The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'apple'

2016/9/9

So the Apple Event revealed what everybody feared: the headphone socket is dead. The connector is being removed from future iPhones, because “courage”. In its stead, Apple will start shipping wired headphones with their proprietary Lightning connector, and (for the time being, at least) adaptors for your existing headphones (which just became “legacy” headphones). The adapters are as you'd expect: a longish cable with a socket on one end, just cumbersome enough to encourage you to dump yesteryear's technology and get with the programme; they also prevent you from charging your phone whilst using the headphone socket, but there's a $40 double adapter from Belkin you can buy that will let you do this. Meanwhile, William Gibson has noted that, soon, his early cyberpunk novels may sound slightly more anachronistic, with the phrase “jacked in” having a ring of almost Victorian archaism.

It is not clear how long the headphone socket has a future on Apple's other product lines; it'll be interesting to see whether the iPad (which is not as constrained for space) retains it. (They could argue that losing the socket would make it more likely to survive poolside spills, and if that fails, fall back to “because we said so, that's why”.) The MacBook series might retain headphone sockets for longer (even Apple's stripped-down new MacBook has two ports: the headphone port and a USB-C port for everything else), though perhaps its days are numbered even there.

For those with older iPhones missing out on this new development there are Apple Plugs to stop up those unsightly old-fashioned headphone sockets; whereas, if you want a phone that has a proper headphone socket, you can always switch to Android. (Correction: if you want a phone that has a proper headphone socket and don't particularly care about audio performance, you can switch to Android.)

(Another theory about Apple's antipathy to analogue audio connections has to do with DRM; that, in order to do deals with all-powerful record labels, demanding more end-to-end control over their precious intellectual property, Apple are moving to do what the recording industry had failed to achieve before: to close the analogue hole, making possible restricted audio formats which not only cannot be made into perfect digital copies, but can't be played into anything producing a clean analogue audio signal. Tim Cook has dismissed this rumour as a “conspiracy theory”, and said that Apple have no such plans. If there's any truth in such a theory, there would have to be several telltale indicators. For such a system to work, firstly Apple's system would have to distinguish between secure audio devices (presumably the sealed end-to-end digital headphones) and insecure ones (which include Apple's headphone adapter). Secondly, the licensing specification for Apple's Lightning technology when applied to headphones would have to specify that there cannot be a tappable signal path between the Lightning circuitry which decodes (and presumably decrypts) and the speaker drivers that convert it into sound. The headphones would have to be designed to literally fail to decode an audio signal if dismantled or tampered with, so that a pirate couldn't tap the voltages going to the speaker drivers. If the specification goes into such details, then perhaps it's time to worry.

The other announcement was that, as well as the proprietary Lightning wired headphones, Apple are selling a new set of wireless headphones named the AirBuds, which are probably more interesting than what they sound like. They charge by induction in a special container, fit in the ear, and connect to iPhones (or other devices) by Bluetooth, along with a proprietary Apple pairing protocol. They also contain microphones (for voice calling) and accelerometers, and have a few subtle features, like the ability to call up Siri on a connected phone by tapping the earpiece. The technology powering them is a new Apple chip named the W1, whose exact capabilities and specifications are unknown.

At the moment, the AirBuds are superficially uninteresting; they're essentially a nicely-designed, semi-proprietary Bluetooth headset. However, they are a trojan horse for something potentially more interesting. With their array of sensors (microphones and accelerometers) and signal processing and communications capabilities, they are clearly not a simple audio converter (like the chip in the Lightning cable on Apple's new wired headphones) but a small wearable computer running some kind of firmware; sort of like an Apple Watch for the ears. Both the hardware and the firmware are at the very first version, and so are limited in scope, but the potential's there. It's quite likely that a firmware upgrade at some point may add more functions, and a hardware revision may expand its capabilities even further. By version 3, AirBuds may be running something named airOS, with a third-party app store; there will be apps that run entirely on a set of earphones. One can imagine early standalone apps being things from talking clocks and ambient music/sound generators to self-contained versions of Zombies, Run!; if the AirBuds end up getting other capabilities, such as GPS, of course, the possibilities expand considerably. And then there is the possibility that they may eventually have their own mobile data connection, independent of a tethered iPhone; the main bottleneck is the requirement for a SIM card, and Apple have been pushing for the SIM card's replacement with a data-based credential of some sort, something that would allow far smaller devices to connect to phone networks. Perhaps eventually, the pocket-sized iPhone itself could end up going the way of the PalmPilot, replaced by a body-area network of ear- and wrist-based devices, communicating with each other by Bluetooth and sharing a mobile data plan.

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2014/9/17

Last week was the annual ritual the year's iPhone launch. It followed the usual routine: new models (with larger screens and a new iOS version), new technologies (Apple Pay, a contactless payment system) and a preannouncement of an as-yet unready product (the Apple Watch, which, to all appearances, doesn't quite work yet, hence the carefully managed demo). And then, another surprise: Bono, that Tony Blair of adult-oriented rock took to the stage, looking particularly greasy and ratlike in his trademark rock'n'roll sunglasses, and, through a scripted “spontaneous” exchange with Apple CEO Tim Cook, announced that his band U2 have recorded a new album, and that Apple have bought each and every one of their users a copy; it would be showing up in their record collections whether they wanted it or not. And, soon enough, it did. Those whose phones were set to automatically synchronise with iTunes Match found the new U2 album waiting on their phones.

Of course, not everyone was happy with having a record shoved into their record collections; even without it being by a band with such a sketchy reputation (musically and otherwise) as U2. The similarity between Bono's rationale—that those finding the music on their computer may listen to it and may like it, and if they don't like it, they can delete it—and the rationalisations of old-fashioned email spammers, was pointed out. Though, actually, you couldn't even delete it; you could remove it from your computer, and meticulously scrub it from all your Apple devices, but it would always be waiting for you in your list of downloadable purchases on the iTunes Store, like an unflushable jobbie, taunting you with its noisome presence every time you lifted the lid. The most you could do with it was “hide” it, as you would a mildly embarrassing drunken binge-purchase; but you and Apple would know it was always there, mocking you.

This was not so much the “turd-in-a-can” business model of lowest-common-denominator consumer capitalism as the “unflushable turd” business model; or “now you have our album in your music collection; deal with it”. A bit like the Los Angeles band who blocked a freeway with a truck and treated the trapped motorists to a live gig from a stage on the back, only scaled up to the size of Bono's messianic ego and international-level schmoozing abilities. When you're Bono, it seems, you can push your music to millions of people. As for Apple, could this mean that their hubris about knowing their customers' needs better than they know themselves has extended from which controls a user needs in an app to what sort of music the user likes, or ought to like?

After considerable kvetching and sarcasm on social media and the web (and undoubtedly a number of complaints to iTunes Support), Apple relented, and created a world first: a dedicated web link for removing U2's Songs Of Innocence from one's iTunes collection; a privilege (if one can call it that) that no other musical act has merited, or is likely to merit any time soon, with the levels of hubris, influence and public antipathy required to pull off such a feat.

Apple surely have statistics about how many people have availed themselves of this link, and expunged the most recent U2 album from their record collections. It's unlikely that they will publish them. It would be nice if this whole episode had been a lesson in humility for Bono and his people, but, somehow, I suspect that's too much to hope for.

There is, however, some hope from this affair; it seems that, after all, enough people to be counted and listened to still consider their music collections—the recordings they have chosen and curated themselves—to be a personal artefact, rather than just another advertising billboard. Sure, Facebook may abridge our friends' party photos and emotional dramas and squeeze in ads pushing weight-loss plans and financial services in the spaces freed up, Twitter may season our (now similarly algorithmically winnowed down) feeds with “sponsored tweets”, Shazam may turn our phones into micro-billboards for the new Justin Bieber record when we hold them up to check what the bangin' track the DJ is playing is, and Spotify may bombard us with gratingly obnoxious ads until we relent and become paying customers, but both our record collections and our not-inexpensive, non-ad-subsidised, devices are off limits; and woe betide anyone who messes with them.

advertising apple marketing music spam u2 4

2014/1/11

Today, I cancelled my iTunes Match subscription.

I subscribed to iTunes Match as soon as it became available in the UK, because the idea of being able to upload my music collection into The Cloud™ and access it without physically shlepping it around seemed very useful. Over the next few weeks, I embarked on the project of uploading the contents of my music collection (which, in its unabridged form, resides on a small Linux machine running mpd); manually copying it to a MacBook, dragging it into iTunes and waiting for it to sync up with the servers and verify or upload my music. Slowly but surely, a virtual copy of my music collection took shape in the cloud, accessible remotely wherever I have my iPhone and an internet connection. And then, towards the end, I hit the 25,000-song ceiling, and no more songs would go on.

iTunes Match, you see, has a limit of 25,000 songs per user, not counting purchases from iTunes. This is a hard limit; there are no premium tiers which will bump this up to something more generous for those outliers on the right-hand side of the music-collection bell curve, not at any price. Well, you could always repurchase part or all of your collection from the iTunes Store, freeing up slots for out-of-print rarities and CD-Rs bought at gigs and such, but that kinda sucks. It is not clear why Apple did not offer any sort of reasonable option for prolific music collectors; perhaps the various music rightsholders, long used to the role of the dog in the manger, decided that those people could pay extra and demanded extortionate prices, or just flat out refused to allow it, because they could. Perhaps Apple thought that having different usage tiers broke up the elegance of their iTunes offering, that 25,000 songs was more than enough for the typical user (whose music collection consists of about two dozen albums, among them Coldplay, Skrillex, a few albums of classic 90s alt-rock and the obligatory stylishly understated European indie wallpaper music), and that the tiny minority of power users who need more aren't really the kinds of clients they are interested in. Perhaps this is simply a cynical ploy by Apple and/or the RIAA to arm-twist the punters into repurchasing their record collections in another format (namely a digital file much like the one they already have, but with the option of accessing it on iTunes Match for free). But in any case, the upshot is that one is stuck with the 25,000-song hard limit.

For a while, I made do with the limit. My plans were downgraded from “get everything into iTunes Match” to “get most of it into iTunes Match”. I scanned my iTunes collection, performing triage, coldly relegating albums into a second tier: non-essential; not to be uploaded. The non-essential albums were deleted from my MacBook (there is no way to mark part of your iTunes collection as “yes, I might want to listen to this, but please don't waste any of my 25,000 iTunes Match slots on it”); should I wish to listen to them, I would have to do so at home, on the small Linux box in my living room. Initially, only a handful of albums got relegated, with the rest squeezing in at somewhere over 24,000 tracks. And all was, if not perfect, then acceptable for the time being.

Time went on and, as I bought CDs (some at gigs, some in record shops I visited, and some just because they had artwork and packaging the digital copy was not privy to), every now and then I'd run out of space in iTunes Match, and would do another sweep of my collection, finding more records to consign to the outer darkness. As the low-hanging fruit disappeared, subsequent sweeps became more difficult, until, at some time last year, I resigned myself to not having any new music in my iTunes Match collection, unless it had proved itself so good as to be worth killing something else for; Album Deathmatch.

And so, when the email from Apple came in, notifying me that the renewal date for iTunes Match had come around and I would be billed £21.99 for another year of a flawed service, the choice was clear. Enough was enough, and so I cancelled the renewal. As of now, Apple's systems will have undoubtedly deleted the obscure Australian indiepop tracks that iTunes uploaded some two years earlier.

I would have kept iTunes Match, had it had one of two changes: ideally, the option of a higher limit. Or, if the limit is, for some reason, not negotiable, the option of keeping tracks in one's iTunes whilst keeping (or taking) them out of iTunes Match. The “I like this, but not enough to want to get to it from my iPhone” option, if you will; a no-brainer when dealing with a scarce resource one has paid for.

So what comes next? Well, all the rival services, such as Amazon's and Google's ones, seem to also fall short with large numbers of tracks. I suspect that my next music locker will be a USB flash drive I carry with me; there are 256Gb flash drives on the market now, and while they're expensive, their price will inevitably drop. It's not implausible that, by the end of the year, they will cost less than £21.99.

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2012/10/26

A Canadian anthropologist has claimed that Apple fandom is, to all intents and purposes, a religion:

"A stranger observing one of the launches could probably be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a religious revival meeting," Bell wrote to TechNewsDaily in an email. Bell now studies the culture of modern biomedical research, but before she got interested in scientists, she studied messianic religious movements in South Korea.
Even Apple's tradition of not broadcasting launches in real time is akin to a religious event, Bell said. (Today's event will be available live on Apple's website.) "Like many Sacred Ceremonies, the Apple Product Launch cannot be broadcast live," she wrote. "The Scribes/tech journalists act as Witness, testifying to the wonders they behold via live blog feeds."
Kirsten Bell, of the University of British Columbia, is not the first academic to draw this conclusion; her assessment follows others, including that of US sociologist Pui-Yan Lam, who, more than a decade ago, called Mac fandom an “implicit religion”.

