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Tag Archives: apple

  • Inside the “largest launch of a produce item in American history”
    There’s a big Apple launch coming up, and it’s not tech. Well, not handheld tech. I mean, not something that you can use, but actually eat. It’s the Cosmic Crisp!

    Over years of testing, the new cross reliably produced round fruit with dark red skin, the color of wine. The Cosmic Crisp has flesh that’s creamy white, is so dense that the apple feels heavy in your hand, and has a flavor that is pleasant, a bit more sweet than zing. Most important, it cleaves cleanly in your mouth — a crunch that lasts a long time in controlled-atmosphere storage, all the way around the calendar and into the next harvest season. From people in the industry, I heard the phrase “excellent eating experience” so often I began to imagine it in capital letters, with its own ™. When I enlisted some regular-world people to taste the apple, one crunched into an approximately seven-month-old specimen and said, with appreciation, “I can feel the structure of its insides.”

  • Half-empty boxes of Milk Duds, underfilled Halo Top: people keep suing over “slack fill” in food
    TMI around the legal industry that exists to sue food companies because there is too much empty space within their packaging.

    Usually the plaintiff, the client, is not really somebody who came into the office one day and was upset. It happens. But usually these lawyers hire people to go out and find things for them, and they say, “Go over to the grocery store, see if you see anything that’s slack filled, or anything that has language that’s misleading.” So they actually roam the aisles of these grocery stores and other types of stores, like lions looking for zebras. There’s a bunch of lawyers I deal with and that’s all they do.

  • Why Do Canadians Say ‘Eh’?
    A great linguistic breakdown as to how ‘Eh’ is used. Seems true in my experience.

    Other dialects of English and other languages have some similar tags. “Right,” “okay,” “yes,” and “you know” are all used in some of the same ways as “eh.” In French, “hein” (pronounced “anh,” the same vowel sound in “splat”) is quite similar, as is the Japanese “ne,” the Dutch “hè,” the Yiddish “nu,” and the Spanish “¿no?” These differ in some ways from “eh,” as “eh” can be used in some ways that the other tags cannot be and vice versa, but what really makes “eh” different is less about the way it’s used and more about its place in Canadian society.

  • Why the French love to say no
    Another language/linguistics article. This one is about French people and apparently their knee-jerk reaction to saying ‘Non’ to any question.

    the French have crafted a variety of ways to say no. ‘Ça risque d’être compliqué’ (‘that may be complicated’) is likely the least confrontational way of saying that a request is unlikely to be granted. ‘Ç’est hors de question’ (‘it’s out of the question’) is perhaps the most definitive version, cutting off any hopes of arguing one’s case.

  • The Illegal Ramen Vendors of Postwar Tokyo
    Ramen is not a traditional Japanese food. It became popular due to post-WWII circumstances, which you can learn more about in the article.

    Foods rich in fat and strong flavors became known as “stamina food,” according to Professor George Solt, author of The Untold History of Ramen. Ramen was very different than the milder, seaweed-based noodle soups of traditional Japanese cuisine. Okumura Ayao, a Japanese food writer and professor of traditional Japanese food culture at Kobe Yamate University, once expressed his shock at trying ramen for the first time in 1953, imagining “himself growing bigger and stronger from eating this concoction.”

  • These Aren’t Wireless Headphones
    A look at Apple’s new wireless earbuds – if you’re like me and don’t really pay a lot of attention to Apple news, then you might know the ins and outs about this new product. Seems like it covers a lot of interesting use cases, but I’m not prepared to drop significant money on something that is so easy to lose (and only supports Apple devices)

    One more simple feature holds perhaps the most telling clue to what Apple has in mind for the future. Tap the AirPods twice while they’re in your ear and you’ll wake Siri, much like how you wake Amazon’s Echo by saying “Alexa.” Suddenly you’ll find yourself conversing with an A.I.–powered voice assistant via a tiny earpiece in your ear.

  • Hillary Clinton’s ‘Invisible Guiding Hand’
    It was surprising when I found out that analytics was such a big factor in a transient event such as an election, but after thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense. The data and analysis that has been accumulated can be reused for subsequent campaigns. However, I think it might be a waste that all the infrastructure might have to be recreated if the people are all new each time (I assume that there is a lot of custom analysis).

