Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Problem with Safari 4 Beta: It Just Kinda Sucks

I'm a simple man.

I like a good cup of coffee in the morning, mellow get-togethers with close friends and web browsers that do the one thing they were meant to do - browse the web. Problem is: Safari 4 beta doesn't come close to living up to its advertised awesomeness. Even worse, it kinda sucks ass.

Now look: I'm not a guy in a lab coat and stop watch. I don't have "metrics" or "benchmarks" or "a degree in measuring shit". I'm just a guy who manages a network of 250 Macs and works on at least four different Macs at any given time. So frankly, I think my own experiences are pretty valid. And in EVERY case, on every computer, Safari 4 starts off really fast but then - after a week or so - it breaks down, wears out and slows down to a crawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwl.

And you know what? It seems I'm not alone in discovering this. Not by a long shot.

What can I tell you? I'm a fan of Apple but they produce the occasional turd every now and again. Repeatedly, actually. But hey: every company does. Except for Pixar... but they're a freak of nature. Seriously.

Despite my disappointments with Safari 4 Beta, I acknowledge a simple truth: there's no single browser that's so full of awesomeness that I'll stop using all other browsers. Frankly, I hope that will always be the case. If everyone used the same browser, innovation would stop, competition would falter and we'd all be much worse off than we are right now. Worse, we'd all be using some shitty version of Internet Explorer. Ugh. Kinda makes me shiver.

In the meantime, I'm running Firefox 3.0.11 and enjoying the speed. It's really nice and I'm enjoying the add-ons, especially for delicious, multiple GMail signatures and the ridiculous. I wonder if there's an add-on to thrown darts at Karl Rove...?


So Apple missed the mark with this beta version of Safari. That's OK, it's a beta for crying out loud (just like GMail)

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Mac Tablet: What We Know, What I Predict

My goodness, the holiday weekend certainly started with a frothy cup of bally-hoo, didn't it? More info on the rumored Mac Tablet/MacTouchPad/HiPhone hit the streets Friday morning and folks dropped their morning joe and starting twatting furiously.

Note to readers: conjugation of the verb "tweet" in the past, present and future tense is as follows:
  • I will twoot tomorrow
  • I am tweeting now
  • I twatted yesterday
So look: let's just take it easy and take a big breathe. Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts...

First, the screen size: 5" x 8.66"
Reuters - the news service with the funny name - reports that the new Apple device will sport 10 inch diagonal screens. What does that mean? Well, if we pull out our old friend, Mr. Pythagorean Theorem, and plug in some numbers, we wind up with a device that has a screen which measures approximately 5" x 8.66". (Bonus math note: if you're not familiar with the pythagorean theorem, here's a quick lesson from Darth Vader)

Second, the product size: 5.1" x 9.66"
If the screens on the new device measure 5" x 8.66" then the entire device will be a bit larger. The full size of the iPhone is 2.25" x 4.25", with a half-inch of space above and below the screen. If we keep the same ratio as the iPhone, we'd get a device which is about 5.1" x 9.66".

Third, the price: $500-700
Gene "My Last Name is a Cheese" Munster laid down the smack this week with a report claiming that Apple's new product will sell for between $500-$700. Gene isn't a fortune teller - especially looking like a frat boy - but he is one of the long-standing voices from the "Research Analyst" community and seems to have his shit together.

Fourth, the key feature: a touch screen.
While this sounds pretty stoopid to actually write (and ever stooopider for you to read), it's worth reminding folks that the screens Apple ordered for this device are touch screens. So get ready to use your fingers and hands on this new device, whatever it is.

Fifth, the arrival date: next year.
Peter Smith - a guy with a Van Dyke who looks like he's either about to kill me or attend a Ren Faire Anonymous meeting - writes about the Gene Munster announcement, highlighting the fact that this product will probably arrive sometime in the first quarter of 2010. Peter scares me, so I'll just believe him. I don't want to incur his wrath.

Sixth, the core features: WiFi, Bluetooth, stereo headset, camera, speaker
The iPhone, iPod Touch (minus the speaker) and every Mac laptop already have these features as standard. Apple's new device will as well. No link to support this. Just common sense. Bluetooth integration should also allow for keyboards and mice to work with the device.

Seventh, tablet vs. netbook: nobody friggin' knows.
ArsTechnica is a blog I respect, and not just because their name evokes things like latin, art or technology. They also have good writers, well-informed opinions and GIRLS. Jacqui Cheng sums up the debate quite nicely in an article that takes no sides. Which is to say, she avoids opining on the matter and has instead just reported the facts, which I respect. And she's also pleasantly hot when framed against brick. But that's just me.