Bell later clarified her statement, saying that the comparison between Apple and religion is not exact, as few people would sincerely claim that Apple makes any attempt to give life meaning or explain humanity's purpose. However, she says that the metaphor does have some value:

Yet there are strong reasons people have long compared Apple culture to religion, Bell said. "They are selling something more than a product," she said. "When you look at the way they advertise their product, it's really about a more connected life." A better life is something many faiths promise, she said.
Surely, though, the same thing could be said about any iconic brand, such as, say, Nike or Harley Davidson, as well as about popular musicians (remember Beatlemania, or even Lisztomania), sports teams (getting behind a team, through thick and thin, gives a lot of people a sense of identity and connectedness) or even films (witness parties forming around screenings of, say, The Big Lebowski or Rocky Horror Picture Show). Some people feel better when they caress the shiny surface of their Retina iPad, just as some people feel better with a platinum Rolex on their wrists or when chanting in unison with 10,000 other fans in a stadium, though from that to the sort of metaphysical transcendence of religion is a bit of a leap.

anthropology apple culture religion sociology 0

2012/3/8

In other recent news, Apple launched the latest gadget yesterday, to much-anticipated adulation. There were few surprises in the overt details: the retina display showed up as everyone predicted, and the CPU and camera were also bumped up; oh, and it does LTE, which explains the enlarged battery.

The launch included a presentation demonstrating the new iPad and some new apps for it. Buried within the demonstration of a photo editing package was a bombshell: a fragment of a screen, seen briefly, showed a street map which looked distinctly unlike Google Maps (the mapping system used by iOS since the first iPhone), suggesting that Apple are about to move away from Google Maps to a different platform. Such a move wasn't entirely unanticipated; relations between Apple and Google have been icy recently, so it was only a matter of time until Apple moved to a different mapping system; Apple's acquisition of several mapping-related companies, which promptly disappeared beyond the Cupertino event horizon, suggested that Apple would roll its own system. The only questions were when and what form would it take.

More clues emerged when the iPhoto app became available: (examination of internet traffic from iPhoto revealed that the map tiles were being loaded from a server named gsp2.apple.com, and soon, someone rigged up an unofficial web-based map viewer using the tiles. Finally, it was revealed that Apple are using data from OpenStreetMap for their maps, though rolling their own tiles. The service seems to be in its early stages so far; the resolution stops a few zoom levels short of street-map level and the data they're using is based on a slightly old snapshot of OpenStreetMap, though it's still pretty big news.

Apple's move to OpenStreetMap is the latest in a wave of defections from the once-ubiquitous Google Maps (FourSquare moved a few weeks ago and other sites have been moving to it, propelled by the carrot of OpenStreetMap's high-quality (and rich) data set and the stick of Google moving more aggressively to monetise their maps. As for other mapping services, they don't seem to be getting much of the action; Microsoft's Bing has Facebook, probably because Microsoft own 1% of Facebook, and Flickr still uses Yahoo!'s own mapping system. However, neither looks set to steal the crown from Google, as there isn't likely to be a crown to steal soon.

It looks like online geodata may have approached the tipping point that electronic encyclopædias reached with Wikipedia and UNIX on commodity hardware (remember commercial PC UNIX?) reached with Linux: the point beyond which it makes no economic or business sense to go it alone, and where proprietary products are an evolutionary dead end.

It'll be interesting what the UK's Ordnance Survey, for long the dog in the manger of geodata, will make of the new shifting environment it finds itself in.

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2011/12/31

A few random odds and ends which, for one reason or another, didn't make it into blog posts in 2011:

  • Artificial intelligence pioneer John McCarthy died this year; though before he did, he wrote up a piece on the sustainability of progress. The gist of it is that he contended that progress is both sustainable and desirable, for at least the next billion years, with resource limitations being largely illusory.
  • As China's economy grows, dishonest entrepreneurs are coming up with increasingly novel and bizarre ways of adulterating food:
    In May, a Shanghai woman who had left uncooked pork on her kitchen table woke up in the middle of the night and noticed that the meat was emitting a blue light, like something out of a science fiction movie. Experts pointed to phosphorescent bacteria, blamed for another case of glow-in-the-dark pork last year. Farmers in eastern Jiangsu province complained to state media last month that their watermelons had exploded "like landmines" after they mistakenly applied too much growth hormone in hopes of increasing their size.
    Until recently, directions were circulating on the Internet about how to make fake eggs out of a gelatinous compound comprised mostly of sodium alginate, which is then poured into a shell made out of calcium carbonate. Companies marketing the kits promised that you could make a fake egg for one-quarter the price of a real one.
  • The street finds its own uses for things, and places develop local specialisations and industries: the Romanian town of Râmnicu Vâlcea has become a global centre of expertise in online scams, with industries arising to bilk the world's endless supply of marks, and to keep the successful scammers in luxury goods:
    The streets are lined with gleaming storefronts—leather accessories, Italian fashions—serving a demand fueled by illegal income. Near the mall is a nightclub, now closed by police because its backers were shady. New construction grinds ahead on nearly every block. But what really stands out in Râmnicu Vâlcea are the money transfer offices. At least two dozen Western Union locations lie within a four-block area downtown, the company’s black-and-yellow signs proliferating like the Starbucks mermaid circa 2003.
    It’s not so different from the forces that turn a neighborhood into, say, New York’s fashion district or the aerospace hub in southern California. “To the extent that some expertise is required, friends and family members of the original entrepreneurs are more likely to have access to those resources than would-be criminals in an isolated location,” says Michael Macy, a Cornell University sociologist who studies social networks. “There may also be local political resources that provide a degree of protection.”
  • Monty Python's Terry Jones says that The Life Of Brian could not be made now, as it would be too risky in today's climate of an increasingly strident religiosity exercising its right to take offense:
    The 69-year-old said: "I took the view it wasn't blasphemous. It was heretical because it criticised the structure of the church and the way it interpreted the Gospels. At the time religion seemed to be on the back burner and it felt like kicking a dead donkey. It has come back with a vengeance and we'd think twice about making it now."
  • The Torygraph's Charles Moore: I'm starting to think that the Left might actually be right:
    And when the banks that look after our money take it away, lose it and then, because of government guarantee, are not punished themselves, something much worse happens. It turns out – as the Left always claims – that a system purporting to advance the many has been perverted in order to enrich the few. The global banking system is an adventure playground for the participants, complete with spongy, health-and-safety approved flooring so that they bounce when they fall off. The role of the rest of us is simply to pay.
  • The sketchbooks of Susan Kare, the artist who designed the icons, bitmaps and fonts for the original Macintosh, and went on to an illustrious career as a pixel artist (Microsoft hired her to do the Windows 3.x icons, and some years ago, Facebook hired her to design the virtual "gifts" you could buy for friends.) The sketchbooks show her original Macintosh icons, which were drawn by hand on graph paper (because, of course, they didn't have GUI tools for making icons back then).
  • How To Steal Like An Artist: advice for those who wish to do creative work.
  • The street finds its own uses for things (2): with the rise of the Arduino board (a low-cost, hackable microcontroller usable for basically anything electronic you might want to program), anyone can now make their own self-piloting drone aircraft out of a radio-controlled plane. And it isn't actually illegal in itself (at least in the US; YMMV).
  • An answer to the question of why U2 are so popular.

apple art china creativity crime design fraud monty python pixel art politics religion romania science society susan kare tech u2 0

2011/10/24

And more on the subject of Siri; while the technology is available only on Apple's iOS platform (and currently only on the latest and greatest iPhone), an Android software company have taken it upon themselves to make their own version, in an 8-hour hackathon. It's named Iris (see what they did there?), and it sort of works:

Me: Remind me at 9pm to go and buy milk
It Recognised: remindme at 9 pm to go in hawaii
It Replied: I have two pets.
Me: Where is siberia
Replied: Wherever you make it I guess
Q: Where can I get a recipe for cheesecake?
A: En la esquina, con minifalda.
("In the corner, wearing a miniskirt.")
If one views this as a competitor to Siri, it falls well short (even without the bizarre voice-recognition results, it doesn't seem to contain the sort of evolving model of the user, their relationships and preferences, and the current context that makes a system like Siri work), though one could hardly expect this from an 8-hour hacking session. (If one views it as a publicity stunt to promote Dexetra's other apps, it'll probably be far more successful.) However, as a surrealist tool for injecting chaos into the lives of those who use it, it looks to be far superior, escaping the shackles of bourgeois practicality that constrain Apple's more polished product. Iris looks to be a virtual assistant André Breton could love.

ai android apple culture fake siri surrealism tech 0

Apple's latest iPhone, the 4S, comes with a feature named Siri, an intelligent agent (based on technology from a US military AI research programme) which answers spoken questions in natural English, using web services, the current environment and a constantly evolving profile of the user and their preferences to make sense of ambiguous queries like "will I need an umbrella tomorrow?", and speaks the results back to the user—in a female voice in the US and Australia, but a male one in the UK. Apple haven't explained the reasons for the difference, but there are theories:

Jeremy Wagstaff, who runs technology consultancy Loose Wire Organisation, says: "Americans speak loudly and clearly and are usually in a hurry, so it makes sense for them to have a female voice because it has the pitch and range. British people mumble and obey authority, so they need someone authoritative." Which, apparently, still means male.
There's more historical context here (which talks about disembodied machine voices having been female for a long time, since telephone operators* and WW2-era navigation systems, female voices being used in railway station announcement systems because their higher frequencies carry better against the train noise, evil computers in films being presented as male, and BMW having to recall a female-voiced navigation system in the 1990s because of complaints from German men who refused to take direction from a woman).

There's also a piece in the Atlantic about why many electronic devices designed to assist have female voices. It looks predominantly at systems in the US, and concludes that, in America at least, female voices are perceived to go better with the role of assistant—competent, level-headed, and unthreateningly loyal. Or, in other words, everybody wants to be Don Draper.

Which doesn't answer the question of why (according to Apple's in-house cultural anthropologists, anyway) British users feel more comfortable with male-voiced virtual assistants. Could it be the lack of the famous 100-watt smiles of the American service industry (as per the US psychologist who categorised British smiles as grimaces of acquiescence)? An ingrained sense of social hierarchy and/or traditional acceptance of class privilege which makes authoritative male voices more acceptable in Britain? (I wonder whether refined-sounding male British voices would be popular with American users; after all, I imagine that quite a few people wouldn't mind their virtual assistant to have a British butler persona.) Or perhaps the residual trauma of Thatcherism makes female voices with any hint of authority a hard sell in Britain? And why does Australia get the female voice option by default? Is Australia more "American" than "British" in this sense? Or is the preference for male voices some peculiarly British anomaly among the English-speaking nations?

* If I recall correctly, the very first telephone operators in the late 19th century were boys, of the same background who would have been employed in clerical tasks. They tended to horse around and play pranks too much, though, so they were replaced with female operators after a few years. Throughout living memory, the typical telephone operator (where those still existed) has been a woman.

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2011/10/6

Steve Jobs has passed away today, shortly after resigning from the post of CEO of Apple due to failing health. Jobs had battled pancreatic cancer, and had received a liver transplant, a combination which didn't do much for his odds. He was 56.

It's hard to overestimate Jobs' influence on the world; the timeline of his life is liberally scattered with world-changing achievements. The Apple II helped popularise home computing, and was responsible for a lot of people learning to program. The Mac popularised graphical interfaces. (It was neither the first GUI—that was Xerox PARC's Alto prototype—nor the most popular one—that was Microsoft's Windows, which to no small extent imitated the Mac—though it was the one which popularised the concept.) After Jobs was ousted from Apple, his next project, NeXT, was daring and beautiful, though commercially unsuccessful; however, Sir Tim Berners-Lee did create what became the World-Wide Web on one. Years later, Apple's reinvigorated Macintosh line, infused with the technical DNA of NeXT, helped to break Microsoft's stranglehold over computer standards and the leaden years of stagnation that had ensued. Meanwhile, the iPod—also not the first MP3 player by a long shot—displaced the Sony Walkman as the iconic personal audio player, and iTunes forced the hand of the recording industry. The iPhone, meanwhile, transformed mobile phones, both in industrial design (one only has to compare early Android prototypes, with their square screens and BlackBerry-esque QWERTY keypads, to the plethora of touchscreen phones which followed) and the degree of control phone carriers had over phones (which, before the iPhone, were routinely locked down to do only what the carrier saw as profitable to let its users do) and the availability of mobile internet access (which, once again, followed a walled-garden model, preserving the carrier oligopolists' profits, again at the price of stagnation). Then came along the iPad, succeeding spectacularly where tablet-shaped computers had failed for decades. And, outside of that, Jobs helmed Pixar, which produced computer-animated feature films which were not only massively popular and technologically innovative but critically acclaimed. It beggars belief to think of one human being as having had that much impact on the world, over and over again; had he had a few more decades of life, there would doubtlessly have been more.

WIRED has a list of tributes to Jobs from various luminaries, as well as an eulogy by Steven Levy. Meanwhile, there are tributes from xkcd and The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats.

