January 2003

Friday, January 31, 2003

For hire [ 10:34 PM ]

By the way, I've resigned my position at the Department of Justice and will be available for work as of February 13. Here is my r�sum�, which is always in a constant state of betinkerment.

Still more on Max; now playing in Ottawa [ 10:30 PM ]

The Ottawa Citizen's Jay Stone reviews Max, which is now playing at the World Exchange. I'll try to see it this weekend. (see previous entry)

Thursday, January 30, 2003

An update on Blogger Pro and Safari [ 11:34 PM ]

I submitted Safari compatibility as a feature request for Blogger Pro (see previous entry); they've replied, saying that, Hyatt's blog entry notwithstanding, there is a bug with Safari. Essentially, the "Post" button does not work (the "Post & Publish" button, however, does). There is a workaround for those who insist on using Safari: just append "&anybrowser=true" at the end of the URL string, though the "Post" button still will not work. Apparently, these have been fixed in more recent (and internal) Safari beta builds.

Undelivered Letters [ 11:29 PM ]

My mother reports that Judy's book is out. I'd heard about this project for years as she worked on it; now I'm looking forward to reading it at last.

Winnipeg police accused of beating suspect [ 11:22 PM ]

Are Winnipeg police at it again? If I remember correctly, charging someone with assaulting police is a tactic used against people who might file a complaint against the officers for assaulting them. For background, I recommend Gordon Sinclair's Cowboys and Indians: The Shooting of J. J. Harper, which is thorough but hardly neutral (then again, neither was I at the time — and I agreed with Sinclair).

Irish road signs [ 8:37 PM ]

Ireland's road signs are apparently notorious for getting travellers lost, but the Irish government has announced that it will finally do something about it. (posted to MetaFilter)

InDesign to Quark conversions might actually make sense [ 4:15 PM ]

On the desktop publishing front, Mac OS Prose is perplexed:

the popular QuarkXPress plug-in and pre-press software company, Markzware, has released an application that allows you to convert your InDesign documents TO QuarkXPress documents. Given that Quark [...] still hasn't created an Mac OS X native version of their QuarkXPress DTP application, despite over 2 years of advance notice, shouldn't this conversion be the other way around?

Not necessarily. I'm no expert on the desktop publishing field, but this might be for printing companies that (still have to) use Quark but whose impatient, OS X-using clients have switched to InDesign: it prevents them from losing business. (Note Mac OS Prose's new URL, by the way.)

IE runs Xupiter, 'cuz it's more stupider [ 9:06 AM ]

If you're using Internet Explorer on Windows, make sure you're not also running Xupiter.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

MOO III [ 8:48 PM ]

Well, how about that. Master of Orion III will run on my iBook. That's refreshing. See also the profile of MOO III at apple.com. (via Inside Mac Games)

The thin edge of the wedge [ 5:07 PM ]

"The Government is, quite simply, using September 11 as an excuse for new collections and uses of personal information about all of us Canadians that cannot be justified by the requirements of anti-terrorism and that, indeed, have no place in a free and democratic society." Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski's Annual Report to Parliament (Globe and Mail coverage).

Safari shutdown [ 4:34 PM ]

Speaking of Safari, I'm noticing that after a period of time it stops being able to load any pages. It's specific to Safari: opening pages with other browsers, and other network apps, continued to work; and restarting Safari solves the problem. First noticed last night. I was wondering whether it had anything to do with moving the ADSL/AirPort network over to Jennifer's place yesterday; the fact that latency is up all over the web, with sites periodically unavailable or slow or down altogether, and streaming video surprisingly choppy, also has to be taken into account and makes a diagnosis harder.

