Goodbye.

This world still needs you. I hope we can make it without you.

Two Weeks in California

Apple WWDC07
Image by tom ferris via Flickr

Apple finally announced the WWDC 2009 dates and they couldn’t have targeted a better week.

It looks like I will become a representative for my agency on the Calconnect standards organization.  They happen to be having a meeting at Oracle in Redwood Shores, CA the week prior to WWDC.  With the wife’s permission, this means two weeks in the wide and crazy world of San Francisco.

I must admit I’m not a huge fan of the San Francisco scene.  Sometimes I feel like I’m too old to really appreciate all the life and culture that goes on out there.  But maybe have a day or two out there by myself with little to do can turn that around.  We shall see.

It seems like I’m getting more traffic to this site, so I’m wondering – do any of you want to see any WWDC-related coverage here, or do you plan on relying on the big boys for that?  If so, maybe I can find some of the little-known stuff to report on.

Let me know.  Even if you don’t care 😉

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Macworld 2009 Thoughts, Impressions, Wrapup

Rather than spend an inordinate amount of time trying to pump out information about Macworld 2009, I thought it would be more appropriate to soak in the entire show and let my brain stew on it a little bit.  I twittered the keynote quite a bit, so that was me trying to play journalist.  For the rest of the week, I intended to take part in the show and ignore the fact that I was collected information to share.

That way, I could let all of the thoughts and information culminate into a wave of thoughts and impressions to share with you while my wife packs for the trip home.  Close your mouth; she likes it that way.  She prefers to be the one that packs and organizes for trips like this and she’s damn good at it.  I asked if I could help and she said no – it was best to stay out of her way.

So, here I sit to write.

The Keynote

I’m not going to bash on the keynote as much as some folks have.  I didn’t come to it with unrealistic expectations.  I knew to expect an update iLife and iWork suite – how the press sites completely missed this clue I’ll never figure out.  The last build of Snow Leopard before the show had all of the iLife apps missing.  How much more of a clue do you need?  I also expected an updated 17″ Macbook Pro.  Steve Jobs had pretty much thrown that secret away with the press event that introduced the unibody Macbooks.  This was an easy one to figure out.

So the keynote was underwhelming to most everyone, but fulfilled my expectations nicely.  I suppose that’s the reward I get for not having outlandish expectations.  I did hope for an updated model of the Apple TV or Mac Mini, but I didn’t have any data to indicate those were in the mix, so I didn’t have my hopes up.

Oh.  And the iTunes announcements were neat.  I’m glad I can use iTunes again without feeling dirty and resorting to Amazon.

Phil Schiller as a speaker was subdued and nervous.  You could hear his voice crackling with pressure.  He knew he wasn’t the front billing and was just hoping for a warm welcome.  He got a warm welcome, but he was nervous nonetheless.  Did this reduce his effectiveness as a speaker?  Perhaps.  I wouldn’t say he delivered a total mess, but it wasn’t a Steve Jobs reality distortion field.

The proclivity to bite his nails caught up with him at the end when he slipped and mentioned “this last Macworld,” when was he meant to say was, “this last Macworld that Apple will be a part of” or something of that nature.  He caught himself – again, you could hear it.  His voice crackled with the “Oh shit”‘s one can expect when you’re not a polished stage presenter.  I’m sure IDG wasn’t thrilled, given the amount of effort they were outputting to pique your interest in next year.

Next Year

So yeah, let’s talk about Macworld 2010, since IDG wants us to remember that Macworld will continue on without Apple next year.  As a matter of fact, IDG is so visibly nervous about interest waning in their show that banners at every corner enticed you to come back next year, even on the first day of the show.  To me, this was the biggest clue that IDG is absolutely terrified.  They should be.  Not just because of Apple’s desire to back away from this show but because the show itself wasn’t all that interesting.  To me, that was the largest death knell.  Everywhere you went you could hear people talking about how this was the last show they will be attending.

I’m jumping ahead here too, but this is relevant.  Five minutes after I arrived back in my hotel room Friday night, I received an email from IDG begging me to go ahead and register for the Expo next year… and if I did, it was free!  Whee!  IDG is terrified folks.

Not to mention the rumors now that Apple wants a booth and presence at CES, which goes against their “we just want to get out of trade shows” press release.  What this tells me is that there was some kind of cost/value dispute over Macworld and Apple ultimately feels like they no longer need to be a specialized entry in the computing world.  They want to play with the big boys now.  They want the computing world to be unified, not split over some terrible operating system preference rift.  Good for them.

