Apple


One of the disadvantages of living in the boondocks is that it takes longer for technology to reach our neck of the woods. I live in the fringes of Sta. Rosa, Laguna and one of the frustrations I have in living in this place is the lack of a decent internet access. I do have access to dial-up internet but everyone knows that most modern online services requires something faster than the 56K speed achievable on a modem. I can’t view YouTube videos, I can’t do **ehem** BitTorrents, I can’t even do simple software updates for my spanking brand new MacBook!

Speaking of the MacBook, lack of DSL service in my area has been magnified because Apple, in their arrogance, has eliminated the built-in modem for their latest line of computers. To do dial-up on a new MacBook, one has to purchase a Php4,000++ Apple USB modem. Well, I decided to make things better – at least for me.

I set up my old iBook (which still have those ever-useful built-in modem) to dial in to my ISP and I configured it to share its internet access through its built-in Wi-Fi adapter. So that’s basically it! I get to enjoy surfing the ‘net (at dial-up speed) from the comfort of my bedroom by basically converting my old iBook into a dial-up wireless access point!

Well, thinking back, this may not be the most cost-effective way to have Wi-Fi at home but then again, I already have my iBook at hand and I might as well use it to make things better for me. Besides, that’s what technology is supposed to do for techies like us… make things better for us.

Vista Flip 3D

Mac users have had Exposé for a while, but now that Vista has been released, Windows users can now enjoy fully the productivity-sapping habit of keeping many windows open, flipping through the open apps and documents with the jaw-dropping coolness of Flip 3D.

I have a rather set morning routine once I get to the office: open my computer, fire up Mail and check my work-related messages. Then iSiloX to start downloading newspapers and blogs for offline reading later on in the day. Then iTunes, to download the latest versions of my podcasts. Then Safari, to check my Gmail account, and my daily bookmarked sites. Then AdiumX, to get onto the local Jabber network. Then I open the first documents I need to work on for that day. And in the ten or fifteen minutes that I spend sleepwalking through that routine, I have, maybe, ten or fifteen windows open all at the same time.

The ironic thing is that I don’t believe in multitasking. I kind of subscribe to Merlin Mann’s proposition that we don’t really work on several things at the same time but instead spend little chunks of time focused on a task for a short period of time before proceeding to another one or returning to the previous one. I know it’s counterproductive, but it’s damn hard habit to break.

What’s your routine and how many windows do you have open on a regular basis?

Grist for the mill.

A friend with a friend with telco connections told me this morning this totally unsubstantiated rumor, so take it with a few tons of salt: there are at least 50 Apple iPhones in the Philippines as we speak.

My friend’s source, who is reasonably reliable, says that the major telcos are currently evaluating the iPhone for compatibility with their services and hardware, and to possibly create specific apps for the local market. According to the rumor being mongered, each telco (the two biggies and the wannabe) have ten units each for their various departments (engineering, marketing, etc.), so that makes 30 iPhones.

Then the National Telecommunications Commission supposedly has 20 units for evaluation, certification, approval and all that legal and technical jazz.

So all in all that makes about 50 units. Wowoweewah.

Sounds about reasonable. I kinda sorta think it could be true. But I would like to stress that this is a totally unsupported, unsubstantiated, likely bogus RUMOR, ok? Remember: tons of salt. PWiT thinks it would be nice to speculate though, and throws this tidbit out for the heck of it. Let the fun begin.

50 iPhones. Here. Oooh. Nice, if it were true.

Of course the telcos and the NTC are mum about it, and asking them would be like squeezing blood out of a stone. If any of you readers spot one of these in the wild, like maybe in a cafe or on the MRT (which I highly doubt; Apple’s NDAs are scary things), chime in and tell us about it, will you?

On a ride home I was telling my brother about a good friend of mine who had recently bought a Macbook on his trip to the States. A lifelong Windows user, my friend was just starting out on the Mac platform and he was consulting me now and then about his transitioning concerns. One of his concerns was that after using his Macbook for a couple of weeks, he still didn’t have a proper anti-virus program and he was starting to get worried for his safety, so to speak. What was a good anti-virus program to get?