.Mac address book finally operational [ 4:28 PM ]

.Mac address book synchronization is finally working after a delay; it was supposed to be released on January 7 (via MacSlash and MacMinute). The upshot of this is that the same address book data that appears in OS X's Address Book and that can be synced to a cellphone, Palm or iPod (or another Mac over .Mac servers) via iSync now also appears in the .Mac webmail address book. This means that the data can be accessed and edited on any Internet-connected computer, not just a Mac with which you've synced your data up. Useful for when you're stuck on a PC at work. So far so good, though I haven't synced the data yet. It does odd but hopefully non-catastrophic things with third-party instant messenger contact data, but that's all I've noticed so far. Will keep you posted.

What's next for .Mac? Some people think you should be able to sync your Safari bookmarks across multiple machines as well. Not a bad idea . . .

My DVD Library [ 4:06 PM ]

Aaron points me to a little program called My DVD Library, which allows you to generate a simple database of your DVDs, and export a list in text, CSV or HTML format. Here is my DVD collection; being able to save files directly to my iDisk means that posting to the web is a one-step process. This program is limited and a little disappointing because it tracks so little data. While tracking who's borrowed a given DVD is useful, I'm indifferent to ratings and tracking the region code is almost completely pointless — as though the programmer couldn't think up anything else to add. But cinephiles would want fields for year of release, director, and actors; DVD aficionados might want fields for sound (e.g., Dolby Digital 5.1), video (widescreen vs. fullscreen), disc layering, or the presence or absence of features. There should be as many fields for DVDs as there are ID3 tags for MP3 files. And there should be a search function. Until then, this program isn't nearly as useful as it could have been. But what the hell, it's simple donationware.

Welcome to the party, Alex [ 7:25 AM ]

Complaining about QuickTime Pro popups and having to pay for .Mac: these issues are so dated that it's clear that Alex Salkever has no idea what he's talking about. Columnists do their readers a disservice when their readers are likely to know much more about the subject than they do, but that hasn't stopped some of them from shooting off their mouths. Thanks for showing up, guy. (via MyAppleMenu)

Monday, January 27, 2003

Mac rumour sites and their sources [ 11:57 PM ]

Three new Mac rumour sites have sprung up in the last few months, of which MacWhispers appears the strongest; LoopRumors and macnews.net.tc mostly reiterate what other sites publish first. But MacWhispers notes that much of what passes for rumors reporting is guesswork and extrapolation; real insider dirt

is the holy grail of the rumor business: having someone send an email or give a telephone call and just hand over perfectly credible inside information about Apple workings. The reality is that this simply does not happen. Ever. And, while some well-known rumor sites gently (or blatantly) make claims of having "insider" sources at Apple, again, that just doesn't happen. No sane adult with an insider job with Apple Computer is going to risk their career to help an internet rumor site make an early product announcement.

Remember that it's in a rumour site's interest to act as though they have privileged access to inside sources, and that they're trolling for page (and ad) views. Mac rumour sites are the pornography of the Mac web: they whore relentlessly and unashamedly for something we all desperately want.

Update: Speaking of whoring. Damien questions the motives and background of the people behind MacWhispers: he believes it's a way to draw rumour-hungry traffic to pages heavy with ads for their own products. All the more reason for caveat lector.

Apple word processor? [ 11:46 PM ]

The existence of Keynote leads many Mac pundits to conclude that other office apps will be forthcoming from Apple. MacWhispers (more on which in a moment) obliges with a rumour about an app they say is called Document, which has set off all kinds of speculation, like a wish for CVS-like changelogs. The lack of a Cocoa-based word processor fuels the imagination, as pundits try to imagine Aqua features on a word processor: Low End Mac's Dan Knight, for example, wishes for a slider to change the zoom in text-based programs like Safari or AppleWorks; it looks like something of the sort will be built into the OS X version of Nisus Writer.

