Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stop the presses, I want to get off...

The life cycle of an Apple rumour is surprisingly similar, irrespective of the rumoured product we're talking about. I must admit to being somewhat annoyed at the continued rumours of an iPhone which have been doing the rounds for over two years now, but not as annoyed as some who are obviously at the end of their tether when it comes to the rumour mill.

I don't blame them, the rumour mill is starting to turn into a treadmill as long rumoured products like the iPhone, the Mac tablet and a flash based MacBook Pro fail to appear year after year. I think it's time to drop at least some of the rumour sites from my feed reader, and see if I can somehow make do without the next breathtaking unconfirmed, it's from an inside source, iPhone rumour.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Downsizing Apple?

Monitors that is, at least according to DigiTimes (via Gizmodo) who are predicting Apple will launch an entry level (for them) 17-inch widescreen monitor during Q1 of 2007 to complement their existing 20, 23 and 30-inch models.

As Gizmodo comments, Apple got out of the 17-inch monitor business a while ago and it'd be an interesting move for them to re-enter the market especially with other rumours hinting at the arrival of a 50-inch monitor. Are we looking at an, admittedly somewhat overdue, refresh of the entire line of Apple monitors?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The speed of meme

Is it science or a fairly successful attempt at self-advertising? Whatever, since I'd like to find what speed a meme propagates (via Canspice) across the blogosphere as much as the next man I'm dropping Scott a link in the interests of science. You should do the same...

Update: There is nothing new under the Sun, apparently this experiment has already been done. However this is interesting but irrelevant, the interesting result is therefore now, not how fast a meme propagates, but how has the propagation changed since last time the experiment was tried?

Update: The results are in and apparently the speed of a meme across the blogosphere is "very fast". If the guy didn't actually have the programming skills necessary to do a quantitative analysis of the logs, why did he bother in the first place? The mind boggles...

Where now for the Road Warrior?

As you probably know I was annoyed when Apple failed to offer a replacement for the 12-inch Powerbook, especially following the rumours of something much cooler after Macworld in January.

More recently rumours of flash based MacBooks have started to spread, so I've been hopeful that something smaller and lighter than my current 12-inch Powerbook would come along before it died. But now rumours of the demise of the 15-inch MacBook Pro have started to spread, event the middle road will be closed.

This idea seems insane, as I've talked about before people buying laptops are basically divided into two core demographics. The road warriors, who would kill for another half hour of battery, or half a kilogram less of laptop, and the power users who desperately want another couple of inches of screen real estate, and another hundred gigabytes of hard drive.

If Apple get rid of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, without replacing the 12-inch at all, where now for the Road Warriors?

Phones and electronic paper displays

It was fairly hard to imagine how phones were going to get much slimmer, but it looks like Motorola has found a way. Its new F3 which is now shipping, at least in India, makes use of electronic paper rather than an LCD panel for the display and is only 9mm thick.

The new Motorola F3

While Motorola isn't admitting it explicitly it looks like the display is based on EPD technology from E Ink. Electronic paper makes a lot of sense when you're talking about mobile phone displays. It's a thin, light, relatively high resolution display which doesn't suffer from backlight or viewing angle problems and uses much less power than the traditional LCD. Motorola may be first to market, but I'm going to be really surprised if the rest of the manufacturers don't follow them. It looks like the days of having an LCD on your phone are now numbered.

The (Japanese) Mac adverts

Last week Apple started airing the "Get a Mac" adverts in Japan, and the Information Architects site is carrying an insightful analysis of how the now somewhat iconic adverts have translated into the new market...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Web 2.0 or is it 3.0?

Nick Carr declares that Web 2.0 is dead, and with John Markoff announcing the arrival of Web 3.0 in the New York Times before the paint is dry on 2.0 maybe he's on to something..? Of course somewhat predictably Tim O'Reilly disagrees and argues that we'll get there when we get there, and that Markoff is talking about Web 2.0 anyway.

While only a couple of days after Bill Thompson argues that Web 2.0 is a dead end which is distracting people from building real distributed systems, Kathy Sierra argues that Web 2.0 is more than a buzz word (via O'Reilly Radar). It looks like the whole Web 2.0 argument is kicking off again, and this time people aren't taking any prisoners...

Update: More from Nick Carr, who seems to be going with the Casablanca Test for Web 2.0, "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it"...

Google going Nuclear?

There are fifty crackpot ideas born every second. Working in a University physics department you see a lot of them, earnest treaties on the evolution of the Universe, carefully typed up on an old manual typewriter and photocopied to within an inch of its life, lacking in scientific method and bearing only a tenuous grip on reality. Junk science at best, and Pseudo-science at worst.

So when I saw the Slashdot headline asking last week, "Should Google go Nuclear?" I must admit I cringed, but it turned out to be a serious piece. When someone of Robert Bussard's reputation and record of achievement talks you should sit down and listen, and yes, we are talking about the inventor of the Bussard Ramjet here...