I told my friend Vince that you can easily get any number of excellent anti-virus programs for Macs – excellent because they do their job well; it’s either that, or they have nothing much to do for Macs because there aren’t any real threats worth protecting them from anyway. No rush, Vince. Haven’t seen actual Mac malware since …since never. Well, at least in the OS X era.

I told him I’d been using Macs for years, and was yet to encounter an honest-to-goodness virus. Honest to God and cross my heart. This, even with having my Mac online virtually 24-7 on broadband, gleefully downloading everything in sight, opening emailed attachments with impunity, and generally being wide open to the public via ethernet, wifi and bluetooth all this time. No viruses. Period.

My brother chimes in with his argument that there are no viruses for Macs because Mac users are in the miniscule minority, and virus authors feel the segment is hardly worth the effort. It isn’t because the platform is bullet-proof, or at least of tougher hide than your usual run-of-the-mill Windows machine.

I’m not too sure; I might invite some amount of flaming here – but having a target market (literally a target of the bullseye kind) composed of influential creative types like artists, editors, designers, writers, filmmakers, celebrities and a vast array of “elitist” types should be extremely attractive to malware freaks, for the very reason that attacks in that market would get them the most amount of mileage, as compared to targeting the regular joes. Doesn’t that make some kind of twisted sense?

I’m not a programmer so I can’t in all honesty speak of OS X’s mylar hide, or if it really does have one; my brother could very well be right that the kooks don’t care about infecting Mac users with Unix-flavored malware. But the point of it is, despite all that sturm und drang about virii for the Mac, the simple fact is there aren’t any worth writing home about. Or more to the point, getting anti-virus software for.

I have anti-virus solutions on my Mac. I’m not that blissfully ignorant. But truth be told, I never really use them, and actually forget to until a topic like this comes up. I run a checker maybe once every year, even if they get automatically updated periodically. So after this recent conversation with my bro, I fired up the Mac version of Sophos to check my Powerbook. Just to be sure.

It took over three hours to thoroughly scan my system. Over 400,000 files.

Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. After being spread-eagled on the internet unprotected nearly 24-7 for years, still. No. Viruses.

Sophos did return nine errors. Two of them were corrupted files, and the rest were encrypted ones, four of them from Microsoft Office. But the system was clean, for whatever reason, whether it be invulnerability or belittlement. Which is the important thing at the end of the day.

This situation won’t last of course. I will wake up one day soon to see my Mac infected to the gills (and I feel that day is not long in coming because Macs are getting more market share by the day), but for now everything is peaceful. Which is more than I can say for other platforms, which seem to be proud that they’re constantly the target of virus writers because of their popularity, and spend too much of their time protecting themselves and being constantly vigilant – instead of just being productive.

(Trivia game: a big wet kiss on the PWiT for the one who can tell us who originally uttered the line that makes up the post title.)

I’ve been evaluating Microsoft Vista, and aside from the other important productive aspects of the operating system, I was pleasantly intrigued by the video-based wallpaper used at the live demo by Jojo Ayson at the business launch at the Shang Makati last Feb.1. In the demo in the ballroom, the big video screen show a pleasantly babbling brook underlying the icons, windows and toolbars of Vista. Nice, refreshing, peaceful and thoroughly CPU-hogging I supposed, but I wanted to it try out for myself.

Back at the batcave, the evaluation copy of Vista I had on the Toshiba Qosmio G30 didn’t seem to have Dreamscene, which is what they called it over at Redmond. I clicked high and low and it simply wasn’t there. A quick check on the net told me it was still in beta; I didn’t know if it was in the shipping copies but since I didn’t have one I couldn’t tell. (If you’re one of the few who have the official retail version, chime in and tell us if it’s there please; I’m not about to plunk down 20K just to find out.)

