Paper for the iPad

   30 March 2012, early morning

Yesterday a company called FiftyThree put out an iPad application called Paper. The team is made up of ex-Microsoft employees who look to have left the company when Microsoft cancelled the Courier project. Apparently there was a big exodus of talented people that followed the cancellation, most notably J Allard of XBox fame. It looks like the guys at FiftyThree weren’t done with tablets just yet.

I was playing with the application yesterday. It’s really well done. If you have an iPad it’s well worth checking out. The application is free, but you can pay for access to other pen types: pencil, fat marker, pen, and water colours.

The Verge has a long review of the application.

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"I'm going to lie to lots of people."

   20 March 2012, terribly early in the morning

As you may or may not have heard, Mike Daisey took several liberties in telling his story about the Foxconn factories in China that Apple uses to build their junk. A lot has already been written on this topic, and I’d have ignored the story if I hadn’t written about it myself.

Daisey’s take on things is that what he does is theatre, and the liberties he took with the truth improve the story. There I agree: his radio piece was really quite engaging. I wouldn’t have written so much about the story had it not be so good. His piece wouldn’t have been the same if the story wasn’t told in the first person the way it was. He presents his stage show as non-fiction. His definition of what that means in the context of theatre is clearly different than what most people think a piece of non-fiction is. That said, I don’t think i’d be that put-off had his work remained in the theatre.

The thing is, he represented his work to NPR as if it was completely true. His interaction with NPR suggests he knew he was deceiving them and that they wouldn’t (and couldn’t) be cool with his piece if they knew so much of the story was fabricated and half-truths. It’s one thing to say a bunch of things happened in a stage show and other to repeat that fiction when interviewed by reporters. That latter is just good old fashioned lying. He lied repeatedly to Ira Glass and other NPR producers. He lied repeatedly to other reporters who interviewed him subsequently. He’s really just a liar.

To NPR’s credit they dedicated a whole show to a retraction of their previous story. It’s well worth listening to. It’s as engaging as the original podcast. NPR clearly feels horrible they aired the piece.

The Mac blogosphere’s response to this story is as boring and obnoxious as their initial reaction. The best reaction i’ve read about all of this comes from Defective Yeti: Putting the I in Story.

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Apple Bluetooth Keyboard

   20 May 2010, mid-afternoon

I’m not a keyboard fetishist, but I do enjoy typing on a nice keyboard. I bought the tiny Apple bluetooth keyboard from some dude on Craigslist almost two years ago. It replaced the larger white Apple bluetooth keyboard I bought an even longer time ago, also from some dude on Craigslist. I wanted a keyboard that was nicer to type on and, of particular importance, was much quieter.

Apple’s bluetooth keyboard is tiny. It looks like Apple popped it off one of their laptops. The keys are all full sized, but there are a couple differences between this keyboard and a typical Apple keyboard. First, the space bar is a little bit smaller — one key smaller to be exact. This hasn’t been an issue. My thumb doesn’t come close to hitting that part of the spacebar on normal keyboards. Second, the command, option, and control keys are all smaller, and in the case of the control key, only one key is present. I rarely — basically never — use the control, option, and command keys on the right hand side of the keyboard, so the loss of the control key wasn’t such a big deal. (I also almost never use the shift key on the right hand side of the keyboard: no doubt this makes me a bad typist.) Typing commands in Textmate that require you to press some combination of these keys sometimes feels a bit cramped. Still, after using the keyboard for so long I can’t say I’m too bothered. I like the keyboard’s small size.

One advantage of the tiny form factor is that I can keep my mouse closer to the keyboard. I find the fact you typically need to place your mouse so far to the right from where your hands normally are when typing a little bit awkward. I suspect it’s part of the reason my right shoulder always kills after I use a computer for an extended period of time. This keyboard really seems to help get rid of that pain. I also don’t use any sort of wrist rest with the keyboard and my arms don’t kill after an extended period of typing. There is something magically ergonomic about the keyboard, though I’m not sure what.

