Macworld Expo, Day 2

Today was all about the South hall. Obviously, Apple’s booth was the largest and in the middle of the floor. Most people were interested in fondling the MacBook Air but the other products got plenty of interest as well. They were smart to have empty MBA shells at the sides of the booth so people could marvel at the new design. Time will tell how durable it is as the form certainly makes you want to slip it in a backpack or bag. The recessed USB ports look cool, but I’m sure owners are going to have to carry a USB extension for those things that won’t fit.

The coolest product I saw was Eye-Fi which is a 2G SD memory card that also has WiFi circuitry that is independent of the camera. In practice, it allows you to take a picture and have it automatically upload it to your computer (in local mode) or to Flick via their servers. If there isn’t a known network available, it stays on the card just like normal. I asked if they were thinking about a MemoryStick version and he said they are talking to Sony but it’s too early to know. I hope they do.

I also talked with the Omni Group booth about their new OmniFocus which I’ve been using for a bit. I wanted to make sure I was using it properly as I started while it was in public beta and developed habits before some features were implemented.

The funniest thing was the fact there were iPod/iPhone case vendors everywhere including two that were across the isle from each other (awkward). Becky‘s in the market for one so I’ll have to try and find out what she wants and see who has a good show special.

I’m very happy that El Gato released a new version of EyeTV. They addressed several complaints I had since switching from my MythTV last year. They add a smart listing (e.g., smart playlist) based on multiple categories and can optionally record any matching episode. They also improved the on-screen menu which will make it easier to use on our TV.

Macworld Expo, Day 1

Yesterday was the opening day of Macworld Expo in San Francisco. The keynote ran from 9:00 to around 10:45 but I did not have a pass for it and considering the extreme interest and attendance, I wasn’t bothered by that. Since registration wasn’t open until after the keynote, I went across the street to the Metreon and followed Engadget‘s live blogging of the presentation.

My take on the announcements? "meh" I like the iPhone upgrade (GPS-like locater, web clips, multi-person SMS, song lyrics, and movie chapters) but am still quite put-out that they still don’t support tasks. I was hoping they were going to discuss the development kit for the iPhone and perhaps bring some vendor out to show a upcoming app, but I suppose that isn’t quite the venue for it.

I am also so-so on the iTunes movie rentals. I really like the concept and while we subscribe to NetFlix, I think we’ll use iTunes occasionally for those movies we don’t want to wait for. Since I am a bit frugal by nature, I would have liked it to be $1.99 and $2.99 (back catalog vs. new releqses) instead of $2.99 and $3.99 and am also disapointed by what has been called the "guy tax" of $1 extra for HD versions (if available). What’s worse, it appears that the HD versions can only be viewed on the Apple TV which leaves my Mac Mini in the SD cold. I’d bet big money that the studios required that restriction so that you can’t easily get to the file to strip the DRM and pirate like everyone strives to do.

Lastly, Apple announced the MacBook Air which is an ultra-light 13" laptop that is quite sexy in person. I have to admit, if I was in the market, I’d strongly consider one but I’m not coveting it. Many have criticized the non-user replaceable battery but having seen the unit in person, I don’t see how they could have made it removable and still keep the laptop thin. The replacement cost for the battery is reasonable, but it’s not clear if it can be replaced at an Apple Store or if it has to be sent in for servicing. Granted, you don’t really need to replace the battery often, but I’d rather not be without a laptop for days to do so.

Other than that, I spent the afternoon in the West hall which is made up of mostly smaller vendors. Some of the highlights include Skullcandy (a vendor of urban tech accessories), Budclicks (clip-on accents for earphones), Fluid Mask 3 by Vertus (alpha mask creation with a unique UI), Blurb (individual softcover and hardcover printing service), and of course Drobo by Data Robotics (a personal RAID device with very impressive features that I’ve been drooling over for a while).

Today, I’ll be hitting the South hall which is the big one. I’ll twitter what I can and do a day 2 wrap up tonight.

Heading up to Macworld

This upcoming Monday afternoon, I’ll be flying up to San Francisco to spend a few days at Macworld 2008. Back "in the day" when I worked for a small software company (Gryphon Software, makers of Morph) we exhibited at Macworld all the time, but I haven’t been there for years so I’m really looking forward to it.

The reason I’m attending this year is my company’s increasing use and support for Macs as well as me becoming more involved in supporting our cinematics group’s Shake renderfarm.

I’ll probably post one or two blog posts of my experiences and will try to also twitter what I can just for fun. You can follow me on Twitter by going to my page there.

iPhone podcast

Of course you know that I have an iPhone and while there are a few things I can complain about (no syncing of Notes or iCal to-dos, no mail rules, "scrubbing" works poorly on long format content) I am very happy with how well it works as a phone, iPod, and portable Internet device.

If you have an iPhone or are considering one, you may want to listen to the Apple Phone Show podcast (iTunes link). It’s hosted by Scott Bourne and has Andy Ihnatko on most episodes.

