Monthly Archives: February 2007

OS X not perfect

I came across this interesting post the other day. Seems the author recently switched to OS X and while for the most part he seems to like it he has come across a few things that he misses from Windows. What I enjoy about his post is that it feels more like he is comparing tools vs. religions, with calm observations vs. frothing at the mouth. Some of the more interesting tidbits:

- He dislikes iPhoto and considers it featureless. I usually hear OS X users touting iPhoto as one of the key features of OS X so to hear someone pine for Picasa, which doesn’t seem to be available for OS X is new.

- He considers Window’s Explorer the better file manager, citing among other things the fact that it feels more functional I’ve always wondered about this because every screen shot I see of Finder shows these 32×32 or 48×48 icons of each file. I’d go crazy looking at a source code or music folder unless I could see them in either List or Details mode. In fact switching out of the default 32×32 icon mode in Explorer is the first thing I do on any new computer.

- At first he missed the Start menu but as he grew to use Spotlight and Quicksilver he no longer pines for it. What’s odd is that when I’m on a Vista machine I almost never use the Start menu anymore, instead I press the Windows key to bring me to a search box and I just type the first few letters of the app I’m looking for and ta da, there is my app. The only time I use the Start menu is when I install a new app, I’m not always sure how it’s going to be named so sometimes I have to go hunting for it.

- No good IM software with iSight support. This just blows me away. The whole camera bit is one of Apple’s big selling points and there is no rocking IM client with native support? Someone suggested Skype but that’s not going to do him a lot of good for his buddies on AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo!.

All in all it was refreshing to see a level headed discussion about OS X. Most people rave about the wonderfully sexy Mac hardware, and I do agree, Apple makes some damn good hardware, but oddly enough I don’t hear much about OS X itself from new converts.

Microsoft’s Live Brand

Lot’s of action on Microsoft’s Live brand lately. All of this activity reminded me of my own rather strong feelings about Microsoft’s handling of Live and how everytime I hear “Live” I cringe a little.

You see, I’ve always thought that attaching the Live brand to so many properties was a greedy attempt to capitalize on the only hip branding Microsoft has, XBox’s Live.

As far as I remember and know “Live” first started with the XBox and became synonymous with “social gaming with a set of friends” and it was strictly limited to the XBox. With the 360 it moved to the web with your gamertag and contact list available from Live was doing well, it was often cited as the one thing Microsoft did right, a younger demographic plugged into it.

Then Microsoft got desperate. They really have nothing that’s iconic anymore, except maybe lawsuits, while Google has this “mega startup” feeling and Apple has the iPod and the silhouette commercials. Microsoft also lacks cohesion, seems every product looks a little different, has a different installer, acts differently, integrates differently, has a different look to the website, etc.

Microsoft tried to *capitalize* on the Live brand but instead they just *cannibalized* it. Putting 5 random people into a room and calling them all “Smith” doesn’t make them a family yet that’s what Microsoft tried to do with Live.

Any service that doesn’t use your Live gamertag or have seamless integration with the “real” Live service’s contacts and assets (such as Points, Account Management, items purchased via the Marketplace) doesn’t belong in the Live brand. They watered-down and squandered a lot of the Live cred where they could have extended it in logical ways.

Instead of just smearing Live on top of everything they should have kept on the path it was going. First XBox Live, then interacting with you Live contacts, then merging in the Zune to the Live, then merging XBox Marketplace and Zune Marketplace into simply the “Live Marketplace” where any content bought under your gamertag is available to anything that plugs into the Live framework. Next Live Points that work across XBox, Zune and future properties along with a micro transaction framework API, again under Live. Through all of this though the same contact list and assets.

They must have had to tranquilize J Allard when he found out they had co opted the Live brand.

Mapping Network Shares on OS X vs. Windows

I often hear how OS X “just works” and how it’s so easy to do pretty much everything. Often the differences between the Windows and OS X way are just that, different, not really better or worse. That’s why I was so surprised to find out how relatively hard it is to assign a drive letter to a network share on OS X.

Chalk one up on the Windows side of things. On XP and Vista it’s as simple as right-clicking on the share and selecting “Map Network Drive…”

Is Album Art Dying?

I recently subscribed to a podcast that is basically a list of free MP3′s that various bands offer up for download. It’s a great way to get exposed to new music but one thing I’ve noticed is that most of them don’t include album art.

While album art is probably the last thing on the band’s mind I have to say that when a song is hanging in the balance the lack of album art is enough for me to delete the song. What is the purpose of having a lovely, vivid, large screen on my Zune if I don’t get any album art while listening to the song?

While I love digital distribution and what sites like MySpace have done for indie and startup bands the thought of losing album cover art is a sad prospect.

Vista Home Premium Downgrades MCE

As much as I like Microsoft products I have to say I really hate some of their business decisions when it comes to Vista. My biggest beef is the fact that Home Premium doesn’t include Remote Desktop.

