Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category
I saw Steve Jobs’ demo of the iPhone 4 today and must admit I find this to be an interesting product, much more so than the 3Gs of last year. If memory serves, the 3Gs added speed (always welcome) and video recording. iPhone 4 adds a lot more – and it looks better too. Jobs referred to its’ style as reminiscent of a Leica camera, and that’s no lie. Leica products look fantastic and this new phone looks like it belongs at the same table.
I purchased a iPhone 3G two years ago. It was the first iPhone available in Canada and I have no regrets about that. It’s been a great product – a boon in many, many ways. I do regret that my Roger’s contract has another year to go before it expires and I can upgrade to a phone like this this without penalty.
Since my wife and I are both iPhone users, the Face Time video calling feature looks promising, even if it is limited to WiFi. I also have some hope that the new camera will be more useful than the toy that shipped with my 3G. Finally, I would love to have a look at that new display. In my experience Apple’s displays are phenomenal and this one looks like it will raise the bar.
The only disappointment I can see is that storage is limited to 32 GB. Anything would be an improvement over the 16 GB I’ve been stuck with, but 64 would have been a real hoot. I wonder if Apple stayed with the 16 for space and / or cost saving on the device or if they have some kind of cloud storage in the works.
My hope is that by next year, we’ll know the answer to that, and I can buy accordingly!
The New Yorker still does great prose:
The Google Library Project has so far received mixed reviews. Google shows the reader a scanned version of the page; it is generally accurate and readable. But Google also uses optical character recognition to produce a second version, for its search engine to use, and this double process has some quirks. In a scriptorium lit by the sun, a scribe could mistakenly transcribe a “u” as an “n,” or vice versa. Curiously, the computer makes the same mistake. If you enter qualitas—an important term in medieval philosophy—into Google Book Search, you’ll find almost two thousand appearances. But if you enter “qnalitas” you’ll be rewarded with more than five hundred references that you wouldn’t necessarily have found. Sometimes the scanner operators miss pages, or scan them out of order. Sometimes the copy is not in good condition. The cataloguing data that identify an item are often incomplete or confusing. And the key terms that Google provides in order to characterize individual books are sometimes unintentionally comic. It’s not all that helpful, when you’re thinking about how to use an 1878 Baedeker guide to Paris, to be told that one of its keywords is “fauteuils.”
Taken from a story about the future of text by Anthony Grafton.
Another reason – as if you needed another reason – to avoid Microsoft products.
Today is my first day experimenting with Nisus Writer Express, a Mac Word-processor that has been around a while, but which is new to me. I have a number of word processing programs available to me but have to admit that all of them have issues to some degree or other that make them less than ideal homes for composition.
On the PC, I used to use the free and open-source Open Office suite. It wasn’t beautiful, but it fit into the Windows desktop and did everything I needed it to do. It was also reasonably quick. Open Office is available for Mac OS X in two forms, neither of which is what I want in a Mac word processor. The main port of Open Office for Mac runs in the Unix environment called X-11. That isn’t a terrible problem, but it does give it some behaviors that are unlike those of normal OS X programs. The menu-bar doesn’t function normally, for example. It also looks and behaves just like Open Office for Windows. That might be a bonus for people who work in both environments, but since I made the switch to Mac I have tried to work in the Mac environment whenever possible. In truth, I like it OS X such that in it’s wince inducing to go back.
There is an Open Office port that is designed to fit into the Mac environment and play nice, and I have taken a long look at it. Neo Office, as it is called, is getting better with every release but it is dogged by two problems. The first is that it is a terribly slow program to fire up. The other is that while it does play nice with the Mac, it still does not feel like a Mac program. It looks like an open source copy of MS Office running on a Mac. That’s probably because that’s exactly what it is. You can see this phenomenon in screenshots of various Linux distributions too. In trying to appeal to Windows refugees, the designers’ slogan appears to be something like “our gulag is better than their gulag.” As a result, their programs look like cheap-o versions of Windows. Crashes, bugs and security issues aside, the Windows environment is not something designed for the use and enjoyment of human beings and I’m loathe to let it find its’ way back into my life.
What about Apple’s light Office suite, iWork? The short and sweet answer is that it’s OK. Pages, the word processor, looks nice and behaves as one would expect from an Apple program. It’s clean, functional and not difficult to use. It’s strength appears to be document formating, so that you can quickly make shorter documents that look great and will play nice with Keynote, the other half of iWork. Pages isn’t, however, the trusty companion of the long distance writer.
I’ve been playing with Nisus Writer Express for all of about fifteen minutes and this feels like the best word processor I’ve used in some time. I’m writing in a razor sharp full screen mode. It’s easy on the eyes and offers no distractions. I haven’t had this feeling while writing since using Word on DOS, and that certainly wasn’t as pretty as this. If I had to run it windowed, Nisus Writer makes it very easy to knock out all of the toolbars so that you’re composing in a window that looks like it could be a simplified TextEdit. When you need to do formating, the toolbars come back with one or two clicks.
Nisus also offers four clipboards, for pasting frequently used text, and an “auto correct” feature that you can add words to. Or shortcuts to words. These two features are huge time savers and very sexy. They may not be original, but neither is sex. A replacement tool is available as a stand alone product called Textpander, which sells for $30. I suppose it has the benefit of working in all of your programs, but Nisus Writer Express costs only $45 and has a lot more functionality. Why not compose there and just export/import any text you need in another program?
Nisus Writer is also fast enough that it can plausibly serve as a notepad, a function that I sometimes like to have when I’m gathering information on the web. I had been auditioning Mac Notepad, which is not a bad little program, but it doesn’t have nearly the functionality and is expensive ($20) for what you get. Those two programs alone would be more than Nisus and still wouldn’t match it. Then there’s another thing I like about Mac software – you can often buy “family packs” and get more licenses (usually three) at a reduced rate. Nisus offers a three pack for $80, which works out to $27 per copy.
For someone like me, who likes to write, and with other family members who could use a good Mac word-processor, this looks like a good find.
John Gruber at Daring Fireball takes a look at “AAC means lock-in” arguments, which were only ever valid about music purchased at the iTunes store, in light of Apple’s no DRM deal with EMI. An easy thought experiment sets us right:
Let’s imagine for one paragraph that Microsoft’s and Apple’s digital music positions were flipped: that it was Microsoft that shipped the world-changing Zune in 2001, that they had sold 100 million Zunes to date, and that Microsoft’s online music store had 85 percent market share for legal downloads — all of them protected by Microsoft’s proprietary DRM. Can you imagine, in this scenario, Steve Ballmer or Bill Gates publishing an open letter like Jobs’s “Thoughts on Music”? Can you imagine Microsoft volunteering to switch from DRM-protected songs to an unprotected industry standard file format?
Microsoft would have told EMI to stick their DRM-free tracks up their ass. And the classic Microsoft, the Microsoft with a set of balls, would have told EMI that if they wanted to sell DRM-free tracks elsewhere, at other stores, that they’d suddenly find the terms changed for their songs at the market-dominating Microsoft store.
Apple is not the “Microsoft of digital music”, and everyone ought to stop trying to view their actions as though they were. Alas, that’s too much to hope for, and so in the meantime, now that Apple has proven its commitment to DRM-free music downloads, keep your eye out for anti-AAC propaganda from those pushing an anti-iTunes or anti-Apple agenda
Follow up post here.