Showing posts with label Apple. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Apple. Show all posts

Friday, July 04, 2014

Why Apple killed the most important applications on the Mac: Aperture and iPhoto

A bong smolders in the sanctum sanctorum of 1 Infinity Loop, Cupertino California. It’s early 2013 and Apple’s most powerful billionaires are looking ahead. Billions of dollars are overflowing Apple’s bank accounts…

“We’re screwed. Totally f*cked. Gimme that bong”.

“Yeah. I know. It’s bad. Google is gonna stomp us. Android owns the world. Schools are gonna do Google Apps on Chromebooks. We were wrong about phablets and now the iPad is gonna die. There’s no way we can catch up with Google Docs.”

“Yeah, we’ve all seen the numbers. We get a few good years … then boom - we’re Microsoft. Damn. Gimme that …”

“Sh*t. We gotta do something. Google’s got the numbers and the Net — how can we fight that?”

“We got something. We got the hardware. We gotta take a different angle and hope Samsung slits Google’s throat — because they hate Google even more than they hate us.”

“There’s plan B. Ditch everything where we ain’t making big money. That pro-software sh*t - we make more money in a day’s iPhone sales that we make on a year of Aperture. Nobody makes money on high end stuff any more. And look at our iPhoto sales — sucking wind for years. Ditch it, ditch it all. Hell, dump the Mac. We’ll be all “internet of things”…”


“No? Hey you sure you don’t want some of this T ..”


“No and Plan B is suicide. We can’t fight Google there. They’ll slaughter us. We gotta go with Plan A. We gotta make stuff that works for the low end and the geeks. We have to do the whole thing and we gotta stop screwing up the software. We screwed up iTunes. iCloud - everything on iCloud. iPhoto — oh, God, we screwed that one so many ways. - took  two years to fix that. iBook — you ever try using that piece of sh*t?. We got money — but we don’t have time. So we get better.”

“Plan A? That’s bad stuff man. We blow that, we’re done.”

“Plan A. And we’re gonna start with stuff we shoulda owned. We’re gonna start with photos. Nobody can manage their photos. People take thousands and lose ‘em all when they drop their phone in the toilet. Photo geeks have thousands in Aperture and they lose ‘em all - no backups.”

“Hah! You think we can do this? We had a great app with iPhoto, but we couldn’t add Library Management because that was an Aperture thing. Then we were five years late with a single iPhoto to Aperture library. We made iPhoto stupider, but we couldn’t make it easy to use. Sh*t we were idiots.”

“Aperture! Hah, that was joke. How many geeks every figured how to use our keyword tree? Even Brainiacs didn’t get that one. Where’d we buy that crap UI from anyway? Looks like something from NeXT.”

Screen Shot 2014 07 04 at 9 00 29 PM

Enough. We do Plan A. We’re gonna make a single application that works with a Phablet or an iMac, one app that scales from kids with phones to camera geeks. Elite and civilian — all of ‘em. We’re gonna burn our bridges — we’re gonna make it official. iPhoto and Aperture are dead.”

“Wow, we’re gonna have a lot of mad customers. But, hell, what are they gonna do? It’s easier to change gender than to move from Aperture to Lightroom — and Adobe ain’t gonna last much longer anyway. There’s no money in pro software, and they got nothing else.”

“So how do we do it? We should be classy. Let folks know we’ll keep the apps going until everything’s set. They’ll be bummed, but we know how to do this right.”


“No?! What do you mean no?!”

"We gotta make Google think we’re idiots. We’ll let it slip out through some blogger mac geeks read. We’ll give ‘em nothing. We’ll make it look like we’re pissing off our best customers. Google won’t suspect a thing. Hell, what are they gonna do? Go to Lightroom?!”

“Pass me that bong”.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Apple kills Aperture. Observations.

In an alternate universe….

Today in a terse but clear posting on the Aperture web site Tim Cook apologized for the difficult decision to end Apple’s competition in the professional and prosumer photography market. He promised to fully cooperate with Adobe on a migration path to Lightroom that would convert Aperture non-destructive edit metadata to Lightroom format. All image metadata would be preserved. Group, Album and Smart Album functionality would suffer, but Adobe promised to improve their tools to ease the transition. Aperture sales were immediately discontinued. Support through Yosemite and ongoing RAW image updates for new cameras was promised through 2016. Users were saddened but appreciated Apple’s professional approach….

That would be a pleasant universe.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the announcement that Aperture was dead, and that Apple was effectively abandoning professional photography, appeared via Jim Dalrymple’s blog. Aperture remained on sale in the App Store while muddled Apple clarifications showed up in various blogs. Some said saying there would be support through Yosemite, others hinted at helping Adobe with migration to Lightroom. As end-of-life announcements go it was a complete screw-up.

Oh - but users of Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro “should not worry about their apps—they will continue as normal”.


The impact on heavy users of Aperture is heard to overstate. That’s why Gruber’s “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” earned his feed a Gordon-death-click. Maybe I’ll return someday, but The Loop covers the same ground and is a bit less irritating - albeit equally uncritical of Apple. I’m sure Gruber is devastated.

