Tag Archives: apple

WWDC08 Keynote – Backgrounding

(I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)

Apple did, in their usual pretzel of logic way, address the big issue regarding application development: apps that need to function in the background.

In many ways, the proposal (a single connection to Apple’s server handles push notification from servers) does have many benefits, and I can practically recite them off of Scott Forstall’s slides. It will lead to better system performance, help save on battery life, and certainly streamline the networking.

But rewind back to the SDK announcement on March 6th. Remember this slide?

Not three months ago, Apple was touting how superior their Exchange support was to the Blackberry because you didn’t have to go through a server owned by a vendor to gain functionality.

The other shoe certainly seems to have dropped here. Apple is offering to be the intermediary for every app that needs backgrounding, much like RIM is for everyone who wants Blackberry email. With the number of issues RIM has had with their service over the last year, Apple is going to be under high scrutiny if they have similar outages.

Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t nearly as crippling as RIM’s reliance on their cloud servers. I’d rather lose my backgrounding for, say, an IM client than my email. But there are implications for developers, and I don’t even want to think about what this means for enterprises writing apps. I can only hope Apple makes their retention policy very clear.

WWDC08 Keynote – iPhone App Demos

> “Loopt is a location-based social network for douchebags who wear two ill-fitting polo shirts at the same time.”John Gruber

(I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)

More than any other segment of the keynote, the demonstrations of the applications excited me the most.

* Sega, Super Monkey Ball – One of the sources I was following during the event said the graphics were “as good as the DS”. To me, it looks a lot better than many of the games on the DS. The price point is lower than most of the Super Monkey Ball games, but this one isn’t really grabbing me, probably because I’ve played SMB so many times over the years. (Also: if you’re giggling about the name, you probably still think “Wii” is hilarious.)
* eBay, Auctions – Auctions isn’t much more than a native front end into eBay’s API, but the experience is so well done, I can only hope that other companies can follow eBay’s lead in developing
* Loopt – I fully expect there to be lots of location-aware social networks forming around the iPhone, but I expect Loopt to get a big boost for being featured in the keynote. Hey Dodgeball? You’re on notice.
* Six Apart, Typepad – the TypePad client looks like a simple, clean blogging client. But I’m not a TypePad user; I use MovableType (and Tumblr). I asked Anil Dash if there was any reason the app won’t work with their other products, and I was greeted with a no comment.
* Associated Press, Mobile News Network – it’s truly a thing of beauty to watch the Associated Press innovate within the news space. The citizen journalism things are a thing of beauty. NowPublic? You’re on notice.
* Pangea – I have no great love for Brian Greenstone, although I admire his tenacity for sticking in the Mac software industry for so long. Enigmo looks promising, but Cro-Mag Rally was generally regarded as a poor cart game when it was originally released. Still, to hear that porting apps from OS X was largely painless is good news.
* Cow Music, Band – very interesting music making app, and I look forward to seeing where the iPhone drives music creation tools.
* MLB.com, At Bat – I’m not much for baseball, but kudos to MLB for so quickly integrating nearly real-time video into their box scores. This is a killer app for many of the guys in my office.
* Modality – when Scott said the medical community has been flocking to the iPhone, they aren’t kidding. Modality is not an obscure app – I’ve been told we use it in our curriculum at the medical college. The iPhone is going to be a great platform for building rich educational apps for all curriculums.
* MIMvista – again, seeing these apps make me smile because I know there’s lots of latent interest in the medical community for clinical applications.
* Digital Legends Entertainment, Kroll – the animation style reminds me a bit of *Dragon’s Lair*, although it looks to have slightly more gameplay. I guess we’ll see how it ends up in September.

WWDC08 Keynote – Snow Leopard

> “Man, I should have kept my ‘Mac OS X 10.6 ignored’ square.”John Siracusa

(I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)

The 10.6 is seen in its natural climate.

For the sake of not wanting to vomit every time I type it, I’m going to refer to Snow Leopard merely as “10.6”.

A mere blip at the start of the Keynote (when Steve says “This morning I’m going to talk about the iPhone”, he *means it*), OS X 10.6 would be talked about only at the OS X State Of The Union. To the chagrin of those who care less about the iPhone, the OSXSOTU is always the first session covered by the NDA that surrounds WWDC.

Luckily, some relief came in the form of a since-deleted press release from Apple. Also, in the time it’s taken me to write this, the official Snow Leopard homepage appeared.

