Tag Archives: Mac

MacBook Pro with Retina Display: Retina on Retina

Screenshot of Aperture on Retina Mac display...you can see me reflected in the doggie's eye.

This mini-review on the Sun-Times site amounts to an outline of the full review I’ll be posting on Monday. It’s the best Mac Apple’s ever made. Which isn’t to say it’s for everyone. And I said in the review that most Mac users don’t care enough about onboard Ethernet and future expandability that it’s a debilitating issue. Which isn’t to say that those shouldn’t be considered faults. But yes, if my editor and I are eager to get something of value up on the site and in print before the week is out, and I try to put everything in 600 words, then this is a review I can stand behind.

Now I’m playing with the new edition of Aperture. This is the sort of app that underscores the real point of the Retina Mac display. The purpose of the 220 ppi screen isn’t to show more pixels. It’s to show more information. Photo work is terrific. Thumbnails are so dense that you feel like you can truly pick out the winners in a sequence of photos without having to maximize each and every one of them individually.

It’s so good that yup, when you do go maximum, it’s immediately clear that the little shadow inside a dog’s eye is actually a self-portrait of the photographer. Click and look closely…you can see my hat and everything.

Anyway. Tune back in on Monday for greater verbosity.

Ports Matter

I love my Mac and I’m 95% sure that in 2013 or 2014 my next notebook will run MacOS and not the another OS that’s currently about nine times more popular. You can call it “lock in” if you want, but as a tech writer who gets to try out everything on the market, I’m still 100% sure that I couldn’t do what I do nearly as well if I weren’t working with a Mac laptop, an iPad, and an iPhone.

Let’s not shy away from the most obvious and annoying downside, though. When you choose MacOS, you know that you aren’t going to get the hardware you want. You’re going to settle for the hardware that comes closest, selected from a very narrow range.

Buying Apple hardware is often like shopping at a mall.

Good Lord, what a project it was to buy a new pair of eyeglass frames a couple of years ago. It started off as a casual errand and turned into a multi-city investigation. Every store I entered stocked one and only one basic style: the kind where the frames are slightly squashed. There was some variation. You could get the slightly squashed frames in metal, or colored plastic. But if you’re convinced that tiny skinny frames make your big stupid head look bigger and stupider, no mall optical store wants to take your money.

And what a late-life revelation it was to learn that I’d been buying the wrong-sized sneakers all my life! I’d always shopped in big stores — usually mall sporting goods stores — and I was always forced to choose between shoes that were Too Snug But They’ll Stretch With Wear or Too Big But I’ll Add A Thick Insole So They’ll Fit Better. One year, I happened to shop at a New Balance outlet store, which stocked every width in between those two sizes. Whoosh! Perfect fit, and now my $100 shoes wear out through the soles after two or three years instead of bursting from the sides after one..

The eyeglass shop doesn’t care if I walk in and point excitedly at a pair of frames and shout “Those are perfect! Exactly what I came in for!” Just as the shoe store knows that if I need sneaks, I need sneaks, and if I don’t find a pair that fit perfectly I’ll probably still buy something that’s almost right. Every square foot of a mall store is expensive and it has to earn, earn, earn. They can’t afford to stock every version or variation of a product if they think they can get a customer to settle. Good business involves figuring out what 80% of all customers nationwide are willing to settle for. It’s not good customer service, but whatever.

I didn’t feel like the other shoe stores had ripped me off, mind you. I just wasn’t even aware that there were other options. And when I did, that was the last time I ever shopped at a big chain store. My eyeglasses, too, are special-orders via Amazon or eBay. What makes the 80% happy is a perfectly fine product; it just isn’t for me.

It isn’t often that I strongly disagree with Mr. Gruber. It’s rarer still when I disagree and I feel like I can say something more interesting than “What he said, only not.” Yeah, I don’t really understand his negative reaction to the concept of a modern Windows notebook with a standard VGA port on it.

From a followup post:

If PC makers wait until there are no VGA projectors in use before they stop putting VGA ports on laptops, they’ve waited too long. Just copy Apple: get rid of the antiquated port, make thinner computers, and sell $20 adaptors for those who need them.

My stumbling points:

1) Everybody loves a standard. That’s why they’re called “standards” (cf Mickey Bergman, “Heist”).

I give lots and lots of talks all over the world every year. With only one exception, when I’ve arrived in the room to test my equipment I’ve found a VGA cable gaffer-taped to the podium. That sure doesn’t sound like an “antiquated” standard to me.

VGA isn’t modern by any stretch. It does, however, have the one feature that makes a standard valuable: it’s everywhere and it works. If a conference or a university tells me that the hall is set up for VGA, my problems are solved. If they say “It’s HDMI” then I have to ask what kind of a connector it is, and then I might have to go out and buy it, and then I have to make sure I don’t forget to bring this extra cable with me.

And God help me if they say “We’re using a wireless video device. You just have to install a piece of software to make it work. You’re running Windows 7 on your MacBook, right?” Wireless projection is very much of the 21st-century but that’s cold comfort when I’m walking through an hourlong presentation with makeshift shadow puppets.