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2011/2/13

Apple's interim CEO Tim Cook, who took over the reins when Steve Jobs went on medical leave, is under fire after unveiling the latest MacBook, a machine made of living flesh some have described as "grotesque":

"Oh, my sweet God," Apple employee Kurt Starfeldt said after viewing the MacBook up close. "It appeared to be discharging some sort of mucus-type substance from the headphone jack and making these weird murmuring sounds. And then it started quivering at one point when Tim was demonstrating how to use the touch pad. It was quite upsetting, actually."
"There's all this gelatinous webbing that you have to stick your hand in just to turn it on, and then once you do, it starts, like, yelling for 30 seconds or so," said Shane Brick, a 38-year-old beta tester in San Francisco, adding that he "actually felt kind of bad for it." "The maintenance is ridiculous, too: Once a month it sheds all of its skin, and you need to shave the USB ports every couple days."
"I watched Steve Jobs build the Apple brand from the ground up, and I know that the name of the game here is cutting-edge," Cook said. "Honestly, I felt like the next logical step would be a laptop that feels like an extension of your body. The design may not be perfect, but I'm hoping over time maybe people will learn to love it, just as it will learn to love them."

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2010/11/17

In major news stories recently:

  • Couple who met at university to marry, as the Caledonian Mercury's refreshingly unhyperbolic coverage puts it:

    William Windsor (or possibly Wales or possibly Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) and Kate Middleton, both 28, met at St Andrews University eight years ago.

    Mr Windsor is a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF – and also a prince.

    Wall-to-wall, dewy-eyed hysterical coverage can be found in every other media outlet.

  • The latest thing from Apple is not the long-awaited multitasking iPad OS, nor any shiny new gadget, but that iTunes will finally sell the albums of a band who broke up 40 years ago. Granted, the Beatles were significant, but were they really in a whole godlike league above a lot of other artists, such as, let's say randomly, Led Zeppelin or Michael Jackson? (Indeed, I've seen an argument that they were only the second most influential pop group, after Kraftwerk.)

    Meanwhile, Fox News broke the news that Apple would be distributing "Manchester's favourite mopheads". I wonder whether that's a mistake or something they deliberately put in to maintain their carefully crafted image of not giving a shit about offending foreign sensibilities.

(via Rhodri) apple foxnews media murdoch the beatles the royal family uk 2

2010/10/25

The Chinese Communist Party organ, the People's Daily, has reviewed Apple's iPad, and found it wanting:

“There are many disadvantages” to the gadgets, it wrote. “For example you cannot install pirate software on them, you cannot download [free] music, and you need to pay for movies you watch on them.”
While this is more about the acceptance of copying in China, a country where privately-held intellectual property is the exception rather than the rule, it is still somewhat ironic to see a totalitarian regime criticise Apple for being too locked down.

(via /.) apple china irony totalitarianism 1

2010/9/12

According to Kyle Wiens, the founder of iFixit (a website who publish repair instructions for gadgets), Apple are using patented screws to make it illegal to change the batteries in their laptops, unless you're an authorised Apple service centre, of course:

They've got this 5 point bit on the MacBook Pro battery now. Torx has a patent on the shape of that bit, and makes it illegal to import without a service license. It's absolutely preposterous; the battery is one of the easiest components to replace in that machine, just about as easy as RAM. They're using lawyers to prevent people from making their computers last longer than 3-400 battery cycles
I wonder if Apple is trying to get to a leasing model with computers, where you have to send it back to them every year or two and pay them $129
That's the problem with Apple; they have a monopoly on OSX machines, and thus can do things like this, because that's what the market will bear. (Sure, you can do things in Ubuntu, as long as you don't need to run any commercial software. Which locks out anyone who, for example, uses softsynths or commercial Photoshop plugins. Or you can downgrade to Windows, and put up with the constant struggle against spyware and viruses and the vastly inferior user experience, not to mention Microsoft's even more shady history.) Apple have (it seems) also used intellectual-property law to prevent anyone from making chargers interoperable with their MagSafe connectors; to this day, it's impossible to get electricity into a recent MacBook from any source other than an AC source through an Apple adaptor. There are no third-party adaptors for MacBooks, nor external batteries of the sort that Windows road warriors have been able to buy at airports for decades. If you wish to power one from, say, a car battery, you're faced with converting the electricity into 110V/220V AC and then converting it back to whatever your MacBook gets, because that's how Steve wills it.

apple evil skulduggery tech 0

2010/8/21

The latest copycat product Apple have gotten pulled for trademark violations: a rectangular German eggcup named the eiPott (a German pun roughly translating as "egg-pot").

One has to give the makers of the eiPott points for cleverness at least; and given the obviously satirical nature of the item, Apple's complaint does seem petty. A bit like Warner Brothers' Russian subsidiary having Tanya Grotter and the Magic Double-Bass pulled.

apple intellectual property ipod knockoffs 2

2010/8/16

Australia may soon be the land without iPhone and Android games, as the government is making noises about requiring all games to be classified by the national censor prior to distribution. All games sold in shops have to be classified, a process which costs A$470 to A$2040 per title; until now, Apple and Google have been distributing games through their online application stores without them having passed through the Office of Film and Literature Classification; Apple have their own (largely voluntary) classification regime.

Perhaps pragmatism will win out at the end of the day and the government will realise that a mass-media-style classification regime cannot be imposed on apps without modification, and perhaps they'll come to a compromise (such as accepting Apple's voluntary ratings and liaising with Apple's enforcement officials). Though, given the extraordinary efforts to force through internet censorship against both expert advice and popular opinion, I'm not sure one can count on the Australian government to exercise common sense.

(via folded) apple australia censorship 4

2010/7/21

Apple have just donated the source code of MacPaint to the Computer History Museum. The code is in two parts: the tip of the iceberg is MacPaint itself, which was written in Pascal and consists of one source file, but the bulk of the code is the QuickDraw library, written in 68000 assembler, which gave the original Macintosh most of its (then groundbreaking) graphics capabilities. And here is a story of the development of MacPaint.

The source code still belongs to Apple, though may be used for non-commercial purposes. I wonder if anyone has managed to compile it recently.

apple history mac macpaint retrocomputing 0

2010/6/8

Well, here it is. Apple have just announced their next iPhone, the iPhone 4, and it does impressive. The screen resolution has been quadrupled, to 640 by 960, with the effect that the pixels are too small for the human eye to resolve individually. The new iPhone also has two cameras, one front-facing and one rear-facing, and does video calls. Aware of the party-photo market, Apple have optimised the main camera for low-light performance, adding backside illumination (which, given Apple's squeaky-clean policies, is not as indecent as it sounds) and thoughtfully avoided cramming in more pixels. (Before you ditch your LX3, though, remember that it's still a phone camera; the pixels are still much smaller than in a compact, and the lens system is rudimentary. I'll bet that Hipstamatic looks sweet on it, though.) It can also shoot high-definition video, and Apple will be making an iMovie application available for it, for shooting and editing video entirely in the phone. (I wonder whether the microphones are any good in loud environments; if they don't distort like those in every compact camera I've seen, it may be good for recording gigs.) Furthermore, the iPhone 4 adds to its compass and accelerometer a 3-axis gyroscope, giving it similar motion-tracking capabilities to what the Sony PS3's Sixaxis controller and Nintendo WiiMote have). And then there's the impressive-looking build of the unit, with its machined steel frame and ultra-durable glass panels. Anyway, here is Apple's page on the design of the new iPhone.

On top of that, the iPhone OS has been bumped up to version 4, which brings a number of features, including multitasking (which means you can chat on Skype or listen to streaming music whilst doing other things), an e-book reader with PDF capabilities, and more. (The rumoured Facebook integration isn't mentioned, though.) The upgrade will be free for all compatible devices, which means everything but the first-generation iPod Touch. Oh, and the iPhone OS is now named the iOS, and is rumoured to be going into the next Apple TV. (Hmmm.. given a TV-connected device running Apple's game-friendly OS and an iPhone with gyroscopes, perhaps Sony and Nintendo should be very worried about now.)

I wonder whether they'll rename the iPhone 4 in Asian markets, though; the number 4 is considered unlucky in China and nearby because, in Chinese, it rhymes with 'death'. To wit, other companies like Canon skipped version numbers when hitting their fourth iteration.

apple gadgets iphone tech 2

2010/4/14

Typography/design blogger Stephen Coles offers a typographically-oriented critique of Apple's iPad interface, and it doesn't come off well. Apple, it seems, are guilty of privileging style over substance, aiming to make the iPad look stylish rather than be legible. As an e-book reader, it fails, with the iBooks application falling for that most vulgar of desktop-publishing tricks and forcibly full-justifying all text, despite research showing that ragged-right margins are actually more legible. iBooks also falls down on typeface choice; the user has a choice of reading books in one of five typefaces, which range from middling to poor for reading large quantities of text. Support for custom fonts on the iPad is poor all round; there is no option to embed fonts in e-books, and the version of Mobile Safari supplied doesn't have up-to-date @font-face embedding support.

And then there's the famously Helvetica-fetishising UI, whose typographical choice is seemingly more designed to exude mid-20th-century modernist chic and pander to the owner's self-image as a stylishly cool individual, rather than aiming for anything as gauchely utilitarian as legibility. While Helvetica is good for print and signage, or, indeed, larger sizes on the screen, there are more legible typefaces for use on computer screens (the Lucida family, shipped with Apple's own OSX, is a case in point). The Helveticolatry, though, pales into insignificance next to the Notes application's cutesy felt-marker typeface, which, whilst less cringeworthy than Comic Sans, is still somewhat ridiculous; all of a sudden, High Modernist chic gives way to kitsch.

Bonus link: Stephen Coles with a list of alternatives to Helvetica. (Note the complete absence of Arial in this list; it's a list of actual typefaces of typographical merit.)

apple design ipad typography 0

2010/4/3

Kevin Anderson, recently Digital Research Editor of the Guardian, on the old media's delusional iPad app pricing, in the hope that Steve Jobs' locked-down walled garden will usher in a new era of double-digit profit margins for content owners:

Looking at the iPad app rollout, you can easily separate the digital wheat from the chaff in the content industries, and you can see those who are developing digital businesses and those who are trying to protect print margins and who see the iPad as a vertical, closed model to control and monetise content.
Examples of this include magazines like Time charging $4.99 a week (the price of a paper copy) for access to their iPad-formatted content. The price of a magazine, as Anderson points out, includes the costs of printing and distribution, whereas on the iPad it's almost pure profit. Of course, the customers get something for their shekel, namely "Unique interactivity including landscape and portrait mode, scroll navigation and customizable font size":
Oh, I’ve never seen that in a mobile web browser, I say with incalculable levels of sarcasm. That’s like morons in the 90s having Java animation that you actually couldn’t do anything with and calling that interactivity. You think that’s insane and delusional, just wait, it gets even better! No content sharing on the app, which I’m assuming means you can’t bookmark or Tweet your favourite stories, and You’ll have to buy and download the app every single week. There is also no indication that they will charge for their now free iPod app or their website.
Note to Time digital strategists: Sorry caching your site so I can take it with me when I’m on the move isn’t a feature worth your premium pricing. I do that now, and have done it for years, with an open-source app called Plucker and an aging Palm T3. I’m truly sorry. Do you actually use the internet or digital devices or do you just indulge your bosses’ angry fantasies about the good old days?
And then there's Rupert Murdoch's inspired unilateral offensive against free news. News Corp. currently charges $2 per week for access to the Wall Street Journal, but aims to extract $17.29 a month from iPad users. Murdoch is also moving aggressively on the web, having announced that, in a few months, both The Times and The Sun will be behind a billgate. Perhaps if The Guardian, Telegraph and Independent go out of business and the BBC voluntarily dismantles its free news service in anticipation of a Tory government, Murdoch can enjoy a lucrative monopoly on the news, though otherwise, it looks like his gamble will fail and The Times, arguably News Corp.'s most prestigious broadsheet, will decline.

Not everybody misses the point, of course; The Financial Times (no relation) and NPR (i.e., the US donation-funded public radio network) apparently get it, and strove to experiment with new ways of engaging with their audience in the digital realm, rather than just seeing how much they can do them for.

In terms of who is positioning themselves for the future by delivering value to their audiences and experimenting with business models, it’s clear. If any company thinks that the iPad will allow them to rebuild the monopoly rent pricing structure of the 20th Century, then you’ve really fallen prey to the Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field, and you’ve blown yet another chance to build a credible digital business. However, I’ve got a game you might want to check out, Final Fantasy.

apple chutzpah ipad media murdoch stupidity 0

2010/3/12

One of the problems with the iPhone is the lack of multitasking, or rather of non-system multitasking. Various officially blessed built-in applications (such as the phone call process, the built-in music player and the App Store downloader) can run in the background, but the system strictly enforces a ban on anything else from doing so. Which helps keep the iPhone (a small device with limited memory and battery life) from being bogged down under ill-behaved background processes, saves the user from having to contend with task managers and also reduces the risks of malware attacks, but at a cost; while an iPhone makes an eminently usable (mostly) single-task appliance, it falls down at tasks you'd want to run in the background. You can use it to listen to last.fm or SoundCloud or make Skype calls, but not whilst doing anything else. (And yes, I know you can jailbreak your iPhone and make it multitask to your heart's content, but that doesn't count.) Apple is a jealous god.