    The breakdown of the buy in Texas, powered by Kriegel’s modeling, shows how Clinton’s TV ads budget hunted for delegates, not votes. Texas is the rare state that used state legislative districts to award delegates, and Clinton spent $1.2 million on broadcast and cable ads even as she won the state by 32 percentage points. Sanders spent $0. She spent more on ads in tiny Brownsville ($127,000) and Waco ($142,000), ranked as the 86th and 87th largest media markets in the country, as she did in Houston ($105,000), the 10th largest, according to ad data provided by a media tracker.

    It paid off: In Texas alone, Clinton netted 72 delegates more than Sanders — a margin that more than offset all the Sanders’ primary and caucus wins through March 1.

  • Why Are Babies So Dumb If Humans Are So Smart?
    An interesting hypothesis as to why, when Humans are born, they’re so useless compared to other animals.

    And in modern humans, a few pieces of evidence appear to suggest that smarter parents are more likely to have offspring that survive. In one limited sample—two hundred and twenty-two Serbian Roma women—maternal I.Q. and child mortality were negatively correlated (that is, higher I.Q. meant lower mortality), even controlling for education, age, and a number of other factors. In a larger sample of Californian parents, in 1978, years of education were linked to infant-mortality rates. Global epidemiological studies suggest a decrease in mortality that equals between seven and nine per cent for each year of a mother’s education.

  • We might live in a computer program, but it may not matter
    I just blogged a similar article on this topic a few weeks ago, but this subject is so fascinating that I can’t get enough of it!

    Quantum mechanics, the theory of the very small, has thrown up all sorts of odd things. For instance, both matter and energy seem to be granular. What’s more, there are limits to the resolution with which we can observe the Universe, and if we try to study anything smaller, things just look “fuzzy”.

    Smoot says these perplexing features of quantum physics are just what we would expect in a simulation. They are like the pixellation of a screen when you look too closely.

  • The new science of cute
    Not surprisingly, this article is mostly about Japan – the epicentre of cute. There’s cute though, and there’s fame. This article tries to tackle both.

    But for a mascot to be successful, being cute is not always enough. For every popular yuru-kyara, there are a hundred Harajuku Miccolos – a 5ft-tall yellow-and-brown bee, who I met standing on the pavement outside the Colombin bakery and cafe, celebrating Honey Bee Day with three hours of loitering in front of the cafe, greeting passers-by, or trying to. Most barely glanced in his direction and did not break stride, though some did come over and pose for a photo. There was no queue.

  • All the World is Staged
    Look into the shady world of bet-fixing being done on football matches by the Chinese triads

    As his network grew, Perumal signed legitimate contracts with national federations in countries unaware of who he really was, such as Bolivia and South Africa, paying them as much as $100,000 to arrange their friendlies, often pairing them against higher-profile teams that were just looking for ready-made exhibitions. Perumal would set up the matches, promote them — and select the referees. Many friendlies go off without FIFA sanctioning, so often all a fixer like Perumal needed to do to stage an international friendly was find a stadium and pay a day’s rent.

    The matchups would attract the attention of bookmakers and the international betting market — if also a curious amount of red cards, penalty kicks and offside calls. FIFA paid refs only $350 per match, almost inviting the fix. “Every member association is responsible for organizing and supervising football in its country,” says FIFA spokesman Wolfgang Resch. “The control of referees and officials falls into it.”

  • The Ultimate Counterfeiter isn’t a Crook – He’s an Artist
    Another story about a scammer, but this time it’s about a German who tried to create the perfect counterfeit US $100.

    In 2002, just back from a trip to Majorca, Kuhl met up with a sometime associate of his named Sinan Elshani, who was known simply as the Albanian. Kuhl began complaining about his never-ending debt. Elshani commiserated and said he knew a way for both of them to get rich: print counterfeit stamps. He was acquainted with the right people, who would not only pay for the machines and supplies but also buy Kuhl’s fakes. He even promised to cover Kuhl’s studio rent. Kuhl eventually agreed.

    But it quickly became clear that they couldn’t obtain the right inks for their fakes or make the perforations look convincing. At that point, Kuhl says, he tried to back out of the deal. Elshani told him it was impossible: The client had spent a lot of money on the equipment. Unless Kuhl could cough up 50,000 euros, Elshani said, the artist risked an unpleasant visit from members of the Albanian mafia.