A common setup of Media Center is to run a headless (without monitor, keyboard or mouse) Media Center machine that records while an extender, in my case an XBox 360, is used to watch the recorded content. The only thing that makes this possible is the fact that Media Center Edition (the pre-Vista version) includes Remote Desktop. Whenever I need to check disk space, make sure updates are installed, install new tuners, install new drives, etc. I just remote into my MCE machine and manage it that way.

Along comes Vista and I find that Remote Desktop is considered some kind of ultra-premium feature and now you have to go all the way to Ultimate to both Remote Desktop and Media Center. So now a machine that sits in a corner, that doesn’t even need the Aero interface, much less Ultimate Extras, is going to need Vista Ultimate in order to function like it used to.

What really brought all of this home was the fact that I recently picked up a new HP dv9000 laptop, thinking that when the laptop out-lived it’s usefulness I could turn it into a Media Center to replace the pre-Vista MCE tower I have in my office. Planning for this I paid for the small upgrade to MCE with the coupon for Vista Home Premium when it finally came out. Well, I get Vista Home Premium, install it, and discover that suddenly what I could do in MCE I can no longer do in Vista Home Premium. So in essence what I got was a coupon for a downgraded OS.

Microsoft has done some wonderful technological advances with Vista but has failed horribly when it comes to to their tiering structure. It’s no secret that while they have some top-notch engineers their business and marketing leaders leave a lot to be desired.

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I Was a Microsoft Shill

OK, not really.

I’ve reached a milestone, I’ve been labeled a Microsoft fanboy, a shill, been asked if I work for Microsoft and if I’m on the payroll. Somehow I was also labeled a Bush-supporting, Iraq war-loving Republican. Someone named “Will” even crowned me Shawn “Microsoft” Oster. Hey Will, anything you want me to pass along to Bill during our weekly world domination take-over meeting?

All joking aside I’ll clarify my position on Microsoft, not in defense of myself but to at least spurn more original arguments against me.

I’m not defending Microsoft, I’m not even a fanboy. I’m trying to make sure people understand where the battle lines are drawn. I have my own issues with Microsoft but I like to think I’m pretty informed in my arguments and that I’m looking at it from all sides before beginning my rants. If you don’t understand an issue how can you argue it? I’m all about the good fight but I find it more useful when you’re pointing your cannon in the right direction.

When someone says “Vista’s DRM” I’m angered not because they are saying something negative against Microsoft, I’m angered because it’s incorrect. When it comes to HD content Vista doesn’t actually contain DRM, it has support for HDCP.

When someone says Mac’s are so much better than PC’s because Mac’s “just work” I get frustrated not because I hate Apple but because I’ve personally known people whose Mac didn’t just work and in fact they spent hours dealing with support and struggling with hardware and software issues.

Labeling me a Microsoft defender because I point out the flaws in their logic is like labeling someone a terrorist just because they don’t agree that we’re handling the Iraq war well. Hell, even Bush finally admitted that we hadn’t actually won anything yet.

Oh, for the record I don’t work for Microsoft. I’m a software developer that writes in Delphi, C#, PHP, ASP, ASP.NET, MySql, Sql Server, PostScript (don’t ask), x86 Assembly (what young nerd didn’t learn assembly so they could crack games?), XHTML + CSS (yes, IE6 is pure evil), Ruby (with Rails of course), JavaScript and whatever else catches my interest. I learned to code on a Mac and became very familiar around a Linux shell while installing MythTV (though I’m using MCE now, I love using my 360 as an extender).

Wired spreads Vista DRM FUD

There is a fair bit of ignorance out there about Vista’s implementation of HDCP DRM and usually I just let it go by without affecting me too much but this recent article on Wired really takes the cake. I have to give it a gold star for being the most inaccurate article about “Vista’s DRM” I’ve read to date.

Personally I hate the concept of DRM, as searching my blog will attest to but I hate when people spread FUD and restate their opinions as facts even more. The waters of DRM and Vista are already murky enough and posts like the Wired one don’t do anything to help people understand the real issues.

Anyone that actually cares about having an informed conversation should start by reading these articles:

OS X and Linux: CableCARD, DIRECTV, Dish, HD DVD, Blu-ray?

Windows Vista Content Protection - Twenty Questions (and Answers)

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Apple, Microsoft Virtualization Hypocrisy

Mary Jo Foley has a recent post that highlights one of the hypocrisies you often encounter in the OS X camp. This line highlights it best:

Parallels executives have been quoted by various outlets as being angered by Microsoft’s policy to allow only the pricier versions of Vista to be used with Parallels without an additional license. But the Parallels brass don’t seem overly upset by similar licensing restrictions allegedly imposed by Apple regarding the legalities of running Mac OS X in a virtualized environment on non-Apple hardware.

UPDATE: Changed the title, fixed some tensing and reworded the first sentence, it felt clunky.