Now that IDG has reminded up that there is a Macworld next year, we can move on to the rest of the show.

Powertools and Conference Sessions

I had a platinum pass, so just like every one platinum pass owner I was completely overbooked on sessions.  I sat in on the first session about directory services for the Mac, in particular, the server.  It was a decent session, but the first day managed to cover the topic I was interested in.  I made plans to attend other sessions and do some show floor walking.

Let’s discuss the platinum pass for a moment, since I brought it up.  Why does IDG insist on selling an overpriced pass that completely overbooks you on the conference and sessions?  With this pass you have free an unfettered access to almost any conference topic or session, which is fine… however, if you actually try to attend both powertools sessions and a market symposium, your entire agenda is shot.  You do not even have time to walk the show floor.  That means that eventually you have to skip class just to get out on the floor and see what’s going on with the Expo.  I would think that IDG would give platinum pass goers an extra day or extend the evening Expo hours to give those folks some time to walk the floor.  Maybe someone brought that up in the town hall session.

Anyway, the sessions were interesting.  By far the best talk was Alex Lindsay’s chat on podcasting that lasted most of the day Friday.  (@alexlindsay on Twitter).  For those of you who don’t know who he is – he is one of the founders of Pixel Corps, a guild of filmmakers and new media masterminds.  Alex also works with @leolaporte on the TWiT network producing podcasts like Macbreak and Macbreak Weekly.  His speech was outstanding – but the most valuable part was the fact that he was having an open dialogue with his attendees.  I got lots of information out of that chat and should Alex ever run across this blog for any reason, he should know that this was just awesome.

Outside of that, the conference sessions were ho hum.  There wasn’t much in the way of new information in any of them and the attendance numbers were pretty dull.  The chatter on the floor indicated a dull attitude toward the conference sessions as well, unless you went by the Apple booth.  The Apple booth certainly had garnered a lot of interest with the new iLife and iWork suites.  They had tons of iMacs and Macbooks set up with the new software and one employee at each computer, ready to show you all they had.  Oops, I digress, this section is about the powertools and conference sessions.

As far as feature presentations go, Leo Laporte gave a fantasic speech on the state of new media and why old media is dying.  My coworker went in to the speech completely skeptical, but by the end of the speech he was totally in line with what Leo was talking about.  The turnaround was pretty amazing.  If Leo were here, he’d be happy to see that he converted someone to his point of view.

Hey Leo!

Leo Laporte sat down and geeked out with us over lunch!
Leo Laporte sat down and geeked out with us over lunch!

We kept running into Leo Laporte, oddly enough.  As fans, we instinctively shouted out his name.  At one point, we were sitting at a table and I saw him wander up, looking lost.  He was holding a salad.  I just suddenly shouted, “Hey Leo!”  He spotted us and walked up.  My coworker invited him to sit and eat and to my surprise, he did.  We sat and geeked out with him for about 20 minutes, having some enlightening conversations about Microsoft and Apple.  Leo is a man who gets it.  It’s fun to idolize him because he doesn’t seem to mind much.

We managed to see Leo at least two more times.  Once as we wandered the show floor we spotted him checking out the SMULE booth.  (The Ocarina app is the most incredible application I’ve ever seen, incidentally).  Later in the week, we crossed paths with him in the tunnel connecting north and south Moscone.  I congratulated him on his fantastic speech that morning and he seemed rather appreciative.

Between talking to Leo Laporte and Alex Lindsay, two heroes of mine in the new media space, it was like a dream come true.

iPhone Case World

As far as the show floor went, Apple owned the north hall.  Without their presence next year, Macworld will probably be able to squeeze into a single event hall.  Seriously.  They had a huge contingent of computers and employees there demonstrating iLife and iWork.  Good for them.

A row of iMacs used to demo iWork '09
A row of iMacs used to demo iWork '09

 

The rest of the show floor was really underwhelming.  Everywhere you looked, some new company was coming out with a new case for iPods or the iPhone.  Srsly.  That was about it.  There were some great show buys that I immediately picked up on – a 30% discount on Omni products, a 10% discount on Delicious Library 2, but by and large there were only two stories on the show floor: iPhone/iPod cases and gadgets and the complete surprise of geotagging suddenly becoming important.