To dissect what we know:

* A technology code-named “Grand Central” will enable developers to more easily leverage multi-core processors. It’s hard to consider this a bad thing, although I haven’t seen a lot of multithreading issues in modern applications (from my very casual viewpoint).
* A technology called “Open Computing Language” (OpenCL) allows developers to tap into the GPU for general processing. It has been “proposed as an open standard”, which is interesting as I can find no information to this effect (and OpenCL was a name formerly used by a Linux cryptography package).
* The theoretical limit on system RAM will be 16TB. So when those 2TB RAM chips come along, OS X will be *so* ready.
* Quicktime X will come bounding along, seemingly destroying hopes for Quicktime 8 or 9 in the meantime. Hopefully “support for modern audio and video formats” indicates that Apple will embrace some of codecs that have been killing Quicktime for what feels like ages.
* Safari will get the recently announced SquirrelFish – but it’s not like you can’t run that and get performance upgrades right this second.
* Exchange support will finally be rolled into Mail, Address Book, and iCal, which is great if you’re in the sort of environment using Exchange. Everyone else may not care so much – but we’ll come back to this.
* “Snow Leopard dramatically reduces the footprint of Mac OS X, making it even more efficient for users, and giving them back valuable hard drive space for their music and photos.” Consider this confirmation that 10.6 will not run on PowerPC. Nothing else is likely to shed that much weight from the OS. I don’t expect Rosetta to die any time soon, much like Classic (technically) will live until 2009.

Lastly, and most smugly satisfying for me, 10.6 is scheduled to ship “in about a year”, which sounds remarkably closer to my August 2009 prediction than TUAW’s “shipping by January 2009”.

The Alleged End Of OS X for PPC

History lesson: Back on June 6, 2005, Apple announced that they were transitioning away from the PowerPC processor line to ones made by Intel. Rumblings formed quickly – *how long until they drop PowerPC support from the OS?*

TUAW wrote yesterday about “10.6” being unveiled at WWDC next week:

> We have also learned that OS X 10.6 may go gold master by December 2008 in an effort to start shipping it in January ’09 at Macworld Expo. Mac OS X 10.6 will be a milestone release for Apple, as it will leave the PowerPC behind: a fully 64-bit clean, Intel-only Mac OS X.

John Gruber weighed in this morning:

> I still think it seems too soon by at least a year to drop PowerPC support — especially for G5s, which are still extremely capable machines by today’s standards — but that’s the word on the street.

Gruber’s on the right track here, but not because the machines are still capable (which they are).

Consider two truths about Applecare:

* Applecare typically comes in two quantities: the free one-year that comes with each machine, and a three-year extended service warranty.
* Applecare provides support for all point revisions of the current operating system and the final point release of the previous operating system.

As far as I’m aware, Apple has never released an OS that cannot by installed on computers that fall within the three-year window provided by Applecare. Once a machine falls outside of that window, a machine is not guaranteed to run any new major OS revisions.
The PowerMac G5 was the final machine to be killed in the Intel transition – a slight irony given that the developer kits for the Intel transition were in PowerMac towers. The MacPro was introduced to market on August 7, 2006.

For these reasons, I would not expect Apple to kill off PowerPC support in their OS until after August 6th, 2009.

(An aside: that’s also the day that Classic finally becomes unsupported, as there won’t be any Applecare eligible machines that can still run Classic.)

Leveling The New Apple Portables

I had three subsequent requests from friends to weigh in on the best value for Apple’s newly released laptops. Twitter ate my short thoughts, so I might as well lengthen it a bit.

Before I continue, I should note that a great place to always go is the Compare Models page on the Apple Store. It’s the best way to get a side by side comparison.

# Generally Speaking

Ever since the iBook and Powerbook were retired in favor of the MacBook and the MacBookPro, I’ve held the belief that unless you’re in the specialty niches that require a specific feature on the MBP (the ExpressCard/34 slot for mobile broadband, for instance), 90% of consumers will be fine with the MacBook.

Nothing released today has changed that base level assertion. Not even the multi-touch track pads on the MBPs.

# MacBook

First things first: the BlackBook remains a $200 uptick for a different colored case and a 90GB increase on the hard drive. (You can get the hard drive upgrade separately on a white MB for $100.) The BlackBook’s market remains people who explicitly *want* a black notebook. If you’re looking to extend your dollars, there’s no reason to buy it.