    Kuhl didn’t think he could pull off the stamps, and he claims that Elshani told him he’d have to make dollars instead. In any case, the false start with the stamps got him thinking about ways to improve his fake banknotes. “It’s just how my mind works,” he says. With Elshani pressuring him to pay off their Albanian creditors, Kuhl agreed to crank up his printing press.

  • Hello, I Am Sabu
    The story of one of the masterminds behind Anonymous and LulzSec who happens to live in the projects in NYC.

    That one of the world’s most influential hackers was the denizen of a New York City housing project struck many as cognitively dissonant. It shouldn’t have. In many ways, he’s a product of the culture of poverty he was brought up in. It’s a culture that produces outlaws of many different stripes. Monsegur was born in 1983, when his ­father was 16. His mother deserted the family, and his father entrusted his son to Monsegur’s grandmother Irma, 40 at the time. Irma, born in Puerto Rico, never mastered English, but she was devoted to her grandson, a quiet, well-behaved child whom ­everyone called Bubi. But child care was not his grandmother’s only vocation. She was “a player,” as a family lawyer said, and her apartment was a stash house for the family’s heroin business. Sabu’s father was a lead distributor, as was his aunt, a long-haired beauty; Monsegur was described as a delivery boy. Heroin was good business, and for a time, “the family was really powerful in the hood,” said a neighbor. ­Sabu’s father led the life of a successful entrepreneur, seeming to change cars and women monthly. He liked to peel bills from a wad of cash and treat all the neighborhood kids to ice cream.

  • Newton, Reconsidered
    As the Apple Newton nears its 20th anniversary, Time magazine takes a look back at how that revolutionary tech fairs in the age of smartphones and post-PDA.
  • Welcome to America, Plese Be On Time
    I’ve been curious what visitors to Toronto would want to visit and this link is similar. What would people from other cultures need to know about America before they visit?

    You might say that global food cultures tend to fall into one of two categories: utensil cultures and finger cultures. The U.S., somewhat unusually, has both: the appropriate delivery method can vary between cuisines, and even between dishes, and it’s far from obvious which is which. Baked chicken is a fork food, but fried chicken a finger food, depending on how it’s fried. If you get fried pieces of potato, it’s a finger food, unless the potato retains some circular shape, in which case use your fork. And so on. Confused yet?

    The addendum is classic

I haven’t been blogging much but I’ve been reading many more articles lately online. Here’s what I’ve been queueing up on Instapaper (a mixture of some older articles and some newer ones):

  • What I Lost In Libya
    One reporters account of what happened when he and several other reporters were captured during the Arab Spring
  • The Turnaround Men
    The story of a con men and how he milked a number of investors (a la Madoff) in order to support his lifestyle and “companies”. Although Tom Petters is not a household name, some of his companies are known such as
  • Steve Jobs and the Portal to the Invisible
    This article has been making headlines again recently, with its claim to fame being that it talked about Jobs’ forthcoming death in 2008. I haven’t read (and don’t plan to read) the his recent biography from Isaacson, but I found this article to be interesting and well written, revealing some insights into the motivations and personality of Jobs. It’s certainly a much shorter read and well written to boot.
  • Trust Issues
    This article talks about compound interest and a hobby amongst rich people in the 19th century to donate their fortune to a perpetual trust lasting centuries.

    Beginning in 1936, he sluiced $2.8 million into a series of five-hundred- and thousand-year trusts—just one of which, allocated to the Unitarian Church, would be worth $2.5 quadrillion upon its maturation in the twenty-fifth century. A thousand-year fund dedicated to the state of Pennsylvania would yield $424 trillion; the money was to be applied to abolishing the state’s taxes. Holden didn’t even live in Pennsylvania—he’d picked the state as an homage to Franklin.

  • What You Don’t Know Can Kill You
    This is an interesting article from Discover Magazine which discusses how humans are not very good at estimating risk; generally over-estimating risks that they can visualize.

    But it is heuristics—the subtle mental strategies that often give rise to such biases—that do much of the heavy lifting in risk perception. The “availability” heuristic says that the easier a scenario is to conjure, the more common it must be. It is easy to imagine a tornado ripping through a house; that is a scene we see every spring on the news, and all the time on reality TV and in movies. Now try imagining someone dying of heart disease. You probably cannot conjure many breaking-news images for that one, and the drawn-out process of athero­sclerosis will most likely never be the subject of a summer thriller. The effect? Twisters feel like an immediate threat, although we have only a 1-in-46,000 chance of being killed by a cataclysmic storm. Even a terrible tornado season like the one last spring typically yields fewer than 500 tornado fatalities. Heart disease, on the other hand, which eventually kills 1 in every 6 people in this country, and 800,000 annually, hardly even rates with our gut.

