Thursday, May 24, 2007

Would you pay more tax to get better free software?

Recently, people have discussed the possibility of providing free internet access for all. After all, part of the state's responsibility is to provide infrastructure such as roads, water pipes, and electrical wiring. Why not software? Would you be prepared to pay more tax for this?

Create polls and vote for free.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Where to find me...

Moved back to WordPress while Blogger was down:

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Glimpse of the future of content distribution

I've recently been testing a few new programs, specifically, Vienna, Xcast, Zudeo (which, since the download was labelled Azureus 3.0, I assume to be the successor to the latter) and Democracy.

I noticed that they fall along an interesting continuum, where Vienna is a fairly traditional, although nicely executed, newsreader, Xcast is more of a content manager (1), and Democracy - while managing podcasts, screencasts, and locally downloaded video (but not very well) - is really a content distribution tool. Finally, Zudeo makes no shame of its content distribution nature, and features both official and independent films and trailers, rated and ranked by viewers.

(1) Xcast is, and the author sort-of-admits this, somewhat similar to iTunes in its usage, and integrates with it very nicely, really just adding a few nice features to better manage your subscribed casts, and simultaneously manage ordinary RSS without "enclosures" (but I prefer NetNewsWire for this, the only shareware app for OS X so far that I have actually purchased). The quotation marks here indicate that I feel the word is misused in so far as the user is not interested in the cage, but in the animal, and imho it should really be called "inclusion" if anything, c.f. "encased in amber".

State of the virtual machines

Looks like the market is being flooded not only with a host of compatibility layers, but increasing number of true virtualisation applications, or rather, hybrids between the two.

To drop some keywords, we have Rosetta, Wine and its various Crossover derivatives, VirtualPC, PearPC, qemu and Q, VirtualBox, Xen, Parallels and VMWare. Clearly a lucrative market.

I have been interested recently in the increase of usability, including true drag and drop in products by Parallels and VMWare (1), free-floating windows (called Coherence in the Parallels product for Mac), and I would like to see the window manager being fully replaced with the native one, which even Parallels does not seem to have managed yet, judging by the screenshots (but it can be done using WindowBlinds in Windows - $19 on top of the $79 for Parallels Desktop; VMWare pricing not known yet). Arguably, there is some benefit in having a slightly different window border style for Windows windows (ha!) in order to identify them quickly (and here).

But I have also been interested in seeing how little people seem to expect in terms of hardware support or clarification thereof. For instance, I've always been dismayed that there was no equivalent of VNC that would also transmit audio. Similarly, with Windows Vista being the first consumer OS going to market with true voice recognition (OS X 10.4 "Tiger" has a matching algorithm that matches up your voice with any of a small number of known commands, useful but not the real McCoy) - the killer feature in my opinion - it is not clear whether this will work in any of the existing virtualisation products!

(1) VMWare, iirc, has yet to release a product with their announced drag and drop functionality, but for Parallels it is available in a beta version, with hints of a release in the very near future; both on the Mac, not sure about other OSes.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

List: BitTorrent clients for Mac OS X

Mighty and cross-platform:
Few frills:
Added feature, untested:

New laws for new interfaces

While tablet PCs are not new - in fact, Acer was recently quoted as saying the tablet PC platform had failed and would not see revival in their lineup - Apple may well be able to establish touchscreens more firmly beyond the stylus. However, Apple also stands to lose one of the most frequently quoted and patent-protected benefits of its interface - the placement of the application menu along the screen edge. With finger-tapping on a screen, there is no longer any special significance to the screen edge, so while Apple has resisted changing its interface even as screens grew larger, conveniently favouring the widescreen format (where the upper edge of the screen would always be a little closer, although plans to make the Mac a movie platform would have also influenced that decision), it may soon find itself on an open playing field. Ladies and gentlemen, it's the season of big buttons. (Oh, and someone calm down the trekkies when they get into Fitts of joy!)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Apple wishlist

After a few folks around the net have come up with similar ideas, there is no incentive for me to remain silent, so I'll give a quick run-down of what I would like to see from Apple:
  • Cinema displays with multi-touch technology and inbuilt cameras. The window of opportunity is small, because purely projector-based technologies are catching up (you've seen the pictures on the web), but seeing that the iPhone has been in development for two and a half years already, I wouldn't rule it out that they have a head start on putting the technology into cinema displays.
  • Voice recognition in Leopard: Vista has it (can't wait to play with it), so Apple is under pressure. I've no doubt Jobs knows how to beat Microsoft. Remember how he had the Mac talking to him in the keynote where he introduced the Macintosh? I want a repeat run, but for real this time. You just put ELIZA on the other end, and there you go! (I'm sure they can find something that beats ELIZA if they shop around...)
  • Ultraportable and professional laptop (i.e. in the MacBook Pro line): Apple needs to compete in this segment. First off, some have suggested that this would be a slate. I seriously doubt that this would satisfy the needs of the market; even if voice recognition could be used to enter text (and you'll realise that this is an entirely new challenge that you need to retrain yourself for once you try it), this has privacy and nuisance issues when travelling, which is what an ultraportable is really for. I'd also like to see the battery life compete with Lenovo and Sony.
Oh, and people who say that Apple is under pressure to license Mac OS X to everybody else have a poor understanding of Apple's business model. (Mac OS X is what sells Macs - take a few minutes to convince yourself that this is the case. Apple earn their pennies with hardware sales.) The rumour that OS X could be licensed is as old as that of the Marklar project, and it won't happen until there is a Linux distro that works as nicely with peripherals as OS X, especially in the areas of bluetooth and, to some extent, 802.11 (although power users have this working in combination with kismet). It'll be two years at least.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Phrases that tell you you're wrong

If you ever hear yourself saying one of these, it's a good bet you need to reconsider the way you live your life.
  • Do you know who I am?
  • I'm not normally like this.
  • It's all in good humour.

List of GNOME CD burning programs

I may have given this list before, but it has once again grown, so here goes...
Bonfire is the new Sauron's ring on the block. The screenshots look good. I wish them well.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Apple, Sony and ultra-portables

Following initial problems with their Intel laptop line-up, it seems Apple's firmware is settling down and the laptops are ready for productive use. And yet the lower end of the range, the MacBook, fails to impress me - too heavy, short battery life. And no genuinely small model, like the 12" iBook used to be. Or a Sony VAIO TX3. One of which I happen to have just purchased, and boy, does it make me wonder why Apple hasn't approached Sony with either a bid for their laptop division, or an offer to license OS X for their machines. The design would fit within the Apple portfolio perfectly. If Sony have any business sense, they'll take the OS X option for even part of their range - say the TX3 and X505. Admittedly, the X505 strays a little further from Apple's style than the TX3, but it has the slimness and could undoubtedly be given the aluminium/brushed metal finish.

I'm concerned that Steve Jobs' xenophobia might be hindering his achieving great things in the technology sector, as seems to otherwise be his mission. But then, Apple's strategy has always been to re-invent the wheel, especially in software.

On the other hand, it might be Sony still dreaming they'll achieve the firm grip on the technology and entertainment industries that they've always wanted and Apple has now finally achieved. There is so much to learn from Apple: small number of different models, simple price structure, and an appealing, easy to navigate website. Just for starters.