I won’t dwell on the migration path ahead, though it makes my excruciating transition from iPhoto look like a walk in the park. As of today none of my 20,000 or so non-destructive image edits will convert to Lightroom, much less album/image relationships, image/project, folder/image/project, folder/project comments, geo-tags and more. I won’t even mention Videos (which were never well supported in Aperture or iPhoto).

I’m not doing anything for a while, but one immediate impact is that I won’t be buying any camera that Aperture doesn’t currently support. If Aperture will indeed work on Yosemite then I’ve got years to convert — and I won’t be upgrading to Yosemite if there’s any doubt about Aperture support. (Which means no major Apple hardware purchases next year.)

Beyond Apple’s announcement fiasco, I was struck by the generally dismissive commentary — as though it were a trivial move to go to Lightroom. Happily, now that I’ve killed Daring Fireball, I can say the blogs I follow are relatively realistic about the impact of Aperture’s demise.

It’s not just Aperture users who have grounds to worry. Given Apple’s software record over the past 5 years (iBooks, iMovie, Podcast, Aperture 1, etc) what’s the chance Photos will be safe for serious iPhoto users before 2018? iPhoto users are back in Apple photo management limbo.

On a larger front I’ve written before of Data Lock, and of how the “Cloud” is making data lock even stronger. I knew the risk I took with iPhoto 2 11 years ago [1]; a path that has led to the dead end of

The way Apple executed Aperture’s termination is a rich lesson in the consequences of data lock (a risk I understood when I signed up with iPhoto long years ago). Does anyone think it will be possible to move from Apple’s next generation Photo app to Lightroom? That’s a far harder problem than moving from Aperture to Lightroom — and that’s nearly inconceivable at the moment.

I can’t do much about the way Apple handled this transition — other than spare myself the temptation of a camera purchase. I can, however, reduce my purchases of Apple products — especially Apple software. I have no faith in Apple at all.

[1] From my ancient web page on digital photography

Problems: iPhoto 2 through 5

iPhoto has longstanding problems. I knew of them when I started with iPhoto 2, but I took the gamble that the large user community, and the prominence of Apple's multimedia iLife suite, would pressure Apple to improve the product. That hasn't worked. If you're a PC user you should not switch to a Mac for digital photo management, instead I'd recommend Picasa (free from Google). If you're a Mac user, take a close look at iView MediaPro -- though that's a risky choice too (small market, hard for vendor to compete against iLife).

If you proceed with iPhoto, know the risks …

Data Lock - You can check in, but you can't check out.
You can export images -- though it's tricky to export both originals and modifications. You can't, however, migrate your albums, smart albums, comments, keywords, captions, etc. etc. I thought iView MediaPro would take advantage of this and sell and import utility, but they haven't. So when you use iPhoto, you marry iPhoto…

Update 6/28/2014Clark Goble responds with more eloquence

as Apple pushes more and more the lock-in of iCloud, of iBooks, and of iTunes video, why should we trust Apple if they don’t have a way to get the data out? This is the thing that some activists have preached for years and most of us have discounted.5 But now I think it’s a real question Apple has unintentionally made very significant. Why should I trust Apple not to lose interest in iBooks if sales drop? (Which apparently they have) iTunes Music isn’t a big deal because there’s no DRM. But the rest? Why should I store files in iWork?

Can we trust Apple? The cavalier way Apple is responding is telling us, no we can’t. And that’s a shame because they could easily have made this announcement in a way that said we could

I particularly appreciated his footnotes…

… I remember Apple fans ridiculing people trusting Microsoft with Plays For Sure DRM when that product collapsed and people lost their data. Many of those same people are pretty flippant about locked data today. ↩

I doubt rumors of Apple adding a Lightroom export will include being able to port both your raw data files and the adjustments you made to the files. You’ll either have to export as TIFFs or lose your adjustments simply because the math won’t be exactly the same. Heck, I’m skeptical they’ll export anything beyond metadata and files… 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Beats and Hachette, Amazon and Apple

The only way I can make sense of the Beats acquisition is to assume that Apple is responding to landscape changes like the end of broadcast television, the rise of Comcast [1], and Amazon's Hachette-crushing book monopoly.

Beats makes sense if Apple intends to go direct to Creatives and bypass the usual channels and distributors. In that case they need an LA beachhead. It makes sense for Apple to start with music - they have a history there just as Amazon has a history with books.

The next step would be for Beats to contract for video/film properties for distribution to AppleTV/iPad - and Android/Microsoft.

I'm not optimistic about books. I don't think Cook is more of a reader than Jobs was.

[1] "the largest mass media and communications company in the world by revenue"

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Apple and healthcare -- what if Cook went for the ring?

Everyone expects Apple to soon sell some personal monitoring device like the suspiciously defunct Nike Fuel Band. We remember that the “revolutionary” iPod was just another MP3 player [1]; we expect something like that.

We expect it, and we expect to yawn. It will be overpriced and the value proposition will be even less clear than the soon-to-be-ex-iPad value prop.

But what if Cook surprises? What if he’s tired of being Apple’s accountant? What could Apple do to surprise us?