2) It’s cheesy to keep soaking a customer for added accessories.

It’s just bad. Particularly on a laptop that the consumer’s already spending $1500-$2000 on. A MacBook is hardly a budget-priced item. If a basic feature isn’t onboard, just give the customer the damned dongle instead of making them race back to the store 30 minutes before closing and then charging them $30.

3) Dongles stink.

Sometimes they’re necessary evils, as when a device is too slim to accommodate the right plug and when slimness is important to the product you’re making.

But they’re never, ever, ever a good idea. They exist to trip people up. In an ideal world, I’d always remember to pack a video dongle in that Little Bag Of Cables And Chargers when I leave the house to go and give a talk. I would never walk out of the hotel and head to the speaking venue without making sure the dongle was in my laptop bag.

This is a world in which $200,000,000 was spent to make a movie based on the board game “Battleship.” Does this look like a perfect world?

A case in point: during my trip to Ireland, my iPad was my sole computer. I packed my Airport Express, just in case the only Internet access in my room was Ethernet. I sure didn’t consider that a hassle: I wouldn’t have expected a device like the iPad to have Ethernet.

Fortunately, the WiFi in my hotel room was great. I didn’t need the Airport. This was also fortunate for another speaker, whose MacBook Air couldn’t find the hotel WiFi for love or whiskey. I lent him the Airport and saved him the loss of a whole work night and the hassle of scouring the streets of Dublin for a USB Ethernet dongle the next day.

Dongles. STINK.

4) “Ideologically Sound” is not a feature.

“We decided not to include that in the product.”

“Why?”

“Because in our vision of the future, that feature will one day be unnecessary.”

No, no, no.

When you’re trying to sell me something and I ask you why your expensive product can’t do something that I (and most people, I think) would expect it to do, don’t sigh and tent your fingers and start spouting design philosophy. That’s just arrogance. Tell me why this decision makes your product better. Tell me how it adds value. Tell me how this decision makes my life better.

If you can’t do any of those things, then you admit that you have no answer.

The MacBook Air is a special case, of course. It’s too thin to accept a standard VGA or Ethernet connector. Fine. Tell me “We wanted to make the Air as easy to carry around as possible. It’s too thin for a standard connector.” That’s a perfectly acceptable response. Just don’t even try to convince me that I’m silly for seeing “onboard VGA and Ethernet” as desirable features. Hundreds of podiums and Ethernet-only hotel rooms beg to differ with you.

5) The advantage of the PC marketplace is its diversity.

Here we finally get back to the “Mall store” frustration. Apple’s lack of options isn’t arrogance. Mostly, it’s simple, sensible business math. They’re one company and they have to manufacture every computer that runs MacOS. They sure can’t afford to build dozens of different models that cater to every need, and keep them all in inventory.

But the PC marketplace is different. Write up a list of every feature you’d like your new notebook to have. Chances are excellent that you’ll be able to find a computer that fits almost that entire description…and maybe even at the price you can afford to pay.

Is the wide variety of options and prices confusing to consumers? Maybe, sure. It’s their money, though. Isn’t it better that they can spend it on the notebook that best matches their needs? Larger screen, smaller screen. Dirt-cheap with a weak AMD CPU, mid-priced with Ivy Bridge. I’m checking out Samsung’s latest Series 5 notebooks and these are all options just within that one model. The one I have here is built quite solidly, and while it’s not as thin as an 11″ MacBook Air, it does feature a larger screen plus twice as much SSD storage at the same price. As well as onboard HDMI out and Gigabit Ethernet. Yes, it’s a dongle-free zone.

PCs offer choices. Want to pay extra for an ultra-slim, metal-clad notebook? You’re covered. Want to spend less money on something that’s slightly less sexy but is still thin and well-made? Covered. Don’t want to travel with a bag full of accessory connectors? Covered. Want something more akin to “a transportable desktop PC” than a sleek notebook? Take your pick.

PC makers are following the lead of consumers — not Apple — by making thinner notebooks. It’s actually not that easy to find a popular Windows notebook with onboard VGA. But for those customers who like that, the hardware is out there. They can get the laptop they want, not the laptop that they have to settle for.

That’s a good thing. I don’t think I’d take that as a sign that any Windows manufacturer is stubbornly holding on to the past.


Last year, my 2008-design MacBook Pro reached end-of-life and I bought myself a new 15″ MacBook Pro. Lord, how I was tempted by the Air. I had an Apple loaner for a month or two and that’s all the convincing that you need if you spend only part of your work time at a desk. After lots of deep breaths — and conversations in my head in which the “con” side of the argument was voiced by my father — I felt that the 13″ screen, the limited SSD storage, and the lack of onboard Ethernet would drive me nuts in day-to-day use. I get way more bang for my buck with the more conventional Pro.

I was little worried about what Apple was going to announce at WWDC. Would they make the MacBook Pro slightly thinner? Would it be just thin enough that they’ll say “Oh, well, we dropped Ethernet. It’s a wireless world out there. If you really need it, just buy a dongle”?

