Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Kaleem Aftab

Just want to share one of my secret tips with you. I was reading Kaleem Aftab's reviews when he was still writing for The List. Best movie reviews I ever read. He really knows what to appreciate about a film. He writes stuff for the Independent these days, aside of his book, Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking To It, and his film projects. Kaleem, let's see more of you! Miss you at The List, it's not been the same and I stopped buying it.

The BBC gave him some "my space" thing with an interface that makes my eyes hurt. Still, some might find it useful...

How many packages does your distro have?

Data from Wikipedia.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Apple pricing: Mac Mini vs. MacBook

So an extra £150 (check out the Core Duo Mac Mini) gets you a display, battery, keyboard and touchpad?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Elephant Dreams

Being a fan of Blender and its community, I've just watched Elephant Dreams. It's like a film with bad acting. Rather reminded me of that other free animation film featuring a cute robot alone in a space station, with some kind of guard robot chasing it. It was really boring.

Elephant Dreams' character animations remind me of the Plumber short film, which was actually rather good, very funny. I just wish that they'd improvised ED with real actors first.

Okay. It sucks. Sorry. Show me some open source that works. Thanks.

OS X needs a meta-window-switching key

In order to ease the transition of Linux and Windows users to OS X, it really needs an application-agnostic window switching key, different from either Cmd-Tab or Cmd-`, which change either within or between applications, and can be quite limiting to the keyboard-centric user.

Update 30/07/2006: Prayer answered.

Growl, Azureus and other GUI evils

Some of you may be familiar with the OS X add-on Growl, which displays little messages that programs send in a pop-up window that does not take focus. Other programs, such as Azureus, have this ability built in without using Growl. Windows has had this feature for a long time, so why has Apple never implemented it?

There is a very sensible reason. Remember the icons in the dock that jump up and down when an application needs attention? Rather than throwing a window your way like most Windows applications would, often resulting in text or even passwords being lost or disclosed by typing them into the wrong window that has just popped up, OS X is courteous and kindly asks the user for some of his attention, "when you're ready".

Moreover, it does so in an area of the screen that is usually guaranteed not to be used for any other purpose. Growl, on the other hand, could quite conceivably pop up in an area of the screen that the user is actually performing work in, and prevent the user from executing a mouse action, and break his concentration. Some may intuit that the problem could be alleviated by having Growl messages displayed in a separate window, which would then cause its icon to bob, being more courteous. But this is actually worse than having the original application take such action, because the user couldn't tell at a glance which application was calling him. On the other hand, applications use Growl to display many more messages than they would usually display of their own. So perhaps they should not be displaying these messages at all, since doing so would simply lead to an inflation of messages, and an all-dancing desktop. If that's what we wanted, we'd be using Windows, right?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Google and Amazon?

If someone can explain to me why Amazon and Google haven't figured out a way to integrate GoogleAds and MarketPlace, please do! It could be so simple:

The customer pays Google not for clicks, but for actual successful sales resulting from clicks. Reciprocally, Google could automatically adjust its advertising so that customers' ads appear on the page for the search results that generate the most revenue for the customer. Finally, Google could reward customers whose clicks result in revenue more often by ranking them at the top of the ads page. I haven't recently followed up the GoogleAd bombs story (you make a bot to click on competitors' ads to relieve them of their money) and whether Google has found a solution for this, but this is a solution that works because you pay per sale, not per click. Hire me? :)

Update 13/06/2006: Well, look what they did. I should stop posting.

Update 30/07/2006: As a sidenote, Froogle already provides seller ratings for some sellers.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Spotlight: Apple's grip on UI goodness is slipping

Doubtless many of you will have noticed that Spotlight returns results in a window while it's still searching its index. This is a useless and annoying feature, as you could actually try to click one of the items - it is possible - but then end up opening the wrong one because the list has expanded between your first and second clicks. Steve Jobs, I'm losing faith. Thermal paste?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Apple needs to back web-based office apps

Here I go disagreeing with Robert Cringely again.

