Category Archives: Producers

God Bless America

I’ll send you to the link first so as not to spoil a very well-written post. Meet me back here for a short nostalgic waxing afterwards (if you want):

Brings back fond memories of the first time I travelled with my first-generation iPod in early 2002. Despite the fact that it had already been an entire Christmas season since the iPod had been introduced, the crack team of TSA scanners at LAX accosted me and demanded to know what the device was.

“It’s an iPod”

“A what?”

“It’s an MP3 player…”

Blank stares. I worry that they’re going to take my precious new baby and chuck it with the knives, scissors, and other Instruments of Destruction.â„¢

I tried getting simpler: “It plays music… like a CD player, but without CDs.”

I had to show them my headphones and how they plugged in, as well as describe how one ‘puts music into it’ before they finally let me pass.

I always look back on that scene with a smile — within just a year or so, there would scarcely be anyone on Earth who hadn’t heard of an iPod.

(Link via MacNN.)

UPDATE: Also in MacBook Pro news, Steven Levy has discovered that the laptop is so thin, it might have gone out with the recycling:

(Via Daring Fireball.)

Watch Out, Google Apps

buzzword-small.jpg

If you haven’t yet seen it, it is well worth your while to take a look at Buzzword, Adobe’s newly-aquired, still-in-beta, Flash-based online word processor.

It’s a very slick, desktop-feeling web app.

Accounts are free, and fun to try. Especially given its import and export to MS Word format, it might be a nice solution to group editing.

When did that happen?

World Clock

It’s the little things that matter in interface design.

For instance, I just discovered this amazing little detail in Mac OS X’s Dashboard. The World Clock widget (by Apple) that is installed by default has always offered a slick little display of the time in a chosen time zone, but at some point between Tiger’s release and now, (perhaps with the release of 10.5 Leopard?)1, they added one of the little details that makes Apple… well, Apple.

Now, when choosing a new time zone from the back, when the widget flips over, it animates the clock hands, moving from the currently set time zone to the new ones, including changes in day and night — and even gently accelerating from the start and decelerating into the finish!

As soon as I can get a decent video screen capture, I’ll post a glimpse of the animation.


  1. No, it was not part of 10.5.2 — it was definitely there in 10.5.1, at least. 

Huh?

Mac OS X, version 10.5.2 is out. It’s a great, meaty update, addressing most everyone’s complaints about the UI changes that Leopard introduced.

I do have one small question though:

huh.jpg

Keynote Thoughts/Reactions

Keynote

There has been so much written about the Steve Jobs keynote on Monday that I’ve been too busy reading to make any of my own comments.

Overall, the biggest surprise of the keynote for me was the lack of surprises.

Leopard’s “top secret” features were very slick (new desktop, new Finder), but not as earth-shattering as I had hoped. (Note that I’m still looking forward to Leopard almost as much as the iPhone.)

If the keynote felt a bit disappointing, it is surely the fault of having one year since we first saw some of Leopard’s most impressive features.

Here are some quick notes on the keynote:

  • Stacks: Stacks The long-fabled feature finally debuts as a part of the Dock.

    These icon groupings function a lot like the tabbed Pop-Up Folders from Mac OS 8 (or, for the cynics, like more sophisticated versions of folders in the Dock).

    They store a lot of items together (files, folders, apps) and fan them out (or display them in a grid) when clicked. When you’ve chosen the item you were looking for, the stack snaps back to its compact icon on the Dock.

    This should be especially handy, given the introduction of a new Downloads stack in the Dock to store all downloaded files as they come in. (I love the little hop that the stack makes when a new download arrives!)

    Sadly, stacks seem to work only in the Dock.

    Continue reading

Ready, Set, Hype!

iPhone Calendar Okay. I admit it. I’m obsessed. I’m readying my sleeping bag for June 28.

We, the iPhone fanatics, received our marching orders Sunday night, and we’re pointing our boots in the direction of the nearest AT&T (née Cingular) store. (Uncle Steve told us to avoid his own Apple Stores on Release Dayâ„¢, because that’s where all of the campers will be. Well, until he said that.)

We’ve gotten so obsessed that we’re already spinning out of control with wild speculation based on merely a few frames of one of the commercials.

The three new ads are all truly good — simply, smoothly, and stylishly making the iPhone’s complex set of features look natural, seamless and essential.

Even if you’ve never heard of the iPhone before (Really?), the ads make the device and its powerful, simple-to-use features clear in only 30 seconds (apiece).

As John Gruber points out, the ads sell the iPhone largely by just showing off its interface.

Its interface.

(That bears repeating. In its own paragraph. In its own sentence fragment.)

Yes, it’s the iPhone’s interface that makes it the product that it is. (Jobs: “beautiful software wrapped in a beautiful box.”) Making sure that the software is the driving force behind the product is one of the key reasons that Apple has had such enormous success with the iPod and has garnered such devotion from Mac users.

iPhone’s beautiful interface is definitely worthy of excitement, and the ads’ glimpses of that crystal-clear screen followed by the words, “Coming June 29″ have ignited the passions of the iPhone masses.

David Pogue is looking forward to the frenzy to come, and so am I.

PS: As one hype machine winds up, another is taking a surprising beating from various posts:

A New Look at the World

Photosynth Imagine if your digital photos could be arranged in a collage and merged into a panoramic shot of a place. Cool, right?

Now, imagine if your pictures could be arranged in a collage and merged into a 3D representation of the pictured place, that you could take a virtual stroll through. Amazing, right?