I no longer read up on Apple news, and this news doesn’t affect me at all – but I am really confident that the iPhone 5 is going to be announced momentarily.

Why do I have this feeling (aside from the fact that iPhones get released every October)? Well I was browsing on DealExtreme earlier this month and saw iPhone5 cases being sold – some of them were already sold out! While it is a Chinese outlet, DX is fairly reliable, so if they’re selling cases then I expect it will work with the real iPhone5. If they’re selling out then places like the PacMall shops are stocking up just in time for the new iPhone announcement (well 4 weeks in advance since shipments take forever to arrive). Book it!!

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:

I’ve been backing up all my music online for a long time. I guess one excuse for doing this is so that I can stream it from wherever I am, which sounds good in theory; but I’ve never actually had an opportunity to do that.

Along comes Amazon Cloud Drive this week which gives you a free 5GB and the ability to stream any music you upload to your Cloud Drive to your Android device. Cool, sounds interesting but I’ll probably use up all my data rather quickly. Plus, when I tried it, I can’t actually download the player or use the (web-)streaming capability in Canada. Not so cool.

It might be a game changer because of the free 5GB, but what I like the most about it is if you buy MP3s from Amazon, they’ll automatically be available on your Cloud Drive (and won’t count towards your storage limit). Let’s see how iTunes does this – if you buy a song you’ll be able to download it twice; once initially and once in case you lose it. That’s it. If your HD goes or for some other reason you lose your songs, then you’ll have to buy everything again.

That’s a horrible and outdated method of selling online. Even Microsoft does better – if you buy anything from XBOX, you are free to download it as many times as you like, anywhere you like!

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:

I saw a Samsung Galaxy Tab this weekend. The Galaxy Tab is the first mainstream tablet based on Android and the first real competition to the iPad (although it is slightly different as it is only 7″). Too bad it is a horrible deal in Canada since it goes for $675! (or you can sell your soul to Rogers for 3 years and get it for $540).

The 7″ form factor looks a lot more portable than an iPad and that got me interested again in Android tablets. I wouldn’t want a ~$700 one, but I wouldn’t mind having (or losing) a $100 one; and you can quite easily get one for $100USD shipped to your door. Coming home, I did some research. The Chinese (of course they’re Chinese) Android tablets are knockoffs of the iPad. They physically look and are packaged in the same manner as an iPad! They can be significant cheaper than the Galaxy Tab because:

  1. The processor/chipset only runs at about 400MHz (vs 1GHz on the Tab)
  2. There is only 256MB or 128MB of RAM
  3. There is no 3G or GPS
  4. Inconsistent device support (i.e., for Market access or upgrades)
  5. Lower quality hardware (i.e., resistive touchscreen, flakey WiFi, short battery life)

Although these are significant drawbacks, I think a sub-$100 tablet is still worth it. There are a couple of things preventing me from pulling the trigger on one though, the first is that there is limited travel applicability due to the short battery life (<3 hrs) and my unsureness about finding multiple power adapters for it. However, the biggest reason is that these devices are all running on Android OS 1.6. While there is an active hacker community around these tablets, they’ve only been consistently upgraded to Android OS 1.9 (I didn’t even know this version was being used).

Meanwhile app development has mostly moved to Android 2.1. I’d be hesitant to get a device that wasn’t running Android 2.1 or later. So it seems like the currently Chinese tablets are at a hardware evolutionary dead end; I think the problem is that there is no driver development that supports Android 2.x.

While I have an itch to get a cheap tablet (and I still might), it’s probably better if I wait a few months for the Chinese market to move their knockoff production to this year’s model.

The latest trend in touch screen keyboards is to use some swipe mechanism to enter words. Instead of tapping all the characters, you would connect the letters in the words in one long line, and the keyboard software would figure out what you wanted to type; taking into account the inaccuracy of your swipes and with some smart logic to handle repeating letters. The most well-known of these products is Swype, but since I can’t install that on my phone, I use SlideIT.