Lastly, now that we've got the facts all mentioned, I'll offer my own opinions. Because, you know, I'm ballsy like that.

Tim Cook said "if we find a way where we can deliver an innovative product that really makes a contribution, then we'll do that." Based on that, what I'm looking for is: innovation. That means thinking outside of the box, or in this case - the hinged box. You see, while everyone is focusing on a tablet or netboot form factor, no one's thinking the idea through like an Apple innovator would.

Innovation #1: The Closer.
Question: how do you protect a 5" x 9" screen from drops, bumps or scratches from keys inside of a handbag? Answer: use ANOTHER screen.

My prediction is that one of the innovations we'll be seeing from Apple's isn't a new device with just a single touchscreen... but two. The device's screens will be cleverly hinged together so that it folds shut, protecting the surface of each screen. Think I'm insane? Think Different. "Fold" two iPhones together and you'll begin to see what I'm talking about. The back side of the device is an excellent means of protecting the touch screen.

The iPhone grabbed people's imagination because it took a mobile device and innovated by doing away with a physical keyboard. Apple will do the same with a game-changing portable computer. Why have a physical keyboard if you don't need one? Instead, create a device with two touch screens and an accelerometer so the thing knows where it is in three-dimensional space. Open it up on a table and the visual keyboard will auto-appear on the lower half. Turn it on its upper half and the device will re-orient itself.

Or - and here's where Amazon officially takes a shit on themselves - turn the device sideways and you'll have a two sided, touch panel device that looks and works like a book. Read two full pages of text and then, with a swipe of your finger, flip to another two pages... This would easily overshadow the Kindle. Why have one device for reading a digital book and another for surfing the web? Or taking pictures? Or checking email? Or reading magazines? Which reminds me...

Innovation #2: Software, Software, Software
With the newspaper industry falling apart like, well, newspaper...something's gotta give. Apple's already repackaged music digitally in order to distribute it to the masses and reduce litter and waste. It can do the same with newspapers and, yes, magazines. I envision a new section of the iTunes stores that caters to novels, books and magazines. Why waste paper and purchase four or five magazines before your international flight to Fiji to visit Tony Robbins. Instead, you'll go to the iTunes store wirelessly and download the latest issues of each of your faves and not waste a sheet of paper.

Innovation #3: Gee, Gee, Gee... I wonder what it could be?
Three "Gee"s? Yes. The new device will sport 3G connectivity. And, for a monthly fee (Verizon's monthly 3G MiFi plan is $60/mo and is pretty god-damned great), you'll be able to surf the web even when away from a Wifi hotspot. With AT&T's exclusive on the iPhone coming to an end, this would be an excellent way to start doing business with Verizon. A recent Apple job posting hints at the company wanting to have a 3G expert on staff. And recent builds of Snow Leopard (10.6) include a WWAN listing in the system profiler. Are you ready to have the most annoying spokesman on the planet, pitch for Apple?

Innovation #4: Go stick it in your monitor. Seriously.
A while back, Apple patented a system whereby one can dock a small notebook computer INTO the body of a monitor to help (a) charge the device (b) transfer data to and from the device (c) save desk space (d) integrate with USB devices and (e) to look friggin' awesome. Look for this patent to now see the light of day as a simple way to charge the new device and sell additional, cool monitors.

Innovation #5: I've got blue teeth.
While it might be useful to have a USB port on the device to plug in a mouse, keyboard or other device, I wouldn't count on it. The iPhone 3.0 will support the A2DP bluetooth protocol and this new device will as well. This should allow just about ANYthing to connect wirelessly to this device: cars, stereos, GPS devices, headsets, mice, keyboards, and much, much more.

So there you have it, the experts' takes and my own. Now all we gotta do is wait and see what Apple delivers... and when. And for a guy like me that hates waiting, this is going to be the hardest part. Because, let's be honest: even a single second can seem to last forever.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Save $$$ - Upgrade Your Own Mac Video Tutorials

If you prefer to save money these days (I only know of a few folks that don't), why not try your hand at upgrading your own Macintosh?! The good folks over at OWC have created an extensive and totally free set of instructional videos that show you how to install such items as:

  • memory
  • hard drives
  • optical drives
  • accelerators
  • PCI cards
  • eSATA cables

For me, this is ridiculously cool for several reasons. First, the site is broken down by Mac model so it's incredibly easy to find your computer among the models listed. Second, each video has three versions in order accommodate any bandwidth and monitor size. Third, each video is RATED by skill level, so if you aren't sure if you have the skills to do a particular job, they'll break it down for you.

