Thursday, January 29, 2009

Testing new blog front end

The UI for the native blogger interface is pretty awful. Trying this thing called Blogo. It's alright. Not sure why anyone would spend $25 on it though.

It does have a full screen mode though which is a nice touch. I prefer to write undistracted.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Monitors

IMG_0159, originally uploaded by jsz0.

Excessive? Yes.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Revising the Dock

After checking out the screenshots of Microsoft's Dock implementation in Windows 7 I think it's a step in the right direction for them. It's a little embarrassing to have to admit your main competitor was right a decade ago (2 decades if you count NeXT) but Microsoft has always done best when they copy something that works and add a few useful features on top of it. That's exactly what they're doing here and it's a pretty good implementation of the Dock. In fact, it's probably better than the OSX Dock which hasn't seen any significant upgrade in a while. The changes in 10.5 were largely irrelevant to how the Dock actually works.

What's wrong with the taskbar? Everything? It was fine back in 1996 when you had maybe 6 or 7 applications open if you were a power user and could afford 64MB of RAM to handle it. Today it's not uncommon to have dozens of windows open that you must actively switch between to complete a task. The taskbar simply doesn't scale and is not consistent. I could go into that more but it's pretty obvious so figure it out.

Managing this type of mess on a taskbar is nearly impossible. I've tried. It drives me insane. The lack of Expose doesn't help but that's another issue entirely. (the screenshot cuts off my second 20" display which is also full of windows) The Dock works by saving space combining launching & running tasks and always combining all associated windows of an application together. The bouncing Dock notification is also very useful as extra information can be included in the Dock page (such as transfer speed, unread message count, etc)

Having not used the Windows 7 Dock (only looked at it) I can't really comment on it outside of saying it looks like an improvement on the OSX Dock. The simplicity of the OSX Dock is nice but when you're dealing with say 8 Terminal windows a static text list of their names is less useful than a graphical thumbnail. The JumpList feature is somewhat available by right clicking a Dock icon but not implemented nearly as well and with flexibility.

Anyway, I'd like to see Apple do two specific things to improve the Dock:

1) Allow widgets to run in the Dock in the same style as avant-window-navigator on Linux. Avant started as a straight OSX Dock clone but has got so many new features via widgets that it surpasses the original. Different Dock icons could work as containers. So for example, all my audio apps could go into one container which would spiral out in the style of Stacks to show what was inside. A Twitter widget could popup a simple text entry bubble with a Submit button. Etc.

2) Thumbnail previews would help. Hover for a few seconds and get an Expose style pop-up of each window.

That's about it. Otherwise I think the OSX Dock is very functional and to the point. It would be a shame to see Apple let Microsoft beat them at their own game. The Dock is long over-due for some tweaks. The changes in 10.5 show all the fundamentals are there to make these changes. Someone just has to pull the trigger and decide the 10 year old Dock needs to be revised. We certainly have the GPU power for it. These options could all be off by default since the basic Dock configuration is fine for most people.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Apple 09 Predictions

I enjoy predicting things:

iPhone: Probably nothing major on firmware. That's more of a WWDC thing. iPhone Nano, definitely this year but maybe not at MacWorld which has traditionally been a computer oriented product launch/refresh expo.

iWork/iLife Updates, hopefully iPhone & web compatible versions. They'd have an opportunity to land on a lot of Windows desktops with a good mobile version of iWork. The iPhone integration might come in the form of an iMovie app that can do basic video recording, editing and publishing. Perhaps some GarageBand instrument & remote controller stuff.

Desktops: I think this is where the biggest announcements will be made. It's the one area in Apple's product line that is seriously lacking.

New Mini: NVIDIA chipset. Probably not much cheaper but a better value at least. Maybe a little wider and taller.

Mac: Cheaper i7 based mid-range tower. Cheaper, not necessarily cheap. Probably still $1k+ or even $1500+

iMac: NVIDIA chipset.

New mice/keyboards: Anytime Apple refreshes desktops them seem to do new keyboards/mice to match. Probably a black key version of the aluminum keyboards and a new mouse -- maybe also aluminum. Perhaps with multi-touch. (basically a rounded/molded thermal sensor integrated into the front of the mouse)

Snow Leopard: Probably won't ship till April or May but there will probably be some new features announced. They may be focusing on core OS improvements but I'm sure there are some user oriented features we haven't seen yet.

Apple TV: Big changes but maybe nothing at WWDC.

1) Platform change to NVIDIA's ARM CPU.
2) It will run off the same code base as the iPhone OS with one common code base but some big GUI changes:
  • The current Apple TV GUI becomes the iPod app
  • The system boots up to an iPhone style home screen
  • Core apps like Safari, Mail, iTunes Store, Google Maps, etc get moved over with some UI changes also.
3) Multi-touch remote: Probably something similar to the size of the current Nano with physical buttons. So you track your finger on the screen constantly but you click a button instead of tapping. The TV UI will show a little trail of your finger movements on-screen. The remote itself will probably not have any display. The remote may be designed to flip on its side and be used as a controller with at least two easily accessible physical buttons on the edges.

4) SDK / ATV AppStore. This is the catalyst behind of all the above changes. The model that works for the iPhone would apply perfectly to a set top box. You'd have games of course, streaming media apps of all kinds. There's also a pretty good market for straight up utility apps -- home automation for example.

Moving the ATV to ARM means Apple doesn't have to do much work to make this happen. They already have the whole infrastructure / SDK in place for the iPhone. I don't think the apps would truly be portable between platforms due to UI differences and differences in processing power but it would be pretty close. The Wii has proven bleeding edge HD graphics aren't the end-all of gaming. Simple iPhone 1:1 ports wouldn't be bad at all -- with the option of developers targeting the ATV natively for more power.

Death Watch: I personally don't think Jobs is sick but he will resign as Apple CEO in 09. What we're seeing now is just Apple laying the groundwork. The rumor of Jobs being sick is perfect cover for it. They gotta take Jobs out of the public eye for a while to ease the transition. If investors see someone other than Jobs go out and launch a successful product they will be much less antsy when Jobs leaves. They'll understand it's not the end of the world as we know it. Jobs would probably still be involved in the more long-term goals of Apple, in the same way Gates is still involved with Microsoft, but someone else will be running the day-to-day stuff of a CEO.