I tried it, but then gave up on it a few days after. My problem was that I had difficulty sliding from letter to letter when my finger covers up the actual keyboard! You still need to be accurate because you need to slide between the correct letters. Maybe it’s because my phone’s screen is a bit small, and it would work better on a tablet format (but then aren’t the keys big enough to type normally?). Or if I had a stylus.

The second problem is that the auto-correction/auto-suggestion is broken. It has some smarts to try and figure out when the line you’ve drawn is a little inaccurate, and tries to predict the word you’re trying to write. But good luck trying to type any words that the dictionary doesn’t know, like say orangefever or You can recognize when you’re typing a new word and tap it in, but then the keyboard isn’t designed to easily tap in letters!

So I think this is another instance where people see something novel, and remark that it’s cool, and jump on the bandwagon; but in reality it is not that useful. [Insert Apple jab here too]

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:

  • Etymology: Why we start sentences with ‘so’, who may have started the ‘my bad’ trend.
  • With the BP spill, should we be afraid of eating shrimp that comes from the Gulf? The answer is no, but the following is disconcerting

    Federal regulators also stress that seafood is safe. One toxicologist told USA Today that even if contaminated shrimp were reaching the market, oil isn’t highly toxic

    I guess mildly toxic is ok.

  • Thinking about writing an app for the Apple App store? Well don’t quit your day job

    Supercollider Blog reports on several levels of paid app downloads, the relevant number is that half of all paid iPhone apps get less than 1,000 downloads. The median point is under 1,000. Lets call it 999. That number times $1.95 per paid app gives the ‘most typical app’ the total revenues in its lifetime – the full two years of App Store existence – of $1,948 dollars. This is before Apple takes its cut of 30%, so we are left with $1,363 over two years or $682 per year. This is so ‘successful’ that half of all of the developers of the 164,250 apps – will actually earn LESS THAN THIS. Before you start to cry, remember, there is that Angry Bird game that had 4 million paid downloads and the Bewelled 2 game with 3 million paid downloads. Thats your math there, they are totally skewing the averages, and you are stuck in the ‘long tail’ indeed. Half of all developers will earn less than $682 per year. Do you still think this is a good business idea?

  • I read this headline, and my first thought was what? When do Chinese people have the last name Fat. Eventually I remembered Chow Yun Fat, which is one of the only 5 Asian people that Americans know; so I guess it does make a bit of sense.

I’m not really a fan of the iPhone for a variety of reasons, although I have a small interest in getting one because of the App Store. Well I still have very small interest but it has increased a bit more after hearing about the 4th generation iPhone.

It’s not out yet, or announced, but an Apple engineer lost his prototype in a bar and eventually made its way to Gizmodo after some ca$h changed hands. I’m not so interested about its features but I like the way that they’ve rectangularized the body. It reminds me of my Sony Clié and I find it sleeker than the current design.

Now if it only had a tactile keyboard I’d get it as my next phone.

The Apple WWDC was this week, and there was a keynote to announce all sorts of Cool Stuff. For previous keynotes, I would follow on a site that was live blogging it, like Mac Rumors or Gizmodo. But this year, I didn’t follow it and the announcements weren’t interesting to me (new iPhone, OS, Macs blah blah).

I’m just not interested in Apple stuff anymore, they were so mid-00s and it’s passé now. Which G iPods are then on anyways?

E3 was also last week, and even though I normally don’t pay attention to it, there were a lot of really cool things announced there. There was Project Natal, Microsoft’s controller-less controller, various NXE integration with online sites (Twitter, Facebook,, and The Beatles: Rock Band.

I have to stop watching that video, because I get so excited every time I watch it. I’m surprised that I don’t see Sony/PS3 in these announcements (sure TB:RB is multi-platform, but Xbox is getting exclusive songs)? I didn’t hear anything cool come out for the PS3 camp. And yes, I’m a Xbox360 fanboy now.

The most neat for me in the NXE, aside from the avatars (which aren’t really useful) is the ability to queue downloads on the LIVE marketplace. I can surf to whatever I want to download (usually free), like a trial or a demo, and download it. The next time my Xbox starts up, it automatically downloads my queued downloads. This is great if I’m surfing around and finding out about new things for my Xbox.

