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Posts from the ‘Apple’ Category

Handbrake 0.9.3 is Out! A Must Have for Digital Movie Conversion.

Handbrake 0.9.3, the best application for converting DVD video to MPEG 4 just got updated.

The new version has over 600 feature changes and improvements.  Some of my favorites:

  • A new “Apple Universal” preset to ensure universal rendering of files to play on everything from an iPod Nano to the AppleTV.
  • Ability to encode ANY source file, not just a DVD.  This is huge for people converting video from other formats using other software (like Quicktime).  One step, and hopefully a lot faster.
  • Caching of video queues to disk.  Finally!  I can’t tell you how sad it is to queue up 20 movies for conversion overnight, and then discover in the morning that a crash not only happened during the second movie, but that on restart the queue is empty!  Now, at least crashes will be recoverable.

Go here to read more and download it now.

One small negative – the new version no longer bundles DVD decoding.  It seems that one of the contributors had requested the change.

No worries, however.  If you have VLC 0.9.x installed, Handbrake 0.9.3 will find it and use it’s DVD decryption library.  You can download VLC here.

The Luxury of a 1.5TB Hard Drive

I’ve had the priviledge today to upgrade my iTunes hard drive to 1.5TB, courtesy of the Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 (currently $149.99 at NewEgg).  So far, no surprise issues.  And yes, the space is truly luxurious.

I’ve been busy this year converting my entire DVD library to MPEG-4, so that I can easily access the movies in iTunes and on any device around the house that is iTunes compatible (AppleTV, Mac Mini, etc).  Each movie takes between 1.0 to 4.0GB, depending on length (yes, I mean you Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Extended Version).

The big surprise for me was learning how many DVDs I actually owned… I would have though about 200, but it turned out to be well over 400.  Yes, that many.

So, last week, just as I was finishing the last stack, I ran out of room on the 1TB drive that I have solely dedicated to iTunes.  The 1TB drive I thought I would never ever fill.

Fortunately, my Mac Pro accommodated the rumba line of hard drive upgrades:

  • My new 1.5TB drive replaced the 1.0TB drive for iTunes.
  • The 1.0TB drive replaced the 750GB drive for Time Machine.
  • The 750GB drive replaced the 300GB drive for iPhoto.
  • The 300GB is going up on eBay sometime soon.

(In case you are wondering, the Time Machine drive is a backup for my System drive (300GB) and my iPhoto drive only.  I use a separate 2.25TB NAS for backing up the iTunes drive.)

So there you have it.  After a night of file transfers, a few alias folders reset, and telling iTunes to use the new location, I’m off an running.

438.67 GB Free.  And loving every byte of it.

Apple Q3 Results: iPhone outsells Blackberry

Wow, that was fast.

Remember when it took more than 15 months for a new entrant to dominate a multi-billion dollar industry with a brand new product & platform?

MacDailyNews has a brief readout of some of the mobile stats from today’s earnings announcement from Apple.  Some highlights:

  • Apple is now the 3rd largest mobile device maker by revenue at $4.6B, second to Nokia & Samsung.  RIM is a distant $2.1B.
  • By units, Apple outsold RIM Blackberry in Q3 by a clear margin, 6.9m units to 6.1m units.
  • Apple has sold more than 10m iPhones to date, which was their 2008 goal.  Clearly ahead of target.

It’s a shocking outcome on multiple levels.  First, the Blackberry is firmly entrenched as the dominant mobile platform in business.  Second, the average unit price of the Blackberry is much, much lower than the iPhone, thanks to the low prices on the Pearl models.

So just a little over a year after launch, Apple is selling more units than RIM, and at much higher price points.

The march goes on, and faster than expected.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Ding Dong, The Apple iPhone NDA is Dead

They’ve been celebrating in the streets all day.  Apple iPhone NDA.  Gone. History. Finito.  Buh-Bye.

Great news and timing for the CS 193P class at Stanford, as this means that forums are likely to emerge quickly for students to engage with, learn from, and help each other.

