Recently in Technology Category

June 8, 2008

Much speculation has been prompted by the photos from last week that showed Apple referring to their computer operating system as “OS X Leopard” instead of the previous “Mac OS X Leopard.” Some have theorized this is indicative of Apple licensing their OS to other computer makers.

In other words, OS X (the software) will run on something other than a Mac (the hardware).

I don’t recall anyone saying this is a slam-dunk, no-doubt expectation for tomorrow. In fact, John Gruber and Dan Benjamin spent a healthy portion of the most recent episode of The Talk Show shooting this rumor down. Basically, Apple makes way more money on a $2000 computer than they do on a $129 box of Leopard, so why would they screw up the revenue stream.

I agree with this. Apple will not license OS X to run on other companies’ non-Macs. But it got me thinking.

What if Apple is going to build something that does run OS X but is not a Mac?

Now, it’s been nearly 25 years since Apple built computers that weren’t Macs, but they have done it before. I don’t think they’d produce a normal desktop or laptop computer and call it not a Mac, but maybe they have something entirely different to surprise us with.

There’s been a persistent rumor of Apple working on a “tablet” Mac, either a full-blown, Leopard-running computer that fits in your hand or an oversized iPod Touch running “OS X iPhone.” I think it’s possible this could be the computer-but-not-a-Mac (CBNAM) I’m thinking of. That said, I don’t think this is a particularly likely announcement for WWDC tomorrow.

So, bottom line, I don’t have a great answer for what this CBNAM could be, but this line of inquiry interests me. I think most of the other expectations for Steve’s speech, while exciting, are relatively fleshed out.

This not-Mac could be how Apple surprises us tomorrow.

March 3, 2008

Twice this morning (1, 2), I’ve seen Apple prognostificators theorize that the iPhone SDK (to be unveiled later this week) will allow developers unfettered access to the Phone’s built-in WiFi, but strictly control access to the cell radio.

In other words, most 3rd-party programs for iPhone will be WiFi only.

I don’t think this makes a lick of sense. Half the appeal of the iPhone is the always-on, unlimited internet connectivity over AT&T’s EDGE network. This is one of the key distinctions between iPhone and iPod touch.

It almost makes you wonder what the point would be of letting developers write cool programs for iPhone, but then denying them the best part. I think this is particularly incongruous with Apple COO Tim Cook’s that developers would “only be limited by [their] imagination.”

Additionally, I think customers would balk at this false distinction. Yes, they did it with the iTunes store, but that at least makes a little bit of sense. You’re throwing around large music files. But if I’m just trading small XML files, like for a Twitter client? I don’t think they can restrict that network usage. People won’t go for that.

I’m not sure where this rumor got started, but I think it’s false. Whenever they get around to actually releasing them, your typical iPhone program will absolutely have internet connectivity over EDGE.

January 30, 2008

John Edwards has been an impassioned fighter for a whole mess of issues that are important to me: the war in Iraq, poverty, corporate greed, basic American togetherness.

Today’s he’s dropping out of the presidential race. But for his career of public service, he deserves all our praise.

January 21, 2008

Help me out here. I have what I think is a dumb computer question.

Why is a built-in memory card slot superior to using a USB cable to suck photos from Camera to Computer?

I see this mentioned in a lot of computer reviews - often in the context of how Macs don’t have the slots. (1, 2) I have a Mac and have never felt like I was hobbled by using a cable instead of pulling the card out of my camera.

So can anyone help me out?

January 16, 2008

In honor of today’s MacBook Air announcement, I’m naming “New Soul” as the BTP Song of the day. It’s catchy as hell.

Plus, it makes the new laptops seem that much hotter.

January 14, 2008


Tomorrow, Steve Jobs will take the stage at Macworld to present all the latest and greatest gadgets and software from Apple. It should be a good show and it’s sparked all sorts of prognostification across the interwebs.

Here are my predictions.

Movie Rentals on iTunes

This sounds like it’s all but a done deal. I would guess that you’ll 24 hours to watch a movie that will cost $3.99. I would prefer for more hours for less money, but this seems relatively fair. In particular, I think we’ll see an update to Apple TV that will make it work. (See below.)

Oh, and everything will be supported by iTunes 8.0.

Apple TV

Specifically, I think Apple TV will allow for browsing and buying from your couch. This seems relatively trivial in the wake of the iTunes WiFi Store on your iPhone.

