Alien Versus Predator teaser trailer, slated for release next august. My younger brother and I have been waiting a long time for this one.
Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow!
Hopefully it won't be like last year, where we got snow in late October and then hardly a drop during the normal season.
I may not believe in heaven. But if I did, it would be like Alta.
I've been compiling notes about the Lisa, Mac OS, Windows, OS/2, Mac OS X, Cairo, and more, in the recent week. I've been doing this in order to write some entries about where OS design has been, is going, may be going, should have been, could have been, etc. A lot of what I've compiled so far has been written up already, either by me or by others. I wanted to share a few of these:
Published on Ars Technica during the year of Jaguar, About the Finder gives an excellent history about the strengths of the classic Mac OS Finder that have been lost in Mac OS X. He offers up a proposal to address the issues in the Mac OS X finder, which is to visually separate regular mode with a brushed metal single window "browser" mode. Which is not too dissimilar to what the new Finder offers in Mac OS X 10.3, although the true spatial features (one and only one window may ever represent a folder (with the exception of search results)) are still lacking. Apple has at least made the single window mode in Panther much more useful, and heavily distinguished from plain windows.
Siracusa also hopes for a metadata based Finder with search folders. I hope these aren't too far off. iTunes is driving a lot of Apple's interface designs (for better or for worse), and iTunes introduced the concept of "Smart Playlists" a couple of revisions ago. Smart Playlists are live searches - 25 most played songs, most recently added, etc. The concept has also shown up in Apple's new Xcode IDE, with "Smart Groups" letting you have virtual folders showing all implementation files in a project, or all jpg's, or anything else, executed as live queries when you visit them. The fast search field in iTunes has also been showing up everywhere lately, including the new Finder wherein search results start showing up as you're typing (as fast as it can find them, which depends of course on scope), and Apple has included this in their available frameworks as SearchKit, a search engine system other developers can make use of to provide similar functionality in their own applications and tools. So, search is becoming quite important for Apple and they seem to be packaging it well. Here's hoping that "Smart Folders" or something similar show up in Mac OS X 10.4. I'd love to have a folder that would always find files I've marked as "Critical."
I'm hoping that Siracusa is the one to write Ars Technica's review of Panther. I'm very interested in his take on the new version of the Finder. I doubt it will make him completely happy, but I hope he sees it as steps in the right direction.
A great post about the user interface cruft we've picked up over the years. I don't agree with everything he says, but there are a lot of great points made here. One that I found entertaining is the continued reliance a lot of Microsoft software (and apparently Windows software in general) has on paths, instead of file ID's and inodes. Sometimes the mere changing of a folder name can cause significant breakage. I hope this situation is better today.
When Microsoft brought Word 6.0 to the Mac, they decided to operate under the assumption that Mac users wanted Word to behave exactly the same on the Mac as it does on Windows. And I believe this was Microsofts chance to use their cross platform MFC libraries. What this lead to was a very fragile version of Office. It's not uncommon for Mac users to rename their hard drive (we're not bound by single characters). But doing so would cause Word to completely stop working because it lost...well, who knows what it lost. But it lost it. Microsoft improved on this greatly with the Mac editions of Office 98 and Office 2001, which had the concept of being "self repairing." If an Office application started up and couldn't find support libraries in the System folder, it would launch a program to effectively do an automatic re-install of those files and then start up.
There are many other elements of cruft active today, some of which come from the restrictions that the original Mac OS had that its older sibling, the Lisa Office System, did not (there was no 'Quit' in Lisa, there was no "open/save" dialog boxes, there was no "file -> new" menu item). Many others come from Windows.
This paper, presented at USENIX 2000, details just how significant of a feat Mac OS X is. Unix and the Mac OS were engineered for very different purposes and with very different expectations as to how they would be used. Bringing those two very different sides together was no small feat. This was not like NeXTStep, which was built for Unix from day one. This was Apple having to maintain as much of their user bases expectations as possible while having to move this very single-user oriented operating system and its APIs and file systems to work on Unix without driving their standard base away. A very interesting read, and I think it's a good insight into why Mac OS X took so long to build and also why the first releases were a little rocky. I think they've done an excellent job.
In the posts that I've brought into this category there are some reactions to "When Good Interfaces go Crufty," some looks back at the Lisa Office System and some early Lisa ideas that have shown up in Mac OS X, and a quick look back at Cairo - the version of Windows NT with the OFS (which is finally showing up in Longhorn as WinFS)
Why? Why the XML UI? I can understand Mozilla's reasoning, to an extent. But now Microsoft is doing it with XAML (expected to be part of Longhorn), and there are things like Laszlo (which is pretty cool - I'm happy that the one demo applet I tried worked in Safari, pretty quickly on a G3/400 system) and apparently Macromedia is cooking something up too.
I think there are certainly some types of applets and applications where this can work. But as a central development scheme? I don't know.
All one has to do is compare native Mac OS X browsers like Safari and OmniWeb to Firebird and Mozilla on Mac OS X to notice the difference - Safari and OmniWeb just respond better and behave more predictably to a mac user. The half-native Camino browser sits somewhere in the middle (its widgets feel a little off, but I may be getting too used to the power of Cocoa's text system). Native is better.
Microsoft's XAML looks like a road gone down before - particularly HTAs (HTML Applications). I wonder how successful that's been - like Active Desktop.
That's right, I said Jaguar, not Panther. Looking back at last year's post, Industrie Jaguar, I thought it would be nice to revisit some of my thoughts on Jaguar and whether my expectations (high or low) were filled, surpassed, or fell short.
Command Tab in Mac OS 10.0 and 10.1, command-tab would cycle through the dock in the order that applications appeared in the dock. Mac OS 10.2 tweaked that functionality so that the first command-tab would go to the previously used application, and then would cycle through the dock. Also, you could no longer hit "command-tab" and then "command-shift" to go backwards - in 10.2 you had to hit command-shift-tab. I got used to the changes pretty quickly. Somewhere along the way (I don't know if it existed before 10.2 - I think it did), you could also hit 'q' to quit applications as you cycled over them in command-tab, and 'h' to hide them.