This is another thing that kind of gets me going. “Thin” is definitely a feature in notebooks, and not least because it usually means “light.” The difference between traveling with a 13″ MacBook Pro and a 13″ Air is like night and day, whether you’re popping out to Panera for a few hours or off to a conference on another continent for a whole week.

While “thin” is a feature, “thinner” isn’t. Not always. When you’re comparing a conventional notebook to an Air, yes, that’s absolutely a great feature. But I’ve been examining my MacBook Pro since the announcement of the next-gen MacBook and (while my review unit makes its way here) I’m wondering just how much more convenient this marginally-thinner new model would be. I’ve never once been in a position where I’m about to leave for the airport and I still need to slide a copy of People Magazine in my laptop bag but…rgh…mmph…this darn old-fashioned MacBook Pro is just too darn thick…

So I was pretty relieved to learn that Apple’s new thinner design would expand the MacBook Pro line instead of replacing it. It’s just not worth it to drop an Ethernet port solely on the ideological principle that notebooks should always, always, always be made thinner.


[Added, based on early comments: I’m not saying that all notebooks should have VGA and Ethernet. My point is that the presence of those features shouldn’t be taken as a sign that a company isn’t thinking. There are people out there willing to pay money for a notebook with onboard VGA. Sony is willing to take their money. Simple. “We included this feature because it’s useful and people want it” isn’t something that any company should be ashamed of, or criticized for.

What I admire most about the Windows ecosystem is that if feature (x) is important to you, you can usually find hardware that supports it. You don’t need to settle quite as often as you do as a Mac user.]

Open Question: Which MacOS apps will be broken by sandboxing?

There were some quick responses to this morning’s post about the App Store. I immediately wished I’d at least mentioned the awkward transition the Store is going through right now. Apple is demanding basic changes to the way that apps operate. It’s called “sandboxing” and it’s designed to ensure that no app, either through malice or incompetence, can interfere with any system process or anything that any other app is doing.

Which isn’t a bad goal. It’s very user-positive. But keep in mind that Mac developers have been building apps any way they like since 1984. Many apps use techniques that are perfectly harmless, but impossible to implement under sandboxing. Other apps are designed to deliver a basic, system-wide function that’s fundamentally incompatible with the concept.

I’ve been aware of this for a while and have written and spoken about it frequently. But I only just now realized that I’ve never seen a public list of apps that are broken by sandboxing. Yes, it doesn’t mean the end of the app — users can still sideload it outside of the App Store — but it does cut the app off of Apple’s “blessed and trusted” mechanism for purchasing, installing, and updating safe apps.

I will quickly categorize three standout types of “broken” apps:

1) An app that fundamentally can’t function in a sandboxed environment. Generally, system apps that do something Wonderfully Clever. It can’t work, so it won’t be updated.

2) An app that uses a Clever Trick as a shortcut. Developer will finally sit down and figure out how to make that function work within the new rules.

3) An app that’s simply old and in its “dividend” phase. Maybe it doesn’t work because of a shortcut, maybe it doesn’t work because it hasn’t been updated to completely use the modern framework. It’s not that there are any technical barriers to making it work under the new system, but at this point in the app’s life it generates enough revenue only to support simple bugfixes, and not top-to-bottom rewrites. Developer shrugs, thinks “Okay, my Austin Powers Talking Clock had a good run and now it’s time to move on” and the app dies.

I am literally minutes away from leaving my house for an unbreakable appointment (or else I’d do an exhaustive search to see if such a list already exists).

Still, I thought I’d leave an open question:

1) Do you know of an app whose future is put in jeopardy by sandboxing? (Ideally: an app that you wrote)

2) Is it so bad that there’s a real risk that the app will be frozen in its pre-sandboxed state?

Leave responses in comments.

The Mac App Store: Falling In Love Again

BPL Staircase

Y’like that photo? It represents two things: the grand staircase of the Boston Public Library, and the regular renewal of my love for the Mac App Store.

It’s one of those rare scenes where it’s almost impossible not to come away with a great photo. I mean, just look at what’s there. Plus, the balcony that the camera is sitting on is at exactly the same level as the bottom sills of the windows on the other side, and there’s even a seam in the marble that shows you where to center your lens.

The shot and the composition is right there waiting for you but you can make things better with proper technique. I’ve taken this same photo over and over again and I think this version includes pretty much every mix-in ingredient from the sundae bar. The camera was sitting flat on the balcony to eliminate camera shake; I selected an aperture from the lens’ “sweet spot”; I used a super-wide-angle lens to get the whole thing in one shot; I shot on an overcast day so that the west-facing windows didn’t blow out the stairs; I manually selected an exposure point from the midtone range of the scene; I waited until the area was clear of people (or for there to be a person in there standing still and doing something that enhanced the scene); and I shot seven bracketed exposures, which I assembled into an HDR image to get around the limitations of the image sensor.