Plus, I think they’ll extend the “instant-on” feature currently used by movie trailers to allow for virtually “instant-on” movie rentals. This makes the 24-hour rental window more palatable because you can basically start watching as soon you decide to make the rental.

Still, you should be able to start your movie on Monday and finish on Thursday. Maybe they’ll institute a “one-watch” policy?


I think we will see a storage capacity boost. You’ll be able to buy 16GB for the same $399, I bet.

I think we won’t see an iPhone with a 3G high-speed internet connection just yet. I bet this comes out in September with the regular pre-holiday iPod updates.

You’ll also see some previews of apps developed with the forthcoming SDK. I predict a game from EA, something from Google, and an Apple movie times app. Software version 1.2 required.

Ultra-thin MacBooks

Here’s where I diverge from most of the Mac prognosticators. I agree that we’ll see a super thin and light laptop, but I bet it’s a replacement - not a compliment - to the existing MacBook line.

Basically, I think we’re looking at the MacBook Nano tomorrow, and I think it will be humungous. Basically today’s MacBook, only super duper thin.

I think there will also be a thinner, lighter, more powerful MacBook Pro. Maybe even a smaller 12 or 13 inch model.

Something in the Air

Finally, I have to address the Apple taser banners (and teaser website) using the tagline “There’s something in the air.”

Most have explained this away as a “lighter than air” thing laptop, probably called the “MacBook Air.”

But that doesn’t seem like a very satisfying tie-in to me. It seems to me like “something in the air” refers to some sort of wireless something or another.

3G iPhone? “Cordless” MacBook? I really don’t know.

I think maybe some sort of WiMAX deployment - basically super fast, 4G level wide-area wireless. Built into every MacBook Air? Yes, please.

January 10, 2008

First of all, good news from Techcrunch: Sony-BMG has agreed to sell their music DRM-free on AmazonMP3.

This means that Amazon is now selling unrestricted music from all four major labels. Yay! That basically means the end of DRM for music which is a totally pro-consumer move. Anything you download from Amazon will play on all your computers, all your iPods, all your CD players, forever and ever.

The frustrating comment comes at the end:

We expect Steve Jobs to announce the addition of Sony-BMG music without DRM to iTunes at MacWorld next week. But for now, Amazon has them all to themselves. Amazon now has 3.25 million DRM-free tracks in their library, compared to just 2 million at iTunes. ITunes has a far larger DRM catalog, but, really, do those tracks even count any more?

Of course those tracks count!

In June, iTunes became the third largest retailer of music in the country. The vast, vast majority of their sales have been of DRM-laden files. Apple seems to be trying to go DRM-free, and good for them, but seriously, they’re doing juuust fine selling DRM.

Sheesh, Mr. Techcrunch. Think this through a little, will you!

August 10, 2007

After just scratching the surface of Apple’s new iMovie ‘08, color me very very impressed. I made the video above in about 20 minutes just by poking around the interface and playing with video clips taken with our point-and-shoot digital camera.

The result is, I think, pretty fun.

Some have complained that the new iMovie takes away some features and fine control. But I think it more than makes up for it in making the whole thing accessible and fun.

Now, instead of making carefully constructed timelines of every wipe, fade, and dissolve, you just fling short clips into your project, add some polish, and one-click upload to YouTube. It’s really pretty slick.

So, congrats again to Jim and Gretchen. Let me know what you think!

August 9, 2007

  1. If you need to record streaming video (Windows Media, Real Player, etc.), use Snapz Pro X.

    It’s the quickest, easiest way to grab a video stream off the web and turn it into a Quicktime movie suitable for or YouTube.

  2. When creating a central point for your audio/video podcast or other media content, use to store and manage the files. But post everything to YouTube too.

    This was good advice from my friend, Baratunde. is an excellent service that stores your media files (including multiple formats and sizes), quickly and easily cross-posts your content to a variety of different sources (Facebook, MySpace, blog, etc.), provides advanced statistics compared to YouTube, and can help you create branded media players for your website - all for free!

    It’s a pretty slick service that I’m just getting into, but so far it’s been great.

    Thing is, you still gotta post to YouTube. I know that my friend had some experience using both services. When I asked him, he reminded me that no matter how great the tools are for you, the content producer, the audience still sees YouTube as a destination for video.

