Posts in category apple - page 19

iTunes & iPod wish-list

Contrary to popular belief iTunes and the iPod aren’t perfect and are in fact host to a number of my own personal peeves, including:

iTunes Music Store previews stop when browsing

If you are previewing a song in the music store then it will be abruptly halted the moment you visit another page. Let me just clarify that, people are here to listen to music they might want to buy and you are forcing them to spend most of their time sitting in silence while they browse. Can you get any stupider? It’s easy for Apple to fix, simply add underneath “Music Store” in the “Source” list a “Previews” play list. Every time a user clicks on a track add it to that ready to be played after the current preview finishes it’s 30 second play. Leave them there for a couple of hours perhaps and let them jump back and re-listen to a preview they are still considering, even if it streams again.

iTunes DVD audio ripping

I own a fair few number of DVDs, some of which would lend themselves quite well to listening on my iPod, indeed a few of the comedy ones are available from the iTunes Music Store but I’ll be damned if I’m paying another £7.95 for something I already legally own.

iPod & iTunes OGG support

OGG is an open-source audio codec with a lot going for it and I’d really like to be able to use this format. I understand Apple don’t want to offer it because they want you to use their own AAC format. Bear in mind that Sony wanted everyone to use ATRAC instead of MP3 and look where that got them1.

iTunes movie preview full-screen

Modern PC’s multi task and so do many of it’s users especially when downloading, so why is it that any movie preview in iTunes takes over the whole screen the moment you click it long before it has anything to show you? Even more annoyingly if you switch out to another application it will abort loading the movie! What am I supposed to do while waiting if I can’t use my machine, make a cup of tea? More likely I’ll just abort the preview and go do something else. To fix, why not see the idea for audio previews above or better yet fire off any movies off into QuickTime where they belong. I mean I did pay for QuickTime so I could save this sort of stuff locally and now you’ve changed the game…

Shuffle per playlist

Apple have partially fixed this at least in iTunes now, when you switch playlist it remembers whether you were shuffling when you last used that playlist but the iPod won’t take note :( Really, it should be a setting on the playlist itself “Shuffle: Use player status, Always on, Always off”. Music should shuffle but shuffling the multi-track audio-books I’ve ripped from my own CD’s should definitely not.

Pioneer iPod adapter

Well this isn’t really Apple’s fault but this adapter has two annoying problems. The first is that it only displays the first eight letters of each song name and won’t scroll them unless you go into a menu… And that scrolling setting only lasts until you come out of the menu! Secondly when choosing artists, playlists, genre’s etc the unit actually starts to play the first song from that selection… while you are trying to switch and causes a not insignificant delay. This makes it impossible to scroll through artists, you’d take forever. Why it can’t just wait a few seconds before firing off the track or wait for you to press next song I’ve no idea.

[)amien

1

Sony lost the portable audio market they’d practically owned with the Walkman brand for over a decade for fear of cutting into another business unit’s profits, specifically their music labels. We’ve seen this pattern time and time again, British Telecom lost it’s stranglehold on UK telecom customers by dragging it’s heels with mobile technology for fear of cutting into its payphone business. Nintendo lost the console market by refusing to use CD-ROM technology for fear of lost profits on cartridge production/piracy. Atari refused Jay Miner the chance to develop a 16-bit system for fear of damaging the revenues of the 8-bit systems he had designed them. He left, created the Amiga and handed it over to rival Commodore who would dominate Atari for the next 10 years. The moral of this story is move with the technology because your customers will. If you’re not there for them, somebody else will be.

Firefox for power users, part 2

Here are a few more useful bits and pieces to improve you browsing experience if you’re a Firefox user.

GreaseMonkey

This great extension provides a framework that allows scripts to run against web pages from your own machine. The upshot of this is…

There are many many more at GreaseMonkeyUserScripts.

CuteMenus

Put icons next to some menu items to bring the UI a bit more in line with Microsoft’s tools.

FlashGot

Download multiple files, images etc. from a single click.

Other browsers

Mac users may want to check out Camino which uses the Gecko rendering engine inside a native Cocoa application. It’s pretty fast and cool although it can’t use any of the Firefox plug-ins. Another alternative browser is OmniWeb which uses the Safari rendering engine but provides many more useful commands, options and facilities than Safari itself.