That’s right.  Nikon and Canon were completely thrilled about the geotagging support being added to iPhoto.  Not.  Both booths said everyone was now asking for geotagging support in the cameras because of this but they were completely unprepared.  The Canon booth was even worse about this topic – they were downright combative about the subject.  When we asked if any of their cameras supported geotagging, they said, “Why do you ask?”  We looked at them as though they had turkeys on their heads.  The Canon rep continued, “Just because iPhoto has it?  What makes that useful?”  We still stood there, speechless.  Finally, he seemed to relent a little bit.  “No, seriously, Canon would like to know if you want this and how much you’re willing to pay for it.”  Okie, that’s a decent question, but his delivery could use some work.  So it seems Apple is ahead of the game again – no one is ready to do geotagging as part of the full camera gadget just yet.  Buyer beware.

That about covers the show as I saw it.  We’re packing up to head home, but I don’t think I’ll be coming back to another Macworld.  I’ll make an effort for WWDC, but if Apple thinks that CES is the place to go and Macworld isn’t, then I suspect that’s where the flock will go next as well.

IDG blew something.  I’m not sure what it was, but they blew it.  You could feel that evidence everywhere.

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Macworld speculation

Apple Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

Did anyone catch the memo?  The one that said Apple is done with Macworld after this year because they want to announce products on their own timeline?  Yeah that one.  I thought you saw that one.

People seem to have forgotten it already.  There’s rampant speculation all over the net about products that Phil Schiller will be announcing during the keynote next week.  Hey, I’ll be there (I’ve got a guaranteed seat for the keynote, yay!) but I’m not expecting anything Earth-shattering.  I’m actually expecting not much of anything except some horn tooting and market share numbers.

But should they choose to introduce new products, I won’t complain.

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A Visit to Mission Control

If you were subscribed to my Twitter feed, you would have known in near real time that today I had one seriously exciting treat. I managed to squeeze my way into a tour group being led by the incredible Jack Garman here at Johnson Space Center. Think I would turn down such a chance? Absolutely not. Not only is Jack Garman a wonderful friend and professional mentor to me… today I learned much, much more about him… and I’m in simple awe. (Read the Wikipedia entry).

Even juicier, STS-126 is going on right now. While we were going through the MCC, we could see that the astronauts were in the middle of a spacewalk. They had been at it for about three hours when we walked around and examined all the folks at work.

It was just an incredible experience. The geek in me has truly been touched. We were allowed to take non-flash photos. All I had on me was my iPhone and never have I felt like I wanted to beg Steve Jobs for a better camera. Argh!

Anyway… cell phones aren’t allowed, so I put the iPhone in airplane mode and started taking pics. These aren’t all of the pics, but some of the better ones. Most of them are blurry (THANKS STEVE) and off-color, but salvageable with some work I GUESS… STEVE.

Here’s some of them. I’ll post a full album when I get home and have access to MobileMe. I only have iLife ’06 on this Macbook.

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“Chrome” set to reignite old tensions

Continuing my recent tradition of expressing what are likely to be fairly unpopular opinions with my peers, tonight I’m going to rag on Google‘s “Chrome” project and tell you why this is a Bad Idea ™.  I’ll try to keep this short (update: I failed).  This is considered to be a discussion starter, not a final statement.  I’ll probably elaborate on these discussion points on the next NO CARRIER, so be sure and give me some feedback here.

Key points:

The Browser War is Pointless

Anyone who still thinks the browser war is anything worth fighting is absolutely delusional.  The whole point of having a web browser is to serve as an open portal to content, not to give your company the biggest tool at the urinal.  The web was created for serving content regardless of what application you used to view that content.  In that spirit, what’s the point of fighting over this?

I understand the key differences between browsers and that some browsers have perceived advantages over others.  I understand that all too well.  One of the things you used to give up when you made a conscious decision to be a Mac or Linux user was the fact that the de facto browser on the net that had no intention whatsoever of conforming to a standard is no longer in your pocket.  Being a Mac or Linux user means you have more than one browser installed and you use the right tool for the job.  The fact is, the right tool for the job shouldn’t matter because HTML…er, XHTML or whatever it is this week is a standard, right?

Companies do not live or die based on whether or not you use their browser.  Well, unless you’re Opera, maybe.  But I digress.

We all know Microsoft is starting to wake up to this fact and has indeed promised to help further this idea.  That’s great.  It only bolsters my argument then.  It used to be that the browser war was about dominating in your interpretation of the standard.  Now that’s less and less important because standards are being followed (well, in general).  So… why bother?  What does it do for Google to compete in this browser market?

I know the answer to this and so do you.  We’ll talk about that later.  But for now, just believe me.  This market share thing is pointless.  I felt the same way when Steve Jobs declared war on IE with Safari on Windows.  That just upset me.  All that does is tie a huge steel ball around Apple’s ankle and toss it in the ocean.  Apply that to Google now too.