    When people come to your website looking for audio or video, feel free to serve up the player. But you never know what will go viral, so you have to have your content on YouTube, too, to reach the widest possible audience.

    I haven’t done a mountain of video in my day, but I thought this was solid advice. Consider it something learned today.

  3. Congressional campaigns can’t put video clips of the House floor on the campaign website.

    Needless to say, my plan for today was to grab a cool clip from the C-SPAN archives and repurpose it for a campaign I work on.

    C-SPAN has no problem with this. In fact, they recently restated their copyright policy to make this explicitly OK. As far as C-SPAN is concerned, the proceedings of the House are in the public domain.

    Thing is, we learned that House ethics rules forbid Members from using footage of the House floor for campaign purposes. It seems like a dumb rule to me, but thems the breaks.

Conclusion: The bad news is that number 3 basically made numbers 1 and 2 useless to me for now. But the good news is that I did learn 3 new things today.

April 27, 2007

What kind of stuff should go on a great campaign website?

Here's what I have so far:

  • Front Page Features
  • Sign Up
  • Contribute
  • About the Candidate
  • Issue Statements
  • Latest News

For my purposes, I see "Latest News" as something of a catch-all for Press Releases, Favorable Press Coverage, Campaign Event Previews / Recaps, Photos, and Video. (Shh...don't tell my client, but it's essentially going to be their campaign blog.)

I can imagine for a bigger race, you'd draw finer distinctions between those different content areas.

Anyway, is there anything I'm missing?

April 5, 2007

A few days ago, I posted this NY Times story about how Apple and EMI records announced the sale of music with "DRM" anti-copying and piracy technology. At the time, I was a little dismissive of the announcements importance.

Apple and EMI announce higher quality audio with zero usage restrictions. File this under great news that shouldn't really affect anyone too noticeably.

This morning, I read a post on the Wired "Cult of Mac" blog that analyzed some of the long-term ramifications of the deal. It's a theme that has played out on the blogs over the last few days. Based on my previous comments, you might imagine that I feel like it's all much ado about nothing. You'd be right.

The Wired blog post had a couple of minor factual misconceptions, so I was motivated to comment in respond. Once I start writing, I decided to add in my "It's no big deal" analysis in a little more detail. I thought I'd reproduce it below.

Ultimately, it sure seems like the EMI announcement is much ado about nothing. Like, yeah, sure…fewer restrictions and higher fidelity are a good thing. No complaints there. It just doesn’t seem to me like it will change things a whole lot.

It doesn’t seem to me like there’s been a massive popular outcry about the restrictions or audio quality of current songs. Plenty of super-geeky bloggers have complained about not being able to put their iTunes tracks onto their Linux-based, DIY portable Tivos. And the odd audiophile cluck-clucks about lossy encoding, but it just seems like most people don’t care at all.

The ONLY time I’ve ever run into the usage restriction is when I wanted to post tracks to my blog. Other than that, I’ve downloaded from iTunes, transferred to my iPod painlessly, and not batted an eyelash. I don’t have 5 computers. I don’t burn a whole lot of CDs.

I’m not at all suggesting that people NEVER run into the DRM restrictions. Just that the vast majority don’t. How many people actually have music blogs?

Bottom line: bigger, better features that are obviously pro-consumer are great things. I’m not at all opposed. It just seems like everything thinks this will be earth-shattering. I really doubt it.

February 26, 2007

Dwight Howard did it again. Earlier this week, YouTube video showed the dunk Howard planned in the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk finals, if he hadn't been robbed by fuddy-duddy judges. He calls is "Kiss the Rim" because that's almost literally what he does.

In the words of my buddy Adam, BTP's official NBA correspondent:

We should all just agree on this now: LeBron may get the press, Wade may have a ring, but Howard is the most likeable megastar of his generation.

I'll comment that I think that however this video leaked, it's very very smart.

To some extent, sports are the part of society furthest along in "YouTube-ization." Highlight packages on SportsCenter have been emphasizing the flashy and the immediate in a way similar to short web clips for years.

Some have cited this trend as the downfall of sport. I think it's just an added way to appreciate sports. Solid fundamentals are a vehicle to competition. For decades, that's all sports were about - winning and losing.

Now, we're seeing a relatively new strain of sports fandom: sheer appreciation. We don't awe at Dwight Howard's dunk because it makes him a better player at winning the game of 5-on-5 basketball. We awe at it because it's a simply astonishing athletic feat. In short, it's just cool.