After living with this feature, I kind of miss it in other products. iTunes can easily use this feature, since it is already account centered. If I choose to buy a song in the iTunes store, why can’t I have it downloaded to all my machines that are authorized? Apple’s not leading the way here.

Last week, during Apple’s “Big Media Event”, iTunes 8 was announced. Normally, I don’t upgrade my iTunes because I haven’t bought the new gadgets (i.e., iPhone, iPod Touch), so point upgrades were not useful to me. But this was an entire version upgrade, like XP->Vista, or DS Phat -> DSL, and if I upgraded, I could play with the new features.

Like the media event, I was underwhelmed. There’s a new visualizer which I haven’t even tried out yet. There’s an album cover/genre view which I don’t use, and there’s this new feature called Genius. Genius is supposed to pick through your music collection, send it to Apple (Hi Pirates!), and then suggest songs that go perfect with each other. With Genius, you’d never have to create your own playlist or mixtape ever again!!11!!111!one


The first time I tried Genius, I selected a song and brought up the new Genius sidebar. I was not impressed when I saw that the sidebar had links to the iTunes Store where I could buy songs and albums that would sound perfect with my selected song. Cashgrab? Well to be honest that was the Genius sidebar and not Genius itself. Next I started Genius properly and pulled up my perfect playlist. From what I can tell, Genius works on the following algorithm:

  1. Add songs that other people who listen to this song, listen to
  2. Add songs in the same genre
  3. Add songs in the same time period

Ta-da! Well magic’s not always perfect. To illustrate how this method is completely flawed, I picked a couple of lonely orphans in my music collection. What are some songs that go perfect with Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive:

I’d expect some disco, I guess Pet Shop Boys and Cher are close (although that’s 90s Cher). But Robbie Williams? Queen??

Ok, how about Biz Markie’s Just a Friend?

This looks like my collection of hip-hop songs, random stuff from the 80s to the 00s; with some R&B thrown in for fun.

And finally, Kardinal Offishal’s Dangerous:

I don’t have much recent music in my library right now, and so Genius decided to pull half the songs from my last list that was “perfect” for early 90s rap. And some Britney Spears. Genius needs to go back to school.

I have a money-hole called my cellphone. Being a life necessity, I need to have a cellphone but I don’t use it enough to warrant its cost – and I’m not even talking about a lot of money here, I pay $22.60 inclusive a month for my cellphone service.

I’ve written about the benefits of the prepaid plan but the problem I’m facing now is that I can’t use up $20 worth of airtime in a month. It’s a constant problem, and although I’ve been better at using up my monthly allotment, I’m still consistently over $100 worth of credit. This is getting to be a problem because the iPhone is coming out. If I were to switch to a contract then I have to find someone way to use up this $100, which isn’t an easy task.

But in the end, I think it’s just a thought exercise. Would I want to spend $70+ a month (or $50 more than I do now) over 3 years AND pay $200 upfront for GPS location and the ability to access the internet the web anywhere? Not really.

I’ve been keeping an eye on Craigslist recently, trying to find deals on a couple of items. One thing I wanted to buy was a Mac Mini to replace my parents’ current computer (my old laptop). I like the fact that it has a small footprint, so they can leave it on top of a closet instead of taking up desk space. Originally I wanted to get an original model Mini (G4 with wifi) for $300 or so. Instead I ended up paying $460 for a Intel 1.66Ghz Core Duo with 2GB RAM, which originally came out in 2006. It’s pretty spiffy and runs Leopard fine (speaking of which Leopard is really sweet, it has built-in VNC so I can basically run the mini in headless mode — except that if I have no keyboard/mouse attached, warning dialogs will block and prevent the VNC service from starting upon reboot).

Although it was more than I wanted to pay, I think it was a good deal (assuming the wheels don’t fall off in a week), because I also got the Apple Wireless Keyboard and the Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse (both actually run off Bluetooth) in the deal (which would have come to $150 new). A bonus out of getting an Intel Mac is that I can run Windows through Boot Camp. My mom complains that she can’t use IE to visit corporate websites using Firefox or Safari. Although, restarting the computer to visit some sites might be a little too complicated; maybe I should look at virtualization options.

Recently, Apple dropped the price of its iPod shuffle down to $55 CDN and launched a new 2GB version. The shuffle was now sufficiently cheap that I picked up a 2GB (PRODUCT) RED version for $75 ($84 after tax). I was originally planning on buying the 1GB version, but an extra 30% in cost bought 2X the storage space (since the 1GB model cost $6 to ship as it was cheaper than the $75 free shipping threshold).