Windows Networking - when Jaguar came out, I needed it. But my need for it disappeared shortly after. It was nice that it was there though - enough to get some work done.
Integrated FTP in the Finder was a letdown. It's read only. WebDAV support seems to work nice, at least against Apache and mod_dav. We've been using this for a project/file server recently and have had few problems (WebDAV support was there from 10.0 or 10.1.
Bash, Python, and Terminal all nice to have when you need them. I still work with these things more on a server than on my desktop, but it's still nice to fire up a Python interpreter to test something out.
No more Happy Mac - the startup screen was replaced by a more professional and stylish grey Apple on, um, a grey background. It looks nice. However, we recently acquired a Mac Plus in good condition at the office, and seeing the Happy Mac (on one of the originals) was a nice experience. But this is one of the things I've learned to live without. I understand why Apple changed this - Apple is the brand now, more so than the Mac, and making the startup screen (seen less frequently these days) more professional probably helps their general image.
Performance on my home iMac (DV SE/400) has actually been fairly good, especially once I updated the RAM (which I admit I did more for a game than for anything else). But even before then, some of the initial performance hiccups I had seemed to have gone away. Or I stopped noticing them. It's hard to know for sure sometimes.
Help Viewer was always a mixed experience... But it was better than the previous HTML based ones.
Sherlock 3 was used occasionally by me, usually for movie times. If I used this application more, I would definitely put the money into a license for Watson.
Find in the Finder was very nicely done, although I still want the ability to have saved queries!. It wasn't super-fast, but it was much better than the Sherlock 2 File-Find service in 10.0 and 10.1.
The Open-With Menu option in the Finder was the best new feature. Since I deal with a lot of strange little audio tools, the "open with" command has been very useful for opening a file into one strange little tool after another, regardless of its creator.
Services in the Finder - I didn't use this as much as I thought I would, but it still came in handy whenever I needed to mail a file to someone. Most Services tend to prefer text input anyways. But it's nice that it's there.
Integrated Scanning with Image Capture is nice - scanning (in general) was not a pleasant experience before 10.2
iChat - I was initially skeptical of it, but now I always have it on, as does everybody in the office and a few other friends besides. A simple chat client with no advertising, no bizarre features, was really quite nice - more so than many of us (in the office) were expecting.
Overall, Jaguar's been a nice system to run for the past year. It never let me down (even during the 10.2.8 update debacle). The only time I had to reinstall it was when the hard drive on my iMac went bad (and even that was salvageable). It brought some cool new technologies to the table, especially the auto-discovery network technology Rendezvous. But mostly - it made Mac OS X usable for the masses.
It will be interesting to do a similar review in a years time (give or take) when 10.4 is bound to come out, to see how well Panther ended up working out for me.
Dave Hyatt has posted a list of what's new in Safari 1.1. Unfortunately, Safari 1.1 appears to be for Mac OS X 10.3 only (visiting the Safari page at Apple.com lists 1.0 as the current release). Is this how it's going to be? Safari and WebKit are great products. But there's an eerie feeling here, as Microsoft has said that Internet Explorer will essentially only be updated with new releases of Windows.
Granted, it's barely a day after the release of Panther, but if there are fixes and refinements to Safari's HTML capabilities - shouldn't those who choose not to pay the $129 price for Panther get those fixes too?
Bundling is such an interesting issue, with Apple's Mail application being the strangest of them all. The original NeXT Mail application was a pretty serious feature of NeXTStep, and maybe this is just carrying over into Mac OS X's marketing and planning. But I find it interesting that changes to the Mail application are sold as significant new features for Panther. I don't mind it - it's nice to have a decent Mail application as part of Panther's price. But what of those who don't want to use it, electing to use Entourage or MailSmith or any other mail application instead? (I used Entourage up to Mac OS X 10.2, as OS X's mail application was unusable for me up to that point). There's still a little rift in the Mac OS community about Apple's Sherlock 3 (bundled with OS X since 10.2) versus the similar (and faster and better and earlier) Watson from Karelia.
While I've already moved 2/3 of my machines to Panther, here's hoping that Safari 1.1 can find its way back to Jaguar.
Ever since I first used a Mac in the mid eighties, and its amazing Commodore 64 knockoff GEOS (a working GUI in 64k, on a 1 Mhz processor, and the slowest floppy drive known to man), I've been fascinated by the power and potential of graphical operating systems.
With the release of Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther", I thought it would be a good time to take a general view at mass operating systems over the years, and take some time to think about where we are in the evolution of human-computer interaction. To support that, there's a new category here at Industrie Toulouse, OS (de)Evolution. It's already populated with some entries from the archives, and more will find their way in there, I'm sure.
I call it (de)Evolution because our steps forward and back are nearly impossible to track now. Some great ideas have slowly been lost over the years, other ideas are working out fine. So who has the best drive, ideas, and platform for new direction? Apple? Microsoft? The Open Source community? I plan to investigate this and more in the upcoming OS (de)Evolution articles.
I had another Borders stop on the way home. Actually, first I stopped at a local CD store about a block away from Borders to see if they had the special (apparently already rare) edition of the Lost in Translation soundtrack. No luck. They had no regular edition either, as it keeps flying off the shelves. What can you expect? There are a lot of eager My Bloody Valentine fans eager for some fresh Kevin Shields work. So I went to Borders instead, as there were some books and magazines I wanted to pick up.
The first thing I picked up. I've seen the movie [only] three times now, but wanted the soundtrack from the first viewing. The killer came about halfway through the film when Bob and Charlotte are riding in a cab through late night Tokyo to the sounds of My Bloody Valentine's Sometimes.