This appreciation of the aesthetics of sport is also seen in the way most of the new ESPN-style X Games are judged competitions, rather that first-past-the-line, score-more-points style confrontations. Think about the snowboard halfpipe. Shaun White just looks cooler. That's why he wins.

Dwight Howard can kiss the rim. That's why he wins.

January 23, 2007

A few months ago, the NHL announced a deal with YouTube to bring game highlights and other video packages to the online video superstore. As an out-of-market Red Wings fan who still hasn't ponied up for the package, this sounded like a great idea.

Well, a few weeks after the NHL started posting these videos I'm here to call it an unmitigated failure. Sure, I can get Red Wings highlights. Here's the clip for the most recent game, a Wings loss against our hated rival, the Colorado Avalanche.

There are two major problems.

1) The clips go up too late.

This game happened on Saturday night. The highlights weren't posted until midday Monday. The clips absolutely have to go up no later than the morning after. I wake up and say to myself "Hey, how did the Wings do last night?" If the video's not online, I'm not coming back.

ESPN can cut up a highlight package in minutes. I know there are a bunch of games on any given day, but I gotta figure the NHL can get these packages up a few hours after the game.

2) The highlights are terrible.

Watch that Wings-'Lanche video. It's terrible. There's no voice-over telling you what's going on, just the game announcers in mid-call. Think about an ESPN highlight package. They always use nice graphics to tell you if someone reaches a milestone or to give you key stats. Not here.

Unless the NHL improves these packages, there's really no point to their YouTube venture.

The good news is that there is an alternative. I've been talking about ESPN highlights a lot in this piece - for good reasons. They're the gold standard when it comes to this sort of thing.

ESPN has their own online vide initiative called ESPN360. It's terrific. The video fidelity is a step up from YouTube. The packages are ESPN productions, so you know they'll be high quality. You can watch a sample highlight package here. You can even get a Red Wings specific RSS feed.

I don't know if they post clips in a timely fashion. They haven't yet posted a clip for this weekend's Avalanche game. So that criticism still stands. All tolled, however, ESPN's offering is far superior to the NHL-YouTube version.

At the end of the day, though, I'm still rooting for YouTube. The downside to ESPN360 is that it only works with certain ISPs. Much like with their cable channels, ESPN gouges the networks to allow their users access. That just seems kind of unseemly to me. Not to mention unreliable. The NHL-YouTube version is much more open and, of course, totally free to anyone with an internet connection.

Second, I have to think that if the NHL ever got really serious about putting together stunning video packages, they'd put out a lot more and a lot better content than ESPN ever would. I love ESPN's hockey coverage, but it's tough to deny the sport is more of an afterthought to the network.

Hockey is all the NHL ever does. If they really started trying, I'm sure they could beat the pants off ESPN.

January 10, 2007

So, the new Apple iPhone is ridiculously cool. I want one badly and am not OK with waiting til June for FCC approval.

One thing I thought was cool about today's presentation of the device were some comments made by musical guest John Mayer during his performance. I'm paraphrasing here, but Mayer was thanking Steve Jobs and Apple for "making life more fun," a spot-on observation. Then he said something that really struck me: "It's like the complete opposite of terrorism."

It was a clumsy joke by a guy who's not a comedian, but I thought it was really cool. At it's core, he's just about right. People making cool stuff or doing good things to make the world more fun, more fair, and more plentiful really are doing the against violence and hatred of all forms.

So, short form: Steve Jobs, more anti-terrorism that George Bush.

Long form: Seek out fun, fairness, and plenty in your own life's work. It's an important antidote to the scary stuff going on in our world.

October 20, 2006

Go Get 'Em Tigers (1.2 MB MP3)

It's funny. I had every intention of writing about cellphone ringtones
in a completely different context earlier this week. But now I can't be

Now that the Tigers are in the World Series, every call into my cellphone, plays the Tigers' old-is-new-again fight song "Go Get 'Em Tigers."

Originally created for the 1968 championship run, this Jestons-style jingle has been resurrected for this year's October magic. And for just $2.99, it can be your ringtone too.

Or just download my MP3.

More Tigers nostalgia songs available at Gorilla vs. Bear.

Also - my final take on ringtones - too expensive, too complicated, and too incompatible with all the other music I already have. Apple, please make a cell phone so I can turn all my iTunes songs into ringtones with one click.