That wasn't as big a problem when the iPhone was the only phone of its class, but now, Android and WebOS have shown up, flaunting post-iPhone touch interfaces and being able to play your Spotify stream while you browse the web, and even hoary old dinosaurs like Nokia's Symbian are being brushed up and advertised as being able to multitask. Sure, a badly-written app there could drain your battery in no time, but that's beside the point; if multitasking works well enough (i.e., doesn't fail catastrophically often), Apple's system will look decidedly dated and overly conservative, and whatever Steve Jobs' aesthetic sensibilities say about it, Apple will have to put it in or risk becoming an also-ran. And, being subject to Steve Jobs' perfectionism, Apple's solution will have to not only bring in multitasking but do it without the compromises other systems have.

However, there is a rumour that the next version of the iPhone OS will do just that; i.e., will allow third-party developers to write processes that run in the background in some well-behaved way whilst managing to avoid the pitfalls of declaring a free-for-all.

I'm curious as to how they'll do it (assuming that the rumour is true, of course). My guess is that they'll focus on use cases such as processes needing to run a carefully constrained background thread, and communicate with it from the single-tasking UI process, and allow them to do this. Perhaps it'll use Apple's Blocks extension to C, and possibly a lightweight scheduling technology related to OSX's Grand Central Dispatch. That way, a background music player will be able to fetch and play audio until it is stopped or diverted by the UI (which can come and go).

apple iphone tech 0

2010/2/1

Charlie Brooker's latest column is a dig at the Apple iPad. The most interesting part of it is towards the end, where Charlie, who, last year, declared his allegiance to the Windows PC platform, comparing it to the stench of urine in an underpass or living in a Communist country in 1981, but nonetheless declaring it better than becoming one of those smug Mac-using twats (or, even worse, one of those Linux weirdos), declares that he's considering buying a MacBook. Not because of it'll make him cool, but because his current Windows laptop, one of the Sony Vaios (they're the nice-looking Windows laptops, the ones sort of like MacBooks for people who couldn't stand to be seen as one of those Mac users) is driving him up the wall:

Yes, I was a dyed-in-the-wool Mac sceptic for years. Yes, I've written screeds bemoaning the infuriating breed of smug Apple monks who treat all PC owners with condescending pity. But being chained to a Sony Vaio for the last few weeks has convinced me that I'd rather use a laptop that just works, rather than one that's so ponderous, stuttering and irritating I find myself perpetually on the verge of running outside and hurling it into traffic.
I just hope buying a MacBook won't turn me into an iPrick. I want a machine that essentially makes itself invisible, not a rectangular bragging stone. If, 10 minutes after buying it, I start burbling on about how it's left me more fulfilled as a human being, or find myself perched at a tiny Starbucks table stroking its glowing Apple with one hand while demonstratively tapping away with the other in the hope that passersby will assume I'm working on a screenplay, it's going straight in the bin.

apple charlie brooker mac 3

2009/11/27

Apple have just released the specifications for the iTunes LP format, a way of encoding extra content to wrap around music albums, and it looks very elegant. As mentioned before, an iTunes LP is a directory containing the original media and graphic files, as well as XML metadata, HTML/CSS for presentation, and code in JavaScript for the navigation. The JavaScript code uses a framework named TuneKit, which, in characteristic Apple fashion, is elegantly Model-View-Controller; rather than littering DOM objects with event handlers, an author defines controller classes which deal with the relevant events.

Apple say that they will start accepting automated submissions of iTunes LP content to the iTunes Store in the first quarter of 2010. Of course, as the format is open, there is nothing preventing people from rolling their own and selling them from other sites.

I wonder how long until there are open-source iTunes LP players for platforms such as Linux.

apple html itunes javascript programming tech 8

2009/11/20

Paul "Hackers and Painters" Graham on why Apple's heavy-handed grip on the iPhone threatens Apple:

The way Apple runs the App Store has harmed their reputation with programmers more than anything else they've ever done. Their reputation with programmers used to be great. It used to be the most common complaint you heard about Apple was that their fans admired them too uncritically. The App Store has changed that. Now a lot of programmers have started to see Apple as evil.
I just bought a new 27" iMac a couple days ago. It's fabulous. The screen's too shiny, and the disk is surprisingly loud, but it's so beautiful that you can't make yourself care. So I bought it, but I bought it, for the first time, with misgivings. I felt the way I'd feel buying something made in a country with a bad human rights record. That was new. In the past when I bought things from Apple it was an unalloyed pleasure. Oh boy! They make such great stuff. This time it felt like a Faustian bargain. They make such great stuff, but they're such assholes. Do I really want to support this company?
Apple's mistakes are to treat software (a complex commodity which involves an ongoing relationship between the provider and the customer) the same way as they do recorded music (a simple commodity, purchased once, and amenable to being sold by a middleman), and generally screwing up the developer-user relationship with its onerous approval policies, whilst also alienating potential talent who might otherwise have worked for them:
If your company seems evil, the best programmers won't work for you. That hurt Microsoft a lot starting in the 90s. Programmers started to feel sheepish about working there. It seemed like selling out. When people from Microsoft were talking to other programmers and they mentioned where they worked, there were a lot of self-deprecating jokes about having gone over to the dark side. But the real problem for Microsoft wasn't the embarrassment of the people they hired. It was the people they never got. And you know who got them? Google and Apple. If Microsoft was the Empire, they were the Rebel Alliance. And it's largely because they got more of the best people that Google and Apple are doing so much better than Microsoft today.
But the other reason programmers are fussy, I think, is that evil begets stupidity. An organization that wins by exercising power starts to lose the ability to win by doing better work. And it's not fun for a smart person to work in a place where the best ideas aren't the ones that win.
Graham also includes this memorable observation:
When you look at the famous 1984 ad now, it's easier to imagine Apple as the dictator on the screen than the woman with the hammer. In fact, if you read the dictator's speech it sounds uncannily like a prophecy of the App Store.
We have triumphed over the unprincipled dissemination of facts.
We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths.

(via ithinkihaveacat) apple iphone 0

2009/11/12

Joe Hewitt, the developer of the iPhone Facebook application, has publicly sworn off iPhone development, over Apple's heavy-handed approval policies:

My decision to stop iPhone development has had everything to do with Apple’s policies. I respect their right to manage their platform however they want, however I am philosophically opposed to the existence of their review process. I am very concerned that they are setting a horrible precedent for other software platforms, and soon gatekeepers will start infesting the lives of every software developer.
The web is still unrestricted and free, and so I am returning to my roots as a web developer. In the long term, I would like to be able to say that I helped to make the web the best mobile platform available, rather than being part of the transition to a world where every developer must go through a middleman to get their software in the hands of users.”
I wonder whether this will make enough waves to shake Apple into loosening their grip somewhat. Perhaps that'll take Jamie Zawinski to take up iPhone development, attempt to port DaliClock to it and then storm off in a huff.

apple censorship facebook free software iphone joe hewitt programming protest 0

2009/10/24

Things aren't looking good for ZFS, Sun's jaw-droppingly impressive next-generation filesystem, used in Solaris and once slated to appear in OSX; now Apple have abruptly shut down their open-source ZFS project. There is speculation here that it has to do with (a) Oracle, who bought Sun, already being behind a competing (if currently somewhat less developed) filesystem, Btrfs (which is being developed on Linux), and planning to kill ZFS development to rationalise costs, and/or (b) server manufacturer NetApp suing Sun over patented technologies used in ZFS.

Apple, meanwhile, are hiring filesystem engineers, which suggests that they're planning to build their own next-generation filesystem. Until then, Mac users will have to make do with HFS+.

apple oracle sun tech zfs 0

2009/10/2

On the iPhone, even calculator applications come with obscenity filters, blanking the display if, when the iPhone is turned upside down, the number shown resembles an obscene word.

The author suggests, somewhat facetiously, that this is to get through the App Store's strict decency policies.

(via TUAW) apple censorship iphone swearing 0

2009/9/15

The advent of the MP3 has changed the music-listening experience, as many musicians and old-timers will tell you; no longer do you sit on the floor by the Dansette meditating on the 12" square of lovingly designed artwork in your hands as the artists take you on a journey in the order they intended; no, you're free to listen to music a track at a time. Which, of course, has its upsides (for one, since the invention of the CD, the recording industry has been raking it in by requiring artists wanting that one good song to pay for the other 75 minutes of hastily cobbled together filler), but, on the other hand, the experience of the-album-as-totality is no longer there (and a folder of MP3s played in sequence isn't quite the same).

But now, Apple has launched a standard format for encapsulating the other bits of an album. Named "iTunes LP", it includes clickable artwork, lyrics and other media. An "iTunes LP" is downloaded with the AAC files when you buy an album from, you guessed it, iTunes.

A chap by the name of Jay Robinson has dissected this format, finding that it's basically a ZIP file containing HTML, CSS, JavaScript and other resources. There doesn't seem to be any DRM or code signing in use, so it's not unlikely that the .itlp format will break free of iTunes; that we may soon see artists rolling their own, and third-party software playing .itlp files. It'll be interesting to see what comes of this.

apple itunes music social implications tech 0

2009/9/6

Geekier-than-thou technology blog Ars Technica have posted a detailed technical review of Snow Leopard, the latest revision of MacOS X, which delivers few new features but instead comprehensively overhauls the inner workings of the system. And there are a lot of interesting things there, from transparent compression of files to the shift to 64-bit and the replacement of the legacy QuickTime system with a new, Objective C-based one, not to mention a judicious sprinkling of user-interface improvements and technologies brought over from the iPhone programme. (Core Animation, it seems, is everywhere, and there's a CoreLocation service which can determine where a machine is.)

One of the most intriguing improvements (to me, as a programmer, anyway) is one at the lowest level: Apple have quietly extended the C language, adding anonymous/lambda functions and closures, which they call "blocks". So now you can create and pass back blocks of code (more or less) as if you were in Lisp, Python or JavaScript, like so:

typedef void (^work_t)(void);
 
void repeat(int n, work_t block) { 
  for (int i = 0; i < n; ++i) 
    block(); 
} 
 
repeat(5, ^{ printf("Hello world\n") });
Which, of course, opens the door to functional-style algorithms like map/filter/reduce, passing predicates as function arguments, and other nifty tricks which people in the functional-programming world have been doing without a second thought for decades.

The code in bold is a block. It's not the prettiest syntax in the world, though it is consistent with C, and gets lexical scope. There are more technical details on blocks here (fun fact: a block is an Objective C runtime object, though can be used from vanilla C), and Apple's own documentation here. Apple have made the blocks extention open source, contributing it back to both GCC and the LLVM compiler they're moving to, and submitting it to the C standards working group (as in this paper), so there's a decent chance that they'll filter through to other platforms. (How quickly they're adopted elsewhere is, of course, another matter.)

Blocks in themselves are nifty for the functional-programming enthusiasts, though understandably may seem esoteric to everybody else. Apple, however, are making thorough practical use of them in a new subsystem named Grand Central Dispatch, which allows programmers to rewrite processor-intensive processes in terms of fine-grained units of work, pass them to queues, and have them automatically spread across however many processors the machine has free at the time; which, in theory at least, should greatly increase efficiency without requiring much more effort on the programmer's part.

(via MeFi) C apple functional programming osx programming tech 0

2009/8/5

The latest dispatch from the annals of Apple AppStore approval cluelessness: a dictionary application has made it through the review process only after removing all words that could be considered indecent. NinjaWords' developers tried taking other precautions, such as obtaining a 17+ rating and ensuring that only complete word searches could yield potentially rude words, but to no avail:

The list of omitted words includes some which have utterly non-objectionable senses: ass, snatch, pussy, cock, and even screw. (Ass and cock appear throughout the King James Bible.)
Apple requires you to be 17 years or older to purchase a censored dictionary that omits half the words Steve Jobs uses every day.
The article points out that even censorship-happy red-state firms like Wal-Mart will quite happily, and legally, sell dictionaries, containing words like "fuck" and "shit", to children, which makes the famously laid-back Californian Apple's censorship policies look even more ridiculous. Either that or those aren't actually Apple's policies but a result of them hiring trained chimps to handle their app review process.

(via alecm) apple censorship iphone stupidity 0

2009/7/29

The latest dispatch from the Long Siege: in the US, the EFF is arguing that users of devices such as the Apple iPhone should have a right to "jailbreak" them, i.e., to circumvent mechanisms which prevent them from installing software unapproved by the manufacturer. Apple have countered this with a dire warning that jailbroken iPhones could be a terrorist weapon, with the capability to bring America's communications infrastructure to its knees:

By tinkering with this code, “a local or international hacker could potentially initiate commands (such as a denial of service attack) that could crash the tower software, rendering the tower entirely inoperable to process calls or transmit data,” Apple wrote the government. “Taking control of the BBP software would be much the equivalent of getting inside the firewall of a corporate computer — to potentially catastrophic result.
To their credit, Apple didn't actually use the T-word, but they insinuated it pretty hard, and added to that the possibility of drug traffickers using hacked phones to make anonymous phone calls. Hey Apple, don't forget about the paedophiles; surely they'd find some nefarious use for jailbreaking as well.