No, Apple wouldn’t do some kind “electronic health record” type thing. They’re not that dumb. But Apple is powerful enough to get, for example, both Cerner and EpicCare to use an Apple supported direct-to-patient connection channel. It would entirely proprietary of course, but it would be big. The rest of the HCIT industry would follow along. Apple could build the elder-care infrastructure I’ve imagined (and make use of the iPhablet-displaced iPads). There’s a lot of room to play if one stays clear of both the medical device regulatory framework and the brutal economics of the provider-oriented market.

Personally, I expect FuelBand 2. But if any Apple creativity has survived Cook’s executive salary boosts and Jobs wage-suppression scheme there is room for surprise.

- fn - 

[1] The revolutionary bit was iTunes and CD ripping to go with the iPod. All forgotten now. The first iPhone blew my mind, but some of the early PalmOS phones sorta kinda had the idea. Apple invents more than Microsoft (Samsung learned to follow from the master), but it also builds on what’s before.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

21st century market failure: what the rise and fall of Guitar Hero teaches about gamification

My oldest wants to learn to play drums. Learning is difficult for him, and the Smart Music program his school uses is obviously too sophisticated. We need something simpler, something more accessible, more like a game ...

Something like the Guitar Hero music education program I remember from a few years back. Fun, teach the basics, work with our Wii ... perfect!

Ok, I'll just Google that ....


Guitar Hero is gone. There is nothing like it any more.

Why Guitar Hero died News • News • (Feb 2011)

As the dust settles on Activision's decision to put an end to its world-famous peripheral-based music franchise Guitar Hero and the difficult work of sacking those who helped create it begins, one question remains: where did it all go wrong?

Only three years ago Guitar Hero shot through the $1 billion revenue mark – in the US alone.

Now, in what can only be described as a spectacular fall from grace, Guitar Hero is no more. Why? Why did Guitar Hero die?...

... "Guitar Hero was a victim of its success," said Wedbush Securities' Michael Pachter. "The game was incredibly well-conceived, the peripherals were great, and the music offering was deep and broad. All of those factors led to unprecedented success, and each contributed to its demise."

For Pachter, the fact gamers could play new Guitar Hero games with the peripherals they already owned proved to be the killer blow.

"Once people bought the band kit, for example, they didn't feel compelled to upgrade, as the one they bought was high quality and did the job well," he said. "Once people bought a game, they had 60 - 80 songs to master, and few mastered all of the songs offered...

... "There is absolutely nothing Activision nor anyone could have done to save the music genre. We should remember Guitar Hero for what it was, not where it's at now."...

... "It is possible that Guitar Hero will return, but a re-launch would have to be managed on a far smaller scale. Production costs would have to be minimized to enable profits on unit sales in the hundreds of thousands rather than in the millions."

Pachter's conclusion? "The franchise can support sales at the $200 million level annually, so it will still generate profits, but with license fees and manufacturing costs, margins are not that great, and certainly not enough to keep 200 - 250 people employed working on a new version each year."

So to recap - about 5-6 years ago we had a mini-cultural phenom -- a low cost high fun solution for music education. The Wikipedia article on gamification is written in 2010, around the peak of the Guitar Hero story. A few years later and it's all gone - the game, the console, the hardware, everything. In 2014 some replacements may slowly emerge on the iPad, but we're basically starting over again.

What's going on here -- besides our 21st century penchant for rapid cycles of creation, destruction, and recreation?

Maybe the root problem with gamification is that education doesn't have the economics, or the life cycle, of entertainment. Entertainment has visciously short lifecycles with massive floods of money. That can bring great products out quickly, but this amphetamine fueled growth has a cost. The entertainment products wipe out the weaker educational market -- and when Guitar Hero burns out there's nothing left to replace it. The education market has to be slowly grow back -- only to be wiped out again by the next cycle of the entertainment market.

Ultimately, the entertainment bubble is destructive, and the end result is a peculiar form of market failure.

PS. Garage Band is an interesting exception. It was clearly driven by Steve Jobs passion rather than any kind of business logic. It endures as a monument to Jobs, and because Apple doesn't have to put much money into it. It works, it's done, and the Mac platform is far more stable than entertainment-oriented consoles.

See also:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Apple reactivates anonymous charitable donation via iTunes - please Cook, make this permanent.

Apple has quietly reintroduced something I've wanted even before CARE.ORG broke our deal and sold us out to the donation industry. They are again offering a way for non-wealthy people to donate anonymously to the Red Cross via iTunes.

They did this previously for Superstorm Sandy ...

iTunes now accepting Red Cross donations for Superstorm Sandy aid

iTunes will transfer 100 percent of all donations directly to the American Red Cross without sending users' names or contact information.

Unfortunately it's not a permanent service ...

The iTunes and Red Cross giving system was most recently activated following the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011. Before that, Apple offered the service in 2010, following a series of deadly earthquakes in Haiti.

We need Apple to make this a permanent service. Please join me in adding this request to Apple's iTunes Feedback Page. Apple can deduct the cost as a charitable donation.