Here is some text from the Apple Announcement:

We have decided to drop the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for released iPhone software.

We put the NDA in place because the iPhone OS includes many Apple inventions and innovations that we would like to protect, so that others don’t steal our work. It has happened before. While we have filed for hundreds of patents on iPhone technology, the NDA added yet another level of protection. We put it in place as one more way to help protect the iPhone from being ripped off by others.

However, the NDA has created too much of a burden on developers, authors and others interested in helping further the iPhone’s success, so we are dropping it for released software. Developers will receive a new agreement without an NDA covering released software within a week or so. Please note that unreleased software and features will remain under NDA until they are released.

It’s interesting to note the phrase I bolded above… given Apple’s history with the Mac & Quicktime, it always seemed possible that the iPhone NDA was a reaction to those bitter lessons.

The San Jose Mercury has a funny write up here.  Ars Technica has a more verbose post up as well.

I think we’ll see a measurable increase in the number of applications and the relative quality and pace of innovation from this change.  It was shocking how much this simple legal protection was stifling the growth and development of developers new to the platform.

Beyond Cool: Striped 120GB SSD RAID in a Macbook Pro

From time to time, I post the technical exploits of my friend Eric here.  I remember the attention he got a while back for hacking his MacBook Pro to support a RAID configuration.

Well, Eric has managed to extend that experimentation to a pair of new OCZ 120GB Solid State Drives (SSD).

Two OCZ Core Series v2 SATA II 120GB SSDs in a MacBook Pro

The blog post is here, with detailed photos and benchmarks.  A must see for any digital photographer and/or Mac geek who is into performance-pushing customer expansion.

My favorite part of the walk through is the brief commentary on the Apple-like packaging for the SSD drives:

The OCZ drives arrived in a plain package, but once the outer cardboard layer was removed, it was clear that OCZ had taken some packaging cues from Apple. The inner packaging was beautiful, and made it clear that you had just purchased a quality product.

That was the part I expected.  This is the part I didn’t:

Even though it was pretty, I don’t like excessive packaging and would have preferred something simple and biodegradable.

For some reason, I have a distinct mental image of Eric’s facial expression when saying this, and it made me laugh out loud.  :)

Stanford CS193P: iPhone Application Programming Launches Tomorrow

A little too busy tonight for a long blog post, but thought I’d share how excited I am to be helping assist the launch of a new course at Stanford this Fall:

CS 193P: iPhone Application Programming

The class website is still a work in progress, but it will come along.  The course is open to Stanford undergrad and graduate students, as well as through the Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD) on video.  Enrollment is limited, and my guess is that it will be oversubscribed.

A wonderful opportunity for me to dust off the old Objective-C skills, and help give back to the Stanford community.  Launching new courses is always exciting, and I feel very lucky to be involved with this one in particular.

It might sound crazy to take this on in addition to the full load at both work and at home, but I’m excited to get back involved with teaching, and that’s worth the potential sleep deprivation for the quarter.

Cool Blog Find of the Day: Mac Pro Made of Legos

From Macenstein:

On a scale of “1 to Awesome” this LEGO Mac Pro rates a solid Awesome. Not only is it a faithful scale model replica of a real Mac Pro (designed using Lego Digital Designer 2.0), the thing actually houses both a Hackintosh PC running OS X AND a Mac mini.

Awesome, indeed.  If they sold this as a $200 lego kit, I could be convinced to buy it.

How Apple Should Handle NBC

Just read this piece on the “he-said/she-said” debate between NBC executives and Apple executives:

Apple Refutes NBC’s Pricing Policy Claims

80/20 Apple is right here, of course.  They did not give NBC any pricing priviledges that they didn’t also give to all video content producers.  However, Apple did introduce it’s first pricing variation for HD with the AppleTV rentals earlier this year, and that’s more than it had last fall when NBC pulled its content.