What I did find out was that there were standalone beta installer packages on the net. Naughty me, I downloaded a copy and loaded it up, but it didn’t take, which served me right. What I did get though were the small WMVs of the video files for Dreamscene included in the package – two of them at least: no babbling brook, but there was the green grass and blue sky with rolling clouds, and the aurora borealis wallpaper.

Ching! A bright light blinked on in my head.

Would these work on my Mac?

It’s not in the Mac OS X box, but there’s been something like it available as shareware since last year – a shareware app called DesktopMagik, from stupidFish Programming. I was fortunate enough to download a free registered copy last year as part of the MacAppADay Promo, and hardly used it since trying it out. Among other things, it lets you put video on your desktop as wallpaper (yeah, there are lotsa others for the Mac and the PC that do the same thing, but who can pass up a free app?)

So I used Quicktime to convert the WMV file to MOV (by way of the wonderfully free Flip4Mac codec that lets Quicktime use WMV files), then imported it into DesktopMagik.

Worked like a charm. My Mac looks like it’s running Vista (sort of like a frog with two heads). Now I have beautiful rolling clouds on a blue sky, casting shadows on a verdant field of grass as they float serenely overhead. Nice, refreshing, peaceful – and CPU-hogging too. A consistent 25% according to my process viewer.

Mac or PC, you can’t win ’em all.

Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, is responsible for some 40 percent of DVD sales in the US. And they sell online videos using their (Beta) Wal-Mart Video Downloads portal.

Because of their size, Wal-Mart has just managed to do something that Apple has been trying to do for a long time now: actually get all the major US movie studios to allow it to offer their movies for download. Which means that if you’ve always wanted to take both Spider-Man and the X-Men with you, then this is the way to go.

This is a big blow to Apple. Wal-Mart uses Microsoft’s PlaysForeSure format for its videos (at 320×240 resolution), which means that the movies will only play back on PCs or in mobile devices that use Microsoft’s DRM. iPods not allowed.

Okay, reality check time. On one hand, movie downloads have not really picked up in the realm outside of Apple’s iTunes and, coupled with the fact that most portable video players happen to be iPods in the first place, so the likelihood that people will storm towards other media players in the market because of this development is quite slim for now.

On the other hand, Wal-Mart is a mighty retailing force to recon with (they now have a program where DVD buyers can also download the video versions for just a couple of dollars more). If anybody can turn video downloading into normative behavior, they can be it.

So it’s now turning into a battle between popular consumer device versus popular software retailer. Or in other words, iTunes versus the world. Notice the encirclement strategy that is happening between the PlaysForSure DRM and iTunes. Very Microsofty.

Optimists, however, are bound to spin things around and claim that Wal-Mart’s feat is actually good news for Apple, since Apple can now argue with the studios to give it the same kind of treatment as well (at present, Disney is the only major film company that makes its movies available on iTunes… and only because Steve Jobs is in Disney’s board).

Apple better do that. Or else, all it takes is one really good non-iPod portable media player to upset the balance of power, tipping it towards PlaysForSure devices in general.

But then again, back to our earlier observation: Who watches movies on their portable devices in the first place?

Reports have it that the newly released Microsoft Vista doesn’t make nice with iTunes 7.0.2.

If you upgrade from Windows XP to Vista, your iTunes won’t be able to play your purchased music (if you have any, that is). Bummer. It’s a highly specialized problem to be sure – you’ve got to be one of the few Pinoys who’ve already upgraded to Vista by now, and at the same time a Pinoy who can actually buy stuff off of the iTunes Store – at this time there can’t be many of these poor unfortunate creatures. But theoretically they can, or probably will, exist.

If you’re one of these rare breed (or will be in the near future), fear not. Download your solution here.

Sadly, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are currently several other big issues between iTunes and iPods and Microsoft’s new OS, including the possibility of corrupting your iPod from within Vista if you use the Safely Eject Hardware command to disconnect your player (use iTunes itself through the Eject iPod command from the Controls menu instead), or being unable to sync info like contacts and calendars, and more. Apple‘s working on fixing the problems though.

Haaay. Part of the expected upgrade blues. We’ll have to live with these things for a while.

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