We need this. Emily and I gave up our annual donations because of the deluge of mail, spam, phone calls and the like. These weren't huge donations, but they were non-trivial. If we were wealthier we'd give through a legal shield, but we don't have that kind of money. We can't be the only family hiding from the crazed donation industry.

So now we can donate to at least this cause. The only acknowledgement is an email receipt for tax deduction. The American Red Cross doesn't get any more information -- which is very Apple like. Here's how it looked on my iPhone today:

Come on Tom Cook -- make this permanent!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Lessons from Photo Stream Unlimited - Typhoon Mobile and is Apple going to make a prosumer camera?

For an old school technology geek, reared on local file stores and data cables and file formats and backups and (ugh) synchronization, these are challenging times. Our life is getting harder as the tech landscape shifts to fit billions of connected devices paired with humans who don't know a .docx from the proverbial hole in the ground.

Remember Cnut and the tides? He knew you can't fight City Hall. The best we can do is figure out which way the wind blows. (Ok, I'll stop now.)

So what does Google's mangling of old school email [1] and weakening of CalDAV support, Apple's ending of iTunes USB sync of calendar and contacts [2], Apple's disregard for iTunes metadata [3], Apple's mobile/Cloud retcon of iWorks [4] and, especially, Apple's very quiet Everpixing [5] of Photo Stream tell us about the wind?

It tells us that mobile has at last eaten the world. We knew this was coming, but we didn't know when. Hello Typhoon Mobile, good-bye the world we elder geeks evolved in.

The new world is transitory -- people don't keep photos any more. They walk away from Facebook accounts with barely a backwards look. It's Los Angeles all over.

The new world doesn't have cables. It doesn't really have local file stores or local backup. It rarely does power or complexity -- pro power is going to get expensive. Do you love your iTunes Smart Lists? Play 'em Taps while you can.

We can't fight this -- heck, even Apple can't fight this. At best Apple may support a rear guard action for its old school paying customers. Google, Amazon and Samsung ain't gonna be so merciful or so motivated. [6]

Maybe we'll meet at a bar sometime and raise a glass to the days that were.

Oh, and that camera? 

Well, if Photo Stream is as big as I think it will be -- just enough memory in the age of transience -- there's a nice little business for a Photo Stream compatible prosumer device that is to as the MacBook is to the iPad. It's a natural Apple software/manufacturing disruption move. An iCamera they make that works with Nikon, Canon or Leica glass -- whoever makes the right deal. I'll buy one.

- fn -

[1] I just modified the wikipedia entry to say Gmail is an "email-like" service rather than an "email service". I doubt that will stick, but eventually it will. 

[2] So far on Mavericks. It's effectively ending for Podcasts and iBooks as well. After Apple stops selling iPods all cable sync is going to go.

[3] You can change Podcast titles in iTunes, but if the Podcast is available online those edits are ignored.

[4] Retcon is how comic books dealt with middle-aged superheroes that were born 60 realtime years ago; it's a recapitulation of how Greeks did mythology -- every town had its version of the stories, and they got frequent reboots. In software we once had "updates" that added features and capabilities or managed platform changes, now we have retcons that inherit branding. They come with new capabilities, but also substantial regressions. Apple has kinda-sorta apologized for calling iThing 13 iWorks, but they didn't have much of  a choice.

[5] Everpix was a photo service that claimed to store all images forever for all devices. They were so obviously high risk I avoided them, but it may not be coincidental that they died around the same week that Apple ended its Photo Stream image limit.

[6] Who is it that makes Office 365? Can't remember.

Update: A corollary of all of this is that we're never going to come up with a DRM standard for either eBooks or movies. We'll go instead to a pure rental model.

Monday, October 07, 2013

How to practice your French (or Chinese, English, etc) pronunciation on your iOS device. For free.

Do you have a lousy French accent?

Never fear, it's better than mine. What we need is a victim, a native speaker, who will type whatever we say. Someone who never tires and never complains. Someone who is poor at interpreting foreign accents.

Someone like your iPhone.

Here's the trick for an English speaker:

  1. In Settings, General, International, Keyboards enable French (or Chinese, English, etc) keyboard.
  2. Go to an app like Notes. Tap world icon to switch to French keyboard.
  3. Tap microphone icon and dictate your French phrases. Watch the iPhone get them completely wrong. Keep practicing until they come out right.
It's even easier than doing the same thing on OS X. Handy for kids learning foreign languages. (I'm certain Android does this as well.)
(Credit to Talking to Siri by Sadun & Sande for discussing this in terms of Siri control.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New age data loss: what do we do when backup isn't enough?

few weeks ago my primary drive began to fail. This was painful because the recovery process exposed lots of rusty plumbing, but I was never worried. I have onsite and offsite backups, multiple iterations of each, using two different technologies (Time Capsule and Carbon Copy Cloner).

I feel pretty good about data loss due to drive failures or boneheaded mistakes.

I don't feel good about the iTunes 11.1 making my media disappear. If not for a chance post encounter I probably wouldn't have discovered the loss for months -- at which time recovery might have been impossible. In this particular case the media files weren't lost -- but iTunes 11.1 couldn't recognize media kind metadata assigned by an earlier version of the app.