Undercover Brother [ 8:27 PM ]

Matt's praise of Undercover Brother (Amazon, trailer) helped Jen and I decide to rent it last night. It's a very funny, unambitious, low-budget film; great for renting when you're in need of a little silliness, though slight enough that I wouldn't buy it.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

CUPE vs. library porn [ 7:47 PM ]

CUPE wants the Ottawa Public Library to prevent users from accessing pornography on its public Internet terminals; the library board, which is partly comprised of city councillors, is firmly defending a no-censorship policy (except for illegal material). Particularly telling is this comment from Coun. Rick Chiarelli: "Taxpayers can't pay for parenting at libraries. . . . In today's legal environment, you can't do more than that [discourage them] with someone else's child." CUPE is responding to grievances filed by library employees who find themselves exposed to smutty web pages left open by prevert web surfers.

A restaurant critic and her anorexic daughter [ 5:33 PM ]

"My daughter can't be bulimic. I don't diet. We don't talk about calories or fat or weight loss. Much of our family life centres around food. Look at my job as a restaurant critic!" Joanne Kates is the restaurant critic for the Globe and Mail; her daughter suffered from anorexia. Today, the Globe published their story in their own words. Irony aside, this is powerful, insightful stuff. (posted to MetaFilter)

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Tortugero [ 6:28 PM ]

Costa Rica takes green turtle conservation very seriously.

Microsoft checkmated by Apple? [ 11:12 AM ]

John Martellaro makes an interesting argument about how Microsoft could respond if Apple released a suite of applications equivalent to Office, as Keynote suggests they might. (Update: See David Zeiler's piece on the subject in the Baltimore Sun.) In Martellaro's view, Microsoft can't simply cancel Office for OS X because (a) it would immediately generate an antitrust suit, making Microsoft look bad; and (b) it would be portrayed by the media as a defeat, as Microsoft retreated from a once-lucrative market in the face of real competition (for a change). Instead, their only choice would be to work on a better version of Office and reduce its price — to become more competitive, in other words. While I'm not privy to the decision-making going on in Redmond, this at least has the ring of sense about it: Microsoft is nothing if not competitive, and while dirty tricks are certainly in their arsenal, they're not their first and only resort. (via MyAppleMenu)

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Book review: It's Been a Good Life, by Isaac Asimov [ 12:11 PM ]

It's Been a Good Life, by Isaac Asimov. Edited by Janet Jeppson Asimov. Prometheus Books, 2002. Hardcover, 309 pp. ISBN 1573929689

This compression of Isaac Asimov's earlier autobiographical works will principally be remembered as the book that announced to the world that Asimov died of AIDS (see previous entry). But as a one-volume summary of his life, It's Been a Good Life enjoys only mixed success.

This book both benefits and suffers from its source material: the best chapters are those on Asimov's early life and career, and were extracted from his first volume of autobiography, In Memory Yet Green, which was strongly narrative and, as a result, stronger; the second volume, In Joy Still Felt, was more anecdotal and quotidian, as Asimov settled into the routine of a workaholic full-time writer, and as a result yielded less insightful material to excerpt.

Like Asimov's third autobiography, I. Asimov: A Memoir, and his collection of letters, Yours, Isaac Asimov, the chapters are topical. While some chapters are solid, others are quite thin: the chapters that simply collect anecdotes, especially the funny ones, are particularly light and could have been dispensed with. For example, Chapter 26, "The Bible", includes a couple of anecdotes related to Asimov's Guide to the Bible, neither of which are particularly illuminating, and could have been folded, along with the chapter on humanism, into a longer chapter on religion and unbelief. I would have preferred fewer, longer chapters that went into more depth. Substantial introductory and connective material to piece Asimov's own work together would have strengthened the book; instead, we're given passages that sometimes look like they were excerpted, word by word, with a razor blade.

On a more mundane level, the proofreading is sometimes surprisingly bad, with several misspelled authors' names and even one book title ("I, Robert"?!?) — just the sort of thing that Isaac would have found bothersome.

Ottawa police: God's gift to women [ 12:10 PM ]

Ottawa police officers have been fired for making lewd comments to women making complaints and convicted for slamming a woman's head against a car. We don't need a situation where women will think to themselves, "Whatever you do, don't call the police!"