To summarize: I tried to Ansel Adams my ass off with this one. Gosh!

The HDR image was created by Photomatix by HDRSoft. It’s the go-to app for people who think a High Dynamic Range photo should look like a photograph and not like a frame from a computer-generated short circa 1998.

Generating this image was a needlessly long and complicated process. Oh, the app is easy as pie. It was only complicated because I hadn’t really used the app in ages. I downloaded a fresh copy from HDRSoft and looked in my Mail archive for the license code, but I couldn’t find it. I used their website’s automated thingy to have it re-sent to me, but they didn’t have the code on file and it was a holiday weekend.

So I had to dig through my closet for Lilith 9, my 2008-edition MacBook Pro. After thirty minutes of charging, I booted it up for the first time in a year and a half. I remembered my admin password after seven failed tries and I had to remember how things work in MacOS 10.6. But then it was like I was entering the tomb of The 2009-2011 Version Of Andy Ihnatko. Here, arrayed in the undisturbed air almost as though he had just departed moments ago, were all of the tools and amusements and artifacts that he surrounded himself with in life. For what purpose were they buried with him? History may never know.

Anyway, yes, Photomatix was installed and licensed on this machine. More good news: I could upgrade to the 2012 edition and still use the old app’s registration credentials. I copied over the source images and soon had the merged HDR image that I’d come for.

If I’d acquired Photomatix from the App Store two years ago, I’d have had it up and running on Lilith X after just five minutes of clicking…no registration code required. Every time I encounter into a situation like this, I love, love, love, freaking love the Mac App Store. I want to put five dollars in an envelope and send it to Apple, in the hopes that it might land in the hands of someone who was responsible for making the App Store happen.

The Store is still a source of some worry. Apple is the sole authority on what apps can and can’t run on an iPhone, iPod, or iPad. That rankles, given that an iPad costs as much as a Windows 7 notebook. Shouldn’t I have the right to do whatever the hell I want with a computer I paid $400 to $875 for? The situation is different on MacOS but developers still feel enormous pressure to kowtow to Apple’s rules and seek their approval. The App Store’s where all the money is.

So noted be. But damn, yes, the Store makes life so much easier for every user.

Which is why we sigh and we move on, instead of driving to Cupertino with a trunk full of V for Vendetta masks and a collection of signs that we hope will be amusing enough for people to reshare on their Tumblrs.

Apple Revamps Security in OS X Lion | threatpost

Short, plain-English article explaining the security upgrades in Lion. As we speak, Apple developers are building new versions of their apps to support sandboxing.

“OS X has always had this goofy ASLR implementation where the randomized the libraries but not anything else, and you could still play the games and reuse code as long as there was one thing that wasnt randomized,” said Charlie Miller, principal research consultant at Accuvant, who does a lot of OS X security research. “In Lion it seems like everything is randomized and no code is loaded at a predictable address. They made it much harder to exploit things. You probably need two bugs now, one for code execution and one for information disclosure.”

via Apple Revamps Security in OS X Lion | threatpost.

Mac Event Liveblog

2:29:55 PM

New ad. “Evereything we’ve learned…has come down to this.” Nice subtle reference that brings the hipness of iPad and iPhone into the Mac line.

Jony Ive, stranded in the Apple Negative Zone, talking about the MacBook Air.

It truly does look as though it’s a notebook built using iPad technologies. Just goes to show how Apple does business: everything’s connected.

It also looks as though this new Air can peel the skin off of a tomato and slice tin cans in half while not losing its edge.

So the Air has a “take two.” It’s one of those products that was released and then sort of just sat there. It was expensive, underpowered, and the lack of ports (just one USB) was a big inconvenience. I took it for a weeklong conference days after Apple sent me the loaner and it was really tough to juggle the Air and a digital camera.

(My Air will arrive tomorrow morning.)

 

2:24:43 PM

Why solid-state storage? Instant on, 2x faster, more reliable, 90% smaller and lighter…and faster.

“Apple is the largest user of flash memory in the world; we know a lot about making flash storage subsystems.”

Battery life, when using wireless web: 7 hours of use. 30 days of standby time.

“Even using the more stringent tests, that’s what we’re getting. Using the old, liberal tests, the old MacBook Air got 5.”

Inside:

Flash storage right on the board, like on iOS devices (not in a housing). Biggest thing is the battery (four slabs). TIny board is the actual Mac. “Using the knowledge we’ve gained designing iPhones and iPads.”

“And it has a younger brother, too:”

Little brother is 11.6 inches, 2.3 pounds. All the things with the larger one (Core 2, NVid, big keybaord, LED backlit display, camera, 1366×768 pixels.

5 hours of wireless web, 30 days of standby.

Pricing: $999 for 11.6 inch model, 64 gigs of storage. 128 gigs is $1199.

13 inch: slightly faster processor, $1299, 128 gig. $1599 for 256 gig.

Both models include 2 gigs of RAM.

Energy Star 5.0, Mercury free, arsenic free, meet EPA standards. You damned hippies.
Both models are available starting today. (Applause).