Microsoft fans will have to wait a little longer until the public Internet Explorer 7 betas turn up. We’ve been promised fixed PNG transparencies and improved CSS handling. In related news Bill Gates has been trying Firefox

Postfix

Just a quick note to praise the free Windows blogging application Zoundry that allows WYSIWYG style editing. I’ve managed to use it to clean up some of the previous postings too. Now if only it had a spell checker and auto-pasted in the clipboard URL when you create a hyper link…

My Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 DVD’s arrived Saturday free of charge courtesy of Microsoft. I’ve just installed them alongside SQL Developer 2005 and will hopefully be posting some tit-bits soon. One heads up is to install IIS before VS2005. The VS2005 installer won’t warn you or error however the SQL 2005 installer will tell you it’s a prerequisite if you want Reporting Services. If you install IIS after VS2005 and before SQL 2005 you’ll receive an unidentified error for the Reporting Services installation.

[)amien

Firefox for power users

If you’ve been using Firefox for a while you might like to look at some of these tips and tricks to get more from your web browser. If you’re not using Firefox to find out what all the hoopla is about.

Get newer, optimized builds

Firefox, like most applications, is compiled without optimizations for specific processors. Some third parties such as Moox make processor-specific optimized builds available for download.

As well as the Firefox 1.0 release you can also download a trunk build. These are built directly against the source tree the developers use and can sometimes be rather unstable although the 20050206 one I’m using has been pretty good except for a view source bug. Make a backup of your %USERPROFILE%\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox directory first and unpack the trunk version somewhere new to give it a whirl.

If you don’t understand those just instructions you might want to wait for the any-day-now Firefox 1.0.1 release although it contains only essential bug-fixes.

Watch activity

We all know sometimes pages take a few seconds to load and knowing how many files to load and the current transfer rate is something geeks love to know. Firefox’s extensions architecture allows third-parties to add such functionality, so grab Extended Statusbar.

Optimise performance

The network settings in Firefox are a little on the conservative side for broadband users. As with Internet Explorer tweaking you can allow more simultaneous connections (it’s the HTTP connection and pipelining section although the other tuning tips are certainly worth considering).

Once done, visiting a page will start loading all images used on a page together rather than just two at a time. It will also mean you can download more than two files simultaneously from the same web site.

Block advertisements

Advertisements have gone too far, they’re now incredible obtrusive, annoying and can often cause pages to load slowly. Get rid of them with the AdBlock extension.

Learn shortcuts

Switching from the keyboard to the mouse to perform a single operation is incredibly slow. Get used to the following short cut keys Ctrl on Windows, Command on Mac OS X.

  • F Find text in the page (IE too)
  • N New window (IE too)
  • L Position to the address bar (F4 in IE)
  • K Position to the search bar
  • B Open bookmarks sidebar
  • H Open history sidebar

Tabbed-window specific short cuts:

  • T Open a new tab
  • W Close current tab
  • 1 to , Jump to specific tab
  • Tab, Cycle between tabs

Web development

If you develop web sites for a living then the Web Developer extension is essential. Features include:

  • Editing and identifying cascading style sheets (CSS) on the fly
  • Disabling forms, images, JavaScript, CSS
  • Validating page and CSS structure
  • Examining HTTP response headers
  • Modifying cookies
  • Highlighting page structure and layout

Windows corporate use

Check out the Microsoft installer (MSI) package and Group Policy integration project.

[)amien

The future of Mac Mini

I’m sure you’ve read all about Apple’s latest Mac Mini, a stripped-down machine for those wanting to try Mac OS X (according to Steve Jobs in his recent keynote). It also appears to be a good way to get mum-and-dad off your back with it’s practically non-existent rate of viruses and spyware. It even makes a reasonable server being that it comes with Apache, a firewall and can share your Internet connection – even wirelessly.

It’s already been pointed out that the Mac Mini is based on PowerBook technology however there appears to be one significant change (apart from the obvious transition from laptop to desktop) and that’s the graphics processor.

The current PowerBooks sport the Nvidia FX Go5200 on the 12″ and the ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 on the others. The Mini is supplied with the ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 last seen on the slower-in-every-other-department iBook.

It’s a strange omission given that they are trying to wow Windows users to the Mac and part of that attraction is the smooth hardware-accelerated interface. Windows users have to wait for Longhorn, not due any time soon, for such features (unless Microsoft break Avalon off and give it to XP users).

Here’s some benchmark results for the desktop chipset – these figures don’t tie up exactly but getting benchmark notebook chipset comparisons is rather tricky. A quick summary would seem to indicate that the Go5200 is less than half the speed of the Mobility 9700 while the 9200 is even slower than that.

I can only imagine the rationale behind this, perhaps ATI have given them clearance pricing on the 9200, perhaps the thermal or power issues are too much for anything more. After all, it’s not like the Mini could take much of a dent out of other sales being that it’s a different market for Apple (perhaps with the exception of the eMac).

Here’s hoping we see a Mac Mini with a 9700 (dual-link DVI please) and a 1.67 G4 processor option soon.

[)amien