I think, of course, that Apple is avoiding the most obvious solution to its problem:

  • Buy NBC off General Electric for a fair price
  • Fire at least the top 2-3 levels of executives at NBC
  • Set in place a modern digital content strategy
  • Execute non-exclusive, but solid digital content contracts with Apple
  • Take the new NBC public or sell it

As a side benefit, they could really have some fun with MSNBC.

What’s the point of Apple having a $135B market cap if they don’t use it?   My guess is that if executed properly, the above strategy could increase the value of both NBC and Apple.  Worst case, the upside on Apple is likely greater than the downside for NBC, making the “investment” worth it.

Blogging from the iPhone

Wow! This is my first post from the WordPress iPhone application.

Not sure I’ll do this often, but how cool!

Love the fact that they open sourced the code. Really cool.

Goodbye, Blackberry. Hello, iPhone.

I’ve now had an iPhone 3G for 48 hours, and it’s like I’m seeing in color for the first time.

Seriously, it’s that delightful.  Oh sure, there are small nits here and there.  I’m still getting up-to-speed on typing, and figuring out which apps are useful.

But the first 48 hours of the iPhone 3G has been one user delight after the other.  Love the App Store.  Love the built in applications.  Love the feel of the phone.  Love the simplicity of synching.  Love the Exchange integration (LinkedIn has enabled it as a beta internally).

Delightful.  That’s the word.  Delightful.

As for you, Blackberry, I’m feeling the same way I did about seven years ago when I got rid of my Palm and moved to you.  At the time, there were more apps for the Palm, but the push messaging and calendar integration of the Blackberry were game-changers.  I knew then that the Blackberry would be the platform to beat in the PDA/Smartphone arena, and that was right for at least half a decade.

The fact that at just 1 year old, the iPhone platform is clearly superior to the Blackberry in 80% of its functions is disastrous for Research in Motion (RIMM).  The pace of innovation at RIMM does not seem as fast as Apple’s, and you can’t argue that RIMM has better people, more resources, or better assets to work with than Apple.

At this point, to be a Blackberry believer long term, you have to really bank that their current entrenchment with IT shops in the Global 2000 will dominate indefinitely.  But 1 million iPhones in 3 days?  This doesn’t bode well for RIMM’s growth rate in 2012.

I don’t think people realize how bad the Blackberry has become.  Sure, the messaging is still fantastic, with great features for expert users.  But the web browsing is worse than a 1995 PC.  The address book still doesn’t synch right between corporate & personal accounts.  And has anyone gotten the calendar synching to actually delete duplicate entries correctly with Exchange?  Don’t even get me started on the lack of functional Mac support.  Just last week, my Blackberry torched the 2GB MicroSD card in it.  That’s right, unreadable.  Photos lost.  No recovery.

See this blog post for an example.  18 months later and a post on how to work around terrible Mac support for the Blackberry Pearl is still a top 20 post for me… and people still can’t get it to work!

I think RIMM went after growth and market share in the consumer market, and forgot to delight their active customer base and keep ahead of the industry.

Look, I don’t pretend to be a futurist.  There are still people who swear by the Treo.  That’s fine.  I’m just one customer.

But I got my wife an iPhone 1.0 8 months ago to replace her Blackberry Pearl because I was sick of trying to fix synching problems.  Not a complaint since.

This weekend, I helped my Mom move from a full-size Blackberry to an iPhone 3G.  So far, so good.

I’d say at least 15-20 people at my company have moved to the iPhone, and they all seem extremely happy with it.  They are comparing apps, sharing tips & tricks, resolving issues, and most importantly, they are enjoying their mobile platform.

I now also have an iPhone 3G, and I’m just loving it.  It’s the first mobile device that actually frees me from my laptop almost completely.  The Exchange email integration works better than I expected.  The ability to read attachments like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF is unbelievable.  The photo application replaces a wallet of “kid/family photos”, the web browser is excellent, and the 3rd party apps are impressive.  And I know it’s only going to get better over the next few years.  I’m even thinking about writing an app or two myself.

