Too digital too fast?

In the Feburary 2d issue of BusinessWeek, Robert D. Hof has a column on why the latest technology isn’t always the best (paid registration required). No Luddite, Hof is just worried that our culture may be on so much of a digital kick, that we push too soon to the wayside analog technologies that are time-tested and, in some cases, still superior.
The latter example Hof focuses on is photography, and film. For most people, there isn’t much difference between a 4×6 print from a digital camera versus a 35mm camera. Not much of a difference, that is, unless you’re shooting for detail, where even the top-of-the-line digital cameras still can’t match up against their film counterparts. My wife and I still tote a 35mm camera with us on vacation, as sort of a backup to our digital.
On our first trip to Kaua’i, I took two shots of the Kalalua Valley, the most widely photographed spot in the South Pacific. One was with my digital, the other with Kelly’s 35mm film camera. I’m so glad I took the second picture with the film camera. For one, it came out much better than the one from my digital, as some of the clouds in the area had moved out (the trade winds there move those clouds in and out pretty quick). Second, I have plans to get the print blown up, courtesy of a friend and his plotter. I couldn’t do the latter with the digital photo, as its resolution limits its print size. Hof’s point is well taken.
He also mentions the audio realm, which hearkened me back to a discussion we had on the ATPM staff list. We have several audiophiles on staff, notably Evan, whose latest audio fetish is reel-to-reels dubbed from the studio masters. While most of us couldn’t tell the difference between a MP3, the CD it was ripped from, or the master, guys like Evan, David, and others won’t touch the compressed digital stuff, especially when it comes to genres like classical, jazz, blues, and other non-mainstream music.
Like Hof, I still have a battery-powered, non-digital timepiece, which, unlike my Mac, has never gotten out of sync except when the battery actually died. There are some analog things worth hanging on to, as the digital world still has a long way to go. Nothing Luddite in using what still works the best.

Pogue on Gateway plasmas

If you’re not subscribing to the NYT’s Circuits e-mail list (free registration required), you’re missing out on some classic Pogue, who this week talks about Gateway’s big-screen plasma displays:

Cut to last week. I saw a TV ad for Gateway’s plasma flat-screen TV, trumpeting its success as the “Number 1 bestselling plasma in America.”

Well, duh — the thing costs $2,500 for a 42-inch model (after rebates). No wonder it’s so popular, considering that most 42-inch plasmas are white-hot even at $6,500.

So how does Gateway get away with it? As I wrote when I reviewed this screen last March, the Gateway TV’s are not, in fact, HDTV sets. “Instead of composing the picture from 1280 by 720 tiny square pixels, as a 42-inch HDTV screen does, these screens offer only 852 by 480 pixels, a lower resolution that the industry calls enhanced definition (EDTV). If you stand four inches from any plasma set, the coarse EDTV pixel grid does a convincing impression of a screen door.”

In short, Gateway is selling the cubic zirconia of plasma screens: a cheap imitation that will fool your family and friends. You’re getting all the status and that Bill-Gates’s-house chic of a plasma screen at less than half the price. Only you need to know that you didn’t actually bite the big bullet and blow the big bucks.
You know your computer company is in trouble when (a) you feature ads where you talk to a cow, and the cow talks back, and (b) when you have to move beyond selling computers to selling lame plasma displays that aren’t as good as the real thing. To quote Michael Dull from about five years ago, “If I were in charge, I’d shut it down and give the money to the shareholders.”

SpamSieve 2.1.2

Well I hope no one out there is relying on me for up-to-date SpamSieve release information. I have been woefully remiss this week in my completely unpaid, totally biased evangelism of SpamSieve as the ultimate spam killer for the individual Mac user. Complete list of changes are here, and Michael notes full support for Apple Mail and the release of a Japanese localization.
SpamSieve is worth twice what Michael prices it at in terms of time saved in dealing with e-mail spam. (And I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if anyone wanted to send him extra dough on top of the normal SpamSieve registration.) As the Managing Editor for About This Particular Macintosh, I deal with all of the mail sent to the public ATPM e-mail addresses, and let me tell you, those addys get the bejeezus spammed out of them. SpamSieve makes it a breeze to deal with my ATPM e-mail each day.
If you’re still looking for a worthy spam killer for your Macintosh e-mail client, or you’re new to the platform and want a great product to deal with the spam you will eventually receive, you can’t go wrong with SpamSieve.

