Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Safari 3.1 and Apple Software Update

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For those who have a copy of iTunes installed on their Windows computers, you’ve probably come across the Apple Software Update application that, by default, automatically checks for updates to your Apple software. With the release of Safari 3.1 for Windows (the first non-beta release of the browser), Apple started dishing out the application to users through Apple Software Update for Windows, regardless of whether the users had an older version of Safari already installed or not.1

What really got people riled up though was that Apple checked Safari off for installation by default, as seen in the above screenshot.

John Lily, CEO of Mozilla, made the following statement about why what Apple was doing was wrong:

It’s wrong because it undermines the trust that we’re all trying to build with users. Because it means that an update isn’t just an update, but is maybe something more. Because it ultimately undermines the safety of users on the web by eroding that relationship. It’s a bad practice and should stop.

Fundamentally, I agree with John Lily’s concerns, but I honestly think that he and the rest of the community have made this a much larger issue than it actually is.

But that’s beside the point. In response to the complaints, Apple released a new version of Apple Software Update for Windows:

As seen in the pic above, the new Safari install is clearly differentiated from other updates by being listed in a different box. The biggest complaint though has still not been addressed: The automatic default ‘on’ value for the checkbox.

Ultimately, I think it doesn’t matter.

In order to explain my position, I need to clearly state the two issues in regards to the old behaviour of Apple Software Update.

A: New installations of software were not clearly differentiated from the actual updates, thereby implying that the users had previous installations of software that they, in fact, may not have had.

B: All items listed in Apple Software Update are checked off to be installed by default, regardless of whether the items are updates to already installed software or entirely new installations of software.

Fixing Issue A requires a UI change that clearly differentiates new software installations from updates. This differentiation could come in the form of a separate pane for new software (as seen in the retooled Apple Software Update for Windows above), or a difference in the way the new software item looks in the list of items to be updated (a badge or coloured highlight), or even a different tab for new software.

Fixing Issue B involves changing one thing: Uncheck a checkbox.

And so here’s my argument: Apple has already solved Issue A, a problem that no user is capable of fixing. No end user can fundamentally change the UI of an app in such a way, and even if they could, it would not be particularly easy or straightforward for end users.

On the other hand, Issue B is in the exact opposite position. Any end user of software can uncheck a checkbox.

In other words, Apple has fixed the issue that only they could fix and has hit the ball back into the user’s court. Fixing the remaining issue is entirely trivial for end users, and it’s completely within their power and ability to do so.


1: This behaviour actually predates Safari. In my own experience, on Windows computers which only had QuickTime Player installed, Apple Software Update would push iTunes in the exact same manner that it’s pushing Safari now. A lot of iTunes users probably never saw this type of behaviour because iTunes requires QuickTime Player in order to work and up until Safari 3 iTunes and QuickTime Player were the only Windows applications Apple made.  

Written by Kumaran Vijayan

April 23, 2008 at 7:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

I Think I’m Cheating

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Goldfrapp’s new album, Seventh Tree, isn’t set to come out until tomorrow, the 26th.

Step 1: Go to Apple’s Goldfrapp page and the standard album page for Seventh Tree (iTunes links). Note that the album is available for pre-order and will be downloadable when it is released tomorrow. Here’s a screenshot.

Step 2: Do a Power Search for Clowns, the first track of Goldfrapp’s album (remember to fill in the artist name). Here’s another screenshot1, this one of the results.

Step 3: Click on one of the album links presented in the results and you’re in business. Sure, you don’t get the fancy schmancy iTunes Page for the album, but you can buy an album that’s supposed to come out tomorrow, right now.

1: The $9.99 album comes with a PDF booklet whereas the $9.90 album doesn’t.

Written by Kumaran Vijayan

February 25, 2008 at 9:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Quick Look Plugins I Use

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BetterZip Quick Look Generator
Handy little plugin that lets you have a look at the contents of pretty much any archive. Can be handy if you’re unsure about the Zip file you just downloaded.

This is one is pretty much pointless, but I (and maybe you) might find it handy some day. All it does is let you look in folders without having to open them in the Finder. Woohoo.

Gives support for textClippings and pictClippings.

Let’s you view code with syntax highlghting.

Let’s you view AppleScripts. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to work with QLColorCode, so the code just looks like a bunch of black text. :(

Written by Kumaran Vijayan

January 30, 2008 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Leopard Bits: Quick Look and the Finder

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Quick Look
Quick Look is easily the simplest of the most touted changes in Leopard and is definitely the handiest. The basic concept behind Quick Look is to provide a quick and easy way for users to view content. No editing, no manipulation, nothing but the content in its entirety. Just click on an item and hit the spacebar.