Lastly - and this is a nice touch - each video give you a breakdown of the tools you'll need to do the job. Of course, if you happen to be missing the proper tools, OWC is VERY happy to sell you their own kit, but even that's awfully cheap.

This is a slam-dunk resource for any DIY'er.

The Easiest Way to Fix Your Mac

Back in the days of OS 9, if your Mac was ever acting strangely, there was a trick you do that was so simple, that anyone – even the motards – could do it and help to maintain their own Macs. Back then, all you needed to do was to rebuild your desktop files and EVERYONE knew how to do that: you just restarted your computer while holding down the option and apple keys. Doing this caused a couple of files that were invisible to be rebuilt which, more often than not, fixed the problem. The upshot? Even if it didn’t fix the problem, rebuilding the desktop files was something that couldn’t cause damage to your Mac. It would ONLY help.

And man: wouldn’t you love to know that there was something like that now for OSX? Well there is and – shock of all shocks – it’s totally FREE. The application is called Applejack and it’s so simple that even a chimp could use it. Maybe not a whale, but come on: whales don’t type well at all, so it’s not a fair thing to expect.

Let’s break it down in five easy steps:

Step One: Head over to sourceforge and download the app to your Mac. Benefits? It’s free and everyone likes free.

Step Two: Install the software. If you want to also check your RAM, choose to do a customized install and also install “MemTest”. Benefits? You’ll get two programs for the price of one.

Step Three: Restart your Mac, hold down the “Command” and the “S” keys to boot into “Single User Mode”. (NOTE: You must use a wired, usb keyboard for this. Wireless keyboards will NOT work) Single User Mode is a fancy term that tells your Mac to “turn off the graphics and boot strictly into text only mode”. Benefits? Seeing your Mac boot into single user mode is seriously cool. In fact, since you’ve probably never SEEN your Mac boot up into plain ‘ole text before, you’ll feel like you’re a computer whiz seeing something rare and forbidden.

Step Four: Type the following “applejack auto restart” and then hit enter. Now go grab a cup of coffee. Benefits? Harvard thinks coffee is healthy.

Step Five: Watch your screen for about five minutes as Applejack runs through five different tasks – running disk utility to repair your internal hard drive, fixing your permissions, cleaning up a series of cache files, validating core preferences and removing all swap files. When it’s finished, your computer will restart auto-magically. Benefits? You’ve just enjoyed an awesome cup of coffee while looking VERY cool to your co-workers.

While this might not fix deeper problems on your Mac, it’s simple, easy and free. Give it a shot and relive your old “rebuild the desktop files” glory days, why don’t’cha?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Damn the Press – Look for Jobs @ WWDC 2009

With Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference ramping up in a few short weeks and with the company having recently abandonned the annual MacWorld conference, most of the tech press has been salivating over “the big question”: is Steve Jobs going to return from his medical leave to give the big keynote presentation…?!? The timing seemed appropriate and with new iPhones, a new OS and a rumored new Mac Tablet device all being prepped by the firm. And who better to announce these new products than the man who helped bring Apple back from the dead?

Reality, however, has a funny way of destroying hopes, rumors…and hearts. Apple announced last week that Phil Schiller – Apple’s own version of the StayPuff Marshmallow Man – would be delivering the keynote and not Steve Jobs. If you were listening carefully last week, you might have actually heard thousands of hearts all over the world simultaneously breaking.


Apple didn’t say that Steve Jobs wouldn’t participate in the keynote address. What they said was “A team of Apple executives, led by Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, will deliver the keynote.” This, for me, leaves open the possibility of His Royal Steveness making a guest appearance at the keynote address.

A guest appearance makes sense for a variety of reasons. First, Jobs and Schiller are very fond of using iChat in their keynote presentations, often to great humorous effect. Second, a guest appearance via iChat frees Steve to participate in the keynote from anywhere in the world: his sick bed, his living room or an undisclosed location at CENTCOM. Third, by not directing or assembling an entire keynote presentation, Jobs gives his lieutenants and the company time to shine while he focuses on killer product announcements and doing shtick with Phil.

My bet? If a new iPhone model is introduced with a front facing camera, look for Jobs to introduce the iChat app during the first-ever iPhone video call with Schiller. And who knows….? If Jobs’s health is remotely better, perhaps he might even make that call during a guest appearance at the Moscone Center. We’ll find out in just a few short weeks.

Oh, and, “One More Thing”: as long as Apple doesn’t let Bertrand Serlet drone on during the keynote, no one will fall asleep.