As stated above, just the notion of some Kevin Shields work is enough to get MANY people excited. My Bloody Valentine's last album, Loveless, from 1991, is legendary. Part of the legend comes from Shields inability to follow it up - out of fear, out of something. Reports and interviews surfaced around 1997 that a new album was nearly ready. Nothing came. Shields has done some production work, recorded with Experimental Audio Research (one of the handful of Spacemen 3 offshoots) and Primal Scream, and has done a handful of remixes (including ones of Yo La Tengo and Mogwai). But his MBV work is the most remembered and recognized. Warm thick guitars and songs that have almost a "melted tape" quality - tones and pitches not quite on normal marks, but not discordant either.
The Lost in Translation soundtrack also features Air (who probably got their widest recognition for their soundtrack to Sophia Coppola's previous film, The Virgin Suicides), Dirty Vegas, Squarepusher, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and others. And it includes, in semi-hidden fashion, Bill Murray's karaoke rendition of More Than This (a very poignant moment of the film).
Piano renditions of Radiohead songs. At times, it has a bit too much elevator music sound to it, but most of the time it works. This is not the first time this has been done - I believe there's an all-strings rendition of OK Computer, but O'Riley's album covers all Radiohead albums up to Amnesiac.
I knew of True Love Waits' existence, but hadn't paid much attention to it until I watched Unfaithful this past weekend. At one point, O'Riley's rendition of Radiohead's excellent Exit Music for a Film is used in the soundtrack. The song is haunting any way you play it (maybe it's because the lines I always remember are "today we escape" and "we hope that you choke"). I need more piano music anyways, so it was a good acquisition. I think it would actually fit in well on random with some Glenn Gould and Stockhausen's Mantra.
I got this for Sy Hersch's The Stovepipe article that paints a very disturbing picture of the CIA and how the whole "yellowcake uranium from Niger" story came to be. Since I didn't renew my New Yorker subscription when it expired last spring, it will be nice (and interesting) to see how I feel about it now. I miss it, somewhat, but The Atlantic Monthly is giving me similar, if not better, quality, and is only monthly instead of weekly - making The Atlantic easier to keep up with. I do miss the New Yorker cartoons and Talk of the Town sections.
This is a very heavy mens fashion magazine from Europe. This one is straight up fashion (as far as I can tell), unlike the Maxim style mens magazines. But I got this not for the main magazine, but for a separate supplement that came with it. Half of the supplement is dedicated purely to Helmut Lang, whom I've been a big fan of for years.
Lang (whose midrange items I used to be able to afford) is very admirable to me. I love his sense of aesthetics, and how deeply that sense cuts across the company - from the small ad campaigns, to the flagship stores in SoHo (where Lang's offices and NYC residence also are located) designed by Gluckman Mayner architects. Helmut Lang is a master of minimalism and understatement, and everything about his work is presented to stand entirely on its own, and it almost always does. From a design and aesthetic standpoint, he has rarely stumbled. Understatement is key - there's always just some little extra thing that makes his work stand out. Even his jeans have a unique quality that I've never been able to peg down fully. I continue to be a fan, and he continues to be an influence on Eucci (and onto new parts of the Eucci family, such as Rive).
I only wish I had bought a parka from the A/W 99 00 collection. My coat from the following years collection is much loved by me, but a heavy parka would have been nice. I do have an excellent denim jacket from Helmut Lang, whose quality and styling I haven't seen before or since (even in Lang's own collections). The jacket has no side pockets, no bottom 'ring' of material, no extraneous buttons. It's very minimal and functional, and wears more like a fitted shirt than a jacket.
This is a book that compiles three articles that ran in The Atlantic Monthly in 2002. That was prior to my first Atlantic purchase (which has just turned into a subscription), but it was what first really caught my eye about this magazine. It turns out that I'm already a small fan of the author, William Langewiesche. His article, The Crash of EgyptAir 990 is in The Best American Magazine Writing of 2002, and is the article I most remember (but I'm only about 2/3 of the way through that collection). I just finished reading his article about Columbia's Last Flight from the November 2003 issue of The Atlantic, which was another great read alternating between rich portrayals of space flight (including the some of the final conversations in the cockpit) and the problems inside NASA that contributed to last February's tragic accident. There is a followup interview online with Langewiesche which I need to get to. And Anarchy at Sea from the September 2003 Atlantic, my first Atlantic issue ever, was another phenomenal read. But I didn't realize, except for some style similarities, that all of these articles were by the same author until just this past week.
But I'm looking forward to American Ground, as I've heard so much good word over this series of articles. And it's a topic that I'm interested in. Langewiesche apparently covers the whole story, from when the towers fell to when the last piece of debris left the site. He had somehow secured unrestricted, round-the-clock access to Ground Zero within days. Various reviews say that he covers the story without allowing (too much) sentiment get in the way, which I believe, given the previous articles I've read by him. At the same time, I wonder what is in store. Anarchy at Sea, Crash of Egyptair and Columbia's Last Flight all contain very detailed and rather harrowing segments wherein the author portrays these doomed scenes in alarming detail. Whether it's what's going on in a large plane suddenly forced into a steep dive towards the sea, the breakup of a cargo ship in a huge ocean storm off the coast of Spain, or the casual banter of Columbia's crew cut in with graphic details of what is occurring (unknown to them) in the shuttle's left wing, he captures that. At the same time, he captures all of the people involved in the less frantic times - various air safety personnel from the U.S. and Egypt, different crews on shipping liners, members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), etc. William Langewiesche is definitely an author to keep an eye on.
Jon Udell: Apple's Knowledge Navigator revisited. Jon's post links to and discusses some points in a fanciful Apple concept video from 1988 about Knowledge Navigator. In the video, a man (a professor) comes into a den and opens up a flat notebook computer (like a tablet PC, but probably closer in vision to the Dynabook and the Newton.