I’m never going back.  My string of 3 Blackberry models is at an end, just like the 2 Palm Pilots, and the Newton Messagepad 2000 before it.

I’m all about the iPhone now.  The Blackberry is dead to me.

iPhone 3G Shortage Exaggerated

Apple Store is reporting that there are, in fact, iPhone 3G units out there in California tonight.

Not feeling like a drive up to Sacramento just to get the 16GB Black version though.  Emeryville has them too.  Valley Fair apparently only has white.

Just found out from AT&T the convoluted story about qualifying for the upgrade.  Here is the deal:

  • AT&T doesn’t like giving out deep phone discounts too often.  So they count months from the last “discount” you got from them.  For me, that’s April 2007, so I have to wait until December (21 months) to get another discount.
  • Original iPhone users did not get a discount on their phone.  So AT&T is happy to give them one now, in exchange for re-upping into a 2 year contract.

So, ironically, Carolyn, who has an original iPhone, qualifies for the upgrade.  I, however, with the Blackberry, can’t qualify until December 2008.  Not quite the strategy you’d want to take if your goal was displacing competitors.

Interestingly, I confirmed with AT&T that Carolyn can upgrade to the iPhone 3G, activate, then give me the iPhone 3G, activate it on my account, and then re-activate her old iPhone.

Worth it?  Not sure.  But probably… :)

Let’s hope I get a new iPhone before my vacation in August.

No iPhone For You!

Wow.  So I guess I made a rather serious tactical error.

You see, I refused to wait in line for three hours last weekend for an iPhone 3G.  I figured, I’d let the dust settle for a week or two, then replace my RIMM Blackberry Pearl (and yes, I am so very eager to never own a Blackberry again I can’t tell you.)

Problem.  As of Saturday, there are no more iPhones in California.

In fact, going State by State, it seems like there are no more iPhones in the US.  Some news outlets are reporting that no new iPhone 3G stock will be available stateside for 2-4 more weeks.

Very very sad for me.  But I guess, the punishment for being too good for a three hour wait maybe a three week wait (or more).

Oh well.  This will give me the added time I need to write that virulent post on why I’m ready to say goodbye to the Blackberry forever.  Too much time.

If anyone finds a way to get a 16GB Black iPhone 3G in the Bay Area, let me know.  Thanks.

I May Have Stepped into a Parallel Universe around 2000

I’ve had the growing realization over the past few years that something may be amiss with the universe.  As a fan of the various modern theories of quantum cosmology, it’s occurred to me that I may have accidentally ended up jumping out of the theoretical universe of maximum probability into another quantum variant.

I think the news that Apple sold 1 million iPhones in 3 days and is now the Number 3 PC Maker in the United States confirmed this for me.  As an Apple user since the early 1980s and a former employee, it’s just too hard to believe that the universe of maximum probability includes Apple’s exponential success in the past five years.

Honestly, doesn’t it seem like the most likely future for the computer industry in the 1990s was Bill Gates launching a mobile computer with sales of 1 million units in 3 days, and Steve Jobs taking a full time role in philanthropy?

Think about it.  I’m guessing the date of cross over was sometime in 2000, right around the time where Apple launched an MP3 player that cost around 300% more than the average player, and yet achieved over 70% market share in just 2 years.

The question is… what other improbable events exist in this variant of the universe?

Using Time Machine to Migrate from PowerPC to Intel

I ran a very interesting experiment last night… and I didn’t even mean to do it.

As you probably know by now, my PowerMac G5 died last Friday.  (Apple *still* hasn’t figured out why).  In any case, the new Mac Pro arrived yesterday, and it was my first opportunity to really put Time Machine to the only test that counts – restore.

When I booted the Mac Pro for the first time, it asked if I wanted to restore the machine from a Time Machine backup.  I said yes, without thinking, because it seemed like an obvious way to get back up and running as soon as possible.