 

2:18:34 PM

“One More Thing…”

“Virtuous Circle”: Mac OS creates iOS and that inspires new features for Mac OS.

“It also has benefits for our hardware. What if a MacBook met an iPad? There’s a lot to be inspired there as well.”

Instant on.

Great battery life.

Amazing standby time.

Solid state storage…no hard drives or optical drives.

Thin and light, which means more mobile.

“What would happen if a Mac and an iPad hooked up?” (laughter)

“It’s one of the most amazing things we’ve ever created: it’s the new MacBook Air and we think it’s the future of notebooks.”

Damn, that looks thin. Stupid thin. At its thickest point .68 inches and tapers down to .11 inches at thinnest point. Weighs 2.9 pounds. (Oooo…triple the weight of an iPad, tough)

New iPad is completely unibody aluminum construction. Full-sized keyboard and fullsized glass trackpad. “These are areas you don’t want to sacrifgice.”

13.3 inch LED backlit display.

1440×900 pixels (“More than on the 15″ MacBook Pro”)

Core 2 Duo, NVIDIA GeForce 320m (same as MacBook)

FaceTime camera, mutitouch trackpad.

“Just as important are the things it doesn’t have: no optical and no hard drive.”

 

2:13:57 PM

“The Mac is a third of our business” with $22B in revenue. Continue to invest in retail store and happy with how “it brings people into the Mac tent.”

Steve is wrapping up announcements so far. Next up for sure: the new Airs.

 

2:12:29 PM

Steve: “I wish we had another hour and a half to show you more.” Will show more as they get closer to release. Plan is to release Summer 2011 (though that’s a target, not a promise).

“We don’t want to wait for Lion” for the Mac App Store. Will open it for Snow Leopard within 90 days. (!!!) Developers can start learning about it today, app submissions start in November.

(OK, Steve, but is it curated? Can ANY app get in there? More info, please!)

 

2:10:31 PM

Hands off the demo.

App Store. Dock icon for the App Store. Store looks like the same App Store for iOS. (I worry. I already have a hell of a lot of trouble culling out the one good app in a category from the 29 other similar ones that totally suck.)

One panel to download updates to all of your apps. (Does it work inside System Update as well, or do I need to go to the App Store to do it?)

Store pages. Customer ratings, screenshots, one-click purchasing. App icon actually flies out of the store page and lands inside the Dock. Click and you’re running the app. (Demos it with a purchase of Pages.)

Next: LaunchPad. “Super convenient way to organize and launch your apps.” Click icon in Dock. You get a grid of icons. Click to launch. LaunchPad fades back as app fades forward. Pages of icon and you can flick through like on the iPad, with multitouch gestures. can organize with click and drag.

Make folders the same was as on iOS: drag one icon on top of another.

(Interesting. So if Apple <em>does</em> build that convertible-hinge iMac like we saw in the patent filing, all of the components for a simple multitouch desktop are there.)

Fullscreen. Can open a PDF (say) and use multitouch gestures to turn pages. Gestures for getting in and out of fullscreen.

iPhoto goes from fullscreen to “standard” view with a flick. It looks like the open fullscreen PDF is another “space”; you flick to the left, and your desktop slides off to the left and the open “book” slides in from the right.

“Flick” seems to be part of the new lingo.

“We’ve unified dashboard (and all that stuff) into one space called “mission control.”

Gesture on trackpad makes an Epose view of windows, plus across the top there’ ariubbon of fullscreen apps, and on the bottom there’s the dock. Click or gesture and I’m inside any of these apps. Another gesture and back to Mission Control.

“If I’m looking for a window and it’s covered up, I can flick in and you see there it is, clustered by apps so it’s easy to find. I click and it comes forward.”

Expose now clusters windows from apps and clusters them together (as a wide “pile” with live previews.)

Whew!

 

2:02:59 PM

“Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical. It gives great demo, but after an extended period of time, you arm wants to fall off. Touch surfaces want to be horizontal…hence Pads.”

This is why they’ve done multitouch trackpads; “best way to get multitouch into a notebook.” Also done it with the mouse and the external trackpad. “That’s how we’re going to do multitouch on the Mac.”

The App Store. “Over 7 billion apps have been downloaded from the App Store. We’ve never seen anything like this.”

As part of Lion there’ll be a Mac App Store:

1) Best place (not the only place) to discover apps.

2) One-click downloads.

3) Free and paid apps.

4) Revenue sharing (same 70/30).

5) Automatic installation.

6) Automatic app updates.

Apps will be licensed to be used on all of your Macs. “Very simple.”

You’ll have a single place to put them: “LaunchPad.” A single space, like on the iPad (OK, but can I put those icons elsewhere, too?)

Expose, Dashboard, Full screen apps, Spaces.

As we’ve added fullscreen apps, we’ve found a way to integrate them all, “We call it ‘Mission Control’.”

 

1:58:56 PM

Next up: the entree. MacOS X.

Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard — and now “Lion.”