Some of the knowledge navigator's features are here, as Jon points out - the proliferation of wireless internet connectivity, small yet powerful laptops, working video-chat solutions (ie, Apple's iChat AV and well crafted iSight camera), and resources like Google.
Some of the Knowledge Navigator's concepts started showing up in the Newton, primarily the intelligent communication. You could scribble a note, such as "Dinner with Joan," tap an icon, and it would examine the text and make an entry in your calendar in the evening with a link to Joan's contact information (asking you to find the correct Joan if there was more than one match). By my understanding, the Newton treated everything as one big "soup" of data, always available for finding and linking. Palm Desktop on the Mac (a rebranded version of Claris' Organizer) had similar intelligence built in (again - if memory serves me correctly). And I've seen programs for the Palm OS and for Microsoft Outlook that could do similar things. But the effect was never as cool as it was on The Newton. It was really meant to be a personal assistant, something you could put data into and pull back out of regardless of where it went. I don't know how well third party Newton applications played with "The Soup" but I hope that it was a pervasive concept.
The Newton OS was one of the most daring new OS's I've seen come out since the original Lisa Office System (the Mac OS was very stripped down in comparison to what the Lisa could do). There are still so many ideas from Lisa, OpenDoc, the Newton, DynaBook, and even some bits of the original NeXTStep that seem so far away.
It's as though we never really go forward, but we sure go sideways a lot. I have some more thoughts on this, but I'm waiting for Panther to arrive to see what new it offers me to see if it really makes progress, or just does some cool (and useful) tricks.
From the BBC: Concorde makes last NY flight. A sad day for some of us who thought it was the most beautiful plane in the sky. Its end was inevitable, but still - how beautiful this plane is!
The maiden flight was from Toulouse. Rock.
The jet age is dead, the space age I wanted has long been abandoned (and the current one is struggling for survival), what now?
Dammit. Apple just announced a new iBook G4. sigh. My iBook (white G3, 500 Mhz, ordered the day that Apple made the iBooks look good) is aging, needs a new battery, and has backlight problems. It's basically become a home machine since there's so little battery life left and the lid/screen basically has to stay open all the time, but it hasn't been a bad thing. But I really want a portable machine again as I ramp up my school schedule, and I estimate that it will take at least $500 just to get my current iBook going. I've been looking at getting an eMac to effectively replace my iBook and iMac (which will be three and four years old, respectively, come spring). But I think I may have to get one of these new iBooks instead, and keep the iMac doing what it's been doing so well.
I just experienced my first ever glitch with the online Apple Store. Last week, I put together an order in the education sub-store, and saved it until monday when I placed it. After placing the order, I noticed that it didn't show up in my Order Status page. I never received any confirmation email. And manually entering the order number I was given in the more direct order status app never yielded a result. (This was made worse when the order status application seemed to go down yesterday). Finally, I noticed that there was no credit card activity surrounding the order either.
So I called the Apple Store for customer service, and it appears the order was a phantom - no shipping/billing or credit card information was saved. After some checking, the customer service representative said it's a good bet that order would never be completed and I could place the order again without worry of double billing (and receiving two of the same product), and that if that did happen, they would willingly take returns and refund on the duplicates.
So I placed the order again this morning, and it immediately showed up in my order status page. Now - it's just countdown until Panther arrives. To be followed by a long-needed firewire hard drive.
Note: This is the only problem I ever had with the Apple Store, and they took care of it quickly once I contacted them. It was just...curious.
John Gruber dissects Microsoft's humerous digital music 'Q&A' with his usual excellent flair. As Apple was bringing their iTunes and Music Store MP3/AAC player to Windows, Microsoft hurried up and put out their own press release about choosing a digital music service for Windows. Naturally, it exalts Microsoft's own Windows Media format, which is understandable - Real would do the same about real media, and Apple would do the same about QuickTime. But Microsoft's document is especially funny as it exalts "choice" as being the driving factor behind why WMA based services are the better option. It's even funnier now that AAC, the MPEG4 audio codec (not proprietary to Apple) has an excellent player on Windows, and that Apple's AAC based DRM system is now on Windows as well.
Where's Windows Media 9 for Mac OS X? Nowhere, yet. So if I had a PC workstation (for example - big stretch of an example) and a Mac laptop, I couldn't buy a song from one of those other services and play it on my laptop. With iTunes Music Store, I could listen to it on both. Granted, Windows Media 9 is expected to be arriving this fall for Mac OS X. Here's hoping that Microsoft does a full port that is 100% compatible with Windows Media from, er, Windows. DRM and all. Then, they can talk to me about choice.
And who thinks that once Microsoft gets Windows Media established (as they seem to be doing) that they'll ditch it and let it die slowly like they've done to Internet Explorer? Time was that IE on Windows was the best browser around. But I still have yet to hear glowing reviews of IE 6, and it really seems to be falling behind the Mozilla and KHTML based browsers. And Microsoft has already said that they've effectively stopped upgrading it as a separate application - meaning that you will have to upgrade to the interim releases of Windows XP or wait for Longhorn to (possibly) see a better browser from them. How long until IE 6 becomes like Netscape 4.7 in the eyes of web developers, as "that dumb old thing we still have to support?"
I continue to find myself sliding towards atheism and misanthropy. The misanthropy is no surprise (it's usually accompanied by bouts of unabashed humanism, selectively). But Atheism - who knew?
Maybe I've been watching too much Deconstructing Harry.
But seriously - it's time for something new here. The western faiths have failed me.
I'm back to evaluating the note management application NoteTaker for Mac OS X, now up to version 1.6. NoteTaker has long had a cool feature - when you classify an entry as a Web Page, NoteTaker draws an icon of an @ sign next to the item. Double clicking on that icon would replace the entry with the web page linked to in the entry's contents. In version 1.6, NoteTaker uses WebKit, the engine/API behind Apple's Safari web browser. The results not only look better, but you effectively get an embedded (and simplified) Safari browser in the page, with back/forward buttons, a location bar, and the ability to drag and drop a PDF of the current web page anywhere you want.