The EFF's experts, meanwhile, have called bullshit on the whole thing.

red von Lohmann, the EFF attorney who made the request, said Apple’s latest claims are preposterous. During a May public hearing on the issue in Palo Alto, California, he told regulators there were as many as a million unauthorized, jailbroken phones.
He added that, if Apple’s argument was correct, the open-source Android phone from Google on T-Mobile networks would also be a menace to society. ”This kind of theoretical threat,” von Lohmann said, “is more FUD than truth.”
Of course, if unauthorised clients on the phone network are such a threat, then merely keeping jailbreaking technically illegal wouldn't deter actual paedoterrorists; a threat of such severity could only be countered by declaring possession of jailbroken phones to be a terrorist act and actively hunting down and prosecuting transgressors under national security laws, using the full surveillance infrastructure of the Department of Homeland Security. Perhaps that's what Apple are hoping for?

Meanwhile, the very same week, Apple have demonstrated why users have an interest in jailbreaking their gadgets, by banning all Google Voice applications from the App Store, reportedly at the behest of phone companies not wanting their cozy business models upset. And some are speculating that Spotify's much-anticipated iPhone client may be rejected by Apple, due to it competing with iTunes.

apple copyfight iphone paedoterrorists the long siege usa 0

2009/6/14

Idea: for their Windows 7 marketing campaign, Microsoft should reanimate Wesley Willis and have him say that it "whups the snow leopard's ass".

apple ideas microsoft wesley willis 2

2008/12/19

Speculation is rising over the health of the autocratic leader of a secretive polity after announcements that he won't be making annual public appearances. This time, it's not North Korean CEO Kim Jong-Il, but Apple God-Emperor Steve Jobs:

Several Apple employees contacted by Wired.com have reported that they haven't seen Jobs since the company announced the CEO would not appear for a Macworld keynote. Jobs generally isn't very visible in public, but the employees said they haven't seen him on campus recently, either.

apple juxtaposition kim jong-il north korea steve jobs 0

2008/12/2

Best Apple pie ever:

(via Boing Boing Gadgets) apple craft fanboys food nifty 0

2008/12/1

Got an iPhone you want to get unlocked? The software unlocks for the 3G might not be out yet, though you could always go to Vietnam, where they do things the hardcore way:

First, a technician opened up the phone and stripped it to the motherboard. In his skillful hands, the device seemed much easier to dismantle than I expected.
The technician then extracted the baseband chip, the component that controls the connection between the phone and the mobile network, from the motherboard. (This is a painstaking task as the chip is strongly glued to the phone's motherboard. A mistake during this process could brick the phone completely.)
Once the chip was extracted, it was Tuan Anh's turn. He used a chip reader to read information into a file. He then used a Hex editor to remove the locking data from the file, and after that, the chip got reprogrammed with the newly altered file. Now it was no longer programmed to work with only a specific provider.
The chip then got reassembled into the motherboard, another painstaking process.
The entire procedure will cost you about US$80 plus however much travel to Vietnam costs. Mind you, you then have to be careful about not updating your phone, because Apple's updates will re-lock the baseband chip, necessitating a return visit.

(via Boing Boing Gadgets) apple hacks iphone vietnam 1

2008/10/8

Russia's ever-ingenious con artists have come up with another clever scam: fake iPhones. The devices look exactly like real iPhones with depleted batteries, and when activated show the Apple booting screen. They're handed over to the mark as collateral for borrowed money; the mark sees that the phone appears to start to boot, and assumes that the battery is depleted. When the borrower doesn't return to pick it up (and, presumably, the contact details they left turn out to be bogus), the mark takes it down to a service centre, where the technicians open it up and find that it's a plastic shell containing two batteries, a LED and a segment of a steel bar for weight.

I'm guessing that the reason the scam works is because most people wouldn't believe that someone would go to the trouble of making something that looks exactly like an iPhone but is cheap enough to be discarded for less than the value of one.

(via Engadget) apple deception iphone russia scams 1

2008/8/7

With the iPhone, Apple have been expanding the boundaries of how much control a consumer electronics company can exercise over its products and their users. Much has been said about the iPhone's locked-down software distribution model, which has more in common with proprietary gaming consoles than with mobile phones (let alone Apple's wide-open OSX computers), and strict enforcement of carrier contracts. Now iPhone hacker Jonathan Zdziarski has discovered that Apple seem to have a central blacklist of banned iPhone applications. This is presumably to allow them to remotely kill any applications that made it through the approval process by mistake. (Apple could also use it to remotely kill applications that never were approved in the first place, installed on jailbroken iPhones—that is, assuming that the hacks for jailbreaking these phones don't start blocking the blacklist.)

(via Engadget) apple architectures of control iphone security tech 0

2008/7/12

Recently I was going through some photos I took, on my Mac, and found that they all looked a bit blurry; none of them, I thought disappointedly, had turned out well enough to post to Flickr, and my photographic expedition had been for naught. A while later, I looked through them on my Linux box, using eog, and was surprised to find that they looked much crisper, and some of them had come out quite well. Which suggests to me that OSX 10.5's Preview has a bug in it, which causes images to be blurred.

Some evidence: here is a photograph, as shown in OSX using Preview:

And here is the same image, as viewed using eog on Linux:
Notice the difference? Here are details of the displayed images, blown up 4x:
It appears that the blur issue is well known, though not something Apple seem interested in addressing. Presumably in Apple's official worldview, those working with photos who wish to see them without blur should be importing them into iPhoto or Aperture, and managing them with that.

The only workaround given is to copy the version of Preview from an OSX 10.4 machine, modify its version information to run on OSX, and use that. Which, quite frankly, is not good enough.

apple bugs osx photography 1

2008/6/10

And for those thinking about buying a 3G iPhone, unlocking it and running it with a prepaid SIM card, some bad news: Apple have closed that loophole, and won't let them out of the store without a contract (at least in the US). Of course, this is all for your own convenience and/or good:

"There is no question that many enjoyed the convenience of at-home activation, but we also found that many others wanted to complete purchase and activation in one step so they could walk out of the AT&T store with their iPhone up and running. We have decided to take the latter approach and we think customers will like it. It will be especially helpful if any questions or issues arise during activation. They can be resolved on the spot and in-person.
And, of course, the old unlocking hacks are unlikely to work, given that it's a completely new device, and chances are, Apple have put more work into security. (If their 6th-generation iPods ("iPod Classic"), on which the iPod Linux people have given up because of the hardware-based cryptography used in the boot process, are anything to go by, cracking the iPhone 3G may be a lot harder.)

apple drm iphone lock-in 1

2008/6/9

So that was the long-awaited Apple WWDC 2008 keynote. The big announcement was probably the worst-kept secret in Cupertino, the 3G iPhone. There's also the iPhone 2.0 OS (available to non-3G iPhone users), and a web-based service named me.com, which is basically mac.com with Google-style AJAX apps, iPhone integration and a mac.com-sized pricetag; so if you're an Apple true believer, you know where to send your $99 a year. I wonder how well non-Apple alternatives will work with iPhones.

Other than that, Apple are making minor concessions on the issues of the iPhone being too locked down. Enterprises will be able to deploy their own (non-Apple-approved) apps to up to 100 pre-registered, cryptographically certified iPhones, and while Apple won't let you run software in the background on your iPhone, they will be providing a (proprietary, Apple-controlled) conduit for push notifications, which IM applications will be able to use.

Anyway, Your Humble Narrator isn't lining up outside the AppleStore to get one, even at the reduced price ($199 worldwide; no word on minimum contract prices, i.e., the rest of the iceberg), given that Google's Android looks to promise almost everything the iPhone has, only without the proprietary lock-in.

apple iphone lock-in tech 3

2008/4/30

7 Confessions of an Apple Mac Specialist:

7. iPods have two fixes. Resetting and Restoring.
If both of those features do not work, your iPod is trash. Unless it's under warranty or you purchased AppleCare, then they will give you two options. First is to trade in your iPod for 10% off any model (except shuffle), or they will give you out of warranty replacement, Which usually means that you will pay around $100-$250 depending on the model you purchased.
6. We have 4 things that we will try to sell you when you purchase a computer.
AppleCare, of course, is your extended 3 year warranty, we are told to sell it as a service plan, but it does not do ANYTHING extra, but extend your warranty, and does not cover anything extra. .Mac is a ripoff unless you use the web site hosting. ProCare has to be the biggest ripoff. All this does is upgrade your AppleCare for one year. It has a little perk for business uses, but otherwise useless. Lastly, One-to-One training, which is the best deal in the store.

(via Boing Boing Gadgets) apple business mac secrets 1

2008/3/19

Psychology experiments have shown that subliminal exposure to brands can prime people with the attributes those brands have cultivated. For example, when students were exposed to either an Apple or IBM logo and asked to list all the uses for a brick they could imagine, the Apple ("creativity, noncomformity") group came up with significantly more than the IBM ("tradition, responsibility") group. In a subsequent experiment, candidates primed with the Disney logo behaved more honestly than those primed with the logo of E! Channel (which, I believe, is a celebrity-gossip cable-TV channel in the US).

The practical consequences of this are interesting: if this is to be taken at face value then, by the sheer power of subliminal conditioning and marketing, brands do have magical properties, and branded products would perform better than physically identical unbranded ones. A brand logo is a macro, a tightly-encoded package of ideas, instantaneously decoded by appropriately conditioned consumers (and that means all of us; given the studies showing that young children learn to recognise brands before they learn to read), and priming has been shown to work. (In one experiment (previously mentioned here), students were asked to sort words, and then surreptitiously timed as they walked down the corridor on leaving. Those given words relating to old age—including, memorably, "Florida"—walked more slowly than those given youth-related words. Another experiment showed that exposure to alcohol-related words increased men's sex drive.)

Putting these facts together, it seems that using an Apple computer would make you more creative, even if you work in the same version of Microsoft Word you could as easily use on Windows, though so would having an Apple iPod, and Nike shoes could make you run faster than generic trainers of exactly the same composition, and so on. It's not necessarily even limited to brands, but could extend to any perceptible medium associated with qualities or values. It'd be interesting to see whether, for example, if one took two groups of students and, after surreptitiously exposing half of them to Belle & Sebastian and the other half to 50 Cent, asked them to play a game, whether members of one group would be more aggressive or competitive than the other.

Anyway, this finding could be seen as a justification for big brands' steep markups of otherwise average products: they're not exploiting a gullible public, they're selling the psychological magic of their brand. Though if you don't want to pay the markup, you could just as easily clip ads out of papers and tape them around your cubicle/kitchen/locker/wherever, which might get you a similar result, at the risk of making you look like a tragic. Just keep reminding yourself that you're not a gullible dupe or an unpaid human billboard, but a cunningly rebellious pirate, sticking it to The Man by stealing his magic without paying.

I wonder, though, whether candidates subliminally exposed to craptacular knockoffs of Apple products would experience a boost of creativity or a drop in IQ.

(via /.) apple branding creativity hypnosis influence priming psychology suggestion 1

2008/2/27

Blogging has been sparse over the past few days, as Your Humble Correspondent has been away in Berlin.

Anyway, a round-up of things I've noticed from while I was away:

  • After the European University in St. Petersburg, Russia, got involved in an EU-funded project to ensure the fairness of the election process, the Russian authorities shut down the university, claiming that it is a "fire hazard". Opposition figures accuse the Kremlin of moving Russia back towards totalitarianism (or is the goal a Singapore-style "managed democracy"?)
  • While we're on the subject of democracy, Charlie Stross weighs in on why forms of democracy are becoming increasingly prevalent these days, with even otherwise illiberal regimes adopting aspects of democracy, rather than autocratic systems.
    Anyway. Here we have three ways in which democracy is less bad than rival forms of government: it usually weeds out lunatics before they can get their hands on the levers of power, it provides a valuable pressure relief valve for dissent, and it handles succession crises way better than a civil war.
  • Barack Obama, it seems, is doing well in the US primaries; so much so that someone in the Clinton campaign seemingly decided to resort to dog-whistle politics and took it upon themselves to circulate photos of him wearing scarily Middle-Eastern-looking attire, in the hope that enough Texans are sufficiently prejudiced to be unable to vote for someone whose name not only sounds like "Osama" but who once wore similar headgear.
  • After writing a piece on the mainstreaming of neo-folk music, Momus has discovered Emmy The Great. His great revelation has little to do with her music, mind you, and much to do with her being young, (half-)Asian and fanciable.
  • Apple have finally released a new MacBook Pro. It gets the Air's multi-touch trackpad, and the usual quantitative bump in specifications, alas, a higher-resolution screen isn't isn't among them, so if you want 1600 pixels across on something that doesn't look comically oversized, you'll have to buy a Windows machine.
  • Meanwhile, Microsoft have been slapped with a US$1.4bn fine by the EU, as well as having made vague promises of being more open in future, and apparently they're working on a Windows Vista-based GNU rival named UNG ("just like GNU, only without all that pesky freedom").
Was there anything else I missed?

Berlin, for what it's worth, was great; four days, though, is nowhere near enough time to see everything and enjoy the city. Though I was surprised that the attendants on the Deutsche Bahn sleeper train didn't seem to speak English. Hopefully they'll remedy this by the time they start running services through the Channel Tunnel.

