Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Saturday, August 27, 2005 3:41 am
Apple’s FireWire 800 neglect
10 years ago FireWire was a joke. Vapourware from Apple’s famous labs. Later on, it replaced SCSI and is now a standard across all Macintoshes. There have been setbacks to its adoption though. FireWire was the standard by which iPods (21M sold and counting) transferred data and charged—but Apple changed its mind on that recently… And the Wintel machines started to include FW ports only relatively recently, and only after USB 2 became standard.

Today, FireWire is still an important standard—just about every digital camcorder utilises FW.

However, FireWire 800, introduced 2 years ago, is a lame duck. Despite being potentially twice as fast, FW800 languishes on some of the “Pro” set of Apple’s machines. Virtually no other computer maker has adopted the new FW800 port. Finding a FW400 hub is hard enough; a FW800 hub is non-existent. In fact FW800 peripherals (in general external hard disk enclosures) attract a premium compared to FW400 versions.

The logical reason is FW800 is currently marketed as a “Pro” feature—i.e. a feature that makes the Apple “Pro” products more attractive. This is bad for the FW800 technology. Compare this behaviour with Apple’s adoption of BlueTooth 2.0, 802.11g and USB 2. These replaced the previous generation technology. And the different shapes of the FW400 and FW800 ports shouldn’t make a difference either: After all USB 1.1. replaced Apple’s serial ports, DVI ports has replaced VGA.

If Apple wanted to promote the FW800 technology, it would only have to phase out the physical FW400 port, and use FW800 ports across its product line. Particularly on the Apple machines that have a single FW port—the Mac mini, the iMac, iBook and 12“ PowerBook. Bundle a separate male 800 to female 400 converter with every one of these machines to allow backwards compatibility for FW400 cables and peripherals.

FW400 was made obsolete 2 years ago. Unfortunately Apple’s refusal to let it go is hindering the adoption of FW800.

[posted with ecto]

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Friday, August 12, 2005 12:46 pm
Mighty response to Apple’s mouse
It’s been 10 days since Apple released the Mighty Mouse—their multi-button mouse adaptation. Since then some have bought it or tried it out, and there have been endless comments e.g.
“It doesn’t click!”, “Yes it does”, “No it doesn’t”, “YES IT DOES!”.
“It has a speaker!”
“Right click doesn’t work!”, “Yes it does”, “No it doesn’t”, “JUST LIFT YOUR FINGER OFF THE LEFT BUTTON!”
“The scroll ball isn’t configurable!”
And probably the most idiotic (also heard on the engadget podcast):
“Why isn’t it available in Bluetooth?”
Yikes. There are a myriad of multibutton mice out there. Why is a newly released wired multibutton mouse receiving this sort of attention? People are buying the Mighty Mouse sight unseen (and at premium prices too), and then complaining about this and that feature. Is this irrational or what?

And there isn’t a Bluetooth version because the wired version will give Apple a chance to tweak the hardware design before committing to a more pricey wireless version. AND some of those impulse buyers who bought the wired Mighty Mouse—will go out to buy the wireless one anyway. See, it didn’t take long to figure that out.

Should the Mighty Mouse be bundled with Apple’s machines then? USB multibutton mice are a commodity item. There’s no shortage of choice for 3rd party multibutton mice (my preferences is the MX series from Logitech). And I suspect a not insignificant number of people have spare unused USB multibutton mice lying around the house.

On the other hand, Apple has a stranglehold on the one-button mouse (1BM) market. And the 1BM has its benefits—I certainly preferred a 1BM when teaching my mum and dad how to use the computer. No chance of pressing the whole mouse button there.

Given the tangible benefits that a 1BM offers to some, and the wide range of cheap multi-button mice out there, I hope the Mighty Mouse does not become the default mouse bundled with Apple’s machines.

[posted with ecto]

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005 1:05 am
360 envy
It’s August now, which means it’s time to think of Christmas presents. Actually no. It is a little early, and I don’t do Christmas ± presents anyway.

The Apple iPod has been the darling of XMas gifts for the last 2 years now. This year, if both the iPods and iPod mini go colour, that is likely to continue. XMas 2005 should be a windfall period for Apple and the iPod peripheral makers. There isn’t much on the MP3 player front offering a serious retail challenge. There is the PSP and a new video-capable thingamajig from Creative that looks… not bad.