This reminds me of CyberDog! Safari is not Apple's first browser, nor is their simple HTMLKit and (post-AppleGuide) Help Viewer applications. CyberDog was made to show off the compound document system OpenDoc by providing OpenDoc parts for a web browser, a notepad (bookmarks on steroids), mail and news, FTP, etc. Using it, you could embed a web browser anywhere that supported OpenDoc parts. At the time, I thought it was kindof silly. But seeing it in action with NoteTaker makes me miss it. Again.
Some screen shots: NoteTaker, Web Page Entry Collapsed and NoteTaker, Web Page Entry Expanded. Some old screen shots of CyberDog can be found in this article (its the one shown in my NoteTaker screen shots).
It's been said time and time again that CD's are too expensive. I stopped in at Border's the other day and was walking through their CD section and came across the new Spiritualized venture, Amazing Grace. $18.99! A Radiohead single, with only two new tracks, $12.99! (I could understand that price for the Airbag/How Am I Driving mini-album, but that had seven tracks, not three). The new Stereolab EP - $9.99 (iTunes Music Store price - $4.99).
Fortunately, there's a better music store close to borders that should have all of these items for reasonable prices.
But considering I can get a damn good DVD at an average price $14.99-$19.99, it's no wonder CD sales are down.
Jon Udell has been writing about interfaces lately. This little bit makes me miss an old Mac OS feature:
In one crucial way, the rich GUI is tragically disadvantaged with respect to its poor browser cousin. Trying to sort out a permissions problem with IIS 6, I clicked a Help button and landed on a Web page. The page could only describe the tree-navigation procedure required to find the tabbed dialog box where I could address the problem. It could not link to that dialog box. This is nuts when you stop and think about it. Documentation of GUI software needs pages of screenshots and text to describe procedures that, on the Web, are encapsulated in links that can be published, bookmarked, and e-mailed. A GUI that doesn't embrace linking can never be truly rich.In System 7.5, which was initially billed as the "half step to Copland," Apple introduced Apple Guide as its preferred help system. Apple Guide had many elements of modern HTML based help systems, but it could also control the user interface, and hilight elements to click on. A guide might say "click on the Apple Menu" and circle the Apple Menu in red. It could perform some steps for a user, with a "Do it for me" action, but still showing the steps involved. This could teach the user things like changing their screen resolution, how to change views in the Finder, etc, all by guiding a user through the actions. It was a very rich and intelligent environment. Unfortunately, it was apparently difficult to develop for. Very few applications ever used the guide features.
["How Rich is the Rich GUI?", Jon Udell, 17 Oct 2003, viewed 20 Oct 2003]
Now, there's nothing like that. Apple Help has been basic HTML since sometime in the Mac OS 8/9 family. A lot of applications have it. But none can guide you through events, like organizing bookmarks in Safari. Now you just have a collection of paragraphs like:
To add a bookmark to the Bookmarks menu, open the webpage and click the Add Bookmark button in the address bar. Type a name for the bookmark and choose Bookmarks Menu from the pop-up menu.Some help files contain links, usually to other help files or to the web, and on rare occasion to certain control panel elements. But it's still pretty weak.
This is not a review of the book Extreme Programming Refactored: The Case Against XP, because I haven't read it. But it is a review of a review. Or a response to a review. Or some comments on a review. I don't know. The review of Extreme Programming Refactored comes from a Mr. Ed at HackNot. In general, I'm a fan of agile development over heavily designed processes like the Rational Unified Process, but I have found Extreme Programming to lean a bit heavily towards the side of "just plain wacky."
Some points from Mr. Ed's review:
XPR’s position in this regard is that refactoring itself isn’t a bad thing, but it makes a very poor substitute for design. If the objective of constant refactoring is to come up with better and better "factorings", why not design a good factoring to begin with, when exploration involves only rubbing out lines on paper, and not the more time consuming exercise of modifying code? Refactoring code that is poorly done is quite natural, but using code as a medium for exploring design alternatives is wasteful and inefficient. If refactoring requires the "courage" to throw away code, is it not even more courageous to throw away code before it’s even written (i.e. exists only as a design)?I remember going through Kent Beck's Extreme Programming Explained (aka, the Extreme Programming "White Book") and wondering just where the design element was. RUP is too heavy for most organizations, but a general architecture does need to be designed. At the same time - how do you know an architecture may or may not work until you've tried some code? This brings up the next point:
Also unaddressed is the unhealthy combination of XP’s constant refactoring and frequent releasing. Refactoring code once you have an installed user base is fraught with such difficulties as user retraining due to UI changes and data migration due to database schema changes.This makes sense, but it can totally depend on the project. There's always the tug of war between wanting to stick to a rigid requirements document and development contract, and the fact that users and customers don't really know what they want until you show it to them.
I know this case is common - when developing a dynamic web site for a customer, a design is shown early on. The customer is told "it will be difficult to make major changes to this design once we start putting code behind it, primarily due to your budget. Once you sign off on the design, that's it. This is how the site WILL look, not MIGHT look." The customer signs off on it and says "OK" and development begins. The design proved to be a bit limiting to the the text and flow of the site, but it's what the customer signed to do, and the designer has gone on to other work anyways. And usually at this point, major changes to the design will have to be handled by the developer(s) anyway. Soon, the next iteration is shown to the customer. Everything is still OK, but not much can be seen yet. More development is done, and the general structure of the site can be seen. Suddenly the customer says "the [graphic] design is too limiting. Can it be more adaptive?" To which the response usually is "not based on the design you signed off on." And the customer replies with "oh, but I didn't know that's how it was really going to look..." What do you do? The customer may be right in this case - the initial graphic design is a bit limiting for what they might need or want, but it would take a good couple of days on an already tight schedule to really rework the design. The customer insists that the current design is "broken" and focuses all of their emotion on that issue. What do you do? Most of the time, it's easy to be agile in this situation and pad in the extra time required to make changes. But sometimes, there are budget and/or time constraints in place (usually on the customer's side) that mandate getting them to sign off on so many things up front. To which the developer company says "ok - barring any major changes to these requirements, we can do this for x amount, but there's very little wiggle room here." sigh.
