Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

INDEX

Ping ? Pong ....

Mr Angry blows a gasket

in General Rants , Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Apparently over a million people (well, Apple Cultists anyway) have already signed up for Apple’s brand new “Social Network for Music”, Ping. Well, I hope they found it more interesting than I did. Apple’s flirtations with online communities go back quite a way - I wonder who remembers eWorld ? - but one thing they have in common is that they are irretrievably, hopelessly crap. And Ping follows in that proud tradition.

EWorld_Main_Screen.png

Another Green World. Ping’s early ancestor

For a start, the recommendations, apparently based on stuff I’ve bought on iTunes, are just absurd. I mean for F%&s Sake!!! Does it LOOK like I’m interested in Katy fscking Perry ???? Or Lady Gaga ???  What is the point, Apple ? Why are you wasting my time with this unadulterated SHIT ?

Ping is embedded in iTunes. It only knows about the iTunes Store. It doesn’t make any kind of useful recommendations.  And if I want to “like” something in my iTunes library, what do I need to do ?  Well, find a song in iTunes, select it, go over to the artist, click through to the Store, find whatever it is I want to like, work out that “Like” is hidden under “BUY”, and click.  Jesus H. Christ on a unicycle, who could possibly have though this was anywhere near good design ?  It is absolutely hopeless.

And then there’s Ping on iPhone… does it offer something approaching the same user experience as on iTunes ? No, of course not!

I’m getting really fed up with this company. All I want, and I suspect many others do, and good, well designed reliable computers that “just work” - as they used to - and if they can manage to keep producing half decent iPods, well I’ll take one of those as well. I’m an iPhone user, but frankly, only because it just about manages to provide an average level of functionality that trumps the competition, and it keeps me entertained on the train.  Just as well I don’t make too many phone calls.

As for a “Social Network for Music”, well, Steve, I suggest you pull your head out of your arse and sign up to Last.fm. Then maybe you’ll understand nobody needs your pathetic disguise at maximizing iTunes revenue.

Too pretty for its own good

The Times RSS reader doesn’t float my boat.

in Mac , Tuesday, April 07, 2009

So I decided to cough up for this year’s MacHeist bundle. Since there was at least two applications I wanted anyway (LittleSnapper and iSale) I was basically getting over 10 other quality applications for free. Some of them looked interesting, some less so.

The first one I tried was the radical new RSS reader, Times.  Times is a complete departure on the RSS reader paradigm. It presents pages, where feeds can be assembled in such a way as to look like a newspaper page. Here, for example, is a page with 3 feeds from Iceland:

TimesScreenSnapz001.jpg

Pretty, isn’t it ?

Unfortunately, that’s about all it is.  At a very basic level, Times is a nice idea. However, the user interface, in my opinion, crosses the boundary between inventive and non-standard too far. The process for managing feeds becomes tedious very quickly. The gratuitous “inner pages” on the left margin of the window might be ok if they were somehow functional, but they’re not.  The page idea would be great if the layout could be customised, but apart from some minor scope for resizing areas, it can’t be.

Page content (from feeds that is) is retrieved, where possible, but there is no way to read or respond to comments without exiting to the default web browser.

And, sadly, it is also fairly sluggish and unstable.

So, nice try, but no banana. For a moment it makes NetNewsWire look pretty tired, but the huge imbalance of style over functionality ends up making it look like one of those applications that give Macs a bad name.

(Oh yeah, obviously, it’s Mac only)

Novamedia Launch2Net

in Mac , Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mac OS X is a pretty wonderful creation, compared with the competition. Most of it really does "just work". Things like, say, plugging in a USB stick require one step: plug it in - whilst the immediate competition insists on telling you all about the new hardware it has found, then telling you you're not allowed to add hardware, actually, and then mounting it anyway... and then insists on you telling it exactly want you want to do with it. You get the picture. However,there are exceptions. Some things don't "just work" in OS X, and using a bluetooth phone as a modem is one of them. To do this, first you need to pair the phone with the Mac. This part is painless. But then, you need to use a complex combination of the Network preferences and Internet Connect to try to set up a modem connection. Along the way, you need to identify your phone from a list which doesn't appear to have been updated since OS X10.1, so you need to be aware that, for example, there is a chance that the settings for an Ericsson T39 (2002 vintage) will work with a 2006 v600i. You then need to set up ISP settings, and finally somehow work out how to get it all working. Good luck. Well, there is a better way, and it is called Launch2Net, from Germany's Novamedia. Let's get one thing clear first: priced at 99 Euros, Launch2Net is bloody expensive. At that price, it needs to be absolutely flawless. Well, it is. Beyond bluetooth pairing, Launch2Net takes care of everything, and in an elegant way. A one time setup process sorts out the background details, and then it is simply a matter of launching the application. On launch, you need to wait a few seconds whilst it activates the bluetooth connection, and then checks the available network connection type (e.g. GPRS, UMTS) and reports on the signal strength and available uplink and downlink bandwidth - something that Internet Connect does not do. You then simply click on "connect", enjoy the snazzy way the window flips to show connect mode, and hey presto, off you roll down the information super-highway (or crawl, depending on your mobile connection). Launch2Net keeps you informed of exactly how many bits you are sending and receiving, and of your connection time, inobtrusively but clearly. When you've had enough, simply click on "disconnect". Roaming is handled seamlessly, which avoids hours of trying to set up connections when travelling. Launch2net supports just about every phone on the market, over 100 devices, and over 300 connections. Since launching is manual, you don't run into the potential situation of the OS doing one of gazillion background tasks it appears to need network access for, and running up mobile session fees without you noticing. Being a German company, Novamedia understands mobile networks in a way that most US companies, including Apple, just don't get. I used to use Novamedia's similar product for PalmOS, but Palm, being a little more switched than Apple in this regard, made it redundant, for me at least. There is no getting around the fact that Launch2Net is extremely expensive, but this is the only qualification I would make to a high recommendation. If you regularly need to connect your Mac laptop over mobile, and you think that 99 Euros is a good tradeoff for saving you a lot of time and stress, then buy it. You can make your own mind up by trying out the connection-limited but otherwise fully functional demo.