I wasn’t in the market for a new iPod, as my existing 4G model bought in 2004 is roughed up but still working. But the requirements that my iPod satisfies has changed since then. In 2004, I liked the idea of having my entire (purchased) music collection on my iPod for backup and as a memory aid so I don’t buy the same CDs multiple times. That is no longer that big of an issue as I am more selective in my CD crawling, and I have several backup options (multiple computers, DVDs, online). My listening habits have also been refined, as I primarily use my time-staggered, ratings-weighted, rotating playlist of about 100 songs. Since my iPod now is not dynamic, this playlist gets updated with new songs every time I sync.

My realization is that I could fit this playlist onto a shuffle that is smaller, has longer battery life, and cheaper (although I don’t really lose things); and since I have disposable income so sunk cost isn’t an issue, it’s a no-brainer to upgrade.

I bumped into a coworker on the walk in from the parking lot this morning and fortunately for me he mentioned that an Apple Product Manager would be at the lab today to give a sales pitch tech talk about Leopard. I was somehow oblivious to this, having not seen any of the posters around the lab nor seen the big advertisement on the intranet homepage. But I went down anyways just to see what the excitement was about.

The presenter basically walked through the major features of the 300+ new features in Leopard, and provided demos of the Wow factor UI features. Although I had installed it last week, I haven’t had time to play around with Leopard much. Actually the real reason is that I have no reason to use my laptop so it’s just sitting there with Leopard installed. So it was nice to see that you can actually use Spaces and Stacks, and that people do use RSS feeds in even though they didn’t design scalability into that feature.

What strikes me as funny with the whole Leopard thing is that Apple still tries so hard to poke fun at Microsoft. You’ve probably seen the usual stuff with Apple only selling one “Ultimate” version of Leopard, or the Windows blue screen as the representation of a Windows box on the network. But there’s also a lot of subtle low-blows too. Vista embellished their UI elements so that they take up more screen room, while Leopard has really slimmed down their windows to maximize screen space. The best one is how Vista ships with beautiful wallpaper from, well, vistas around the world. Well Leopard’s bigger and better and blew that away by using a space motif.

The last little while, I’ve been moving my stuff over from laptop to my desktop as my desktop will now be my primary computer. Everything seems to have gone pretty smoothly as I have had a good separation between data and programs for awhile now. I’ve been delaying the move of my iTunes because I bought an iPod dock from Ebay ($4! fits every type) and was waiting for it to arrive.

There are instructions online on how to move your iTunes library from one computer to another. I wanted to preserve all my metadata (i.e., playcounts, ratings, etc) if possible and there is an established way to do this. Basically you:

  1. Take the XML file of your library,
  2. Do global search and replace to fix up the paths,
  3. Drop the updated XML file in your new iTunes library folder,
  4. Zero out the iTunes Library database file (the one that has a .itl extension),
  5. Restart iTunes and it will rebuild your library.

This works almost perfectly. The only metadata that is not preserved is the date that the file was added to your iTunes library (it sets it as the current day).

Well 95% is better than nothing right? In my case, the Date Added field was pretty important because I use smart playlists that change how often the song is played based on when I added the song to iTunes (old songs get fewer plays). After some research, I found out that the Date Added field in iTunes is read-only, and can only ever be set when the file is imported (short of reverse engineering the iTunes Library database). So that sucked, but I decided that I still wanted my Date Added metadata.

So, my recourse was to copy my old iTunes Library, with its incorrect paths, and load it on my desktop. That worked, with all metadata preserved; except none of the songs could be found (the paths were all wrong!). I looked at ways to fix this, and it seemed like using the iTunes SDK was a good bet. Unfortunately, the Windows SDK doesn’t allow you to set the location of a file, only to read the location! So I’m now resorting to manually updating the file path by searching for it in the file system. I’ve gotten the time per song to under 10 seconds, so with ~2200 songs in my library, I’m looking at spending 6 hours this weekend updating iTunes. Yay.