Thus, we’re left looking at the other two models. I will call these “Low-End White” and “High-End White”.

If you take Low-End White and add the hard drive bump and the RAM bump found in High-End White, you come in $50 less than the list for the High-End White. So in that $50 you’re getting a decent clock bump (300 MHz) and a Superdrive – which makes High-End White the smarter choice here.

# MacBook Pro

I am frequently baffled by Apple’s pricing, and here’s one of those instances.

Like the BlackBook, the 17″ MBP is for a certain breed of people who just *have* to have a 17″ display. People who merely want *a laptop* and not a *17″ bohemoth* – there’s no need. And frankly, I question their commitment to Sparklemotion.

So again, we’re looking at the two options, thus dubbed “2K” and “2.5K” solely based on price.

What does the $500 jump get you in this case? Er, well…

* A rather meager 100MHz bump on the CPU
* 3MB more of L3 cache
* 50GB more disk space
* Double the VRAM in the video card

The hard drive bump can be duplicated for $50, so you’re looking at $450 for a tenth of a GHz, a bit of cache, and a significant bump on the VRAM. But keep in mind that the VRAM bump doesn’t provide higher resolutions on the display – it will likely only be useful if you’re playing Crysis under Boot Camp or doing some high end media work.

Thus, I must strongly recommend that if you need a MBP, the 2K model is more than good enough.

Mark Anbinder on the MacBook Air

Mark has penned an excellent post addressing concerns about the lack of Ethernet on the MacBook Air, specifically to how it relates to the environment on the main Cornell campus.

Here’s the crux:

> It’s worth noting that most laptop users EVEN NOW aren’t bothering to plug into wired Ethernet, even when they HAVE the requisite port on their laptops. I strongly suspect we’ve already seen a large chunk of the hit on Red Rover’s capacity from the shift to wireless, and Apple is just giving in to reality by leaving out a port no one is using.

HOWTO: iPhone Webclip Icons

I remember, years ago, I was baffled by the little 16×16 icons that were showing up in my URL toolbar, and it took a surprising amount of searching to find out how to create one. I refuse to let this happen again.

So: if you want to make a custom icon for your website that will show up in the Springboard when a user makes a “webclip”, using their iPhone or iPod Touch, the dirt simple way is:

* Create a 57×57 PNG.
* Name it “apple-touch-icon.png”
* Throw it in the root folder of your website. (Not the root of your server, the root of your web documents.)

Boom. If you add a webclip for vjarmy.com, you’ll see my smiling mug.
If you want more flexibility – perhaps you don’t have access to the site root, perhaps you want to use a different file name or format – you can use a link tag in the head of the document, such as:

<link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="/whatever.jpg"/>

I’ve tested this with a slightly larger (75×75) JPEG, and it works without trouble – it just scales things down.

If you’re testing this on your iPhone, you may notice a pause of a few seconds before the icon appears when you press “Add To Home Menu”. I’d imagine the icon only downloads when you request to make a webclip, instead of the “request it every time” method used for fetching favicon.ico. (As for why it’s a few seconds – well, that’s EDGE for you. The lag goes away when you use WiFi.)

Apple has more info on their iPhone Dev Center; look at “Create a WebClip Bookmark Icon”.

And don’t worry if your icon design skills aren’t up to snuff, but do worry if you care about the sanctity of your image:

>Safari will automatically composite the icon with the standard “glassy” overlay so it looks like a built-in iPhone or iPod application.

Addendum @ 9PM: I should note another oddity: there’s some degree of clipping off the sides of the icon that can’t really be controlled. I found this by scaling down a circular logo (in EPS format) to 57×57, and there was a noticeable clip on the sides. With that in mind, I recommend adding a pixel or two on the sides if you’re using a circular design. Note that scaling the icon down under 57×57 does not solve this, it merely scales it up to fit the 57×57.

Addendum @ 10PM: Neil Epstein, Technology Director for Gothamist LLC, says 47×47 seems to be the usable area, and that he had best luck with 45×45.

Addendum @ 1/16 7AM: Playground Blues notes that because of the resolution of the iPhone screen, using an oversized image (such as his 158×158 image) may result in a crisper icon. [via HicksDesign]


I’d like to revisit a post from last year, entitled “Three Little Words“, where I tried desperately to shake people from the cocaine-style addiction the Apple faithful have to rumor sites.