All Those Macs Ago

in Mac , Thursday, October 06, 2005

I've just sold my "old" Mac, A G4 "Quicksilver" (merci, Alberto) with a number of upgrades, including a dual processor card. This got me thinking about it's ancestors, and what, if any, genuine progress comes from the ever accelerating technology landslide. The first computer I ever paid for myself was a Mac PowerPC 7200. If I remember correctly it had a massive 16Mb of RAM and a huge 80Mb disk drive. It ran MacOS 7.5.3, possibly the nadir of the Mac OS. For something like 6 months after buying it, I could not print to my Tektronix inkjet - the computer froze when I tried. I was one of several irate early adopters of eWorld complaining vociferously about this. Apple UK even wrote to me to complain...then sent an engineer to check it, in full knowledge, I'm sure that this was a total waste of time. Apple fixed it, eventually. The 7200 was the first Mac I bought, but not the first I used. I had a Powerbook Duo 230 at work at the time, and used that at home in it's dock. At the time I was mainly using the Mac for illustration, using Photoshop et al. I can remember things like going off to watch TV for an hour whilst the computer struggled to rotate a 10Mb image... The 7200 was replaced some time later by an 8600AV, a pretty good machine, which served me well for some years, and which I also used for video editing and as part of a music studio. I sold the 7200, but the 8600, upgraded with a G3 processor, lived on for years, finally using OS X Server 10.1 to run the public website of Vilkas Ltd, until the company closed in late 2004. I'm not sure where the 8600 ended up... When you consider that an 8600 is more less a contemporary of the first Pentium PCs, its longevity is pretty amazing. In parallel with the dektop machines, I also have had a series of laptops, starting with a second hand Duo 280, a tiny device, smaller I think than the current 12 inch Powerbook. This wasn't quite up to the multimedia tasks I started needing to do, so I replaced it with one of the first Powerbook G3s, which lasted me over 5 years. I acquired the G4 that I just sold in 2000, along with an Apple Cinema Display which cost more than the computer. At the time, I was briefly having money thrown at me by a dot com, which allowed me to indulge. The main use of my personal systems by then had become photography, and when I started to scan panoramic and medium format film, the 300Mb files I was producing were beginning to choke Photoshop. Also, I could not work in 16 bit mode without extreme reserves of patience. I upgraded the processor to a dual 1.2Ghz, which helped, but it still wasn't perfect. So finally I did what I'd never done before, and bought a top end system, a G5 with dual 2.5Ghz processors. So far, I am pleased to say, this has coped with everything I've thrown at it. On the laptop side, the G3 Powerbook was replaced by a 1Ghz TiBook in early 2004. Despite me nearly destroying it when it was two weeks old, it remains a trusty sidekick. Of course, the mountains of accessories and software should not be forgotten. Nor should the Newtons, a 120 and a 2100, and their accessories and software. I don't suppose the story ends here either. I'd love a smaller, lighter laptop... So has anything changed ? Well yes, basically. In the early days, there is no doubt that I frequently ran up against the limits of the machines. The G5 now rarely if ever gets flustered. I can handle image files over 1Gb with not too much hassle. I can't imagine a time where the G5 feels slow, but perhaps it will come. I do think the curve is flattening, although I daresay the next version of Photoshop will be even more demanding. Whatever, I'm fairly sure the next desktop system I buy will have an Intel processor in it. I don't know if anybody reads this stuff, but if you'll read this you'll read anything :-) Thanks anyway - now go and have a look at something far more worthwhile.