For what it's worth, photos are being uploaded here.

apple charlie stross culture democracy emmy the great microsoft momus news personal russia travel 0

2008/2/19

New market research has revealed that Mac users are snobs, upper-income-bracket elitist aspirational types who see themselves as better than the PC-using rabble, while, seen from the other side, PC users are cheapskates.

Meanwhile, a filmmaker has made a documentary about the intense loyalty Maccies feel to their brand, which bears out some of the findings:

Violet Blue, a popular blogger and sex columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, who also features in the film, says: "First of all, I've never knowingly slept with a Windows users ... that would never, ever happen."
Anyway, back to the Mac-users-are-snobs thing: the description of the difference between Mac users and PC users reminded me a lot of (Mac user) Momus' recent paraphrasing of the right-wing anti-intellectual argument against liberal cosmopolitan elites:
The intellectual is not one of us. We are ordinary folks, he is a member of an elite. We gravitate around right wing ideas, he's left-leaning. We're family people, he screws men, women and children. We farm, he stays in the city, with his intellectual elite, or on campus, corrupting the minds of our youth. We're religious, but the intellectual is an unbeliever. We run to fat, he stays thin. We're patriots, he's a cosmopolitan, equally at home with foreigners as with his own kind. He puts loyalty to ideas before loyalty to his people. We have the church, he has the liberal media.
I'm wondering whether Microsoft or Dell or whoever didn't miss a trick in the few years after 9/11 when Americans (and, to a lesser extent, other Westerners) fell into a right-wing populist groupthink, dissociating themselves from straw-man liberalism. Perhaps, had they run ads playing on the stereotypes of Mac users as potentially disloyal rootless cosmopolitanists, they could have converted some Mac sales into sales of PCs and copies of Windows. After all, when your country's under siege, you don't want to be seen to be distancing yourself from your compatriots, however symbolically.

anti-intellectualism apple culture culture war mac maccies marketing microsoft stereotypes survival values the long siege you don't say? 3

2008/1/17

Jona Bechtolt of YACHT (and formerly of The Blow)'s latest venture (with partner-in-crime Claire L. Evans): making MacBook Air laptop sleeves that look like manila envelopes, like the one Steve Jobs pulled the Air out of at MacWorld. For people who also have a Banana Phone.

If one had a MacBook Air, that would look either cool or cheesy, depending on the execution. Though I'm not tempted to buy one; given that I use my Mac for music and video, I couldn't justify buying one with only one USB port and no FireWire.

(via Engadget) apple craft hipsters jona bechtolt mac macbook air maccies the blow yacht 0

2008/1/15

As I type this, Steve Jobs is giving his keynote speech at MacWorld. From what I can tell, he has announced a few consumer gadgets (an improved AppleTV with movie rentals (presumably in the US only) and Flickr support, iPhone and iPod Touch firmware upgrades) and a wireless Mac backup appliance named "Time Capsule". Mind you, Engadget's feed doesn't seem to be coping with the load of millions of Maccies across the world constantly hitting reload to see whether any new tidbits have appeared, and Gizmodo's feed, while more reliable, seems a bit lighter on content. It'll be interesting to see what the "one more thing" is, whether it's a solid-state, Asus Eee-sized MacBook named "Air", or whether all the rumours were all off.

The presence of Hollywood heavyweights and mention of Blu-Ray is ominous; given Blu-Ray's strict licensing conditions, any Mac with Blu-Ray would have to have the same onerous internal DRM surveillance infrastructure as Windows Vista, with the same fragility, loss of performance and the actual user generally getting the rough end of the pineapple.

Update: Nothing about Blu-Ray; though the Another Thing was, in fact, the MacBook Air, a ridiculously thin 13" laptop.

apple drm gadgets mac macworld steve jobs tech 0

2007/10/31

Tech blog Ars Technica has a meticulously detailed review of OS X 10.5 Leopard. As one would expect, it's 17 pages long and goes far deeper than the usual roundup of cool features and visual effects, delving as deeply as the kernel and APIs. In it we learn, among other things, that Apple are finally killing off the old Carbon APIs, inherited from the old MacOS, meaning that someone at Adobe and Microsoft will have a lot of rewriting to do. Not to mention that, while the UI isn't seamlessly scalable yet, it's going in that direction, with elements (such as window decorations and checkboxes, for example) being assembled from XML-based "recipes" (and all the "Aqua" eyecandy appears to be made by distorting a source bitmap of a glass sphere). On the downside, the article's quite scathing about the new Dock and folder icons.

apple leopard mac osx review tech 0

2007/10/26

Two technological death notices: firstly, the latest version of OSX, 10.5 ("Leopard"), can no longer run MacOS Classic (that is on PowerPC machines; the Intel ones, of course, never got Classic in the first place). Apparently this has nothing to do with technological constraints and everything to do with Steve Jobs having decided beneficiently that the users should have moved on by now. Of course, if you still want to run that ancient copy of Fontographer or whatever, you can probably do so on SheepShaver or similar.

Meanwhile, TrollTech have knocked their Linux-based Greenphone on the head, and will be concentrating on developing their phone OS on the very hackable and (soon to be) highly commercially available (though somewhat more cheap and plasticky-looking) Neo1973 phone.

(via Engadget, /.) apple greenphone linux neo1973 osx rip tech trolltech 0

2007/9/17

Apple's newest iPods have come with an unwelcome surprise: a cryptographic checksum in the database file, preventing users from using third-party software to load music onto them, effectively locking out anyone wanting to use, say, Linux for filling their iPod. Now it appears that, in the space of a few days, the checksum has been cracked, allowing anyone to get the encoding key from just their iPod serial number. It appears that someone at Apple hadn't heard of public-key cryptography.

I wonder what will happen now; will Apple play cat-and-mouse with the hackers, Sony PSP-style, by releasing a steady stream of iPod/iTunes revisions with tighter encryption schemes? Will they prosecute those hosting the hack under the DMCA and similar laws elsewhere? In any case, if you're not willing and able to run iTunes, you may want to avoid buying an iPod.

(via Boing Boing, /.) apple copyfight dmca ipod 0

2007/5/17

An email, incorrectly claiming that Apple's iPhone and Leopard had been delayed, wiped US$4bn off the value of the company. Once Apple issued a clarification, stock soon climbed back to most of its original value within about 15 minutes.

I wonder whether whoever sent the email managed to snag some bargain-priced Apple shares.

apple business capitalism email hoax stockmarket 0

2007/4/17

As Apple announce that MacOS 10.5 ("Leopard") is going to be delayed until late in the year, ostensibly due to developers having been redirected to work on the iPhone, there is speculation that part of the delay is due to "top secret features" intended for Leopard, in addition to the features currently known.

What are these secret features? Well, there aren't any strong rumours. Though I did once read some speculation that Apple are working on a Windows API layer, perhaps similar to WINE on Linux, which would allow OSX to run Windows applications natively (albeit, presumably, in some kind of secure sandbox). Then again, an argument against this theory is that, were Apple to do this, it could encourage developers to dump OSX versions of software, and the Windows API becoming the standard on OSX.

(via Gizmodo) apple leopard speculation 0

2007/4/2

Major recording label EMI has confirmed that it will sell its entire music catalogue in high-quality, DRM-free formats. In a joint announcement in London with Apple's Steve Jobs, EMI's CEO announced that the "premium" versions will be available on iTunes from May for 99p a track, with upgrades from previous downloads available for 15p; standard-quality, DRM-encumbered tracks will remain available for 79p. It is anticipated that the DRM-free downloads will become available on other services (presumably in MP3 or FLAC formats). Doing this, EMI becomes the first major label to join a slew of indie labels selling MP3s through services like EMusic.

Apple boss Steve Jobs shared the platform with Mr Nicoli and said: "This is the next big step forward in the digital music revolution - the movement to completely interoperable DRM-free music."
He added: "The right thing to do is to tear down walls that precluded interoperability by going DRM-free and that starts here today."
Other record companies would soon follow EMI's lead, predicted Mr Jobs.
Reports of Edgar Bronfman Jr. throwing a chair through the Warner Music boardroom window have not been confirmed.

apple business copyfight drm emi itunes riaa tech 1

2007/3/26

A web site on hacking the AppleTV, Apple's new TV set-top box, which appears to be a low-power Intel-based machine running a customised distribution of otherwise standard OSX. Unlike the iPhone, it seems that it doesn't require executable code to be cryptographically signed. So far, there are instructions on enabling SSH for logging into the AppleTV, installing DivX decoders and the VLC media player and copying things like Apache from an Intel Mac to the AppleTV.

(via /.) apple appletv hacks osx tech 0

2007/3/19

The Reg digs up some corroboration of the rumoured Google mobile phone:

We've been making enquiries too, and a picture is beginning to take shape. In August 2005 Google acquired a stealth-mode startup called Android, founded by Andy Rubin. Rubin was a veteran of Apple and General Magic, but is best known for leading WebTV and subsequently Danger Inc. Danger produced one of the most-photographed phones of recent years, thanks to Paris Hilton: its Hiptop was marketed by T-Mobile as the Sidekick.
But plans have become more ambitious, as the recruitment of Apple veteran Mike Reed and Canadian mobile app company Reqwireless suggests. Graphics expert Reed worked on the ill-fated QuickDraw GX and on font technology at Apple. Google acquired his start-up Skia, which produced a vector graphics suite for resource constrained devices.
Meanwhile, Alec Muffett reckons that Apple's solid-state laptop may be the reason for them adopting Sun's next-generation filesystem, ZFS, which has, as one of its many features, the ability to ensure that all blocks of storage are used evenly, something that is important when writing to devices that can only stand a fixed number of write cycles.

(via alecm) apple google mobile phone tech zfs 2

2007/2/11

The river has a right side and a wrong side... Apparently Apple's flagship store in Melbourne is going to be in South Yarra, in the Paris (Hilton) end of Melbourne. More precisely, the glass cube will be part of a shopping complex on the former Fun Factory site at the corner of Chapel Street and Toorak Road, where the Beautiful People play.

I wonder whether Apple will attempt to fit in with local community values by selling MacBooks encrusted with Swarovski crystals.

(via M+N) apple bling melbourne 0

2007/2/7

In a dramatic about-turn, Steve Jobs denounces digital rights management (DRM), claiming that Apple only use DRM on their iTunes downloads because labels demand it, and urging everyone to join hands and imagine a DRM-free future:

Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. this is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our itunes store. every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.
which probably has a lot to do with the fact that, thanks to the various Cory Doctorows of this world, DRM is definitely not cool, and Apple is all about being (seen to be) cool. Though some critics are skeptical about how deep the conversion really is:
Mr Johansen pointed to a New York Times report that showed that tracks wrapped in DRM from iTunes are also available through other download services without copy protection. The implication being that not all record labels insist on DRM, but Apple uses it anyway.
Also, it is a matter of public record that iTunes has refused to sell DRM-free music from copyright holders who didn't want DRM, instead insisting that DRM is a mandatory part of the iTunes infrastructure. I wonder whether they'll put their money where their mouth is and change this policy.

Another thing to watch is Apple's iPhone, whose system is locked down like Fort Knox (software running on it will need to be cryptographically signed by Apple), a state of affairs which has nothing to do with the RIAA holding a gun to Apple's head and seems to have everything to do with Apple wanting to maintain total control.

apple copyfight drm tech the recording industry 0

2006/10/11

The latest fatwa posted on an Islamist website is against the Apple store in New York; an unnamed organisation claims that Apple's cube-shaped store in New York is "an insult to Islam", because (a) it resembles the Ka'aba in Mecca, (b) is known as "the Apple Mecca", and (c) "contains bars serving alcoholic beverages". Which is fair enough, except that (b) and (c) are false (or at least nobody officially calls it the "Apple Mecca"), and (a) is only true in that both buildings are cube-shaped.

(via The Reg) apple fatwas islam religion 0

2006/9/30

A rather amusing guide on what not to put on an iPod when giving it to your beloved:

Fifth, excessive jazz, blues, or classical music. Surprisingly, many (N.B.) single males fail to understand that the reason Pop Music is called "pop" is because it is popular. Showing your well-roundedness is good, but copying all of your unmarried uncle's extensive jazz collection onto the iPod will not make her think that you are Sophisticated, but that you are balding.
If there was the slightest chance you could get laid in today's market by owning a Sonic Youth ceedee, there would be far fewer former record store clerks making mySpace pages.
Seventh, anyone who can listen to Nick Cave for more than a half hour at a stretch is mentally ill.
Which assumes that the object of one's affections has mainstream tastes; then again, as does the compiler of the iPod's contents (for example, it cautions against putting on jazz, blues or Nine Inch Nails, but doesn't mention more esoteric pitfalls such as krautrock, micro-house or Merzbow, which could be just as alienating, unless perhaps you met on the ILX forums).

And then there is useful advice such as:

You weren't seriously thinking of a Shuffle, were you? Come on! If a Shuffle would work you might as well just offer her the rest of your bag of Dorito's and take off your pants.
Let not the dying battery, cracked screen, or sputtering disk drive end up being a metaphor for the failures of your relationship.

(via Gizmodo) apple gadgets music sex society 1

2006/9/19

Question of the day: what exactly is the Apple iTV? I mean, we know that it's a wireless video-streaming set-top box-type device. But what's inside it?