It’s a decent short-format podcast that runs 30 minutes and is only once a week. Each show, they discuss recent events, occasionally cover rumors, review iPhone accessories, and share tips.

PDFs are media, too!

While I have gotten quite moved in and adjusted to my iPhone, one thing has come to leave me wanting. Apple has long advertised iTunes as the “hub” for your personal media. You can rip or purchase your music, shows, and movies and sync them easily to your shiny new iPhone or iPod with ease. It’s quite impressive, in fact, how seamless it all works. PDF files, on the otherhand, aren’t considered first-class citizens in the media world (at least how Apple views it).iTunes allows you to add Adobe PDF files to your library and, in fact, provides many of the liner notes for iTunes Music Store purchased albums in PDF format. Unfortunately, they do not get synced to your iPhone or iPod Touch even when set up to do so. Even stranger is the support that the iPhone has to view PDF files when attached to an email message. So, you have a device that supports the format, a program that also supports the format, but a disconnect between the two.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not viewing the 480×320 screen of the iPhone and iPod Touch to be the ideal presentation of “printed” media, but I see significant value in the possibility of having all sorts of “portable” documents with me in my pocket. Off the top of my head, I can think of several:

  • A dump of my iTunes library to confirm I don’t already have a song I’m about to purchase on the iTunes WiFi music store.
  • A list of secure info (e.g., credit card numbers) if they can be encrypted.
  • Technical reference to be used when a book or network is available.
  • Flash cards or other information to be referred to frequently.

I’m hoping that the disconnect is just an oversight and a future update of either/both the iPhone or iTunes will resolve this. The screen is quite decent on the iPhone and if you format a page properly, it would be very readable and go one more step further to becoming the “one device” that it is quickly approaching.

DIY 8G iPod Shuffle. Just add water.

Items needed:


  1. Take 8G iPhone and drop (while listening) into pond
  2. Remove iPhone from pond and towel off
  3. Attempt to turn off iPhone by holding down hold button
  4. When touchscreen is unresponsive (when attempting to activate slider to power off device) place into Ziploc bag and fill with uncooked rice in powered-on state (flickering screen optional)
  5. Leave in sealed bag for 72 hours

If you have followed the instructions carefully, you will be left with an 8G iPod Shuffle without any of those flashy iPhone features like display, touchscreen, built-in speakers but can easily sync with iTunes and control music playback with the play/pause switch on the headphones. Enjoy the simplicity!

It really is a good place to work

Gamasutra did a nice write-up of my work in San Diego. They barely mentioned IT, but my involvement with the groups hi-lighted is frequent. My group’s responsibility is to support the studios in San Diego and, specifically, I support Alienbrain, Perforce, and other “inward facing” services that the groups need to get their work done as well as the OS X infrastructure throughout the studios.

Mac is where IT’s at

As anyone who knows me (or has read this blog) knows, I am a Mac user and pretty serious fan. Some would go so far as say “fanboy” but I like to think that I am honest enough to see the warts, too.

Having said that, one thing that has been quite interesting to me is the adoption (conversion?) rate of OS X and Macintosh hardware in my department at work recently. I work in IT and in my “section” there are sixteen of us. When I first transferred in about two years ago I was one of only two Mac users (the department was only 11 then). As our department grew, OS X improved, and products like Parallels came about, Apple hardware started showing up. At this point, nine of thirteen laptops are MacBooks and as I write this, my manager is anxiously awaiting his MacBook (updating to ten of thirteen).

I work with a lot of smart people.

An experiment in photo-blogging

This week, Apple released an updated iLife ’08 which is their creativity suite (iMovie, iTunes, iPhoto, GarageBand, iDVD, and iWeb). One of the new features of iPhoto is a Web Gallery that allows you to quickly upload pictures to your .Mac account for easy sharing with friends and family. The presentation on the web is quite impressive with a very dynamic display not normally found in a web site. A related feature is the iPhone is able to directly upload to that Web Gallery which will in-turn download it to your home library.

Becky and I are going to the DCI semi-finals tonight at the Rose Bowl. I’m going to try to “photo-blog” the whole experience so feel free to follow along or see the results.

You talkin’ to me?

Of course everyone has seen Bluetooth headsets that you can get for most cell phones these days. Jabra BT200I have even been using mine shown t the right for years. One of my favorite books is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and in the second book of the series, Speaker for the Dead the main character, Ender Wiggin, speaks to a computer (Jane) through a gem he keeps in his ear. Every time I see someone walking around with a headset, I can’t help but think of that.

While at CostCo returning a broken fan set, I saw a woman in the checkout lane who had two different headsets, one in each ear. I can only presume she is some über type-A person like a realtor, but when you’re not in your car, those headsets just look funny and that looked worse than usual.

Since my current headset is getting a little weak due to a severly aging battery, I’ll probably have to pick up a new one sometime soon. The one Apple made to compliment the new iPhone is quite nice and really small. I’ve also heard really good things about the Jawbone (the demo on the site is very impressive), and the noise cancellation would be useful in the car, but I’m inclined to go for something more compact (and presumably lighter).