“We started with Mac OS 10, and created a new version called iOS, which we used for the iPhone. We added new things, and perfected it, and now it’s in the iPhone. What wed like to do is, we’re inspired by those innovations and now we’d like to bring them Back To The Mac.”

“At a high level, these are going to be the most exciting things.”

“What have we learned and been inspired by on the iPad?”

Multitouch gestures “can be really important on the Mac.”

“The App Store has revolutionized how people get their apps.” (Big Brother uh-oh number 3)

App Home Screens.

Fullscreen apps (every app on iOS is a fullscreen app). “Sometimes, that’s a great idea for the desktop.” Says “Sometimes” twice…don’t worry.

Auto-save “is one less thing to worry about.”

“And when you launch apps, they come back to right where you were when you left them.”

 

1:55:19 PM

FaceTIme: “We’ve shipped 19 million FaceTime devices.” OK, so there’s the “there’ll be more than 10 million FT devices by the end of the year” announcement at the rollout.

Brings FaceTime to the desktop, gets all the info out of your contact list. No need to set up a new account. Even does fullscreen.

Hmm…no mention of “And it’s integrated into iChat.” Are they keen to make it an iTunes-like app, available for all platforms?

FaceTime window supports rotation…if chatting with someone on an iPhone and he rotates, you can swivel your window the same way.

“There’s really nothing else to demo,” he says.

“That’s FaceTime for the Mac.” Beta is released today, downloadable from Apple.com. New logo.

(No mention of Windows or the “open-ness” of Facetime promised earlier.)

 

1:51:53 PM

Learn To Play tracks your performance and shows you how well you’re doing. Or not doing. Called “How Did I Play?”

Back to Steve. “Isn’t that great?”

“We have over 5 million people using GarageBand.

No mention of iDVD, even though it was one of the icons showed at the top of the demo. Still free suite with every new Mac, $49 as a bundle if you have iLife ’09.

Steve urges the engineering manager of iLife to stand up for a bow. I’ve always liked that; it’s been a consistent thing with Apple, this recognition of (some) of the engineers.

 

 

1:49:17 PM

FLexTime lets you stretch or squash sections of recordings to match up with other tracks.

New lessons. This is a feature that didn’t really catch on from the last edition, did it?

“Let’s look at Mozart’s Minuet in F-Major”:

Learn To Play feature plays in fullscreen.

My disappointment with these lessons has always been that the point is to train you to hit the right keys in the right sequence. It doesn’t really teach you the underlying ideas that help you to understand the “language” of the keyboard. This is why I stalled after three or four years on the keyboard; I hit a wall were I couldn’t get past “This sheet music represents the keys you need to hit and the proper sequence.” Friends of mine really grokked the language. They <em>read</em> music.

I do like the new “group performance” lesson, where you can play along with a quartet and see how well you do.

 

 

 

1:45:27 PM

(Jobs sounds a little hoarse.)

GarageBand 11. New features for fixing the timing and rhythm of the music (I shall call this the ‘American Idol’ feature.)

Xander Soren takes the stage to show it off. Shows off new recording tools and “a fun way to learn the piano and guitar.”

(“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “GarageBand 11”.)

(Anybody? Okay, whatever, let’s bring out your headliner now…)

Xander shows off a multitrack recording in which the drums are the only track where the musician is playing on tempo.

New “Groove matching feature” can fix this with just one click. Hover over tracks, can select one track as the “groove” track designating it as having the right rhythm. GB analyzes it “including the human feel” and then locks everything together to the rhythm of that track (as opposed to the app simply saying “OK, he’s playing in 3/4 time” and making everything 3/4).

So: GarageBand has brought Incompetence-Masking Technology to a new level, opening the world of pop music to a wider swath of lost sheep desperate for fame.

 

 

1:40:34 PM

Now direct sharing to Facebook and Vimeo.

Showing off two more trailer styles.

Well, if nothing else, it’ll help convince people to only do REALLY short, trailer-ey videos. As the survivor of wayyyy too many 45 minute extravaganzas inflicted by so-called “friends,” I like what this means.

Music is great. I think the new pastime will be to try to spot this music in commercial videos…like, in the middle of a gum commercial you’ll shout “J’ACCUSE!!! That’s ‘Radiant Triumphant Swell #2’ from iMovie 11!!!!”

Jobs pronounces it “Awesome.”

 

1:37:43 PM
Finished trailer looks great. But Apple is sitting on 50 billion dollars in cash. Couldn’t they have hired the “In a WORRRRLDDD…” guy to be standing by 24/7 to narrate your home movie trailer?

 

1:36:36 PM

Trailer tool lets you adjust metadata for the clip, the studio logo, the “microtext” credits page — it looks like a fun tool that tries to make your video look as much like a real studio trailer as possible.

Actually commissioned new scores for these titles, recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra. Yeah, you “open source apps are always best” — you folks have the resources for THAT? :)

Spending a lot of time showing the Trailer tool. Odd. Seems like a fun idea but they spent less time explaining the audio tools.