Leopard Quick Look One Item

If you invoke Quick Look on multiple items:

Leopard Quick Look Multiple Items

Tile the images and even check it out in full screen. Do the same with video files, audio files, Word documents, PDFs, contact cards, Keynote or PowerPoint presentations, Automator Workflows, etc… If Quick Look runs into something it doesn’t support (like an Application), it will just show its icon and some information about the item. But Quick Look is also based off of a plugin architecture, so if you find a plugin for a filetype that you work with, then just drag it into the plugins, restart the Finder and off you go1.

Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” Finder Icon

The Finder has seen some nice improvements. For one there’s the new Coverflow view. This isn’t exactly the most useful addition (I have rarely used it myself) but I find that it comes in handy when I need to quickly look through a bunch of images.

Another handy addition is the new iTunes-like sidebar. It’s divided into 4 sections: Devices, which links to hard-drives, other partitions, iPods, external drives, etc.; Shared, which lists all the other computers on the network; Places, which are simply just places in your filesystem; and Search For, which can hold smart folders (folders whose contents depend on the criteria you set). Save for Shared, you can drag items in or out of the sections.

Probably the best new feature of the Finder has to do with Shared. Like I said, the Shared section lists all of the computers on the network, both Windows PCs and Macs. Click on any computer and it will list all the different connection methods.

OS X 10.5 “Leopard” Finder Network Computer

Click any of those guest connections and you can see their public folder(s).

OS X 10.5 “Leopard” Finder Network Computer Guest Connected

However, if I were to press the ‘Connect As…’ button, then I would get a login screen followed by an updated view of the network connection. Now that I’ve logged in as a registered user I can see and access that user’s account just as if I were on his computer. And, if I turn on screen sharing on the computer that I want to connect to, I can just as easily start using that computer as if I was sitting in front of it.

None of the changes made to the Finder are, in my opinion, extremely important but they’re solid nonetheless. It makes life on in Mac OS X a bit more convenient and, as Apple usually shows, the small things do add up.

1: I’ll have a list of Quick Look plugins that I use in a later post.

Written by Kumaran Vijayan

January 25, 2008 at 8:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

MWSF ‘08 Keynote Outcome: A Year Is A Long Time

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The 2007 Macworld Keynote was, to say the least, above everyone’s expectations; the iPhone blew away just about everybody’s expectations for a cellphone from Apple. Expecting this year’s keynote to be of the same calibre was simply unreasonable. However, I think Apple’s produced a good followup. Nearly everything they announced was absolutely solid and give us a glimpse into what the company is going to be focusing on going forward.

iPhone + iPod touch updates
Solid stuff. The new features, the new Google Maps with it’s GPS-like functionality in particular, are well-implemented and further cement the iPhone as an industry-leader. And it really shows: 4 million iPhones have been sold to date. That’s very impressive.

What’s not so impressive are the fact that older iPod touch owners will have to pay for their update. Yeah, they may be getting 5 new apps, but I never expected Apple to force users to pay for iPod updates, especially when they’ve never done it in the past1. Of course, it’s because of Sarbanes-oxley. Apple’s worked around the accounting law when it comes to iPhone and Apple TV updates because they recognize the revenue from both of those products over an annual subscription basis. In other words, if somebody goes out and buys an Apple TV, Apple doesn’t immediately recognize that they received all $229, but instead recognize 1/12th of it every month for 12 months. At least, that’s my understanding of it. OK, it’s all nice that Apple’s found a way to work around iPhone and Apple TV updates, but it doesn’t explain why they haven’t applied the same practice to iPod updates.

When you look at it from the perspective of paying for software, $20 for the 5 new iPod touch apps is actually a pretty good value. But try explaining to iPod touch owners that the Sarbanes-Oxley act forces Apple to make them pay for updates while iPhone owners just get them for free. The question isn’t why Apple is making them pay for updates, but why they haven’t implemented the obvious solution to make them free.

iTunes Rentals
Easily the most obvious of the announcements. There isnt that much to say here. The fact that they have all the major studios on board for this is pretty good. 30 days to begin watching a film isn’t that bad, but 24 hours to finish watching it is just kind of lame. And rentals will show up on iTunes 30 days after they’re released on DVD.

Oh, and those iTunes rippable DVDs are nice. I’m curious to see how that feature might affect sales of those particular DVDs versus DVDs that aren’t iTunes rippable.

Apple TV Take 2
No new hardware, but a pretty substantial software update to the Apple TV. It no longer requires a computer making it able to buy and download movies (renting is also possible), TV Shows and music to itself. I’m very interested in seeing how this affects sales of the device going forward.

MacBook Air
The Air was easily the most talked about product at Macworld. It looks to be extremely well designed and engineered. But the Air very easily divides people between two camps: those who use their notebooks as their main computer and those who use it as a secondary computer. Those who use their notebooks as their main computer (like myself) would never get an Air as it wouldn’t have enough ports and/or graphics horsepower and/or an optical drive2.

