Matt Groening’s Artwork for Apple

I posted this to my Facebook, but thought it warranted the rare post over here.

This has been floating around the web (at least the Mac-centric side of the web), I thought I’d share it, too, since I have a personal connection to this.

VintageZen – Matt Groening’s Artwork for Apple

The personal connection I have?  I used to own that Akbar and Jeff poster:

Networking in Hell by Matt Groening

Networking in Hell by Matt Groening

I sold it (probably about four years ago) to someone who used to work for Apple in their networking/communications group during that time.  He told me he had been looking for it for years.  Apparently there are a few “in” jokes in the poster.

The buyer now has a top position with one of Apple’s biggest competitors (for privacy reasons, I won’t say who it is).  I like to think he has this poster hanging in his office there, but for some reason I kind of doubt it.

An Actual Useful Use for Google Docs

I’m not a fan of Google Docs. I never have been. It’s ugly, poorly organized, and lacking features. Web apps generally are.  I don’t use it.

However, I didn’t break my long, long silence on this site to bitch about all the things that are wrong with Google Docs (and Google in general lately). Because, I actually found a useful use for Google Docs.

I just had a user that couldn’t open a PowerPoint file. It was damaged. When trying to open the file, PowerPoint attempts to repair it, but cannot. It then gives the message that the “PowerPoint file may be damaged, or it may have been created in a pre-release version”. Web searches for the error didn’t produce anything useful.

(I ran a fsck with no luck.)

Long story short, since the file was damaged, but it still obviously had content (it was about 1.5 MBs, whereas sometimes corrupt files will show as being 0kb, or 4kb, or whatever the block size is, etc.), I knew there had to be a way to get at the data in the file.

Lightbulb.

I had the user upload the file to her Google Docs account to see if it would be able to convert it, even though it was damaged.  Surprisingly, it was able to.  Once in Google Docs, we were able to resave it as a .pptx file (you know, an actual usable, non-Google, format).

So, if you have an Office file (or pdf, or any other format Google Docs will handle) that won’t open, it might be worth a try uploading it to Google.

NOTE:  This was on a Mac. If the user had Keynote installed, I would have tried opening it in Keynote, which I’m sure would also have worked.

Don’t Be Evil

Google got into trouble when they started covertly mapping people’s wireless networks with their street-view vehicles. Obviously, this raised a number of privacy issues.

Well, Google has an answer for that:

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/greater-choice-for-wireless-access.html

Basically, you can opt out of this “service” by renaming the SSID for your wireless network to include “_nomap” at the end.

Read that again. That’s their solution.

Are they serious? Never mind the fact that the vast majority of people aren’t going to know they need to do this, do they realize that most people aren’t even going to know what that means, let alone how to do it? (I’m guessing that yes, they do realize that. And that’s the point.)

Oh, sure, they have directions for doing this linked from that blog post. This is part of their directions:

  1. Establish a physical connection between your access point and your computer using an ethernet cable.
  2. Establish the default gateway of your connection:
    1. On Windows, type ‘ipconfig’ into the command prompt (accessed from the start menu).
    2. On Mac OS, type ‘ifconfig’ into the command prompt.
    3. On Linux, type ‘ifconfig’ into the command prompt.
  3. Once you have the default gateway (it will look like 192.168.0.1), type it into the address bar of your web browser, this will take you to the control panel for your access point.
  4. You may have to sign in to your access point’s control panel. If so, the appropriate username and password should have been included in the booklet included when you received the access point.

They’re joking right? They really expect the average user to be able to do this? They really expect that the average person is going know what they’re looking at when they run those commands? This is the output of running ifconfig on the computer I’m currently using:

lo0: flags=8049 mtu 16384
inet 127.0.0.1 netmask 0xff000000
inet6 ::1 prefixlen 128
inet6 fe80::1%lo0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x1
gif0: flags=8010 mtu 1280
stf0: flags=0 mtu 1280
en0: flags=8863 mtu 1500
ether 10:9a:dd:ac:6e:a2
inet6 fe80::129a:ddff:feac:6ea2%en0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x5
inet 10.251.10.53 netmask 0xffff0000 broadcast 10.251.255.255
media: autoselect
status: active
vboxnet0: flags=8842 mtu 1500
ether 0a:00:27:00:00:00
en1: flags=8863 mtu 1500
ether 00:0e:c6:88:42:a0
inet6 fe80::20e:c6ff:fe88:42a0%en1 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x4
inet 10.251.10.52 netmask 0xffff0000 broadcast 10.251.255.255
media: autoselect (100baseTX )
status: active

They really think the average person is going to understand that!? (Never mind the fact that it doesn’t even tell you the default gateway.)