The FireWire Drive That Would Not Die!™

So yesterday afternoon, my boss hooks up an external LaCie FireWire hard drive to one of our G5s. We’re working on a project for the Apple retail stores, and we need to take some screenshots. My boss was going to boot the G5 off of the FireWire drive, then use Snapz Pro to take said screenshots.
After attaching the drive, we saw it pop up on the desktop. My boss went in to System Preferences –> Startup Disk, and selected the FireWire drive. Hit restart.
And the G5 reboots, but doesn’t start up from the FireWire drive. Hmmm. We know the image on the FireWire drive is good, and the G5 can boot off of it’s alternate internal partition, where the same boot image is loaded (but doesn’t have Snapz Pro or any of the other tools my boss was planning on using). Certainly an oddity.
Boss powers down the G5, but the FireWire drive stays on! Is it still sucking power from the G5, even though said G5 isn’t powered on? The conversation went something like this:
Boss: Can you unplug the G5 for me?
Chris moves behind the rack, steps up on the stool to get to said G5; pulls power cord.
Chris: Power cord is pulled.
Boss: Dude, the drive is still on!
Chris: No way!
Boss: Come around here and please tell me I’m not hallucinating! (Always a strong possibility, as said boss used to be heavily involved in the music biz. Just kidding, boss!)
Chris moves around to front of rack, and verifies that the FireWire drive is still powered on.
Boss: You’re sure you pulled the power on the right G5?
Chris: Positive.
Boss: Can you please verify? This is just too f&#@*$g weird.
Chris moves back behind rack and verifies that the correct G5 is unplugged.
Chris: G5 in slot #19 is unplugged. Ah! I think I see what the problem is.
Care to venture a guess before we move on?

Continue reading “The FireWire Drive That Would Not Die!™”

GarageBand to also revolutionize the music biz?

In an article for the New York Times (free registration required), David Pogue discusses iLife ’04 and looks at the GarageBand component. He says:

It won’t be long before the GarageBand creations of no-name singers and players start popping up on Web sites – indeed, it won’t be long before Web sites start popping up just to accommodate them – bypassing the talent scouts and gatekeepers of the American recording industry. GarageBand and the Internet give tomorrow’s stars their own democratic recording and distribution channels.

That prospect of new artists growing from grass roots is probably what inspired Apple to name the software GarageBand, abandoning its lowercase i naming tradition. But when you consider both the fledgling state of the 1.0 version of this program and the immense musical and commercial forces it could one day unleash, you might conclude that there is, after all, an i-name that might have suited this remarkable software: iPotential.
Breaking down the barriers musicians face, in light of the way the recording industry does things, would please me to no end. It would be great to see the next Yo-Yo Ma or Eric Clapton emerge from the shadows, thanks to what they can do with something like GarageBand or its higher-priced, better-featured brethren. Any day you can get your product to those who would listen, without having to go through the labels’ convoluted process, licking the heels of record execs, is a good day.

More Microsoft “innovation”

One of the features touted in the upcoming Office 2004 for Mac is the on-the-fly-editable Page Layout view in Excel. Too bad Gates’ Macintosh Business Unit is only 13 years behind the times.
From Bob Hearn, co-creator of ClarisWorks, as posted in a MacInTouch reader report:
bq. Another of MS Office 2004’s touted “key features” is more than a bit behind the times. I must admit that I like the idea of a live, fully-editable Page Layout view, as Excel now has. I like the idea so much that I put that feature in ClarisWorks 1.0, in 1991 – for all document types. It has been in every version of ClarisWorks and AppleWorks since then. You can see comparison screenshots at: “A Brief History of ClarisWorks.”

SpamSieve 2.1.1

Michael has updated SpamSieve. The latest update is faster at processing messages, even when there are many blocklist and whitelist rules. The speed of loading, deleting, and sorting rules is also improved. Those using SpamSieve and Apple’s Mail under Panther will noticed improved accuracy tracking, and a bug affecting Japanese language users has been fixed.
Notably, this release is going to catch more spam because it knows about more spammer obfuscation tricks, and which headers it should ignore. The following menu commands have also been added: Close All Windows, Minimize All Windows, and Zoom. A complete list of ehancements is available.
SpamSieve just keeps getting better and better, and is worth a look if you’re a Mac user who hasn’t found a spam killer yet.