But the MacBook Air isn’t going to be purchased by everybody who uses their laptop as a secondary computer. After all, an entry level MacBook costs $700 and can be upgraded to be significantly more capable than an Air. Instead, the Air appears to cater to the very specific market of people who are willing to pay the money for thin. So, who does pay for thin? Well, there are those average users who will get it simply because they love the form factor3 and there are the heavy travelers who want to lighten their baggage by as much as possible.

However, the big question behind this product isn’t who will buy it, but are there enough people willing to buy it. It’s what makes this particular product launch so exciting. Apple is not only moving into an unproven market here, but a market that people aren’t really sure can even be expanded at this point in time4.

1: Granted, those updates aren’t nearly as substantial as this iPod touch update.
2: Actually, I’m kind of lying. If I weren’t gaming, I’d probably get an Air with an external Superdrive.
3: I’m actually wishing I didn’t game on my computer just so I could justify having this.
4: Much like the release of the original iPod mini.

Written by Kumaran Vijayan

January 20, 2008 at 11:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

iShnoob quickie

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Written by Kumaran Vijayan

January 18, 2008 at 10:20 am

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Macworld ‘08: After the storm

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Well, here’s what it looked like right after the keynote: History 01/15/2008

Written by Kumaran Vijayan

January 16, 2008 at 12:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

MWSF ‘08

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The keynote’s tomorrow and I’m pretty psyched. Here’s what Apple’s site looks like now: 14/01/2008

Let’s see what it looks like tomorrow.

If you want to follow along with the keynote tomorrow, it will be starting at 9AM in San Francisco (10AM for us Saskatoonians). Engadget, iLounge and MacRumors will be liveblogging the event, essentially giving us up to the minute coverage of the keynote while it’s happening. Should be fun. :)

Written by Kumaran Vijayan

January 14, 2008 at 10:35 pm

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What’s Wrong With Vista

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A writer over at DTGeeks has an enlightening overview of the control panels in Windows Vista. This, along with everything else that I find wrong with Vista, has changed my mind on the OS. I used to think it was better in terms of UI, but I can’t honestly say that any more.

Mind you, the article is written by someone whose username is Mac Fan. Give the whole thing a read though and try out some of the stuff he talks about in the article and see if you come to a similar conclusion.

Written by Kumaran Vijayan

January 10, 2008 at 10:34 am

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MacWorld ‘08 Keynote Predictions

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With the MacWorld ’08 keynote approaching, rumours abound regarding what Apple might release next week. While last year was all about the iPhone, I think this year is going to be more of a mix of content deals and Mac related announcements.

iTunes Rentals
Yes, iTunes will get movie rentals. I’m not going to speculate on pricing or terms of service, but I doubt that every movie on iTunes will become rentable. TV Shows might get a similar treatment as well.

iTunes Rippable DVDs
This is a slam dunk, I’m sure of it. TUAW had their little post on it and it seems like an entirely legitimate and sensible thing for Apple to do.

Regardless of how hard Apple may be pushing iTunes for video downloads, it’s clear that users still want to buy their video content on DVD. And who blames them? They’re paying roughly the same price for a movie on iTunes as they would the DVD version and they receive a lower quality copy (in both audio and video) and it’s a freaking hassle to get thing on to a TV (which is where everybody watches movies anyway) unless you own an Apple TV, which is a $299 purchase unto itself. At least with this DVD idea, people get two copies of the movie that covers most of the devices people own (iPods and DVD players).

UltraPortable Laptop
Yes, an ultraportable laptop. And, according to AppleInsider, it will be a 13 incher, which is a shame, since a 13″ widescreen notebook really isn’t a suitable replacement for the 12″ PowerBook Apple axed back in 2006. Anyway, it will also have Flash memory instead of a hard-drive and will forgo the use of an optical drive. Hmm, and it will also be white. Or maybe black…

iPhone nano
There hasn’t been that much speculation surrounding this. AppleInsider ran an article back in June of 2007, but nothing else has come down the line since then. Regardless, I still believe that the iPhone product line will essentially follow an accelerated iPod timeline. Where Apple essentially took 2 years after the introduction of the first iPod to introduce lower priced models, the same will happen to the iPhone except only after 5 months of being on the street.

As for features, I’m thinking full-screen multitouch device (duh), 4GB of storage, no Google Maps, widgets or Safari, but a design that’s substantially smaller than the current iPhone. I’m thinking close to the footprint of a nano, but not quite that small.

So, let’s see how hard I fall this time.

Written by Kumaran Vijayan

January 8, 2008 at 11:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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