The keyboard is definitely quieter. I think Shima still finds it too noisy, but I’m not sure you could make a nice keyboard much quieter. Compared to my Unicomp Spacesaver it’s basically silent.

The way a keyboard feels to type on is pretty subjective. The Apple Keyboard uses the typically lame rubber-dome switches you find in most modern keyboards to register key presses. Surprisingly, in this keyboard they work quite well. It takes almost no effort to press a key. More so, because the keys are so shallow and flat they don’t really wobble around as you type—at all. I’ve had my keyboard for a little over two years now, and it still types as well now as it did when I bought it.

If you’re looking for a new keyboard, this is definitely worth checking out. (If you can’t live without a number pad, the larger wired version is probably what you want.)

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Early iPad Impressions

   20 April 2010, early evening

Monday afternoon my coworker dropped by with an iPad he picked up for me from the US. (This is the same guy who managed to get me an iPhone a year before they came out in Canada. I’ll have to name my children after him or something.) I’ve been lusting after an iPad for a while now. After being stuck in my bed for a few weeks after breaking my leg, I see the appeal of a computer designed to be used when you are straight up chillaxing. (Well, I wouldn’t call my weeks in a cast chillaxing, but you know what i mean.) There have already been a ton of reviews going on about how awesome the iPad is. I’m in total agreement. This thing is quite enjoyable thus far. I’m not sure I can really say anything of substance till i’ve been using it for a few weeks. Instead I’ll offer up a few quick thoughts on the machine.

The keyboard works fairly well, better than I would have thought. Typing in portrait is pretty difficult, but doable. Typing in landscape is much easier. I can type fairly fast in landscape mode, and really have only had one issue come up: the keyboard feels close enough to a real keyboard that I keep reaching for the non-existent apostrophe key. I’ve hit enter so many times by accident. I need to remember to let the OS autocorrect the apostrophe into the word I’m typing automatically.

The iPad fast. (Considering I’ve been using an iPhone 3G running the buggy iPhone OS4 beta, the iPad feels wicked fast in comparison.) This is most notable when resizing web pages using the pinch to zoom gesture. The whole computer feels quite snappy. Considering the processor is actually fairly under powered its impressive what Apple have done.

The screen is like a god damn mirror. I’m not sure if this will eventually drive me made or not. (I hate glossy screens. What a stupid idea for a monitor.) Anyway, putting that aside the screen is gorgeous: It’s bright and the viewing angle looks to be enormous.

I typed this up on my sofa. Because the whole screen is just one app, its very easy to focus. It will be interesting to see studies comparing how people work on the iPad versus a normal computer. It’s distraction free computing.

I need to figure out what Decepticon to name my iPad after and I’ll be all set.

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Playing With An iPad

    7 April 2010, early morning

I got to play with an iPad yesterday. The boys at Form and Method bought one for their company, and Tyler brought it over to a friend’s place to let us all have a look. It is pretty slick. The screen is really bright and looks quite nice. The viewing angle is as wide as everyone has been talking about, which makes it a great communal device. It looks like it will be well suited for faux-boardgames. The computer is very snappy. It’s a very responsive machine, which is what you want in a device you minipulate with your hands. The bigger screen makes Safari a lot more useful. All the web pages I checked out loaded fine, and loaded quickly. Several people commented on how the iPad was smaller than they had expected, Shima included. Typing is a fair bit more awkward than typing on the iPhone. I could see getting better at it with practice, but I can’t imagine typing as fast on the iPad as I do on my iPhone. Of course, you can use a real keyboard with an iPad so maybe this won’t matter too much in practice. I want one. Apparently the device will launch in Toronto on the 24th of April, though I haven’t really seen any indication from Apple that this is the case. God damn it.