People Finder: Face detection in Video. Can ID shots that have 1 person, 2 people, Many people. Can identify closeup, medium, wideshot. Wow, that could be quite awesome. When editing you might be thinking “We’ve been wide for a long time. Show me a medium shot with people; that’s what I need next.”

I like what I see. I hate editing video because I think it’s still so technical that you really need to have a very good reason to make this video before you’ll set off to invade Russia like this. But if I can get as much help as possible from iMovie to find the shots I want and keep things organized…awesome.

 

1:31:51 PM

That’s iPhoto. Steve: “I think that’s awesome. This is why we do what we do.” For the record, I do believe that Steve is completely sincere when he says things like that.

Next up: iMovie. “The number one request we got after the last iMovie was ‘better audio editing’. The team has gone above and beyond the call of duty and come up with something great.”

Plus: “One step effects,” a “People Finder” (to help you find clips with people in them — note, second “Big Brother” feature of the day), and a third feature I missed because I was typing that. I believe it was new Sports themes and such.

Audio editing: can now show audio waveforms, color-coded to show peaks, overlaid right on the video clip in realtime. This should make it very easy to to close edits (you can easily see the point where someone starts talking, for instance.)

Adjusting audio segments is easier. Can select a segment and drag it downward, which reduces the volume until the peaks are under the point of pain. Slick.

New: audio effects. Little boy does the “Luke…I am your father” line with an icicle. Can make him sound like Vader. OK.

One-Step Effects: like Instant Replay. Select a clip, choose “Instant Replay,” and tell it how slow you want it to go. One-step and it builds the replay with a title and everything.

“Flash and hold last frame” – the usual “photo of the last frame sticks around” effect.

I’m always a little skeptical about these effects. They’re cool demos but do people really use them? I’d be happy if it were easy to put arbitrary text on a frame instead of making my text fit inside one of the canned Title templates.

New “movie trailer” builder.

 

1:25:00 PM

New Books features. A style carousel previews a book layout with all of your photos already there. One-click Create tool.

Do lots of people really use that Book feature? I should give it another try. My problem is that it’s so tricky to make sure that the printed results match your expectations. (Also, I’m the kind of dork who keeps editing a Flickr album for days after the original post. It’d be like that Monty Python sketch in which the customer keeps tearing out pages from the bird book because there are so many birds he suddenly doesn’t like.)

It does seem a little quaint to see Apple so eager to get people to use…you know…actual books. You’d think Steve would be pacing and talking about all of the problems of analog photo sharing and how the iPad represents Apple’s solution.

Also keen to see if this feature will let me build iBooks photo books. I’ll be surprised if Apple misses that trick.

Nnnnope, he’s moved on to cards. New letterpress styles. So cool that it seems to require its own video. Reminiscent of those “How A Trombone Is Manufactured” videos they used to show on “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”

 

1:20:50 PM

New mechanism for sharing photos via email: it all happens within iPhoto. No longer hands you off to the Mail app. Hmm. Does it have its own mail client built-in? Would it work if I didn’t use Mail as my favored client?

As usual: a very pretty photo bulletin board collage goes off. Can send a postcard version or the full-sized originals. Even the RAW files, I wonder?

New “Sharing” panel: when I look for details of a photo, iPhoto will tell me that I emailed it to so and so, that I uploaded it to Flickr, that these were the comments it got on Facebook. Neat…nicely social integration, there.

 

1:18:20 PM

iPhoto. Interesting how “fullscreen” looks a lot like an iPad app, eh? Though it’s probably more accurate to say that the iPad’s photo library was designed to be consistent with Apple’s future plans.

Very nice “camerawork” on the enhanced Map function. Could almost be a clip from a spy thriller in which the CIA is trying to target Jason Bourne…smooth camera moves as you traverse the map, looking for pushpins marking photo locations. Lovely slideshow feature (automatic) incorporating mapwork. Map moves behind the photos as the slideshow moves from one shot to another.

So this might convince people to turn on the Location features on their cameras. Which plays RIGHT into the hands of the Trilateral commission and their plans to track our every movement! Treachery! Beware!

(Joke. I hope.)

Another slideshow template. Looks a little like an Apple commercial, as your photos move in and out of Apple’s patented White Void where all of their products live.

Another slideshow template. Using Vince Guaraldo’s score from “Charlie Brown Christmas” as the music. “Holiday Mobile” is the name of the template…wonder if you get that track with iPhoto? Prolly not. Very famous instrumental tune. But these templates look great.

 

1:13:10 PM

iLife is first out the gate. iLife 11 with the same range of apps (including iDVD, curiously; it’s long been marked for death by the rumor mills).

iPhoto: has new fullscreen modes. “You can live fullscreen in iPhoto.” New Facebook enhancements, which makes sense as FB has become the #1 photo hosting side. New features for emailing photos, new slidehows, and they’ve goosed up the Books feature (“We’re printing 2 million books a year.”) Also adding letterpress cards.

Phil Schiller takes over for the demo.