Should Google Go Nuclear?

Earlier this year Bussard claimed that his company had developed an inertial electrostatic confinement fusion process that is 100,000 times more efficient than previous designs. However, the company's funding has run out, and Bussard is looking for more money to continue development, and it looks like he's casting his net fairly wide.

Bussard's talk to the assembled great and the good at Google is an interesting clash of cultures, for one thing I doubt any of these guys sitting in the audience have seen a talk using acetate overheads in since college. However for the physicists in the audience I'd recommend sitting down and watching the whole hour and a half of video, although you might want to skip ahead past the definitions of fission and fusion, it makes interesting viewing.

Phones, lies and video tape...

Did anyone ever make much use out of MMS? How about WAP? Or the supposed killer application which was was going to drive the move to 3G, video calls? No thought not, me either...

The latest attempt by the mobile operators to rake back the vast amounts of money they paid out for the 3G licenses however is mobile TV. You have to ask yourself, why? This is almost as pointless as video calling, the only time I'd be at all interested in using this would be when I'm stuck on a train for several hours, but it's hard enough sending text messages, or trying to keep a voice call going, let alone get a UMTS connection stable enough to stream live TV to your handset.

However it looks like people in the industry are starting share my disquiet about possible adoption, let alone the shaky business model of the entire thing. I'm not even going to mention the possibility of a "real" video iPod turning up and totally cannibalising the market. Why stream live over a shaky UMTS connection when you can just download and then time shift your shows?

Bored by rumours of the iPhone?

How about rumours of a Mac tablet (via TUAW) instead?

The Mac Tablet, not an Apple product or likely to be one?

I'd write this off as total fantasy, but the Apple iTV came at us from pretty much nowhere, so while unlikely I guess it's worth mentioning...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Yet more iPhone rumours?

I've been trying to ignore them, but iPhone rumours are yet again running the Apple rumour mill ragged. We've been talking about the possibility of an Apple iPhone for two years now, and the rumours haven't really changed that much.

CREDIT: iCreate/
This concept image comes from the UK magazine iCreate which has a habit of dreaming up possible new product lines for Apple, and is now over two years old.

Maybe I'm just being cynical from over two years of iPhone rumours which led to nothing beyond the clunky Motorola ROKR E1, but surely if it was ever really going to happen, it would have happened by now?

Update: The latest rumours (via TUAW) are suggesting that contracts have been signed and that Apple are, usually for a handset manufacturer, going to be shipping unlocked handsets. Oddly enough this could actually add weigh to the rumours that Apple might be rolling out their own MVNO. Despite my better judgement, I'm actually starting to get excited about the possibility that an iPhone might finally be more than a long running rumour...

Update: There has to be something wrong here, rumours of a second phone (via TUAW) before the first one even gets released? Have Apple Insider gone totally nuts..?

As agile as a herd of rihno?

Joel Spolsky is one of my favourite dispensers of wisdom, which is why it annoys me so much when he says something so obviously wrong, and especially when he contradicts himself doing it...

This week I've spent most of the week locked in my office with my headphones on hammering out new code, actual new code, to do actual new things I couldn't do before. That felt good, its not something I get to do that often any more now I'm hip deep and sinking fast in operations.

As a project matures more and more time gets sucked into maintenance, support and making sure things only break when you expect them to break. Adding features becomes an incremental thing, but sometimes you get the chance to crank out a really big block of code. These chances don't come along that often and shouldn't be squandered. By ignoring several moderately important "other things", I've managed to compress a month long project and a seriously large chunk of code into a weeks work.

That just wouldn't be possible if I'd had to context switch that much. For really short context switches like people ignoring the sign on my door telling them to go away, or a quick email response, I've found that pausing the music I'm listening to, dealing with the interruption, and them restarting the music will allow me to "check point" the state my head is in and the data structures I've built there while I'm working. I'll still loose ten or fifteen minutes because I won't be rolling along at full speed any more, but the damage is fairly limited.

Longer switch outs are more problematic, in fact there was one point this week where I had to drop what I was doing and do something else. It took me two hours, and then it took me another six hours to carefully reassemble the pile of stuff in my head and get back to where I was before I was interrupted. So that was eight hours gone because I had to drop what I was doing for two hours, there isn't such a thing as a short interruption when you're coding, not really...

I'm all for agile development, but agile development shouldn't mean that you get locked into endless fire fighting or you'll never get those big features out the door.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Now where?

For the last few years I've got my broadband from Plusnet and watched it go from a moderate sized technically savvy company to a sprawling less technically savvy, or at least less responsive, company.

However during the entire time I've been with them I have had no problems and almost no down time, despite numerous hardware upgrades at their end. I've also now got an 8Mb/s connection for what I was initially paying for a 1Mb/s line. So no complaints from me...

Now I hear that they're going to be bought out by BT. I've been with BT, so it's time for a new broadband provider. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The end of the OS?