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A Quiet Apple Launch Day

   20 October 2009, early morning

For some reason Apple launched a whole lot of products today, and is doing so fairly quietly as far as Apple goes. Of note is their new mouse, the Magic Mouse. It’s a mouse that supports multi-touch input. It looks pretty slick, but I’ve been burned by Apple and their shockingly shitty mice before. Apple also released new iMacs, a new unibody plastic Macbook with a rubber bottom, and new Mac Minis. (The Mac Mini Snow Leopard Server seems particularly cool.) I sort of want the giant iMac, but it doesn’t seem like something I can justify buying. Also, they are still selling them with a glossy screen, which I can’t stand.

Update: There are also new Airport Extreme routers, and a new remote control. I guess they are getting geared up for Christmas.

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Damn That's a Small Mac.

   15 January 2008, mid-morning

The MacWorld Keynote has been kind of dull for the most part, as pretty much everything rumored to be in the works was in the works: the iPhone Firmware update, iTunes movie rentals, a new wireless hard drive / base station, and of course, the new MacBook ultra-portable. That said, damn the new Powerbook is looking good. (Also of note for the environmentalists out there, the computer features: a fully aluminum case (good for recycling), the first fully mercury and lead free display, circuit boards are BFR free, retail packaging has 56% less volume than that of the MacBook.) The MacBook Air page is up, and I have to say that computer doesn’t look real.

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Time Machine

   31 October 2007, early evening

I, like many other people I imagine, went out and bought a new giant hard drive to go along with Leopard. Giant-ass hard drives are pretty cheap now — well, as hard drives go anyway. For $125 (taxes and all) you can buy a half terrabyte drive from Western Digital. I had to pay $45 more for an enclosure. I really wanted to get a firewire enclosure, but SATA to FireWire enclosures are few and far between; the few that I found were quite expensive. SATA to USB 2.0 and/or eSATA enclosures on the other hand are fairly common. eSATA is incredibly fast, but sadly my iMac has no interface for it so I am stuck using USB 2.0, which I’m not a big fan of. That said, USB 2.0 is probably fast enough for a backup drive, so I’ll live. The drive is sitting behind my iMac, making hard drive noises as I type this. It seems to be holding up quite well thus far.

Time Machine seems to work well enough. It does what Rsnapshot was doing, but I have more faith in it than I ever had in Rsnapshot, which would never seem to run rsync without spewing out a lot of errors. Last night I had Time Machine back up everything on my main drive. That was slow. Today I learned you can exclude individual folders on a drive; now the only thing I’m backing up is my User directory. Having hourly snapshots of the system or application folders seemed a bit silly. I can always reinstall the OS and my applications if the system crashes. Not that I want to jinx myself or nothing.

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Which brings me to the jackassiest comment of the day regarding Amazon MP3, from Jupiter Research analyst David Card to the Associated Press: “In and of itself, (Amazon MP3) isn’t enough to change any market share. They have to do a good job at building their store.”

Well, perhaps Amazon can find a book or something about how to build a successful high-volume online store.
— John Gruber, More on the Amazon MP3 Store

John Gruber Writes About David Maynor -- Again

   21 September 2007, late morning

John Gruber has written what I assume will be his last post on the David Maynor Apple WiFi exploit story. Maynor has finally published a paper on the exploit, which outlines a kernel panic he found. I think Gruber’s criticism of Maynor back during the summer of 2006 was spot on. There were so many ways Maynor could have proven he had an exploit without disclosing too much information, yet he didn’t choose to pursue any of them. That’s his prerogative I suppose.

Let’s say I tell you I have in my pocket a frog that can recite the entire alphabet. You doubt it, and ask me to show you. I refuse. You ask me to show it to a trusted third party. I refuse.

A year later, I show you a frog who can recite the alphabet. That’s certainly something. But it doesn’t prove I had the frog in my pocket a year ago.