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Blank media levy update [ 12:43 PM ]

I've been meaning to link to Richard's report on the blank media levy. Rather than implementing the proposed higher levies (see previous entries: 1, 2), the pre-existing, lower levies have apparently been extended to allow public consultation to take place in the meantime. Hearings were due to begin today.

Yosemite Matt [ 12:38 PM ]

Matt visited Yosemite last week — during the off-season, during the week, when it was all but deserted — and got to work on his photographic technique. Reminds me that I'm overdue on posting some mountain photos of my own.

Women (not) having sex [ 12:30 PM ]

Today's women are increasingly busy and are therefore (a) in the case of students, having more sex but outside formal relationships (via Moon Farmer); or (b) having less sex altogether (via Eatonweb). Lesson: Never, ever generalize.

The cost of Office [ 12:25 PM ]

Brig is confused by the following:

  • Cost of a Dell PC pre-loaded with Office XP Standard: US$577.
  • Cost of Office XP Standard without a PC: US$407.

How much, in other words, is hardware implicitly worth nowadays? (via Kottke)

More Max [ 12:14 PM ]

Here's a piece in the Ottawa Citizen on Max (specifically, on Noah Taylor, who plays A.H.), which opens here on Friday, though I don't yet know where. (see previous entries: 1, 2, 3)

Tarnished diamonds [ 12:09 PM ]

Don't miss Anil's brilliant rant against the tarnished diamond industry. (see previous entry)

Monday, January 20, 2003

Henry Morgentaler, OC? [ 10:23 PM ]

The Globe and Mail's Heather Mallick asks a question that will be quite provocative in some circles: why hasn't Henry Morgentaler been given the Order of Canada? I must confess that the question never occurred to me, but then I don't think nearly as much about the Order of Canada as some apparently do. I think the answer to the question can be summed up in two words: political plutonium. (Not that the Order of Canada is supposed to be political . . . )

Friday, January 17, 2003

ifconfig en1 mtu 1454, part 2 [ 6:19 PM ]

Every time I reboot my Mac � which is about every 20 days or so � I have to open up the Terminal and enter a single line to reconfigure the MTU settings, so that my Internet connections will work properly (see previous entry). But I've long wondered how to automate that process at startup. Mac OS X Hints has an answer.

Wildlife Centre may reopen [ 5:53 PM ]

Talks are underway to reopen the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre, which shut down late last year after its funding was cut and it got into a tussle with the Ministry of Natural Resources (see previous entries: 1, 2). The Ministry is open to restoring the Centre's revoked authorization; at the same time, it's defending its policy regarding rabies-vector animals, and rather effectively too, if you ask me.

Max review in Globe and Mail [ 5:49 PM ]

Max has been reviewed in the Globe and Mail, and the review of this unusual biographical film about Hitler in 1918 is mixed, but there's as yet no sign that it will be playing Ottawa any time soon. (see previous entries: 1, 2)

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Teach kids; get arrested and sued [ 5:15 PM ]

How I Joined Teach for America�and Got Sued for $20 Million. An idealistic Yale grad signs up for Teach for America, teaches for a year at an inner-city Washington, D.C. school, and ends up facing unruly students, an apathetic school administration, and a lawsuit and assault charges, of which he was later acquitted. Idealism, suffering its usual fate. (via Moon Farmer)

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Female bullying [ 12:55 PM ]

A psychology professor is studying the nature of female bullying. While this sort of thing may be patently obvious to anyone who experienced it (Update: or witnessed it — Jennifer, who is a teacher, responded thusly: "well, duh!") and researchers can sometimes sound profoundly clueless — cold, dispassionate — about the subject, gathering the data and trying to make sense of it can only be a good thing.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Grade inflation in Ontario high schools [ 5:36 PM ]