That this “opt-out” procedure is their answer to people’s privacy concerns is a complete joke. They clearly don’t want people to be able to opt-out, or even know that they need to. This should be an “opt-in” service, plain and simple.

It seems everyday Google does something to make their “Don’t be evil” slogan more and more of a joke.

What Apple Should Do With the iPod Classic

This is something I’ve been thinking about a fair bit lately, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here. After all, it’s been over a month since I posted anything. (I blame Twitter – most quick thoughts end up get whittled down to less than 140 characters now, whereas I used to expand on those thoughts. This definitely warrants more than 140 characters.)

Earlier this month Apple announced the new iPods. Before the event, some of the tech blogs wondered if we’d see the elimination of the iPod Classic. Of course, that didn’t happen. There’s still a market for the device, and it still makes money for Apple. I find myself squarely in the target demographic for the iPod Classic. Some people care about storage capacity more than running apps and whatnot. We’ve already got iPhones for apps, some of us don’t mind having a separate device for music.

I have a large collection of music in my iTunes library. My iPhone only holds 16GB. Sure I could have gone with the 32GB one, but it wouldn’t have been enough. My 80GB iPod Classic is full, so there would be really no point in a 32GB iPhone for me.

It’s not just the size of my collection, either, but the fact that I have many files that are in either Apple’s lossless format (ALAC), or at least saved at much higher bitrates than what most people use for their digital music. These files take up much more room than the mp3s most people listen to (and sound much better, as a result).

So, I, and people like myself, are the target for the Classic. People who have large collections of music in higher quality formats.

And, when I say my iPod is full, I mean I have to be selective about the music sync to my iPod. I was hoping this month’s iPod announcements would include either a price drop on the existing models, or larger capacity iPods. Neither of these things happened.

So now, if I decide to upgrade my current 80GB model, my only option is 160GB. That’ll do for now, but I know myself; I’ll keep adding to my collection, using higher quality formats, and that 160GB will fill up in no time.

I’m sure you see the point I’m getting at: If people like me are the target demographic for the larger capacity iPods, then Apple should increase the capacity, and they should keep doing this every year as storage technology advances.

What’s more, Apple needs to revisit the capabilities of the current iPod Classic. I don’t mean by adding apps and whatnot, but rather improve what it already does. What do I mean by this? I have files in my library that I can’t even play on my iPod because they are a higher resolution than what it supports. According to the spec page for the Classic, 320 Kbps is the highest it supports*. This is fine for most people, but I’ve got high-def ALAC files that are up to 2800 Kbps. I can’t even load those on my iPod.

Also, I don’t understand why Apple hasn’t added FLAC support to the iPod. Yes, ALAC is technically equivalent to FLAC, but FLAC is the preferred format for higher-quality audio files. Although, both Livephish.com and Livedownloads.com both now offer ALAC as an option, but they’re the exception. People who trade live recordings (legally) tend to use FLAC. There are tools, of course, to convert FLAC into ALAC or AAC, but it’s a pain to constantly have to do this.

I’m glad Apple didn’t discontinue the Classic, as some people predicted. But, I would love to see some updates to the beloved model. So, Apple, do us a favor: Update the Classic with higher storage capacity, support for higher bitrates, and FLAC support.

Sincerely,

Your customers who still buy the iPod Classic.


*The support page only lists bit rates for AAC and MP3, but not for ALAC. The Classic may support higher bit rates for ALAC, but I can’t find anything that says what the max is. I just know it won’t play (or even sync) 2800 Kbps files. Also, it occurs to me that the bit rate might not be the problem, it could be the sample size and sample rate (which, for the files in question is 24 bit/96kHz). Either way, it would be nice if the iPod Classic support high-def files.

It’s almost here…

This morning I noticed the scaffolding had been taken off the front of the building under construction at North and Halsted.  The logo on the front of the building was covered with a black cloth/tarp, but it was easily discernible.  I didn’t have enough time to get out my iPhone and grab a picture before the light changed (I’ll try tomorrow).

It won’t be long now.  Does anyone know if there’s a scheduled opening date yet for the new Apple Store?

UPDATE:

New Apple Store

Managed to snap a pic as I was driving by today:

Steve Jobs at the D8 Conference

Some great video highlights of Steve’s talk at the All Things Digital D8 conference on a variety of subjects.  Must watch/read for any Apple fan, or anyone even slightly interested in the state of technology today and where it’s headed.