This post is a bit too bitter. The implication that Maynor didn’t have a working exploit back in 2006 doesn’t seem fair. The idea that he’s been sitting at home trying to exploit an out of date version of MacOS X seems a bit off to me. You don’t get props for exploiting out of date operating systems. He also really has no reason to lie now. He didn’t seem all too bothered by the criticism leveled against him over the past year or so. It also doesn’t seem to have effected his standing in the security community. Though the Mac community may have felt he had something to prove, judging by his actions since 2006 he certainly didn’t feel this was the case.

Maynor said that he had been under a nondisclosure agreement, which had previously prevented him from publishing details of the hack. The security researcher wouldn’t say who his NDA was with, but that agreement is no longer in force, allowing him to talk about the exploit. “I published it now because I can publish it now,” he said.

This strikes me as the most reasonable reason for Maynor’s silence. It is possible Maynor wanted to make everyone crazy, and so decided the best course of action was to say he had an exploit, and then shut up. (That the story was as big as it was back in 2006 — a story about an exploit that didn’t exist — does in fact say a lot about the mac community and the way people react to criticism. In 2006 Maynor had basically proven nothing, yet people wouldn’t stop talking about him.)

If Maynor didn’t have a working exploit back in 2006, I imagine it would relate to the following point:

Worth pointing out: Maynor’s paper describes an attack that leads to a kernel panic. He claims it can be exploited to instead inject code and, rather than crash, take over the machine — but this is not described in the paper.

While it is true that Maynor’s paper only describes an attack that leads to a kernel panic, it also discusses in a fair amount of detail how to proceed if you want to inject code. It’s possible Maynor had figured out how to get a kernel panic, but not a full exploit. However, reading the paper, it doesn’t seem like going from the panic to the exploit is too tricky. (Of course, I don’t really know that much about this sort of thing. Patrick can probably say more on the topic.)

The most promising avenue for getting execution can be found in a function named ath_copy_scan_results. This function uses the fields that are overwritten to copy memory.

As an initial test, the author overwrote every function pointer in the structure with a pattern such as 0×61413761 (or aA7a in ASCII, which is the typical Metasploit buffer padding pattern). A crash dump with an error message about failing to execute code at a bad address like 0×61413761 proves that remote code execution is theoretically possible.

As Gruber himself said:

This entire saga boils down to one simple question: Have Maynor and Ellch discovered a vulnerability against MacBooks using Apple’s built-in AirPort cards and drivers?

The answer looks to be yes, but as of today this is really only of interest in an academic sense.

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Crashing like a Champ

   19 September 2007, terribly early in the morning

Mail.app crashes like a champ when accessing my IMAP mail on Dreamhost. I don’t recall when it started doing this, but it does it consistently. My work around thus far is to load up Mutt on the Funkaoshi server, purge deleted mail there, and then load up Mail.app. This seems to fix things. Why Mail.app chokes I have yet to investigate. The lack of any good email clients for the Mac is perplexing. I’m surprised some indie-developer hasn’t tried their hand at one. There must be open-source email libraries one could start off with. Maybe I should try using Mulberry again. GyazMail looks interesting.

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"Me Too!"

   17 September 2007, early morning

Herman, how could you? We’ve all thought about counterfeiting jeans at one time or another, but what about the victims? Hard-working designers like Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, or Antoine Bugle Boy. These are the people who saw an overcrowded marketplace and said, “Me too!”

I was reminded of this quote when reading some of the bad press Apple has been getting about their entry into the ring tone market. I have probably said this several times already, but paying for ring tones is stupid. (Paying a $1 for a DRM’d up ACC file is also stupid, but at least when you’ve paid your dollar you have a whole song to listen to.) Back when there was no way to get a song on to your phone except via your cellphone provider I can understand paying a premium to do so, but now? It’s rare to find a phone that is missing USB and Bluetooth and WiFi. There is always at least one way to get data onto your phone all by yourself. Thankfully, we live in a world where there are people who like gadgets and hate paying for stuff they don’t have to.

