I honestly don’t see a quality difference between the two. Both produce crisp watchable pictures. But then again, I’m neither an audio nor video perfectionist so take my opinion with the skepticism it probably deserves.
Also remember that Apple TV works out of the box and is pretty bullet-proof but isn’t meant for general computing. The Mini offers Front Row, but it’s pretty easy to leave that mode. Apple TV is $299 and the Mini costs significantly more.
His Steveness spun his usual magic yesterday supplying substance where there only was talk. Along with EMI, as everyone by now knows, Apple will be selling DRM-free music. Yay! Well done Apple. But we still have some problems, namely that ridiculous artificial anachronism known as a ‘country’ or in modern wonk speak “alleged territorial restrictions.”
This is a particular bone of contention amongst those of us who live in the tiny principality of Sweden in ‘old Europe.’ It works like this;
1. Buy music from iTunes
2. Move away from home and lose your music
This is because Apple somehow just lay down and played dead when the record companies forced them to create artificial territories for payment and copyright. The record companies said you have to sell only Spanish music to Spaniards, Greek music to Greeks, etc. So when I bought some of the finest American music around and then moved to Sweden, my music was no longer authorized and cannot be played. That’s right, they took my music back after I paid for it.
iTunes removes authorization to play a particular song if your address changes. When I moved, I wanted to continue to receive my credit card bills, much as it pained me, but that de-authorized my account in Apple’s eyes. I now had to re-authorize my purchases with the Swedish store. But there are huge holes in their catalog and a large portion of the American music I bought cannot be purchased at the Swedish iTunes. The music I bought shows up in iTunes, but I cannot play it because the authorization dialog never actually authorizes, just endlessly asks me to re-authorize.
What a bizarre Kafkaesque layer of needless bureaucracy! Why are they hobbling sales of their own product? Do they think that Europeans won’t like American music? Have they heard of this thing called the Internet? It allows you to sell anything to anyone (see eBay). Is it any wonder that the EU commission is sending a letter of objection on behalf of its citizens saying that Apple and the record companies currently “violate the EC Treaty’s rules prohibiting restrictive business practices.”
Steve, fix this! I thought your forcefield would make the record execs kneel at your feet, but apparently they managed to convince you to hobble iTunes needlessly.
PS - I’ll expect another blog posting from you on this ASAP.
The Beach Boys. The Beastie Boys. Blur. David Bowie. Kate Bush. And that’s just some of the ‘B’s.
All of them signed to EMI, or EMI-owned labels, and all likely to have their music appear on the iTunes Store in DRM-free format within a couple of months.
It’s the beginning of the end of DRM. Apple will soon start selling DRM-free music from the EMI back catalogue — but you’ll have to pay a little more for it.
The higher price will apply only to single tracks that customers download. On iTunes EMI tracks free of digital rights management (DRM) software will cost $1.29 (99p). Itunes users will be able to upgrade previously purchased EMI songs and albums for 30 cents (15p) a track. Fans will be able to buy “premium” tracks in a variety of bit rates will be of better quality than existing downloads varying qualities up to CD-twice the sound quality of currently available EMI tracks.
Quick prediction: the rest of the music industry will be falling into line faster than you can say “Abbey Road was better than Let It Be.”
More comment and analysis on this coming later…
Jajah.com provides Internet telephony that uses standard landlines. You enter your phone number into the [#1] field on the Jajah homepage and your party’s number into the [#2] field. Click [#3] Call. Jajah connects to the first number, then to the second, and then connects the two together.
You do not need an account to test out this service. You do not need to enter your own number into the “My Phone Number” field. Jajah will connect any two parties you specify. And you can clear cookies to remove the “remembered” number.
It’s April 1st. And this being O’Reilly, I’m pretty sure you can figure out the rest. Just lay off the poor pizza delivery services and adult bookstores. They have a hard enough time today.
Productivity fans will be delighted with this latest app, produced by an all-star dev team comprising Jesse Grosjean, Alcor, Merlin Mann, and none other than Woz himself.
Here’s a screenshot:
Check out the details: a complete lack of anything on screen, just a single swathe of dull gray color (the precise shade is tweakable in the prefs, of course).
You can invoke it at any time using the simple-to-remember command combo of Option+Command+Space+F12+Y, and it instantly covers up everything on screen. It buries your running applications, Menu Bar, Dock, desktop, everything. It even renders all the physical buttons on your Mac inoperative, preventing you from being accidentally distracted back to your work.
The dev team told me it was designed as the ultimate GTD tool. Think of all those times when the damn computer has prevented you from actually doing any work. BigNothing solves that problem by getting all distractions out of the way from the start, so you’ll have nothing to do except work. Great stuff.
UPDATE: I’ve also heard that the 1.1 update, due in the next few months, will allow you to switch BigNothing off without unplugging, or removing the battery from your Mac. Fantastic!