WWDC 2010 Predictions

iPhone News

  • New iPhone and OS 4.0 shipping imminently. It appears they are already ramping up production. I might even go out on a limb and say 4.0 will ship within a week of WWDC
  • AT&T to allow tethering
  • More tech details of 4.0

iPad News

  • Sales update
  • OS 4.0 new announcements: better file management, better iCal. Bluetooth tethering and greater bluetooth connectivity options, including 3rd party presenters tools, ability to manipulate Photo library, removal of iTunes initial sync requirement. Apple will begin marketing the iPad as a stand alone device.

Mac news

  • Sales update
  • Mac Pro refresh
  • No OS/X 10.7 details except “we’ve got great new things planned”

Cloud news

  • Apple will roll iWork.com out of beta with better collaboration tools
  • MobileMe syncing and cloud backup will be free for iDevices. Possible free MobileMe for Mail/Calendar. iDisk to remain premium.
  • Apple will begin to focus more on cloud storage and syncing.

App News:

  • Possible: new iWork and iLife with cloud storage.

Thoughts on Mobile Me

My e-mail is hosted on Google Apps, as is my calendar. I also use Google Reader for my RSS feeds. I’ve also been a serial abuser of Mobile Me trial. My blog is hosted on WordPress. I use Dropbox for cloud storage.

I don’t generally get political about my technology choices. I use Apple gear because it works the best for my workflow. Over time, I’ve become very integrated into the Apple infrastructure, and while every computer I use has the Apple logo on it, — and I write about Apple professionally — I don’t really consider myself an Apple fanboy. Apple for me is the best choice for me. It may not be the best choice for you. I’m not going to judge.

The one holdout for me as been Mobile Me. I try it and cancel it. I try it and cancel it. There just never seemed to be a hole in my life Mobile Me would fill.

That’s starting to change.

The Google buzz fiasco has started change how I view Google. I’ve been leery of Google’s motivation; they are in the search business and probably know more about what I do on the Internet than the NSA. I’m starting to have qualms about entrusting my email, calendar, etc to Google.

I’m very happy with Dropbox and have considered upgrading to the 50g plan. However, there is one problem with Dropbox: it’s an all-or-nothing sync. Without putting too fine a point on it, there are things I’m ok with syncing to my work computer and things I am not. However, living as a digital nomad and needing to get access to certain documents when I need them, and not just when I’m at home is crucial. As an example, I told a friend if mime I’d send her something I wrote. Now I have to remember to email it. If the file was in the cloud, I could have just shared it with her.

Now that I own an iPad, iPhone and my Mac, simple things like bookmark syncing become important. I don’t usually bookmark — I use Instapaper and Evernote for a lot of my read later needs. I’ll still run across a site I want to bookmark for later on a mobile device.

Which has lead to yet another Mobile Me trial, only this time I think it’s going to stick. For the short term, it’ll let me have a work-pc-friendly cloud storage device without worrying about my freelance writing stuff getting synced over.

I’m not sure what to do about the e-mail thing. I love that Mobile Me lets me have up to five aliases, which is great for creating throwaway accounts. I can’t, however, host the writersmark e-mail there. One alternative is to simply find a place to park the MX record for writersmark and forward it over. For now, I’m just going to keep it hosted at Google until I give it more thought.

How I didn't want to spend my Friday

This semester, I’m taking a six-week intensive class, and I have a standing date with my parents on Sunday afternoons. Friday is usually game night. I was looking forward to it tonight.

I’ve been working on my MacBook at work a lot and was in the middle of working on a presentation when OS X started acting weird. I’d get little freezes and lockups, even though my processor and memory utilization were low. It felt like I was getting hard lockups every 10 min or so.