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In Line with the iPhone

   14 September 2007, terribly early in the morning

While waiting for Flash Point to start, one of my coworkers and I went to get some coffee; the third stayed behind to save our spot. When we got back, she nudges me and tells me to ask the newly arrived guy in front of us about his phone. He looks at her, then me, then takes out his iPhone.

— Has your life been reduced to showing strangers your cell phone. — Pretty much.

Damn. I want the iPod touch all the more now. You feel like you’re playing with something from the future.

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Undo in iTunes

   12 August 2007, early evening

Why doesn’t undo work at all in iTunes? Erase a song from a playlist and that’s that. Actually, worse still, erase a whole playlist and that’s that. Why have an undo item in the edit menu if it doesn’t actually do anything.

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Soundwave: Superior

    6 February 2007, terribly early in the morning

my ipod shuffle

All about my 2nd generation iPod shuffle.

My iPod shuffle made its way from China to my office over the course of a week, arriving yesterday morning. (The trip from China to Toronto took all of 2 days, the sorting and then waiting another 5.) This iPod replaces my 3rd generation 15 gig iPod. In some ways this is a step backwards — I have less space and no screen. I think I can live with that. I haven’t been using the full 15 gigs of my old iPod for ages now — certainly not since I left school. I usually listen to a couple albums a day, alternating between them. I don’t use the built in calender, notebook, or any of that extra jazz, and I’m usually aware of what music I’m listening to: I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to live without a screen. The iPod shuffle is quite nice. It is wicked small, dwarfed by the headphones I plug into it. Syncing a full gig of music onto it took about 5 minutes or so, if that. Apple says you can fit 240 songs on the player, but that’s if you encode them as 128bit ACC files. I usually encode at 224bit, so the files are bigger; I can fit about 150 or so songs on the player, which is still enough for me. Right now the shuffle picks tracks randomly from the music that was on my old iPod. I think I’ll keep this behaviour for the next little while. So far I’m quite liking the shuffle.

(I engraved Soundwave: Superior on the back of the iPod. It’s written in the tiniest text. I couldn’t fit Constructocons: Inferior as well, which is a shame.)

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Macworld 2007

    9 January 2007, early morning

In a few hours Apple will announce all sorts of crazy-shit at Macworld. There seems to be even more hype around this Macworld than any other I can recall. People are hoping for an iPhone (I don’t see it happening), a new Finder for OS X (this I do see happening), a crazy MacPro (also likely), and a host of other new gadgets from Apple. Apple usually doesn’t announce new iPods till later in the year, so I don’t expect to hear anything about video iPods today. As usual, I will probably post my thoughts on the expo later today.

Some Macworld links of note:

Update: Macworld is happening right now.

Update: Jobs puts to rest stories about iTunes sales slowing. Apple is now the 5th largest music reseller, beating out Amazon. Apple sells 5 million songs a day. (That sounds unbelievable.) As I have said before, buying DRM’d music for a buck sucks, but clearly most people don’t seem to care. Television and Movie sales are also doing well on iTunes.

Update: The Apple TV has been announced. This was the produce billed as the iTV earlier.

Update: Holy shit there is an Apple Phone! I want one so badly. You have no idea. Engadget has a preliminary page up with information on the phone.

Update: Apple has changed their name from Apple Computers, Inc, to simply Apple, Inc — I guess this is to indicate that they make more than personal computers now.

Update: Engadget’s coverage of the event is really good. Now that the expo is over, the page loads much faster.

Update: MetaFilter discusses the iPhone.

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Apple's "It's Showtime" Event

   12 September 2006, early morning

Apple’s big iPod event of the year is happening today. There is lots of speculation as to what will be announced, but we won’t know for certain till 10:00 Pacific Time. I’m hoping for an iPhone or some such nonsense. Or something that is totally insane and unexpected. Chances are after today you’ll be able to buy 8 gig iPod nanos at the very least.

