Before we get to Geek Wednesday, this has to be mentioned, because we've now reached a primal-scream moment in the history of the Bush Administration's arrogant idiocy. After the American people clearly and abundantly said "No, No, No" to the rule of war and the military state, we are told that it's time for more of the same. Please, join Code Pink in demanding "no troop surge."
Who were the standout geeks of 2006, you ask? Let's have a look...
Crazy like a 'Fox: Firefox released version 2.0 of its Gates-crashing browser, in the same week that MS put another twist onto its ancient turd, IE 7. Firefox is cleaner, more stable, faster, user-friendlier, more loaded with features and cool add-ons, and allaround more fun than IE 7, which is a banal imitation of better products. Opera also released a new version, 9.0, and managed a small coup in winning a spot as the default browser on the new Nintendo machines.
But Firefox is so good that the geeks of the Open Source world have already started re-inventing it again. Version 3.0, code-named "Gran Paradiso" is already in the alpha stage of development. I downloaded it for both the Windows machine and the Mac, and I can say it's very promising. It installs on its own path, rather than overwriting your existing 2.0 version; it grabs your bookmarks, gives you a link to their feedback form for incident reporting, and you're off. 3.0 is apparently a complete revamping of the Gecko engine, so this should be a major release when it's ready, probably late summer of '07. Meanwhile, IE 7 is still hobbling along on the same old tired Trident engine that it had five years ago.
Also on the browser front, though rather more quietly than the others discussed above, the amazing geeks at OmniGroup released a new version of OmniWeb, their outstanding Mac-only browser. It's not free, but it'll be the smartest fifteen bucks you've spent in a while, take my word for it. I also continue to use and wonder at the features and ease of OmniGraffle, their remarkable diagramming software that is head and shoulders above Visio for design, functionality, and overall fun. They've also released a new project management tool, which in combination with their other products gives them a sterling office suite for the Mac.
Google is a category all its own in geekdom. This year, they caused trouble for themselves by going to China without much of a plan, even as their stock price continued to rocket toward the $500 mark. But incidentally, why do they call it an "initial public offering" when a company starts selling stock? Does the public at large really have an interest in such things? Maybe I've got too broad a conception of what "the public" is to understand these points of high economics; but when I think of the public, I think of middle class working stiffs like myself who can barely afford rent, bills, and food every month, and feel lucky just to be able to have that and the ability to go into debt for a computer. I especially think of the people that Bob Herbert wrote about on Monday—folks who were left to die or suffer by a criminally negligent government, and still live in dire privation. The stock market / IPO culture we've built misses those folks, and many of the rest of us, too.
Anyway back to Google. For me, their most significant accomplishment this year was the release of their two-pronged online office suite, which includes their home-brewed Spreadsheet application and the ingenious Writely word processor. Together, they are GoogleDocs, and may be all the productivity application you need.
iWant: But the geeks with the biggest bite (and the largest profits) in 2006 are of the Cupertino variety. At last, after 5+ years of iPods, the world got back the Macintosh. The Intel switch is transforming geekdom, all the way to the point where the geek press is speculating on the possibilities of Apple for the enterprise. Having personally set up one of these machines with Parallels and Windows XP inside Mac OS X, I can say that Mr. Yager ain't nuts at all.
But Apple's sights, for now, appear set on the den rather than the boardroom. In about three weeks, MacWorld 2007 should feature the rollout of iTV, something that many Mac users and would-be Mac switchers are yearning for. Consider these observations from our own Nearly Redmond Nick:
How are these guys supposed to own the living room without a TV tuner!? I mean, Microsoft shipped Media Center Edition quite a while back, with full support for a tuner and a DVR. In fact, my brother is running a sub-$1000 Dell with Dual TV tuners, so he can watch a football game while recording Dancing with the Stars. He can also use a nifty little remote to play movies and music, and browse pictures. But for all Apple has done, Front Row has not measured up, and I still need to spend an extra $200 to watch TV on my Mac. Booooo.
Be patient, Nick: your time of 24" iMac, iTV heaven is not far off. Soon after MacWorld, Apple will be releasing the next version of its world-beating OS, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. They've been kind of secretive about what's in this thing, as if they were worried about someone stealing their ideas. Well, in this video, David Pogue of the New York Times puts the lie to that suspicion.
So my Xmas list has only one item on it: a 2.0 GHz MacBook with an 80GB HD and 2GB of RAM. But Santa may need some help...there's a donation link in the sidebar. If the 100 average daily unique visitors that we get here toss two bucks apiece into the cyber tip jar, I'd be blogging from the road in a week!
Now that you've fed the kitty, here are some holiday season links for Daily Revolutionaries everywhere.
Ideal Bite: A gift and lifestyle site for the planetary-conscious among us. They have a subscription newsletter with some lively ideas on things to buy, eat, and do. Worth a look.
Rieses Pieces: This is our StumbleUpon site of the week, and it makes you wonder what's in the water in the Phillippines, that the kids there are growing up so smart and socially aware. As with the Klassy site that we looked at earlier, there's very good stuff here.
Concert Vault: If you're a music lover, maybe you already know about this site. If you are and don't, well bookmark it immediately. Next month, we'll be dipping into the Vault when we take a look back at Pink Floyd's Animals, which will mark the 30th anniversary of its initial release in January. Meanwhile, have a look and a listen around the Vault, and you'll be taken back in time. And you may not want to come back.
Finally, a look at my votes for best blogs of 2006:
One Good Move: Norm Jenson still runs the most intelligent, entertaining, and robust weblog around. I check it every day, and it's where we find most of the videos we post here at DR. Norm, if OGM comes up in my Webby reviewer's pile on the next round, you're getting a straight 10.
Altercation: Eric Alterman took a fairly punishing professional hit this year, getting booted off MSNBC.com, and he sprang back with agility at Media Matters. His insight on the mass media makes him a leading voice for a return to sanity in this nation; and as I have mentioned before, he wouldn't be a bad choice as Press Secretary after Obama wins in 2008.
Think Progress: These guys don't miss a trick that the Bushies and their cronies in Congress have tried to push past us these past six years. Great stories, well researched.
MoJo Blog: The journalists at Mother Jones can keep you up to date, in case you don't have time to read their excellent magazine (which, at a mere $10 a year, is one of the great bargains of our time).
For more great blogs and sites, check the sidebar. And thanks to all the geeks out there who make it possible, from the inventor himself to all the guys and gals writing code in the Open Source Society, so we can still freely share ideas amid an increasingly oppressive culture of corporate government.