Is it:

  1. a cut-down Mac Mini-type device with a stripped-down, purpose-specific version of OSX and FrontRow running off a Flash drive,
  2. a custom machine, unrelated to PCs, running a real-time OS based on Darwin/xnu, and incorporating relevant OSX technologies (Quartz, QuickTime, Cocoa), or
  3. a custom machine running an real-time OS related to the iPod's one, or
  4. none of the above?
(And the second question is: what potential is there for hacking it to do things it doesn't do out of the box?)

Inquiring minds must know.

apple tech 0

2006/8/25

Apple recalls laptop batteries that were made with potentially contaminated Sony cells. If you have a 12- or 15-inch G4 PowerBook or 12" G4 iBook, you could be a winner. Check the serial number on the battery and, if it matches, fill in the form and a new battery will be sent out to you, along with a pre-paid envelope for the old one. Even in the overwhelming probability that your battery wasn't about to explode, you do get a fresh battery for free.

apple powerbook sony tech 0

2006/7/21

The Apple Macintosh now has 12% of the US notebook market. I wonder what proportion of those run OSX and what proportion's owners tried it, didn't like it and installed Windows XP.

(via /.) apple 0

2006/6/6

In the latest round of the what-will-Apple-do-next? game, there is some speculation that Apple may team up with (or buy) RIM, the inventors of the BlackBerry wireless email appliance. The logic, apparently, is obvious:

Such a deal would have huge merit because each company lacks what the other provides. RIM wants a firm foothold in the consumer market and Apple doesn't have a presence in the booming wireless data sector, he said.
The two might jointly develop a new device: Apple could create a cellphone combining its iPod music device with RIM's wireless technology, or RIM might embed Apple's iTunes music into a future BlackBerry, he speculated.
Of course, one could apply this argument to virtually anything. Let's see: I predict that Apple may buy BMW. Why? It's simple; the two companies complement each other. Apple lacks a firm foothold in the automotive market, and BMW doesn't have a presence in the digital technology sector. The two might jointly develop in-car entertainment and navigation based on Apple's massively successful iPod standard and/or MacOS X. And then there are the opportunities for aligning the Mac Mini and Cooper Mini brands.

And so on. Replace BMW with another company name, especially one selling desirable lifestyle/consumer goods or services, and the rest of the copy writes itself. And if you suspend disbelief for long enough (easy enough to do whilst salivating over the prospect of shiny new Apple-branded versions of your favourite non-Apple products), it makes enough sense.

Of course, this wouldn't be the first time that Apple inked a deal with another brand. There was the Motorola ROKR, vaunted as an "iPod Phone", but being merely a generic Motorola phone which could connect to iTunes, and on top of that being artificially restricted to 100 songs, as Apple didn't want it cannibalising their iPod market. Needless to say, it got all the success it deserved and died quietly.

(via Gizmodo) apple blackberry speculation 0

2006/4/9

Wired has a photo gallery of obsessive Apple fans; that's Apple, the computer company. It seems that there are people who would do all sorts of things to demonstrate their loyalty, from having the Apple logo tattooed on themselves or shaved into their heads to genuflecting in worship outside the Apple headquarters and dressing up as iPods on Halloween. There's even someone planning a nude calendar of fans posing with their Macs, in black and white with the only colour being inside the sacred machines' screens. Dell and Microsoft couldn't buy loyalty like that.

apple fandom obsession 0

2006/1/23

Another casualty of Apple's move to Intel: FireWire 800. Apparently Intel's chipsets don't support it, so the new Macs don't either, and that massive FW800 hard disk you bought at a premium suddenly doesn't look quite so futureproof. Perhaps FW800 will reemerge when Intel pull their finger out and revamp their chip sets, or perhaps it has officially been declared stillborn, with the future of Apple's hardware platforms to be decided at WinHEC conferences from now on, along with all the other PC manufacturers.

(via /.) apple firewire intel 3

2006/1/13

Apparently another casualty of Apple's move to Intel is OpenFirmware; the standardised, portable, FORTH-based firmware used on PowerPC Macs has been replaced by Intel's proprietary, architecture-specific EFI (originally designed for the next generation of Windows machines). Which further locks Apple into one vendor (unless, of course, they further redesign their platform), and relegates OpenFirmware to the graveyard of cool technologies, alongside the likes of NeWS, Open Look, and numerous non-PC architectures.

And it's increasingly looking like the main architectural difference between the new Intel-based Macs and, say, Dells or Sony Vaios, could be the key in the DRM chip which authenticates it as an Apple, allowing MacOS X to run on it.

(via /.) apple forth intel openfirmware tech 3

2006/1/12

As Apple starts looking more and more like another PC company (or, more precisely, a MP3 player company with a sideline in prestige PCs and software), it emerges that Apple almost merged with Sun three times. One of these mergers was an attempted acquisition of Apple by Sun. Apart from this, the two companies had abortive talks about a number of proposals, including sharing a user interface (so perhaps we could have seen Solaris with a MacOS Classic interface) and the SPARC architecture.

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if any of these ventures had been successful. I don't know whether SPARC chips make better laptop processors than PowerPCs, but if they do, then perhaps we wouldn't be seeing Apple capitulating to the x86 monoculture*. On the other hand, if Apple had Solaris offered to them, they may not have bothered buying NeXT, and OSX may be based on a less exotic strain of UNIX.

* not that that's entirely a bad thing; perhaps, once Intel Macs are commonplace, smart hackers will figure out ways of shoehorning Windows code (such as, say, the numerous free VST plugins that never make it to OSX) into running on one. But I digress.

(via alecm) apple macos osx sparc sun 0

2006/1/10

Apple have unveiled their new Intel-based PowerBook-class machine; of course, they can't call it the PowerBook, though one would think they could have come up with a better name than MacBook Pro. The new machine also has a new power connector, rendering your collection of Apple power adapters redundant, and only one FireWire port, doing away with FireWire 800. The PCMCIA slot also seems to have been replaced with something called ExpressCard/34.

All in all, it doesn't look too bad; the lack of FireWire/800 is perhaps a concern (they're not planning on getting rid of FireWire altogether and making it more like a legacy PC, I hope; I wonder whether it still has Target Disk Mode), and it's probably not worth getting one for music or video just yet, until all the plug-ins one uses have been recompiled for Intel (as emulation of CPU-intensive PPC code will certainly be very slow).

I wonder whether, in a few years' time, Jobs will announce that the new version of MacOS (perhaps MacOS 12?) will be based on the Windows Vista kernel, licensed from Microsoft, rather than Mach/BSD, giving Macintosh-quality design on top of improved PC compabilility and access to Hollywood-standard DRM?

(via cos) apple intel macbook pro 4

2005/9/13

Luke Williams from design firm Frogdesign (who designed the original Mac and the NeXT cube) talks about the design of the iPod and the way design conventions reference other objects:

"So... as I was sitting on the toilet this morning" (this is of course where most good ideas come from), "I noticed the shiny white porcelain of the bathtub and the reflective chrome of the faucet on the wash basin... and then it hit me! Everybody perceives the iPod as 'clean' because it references bathroom materials!"
The public once thought electricity was dangerous and expensive, so to change this perception, the electricity industry sought to project the image of electricity as a modern and progressive source of energy. To symbolize these qualities, designers used the conventions associated with "technological futurism"--hrome plating and streamlining. In 1955, industrial designer Henry Drefuss wrote that changes in the design of the modern kitchen had been brought about "by two things that had nothing to do with cooking a meal--the automobile and the airplane."
Although the symbolism has changed, the iPod also uses conventions to appear ahead of its time. Its surfaces are seamless and have no moving parts-- two conventions that have often been used in science and science-fiction to connote advanced technology. Remember the seamless, molten-metal bad guy in Terminator 2? Or how about the perfectly seamless, black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey?

(via Gizmodo) apple design frogdesign ipod 0

2005/8/2

Apple have broken with another tradition; this time they have acknowledged that Mac users may be able to cope with the idea of (gasp!) more than one mouse button. Of course, just making a 2-button mouse would be too obvious; Apple's Mighty Mouse (whose name they seem to have licensed from Viacom, owners of the old cartoon series) has either one or no buttons but rather and a touch sensor to detect which side of the shell you are pressing. There's also a scroll wheel and buttons on the side, which can be programmed to trigger your favourite OSX window-shuffling effect. And apparently it includes a small speaker which plays a clicking sound every time you press a button.

(via gizmodo) apple 0

2005/6/7

My mind's still reeling from the possible implications of Apple's announcement of abandoning the PowerPC platform in favour of x86. Here are some thoughts:

  • After the change, Apple's hardware will be just x86 hardware. Well-designed, well-engineered x86 hardware, but not an entire separate platform. Apple had been heading in that direction since abandoning SCSI and NuBus, though the change in CPU architectures makes it final. It is speculated that Apple will make it possible for those who want to to boot Windows on their Macs; as such, think of the first non-G4 PowerBook as the Apple Vaio.
  • Whether Apple will allow OSX to run on commodity hardware is another matter, though. Commodity hardware means loss of control and quality control, which has undoubtedly contributed to the Macintosh user experience. How aggressively Apple will ensure that OSX doesn't run on commodity hardware is another matter; it may be possible for hackers to get it working (though possibly violating paracopyright laws in doing so). Another possibility is of Apple doing deals with individual manufacturers to allow OSX to boot on their machines. (Sony could be a natural for this, given the tightly-controlled semi-proprietary nature of their hardware; and wouldn't you like an Acer Ferrari laptop with a non-crap OS?)
  • Over and above that, it is possible that Apple will separate their hardware and software businesses. If their computers are not anything particularly exotic anymore, why not let someone else build and sell those, and concentrate on adding value? Perhaps Apple will spin off and sell its hardware manufacturing business (and the licence to use the Apple trademark on hardware) as IBM did.
  • The future of OSX as a separate operating system may also not be assured. Apple own some high-end software (Shake, Logic, Final Cut Pro), which only runs on their own platform. Now that their platform will run on exactly the same architecture as Windows Longhorn, demanding that people boot to Apple's own non-mainstream OS to run it could lose sales. (Anyone remember Linux-based Final Scratch? That didn't do too well, because its electronic-musician audience didn't want to keep rebooting between using it and their Windows-based software.) As such, it is conceivable that, in some years' time, Apple will attempt to redefine OSX as a set of layers (CoreAudio, CoreImage, Cocoa) that runs over Windows, much as its Windows QuickTime does. The layers could be shipped with copies of their software and installed without the user needing to know about them. The remaining Mac faithful will cringe and cry sellout, and techies will dread the loss of OSX's technical advantages over Windows, but Apple will sell more software and gain compatibility with the Windows standard, and, at the end of the day, that's what counts.

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2005/6/6

It's official; Apple are moving to an Intel Pentium architecture, and will phase out the PowerPC by 2007.

Steve Jobs says that a reason for the move is that Intel chips now offer much more power per watt than PowerPC chips. Which sounds strange, given that Intel chips are encrusted with legacy backward-compatibility baggage dating back to the IBM PC, whereas the PowerPC platform is free of such constraints. Though perhaps, because of Intel's far greater market share, enough was invested in getting around this.

Jobs also revealed that MacOS X had been built internally for Intel platforms for the past five years (which is plausible, given that NeXTSTEP, on which it is based, was sold for Intel machines). Which goes some way towards explaining the somewhat backward choice of architectures: i.e., it's inertia.

Of course, this does not make it any less of a missed opportunity to provide a computing platform on a new, unencumbered architecture. Especially given the PowerPC-like nature of the Sony/IBM Cell CPU, which would (if reports are correct) have been an immensely desirable platform for a new era. (Who knows; perhaps whoever owns the Amiga can resurrect it as a Cell workstation?) And as far as x86 chips go, AMD would have probably been a better choice than Intel. Unless, of course, it's the DRM issue again, and Jobs needs to have a black iron prison in place that the MPAA will sign off on.

And so, the last major bastion of diversity in the world of computers falls to the x86 monoculture, and Apple becomes just another PC manufacturer, albeit one with its own OS. Perhaps in five years' time they'll give up on that as well and switch to providing a Cocoa layer over Windows too? After all, it'd save them a lot of hassle.

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Everybody, it seems, is now saying that Apple are about to dump the PowerPC architecture, and move to Intel. I'm hoping that it doesn't happen; technically, the main advantage of the Intel architecture (which includes AMD and other third-party processors) is backward compatibility with MS-DOS and Windows; for this, the CPUs pay a price in extra transistor count, power consumption and performance, which other platforms (such as, say, the PowerPC) do not incur. Given that Apple machines don't run Windows, there would be little point to doing this, unless to take advantage of these chips being cheaper due to their being manufactured in larger volumes. Given that Sony's PowerPC-based Cell architecture is on the horizon and promises to revolutionise computing, Apple jumping to Intel boxes sounds like a dead end.