Similarly Aperture and iPhoto have been known to lose track of video and images; both have added features to look for orphaned files thanks to past experiences. Users have to know to run these procedures however.

Even worse are sync errors. Apple's Discussions forum are rife with reports of data loss or corruption related to iCloud use. This is bad when it's obvious, but far worse when it goes undetected.

We need new approaches.

We need a utility that keeps a record of deletions, and has rules to notify us of unexpected deletions. That's doable, I'm looking forward to buying a copy.

I don't know what to do about data invisibility arising from application database corruption or bugs like iTunes media kind metadata conversion failure. That's a lot more subtle. Given Apple's poor record of managing these problems (I can think of several things they could do) I wonder if they'll need someday to be legally liable for gross negligence leading to data loss. In the meantime, I suppose we could Voodoo stick pins in something -- or rant in our blogs, which is probably about as effective.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Apple and the 2013 tech world - in the doldrums

I was in an Apple Store yesterday with a burned-through seven year old power adapter cable.


Our much abused power adapter came with a MacBook purchased in November 2006 [1]. That MacBook runs Lion today; very slowly at first but with various tweaks and fixes it's become acceptable for undemanding tasks. [2] The MacBook is in turn newer than the July 2005 G5 iMac [3] my son used this morning for his MacKiev Mavis Beacon typing tutorial. That eight year old machine runs pretty well, we barely notice the slowly progressing 5 year old display discoloration.

Trust me, this is all relevant. I'm going somewhere.

At the app store I was told that Apple's policy is not to service anything more than six years old, regardless of recalls. The tech then gave me a brand new L-shaped power adapter which works well [4]. He may have been influenced by my very long purchase record [5].

I walked out of the store another happy customer, and I didn't look at anything. There was nothing there I was interested in.

Let me repeat that. There was nothing in the Apple Store I was interested in.

That has never happened before. I've also never had a seven year old laptop that's used every day.

It's not that I have everything Apple makes [7]. My new Kobo Glo is a definite compromise; I'd love a less costly iPad Mini, or perhaps an affordable iPad Mini retina, or even a thinner, lighter iPad retina at today's price. Alas, the things Apple makes that we don't already own aren't the things I want from them - or they're too expensive [8]. Gordon's Laws of Acquisition leave me nothing to look at [10].

This tech lethargy problem isn't unique to Apple. There's no tech hardware anyone makes that we really want or need [9]. And it's not just hardware, there's very little software on the market that interests me.

We are in a curiously quiet time for tech lust.

See also

- fn -

[1] It's interesting to scroll through posts around then, like my Feb 2007 posts. My blog posts then were more like my shares today.

[2] Mostly tweaks or fixes to Spotlight and Time Capsule backup, some Lion features disabled, some states not saved. I switched as part of the very (very) painful MobileMe to iCloud transition.

[3] Wow, that was a problematic machine. The heat / fan issues in the G5 iMac line were appalling, not to mention the epidemic of bad capacitors.

[4]  Has a thicker cord with more reinforcement. See also Apple's article - Mac notebooks: Reducing cable strain on your MagSafe power adapter

[5] Now somewhat inexplicably associated with a single AppleID (discuss), though he couldn't see it there. He had to use my home phone to lookup records.

[6] There are a lot of things I'd like to see, not least vastly better Calendaring and a faster, more useable Aperture, or better replacements for Google's tainted offerings. Problem is, they don't exist. I could probably make good use of an industrial video editing tool, but I don't have time to use one.

[7] I also have two modern Macs that will probably run OS X Mavericks fairly well. Eventually we'll replace the G5 iMac, but it's not like we're in a rush. I'm not even in a rush to get Mavericks, and I rather like the sound of it.

[8] Between the war with Samsung and China's rapid wage growth I don't expect prices to fall.

[9] Things seem even worse for Windows families. The only purchases I hear of are 15yos building gaming machines the way my generation assembled stereos.

[10] Ok, an Apple TV would be useful, but then I'd have to replace my 25 yo SONY CRT with the rabbit ears and the A/D converter. That's a historic artifact.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Was AirPort Utility 6 the start of Apple's year of drifting dangerously?

I used Pacifist to install Airport Utility 5.6 when I upgraded to Mountain Lion. So I didn't really notice how many features Apple removed with the Mountain Lion/Airport Utility 6 upgrade. 

Recently though, I wearied of having to restart my (only) 3 yo Time Capsule every 4-6 days to reenable Time Machine backups. I ordered a new TC from Amazon to do a hardware swap test (30 day return) and, for no good reason, I tried using Airport Utility 6.2 to configure things.

It was an abysmal failure. To start with, it failed with a meaningless error message when it tried to join my existing network. For another I couldn't archive my Time Capsule backup -- and I couldn't disconnect guests and backups prior to power down. A Jan 2012 CNET article has the long list of lost features -- not to mention support for older devices.

In retrospect, Airport Utility 6 was a big initial step in a trek that included the iOS and iTunes regressions (though some functionality was restored to iTunes). January 2012 was the start of what has been a long and disappointing 15 months for customers like me.

WWDC 2013 will tell us if Apple is going to change direction.

