Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Geek Bless America

The new Harry Potter game: Non-violent, engaging, fun, visually and sonically beautiful. Available for both Mac and Windows. Can't go wrong with this one, Moms and Dads.

Geek Wednesday: Confessions of a Mac Fanboy

The Communication Declension:


Since when do people have so much to talk about, so endlessly? Are we turning into a giant and ceaseless session of Congress, sliding into a vortex of Sunday spout-show on a collapse into C-Span hell?

Maybe that's why I love geeks and musicians: they work in languages that can't easily be spoken, but only understood.

Anyway, the big news from last week is this: another corporate devil has climbed into bed with Uncle Steve. AT&T (your world, the NSA) now joins Nike. But if you'd like to try out the iPhone as a WiFi device and iPod, you can, thanks to some code from reverse-engineering uber-geek Jon Lech Johansen, who writes one of the more entertaining and informative geek blogs I've read.

Yet the Apple momentum is now in juggernaut force: later this month, expect to see new iMacs—arguably the best desktop hardware out there. And we're 3 months away from Leopard, with its new previewing, file management, backup, and workspace features. All dizzyingly cool, but let me add a few admittedly petty recommendations:

click graphic to enlarge

  • Can we fix the traffic light? You know, the window control buttons that correspond to Windows' dash-square-X protocol? I don't care that Apple has them on the left side of the window (anyone who knows me knows I lean left, anyway), but should I need a Geiger counter to find them on a laptop display? Make them big and easy to get to...not like in Windows, but more like Linux/KDE.

  • Here's a lesson straight from Windows: for god's sake, can't we have the ability to resize a window in all corners/sides? Apple gives you one (lower right).

  • Re-naming files: This is a big one, because we do it all the time, especially those of us who take a lot of pictures. You unload your camera's contents into iPhoto and want to give the files unique names. Here's how it works now:

    You drag the picture to the desktop.
    You select the file "P7004305839045.jpg" or whatever, and hit Enter. You're ready to edit.
    But the whole file name is overwritten as soon as you start typing, so you have to remember to put the correct extension in at the end.

    Why not set the default so you're overwriting only the file name prefix, but not the extension? The current one (in this case .jpg) can remain, and if the user wants to change the format, he can but doesn't have to. Make sense?

  • Make friends with the Penguin: OS X has a UNIX / BSD core and runs X11. Google has a Linux version of Picasa (and now, of Desktop); Firefox, Opera, Real, and other major software providers make Linux versions of their major products. So how about a Linux-friendly version of the Boot Camp drivers? And can't Apple make Linux versions of Safari, Quicktime, and iTunes? They're all free for Windows users: what's the problem, Steve? Can't afford the geeks to do it with? The day I see a Linux version of iTunes, I'll know you're serious and sincere in what you say about DRM.

  • Death by a thousand charges: Two dollars to get an 802.11n driver; $30 for Quicktime Pro every time there's an upgrade (I've paid that twice so far, for v6 and v7, in the space of less than two years); $100 for dot-mac when Google gives me equal or better features NC; $100 a year to get to the front of the line at the Genius Bar. Do your shareholders have you handcuffed to continue this money-bleed, in exchange for them looking the other way when someone on exec row fiddles with dates on stock prices? Be careful, Steve: it could alienate people who might otherwise be attracted to your good stuff.

  • I can say for a certainty that it's beginning to alienate this one-time Mac fanboy. Much as I love Apple hardware and OS X, and as much as I'll take a long, close look at those new iMacs later this month, the likelihood is that my next desktop machine will be a PC running Linux.

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