Steve Jobs at D8

Thoughts on Mobile Flash

So, the big story/controversy/hub-bub in the tech world right now is mobile Flash.  Everyone knows Apple won’t allow Flash on the iPhone due to its poor performance.  Now, Flash has been shown running on Android.  It was buggy and slow, and turned the entire browsing experience in to a painful mess.

Now, many geeks have been clamoring for Flash, even though it’s a dying technology, and have been bashing Apple for their hard-line stance against Flash.  “At least give us the choice,” seems to be the rallying cry.  Apple is taking away their choice to run (and write) Flash.  These same geeks are defending the horribly running Flash on Android saying that you can turn it off.  At least you have the choice.  You can run it when you want to access sites like Hulu, but turn it off for regular browsing.

Here’s the problem, and this is why this is bad for Android and Google.  The average user (you know, the target demographic if you want these devices to actually be profitable) could care less about Flash.  What’s more, and here’s the key, they won’t know how to turn it off.  Only the geeks who think there’s a need for Flash in the future of the mobile web will know how to turn it on and off.  The average user will be stuck with it (because it’ll be there by default).  The average user won’t have the choice, so all they are going to see is how painful it is to surf the web on their Flash-running Android device.

What’s worse is they’re not even going to know that Flash is the problem.  All they’re going to see is how slow and buggy their web browser is.  Then, they’re going to look over at their iPhone (and iPad) using friends, and see them browsing the web with no problems, and still getting Hulu through the iPhone/iPad app that will certainly come out in the near future.  Then, they’re going to wonder why they didn’t just get an iPhone in the first place.

This is the part the geeks, and by extension the tech websites, don’t seem to get.  Apple could care less if the geeks flock to Android, with feelings of false superiority just because they can run Flash, as long as the average user (the majority of their customers) have a flawless, “it just works”, experience with their iPhones.  They’re not going to let the vocal minority’s hollering stand in the way of that.

Let Google and Android market to the geeks, we’ll see how well that works out for them and mobile Flash.

iPhone App Store Annoyance

Apple changed the terms and conditions (EULA, if you will) of the iTunes App Store.  They’ve added the ability to send apps as a gift, which I think is a nice feature.

However, this is not about that.

For a company that focuses on user experience as much as Apple, you would think making such a change wouldn’t be a hindrance to their users.  But, every time Apple changes the App Store terms and conditions, the iPhone doesn’t handle the user acceptance end of things very well.

I went to download a new app today (Fare City, if you must know), and this was the procedure to purchase it:

  1. Open App Store and search for app.
  2. Find app and press “Buy”.
  3. Sign into iTunes account.
  4. Get prompted about change in terms.
  5. Press button to agree to change in terms (which opens up the new terms).
  6. Read through new terms and conditions, then press “Agree” button at the bottom.
  7. Get prompted with a pop-up, have to press “Agree” again.
  8. Get told I have to try app purchase again.
  9. Return to App Store, press “Buy” again.

This is so backwards and annoying.  It should prompt you about the changes when you first open the App Store, and take you through the process before searching for and purchasing your app, not after you’ve purchased it, forcing you to go back in and purchase it again.  Or, at the very least, just continue where you left off downloading your intended purchase.

Also, why do I have to “Agree” twice?  I press “Agree”, then get prompted with a pop-up where I have to agree again (Apple’s EULAs for their applications on OS X do this too, it’s very annoying).  It just adds to an already convoluted process.

Here’s what the whole thing should look like:

  1. Open App Store, get prompted about the changes.
  2. Sign into iTunes account.
  3. Read through changes, press “Agree”.
  4. Get taken back to the App Store, search for app.
  5. Find app, press “Buy”.

Done.

Why am I making a big deal about this?  Because Apple is usually good about these types of details, and about making software that doesn’t get in the user’s way.  The process of agreeing to new App Store terms could not be more in the user’s way if they tried.  That makes this scenario stick out, and it makes it that much more frustrating to deal with.

More Thoughts on the iPad

And, when I say more thoughts, I mean other people’s thoughts.  My last post about it may seem like I think its going to bomb or that I don’t see the market for it.  But, that’s not true.  I think I’m just more disappointed in what it’s not than appreciative of what it is.

So, what is it, then?  Well, Gizmodo and Daring Fireball both describe their take on what it is, and more importantly, what it means for Apple:

Gizmodo – The iPad is the Gadget We Never Knew We Needed

Daring Fireball – The iPad Big Picture

(I still hate the name though, but I’m getting used to hearing.  I guess, eventually, it’ll sound as normal as “iPod” does now.)