Since the Mac was in an unresponsive state, I hit the power button. Usually, OS X springs back to life and everything is wonderful. This time, it took forever to clear the startup gray screen and it hung at the blue screen, alternating showing a gray spinning wheel and not. Trying the usual suspects did nothing. I reset the PMY, NVRAM, and tried a safe boot. No joy. I was able to boot into my Windows 7 partition so I knew it wasn’t likely a hardware fault. A quick Google showed this wasn’t uncommon, and an Archive and Reinstall usually fixed it.

The problem was game night, and my on going belief that Murphy has a sense of humor. If I didn’t go to game night, I’d come home and the reinstall would work. If I went, tomorrow it’d be a nightmare of a reinstall, and I’d probably end up at the Apple Store on a Saturday. So, I sent my regrets.

Naturally, the reinstall went fairly well. There were a few post-install issues, but for the most part everything worked well. I just wish I could have made game night.

Apple Fanboism and the Inevitable Windows/Apple Comparison.

In this article I wrote for The Apple Blog, I mentioned I’m fairly platform agnostic with this statement:

While I live and play in the land of Apple, where rainbow-farting unicorns frolic in the meadows, I work in a Windows world. While being a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Apple Pundits dictates otherwise, I don’t view Microsoft as the Great Satan; a computer is but a tool to do a job. While I believe OS X is far superior to Windows, I’m not going to think a great injustice has been done if you make me use Windows.

We had a lively discussion and a brave soul from Microsoft chimed in, and a comment on his blog struck me as a topic for here:

I had to laugh at a recent development on a thread I have been following. For the most part the conversation has been lively, relevant and fun with a little good natured MS and Apple ribbing here and there, but one comment posted tonight kind of quantified the type of “Stockholm Syndrome” that many Apple users seem to have to the almighty fruit.

I’m not unbiased in this. I write about Apple for money. I use OS X as my primary computer. I have no real interest in buying a computer that runs a Windows operating system. I don’t follow Microsoft news except for the coverage it gets in the Mac press, and that coverage I largely ignore because of its bias. So, suffice it to say, I drink from the Apple Kool-Aid with the gusto of a drunk on St. Paddy’s day.

While many refer to Apple users as being in a high-and-mighty club, in many ways it’s more like The Breakfast Club. A 1997 Apple ad campaign prompted people to Think Different, and that’s certainly true. Being an Apple user comes with certain sacrifices: I can’t just walk into Best Buy or Wal-Mart and get a software package; my hardware and software are made by the same company and if Apple decides I don’t need a Firewire port, well, I don’t get a Firewire port.

That said, I think the iPhone is going to increase OS X’s market share, and I’m not talking about the books cooking Schiller sold us on the OS X install base by adding iPhone users to the numbers — yeah, I know it’s running a mobile version of OS X, but that’s not OS X as we know it. The development tools require a Mac, so if you want to get on that land rush, you need a Mac. I use Cultured Code’s Things on the iPhone and desktop to sync my task list and the desktop version is Mac only. I think we’ll see a lot of applications that sync between the iPhone and the desktop require OS X on the desktop side.

Apple is unique in the consumer marketplace with the control it has on the hardware and software. A Windows-based computer bought three years ago will run Windows 7 when it’s released — although maybe not with all the bells and whistles. Three years ago, Apple switched from Power PC chips to Intel chips, and if you bought a Power PC-based computer before the change-over, you’re SOL on Snow Leopard. As Jason said:

“Apple began a transition to Intel chips in Macs. I think it was a great move. OS X supports universal binaries so apps can be written to support both platforms, sweet right? Except here we are in 2009, and your Three year old “Super Computer” they sold you is at it’s end of life as far as being able to run Apple’s newest OS. To think people give Microsoft shit about Vista requiring something newer and up to date for decent performance, G5s and below are cut off for good. Ouch.”

Now, there are two ways to look at this: there’s a certain amount of questioning I feel is valid if you make a heavy investment in a hardware platform during an announced transition; and Snow Leopard’s release won’t cause the Power PC Mac to stop running. And since Snow Leopard is kinda low on the features, and the under-the-hood changes are really only  useful to Intel-based users, I don’t think sitting this one out for Power PC users is going to be a hardship.