Back to the review: Mr. Ed summarizes up the bullet points the Extreme Programming Refactored book makes in its final chapter about how to improve extreme programming. Some I heartily agree with - that pair programming should only be a natural phenomenon, not something that's enforced. Others, I have particular issue with:
Early prototyping is emphasized over constant refactoring later.To which I have a corollary: early prototyping always yields constant refactoring later. There is practically no such thing as the throw away prototype. I've been on a lot of contracts where there was a prototype. And I don't think I've been on a single one where said prototype was thrown away. Maybe this is a consequence of using a rapid language such as Python, which some jobs may use as a prototyping language to be followed by so-called "real development" in a C based language. But the prototype always stays. A nice thing about extreme programming is that they seem to acknowledge this. I disagree with their general "throw design to the wind" mentality. But I agree with their knowledge that developers want to get experimenting and typing pretty early on - often just to see if a certain approach is doable. They choose to encourage working with that output, ensuring that such efforts are not wasted - either by being thrown away, or shunned as "bad practice." On the other hand, just blindly programming hoping that a decent architecture will just miraculously appear as time goes is not the way to go either.
There is a large space between the Rational Unified Process (which is a fairly adaptive process, if one takes the time to look at the basic principles) and Extreme Programming, and it's littered with an assortment of other development processes. Extreme Programming Refactored looks like it's trying to define a version of Extreme Programming that finds more of a middle ground, which in and of itself cannot be a bad thing. Does it succeed? I don't know. Read the review and its comments, including comments from Ron Jeffries himself), decide whether you should read the book or not from that.
I often get curious about what's inside a Mac OS X application. Fortunately, it's easy to find out just what's inside most of them because of the way Mac OS X applications are stored on the file system. What presents itself as a single object in the Finder is often, in fact, a directory on the file system. This packaging gives the user a single item to deal with (in most cases), while that item contains resources, icons, executables (potentially for multiple platforms - it was this way in the OpenStep days), etc.
While playing with iTunes 4.1, I noticed that the preferences window takes on a behavior that is expected in Jaguar - where in preference style windows (windows with a toolbar that switches between panes), selecting an icon to go to a different view causes that icon to be highlighted. Part of me wondered if there was a special library/framework included to give it this functionality, so I opened up the iTunes Package and peeked inside.
I didn't find any extra libraries of frameworks, but I did find a lot of icon files. Of particular interest - a WMA (Windows Media Audio) icon. I then tried dragging a WMA file into iTunes (OS X version), but it didn't play.
Curious that it's there...
The Apple Store claims that all Mac OS X "Panther" orders will arrive in the evening of the 24th. There's no explanation on their site (that I can find) about which (if any) shipping methods are preferred, and how other items placed in the same order would affect delivery or cost. (I'm purchasing Panther through the online Apple store because of the student price - $69 in comparison to the $129 retail price. I may as well get some use out of this education thing).
I'm going to hold off on placing my order until tomorrow. This is done partially in hope that someone may clue me in about Panther shipping policies (wink), but partially in anticipation of what tomorrow may bring - namely, there's the possibility of new iPod accessories. I need to get a second dock anyways, so I may as well wait to see if there are any other fancy announcements. If only there was a good tiny AM/FM receiver for the iPod - the Altec Lansing inMotion portable iPod speakers system would be an appealing possibility of an alarm clock replacement. sigh... I guess I'll have to keep my eye out for a white version of the Tivoli Audio Model Three clock radio that looks like their Model 1 radio. Where I'm going with this - my current clock radio, which is also my primary radio anymore, could stand to be replaced.
A couple of weeks ago, I was talking about possible new magazine subscriptions. At the time, I had just committed to Harper's. Tomorrow, I'll drop in a membership request with The Atlantic Monthly. This membership option appears to be newly offered and appears in the November 2003 issue. Basically, for $10 more than the subscription, one gets up to three extra subscriptions for immediate family, and a couple of other options. The page for the membership/subscription offer was beautifully done. So of course, I had to acquiesce. I just picked up my third issue, but I'm pretty happy with the first two.
The Walrus looks interesting. It basically looks to be a Harper's/Atlantic/New Yorker, but for (and from) Canada. The cover for the first issue looks nice (yes - I'm the type of asshole that judges magazines and books by their covers.
Aesthetics are the ethics of the few). Hopefully some issues will show up down here. I'd like to give it a good look over.
Speaking of magazines, I'm actually thinking of taking a long boring bus ride this weekend, primarily for the purpose of actually getting some reading done. I still have a good amount of The Best American Magazine Writing of 2002 to get through. And should I get through that, I've got a couple of New Yorker collections to get through.
Hmmm.. in the vulgar parlance of our times, "like magazine writing much?"
Some people have got their nuts all twisted up over not being invited to O'Reilly's Foo Camp. Poor babies. The older I get, the less I understand Dave Winer. And the happier I am to have knocked off the RSS 2 feed from this site. I will say - I did that purely for spite for his whole "Movable Type's RSS is Funky" snarky comment. RDF has gotten all my love since then.
And - just to spite you all - I'm going to host a really mean game of scrabble at some point soon. We'll talk tech, I'm sure (probably game AI and component architectures). None of you are invited.
That's right. I said "really mean game of scrabble." I mean it too. Someone's going to choke on a game piece by nights end.
But seriously, Dave, It was O'Reilly's affair. They can invite whomever they want. So your event was inclusive - I still can't even fathom why there needs to be a conference about blogging. You type some text, it gets posted online, people can subscribe to be notified of new posts, what more needs to be said?