I hope the rumored Microsoft shakeup is a very big one. I have a bad feeling I'm going to need them.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Scorched Earth - if Google can't own the web then it must destroy it.

Over the two years Google has knifed a number of open net protocols, including CalDAV, RSS, XMPP, Atom and CardDAV and they split Chrome from WebKit.  They effectively abandoned their wiki and web authoring platform. Most recently they killed Google Reader; the competition-crushing champion for standards-based change notification and information consumption. Feedburner is next, and Blogger will likely be subsumed into Google+ (and perhaps lose its RSS feeds).

It's almost as if Google wants to end the document-centric open web as we have known it.

But why would they do that? Doesn't Google make must of its money from searching that web?

Well, yes, they do. But, as many have noted, most recently Jason Smith, Google's search monopoly is shakier than it seems. Apple has been bowed by dual attacks from Google and Samsung, but they are likely to strike back over the next year -- probably allied with Microsoft and perhaps Yahoo (but not Amazon). Apple will use its massive cash reserves to survive dropping Samsung manufacturing, and Apple will switch its default search engine to Bing.

Google knows this. 

Thousands of years of human warfare told Google how to respond. If an army cannot hold rich agricultural ground, it must burn it. Let the enemy eat ashes.

The web is a forest, and Google is burning it.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Device size: clothing makes the choice

An thread reminded me of some analysis I did in the 90s on what device sizes we should build our Cloud ASP service against. That analysis focused on pockets and purses; it came in an era when men still had shirt pockets and Jeff Hawkins carried around wooden models of the Pilot until he settled on one that fit his.

Since that time our devices have evolved a bit -- thought not as much as many think. We had slates in the 90s too -- they were just heavy and ran Windows variants or Windows thin client OS. Our clothing may have changed more [3]. Shirt pockets are gone, suit jackets are less common, and pants pockets are larger. Pocket location may also have shifted as men have gotten fatter around the world. (I don't know what's popular in China).

This produces some interesting size options based on clothing. Here's my own personal list of exemplar devices for each transport option with a gender assignment based on typical American practice.

b None [1] watch
m Traditional pants front pocket iPhone 5S
m Expansive pant front pocket Samsung Galaxy [2]
f Purse Samsung Galaxy
f Purse iPad Mini
b Backpack / shoulder bag iPad Mini
b Backpack / shoulder bag MacBook Air 11"
b Briefcase iPad (full) + Logitech Kb/Case
b Briefcase MacBook Air 13"

Running through the list, and disregarding whether one wants a phone or not, device options are probably best determined by one's clothing habits. The list also suggests the women should disproportionately prefer the Samsung Galaxy to the iPhone but that men should split 50/50 -- so the Samsung Galaxy should outsell the iPhone 5 about 1.5:1.

If the iPad Mini provided voice services the list predicts the combination of iPhone 5 and iPad Mini(v) would equal or exceed Samsung Galaxy sales.

This analysis suggests a narrow niche for the 11" Air. I have one and I like it, but if I were buying an Air today I'd get the 13". If I'm carrying a briefcase I might as well get the 13" Air or an iPad with Logitech Kb/Case. The 13" Air vs. iPad tradeoff is an interesting one -- for many travel cases I think the iPad wins on power and bandwidth consumption -- but see the comments -- Charlie Sross and Martin Steiger disagree. I can imagine a future version of OS X and OS X hardware with iPad like power and bandwidth use -- in which case I'd go Air.

[1] Swimsuit, running gear, nudist colony.
[2] I haven't seen mention of this, but my understanding is that Android handles variant screen geometry more easily than iOS. 
[3] Our devices must be influencing our clothing styles by now.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Project Ducky - why I've stopped using new Cloud services.

Dilbert 04/14/1994:

Screen Shot 2013 03 16 at 3 39 53 PM

Yeah, Google Reader is on many geek minds today, but it's not the only cloud death to disrupt my routine.  Today, working in Aperture, I tried searching on a AppleScript workaround for Aperture's single-window mangled Project problems. I found a couple of good references -- to Apple .Mac pages that died with MobileMe. The page owners never recreated their lost resources.

Later I wanted to upload some photos from our special hockey team. I remembered then that Google discontinued Mac/Picasa integration and the iPhoto Plug-in.

Within a year I expect Google is going to discontinue Blogger, which currently hosts this blog.


I'm on strike. You want my business? Give me standards. Give me products I pay for that have low exit costs and that have competitors. 

Oh, yeah, Google - go away.

See also:

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Which is better for work travel: An 11" MacBook Air or a (maxi) iPad with Logitech keyboard?

I have just returned from a conference where I ran R and Python code on my 11" MacBook Air. It did the job well; Mountain Lion's Full Screen and Mission Control features add real value to this small screen lightweight laptop.

So for this trip the Air was a great device. For most trips though, a full sized iPad with a Logitech keyboard case would be a better work option. 