Update: As expected, we have fancier iPods, but nothing shocking was announced. You can buy movies through iTunes now, though DVDs seem like a better deal to me. Gizmodo has detailed coverage of the event.

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WWDC 2006

    8 August 2006, the wee hours

I spent the whole day with Shima and had a very lovely time. I had so nice a time in fact that I completely forget that the WWDC was taking place! I certainly missed a lot. Apple announced the Mac Pro, which is using Intel’s Xeon (64-bit) processor. Apple’s now moved their entire line over to Intel chips; the transition was much faster than I suspect most people thought it would be. Apple also announced some of the feature’s we’ll see in the upcoming version of Mac OS X (Leopard). Kottke’s got an open thread on the WWDC. He sounds less then impressed with what was announced for the next version of OS X. I would agree it is a bit lackluster, though some of the things announced look pretty cool: the remote desktop sharing with iChat, the new backup system, and the inline to-do stuff in Mail all seem pretty neat. If you are bored, or geeky, you can watch the Jobs’ keynote address in its entirity.

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MacBook

   17 May 2006, early morning

The MacBook was announced yesterday. The MacBook replaces the iBook as Apple’s consumer-level laptop computer; it is quite the replacement. The processors, memory, and bus are identical to those used by the iMac and the MacBook Pro. The two higher end models come with superdrives as well—though at this point in time that is hardly a big deal. Macworld has their first impressions of the MacBook online now. They are quite happy with the machine. Slashdot also wrote about the story yesterday; as always, some comments are better than others. Tyler noticed that the keyboards in the MacBooks look quite strange. Macintouch has started getting reports from its readers on the new MacBook. One thing that caught my eye was the fact the machines ship with those stupid glossy screens you see on PC laptops. Who thought a highly reflective monitor was a good idea? Probably someone in marketing.

Apple is only shipping 13” models of the MacBook at the moment; this may be one way in which they differentiate between the MacBooks and the MacBook pros. Many years ago, the iBooks were G3 laptops, and the Powerbooks were G4 laptops. However, by the time the iBooks and the Powerbooks were phased out, the things that differeniate the two models were superfluous at best. Shima’s G4 iBook is very similar to the 12” Powerbook, once you get past the build of the two machines. If Apple starts shipping 15” versions of the MacBook, I can see a lot of people opting for those rather than the MacBook Pros. My feeling is that Apple will use screen size as what separates the “Pro” models from the “Consumer” models.

Apple is shipping a computer that looks to pack a lot of punch; at $1099 the machines are also very cost effective. (And as with the other Intel Macs, you can run windows on this machines as well.) You (and by you I mean Tyler) should buy the machine and take it home right now.

Update: A cousin in Sydney pointed out that the new MacBooks don’t have dedicated video cards; they use Intel’s integrated video card, much like the Mac Minis.

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Apple Bootcamp

    6 April 2006, evening time

Windows running on a Mac is like Windows running on a PC. That means itll be subject to the same attacks that plague the Windows world. So be sure to keep it updated with the latest Microsoft Windows security fixes.

What the blood? Now, I am sure there are plenty of Mac users looking forward to playing all sorts of video games on thier Macs now; I can’t imagine another good reason to run Windows XP on a Mac. Apple’s stock jumped at the news this is going to be built into Mac OS X 10.5. Strange days lay ahead my friend.

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Intel iMac Notes: Photo Booth

   29 March 2006, the wee hours

Pictures I have taken with Photobooth.

I usually email Shima a picture of me from Photo Booth everyday. I don’t know anyone else with an iSight, so I don’t really have much use for the thing beyond mucking around in Photo Booth.

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New Mac Mini.

   28 February 2006, lunch time

There are two new Intel based Mac Minis available today one is a Intel Solo Core 1.5Ghz machine, the other is a Intel Dual Core 1.66Ghz machine.