August 18, 2006

Well, false alarm.  It turns out that new icon I discovered in Leopard isn't all that new. 

It's just a real icon for Exposé.  Oh well.  It was fun while it lasted.

August 8, 2006

This is pretty cool.

Yesterday, Apple gave the first public demonstration of the new version
of its operating system, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Ever since, I've been
totally geeking out - watching the preview videos, reading all I can
about it, and just generally salivating over the neat new stuff.

Today, I did something I've never done before. I "discovered" a
potentially "top secret" feature of Leopard.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog published a roundup of small
features you might have missed in the Leopard sneak peek. It's small
stuff. RSS in Mail. New interface colors in iChat. Nothing major.

However, in the comments, "Jason" noticed something interesting:

13. Speaking of unannounced strangeness, am I the only one confused by the presence of a spotlight dock icon in the 'iChat' video? Check it out during the portion of the video that demonstrates screen sharing (with the green background).

That Spotlight now gets it's own icon is no big deal, but hold the phone. What's that icon NEXT to Spotlight?

Frankly, the icon is a complete mystery. Blowing up the picture doesn't really do any good. It looks like it might be related to Dashboard or Expose, but I really don't think so.

Anyway, who was the first guy to notice this? ME!

Yeah, I'm a huge nerd. But I'm particularly good at it, eh?

July 5, 2006

What if, when you went to a concert, there was a website where you could upload your photos, videos, even audio clips? Maybe do a little light blogging or at least commenting / message boarding?

Basically, it'd give you an online place to hang out and chat about the show after the event. Or for that matter, DURING the show if the mobile interface was good enough. I think it would be neat to see other perspectives, discuss ideas raised by the music, and maybe even make some buddies.

Would this be cool? Could you maybe build it pretty easily on top of existing community sites like Flickr, etc?

I like the idea of giving an off-line experience a footprint in the digital world. After all, online communication is a huge and rapidly growing slice of the pie already. On the other hand, what's wrong with just enjoying the damn concert!? Must everything be live-blogged?

I dunno. It's just an idea. Let me know what you think.

April 18, 2006

The DSCC has new video this week demostrating just how big a rubber stamp Arizona Senator Jon Kyl is for the Bush administration's extreme right wing agenda. See for yourself.

Direct link to YouTube (Comment, Share, Etc.)

The video itself isn't really anything too special, but I'm proud that my organization has posted the whole thing on YouTube, a new online video sharing site.

It can be scary for political organizations to give up even a modicum of control over exactly how communications are used and presented. Posting a a community-based site like YouTube allows commenting on the video and could potentially allow just about anyone to spread the video around. But it also is a new way that people are finding and sharing content. Getting our message out in the ways people want to receive it outweighs any perceived risk, by far.

I'm not so naive to think that now that we have video on YouTube anyone is going to care. I just think it's cool that we're willing to at least experiment with new technologies.

March 1, 2006


Just like Steve, I have "one more thing" to say about Apple's product announcements yesterday. In addition to the previously mentioned Mac Mini and iPod Hi-Fi, Apple also unveiled their very own classy leather case for your iPod.

I'm disappointed they didn't announce it a few weeks ago when I was in the market, but I've been shocked to hear how much the big tech commentators hate this product. I'm going to disagree with all of them because I think they're silly and wrong. Here's why.

The first big complaint is that this new case is, at $99, too expensive. This is silly. Of course everyone WANTS to buy things for far less than they're worth, but this product is surely comparable to others in its class. I was all set to spend $75 on a case that I didn't love because it was classy and well made. If this Apple case - which I'm sure is very high quality - was available then, I would have snapped it up.

More frustrating to me is the argument that this case "sucks" because it "makes you take the iPod out of the case to watch a video or use the controls."

This is just idiotic, but so typical of the "more is more" attitude that pervades gadget lovers. The iPod is beautiful. EVERYONE basically agrees with that. Why in God's name WOULDN'T you want to take it out of its case every once in a while? Further, have you SEEN the cases that have all sorts of cut-outs for the controls? UGLY!

I think the Apple case is very classy. I don't mind handling my iPod in order to use it. And I certainly admire the importance of aesthetics, some most techies just don't comprehend. (cf. Last week at work.)

I'm quite certain this will sell very well. I bet I pick one up for my next iPod.

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