That there is grade inflation comes as no surprise. The effects of high schools boosting their students' marks so that they can get into university is something I first witnessed as a teaching assistant at the University of Waterloo in 1994. I was giving Ds and Fs to students who needed (and presumably got) a high-school average over 80 per cent to get in. (We knew all about grade inflation.) According to the article, it's largely an Ontario phenomenon: universities consider Ontario students a few points weaker than students from other provinces with equivalent marks. The problem is that as universities raise the entrance requirements, high school students' marks will rise apace, simply because high schools do not want to deny them the chance of attending university. Only when entrance marks are less of an issue because of more spaces or a different means of evaluating applicants (which means something labour-intensive, or standardized exams — look out!) will this change.

Reptile expo in Ottawa [ 12:20 PM ]

Chris Maidens writes that he's organizing the "Ottawa Alternative Pet Expo", to be held on Saturday, April 5, 2003. There have been rumblings for years from people who wanted an Ottawa reptile sale; now they've got it. I can't be anything but happy about it; I've still got plenty of snakes for sale, but for various reasons I have to miss the next two reptile shows in Toronto (February and May) — and besides, travelling to the Toronto show imposes a hefty surcharge that I wouldn't have to face in Ottawa. The only catch is that it's the same weekend as the Wildlife Festival, which will make for some interesting organizational contortions.

Sharpies damage CD-Rs? I'm skeptical [ 12:13 PM ]

Somehow I think that if Sharpie pens damaged CD-Rs, we would have heard about it before now. I'm skeptical. (At the same time, I'm looking sidelong at some of my Sharpie-labelled CD-R archives . . . )

Apple blinked, made last-minute decision to offer free iApps [ 12:10 PM ]

Think Secret reports that Steve Jobs made a last-minute decision to offer iPhoto 2 and iMovie 3 for free download, rather than make them available only via the US$49 iLife software bundle (with iDVD 3). This was in response to the negative feedback received after the news of the for-pay bundle leaked days before Macworld (see previous entry). Might it have been a mistake? Apple foregoes potential revenue. But the response to paying for the iApps was far less unanimously negative than it had been for .Mac; at the same time, since the iApps aren't an ongoing expense the way the iTools/.Mac servers have been, Apple may well have been able to be generous in this case. In the end, it may simply be the case that Jobs wanted a unanimously upbeat keynote; had there been a US$49 charge for iLife, that would have been the focus of discussion, as people fought over whether the new features were worth it. Offering them for free simply allowed them to pass more-or-less unnoticed while we all drooled over Safari, the new PowerBooks and, to a lesser extent, Keynote.

(Update, Jan. 30: See John Moltz's take on this subject.)

Monday, January 13, 2003

Discontented about downtown Ottawa [ 8:58 PM ]

Ottawa City Council has ended the moratorium on commercial building permit fees, which has turned out to be a controversial decision: my MP believes it will adversely affect the economic vitality of the downtown. Actually, this is a non-issue insofar as the downtown economy is concerned. The problem is the federal government's policy of locating its offices downtown, which skews the downtown economy by shoveling thousands of civil servants at it. The downtown economy has adapted to serve those civil servants, which means that many shops are closed on weekends, restaurants live off the lunch crowd and close early, and, if you can believe it, there is a coffee shop near my apartment that closes at 5 p.m. What the downtown economy needs is non-governmental commercial development, and for that to happen, the feds are going to have to spread out its offices a bit more — more campuses like Tunney's Pasture, in other words — to give non-governmental downtown development a chance. Nothing is being built north of Albert and Slater that isn't office space, a trend which makes for a rather desolate neighbourhood — if you can call it that — after dark.