Curiously, this has nothing to do with the touchscreen; it's about other hardware and iOS design decisions. The iPad's advantages include:

  • iOS is a fairly good Exchange/ActiveSync client . OS X is not.
  • Many iOS apps work in offline mode, OS X apps expect a network connection.
  • iOS multitasking is constrained. In OS X many apps may simultaneously jump on a network connection, sucking bandwidth and power alike. (Heck, backup may start!)
  • iOS is, in general, less demanding of a network connection.
  • iOS and the iPad are designed from the 'ground up' to use less power. That's why an iPad can last for hours, receive a power boost from a mere Morphie Juice Pack, and charge off a meager USB connection. Even the best laptops, like my Air, can't do this.
  • The iPad can be purchased with an LTE chip, the MacBook cannot.
  • iOS bandwidth consumption is harder to track than it should be, but it's easier than tracking OS X bandwidth use.

Travel is characterized by limited power and limited bandwidth. The AIr is a lovely laptop, but compared to the iPad it's built for a world of ample power and bandwidth. Today, even excluding the touch interface, the Max iPad is a better traveling device for most use cases.

Apple could make the choice harder though. They could make a future version of OS X a much better bandwidth consumer, and they could provide an option to throttle multitasking. The iPad would still have a large power advantage, but this make for a great OS X upgrade.

See also:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Mac World needs an app that will toggle Java availability

Java on the Mac is malware by design. It bypasses the entire security infrastructure of OS X. It's worse than Flash, and Flash is plenty bad.

There aren't many apps that really need it, and most of those have solid Mac alternatives. (Sorry Minecraft fans.)

The problem is corporations. They use VPN products that require Java. (Way to go corporate America -- mandate use of a security product that dramatically reduces network security. Alas, this is so typical.)

So many of us can't go entirely Java free until that problem is fixed.

So we need an app.

An app that disables or enables Java just when we need it. (Ok, Minecraft fans, just for gaming purposes.). An app that only Admin users can run because it needs Root privileges.

Maybe it changes privileges on the Java executable. Maybe it renames it. Whatever, it makes it NOT work, OR work, in a way that Admin users control for an entire machine.

Ideally Apple will provide this, but they might not. Apple, correctly, wants Java on Mac dead.

This would make a great utility. $20 bucks? No problem. I don't see any reason why it couldn't meet Apple's App Store requirements.

Money maker.

Do it.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Apple: What it would take for me to like you again.

I'm an Apple customer. If Apple makes a hardware product, I buy it from them. I use most of their Mac and iOS software.

That doesn't mean I like Apple. I just dislike them less than the alternatives.

Which makes me reflect on what Apple needs to do to make me like them again. This has nothing to do with APPL's share price btw, it's completely personal. As my friend Andy used to say, I'm not Apple's customer. (Though I do have influence on people who ARE Apple's customers. I still advise buying Apple if asked, but I no longer volunteer that opinion.)

  • iBook for MacOS. Not all books are novels; I want to be able to read textbooks and non-fiction on my Macs.
  • iCloud is a 1970s Jaguar. Shiny, expensive, and unreliable. Talk to me about this. Admit that there are problems and explain how the fixes are coming. Back off on driving everything and everyone to iCloud when it doesn't work (Mountain Lion default save to iCloud?).
  • Apple, stop basing all of your marketing on things that aren't ready. Just stop.
  • Fix your Apple ID problems. We all have multiple Apple IDs, and most of us don't know what they are. Our DRMd transactions and our product and support information is distributed among Apple IDs. Admit there's a problem. Work it.
  • iWork was never finished. I run across features that are half-completed or that cause big performance issues. I don't trust it to scale to serious projects. It doesn't need a big UI change or a lot of new features, but it needs serious investment.
  • Aperture crashes. It should never crash. It's too buggy. Apple is taking the right path to making Aperture 'iPhoto Pro' but they are only 80% done. They need to invest and fix it.
  • Calendar and Contact apps are a bit better in Mountain Lion than Lion, but they are not serious products. They don't scale to my life. It's crazy that Contact to Group relations is MacOS only.
  • I know how to use Google Calendar to share calendars across my family. I can even use Google Apps to share Contacts. I can publish calendars and others can subscribe to them. None of this works properly in the iCloud/MacOS world.
  • Detox on the luxury addiction. Remember how incredibly important the iBook was. The Mac Mini should have been priced under $300 -- even though that would have resulted in serious shortages. It's insane that the new iMac is so hard to manufacture -- nobody needed that super-thin edge. Personally, I still wanted the built in DVD. (I said I wasn't going to talk about share prices, but I think the Mini's price point had repercussions.)
  • If you're going to break the iOS connector ecosystem, then don't sell your A/D converter device with a fat margin. That's stupid greed.
  • Look at what worked with RSS (pub/sub) and what didn't. Come up with an open Apple solution.
  • Remember the AT&T and Verizon are not our friends. If you can find a way to shaft them, do it.
  • Think hard about the problem of bandwidth costs and net access. Look at what Google is doing with Google Fiber. Think big and think small - from partnering on fiber to enhancing iOS to manage bandwidth use.
  • Think about people who aren't wealthy. I can afford Apple products, but not all of my family can. Remember the iBook.
  • Support your damned developers. Damnit.