Microsoft is wisely not highlighting the portable MP3 fight though—they have the awesome-looking XBox 360 primed for a November release. There is quite significant interest, judging from online comments—some of it possibly viral marketing. The three-way gaming console market is filled with a fanboys so the potential market is already there. I’m not going to be in line to buy one off the shelves—I’ll leave that to the younger generation of gamers—although I will be watching intently from the sidelines. Maybe when Halo 3 is released… XBox Live with XBox 360 looks particularly droolworthy. I have to say too: that the XBox 360 release is probably going to be on time, and create excitement: more so than Windows Vista.

Today, someone pointed me towards which I took a peek at. It does look like a nice pre-packaged blog/homepage—definitely less flashy than MSN Spaces was. It’s interesting to see how Yahoo! has returned to what used to be Geocities specialty. I haven’t created a serious page on that Yahoo 360, but I’m tempted to give it a whirl.

What I was really wondering was—360? What’s with the adoption the “360” moniker by both Yahoo! and Microsoft at the same time? Both products are probably in markets sufficiently different to avoid lawsuits and the like. I thought numbers had fallen out of favour since the Intel 80486.

[posted with ecto]

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Saturday, August 06, 2005 3:29 am
Trouble in the House of iTunes
Here in Australia we do not have an Apple iTunes Music Store—even though one has been impending for several months now. Several “possible music events” have come and gone. At one time, the badge showing the Australian flag was found on the Apple site, and someone in Australia managed to nab a few songs before whole thing was shut down again. Now, we hear that the iTMS has opened in Japan with two-tier pricing. And rumours abound of price increases of iTMS songs.

I gather all this is because someone at some music company wants to ensure proper compensation for allowing access to their precious music intellectual property. This is very understandable. From Apple’s point of view: it is in Apple’s interest to sell as many songs as possible from the iTMS—after all each song sold represents further lock into the FairPlay Digital Rights Management (hence iPod blah blah…)—and therefore Apple wants songs available as cheaply as possible.

The point-of-view from the music companies is more complicated—more likely profit-maximisation from each sale is key.

It is possible their view is that iPod owners are also locked out of any competing iTMS-wannabees. (i.e., Yahoo!, Napster etc). And since there are lots and lots of iPod owners out there—this number is increasing—there is an expanding captive audience for the iTMS, who in turn would tolerate higher prices. After all, the cost of legal digital downloads is (usually) considered to be underpriced compared to the cost of music on compact discs.

Who knows? I’m not familiar with the inner workings of the music industry. My view is that there will be those who will definitely buy CDs and not from the iTMS. The iTMS’s main competition however, is illegal music downloads which continue to be widely practiced. So far the combination of music company/lawyers/Apple/everyone else has been unable to put that genie back into the bottle. The mind boggles at whether it is at all possible to prevent music from being freely exchanged via electronic means.

And further to that, is the fact that good music is also increasingly freely available via other means. e.g. free legal downloads (e.g. direct from artists, or from Pod Safe Music Network), free Internet radio streaming. Podcasts represents an increasing amount of available free content. Don’t forget also, the traditional radio stations. And then there are portable video and portable videogames…

The fact is that there is only a finite amount of time in a day, and people generally only listen to one thing at a time. So any time I’m listening to something else… is time that I don’t have to listen to music. Music companies will need to take that into account, lest they overprice themselves out of the market.

[posted with ecto]

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2:11 am
2 love stories movies
I’ve seen two movies that turned out to be memorable love stories in the last 2 days. Both happen to be Non-English movies for which I needed subtitles.

The first was In The Mood For Love from China/?Hong Kong. Frequent collaborators Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung were excellent in this ultra-gorgeous movie.

The second was 3-Iron from South Korea. Some recent Korean movies have had such original story-lines and creative story-telling. This one is no exception.

Both movies are unconventional, yet simple and pleasing. And it is refreshing to see alternatives to the usual Hollywood passion-fests. Sometimes out-and-out massive Hollywood love stories like Titanic (cheesy) or The English Patient (epic) work—both are movies I found satisfying to varying extents. (I’ve only seen Titanic once in the cinema and hope never to see again ever; but it worked at the time).

However, more recent Hollywood efforts e.g. Cold Mountain left me cold; and I don’t have any desire to experience the witty-but-incredibly-unrealistic-dialog contained in the rom-coms that Hollywood continually dish out—e.g. Wedding Crashers and Must Love Dogs. Sure they have their fans. Just not me.

I can’t remember the last time 2 back-to-back movies impressed me as much as In The Mood For Love and 3-Iron have. I recommend them to anyone hoping to try something different.

[posted with ecto]

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