One aspect of the Apple community I can’t stand is the notion that Microsoft is the devil. One big focus change Jobs started when he became CEO was to get Apple off the mindset that in order for Apple to succeed, Microsoft must fail. The users themselves, though, still cling to this ancient way of thinking. Forums are littered with people who steer clear of Office for the Mac simply because it’s made by Microsoft. Look, you can not use the product because it’s bloated, takes forever to load and costs $300+ when iWork costs $70 and likely does everything you need. But don’t stab yourself in the eye simply because a boycott on Microsoft products forces you to try and do heavy word processing tasks or number crunching, or needing to round-trip with Word users on a daily basis in a software package where the focus is on making things look pretty. Now, not all Mac users are like this, but it’s clear some people never got the memo about the armistice. In some ways, it’s laughably hypocritical; Apple users get their panties in a bunch over the laptop hunter commercials, but view the “I’m a Mac” ads as Gems of Flawless Truth. I think the “I’m a Mac” ads are fantastic ads that I enjoy watching, but the laptop hunter ads do as good as job at attacking Apple’s price point as the Mac ads do of attacking public perception on Vista’s struggles.

I’ll admit to some prejudice on my part. I’ll walk through South Station and see a Windows user and think “you poor bastard.” While I don’t view Microsoft as the Great Satan, using Windows inevitably makes me go, “oh, jesus fuck” way more often than OS X does. Also, I enjoy how the iLife suite integrates with other products, and, for me, the OS is much more crash resistant than Windows XP. Since my company hasn’t moved to Vista, and that’s where I use Windows the most, I can’t tell if Vista is much better. The only anecdotal evidence I have is my wife uses Vista on her laptop and has no problems with it. I do believe a computer is but a tool, I do think OS X is the better tool for consumers and Windows being the better tool for enterprise users.

So, I have no problems spending $1200 dollars on a laptop with a 13″ screen because I know the OS and the hardware are built to last. I got my 13″ Whitebook in June 2006 and it’s still going strong; my wife has gone through two cheaper laptops in that period. If I were to get a Windows laptop, I’d likely get a Thinkpad since those are built to last. That gets us into the over-$1000 range.

That’s not to say I think Apple is perfect. I can’t stand the Finder and use Pathfinder instead. I think forcing users to manually move icons around to organize your iPhone apps is a clear sign of Apple Thinking It Knows Better Than You. These quibbles are minor though. While at work I’m more productive on my Windows machine because it’s fully tied into the domain, in all other aspects of my life, I’m more productive on my Mac. I’ve made fun of Apple’s “It just works” ad campaign before, but truthfully I’ve found I spend more time simply using OS X than I have spent fighting to get something done.

I think the big difference between the two companies is in their management style. I show you these two images from this Presentation Zen post:

Steve Jobs giving a presentation:

jobs_intel_1

zen_master

A Bill Gates slide:

complicated_bill2

The Jobs’ slides are very focused. There’s one idea per slide (or no ideas). The Gates slide has a lot going on. I think this shows in how the organizations are run. Apple under Jobs is very focused and on message. “We’re here to talk about the Iphone/Desktops/iPods today.” Microsoft tends to have a lot going on, and much of that makes me scratch my head. Microsoft will get up in front of a stage and tout products that are years from being released like Surface, and waste their time trying to acquire companies like Yahoo. Steve Jobs gets on stage, and that product is coming out within 6 months, if it’s not “shipping today.” Microsoft is also the “many things to many people” company. They rule the desktop and enterprise market shares, but that spread I think fractures the company’s focus. What I’d love to see is a Microsoft keynote address focusing on Windows 7’s improvements similar to the one Bertrand Serlet gave at WWDC about Snow Leopard.