 

1:10:33 PM

This is a three-screen event for me, incidentally: I’m watching the livestream on the iPad, blogging on my MacBook, and I have a second Mac open for live chat with MacBreak Weekly with video (which I’ll join when the event is over).

Damn and blast…the video has skipped back a few minutes just as Steve asked everybody to silence their phones. I don’t dare close to refresh the video window…I couldn’t get the feed up on another machine after I started it on the iPad!

 

 

1:06:37 PM
Starting off with the usual stuff: numbers. Apple kicks butt, we should have our own orbiting battle station by 2018, etc.

 

1:05:57 PM
Late start, sensation-seekers, but off we go!

 

Apple: Back to the Mac? October 20

Apple logo rotating through an aluminum slab, with "Back To The Mac" captioned underneath.

We’ve all been navigating the question “iPhone. iPad. Apple TV. When will Apple have any real Mac news?”

Aha. Well, I just got an invite to another Apple media event next Wednesday. This one is on the Apple campus, which would mark it as a smaller event than the recent ones in downtown SF.

What will they talk about? Well, you can see a lion peeking out from behind the logo there. Soo…

IT’S A TRAP!!! APPLE HAS TRANSFORMED TOWN HALL INTO A ROMAN ARENA OF BLOODSPORT!!!!!!!!!!! JOURNALISTS AND ANALYSTS BEWARE!!!!!

Or maybe we’ll get to see the next version of the OS. The fact that there’s a cat involved settles an issue that I’d been puzzling over for a few months. I wondered if Apple might sit out the next year or so and make the next release of Mac OS X a truly revolutionary 11.0. Sticking to the traditional feline theme suggests that we’ll see a 10.7 that simply builds upon Snow Leopard.

It’s hard to predict what the new OS will contain. FaceTime integration into iChat is a good guess. Overall, you should be looking for features that tie the whole product line together, such as AirPlay, and ways of integrating the Mac OS file system into mobile devices. Apple’s been building the Death Star for quite some time — aka that huge new data center in North Carolina — so honestly, any guess that would require massive storage and infrastructure seems possible.

I’ve always thought that Apple had all of the components necessary for truly device-independent computing. Today, I can start a column, head off to the coffeeshop with my iPad, finish my draft, and then give it a final read through and edit on my iPhone while I’m waiting for an oil change…all because I use a Dropbox folder for storage. Elevate that to the OS level and you have some idea of what I can imagine.

We’ll know for sure next week. I’ll be attending if I can find an underwriter for the trip.

Touchdown, San Francisco

Greetings from San Francisco…the city that never pays less than $6.20 for a cup of coffee.

I am in bed. Still. Even though it’s about 2 PM Boston time. Blame the bed here at the Marriott.

When I’m home, I can’t convince myself to spend a thousand bucks on bed and bedding. When I’m in a nice hotel, lounging in a king-sized pillowtop with nice sheets, pillows, duvet, blankets — okay, there’s a lot of stuff on this bed that I don’t know the names of — I realize that I’m an ass.

(But by the time I get back home next week, the Marriott bed’s reality distortion field will have collapsed, and I’ll once again recognize that a man who falls asleep on the sofa as many nights as I do probably isn’t going to get a cheerful return on invesment with a purchase like that.)

For now…I’m prepared to lounge like either a caliph or a concubine on high-threadcount sheets. This is Bad. Macworld Expo (or any other really big show like it) is supremely tense because I feel like I should be getting things done every single second. Even when I’m not doing actual work, well, I’m in San Francisco! I should be going out there and revisiting favorite haunts and discovering new ones! Why am I grabbing a takeout sandwich across the street when I could be dining at the fabulous culinary hotspot known as In-N-Out Burger?

Etc.

For all my laziness this morning, I did manage to have a full day. Was picked up from the airport by a pal, had a Mexican lunch that couldn’t be beat, copped a free ride to my hotel, realized to my delight that I wasn’t nearly as wrecked a I thought I’d be (after a 2 AM departure and no sleep except what I got on the plane), so made a quick trip back to Japantown for an assault on the Way Cool Stationery Store At The Mall, copped a quick nap and then met another pal for a dinner of tapas that coudn’t be beat, followed by a quick tour of the Castro.

And there was even a small bit of Business. I now have a piece of information that will put a big damned smile on the face of any Apple fan. Just a big, fist-pumping expression of glee.

No, I can’t tell you what it is.

Yes, I’m just a big no-fun jerk.

See, before I was told this thing, I agreed to go off the record. Then I was told that thing, and I immediately said that I took back what I said about going off the record because this was just too damned cool. But…a promise is indeed a promise. I wouldn’t even be saying this much if I hadn’t cleared it first.

Now what?

I suppose I ought to get out of bed and Do Stuff. I’ve gotten through the morning email — lots of “So, are we meeting, or what?” sort of stuff — so I’m technically free to go. I do need to hit the hardware store and an Officemax or something to supply up for the week.

Other than that…food folks and fun are the order of the day. Ideally this will involve only the spirit of the McDonalds’ ad campaign and not the venue or the food.