Current reading [ 7:51 PM ]

Current reading: Cory Doctorow, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which is also available as a free download (I'm reading it in Palm Reader format) for maximum buzz and Whuffie; and Ben Yagoda, About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Safari redux; responses to Kottke [ 10:51 AM ]

Responses to Jason Kottke's post advocating the integration of Safari with web services apps (see previous entry) are generally negative. Here's John Gruber taking Kottke seriously, but arguing that instead of Safari integrating other applications, other applications should be using Safari's KHTML-based WebCore framework — and other Cocoa apps should be able to use that framework easily to render their HTML. (More by Gruber on WebCore; his Safari coverage is the most useful, comprehensive and accessible I've yet seen.) And here's Dennis Mahoney's somewhat more frivolous response, which tries to hit closer to home.

Meanwhile, Apple released another Safari build on Friday. Frenzied activity all over the place.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Billy Van, 68 [ 12:10 PM ]

Canadian character actor Billy Van (Evera), who, among other things, played damn near every character on The Hilarious House of Frightenstein (see previous entry), has died of cancer aged 68. See also coverage at Boing Boing and CBC News Online.

Why can't I post to Blogger Pro with Safari? [ 8:11 AM ]

Dave Hyatt, who is on the Safari development team (he also started Chimera, back in the day), says there is no good reason for Blogger Pro to block Safari. Pass it on; this should be circulated widely. (Incidentally, Hyatt is using his blog to respond to blogged questions and bug reports, and is dealing with them one at a time. Interesting stuff.)

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Kottke on Safari [ 10:22 AM ]

Jason Kottke thinks that Apple should be really innovative and integrate web services applications (like Sherlock and NetNewsWire) with Safari, thereby putting all web applications under one roof. It's hands-down the most imaginative response to Safari that I've yet seen. And check out the comments for additional insights — for example, that there's something to be said for the Unix approach of single, small apps that do one thing and do it well.

If you ask me, the best approach would be something in the middle, taken from the approach Apple has taken with its new iApps: separate applications that talk to each other. You get that already whenever you open a browser window from a web services app; are there other ways, I wonder, of creating links between these apps?

Obsessing about Power Mac fan noise [ 10:12 AM ]

Okay, there's complaining, and then there's obsessing just a wee bit too much about the problem. From what I've gathered, the new(ish) "Mirrored Drive Door" Power Mac G4s have louder fans than their predecessors, but (1) they're still quieter than, say, an Athlon or Pentium 4 rig, and (2) the fans have variable timing under OS X, and are, as a result, louder under OS 9. It's fair to be unhappy about it, but this is just exquisitely weird. (via Gizmodo)

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Zeldman on Safari [ 9:57 PM ]

More reaction to Safari, this time from web guru Jeffrey Zeldman. (via MyAppleMenu)

Leaky pipes and basement waterfalls [ 9:52 PM ]

It's the sort of thing that would agitate me if I hadn't already given notice that I'll be moving out of the apartment (at the end of February). For the past three evenings, a mini-waterfall of sorts has manifested itself in a hallway outside my apartment, near enough for me to hear it, but far enough that it won't damage my own apartment, at least not any time soon (the brick wall in the way might also have something to do with that). I found out Monday night that it was a problem with the sink in the apartment above (probably the same apartment containing the large and noisy dog). What surprises me is that they haven't yet fixed it; there's water damage on the adjacent drywall and that's only going to get worse. Oh well, I'll be leaving soon enough.

Tabbed browsing [ 6:01 PM ]

Here's the petition asking for tabbed browsing in Safari that I referred to in my last post (via MacMinute). Anyone else thinking that this is the mirror image of Classic Finder advocates complaining about the OS X Finder, except that now it's the Mozilla advocates (the "Unix switchers", if you will), who had no patience for the OS 9 Finder, who are doing the complaining? Must cogitate this further.

Macworld software [ 5:00 PM ]

Herewith the first part of my belated Macworld keynote post. I'm going to have to split it into two parts because there's just too much stuff to talk about, and I'd like to do more than simply read off a list of product announcements without taking two weeks to do so. In a nutshell, there was plenty to be had, in terms of software (a new mid-range video editor, new iApps, a new browser and new presentation software), hardware (new 17-inch and 12-inch PowerBooks, AirPort Extreme (802.11g), and 800 Mbps FireWire), and outerwear. First, software.