Meanwhile, Alec Muffett speculates that the "Intel architecture" Apple might adopt may not be IA64 but rather the XScale, an unrelated architecture based on the ARM, and used in power-efficient devices such as Palm handhelds and Nintendo DSs. On one hand, it would be cool to see a Mac mini (or even a Mac Micro) based on an ARM chipset, drawing about as much current as a nightlight and offering a usable Macintosh-flavoured web-browsing/word-processing/communications/media-playing machine. OTOH, does the ARM architecture actually scale up to the higher ends of the performance spectrum? Would an ARM-compiled version of Photoshop or ProTools be able to run efficiently on tomorrow's high-end Macs?

And WIRED reckons that Apple's switch to Intel will be in order to add Intel's DRM technology to their hardware; i.e., doubly crippling their platform to please Big Copyright.

(via everywhere) apple intel tech 0

2005/5/8

You know those nifty "Widgets" that MacOS X 10.4 supports; those lightweight HTML/JavaScript objects that sit on a special desktop layer and can show you the weather/train timetables/your iTunes playlist/how all those APPL shares you bought are doing? Well, they can automatically install themselves without your consent, as this page demonstrates. The author even provides a goatse.cx widget (not auto-installed, mercifully) to underscore the potential for mayhem.

Meanwhile, a carefully-constructed trick webpage can cause Firefox to execute arbitrary code on any platform (such as, say, installing rootkits or botnet clients). The Mozilla Foundation have patched this, though it's not in the Debian distro yet.

(via substitute, slashdot) apple osx security 2

2005/4/18

It looks like Sony are finally releasing a MiniDisc-based data drive; only a decade too late, too. The Hi-MD drive (with the catchy name "PIT-IN") will apparently be a USB Mass Storage device, and will go head-to-head with smaller and more robust USB keyrings. Chances are it'll still not be able to rip data off audio MiniDiscs for copyright-enforcement reasons, so all your bootleg gig minidiscs are still locked up in the translucent plastic prison of Sony DRM.

Meanwhile, the next Palm handheld will be the Tungsten X; it's basically going to be like a T5 with a built-in iPod Mini-sized hard drive, and MP3 player software to take advantage of that. If they put some audio inputs on that (other than the voice-grade microphone they come with), it'd make a pretty nifty portable audio workstation.

And someone has created OSX developer trading cards. Which make you wonder whether they buy their shirts in bulk from the same retailer.

(via gizmodo) apple dead media minidisc osx palm sony tungsten 2

2005/4/13

It's official: MacOS 10.4 Tiger will be coming out in April, as speculated. Though it won't be out until the 29th.

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2005/3/16

The next radical innovation from Apple is expected to be a two-button mouse. Mass confusion among Mac users expected.

"Jaws will drop," said one insider.

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2005/3/4

Apple's new PowerBooks now contain a motion sensor, allowing them to detect if they're falling and brace for impact. The sensor in question detects not only acceleration but also the machine's tilt. Über-hacker Amit Singh has figured out how to query this sensor and written programs which use it, including a demo which rotates windows on the desktop to compensate for the laptop's orientation.

amit singh apple hacks powerbook 0

2005/1/12

The MacWorld Expo keynote is out, and the rumours look like being all true. There's the Mac Mini, a tiny white rectangular no-frills Macintosh for PC (which looks like a squat, non-transparent Mac Cube, and ships without keyboard or mouse), which will sell for US$500 (which will probably be A$800 or so in Australia, and £300 or so in the UK) and is aimed at PC users seduced by the iPod. Speaking of which, there's also the iPod Shuffle, an innovative 512Mb/1Gb iPod smaller than a stick of gum. In other words, just another MP3-playing flash drive, only in white, except that the latest iTunes will auto-fill it with a random selection of tunes. (I would imagine this iTunes functionality is disabled for cheaper, non-Apple USB MP3 players.) Not to mention a new office suite and a new version of iLife.

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2004/12/29

It looks like, after years of positioning themselves as the BMW of the computer world, Apple are about to release a cheap, bare-bones Mac. The new Mac, codenamed Q88, will come with no monitor, a CDRW/DVD-ROM drive and 40 to 80Gb of disk space, and will come in a flat enclosure that can be either vertical or horizontal. Which suggests that it'll look like a shiny white PlayStation 2 and/or an oversized screenless iPod.

The reason for Apple's change of heart is said to be the success of the iPod; the new Mac, which will eschew Apple's focus on performance, and be aimed at Windows users who liked the iPod and would buy a Mac if they were cheaper.

And The Reg speculates that Apple could position these units as home-entertainment PCs.

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2004/12/4

The decline of the US dollar takes its first victim, as Apple make their US iMacs 110V-only, doing away with their world-ready multi-voltage power supplies, presumably to keep Europeans paying the higher European price. I wonder how they compare to Australian prices; after all, Australia's mains voltage is 240V, and the Australian cost of living (and average wage) is relatively low.

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2004/10/27

The lid's off the iPod Photo; and so, Apple have boldly followed what Archos, iRiver and the like have been doing for a few years. But, hey, it's Apple. Mind you, given that Apple employ good designers, the UI is likely to be less irritating than the iRiver H340's (with its cryptic buttons and necessity to switch modes to go from listening to music to viewing photos or text files).

apple design ipod 0

2004/9/18

Today is the 20th anniversary of Apple ProDOS 1.1.1. It was created/released on 18-SEP-1984, a date burned into the retinas of many who used school computer labs in the mid-1980s. So there's the useless factoid for the day.

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2004/6/8

Once again, Apple come up with a piece of industrial design that makes one think "now that's nifty": this time, it's AirPort Express, a wireless base station, USB print server and analogue/optical audio output (for streaming iTunes audio from your Mac to your stereo/speakers), all in the form factor of one of those doovy white international power adaptors that come with PowerBooks and iPods. And it's only US$39 (which should come out at about A$70 or so). (via bOING bOING)

apple 2

2004/2/18

Apple's followup to Garageband will be AtticAuthor, which makes writing literature in the style of the classics easy:

No more struggling for the right word, the perfect turn of phrase, the most expedient and direct yet elegant metaphor. AtticAuthor takes care of all that for you. With over 1,000 ApplePhrases, and an additional 2,000 available in the optional PenPack, AtticAuthor will have you immediately writing short stories, plays and even novels. Never has creative writing been so easy. And AtticAuthor takes care of the details for you. Like this passage from Updike and that one from Dickens? No problem. AtticAuthor smoothly transitions from one style to the other, across locales, time periods and even languages.

(via Things)

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2004/2/10

Since Apple released Garageband, amateur musicians of various levels of talent have been taking to it like the proverbial waterfowl to its element. Whether this is a good or bad thing, though, depends on whom you ask:

"The amount of creative energy that GarageBand is creating is staggering," said musician and producer Chris Bell. "Apple has created a monster.... As a pro musician/producer, I love this app. It puts the fun back into creating. I'm amazed."
"GarageBand is snoozeware for the iPod generation who think that music comes in a small white-and-chrome can and only need be served lukewarm for public consumption,"

Meanwhile, sites like MacJams and iCompositions, allowing Garageband users to share their masterpieces with each other and/or the general public, have been popping up, whilst others give away free loops in exchange for marketing info.

I think it's, for the most part, a good thing, like any creativity explosion (think the zine explosion that followed the availability of cheap photocopying, for example). True, most Garageband output will be derivative, uninspiring or simply crap (much as, say, most MP3.com tracks were), but there will be inspired works coming out of it. And for every piece of above-average pop/dance/booty-bass to emerge from the Garageband explosion, there'll probably be one piece of irredemably weird outsider art, or something that takes the pre-packaged cliché elements of popular genres and repurposes them in unusual ways.

apple computer music creativity elitism garageband music 3

2004/1/20

Local live-music-scenester site mono.net is shutting down its forums permanently, after an infestation of trolls (or "coolsie chats" as they call them, for some odd reason).

Also on Rocknerd: a good review of Apple's Garageband music-making tool for OSX. It comes off looking quite decent; apparently it can use arbitrary AudioUnits (and presumably VST plugins with the AudioUnit wrapper). However, it appears very CPU-intensive, and requires a DVD drive to install. (I wonder if it'd install off an IDE DVD-ROM in a FireWire enclosure.)

apple coolsie garageband hipsters melbourne mono.net 4

2004/1/7

Apple release Garageband, a cheap, beginner-oriented music/audio sequencer, to become part of its iLife package. The page is somewhat light on specs, though if it uses AudioUnits for effects and instruments (as opposed to some locked-in proprietary format designed t subtract value), it may be usable as an OSX substitute for Cubase VST (which is mostly a platform for plugging softsynths into); it'd certainly be an order of magnitude or two cheaper than Cubase SX.

apple computer music garageband osx 0

2003/6/18

Today I went down to the AppleCentre in Elizabethstrasse and picked up the order that came in for me. Consequently, I'm a few grand poorer, but now the proud owner of a Titanium PowerBook G4. (It's not one of the new models, but it runs MacOS 9 as well as OS X, which means that I don't have to junk all my VST plugins.) The machine has been named "avalyn", and will in due time replace my old beige toaster (a souped-up G3/233G4/400).

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2003/4/14

Apple, the company who brought the iPod MP3 player, "Rip, Mix, Burn" and Macintoshes which die when you put copy-protected CDs in them, is allegedly planning to buy the Universal Music Group, the world's largest music copyright-holding conglomerate. I wonder who'll have the whip hand in the deal; whether Apple will end up going towards end-to-end copy-control à la Intel/Microsoft, or whether copyright hardliner Edgar Bronfman's old empire will do a 180-degree turn and take a more reasonable approach to intellectual property issues; not to mention whether the deal will just include the recording-industry part of Universal or their numerous MP3 operations, such as EMusic and mp3.com (which, I imagine, Apple could combine nicely with their iPod business). One thing's for sure, though: they're not going to call the new operation Apple Records.

apple business the recording industry 0

2003/1/9

Apple surprise everyone with their MacWorld announcements. No video-enabled iPods (though if you want that sort of thing, you can buy an Archos Jukebox; I hear they're pretty doovy), but we get two new Bluetooth-enabled PowerBooks (including a 17" model), revamped software tools, and a Safari, a new web browser (Apple's second; remember Cyberdog, which they killed after MS persuaded them to become an IE shop?). The interesting thing about Safari is that it's based on the open-source Konqueror HTML engine used in KDE, bypassing the favourite Mozilla; Apple have promised to be good citizens and contribute all their enhancements back to Konqueror, which should help it as well,

Apple have shaken off the not-invented-here mentality that dogged the Macintosh for a long time, and now are keen to borrow and share technologies. For example, the iPod is mostly based on off-the-shelf components, including a third-party embedded OS, and there is a lot of open-source software under the hood in MacOS X (i.e., large swathes of FreeBSD, CUPS, Perl and Python), and now KHTML is in Safari. Probably a good choice; it'll save Apple diverting resources to reinventing the wheel, all for the very minor cost of sharing innovations in this area with the open-source world.

apple mac safari software 0

2002/12/31

Not that long after Apple bought Emagic and killed the Windows version of Logic, US video-editing tool firm Pinnacle has bought Steinberg, the German company making Cubase. (via Cos)

apple business cubase logic 0

Tying in with Bowling for Columbine, Switch to Canada; a parody of the Apple TV ads about Canada vs. the US. And then there's this Graun article about why Canada's a possible candidate for future regime change. (via 1.0)

apple canada parody politics usa 0

2002/7/2

Apple buys Emagic, axing the Windows version of Logic, and effectively handing over the Windows sequencer market to Cubase. It'll be interesting to see whether Apple's Logic works better with OS X, whether Apple will still support VST plug-ins or tries to enforce its own plug-in format, whether they'll integrate Logic more with stuff like Final Cut Pro, and so on.

Then again, apparently they bought the two leading image-compositing software firms recently too. Wonder if this means that they'll be killing their Irix and Linux product lines to force everyone onto MacOS X. (Which is technically a pretty nice system, though is quite a bit more expensive than cheap Linux boxes. Which probably suits Apple just fine.)

apple logic 1

2002/4/22

A page written by an outfit calling themselves "Objective: Christian Ministries" and detailing why Apple Computer is a tool of Satan; from their new Darwin OS, based on Communist open-source software and demonic BSD UNIX to notorious atheist Richard Dawkins' preference for Macintoshes, it's all here.

Mind you, I'm not sure whether these people are a joke or a genuine group of honest-to-goodness religious fruitcakes. For what it's worth they also have a campaign to shut down Landover Baptist as an "anti-Christian hate crime".

apple religiots satanism 3

2002/1/6

The latest hobby for the obsessive: Making paper models of Macintosh computers; more "insanely great" than spotting trains:

"To make sure that Caitlin grew up with the right priorities, I created huge padded rainbow apples, the early Apple logo, to go at each end of her cot," she said. "My Mac is not a tool," Dragon Tongue said. "It is a lifestyle, a friend, a place, a home, sometimes a pain, never a 'thing.'"

(Apparently this article will be adapted into a book about the fanatical devotion Maccies have to their computers and the Apple brand; which should be amusing to read, in much the same way that Trekkies was amusing to watch.)

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2000/6/11

After Microsoft is split in two, will Apple conquer all and Linux die? One Peter Lalor (not of Eureka Stockade fame) thinks it just may happen.(slashdot)

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1999/11/14

Another nail in the coffin for Commonwealth English? Apple scraps British version of MacOS. (ZDNet)

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