I'm sure I could come up with more examples, 

These are fixable problems. They come down to "Talk to me", and "invest in the hard things that don't return glory" and "remember we're not all rich". I've seen a lot of improvement in iOS, and it's encouraging that Apple has opened iOS to Google products.

Fixing the problems though may require a change to Apple's famously brutal internal culture. That may take some significant executive turnover. Cook's huge bonuses to the inner circle, and his secrecy obsession, are not reassuring.

So I'm only guardedly optimistic.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

iOS 6.01 Podcast app: Die, Apple, Die.

I had to update to iOS 6 sooner or later, and I knew that meant the Podcast app.

Still, a small part of me hoped that that it wasn't as bad as I heard.

Really, I was in denial.

It's true. All of my Podcast Playlists are gone.

Apple's share price is at 2001 levels -- really, that's not low enough.

Yeah, it's one tiny app that only a few geeks really use -- but we are the geeks that used Playlists and Smart Playlists. This is the kind of colossal screw-up that can't exist in isolation. It's worse than the infamous Maps mess because there Apple had a real business problem.

That podcast silence you hear is the dead canary.

And the big iTunes update is still supposed to be coming ...

Update: Listen to podcasts with Music app on iOS 6 - Mac OS X Hints says you delete the Podcast app and get Playlists back. I had to restart my iPhone with iOS 6.01 for this to work, but it did work.

Update 11/11/2012: After deleting and restarting video pod cats will again appear in My kids like those.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Apple drive replacement program notification error sends blogger over edge

Update: I got an unexpected Apple email requesting I send a scanned receipt and bank information to get my iMac drive replacement refund. I thought I'd solved this problem two weeks ago!

So I wrote a snarky blog post (below) and replied with a crabby comment. About 30 minutes later I got a f/u email:
Dear Apple Customer,
The prior communication you received from Apple stating the need for additional information was in error.
We completed your refund for a hard drive replacement as part of the iMac 1TB Seagate Hard Drive Replacement Program.
Refund Amount: 281.25
Credit Memo Number: 111111
Case ID: 11111
Follow Up Number: 111111
You will receive your refund in four-to-six weeks.
So it was a mistake. I wonder how many customers got this, and how many are as cranky and post-election sleep-deprived as I am (and my team won, imagine how cranky I'd be if I voted GOP).
Original title: Apple's defective drive replacement program: lousy customer service

I wasn't delighted that Apple took a year to admit that my iMac's hard drive was defective, but I was glad to apply for a refund for the replacement I purchased. I received an email asking for bank details, which I sent on.

Today Apple sent me another email asking again for the bank details I'd already sent and for a scanned receipt for a repair that was done by Apple at their store over a year ago:
Dear Apple Customer,
Product Serial Number(s): XXXXXX
Case ID: 11111
Follow Up Number: 1111
Thank you for submitting a refund request. We need a repair receipt and banking details to complete your refund.
Please contact the service center that replaced your hard drive and obtain a receipt, if you do not already have it.
Reply to this email and attach a scan of the receipt. Do not change the subject line.
This is lousy customer service.

Update: I asked on Apple's discussion board if others had run into this problem. The post was removed about twenty minutes later, and I received this note:

Apple removed your post titled, "iMac 1TB drive replacement program: Apple gets nasty about refund," because it contained the following:
Non-technical posts
Non-constructive rants or complaints
Well, no complaint there - 'nasty about refund' wasn't the smartest subject line. Still, that was a pretty fast deletion by the standard of past years.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

MacBook Air vs. iPad: waiting for the keyboard

When I travel for business I want to have a personal device with a keyboard and 1024+ horizontal resolution in addition to my obligatory corporate laptop. 

I am quite fond of my MacBook Air 11", but it has several limitations for this use case:

  1. The power adapter is compact, but still on the large side of portable life.
  2. The battery is only good for about 4 hours of use with WiFi enabled.
  3. I can't sketch on it.
  4. The OS and software suite "expects" unlimited high speed net access.
  5. Many OS X apps and especially "non-mobile" web sites are designed for larger than 11" Air screens or expect (yech) Flash.
  6. OS X calendar/contact/task software don't sync as well with ActiveSync servers as iOS.
  7. Although the Air is very compact, it is a tight fit next to my massive corporate WinTel box

I believe, once the keyboards come out, that the iPad Mini solves these problems:

  1. The power adapters is very compact. Since I have to carry a similar adapter for my iPhone it is arguably non-existent.
  2. Ten hour battery life.
  3. Sketchable
  4. iOS runs on ARM and is designed for a power and data constrained environment. (non-Retina screen is a feature here, not a defect.)
  5. Apps I use especially web browser and sites fit device specs.
  6. iOS is a decent ActiveSync cient.
  7. The iPad Maxi with Logitech kb is about the same size as my Air, but the Mini is significantly smaller. On the other hand, there's no Logitech kb for the Mini and no commitment to make one.

I think a Mini purchase meets Gordon's Laws of Acquisition, even without considering its use in other contexts such as a personal device at the office, and as an eBook reader. It might eventually turn my Air into a family machine with an external monitor. The key test though is keyboard support, so I need to play with the Mini at the Apple store and wait until a good case/KB solution emerges.