But seriously, someone's going to choke on a scrabble piece here. We're just the type of folks to whom "I'm going to take that Q and shove it down your throat!" is NOT an idle threat.
This is why we don't play Risk any more.
Personally, I don't know if objects have failed. But on the large scale, I think that we are entering an object/framework/component mishmash era, and that's not a bad thing. Java's power and popularity come as much from its ever growing standard library, augmented by strong standards like J2EE. I think that the .NET framework is a serious contender, and very similar to Java's standard class library. Objective-C and the Cocoa framework have finally been vindicated with the success of Mac OS X. Cocoa precedes Java and .NET by a good many years and offers a similar thing - a dynamic runtime system comprised of a large library of objects and classes for building applications.
I saw a couple of heartening things today. The first was my glancing over a sample chapter of O'Reilly's Mastering Visual Studio .NET covering integration of components into Visual Studio. Rapidly glancing over the code snippets, screen shots, and some of the text, I realized that it was pretty understandable. This is a considerable improvement over the last generation of common component frameworks (COM, etc), although some of the object/component hybrid systems such as SOM didn't suffer so badly. I think what was impressive was that the concepts were not dissimilar to Zope 3 - there were service managers, services, and contexts. I think this move towards services is especially heartening - "get me the foo service" "have that service do something to this object". This seems to take a lot fewer lines of code than it used to, and more seems to get done. And I think a lot of this stems from the influence of Design Patterns, which took a lot of the common good ideas of different well written frameworks (including MacApp and Cocoa's ancestor, NeXTStep) and codified it into a common language. A lot of the things we were accidentally coding over and over again is now done on purpose, and the standard frameworks and class libraries have grown to offer more of these services.
The other thing I saw and liked was an old PyObjC article with example code that set up an application that watched mounted volumes and automatically opened "README" files. The code was really quite concise and understandable. Part of this is of course due to Python, but a lot of it stems from the power of the built in objects and classes of Cocoa.
So, while I haven't looked at the Objects have Failed paper in any sort of depth yet, I wouldn't say objects have failed. It's just taken a while for the general industry to use them correctly. I think that OOP has been taught and/or picked up incorrectly by so many people that we're just now starting to recover from the damage caused. There are many systems like Zope 2 which are a frightening mess of rigid (yet fragile) and deep incestual forking inheritance trees. Composition and dynamic relationships between smaller objects has been the right idea all along. Some systems got that, a lot didn't. But the latest crop (including Zope 3) seem to have seen the light.
Here in Salt Lake City (sigh), there is a big debate going on about zoning. Nordstrom's, whom I'd love to have stay here in Salt Lake, wants to move to a new shopping center a few blocks away from where they are now. There are many complicating factors, which I am not going to go into here. What I am going to go into is how absolutely fascinating the city council meeting broadcasts concerning this issue have been to me. Really. The occasional Amtrak hearings on CSPAN hold the same appeal. Hmmm.
This year's October looks to be a big month for Apple: Mac OS X 10.3 "Jaguar" is set to be released on October 24th. And now, there's a media event slated for October 16th, where iTunes for Windows is expected to be released - music store and all.
It will be interesting to see how the iTunes Music Store fares once it hits the Windows platform. Apple still has pretty strong brand recognition in this space, despite new competition on the Windows platform from MusicMatch (a very iTunes Music Store like implementation), BuyMusic.com (of whom little has been heard about since their initial arrival on the scene), the new "legit" Napster, and the already-somewhat-established Rhapsody service from listen.com.
Of those services (none of which are available for Macs), Napster seems to be the most major threat, just in terms of brand strength alone. But since the old Napster has been gone for such a long time, and this new Napster is a completely different service, will its old audience flock back to it and stay? I imagine not. Much of Napster's old audience have moved on to other illegal services and I doubt they'll be likely to switch back to an old name just because it's legitimate now. What about those who have warmed up, or are warming up, to digital music purchases? I don't know if Napster is a strong enough name any more for many of those individuals. But it certainly is getting a lot of press buzz, primarily from its name recognition. On the other hand, iTunes for Windows looks like it will beat it to market by a couple of weeks (if the software and service are available on the day of the Apple event).
Equally interesting will be how iTunes itself fares on the Windows platform. On the Mac, it's an excellent MP3 player. When Apple first announced it, my friends and I went "so what? it's just another MP3 player." Now I can't imagine my life without it. iTunes' playlist/file management is so fluid. Prior to it, I never bothered with playlists in other applications. I'd just drag files in that I wanted to listen to. I found it annoying to have to save playlists as files and then have to track those files down. iTunes made all of that transparent. It has been the only serious MP3 Jukebox software on the Mac platform. Its interface, which has stayed fairly consistent from the first release, has become one of the new standards of measure for Apple's other products. Almost every other non professional Apple program these days compares itself to iTunes somewhere in its marketing speak, and its influences can even be seen in the new Panther Finder. The "quick-search" box, which has started showing up in other applications, is going to be a standard Widget in Panther, along with a text indexing service so that third party applications can all have this "quick search" functionality which first manifested itself in iTunes - and which makes it very easy (and fast) to find "Keep On the Sunny Side" out of a library of 2,343 songs.
Also of interest - the smaller labels are showing up on iTunes music store! Matador! Which means there are finally some Bardo Pond and Pizzicato Five albums available for those browsing through. Nice. And finally - they have some White Stripes too.
Today, I deployed RevisionManager (and its sibling, RevisionObjects) into a Zope development site. RevisionManager seems to be the least obtrusive yet most (generally) effective CVS front end to come along for Zope.
RevisionManager aims for the notion that most Zope objects that you want to excite source control over in fact tend to have a single text (or binary, in the case of files and images) based representation. It also deals with Zope's generic Properties data description and extension system.