That doesn’t mean I think either company is run better or worse. Most of Apple’s success is driven by Steve Jobs’ relentless personality. By all accounts the man is hard to work for. However, I think that drive results in a better product. While people joke about Apple’s Reality Distortion Field, I think the company has an almost unparalleled level of loyalty and enthusiasm around it. There’s likely to be a line for Snow Leopard; I doubt there will be one for Windows 7. The lines make good press which only helps Apple’s image.

Microsoft, though, wins as the Wal-Mart of OSs. If my wife’s laptop dies, we’re a 20 minute drive from a Best Buy where she has her choice of laptops. That choice, though, can lend to over-analyzing (do I want the 500g drive, or the one with 6 USB ports?). If my Mac dies, I’m 45 min from an Apple store where I have a choice of four models. If I’m in a region without Apple’s retail presence, I need to order it online.

Where the hell was I again? Oh yeah, Apple fanbois. What’s interesting to note is the fanboism, or anti-fanboism runs rampant on both sides. Apple pundits jump on every misstep Microsoft makes, and Microsoft pundits jump on Apple for not adhering to how they think things should be done. Being stereotypical, Microsoft users look at Apple users as smug assholes who pay extra money for a glowing logo on the back of their laptops. Apple users tend to look at Windows users as people who use Windows simply because they can’t Think Differently.

Look, I’d be thrilled if my wife said she wanted a Mac for her next computer. She’s a former Mac user herself. But, in many ways she’s a Lauren from the first laptop hunter ad: the $800 15″ laptop  she got from Best Buy will serve her just as well as the $1600 or so 15″ MacBook. For me, though, I’m ok with the $1200 13″ from Apple.

My New Writing Life

About a year ago, I retired from the games writing business. A combination of a declining print market, fairly horrid pay, and massive burnout lead me to decide it was time to hang up the jersey.

One of my goals when I did that was to spend more time writing my fiction. However, after not getting much done with that I learned I work much better with some sort of deadline — or at least a content manager bugging me for articles.

I am pleased to announce I am now one of the contributing writers at The Apple Blog. For me, it’s a fantastic opportunity; I get to write about the technology I use every day and get paid for it.

Year-end software wrap up

In keeping with Alex Payne’s “Software I Paid For” post, I’m doing my own. While his focuses on software he no longer uses, I’m going to try and remember the apps I bought over the year, and if I regret the purchase.

Desktop:

Office 2008. Scrivener is still my heavy-lifting writing program, but Word 2008 gets a lot of use for academic writing. The built-in citation manager alone was worth the price. However, I paid $70 for it via academic pricing, so it was worth at least that. No regrets.

Spore. I bought it, and couldn’t get through the cell stage without wanting to poke myself in the eye. Deep regret.

Wrath of the Lich King. Fantastic job by Blizzard. Only regret is time lost to it.

Parallels Desktop Upgrade (3.0). At least, I think I got this in 2008. I don’t use my Mac for the day job anymore. I bought it due to their promise of better 3D support, which it failed to deliver. Moderate regret.

CrossOver Games. I bought this before they had their one-day free promo. It lets me run LOTRO and D&D Online on my Macbook, and does a good job at it. No regrets.

Delicious Library 2. I’m trying to get more organized with my media library. Delicious Library lets me throw an XLS file of my books on my iPhone, which is handy when I go into a used bookstore and can’t remember if I have that book or not. No regrets.

Pixelmator. I think I got this last year as part of Macheist. It’s pretty much been the Photoshop replacement I was hoping it would be. It gets less use now that I’m not fudging with graphics for WoW Insider/Massively. No regrets.

iPhone Apps

Bejeweled 2. Fantastic game that’s great for those moments where I’m parked on the couch waiting for my wife to get ready. Quick loading and mindless play. No regrets.

Chess Classics. I don’t play this as much as I’d like, but I have no regrets.

Cro-Mag Rally. Only played one race. Deep regret.

FileMagnet. Handy for  the infrequent times I need to get a file onto the phone. No regrets.

MLB At Bat. I’m not a big baseball fan, but this is the app I use to show off what the iPhone can do. Plus, it’s handy for those times I actually give a shit what the score of the Sox game is. No regrets.