He writes in a recent "pulpit" edition that Apple needs to develop their own competitor to Office so Microsoft can no longer boss them around. I had previously commented on Cyberdog's suggestion that Apple had introduced BootCamp to break MS Office's power over OS X.

What Cringely is apparently oblivious to is the existence of web-based office replacements such as Group Office (GPL) and ThinkFree Office (proprietary). ThinkFree in particular constitutes a fairly faithful and fully compatible clone of MS Office. However, when I last checked, it was capable neither of executing VBA macros nor of performing statistical calculations, not to mention having citation functionality that usually comes on the form of EndNote.

Great as Pages and Keynote may be from a user interface and eye candy perspective, if Apple were to invest in one of these web-based office solutions to supplement the missing features, they'd catch Microsoft up in no time, at smaller effort.

Update 28/05/2006: I'm not the only one to find Cringely occasionally flakey. Daniel Eran also has a few chickens to pluck with the controversial man. Let's see if I can take on Eran next ;)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Who's your daddy?

I'm trying to decide whether this computer is trying to look like this computer or this computer.

MacBook: user-swappable hard disk

Below the two RAM slots (at the base of the battery cavity) is where you'll find the MacBook's hard disk drive. Without disassembling the notebook, users will be able to quickly removing some protective aluminum shielding and lift the drive out of the computer.

Source: http://www.appleinsider.com/article.php?id=1750

MacBook: glossy screen

Here is the most extensive documentation yet of the drawbacks of the new glossy screen on the MacBook, now also available as an option for the MacBook Pro. Here are some more photos.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

MacBook: not for the paranoid?

For instance, when you’re in a dark room, MacBook turns down the brightness. Just one of the many ways MacBook conserves energy out of the box, optimizing both AC and battery power.

Says the Apple website. Although it is possible that the MacBook has a separate light/dark sensor, I'm guessing they measure brightness using the camera. I hope either this feature or the actual camera itself can actually be switched off. Not everyone wants a Paris Hilton incident in the home. Yes, cover that camera when not in use! Did you know that Flash may be able to access your audio-in? Hah, scary...


So the news is out.

The MacBook, now for sale, has a 13 inch widescreen display (1280 x 800 where I had anticipated closer to Sony's 1366 x 768), a mini-DVI output which requires an inexpensive (15 GBP) adapter for either a DVI or VGA socket on your display. It also features the dual-core CoreDuo processor, from 1.83GHz, where many expected to see a "CoreSolo" for the cheaper end of the range.

The anticipated black finish is only available for the 2GHz 80GB+ model, at an 89 GBP premium! Its budget nature is revealed, however, when considering the weight: The MacBook weighs in at a sizeable 2.36kg, comparing unfavourably, for example, to the superiorly configured Sony VAIO VGN-SZ110B, which weighs only 1.86kg.

We shall have to wait for news on battery life (not expected to diverge from the MacBook Pro), thermal paste, whine and MagSafe. Some people are curious about GPU performance.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Unix-Windows security debate

The Windows guys say when OS X becomes common, it will be affected by viruses just as much (the epidemiology standpoint). The Unix guys say, no, because Unix is designed as a multi-user system with restricted user and file permissions from the ground up, so viruses have far fewer avenues for propagation (the system design standpoint).

And then there are userland macro/script viruses, where the unix file permissions don't apply, a problem common to all pluggable applications, especially where the user is a) not asked to consent to execution of a b) digitally signed macro.

That's as much as there is to this debate. Simple, hmm?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Major embarrassment for Apple: thermal paste in MBP

As nicely illustrated in this forum post, Apple manufacturers have been applying excess amounts of thermal paste to all relevant bits of hardware, hence . Not only has this led to questions whether the MacBook will be similarly affected, besides being the reason why MacBook Pros are not designated "laptops", it has even led to suggestions (pending investigation) that this problem may have afflicted PowerBooks and G5 computers, and that Apple's move to Intel hardware may have been mostly motivated by what has now turned out to be the result of incorrect application of heat paste. Yes, embarrassing!