Most of the web commentary about the keynote has so far been spent on Safari, Apple's new, KHTML-based browser. Which makes sense when you consider that a sizeable percentage of webloggers and other commentators are themselves web designers (and there was much geekish critiquing of the HTML rendering engine).

Most observers are surprised that Apple went with the Konqueror code base rather than the better known Mozilla/Chimera; it appears that that the higher speed and fewer lines of code of KHTML won out � besides, Chimera wasn't even on the radar when the Safari project began a year ago. The impact of this choice is immediately apparent: Safari is only a 3 MB download and it's bloody fast. I really noticed this when I clicked on the Back button � cache access is damn near immediate. The UI is lovely, and its bookmark management is pleasantly different. While it's pretty good, it is a beta: Page rendering isn't 100 per cent perfect (but no browser is), and there are some quibbles both from a user-interface perspective and a developer perspective.

The big one that all the über-geeks weaned on Mozilla are complaining about is Safari's lack of tabbed browsing. (There is already a petition, apparently.) Tabbed browsing is very popular among hardcore web users, but remember that the web-using public mostly uses IE, which has never used tabbed browsing. Besides, tabbed browsing was awfully slow in the two browsers I used that had it (Mozilla and Chimera), whereas the windows opened and closed much more quickly under Safari. I must confess that I simply do not care whether I use windows or tabs, so long as the method is quick and responsive. Safari's is. Chimera's is sluggish, and Mozilla's is a snail.

In any event, IE users will be amazed. As you might have guessed, I'm liking it so far. I can live with the rendering foibles (text renders smaller, which for me is actually an improvement), and most sites load properly. Except that I can't use Blogger Pro with it, though; the site locks me out. (Get on it, Evan.)

Some reactions to Safari on the web:

Now for the other apps. Final Cut Express is a stripped-down version of Final Cut Pro that sells for US$299 (C$449) instead of US$999 (C$1,599). I don't know anything about Final Cut so I can't tell the difference between the two, but this looks rather like the case with Adobe Photoshop Elements vs. Photoshop proper, where only the professional need-to-have features have been removed. Final Cut Express looks like it would be of interest to someone who is undertaking a serious or semipro project that would otherwise have been done in iMovie. It might also be seen as an Adobe Premiere killer.

The rumours weren't quite right about the upgraded iApps (see previous entry): the bundled package is being sold for US$49 (C$75), but everything except iDVD 3 will be available for download as of January 25. iPhoto 2 adds new editing and retouching tools and archiving features; iMovie 3 offers a new interface, a really new method of handling still images (which they're dubbing "the Ken Burns effect") and new audio features and, with iDVD 3, chapter/scene markers (this is one I'd been hoping for); and iDVD adds a whole pile of new themes. There is also increased integration between these apps (along with iTunes 3, which was released last July), which means things like better exporting of photo albums and movies to iDVD, or accessing the iTunes library and playlists for iPhoto slideshows, iMovie soundtracks, or iDVD menus. I had been anticipating some .Mac-only features as well, but .Mac rated scarcely a mention in this keynote.

Keynote is the other application that everyone thinks is bound to piss off Microsoft. If a competitor to Internet Explorer wasn't bad enough, here comes something to take a swing at PowerPoint. (And note that Entourage — the Outlook Express equivalent for the Mac — is being challenged by the combination of Mail.app, Address Book, iCal and iSync.) As it turns out, Jobs used early builds of Keynote for all his presentations last year (so that's what he was using — I was wondering). The implications for an eventual Apple-branded suite of productivity apps is clear enough, but this presentation software, which takes full advantage of Quartz, seems best able to make use of the Mac's traditional strength in graphics. I have an interest in presentation software like this (for reptile talks); I've used PowerPoint often enough to appreciate what this new app is bringing to the table, and I think it deserves much more attention than it's been getting. (Here's another look at Keynote.) It looks impressive enough that I'll probably buy it (US$99/C$159).