As Microsoft releases Vista to manufacturing in preparation for its public release in a few months, David Sobotta asks "where is the innovation?", as he rakes over John Dvorak's article in PC Magazine where, as controversial as ever, Dvorak ask whether Vista is a dead end?'s possible that Microsoft is out of ideas, and Apple is out of ideas from which Microsoft can borrow.
Like David, I don't hold Dvorak in high esteem as a technical journalist, I think he's out of touch with what's actually going on but sometimes he makes a good point, and this time he might be right.

Dvorak's arguments that Vista will be the last major version of Microsoft's operating system have a certain ring of truth. However perhaps that's possibly because I agree with him, although for different reasons.

Running with Dvorak's arguement, David talks about the main problem facing Apple right now, the very reason for its current success, Steve Jobs. What happens to Apple when Steve either loses interest in computers, if he hasn't already done so, or since no one lives for ever, up and dies on them? Apple doesn't seem to encourage a culture from which an obvious successor for Steve would organically arise, and like many I'm sure that there is some really worried people in Apple's upper management right now, and of course like Microsoft Vista, you have to wonder where Apple should go from here with OSX?

While there is a growing agreement that out "traditional" view of operating systems might be due for a rethink, nobody really agrees what's next. Well you know what I think, Russell Beattie had it right,
If someone's using a PC to demo the next big thing, then it's not the next big thing... - Russell Beattie
The future is in mobile computing, ubiquitous computing and location based services, and if you're building something that even requires a desktop machine to access you're not looking very far ahead. Whatever happens it's going to be a interesting few years, because we're not just going to go on as before, that certainly isn't one of the options...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More firmware updates

Hot on the tail of the Macbook firmware update which seems to have fixed the unexpected shutdown problems on the previous generation of MacBooks, it looks like Apple have released a whole slew of firmware updates (via Apple Insider).

There has been EFI firmware updates for the; iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, Mac mini and Mac Pro which should fix several Boot Camp, start up, and wake-from-sleep issues.

Apple have also released a Firmware Restoration CD (20.5MB), which can be used to restore the firmware of an Intel-based Macintosh computer, and an update for the Apple X11 framework which enables it to better handle GLX stereo visuals and offscreen rendering to GLX Pbuffers and Pixmaps. Hopefully these firmware updates should alleviate the hardware problems people have been seeing with the new Intel Macs.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sun to open source Java

Robert Scoble and Tim Bray are reporting that Sun is going to open source Java. This is major news, even for those of us who dislike the language.

I'm mostly a Perl guy. Actually, I'm mostly a non-statically typed language kind of guy but that's another story. However I'll turn my hand to anything at need, I'm not proud, and have written more Java than I really care to remember. So, for me, this is a really good thing.

Why? Well, hopefully it'll give a major boost to Parrot and we'll end up with an implementation of Java running on top of the Parrot virtual machine, which will pretty solve all my problems in a single blow. Of course, Parrot with or without Java, will pretty much solve all my problems. Here's hoping...

Automating Google Earth

A couple of months ago Craig Stanton discovered that Google Earth now had acquired Applescript support.

Applescript is amazingly useful, but scripting applications using it still requires some basic programming knowledge. Which is probably why Apple introduced Automator with the release of Tiger, which allows you to script your applications simply by dragging and dropping predefined actions into a workflow, no coding required.

Building a Google Earth workflow

So the next step is obviously to put together some automator actions for Google Earth, and that's now been done with two such actions; Go To Location and Save Screenshot, having been built around the Google Earth Applescript library and released as the Google Earth Action Pack (GEAP) on

Google Earth for Mac with Automator actions

As Ogle Earth points out this is perfect for building scripted tours with voice overs, although with the limitation that Automator has no easy way of playing prerecorded sound files, so at least for the moment you have to use a synthesised voice.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Two more for the road

Less than a month after the release of the updated MacBook Pro, Apple have just announced an updated MacBook, now with Intel Core 2 Duo inside.

The new Intel Core 2 Duo MacBooks, in black & white...

To be honest, I wasn't expecting an update to the MacBook range until Macworld in January, to coincide with the rumoured design refresh to the MacBook Pro range. Shows what I know...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Deep-Fried Pizza

If there is one thing the Scots do right, it's deep fried pizza. Well it looks like civilisation is, at long last, spreading outside my native land and this excellent comestible is now available in the States (via Slice).

Of course these guys are doing it all wrong. The entire point of deep-fried pizza is that it's the cheapest, nastiest, pizza that you can get your hands on, and as for that green stuff they're sprinkling on it? That just isn't right at all...


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Disassembling the Macbook Pro

The new Intel Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro was only released last week, and already someone has taken it apart (via Engadget and Digg).

CREDIT: iFixit
The insides of the new Macbook Pro

It looks like the worst kept secret in the world, that the new Macbook Pros are shipping with an 802.11n card, is now confirmed.