The trajectory of rumor sites is simple: first, they get a handful of successful predictions while they have a source. They get linked, often by the blogs I referenced above, for somehow nailing their predictions. Their traffic spikes, ad revenues go through the roof. Apple Legal C&D’s them (or sometimes sues), and the legal fight becomes the news for a while.

While the fight is going on, the accuracy of the site starts dropping. Rumored products never appear. Keynote predictions go under 50% accuracy. Wrong information is attributed to “last minute decisions” or sometimes just edited down the memory hole.

Eventually, the traffic drifts to another site, because they’ve started the same trajectory.

Think Secret is on the downward part of this trajectory.

I would give admonitions at this point, warning people away from there, but really, I would rather people stopped putting their faith in any rumor sites.

Think Secret’s trajectory has finished fifteen months after I wrote this, and not with a poor Ryan Meader-esqe whimper, but with a settlement.

Apple and Think Secret have settled their lawsuit, reaching an agreement that results in a positive solution for both sides. As part of the confidential settlement, no sources were revealed and Think Secret will no longer be published. Nick Ciarelli, Think Secret’s publisher, said “I’m pleased to have reached this amicable settlement, and will now be able to move forward with my college studies and broader journalistic pursuits.”

Now, given that Apple fans seemingly know everything, you would think they’d know that a “settlement” is an agreement that both sides reach. As in, Ciarelli has agreed to shut the site down. As in, Apple did not “win” any legal action to force it closed. They proposed a settlement, and Nick took it.

TUAW, how you doin’?

> And how stupid is Apple by forcing this through, killing their most ardent fans? This company is more and more acting like Microsoft. A new Evil Empire. Call them the Evil Twins from now on…! The suits and lawyers has taken over.

TechCrunch, how about you guys?

> This is really disgusting that a company who claims to be the morally right choice(I think there was some advert they released ages ago about being different) Is actually far more evil than microsoft chooses to be. Seeing the way that they are behaving regarding shutting down this site and the way they act to restrict competition on the iphone and itunes, makes me glad that they are not the dominant player in the market. Microsoft may be bad, but they are definitely less evil than Apple.

Slashdot, what’s up?

> So now corporations will determine what independent press is able to say or shut them down? Our news is already skewed enough as it is by the various corporate news outlets who cater to this and that political party.

Macworld, let me hear you!

> How cool is it to bash a college kid? His site has to come down because Steve Jobs is mad? How is it that corporate secrecy is more important than this kid’s first amendment rights? I hope this gets a lot of press.


For a more analytic, less finger-pointing overview, try The Shape Of Day’s ‘Think Secret Is Dead’.

Fact Checking A Call To Fact Check

There was a brief hullabaloo after the iPhone price drop where some strangle Google ads appeared when you search for “iphone price drop”.

> This is like salt in the wound for the early adopter while I was initially bummed by the price cut news, this makes it infuriating! I’m a big boy and made the choice to stand in line and have fun with the rest of the faithful on iPhone day. I can handle a price change or even a new product, but for the price to be cut so drastically so quickly and then to have it rubbed in my face like this by Apple is just wrong.

Today, Cory O’Brien over at Didn’t You Hear came clean and admitted to placing the ad allegedly from Apple. Which would have been fine if he didn’t try to pass the buck to the blogs who covered it for “misreporting” and failing to “fact check”:

> See how their address is apple.com/store, and mine was store.apple.com? Also, see where their ad is placed? That’s usually a pretty good clue about the source of an ad. Fortunately, some of the various blogs’ commenters picked up on the fact that this was an affiliate ad, and not one placed by Apple, and called it out as such. Unfortunately, many of the blogs themselves did not. Fact checking would have saved me quite a bit of worry in this situation, so my plea to the big boy blogs is this: Keep those journalistic integrities intact, and Check That Fact!

Of course, had Cory done a little more research, he would’ve realized his own “facts” are wrong.

Also, the yellow box that sometimes appears at the top of the page? It has nothing to do with the source of the ad.

> While there isn’t a way to ensure top placement, there are certainly some best practices that may well help your ads rise to the top. Really, there are no secrets: these are the same best practices that affect the positioning (or ranking) of your AdWords ads wherever they appear, and they also happen to be the same best practices we wrote about just a few days ago.

Never let the facts stop a badly planned joke.