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Matt's slow TiBook [ 9:24 AM ]

Matt finds his 400-MHz Titanium PowerBook G4 "atrociously slow", particularly in comparison with his 1.7-GHz work PC. Now let's be fair: that 400-MHz PowerBook is a two-year-old design; it was first announced in January 2001 (though it was sold until October of that year). In January 2001 there were no 1.7-GHz PCs and certainly no 1.7-GHz laptops. The problem isn't that Apple's hardware sucks (that's subjective), it's that a two-year-old laptop doesn't run as fast as a more modern desktop � leaving aside for the moment the very real speed differences between Macs and PCs, or the slower hard drives used by laptops. Even a US$1,299 800-MHz iBook might be more satisfactory. I wonder, though, if he's maxed out his RAM, since more RAM definitely helps in OS X � I've got 384 MB installed in my iBook and it's not enough, particularly when using memory pigs like iPhoto and Word.

William Gibson, blogger [ 9:13 AM ]

SF author William Gibson has a weblog. (via Boing Boing)

Ankylosed [ 9:11 AM ]

The disease has been running roughshod over me lately; the intermittent posts to this weblog are perhaps the least significant side effect of that. The past few months — and December in particular — have been tougher than usual, which makes me wonder whether it's getting progressively worse after over five years of enduring it reasonably well. Not a pleasant thought. I'm away home again today, incidentally.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

Upgrades to iDVD, iMovie and iPhoto [ 9:57 AM ]

CNet and Think Secret are reporting that upgrades to iMovie, iDVD and iPhoto will be bundled as a package and sold for something like US$49. The Mac discussion boards, as you might have guessed, are buzzing. Some are arguing that Apple is screwing its loyal customers. Apple might argue (at least privately) that its loyal customers have been screwing it, by not buying new computers. It's easy to offer free iTools and iApps when you're selling 1.3 million computers per quarter, less so when you're selling half as many. If people are buying half as many computers as they used to, Apple has to come up with revenue from somewhere. And, if the iApps were supposed to encourage people to buy a new Mac, what's the advantage of offering free upgrades to people who bought a computer three or four years ago? The new versions will be bundled with new Macs; people who already own Macs will pay a nominal fee for an upgrade. And I do mean nominal. US$49 for three apps is nothing, compared with the cost to register useful (but less functional) shareware: US$30 for GraphicConverter; US$29 for Watson. In the end, all of this will depend on what new features are introduced; if there's good stuff to be had, the complaints will be few (and my sense is that the complaints are already fewer than when .Mac hit last July).

Friday, January 03, 2003

Slashdot is worthless [ 12:57 PM ]

Slashdot is worthless, says Rafe Colbourn, referring to the comments (via Anil's Daily Links). After seeing story after story where people complain about the same thing over and over again, and go wildly off-topic, I'm inclined to agree. The juvenilia outweigh the useful comments, even if the juvenilia are modded down; at least there are some useful comments tucked away here and there (which is more than, say, MacNN can say).

"Hobbiest" [ 12:45 PM ]

It's a given that reptile keepers can't spell. Ads are "adds" and hobbyists are "hobbiests". But reptile keepers certainly aren't alone; in fact, Google counts around 15,000 pages containing the misspelled word "hobbiest". There's really no excuse for this; unlike "add" vs. "ad" and "it's" vs. "its" (don't get me started!), "hobbiest" isn't a word that is spelled wrong in a certain context, it's spelled wrong, full stop. There are spellcheckers for this sort of thing (which wouldn't catch "add" vs. "ad"), but in at least 15,000 cases, people didn't use them or didn't care. And in some cases this occurs on professional web sites — or "web sights", in some cases, and I'm not kidding. Phonetic spelling everywhere. Yoiks.