By now, you have probably heard about the Apple Showtime Media event where they announced the next generation iPods, renamed the iTunes Music Store to the iTunes Store, snuck a peak at codename iTV, and introduced iTunes 7. I am most excited about iTunes because it is actually a real new version of the software. The UI has been improved, and the colour scheme was updated. These seem like trivial, superficial changes and maybe they are, but it makes iTunes fun to play with again. I’ve been downloading album covers for my ripped collection and flipping through them with the recently Apple-acquired Coverflow. It’s neat!

I’ve been listening to my iPod daily recently, putting it through 6-8 hours and a charge cycle every day. It has certainly gone through a lot. The plug on my headphones is breaking (with wires exposed) from being bent and my formerly straight headphone cord has corners now. Even the back of my customized iPod is turning into brushed metal, with lots of scratches and a lack of a copyright statement. It seems like I need a new one, but I don’t! I still haven’t filled up my 20GB with ripped and purchased music. That seems like a reason to buy more CDs if anything.

i got my ipod a little while ago, and after i opened the box to play around with it; i noticed that while the footprint was what i expected, it was thinner than i thought it would be (4G models are thinner than before). it was also heavier than expected which means it felt overall like a solid package. anyways, once you play around it, it’s pretty easy to see why it’s so hip and cool right now. also funny, was a don’t steal music warning on the ipod.

you have to charge the ipod before you’re able to use it. i unfortunately was confused whether it can be charged directly over firewire (as i had read) or needed the ac adapter. anyways, i just plugged it into the adapter for the night so i couldn’t really import music until I had to go to work. the firewire itself is very fast; i transferred over 1000+ songs to my ipod in the time it took for me to shower. so who else has an ipod? we need to start an ipod clique.

i’ve also been playing around with the itunes music store the last few days now that i have an american credit card. i haven’t actually “bought” any music, but I did “purchased” some of the free tracks. it is so freaking easy to buy music. i hope there’s a way to turn off one-click because it’s easy to rack up $100 worth of tracks “on a whim”. anyways, i have yet to try out the videos feature but there’s a strokes’ video advertised on the front page which i will check out sometime.

airport express, so cool! revolutionary? maybe. it’s so apple to take an existing niche in the market and redo it with simplicity and elegance. sometimes i wish i had lots of apple stuff.

now i’m not an apple zealot, but ever since i used itunes for mac, i’ve been looking for a windows program that can organize my mp3 collection and playlists as well as itunes can. i have my collection sorted into folders with playlists that are comprised of various permutations of these folders, so when i add one song to a folder, i’d have to manually create several playlists again. that was a pain in the ass. so last week i finally found a program that would do this in windows; itunes … for windows.

actually, i was kinda expecting to be disappointed by itunes; quicktime, apple’s other offering on the windows’ platform is kind of clunky. i wanted an app that had a small footprint since i keep my mp3 player running most of the time. i was also afraid that apple would limit the functionality, you don’t want the windows world to have all the benefits of the mac world right? anyways, it’s a little more resource intensive than i would’ve wanted but at least it does everything that itunes for mac would do.

but the killer feature in itunes is its dynamic playlists. once you’ve imported all your music into your music database,you can create smart playlists such as… all your pop and metallica songs from your 10,000 song collection in about twenty seconds. basically they slapped on an interface to query your database and generate views as playlists. the downside is that you have to meticuously keep your mp3s tagged properly so that your playlists will generate properly. aside from that, it’s a great benefit for me as i can add new songs once to my database and it’ll automatically update my existing playlists with them.

there’s this ad on tv that i like, it shows a kid being blown out of the house thru 3 or 4 walls before he lands on the lawn. the camera proceeds to backtrack his path through the holes in the walls, past a few rooms, past his mom in the kitchen (who’s dressed up for some reason), you’re starting to wonder what this commercial is about since the preceeding takes about 15 seconds; is it another one of those pizza pop or other explosive food product commericials? you go into the study and it turns out that it’s advertising the most powerful (home?) computer in the world, the apple g5. i think this is one commercial that would stick in your mind after seeing it because you have that big lapse of time between catching your attention and actually showing you the product. cool. actually i’m surprised that apple gets away with doing so many things away from the norm like this (or maybe that apple is the only one). they must have some progressive management to allow them to continually innovate like that. i was watching jumanji the other day on tv and the actress who played the 10yr oldish girl had a striking resemblence to kirsten dunst. turns out it was actually her; she was only 14 at the time (1995), in fact she’s younger than i am. wow. she’s come a long way since then to her infamous wet t-shirt shot in spiderman.