Moving on.

Browsers are “planet” apps

Browsers are becoming “planet” applications with lots of satellites (plugins).  For example, I use MobileMe which hooks into Safari or IE for bookmark synchronization… but not Firefox!  Many people I know and love prefer Firefox because of the various plugins that “better” their browser.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the browser is not a monolithic application.  You spend time adding whipped topping and chocolate shavings on top to get it just the way you want to work with it.  You’ve now installed satellite applications that better your experience for you.

Now along comes a new browser with no support for those satellites.  You have a new planet that will support no moon.  Are you going to pack up your cheese and move to it?  What happens when Chrome doesn’t support your favorite plugins?  Okie, fine.  I know they have said they plan to support Firefox plugins.  But will MobileMe bookmark sync work?  Probably not.  That’s so crucial for me that it’s a deal killer.

As a matter of fact, there’s a good solution to this – and it would help out everyone’s favorite argument: security.  Don’t support these plugins.  Just be monolithic and require extra functionality to be external to your application.  That would change the game entirely… for the better.

A New Security Nightmare

The story you didn’t read the other day was how enterprise administrators everywhere were groaning about the release of Chrome.  While they salivated about using it at home perhaps, what’s happening in the workplace is a whole nutha story.

Google woke up and unleashed Chrome on the world this week and millions of people downloaded it.  I’ll bet a great deal of those people were at work when they did it.  I bet they installed it on their work PC’s.

So.  You’ve just taken a brand new application with no record of security (and let’s face it, Google’s security record is not clean)… an application that is now your portal to the most insecure and infested part of the Internet and added it to your company’s PC.  You’ve just made your PC a tremendous liability and your enterprise administrator is likely ready to kick your ass.

The web is the most dangerous place on the net.  Everywhere you look it’s teeming with viruses, javascript exploits, cross-site scripting bugs and other nasties.  The web browser is the simplest and quickest way into your PC.  So let me get this straight.  You just installed that thing on your nice and secure corporate PC?

“Well, it’s not Internet Explorer, so I’m good!” you might say.  Nice argument.  Nevermind the fact that a large percentage of web exploits occur in Javascript itself.  Guess what Chrome’s focus is?  Making Javascript a “better experience” for the web browsing public.  Did you just get a shiver?  If not, you’re not paying attention.

Indeed, within hours of release, Chrome was proven to be subject to a carpet bombing flaw.  Look it up if you don’t know what that is.  I’m too fired up to bother linking it 😉

A Cloud OS Should be Standards Based

Now we get to the strategic part of the discussion.  This is where Google’s motive comes in.  They’ve been building the “cloud OS” so to speak for years now.  They envision a world where you can sign in with a single username and password from anywhere and use applications just as you would your desktop, complete with the data you work with.  Chrome is their method of furthering that agenda.

That’s great, except that the cloud as a business data model hasn’t really shaken out to be a good idea.

I still do not know of any large enterprise business willing to put their data up on the public web.  Better yet, I do not know of any large enterprise willing to compromise on SLA’s for their critical data.  They’d better start thinking about that if they plan on moving to the “cloud.”  The “cloud” has already shit itself more than once.  Google, Amazon, Apple and all other types of cloud computing folks have had severe troubles recently.  It’s an unproven model and with the way you hear people talk about it like it’s the second coming… you’ve got another dotBomb shaping up here.

Chrome is supposed to make Google’s cloud computing experience better, since Javascript was their focus and Javascript is their operating system.  Neat.  I’d suggest you stay off of other sites, since their new interpretation of Javascript and the Java VM could leave you open to all sorts of other vulnerabilities (see: security).  How about you make sure that business model is intact before you put too much time and money into it?

Open Source – Who Cares?

A lot is being ballyhooed about the fact that Chrome is open source.  Hooray!  Why is that a win, exactly?  Because you can send patches to Google?  Think they’re going to include your code in their release when they have a fairly clear agenda?

Red herring, folks.  They could give a shit about your code.  They just wanted something else on the PR.  Honestly, what does it buy them to be open source for this project?

It sure bought them an interesting blog post (see: security) about how everything you type is sent back to the Google mothership, including sites you visit.  Shivering yet?  Woo, aren’t you glad you installed that on your CORPORATE PC!?!?

And Finally…

Just in case you’re still wondering what the purpose might be of the Chrome browser and why you’re using it… 

Google’s business model is advertising.

Think about it, H.I.

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