For general usage, a RevisionManager can be added and set up for a site root. It's a unique object, and doesn't interfere with any other content unless you tell it to - it doesn't add extra tabs, etc. If you do want an extra tab to do checkins/updates/diffs/etc per item, RevisionObjects patches in to give you that ability. But most of a site can be managed via the RevisionManager object.
RevisionManager's implementation is pretty intelligent and fairly well done. I found one problem today that I reported to the author (basically - if you have a Zope object, such as a folder, called 'read', the synchronization process will fail). But overall, RevisionManager seems to take to heart a lot of the concepts espoused in Zope 3's philosophy:
ZopeMag Issue 5 features a free article discusses the design considerations for RevisionManager, offers insight into how it works, and compares it to other (older) solutions for Zope.
Tonight, I had the privilege...nay, joy...of watching Lost in Translation. There is much to enjoy about this film. One particular point is how Sofia Coppola and her cinematographer capture The City through the eyes of these lonesome travelers. In this case, The City is Tokyo - immense, colorful, and distant. At times, we're taken on close shots through night clubs, arcades, and apartments. A lot of the time, we're seeing the city through the windows high up in the Park Hyatt hotel where our main characters are staying - from their rooms, from the swimming pool, and from the bar. The beginning, midpoint, and end of the film are shown through the windows of cabs and limousines -those luscious rides in, out, and through where you get to whisk by and see the colorful advertising-laden edges of neighborhoods that border the highways and trailways of so many major cities worldwide.
I love falling through cities at night. I love the diffusion of light onto the streets and sidewalks from the streetlamps, traffic lights, buildings, signs, etc. I often walk home from bars savoring this.
Tonight when I got home, I decided some relaxation would be in order, as I seem to be getting over some sort of mild sickness. I drew a bath, brewed some tea, and stared at my music collection trying to find something that fit the mood - a continuation of the movies lush and noisy soundtrack (featuring Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, including a classic MBV track), that wasn't My Bloody Valentine. I settled on "Frozen Guitars and Sunloop/7E 802" from Merzbow's Dharma. A big noise piece from a big noise artist, Frozen Guitars.. is also surprisingly meditative (as the album title, Dharma, would suggest) across its 31 minutes. The first half has slowly changing textures and loops, and has a wonderfully crisp cold feeling. The second half drops the loops and becomes a big slow moving roar that is both descending and ascending. It's like being near jet engines floating over an icy arctic tundra at sunup, and hearing the sound of the sun and the ice as well. I'd really like to get a good CD Radio Alarm Clock that can fade out gently in 'sleep mode' and try sleeping to this track to see what sort of initial dreams I get.
Before and after the bath, I enjoyed the view from my bathroom window (opening the top half and peering out over it) of this city and valley at night. It's not quite like being high high high above Tokyo, but it's still an enjoyable experience to me.
Now that Apple has their new Power Mac G5 machines, backed by IBM's PowerPC 970 processor, their print ad campaign has gone rather technical. Apple's ads feature wafers of PPC 970 chips and a picture of IBM's chip processing plant, and the accompanying text (of which there is a lot for an Apple ad) waxes on and on about the technical merits of the G5 chip and system, of the merits of 64 bit computing, etc.
Now that sounds rather like an Intel ad campaign (at least - the Intel ad campaigns that I remember)
In the September issue of Wallpaper, a large eye candy magazine from the UK focusing on travel, design, fashion, etc, there lies a multi page Intel ad focusing on Centrino. The Intel ad is alarmingly fashionable. The ads are sparsely laid out, with a large picture and a good degree of white space which features a few (very few) lines of text in a nice serif font. The people in the ad look like they're out of a Paul Smith or Gucci ad. And of course, they're all sporting slender metallic laptops.
Curiously, it's much more high fashion in its design than many of the traditionally fashionable Apple ads (which are more GAP like).
The other day, I was discussing this strange turn of advertising with a friend. As I was talking about the Centrino ads, I realized that Centrino is really a direct competition with Apple's notebook series. Since the introduction of the first iBook and Airport (Apple's 802.11 system, and the first commercial 802.11 implementation to get noticed), it's been known that when you get an Apple Laptop, you get wireless effectively built in. You get decent battery life. Effectively, you get a lot in a small space. Centrino looks like it's trying to become a brand image for "Wintel" laptops that connotes a similar system/confidence. I think that Apple, Sony, and Toshiba have really set the style for what people want from a notebook computer, and Apple's brand is strong enough that people looking for wireless and fashionability that they've tended to win out in purchasing decisions lately (Apple has gained 2% market share in Notebooks in the second quarter). I don't know if Intel came up with the Centrino brand, or if various PC vendors pressured Intel to come up with something to make all their notebooks seem, at least partially, "Apple Compatible." But in any case, it's a strange turn of events.
Apparently, Microsoft too is supposed to be chasing after more fashionable advertising this fall. So with Intel and Microsoft chasing the fashionable market, is Apple going to turn around and promote the technical advantages of their products? We'll have to see how the ad campaigns for Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) turn out. I imagine that Apple's consumer hardware will continue to be simple and elegant - Apple has such a strong brand image here, made even stronger by the success of the iPod (see this Daring Fireball article about why there's still no real competition to the iPod, no matter what Dell or the press may think for more details). As Apple's technical base continues to get stronger, helped by new hardware (G5) and software (Panther, Panther Server), look for them to extol these virtues while the rest of the crowd tries to go after the fashionable brand area that Apple is starting to dominate.
I know. There's been another long uncomfortable silence around Toulouse. I have a few unfinished draft posts lying around on various computers and various instances of NetNewsWire, but they've tended to get away from me. Not to mention that Time remains a vicious enemy.
Yet here I sit this sunday morning posting none of them. In their stead, I have been tweaking the display of the weblog, mostly using style sheets and adding a couple of extra span and div tags to support the changes. The ideas came from Mimicking Magazines, a page showing various CSS tricks to achieve looks used on various magazine sites. The color scheme has also picked up some more fall-like qualities.
And I desperately need coffee.