It took about 3+ hours to restore over 200GB, but after the long install, I had my computer largely working as I left it.  The last Time Machine backup was literally maybe 37 minutes before the final crash, and everything was restored.  Documents I expected.   Applications I expected.  Then I noticed it also migrated System & Library files… uh oh.

The Mac Pro is Intel-based.  The PowerMac is PowerPC-based.  I suddenly became very aware of the problems that I might have caused.

I was able to easily walk through my applications one by one to check whether they were Universal or PowerPC.  Most were already Universal, but a few were PowerPC, like older versions of Acrobat Reader, Stuffit Expander, and some video applications.  I deleted them, and downloaded new Intel versions… likely a good housecleaning anyway.  (I even found a few Mac OS Classic applications in there!)

Unfortunately, the world of extensions and bundles loaded by Mac OS X was a little mysterious to me, especially with regard to things like control panels, menu extensions, background services, etc.  I was worried I would need to do a clean install to fix everything.  Of course, the system seems fine, but I was worried nonetheless.

Well, I have good news.

It looks like there are limitations to the Mac OS X Rosetta technology that prevent Intel-based applications from loading PowerPC bundles.  As a result, most extensions, etc that are not Universal won’t load.  Harmless.

I also found a great tip on Mac OS X Hints, which I wanted to share here.  You can use the Activity Monitor application to tell which processes are running PowerPC or Intel.  Here is how you do it:

  1. Launch Activity Monitor.  It’s in your Utilities folder, which is in Applications.
  2. Right-click on the title of the table, and check off “Kind”
  3. You will now have a column that says “PowerPC” or “Intel”

The good news for me tonight is that only two processes running are PowerPC:  Quicken 2007 (which I guess I need to replace), and the Disk Warrior Hard Drive Daemon (likely an upgrade issue).

In fact, the only bad news I’ve gotten so far on the migration is that the TWAIN driver for my scanner, an Epson Perfection 1660 Photo is PowerPC only, so it requires me to set Adobe Photoshop CS3 to Rosetta-mode.  Hello, Epson, I upgraded to CS3 specifically so it could run natively on Intel…

I’ll likely be hitting people up for suggestions on either native drivers, or a new photo scanner pretty soon.

Slowly But Surely… Resurrecting My Home Machine

Definitely not at full strength, but slowly resurrecting my home workstation from the catastrophic failure of my PowerMac G5 last Friday.

Tonight I got a brand new (OK, well, refurbished) 2.8Ghz 8-core Mac Pro from the Apple Store.  I managed to use Time Machine to resurrect the boot drive from my G5 onto it, which seems to have worked well so far.  I’m a little nervous though about how many PPC items might have been moved/executing as system extensions, etc, on the new Intel-based Mac Pro.

I also decided to go wireless with this machine on the Keyboard & Mouse.  The keyboard is fine, but the bluetooth mighty mouse is a little… off.  Not sure what it is, but I’m debating going back to my USB Logitech.

In any case, I likely won’t get a lot of blog posts in this week, but a few may crop up here and there.  I’m excited to put the new machine through its paces, but that’ll have to wait until I get my photo library back online, install Photoshop CS3, and start ripping movies again.  I hear that this machine can rip a 2-hour movie to MP4 in about 40 minutes, which would be approximately 10x faster than my old G5.

BTW Despite promises from the Apple Store on Saturday that they would run diagnostics and tell me the problem with my G5 by Monday, I had to call them today (Wednesday) just to find out that they still can’t get it to boot.  They think it is the power supply, which is good news because that means $300 could net me a machine that will sell for $1200.  If it’s the logic board, then I’m hosed, and I’ll likely sell the box, sans hard drives, on eBay for parts.

In any case, I’ll post at the end of this ordeal about the Mac Pro and the transition, and what is better/worse about the new setup.  I have to say, I haven’t been this excited since… I got the PowerMac G5 4 years ago.


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