Read the rest of this post. (451 words)

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Macworld January 2006

   10 January 2006, lunch time

I think Apple has a warehouse full of new Intel powered Macintosh computers. They have already developed Intel versions of all of their computer lines. The rumors were running wild with what would be announced at this expo. Apple more or less released the exact opposite of what people were expecting. Intel iBooks? You wish, we have MacBook Pros now. An Intel mini? No dice, we have new Intel iMacs. (Nevermind that the last revision of the iMac is something like 2 months old now.) It will be interesting to see just how fast these new machines are. The chips are all dual core (which is like having two different CPUs inside one chip) and each core is apparently faster than a G5.

MacRumors provided good coverage of the expo, as usual.

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Apple's Mystery Event

   12 October 2005, lunch time

Apple’s big mystery event is taking place as I type this. So far they have announced new iMacs, and a new Apple remote control, and new video playing iPods! Hot damn. Engadget has quasi live coverage happening. Apple apparently picked a venue with no WiFi or cellular coverage to host the event. I can picture a person running in and out of the building, waving flags to signal what has just been announced.

Update: Apple didn’t mess around with this pre-Christmas product announcement.

You can buy episodes of Lost at $2 a pop from Apple. Sweet Jesus I love Apple. Oh, Shima, you can buy Desperate Housewives too if you are so inclined. Prices are about the same as buying the show on DVD. With DVDs you have to wait till the end of the season; for your paitence you are rewarded with extra features. I think for many people, $2 televisions shows will be a worthwhile purchase. I’m not sure if it will make a dent with the bit torrent crowd though.

The new iMacs look really impressive. They cost the same as the old ones, which makes them more or less unfordable, but they are thinner and feature iSight cameras built in now—not too shabby. I think with the announcement of the Apple remote control and FrontRow, and television show downloads, Apple is trying to position them as alternatives to televisions. They’d definitely work well for kids in dorm rooms and the like, or people like myself.

The new iPod and the iTunes announcements are probably what most people will focus on. Apple has said they wouldn’t make a video iPod because they didn’t think there was any demand for people to watch movies on the go. I don’t like to watch a movie in disjoint chunks, but I know plenty of people who don’t care all that much. I suppose television, which is normally chopped up due to commercials, might be a better fit for video on the go. If the battery life on the new iPods remains as long as it is right now, these new iPods will be pretty slick beasts.

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Apple to Use Intel Microprocessors Beginning in 2006

    8 June 2005, late morning

Today, Apple put out a press release I never thought I would ever see: Apple to Use Intel Microprocessors Beginning in 2006. This is a big deal—but if you aren’t particularly geeky, you can stop reading now.

My first Macintosh was a Powerbook 5300cs, which ran on a PowerPC 603e. Apple had made a big switch from Motorola 68k chips to IBM PowerPC chips in the early 90s. Ars Technica has a great write up on the history of PowerPC chips at Apple for those who are interested in such things; the article also explains some of the advantages RISC machines have over CISC machines. Intel x86 computers are all classified as CISC machines. PowerPC based computers are all RISC machines. Intel and AMD are also basically the only compaines that still make CISC computers, as they went out of vogue in the 90s.

Back when I bought my Powerbook 5300cs, RISC chips were simpler, smaller, and more energy efficient than their CISC competitors. One big advantage RISC chips had over CISC chips was that the simple instruction set on RISC machines lent themselves to pipelining to speed up the processing of instruction. Pipelining involves having the processor work on several instructions at the same time.) Nowadays, the distinction between RISC and CISC chips is very subtle; modern Intel chips do things that were the domain of RISC chips alone several years back. For example, I think most modern CISC chips will break down a complex instruction into a series of smaller instructions suitable to be pipelined. In this way they behave very much like RISC chips. Mind you, I could be talking out of my ass here.

I’m not sure how Apple will spin the change. They have spent so many years touting the advantages of their hardware as well as their software over their competitors. Their hardware advantage hasn’t disappeared, but it certainly has diminished.

Update: I’ll post links to other sources of info as I find them.

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