eXtra Notes

Blue Apple

Graham K. Rogers

Unpublished ideas that are not going to make it into print

Previous note (1) can be found here.
Previous note (2) can be found here.

iPod ideas

The last few days have seen two iPod items worked almost to death by Mac news sources and commentators. The first concerns a further deveopment of the range and the second is about clumsy (at best) comments by Steve Ballmer, who locally is referred to as "ever-smiling" and "genial"

mini iPodThe iPods currently are in two groups: the normal iPod with a disk size up to 40GB, which has just been released in its fourth generation; and the mini iPod. With a selection of colours and its smaller physical size, this is proving to be extremely popular despite its relatively high price (around the same as the 15GB iPod) and the smaller 4GB capacity. To give you some idea of what this capacity actually means, I have 59 albums (plus a couple of odd tunes) on my iPod and these take up 3GB of space in the Apple AAC format. That is a pile of CDs 60cms (or just under 2 ft.) tall and would take a few hours over 2 days to play non-stop. I bought the iPod because I was particularly enamoured of its ability to double as a hard disk (temporary, in my opinion) and thus carry larger files than with a flash drive. I was happy to find it could also be made bootable.

What has excited all the information sources since this weekend is the rumour that a new flash player iPod, with a capacity of about 250MB, is to be made available. Although this story may have been false -- see the story from The Register (below) -- it sounds logical, sensible and another killer device from Apple. Based on a chipset from SigmaTel, the player would allegedly be available just before Xmas. The capacity would be about a hundred or more MP3 tunes as opposed to the several thousands that iPods can carry: some people do actually manage to fill these up. With the size of a credit card, it would take up even less room than the mini iPod which can slip into a shirt pocket, but would perhaps be a theft risk.

a pair of iPods

The Register, came up with a story that would seem to contradict this idea with the point that SigmaTel, who were allegedly to produce the chip, had announced a deal with Rio, a copany that makes an MP3 player that is fixed firmly in the Windows market. The register adds "There's nothing to indicate that the deal with Rio is exclusive, so it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that Apple might partner with SigmaTel" adding that Apple does this with other products.

I would love for this rumor to be true as it would obviously open up a whole new market for Apple and bring back the kids.

What has upset all the informed sources since this weekend is the story that Steve Ballmer has called us all tea leaves, with the comment that "The most common format of music on an iPod is 'stolen". This was in praise of the DRM used on Windows systems that they are working on to make even more secure and ignores the point that most file-sharing (hence music-sharing) software is firmly Windows based.

I am not unusual as far as iPod owners go and there are three groups of files on my iPod: the largest is music that I have legitimately copied from CDs that I have purchased over the last 20 or more years; the second consists of a few files that have been made avialable free online by those who have created the music; then there are a few files I have made myself with software that converts printed text into spoken files.

With that first group, I am now finding that I have begun to buy music for the first time in a while to bring my collection up to date and fill up all that iPod space. Rather than decrease sales, in my case (and I am sure I am not alone), sales are actually increasing; and if I cannot find the albums I want in Bangkok shops, I have begun to buy from online shops. HMV (and in case you had forgoten that is short for His Master's Voice) for example has a fair selection, accepts my credit card and mails me the CD within a few days. Some companies will not accept overseas orders.

The second group is going to increase, especially with a wider use of GarageBand. When someone like me can produce a tune with a fine backing, even if the tune itself has no artistic quality, then a whole load more people who do have talent will be rolling their own. The third group may also increase as the iPod market widens. The judge in the Apple v Apple case in Britain, perhaps trying to recuse himsellf, confessed early on that he was an iPod owner; and I know several people who listen to reports and documenents while in the car. The tape and the CD are widespread media, but there is no reason why the iPod could not take that place.

Ballmer, whom I have heard referred to as "Caligula" (perhaps being horribly unfair to that Roman Emperor), seems to be just one of a growing chorus who just hates to see Apple products holding centre stage again. Time and time again over the last few years, there has almost been a gasp with each product annoucement: iMac range (particularly the latest), G5, Cinema Displays, Xservers (with a licensing scheme that shames Microsoft), iPods, and all that software: OSX, Safari (have you looked at IE lately), Final Cut Pro, iTunes, Keynote, and a host of other applications, many of which come installed, so that the Mac is ready to go, out of the box.

And with each improvement, announcement or update, the voices are raised against anything Apple, particularly the three myths: price, availability and compatibility. Would you trust all your critical business data and operations to some box with suspect parts and an operating system that has a less than stellar track record? The answer, in many cases is, unfortunately, Yes.