Now, imagine the possibilities if all of your pictures, and all of my pictures, and all of everyone’s pictures could merge into a constantly improving and evolving 3D virtual Earth. (Who needs a satellite map?)

Well, it’s not quite that far along yet, but a crew of coders in Microsoft’s Live Labs are developing an amazing project called Photosynth that could one day do all of that, and more. The technology, developed in collaboration with the University of Washington and now rolling in visualization from Seadragon (a company acquired by Microsoft), can already do most of the above.

Photosynth works by analyzing each photo in a collection fed to it, determining features of interest in the photo and drawing a map of these points. The points act as a signature for the objects in the photo, and when compared with the feature points of the same objects in other pictures, allows the computer to map the photos in a three-dimensional space, in a similar way to how two images provided by our two eyes allow us to perceive depth.

As the team points out, the analysis of the photos also has the added benefit of establishing a ‘fingerprint’ for the photo that computer systems could use to identify the subject of the photo. This could lead to some really usesful applications, like the ability to photograph a landmark with your cell phone and have Photosynth technology match it and provide identification or other desired information about the landmark from the web.

Imagine a massive web-based Photosynth virtual world, where submitted photos are put together in a walkthrough globe. Google Earth is already taking steps in this direction, with 3D models that approximate buildings, and community-built markers, overlays, animations, and 3D models. Technology like Photosynth have the potential to take the idea to a whole new level of realism and utility.

(I’m a little late to the party, but a hat tip to Scobleizer for pointing this out!)

…quick clicks…

…quick clicks…

  • Making your own Wanted poster »wanted

    During Topshop’s London Fashion Week Mania, two black Mac Books were reportedly stolen. For the uninitiated, Macs ship with a clever little app called Photo Booth that uses the Mac’s built-in iSight camera to take portraits and add fun-house photo booth special effects (for fun, or to use as login pictures, IM icons, etc.). Apparently, Topshop had equipped these laptops with a special plugin that caused Photo Booth pics to be automatically uploaded to a Flickr gallery in the background as part of an interactive store display demo.

    Apparently, these clever thieves have found Apple’s Photo Booth software so irresistible that they have taken many of their own pictures — which PhotoBooth has dutifully uploaded to Topshop’s gallery.

    They are continuing to take and unwittingly post photos, so if you’re in the London area, take a good look and maybe you can catch a thief! Interesting to think that an Interface could be so much fun to use that it could trap a thief. Link » (Thanks to MacUser)

  • Microsoft is Dead »

    From Paul Graham:

    I didn’t notice when the shadow disappeared. … But it’s gone now. I can sense that. No one is even afraid of Microsoft anymore. They still make a lot of money—so does IBM, for that matter. But they’re not dangerous.

    Of particular interest is Graham’s assertion that “everyone can see the desktop is over. It now seems inevitable that applications will live on the web—not just email, but everything, right up to Photoshop.” Is it really though? If you have thoughts on the desktop model vs. the new generation of web-based apps, leave a comment.

    For my part, I think it’s a little early to make such sweeping pronouncements. I still feel that the future is in apps that exist in both worlds, harnessing both the hooks, privacy, and storage of the desktop and the interoperability, updates, and community of the internet. Something so simple as Mac OS X’s Dashboard (bonus Leopard link), where net content is wrapped in a truly convenient desktop app is an easy example. Link » (Thanks to Daring Fireball)

  • Opening the box »

    You’ve just spent many pretty pennies on your brand new computer, and you eagerly open the box like a child on Christmas morning. You’re excited to play with a new toy, welcome a new friend, but…

    As Walt Mossberg explores, if it’s a Windows PC, your first excitement will be doused by dozens of “craplets” that get in the way of moving into a new computer, take up hard drive space, and — perhaps worst of all — make your beautiful new computer into a sluggish billboard-fest. When the interface is hijacked, it makes the computer a lot less friendly and a lot less pleasurable to use. Is the added revenue from the demo-makers really worth it? Link »

“We Invented The Competition.”

beta I was going to simply update the last …quick clicks… entry, but Roughly Drafted’s latest post (article, really), sparks a lot of further consideration and discussion.

In it, Daniel Eran, in his typically thorough, yet readable fashion, gives an excellent overview of the evolution of home video and the format war that occurred as that industry developed. In the corporate espionage, backstabbing, and hubris, analogies to today’s home entertainment market (especially music) are painfully clear.

Looking back on Sony and its decisions regarding the (clearly superior) Beta format is a fascinating bit of hindsight. Perhaps the kernel of the Eran’s argument is this:

…companies [were given] the opportunity to experience the alternative to standards-based development. Rather than a government-run organization establishing standards, individual manufacturers would all scramble to develop their own proprietary systems, optionally choosing to license their designs to other makers.

In hindsight, this worked out really poorly. While companies were already able to compete in delivering TVs that all worked according to the standard NTSC TV specifications, there were no standards guiding a record or tape delivery medium for video.

Because there were no standards, huge resources were wasted in competing efforts to invent new ones. This same principle was later relearned at considerable expense in the field of software development, in networking, and again in video standards. Open formats and open standards solve a lot of problems for the market.

The lack of an open standard did not actually kill home video, however, and I’m not sure that innovation was truly dealt a serious blow. Interestingly, the VHS juggernaut that eventually squashed Sony’s beloved Betamax was fueled by Sony’s own designs, as they eventually (haughtily) pointed out in ad campaigns – “We Invented The Competition.” JVC, the company that launched VHS shortly after Betamax, was using technology derived from both private demonstrations of the prototype Beta systems years earlier, as well as its experience as a partner in Sony’s earlier professional U-matic video tape systems.

Continue reading