Spore Origins. I’ve played it more than he OS X version. It’s not bad, and kinda fun. Moderate Regret.

Scrabble. My wife loves scrabble and this is great for when we’re waiting on food or for a movie to start. No regrets.

Texas Hold’em. Like Spore, I don’t play it much, but it’s pretty good. No regrets.

Twitterific Premium. I’m using Twinkle more now, and I don’t like how it doesn’t start at the top of the list. Deep regret.

X-Plane 9. Another one I don’t play much and the controls are a little hard to get used to, but I don’t have any regrets.

I have more regrets about my iPhone purchases than I do desktop purchases, but I think that’s due to the ease of impulse buying. On the desktop, I’m more likely to do serious research and try the demo before I feed in my credit card. Being able to grab a $1-5 app on the iTunes store is sometimes hard to resist. I’ve gotten better at resisting this siren’s call, though.

Time tests loading Word 2008 vs. Word 2007 via an emulator

Today at the day job, I was working on getting Word 2007 to connect to SharePoint on my Mac via Parallels, and it got me to wondering what the load time differences were between Word 2008 12.1.4, Word 2007 via Crossover, and Word 2007 via Parallels.

I ran three tests (four if one of the three tests generated a number out-of-whack from the other two): Three from a fresh startup of the OS, and three from just quitting the app and re-launching it. In the case of Parallels, I quit Word from within the VM and then quit Parallels. I did not do a fresh boot of Windows XP for the tests; I left the VM in a suspended state.

I’ve got the numbers at the end of this post, but from a cold boot time. Word 2007 from within Parallels won, with Word 2007 within Crossover coming in second and Word 2008 natively within OS X coming in third. Warm starts Word 2008 won, with Word 2007 in Parallels coming in second, and Word 2007 in Crossover coming in third.

I’ll admit: there are a lot of apples to hand grenades comparisons happening here. About the only valid point is two separate Microsoft Word Processor have drastically different start times between a native app and one running in a two different emulators. You also can run into some issues if the emulator doesn’t want to start up properly – not to mention in Parallels’ case running an entire OS on top of OS X.

I’m not really sure what to make of these numbers. If you told me Word 2007 running in two different emulators would actually start faster than Word 2008, I would have laughed my ass off. However, in none of the cold start time tests I performed did Word 2008’s fastest load time beat the fastest cold start time tests of an emulated Word 2007. If you rarely reboot your Mac, subsequent loads of Word 2008 are faster, but not dramatically so.

One other difference is looks. I’ve attached screen captures of the three versions below, but I found Word 2007 in Parallels to read clearer because it uses Clear Type. Word 2007 in CrossOver looked the worse since it was bolder than the other two. Word 2007 also interacts with SharePoint and Blogs better; this entire post was written and posted in Word 2007. I’m also enjoying the ribbon interface a little better in Word 2007.

That said, I think it’s unlikely I’ll be doing a lot of work in Word 2007 – mainly because it’s not a native OS X and running Windows XP on top of OS X is too resource intensive. I did find it amazing that it loads faster than Word 2008.

 

Time Tests

Word 2008:

Cold Start 1: 1:03.11

Cold Start 2: 34.7

Cold Start 3: 1:09.4

Cold Start 4: 1:22.3

Warm Start 1 7.3

Warm Start 2: 6.9

Warm Start 3: 8.4

 

Word 2007: Parallels

Cold Start 1: 32.7

Cold Start 2: 46.5

Cold Start 3: 43.5

Cold Start 4″ 1:29.8

Warm Start 1: 10.7

Warm Start 2 : 1:36.4

Warm Start 3: 11.6

Warm Start 4; 10.3

 

Word 2007: Codeweavers

Cold Start 1: 40.8

Cold Start 2: 41.0

Cold Start 3: 38.5

Warm Start 1: 12.8

Warm Start 2 :13.8

Warm Start 3: 11.8