On another iPod note, some companies are trying to get involved with Apple rather than dumping on them. Panasonic apparently let slip that it was developing an in-car iPod connector in an email replying to a user's query on a device, which had the "same features listed at Pioneer's DEH-P8MP product page". Howeverthere was one other feature noted. It was said to be "iPod™ Adapter Ready: Not only is it built with downloaded music in mind but this deck will also work the Pioneer iPod™ Adapter (CD-IB100) we will be introducing this spring..." We look forward to that.

While Pioneer is expanding such contact with Apple (albeit very much in the consumer area), Samsung has decided that, in future, its printers will not be compatible with OSX: too difficult, they cry. Apple keeps updating OSX and we cannnot keep up with the pace.

I found this on the Apple discussion areas months ago and it has just been sitting in a text file waiting for me to use it. I had a real laugh when I first looked at it and hope that others do too. Whoever JD1 is, thanks.

sec. update packageOn a more serious note, the latest Security Update, 2004-09-30, was made available at the beginning of October. This went on smoothly as usual: I always repair permissions before and after any such installation.

Expected reasonably soon is anothr update for Panther: this one will be 10.3.6 and may well be another quite large download. It has already gone through some of the stages of testing by the Developer community which suggests the date is approaching. We not only have this upgrade (and maybe others) to look forward to, but next year sometime is a complete upgrade to OSX, from Panther to Tiger. By the time Longhorn is produced, OSX will be long in the tooth.

Back to the G5 iMacs. These were announced last week in Bangkok, having been on sale everywhere else for a week or more, with a presentation in the EGV Gold Class cinema -- it is so well-cooled in there that the patrons are provided blankets and socks. It was delightful to at last get one's hands on these machines. I know several people, non-Mac users included, who have put this on the "must have" list.

G5What was one of the most interesting points was finally finding out the retail price. There are three models and the prices are shown in brackets: 1.6GHz, 17", 80GB HD, Combo drive (60,600 baht); 1.8GHz, 17", 80GB HD, Superdrive (67,600 baht); 1.8GHz, 20", 160GB HD, Superdrive (86,500 baht).

In Australia, sales have taken off and a commentator for Australian IT wondered if this were a sign of things to come: "Windows desktop stranglehold slipping: There are a few straws blowing in an increasingly strong wind for Apple Computer." In the article he made mention of a customer who went in for an iPod and came out with four G5 iMacs (one for him and one for each of his children). Forbes is suggesting that a .5% increase in market share is feasible. If Apple is able to limp along with 2% market share, I guess that extra half per cent will help a little. We seem to forget that the market is several times larger than it was in the mid-1980s and early-1990s.

Some sites, including the Thai Government website cannot be opened unless, according to the page displayed, one uses Internet Explorer 6. As IE stopped development at 5.2.2, it would seem that OSX users are out of luck. As there is no IE for Linux, those guys who bought the computers under the government scheme are really in trouble.

web agentsI do wish web developers would do the job properly and stick to World Wide Web Consortium standards instead of taking short-cuts and using page creation software that favours one OS only: a standard should apply to all. It is a form of laziness borne of rep;liance on page developing software, particularly that software develpoed by Redmond. Of course it works with IE: the job is done quickly annd he boss is happy. Help is at hand. For Safari users there are two applications (see below) that will assist by adding a "debug" menu to Safari.

By selecting this menu and choosing the item "User Agent" close to the bottom, one has a selection with which to convince the relevant web-pages that you really are using that browser. If you select the IE 5.22 (sic) setting it will still not let you see the page, so IE6 it must be.

For those using OmniWeb 4.5, it is possible to change the settings to allow the site to recognise OmniWeb as IE6 compatible. In Preferences, choose Compatability in the "Advanced" section and there is a button close to the top of the panel.

OmniWeb 5 is a little harder and needs selection of the Page Preferences (rather than "Preferences" per se). A half-panel opens and the right half of the top button allows access to the relevant selector.

I have been unable to find a similar spoof for Firefox 0.8 at this stage.

The two applications that can be used to fix Safari are from TinkerTools (or this alternative site), and Safari debugger 2.8 which is a small download from VersionTracker.

I put this iformation on the Help file I maintain on the website.

All materials ©copyright G.K. Rogers. Free for individual use.

Other links:

Bangkok Post, Database
Mac Center: Thailand
OSX Faq Mac Dr Smoke's X Lab Site George Mann
Applelinks MacNightOwl MacNightOwl

Phuket Mac User Group

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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