Support, Hawaii and the Obligatory iPad post

First let me give a quick update on Support. I've moved to for providing support over my old mail based approach. The biggest advantage they offer is i can have more than a single support person helping out -- On that note if you have emailed recently or visited you may have noticed I've got some additional help. I'm really happy to publicly announce that Karn ("WebKarnage") has joined team Loghound doing support -- I couldn't be happier with all of the great help he has been providing.

The really nice thing that this has let me do is take a vacation, I just came back from Hawaii -- While I've gone with my family on vacation before I always logged in every day to do support, answer questions and generally keep things running smoothly. What was really nice about this break was I totally unhooked -- I checked email I think twice but otherwise was 'offline' which was a great break.

My vacation ended last night, April 2, when we returned home -- Now let me be clear, I never planned to come back the day before iPad day but that was just the way it worked out.
Let me start my (obligatory) iPad post by saying I don't regret buying it -- That is an odd way to start the post but you'll see below what appears to be a lukewarm reaction -- I really do like it but I would best describe it as 'meeting expectations'.

I pre-ordered a 16GB model to pick up at our local Apple store -- My reasoning was that it would be mostly a 'bed side' computer and I didn't need a lot of storage but in listening to Andy Ihnaktko talk about it on theMacbreak Weekly -- In the discussion he said "You should buy the 64GB model because you will find yourself putting 'everything' on it" -- That sort of struck me and I thought that 16GB really could fill up pretty quickly if you started adding some heavy apps -- I ended up asking if I could upgrade to a 32GB model when I got to the Apple store and they were able to support my request.

So this morning I trundled off to the store with my 8 year old son and at about 8:20 we were in line waiting (the local paper showed up and snapped a photo here -- I'm the guy with the blue hoodie on the left hand side.

So back to my impressions -- Like I said it meets my expectations -- Expectations that were pretty high so that's saying something. The only thing that really suprised me in an unexpectedly good way was looking at photos. Syncing over some iPhoto libraries and looking at the photos on the iPad is spectacular, much more than I expected.

Things that worked as well as I expected were web surfing (fast, high fidelity), iBooks (crisp text, fun to turn, great book syncing) the Mail app (and the google gmail web interface) and google maps.

Finally there were a few things that were a disappointment: iPhone apps scaled 2x look terrible (almost unusable) - I get it that graphics scaled up look clunky but I assumed they would scale text up better than they did (my guess is the scaling is happning at the graphic card level so perhaps it's not possible to scale text differently than other elements).

The launch apps from third parties were a mixed bag -- I love the potential of the netflix app but it crashes, a lot. Evernote is very nice but also tended to crash -- I'm sure that these will improve quickly however. The device is surprisingly heavy in the hand -- while that feels good from a 'boy this is sturdy' point of view it's extra weight compared to a kindle is a concern -- I'll need to do some real reading to see how that works.

I have a few iPad app ideas that I'll be playing with over the coming weeks & months -- It should be fun.

Snow Leopard

This morning Apple announced that Snow Leopard is available this friday, the 28th.  It's sort of amazing how differently Apple announces os.  I mean they are announcing it's availability 5 days before they ship a brand new version of their OS.

I've been using Snow Leopard (from now on referred to as SL) for a few weeks to make sure my plugins are all working.  So far it's all gone smoothly but I'll be planning some extra time this weekend to quick fix any problems discovered.

I wish I could share more about SL as I do have a few things to say but I'll honor my NDA and wait until after it ships.....

Loving me some chrome

Unless you have been under a rock you have heard about Google's new browser Chrome.
Well, not new exactly, it uses WebKit the same rendering engine that we know & love in Safair (really, webkit is amazingly well done) but they added their own goodies.
Right now it's Windows only (Mac & Linux "Real Soon Now") but after installing it yesterday I can say it's replaced Firefox as my windows browser.
Unlike Safari for Windows Google hasn't tried to port a mac app to windows.  The have made a windows browswer on Webkit which is a much more satisfying experience.   Add to that the process-per-tab and slick way they drag in & out coupled with WebKit's already very good rendering speed and the new javascript V8 engine and you have, well, a very compelling product.
I've been a diehard safari user for the last year on the Mac but I'll likely be using Chrome when it comes out on the Mac.
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I'm headed off to WWDC starting Monday so support (both in the RW forums as well as email) will be slower than usual. I'll try my best but it's a pretty intensive week. Everyone loves doing predictions so I thought I would throw out a few to the googlesphere. The only sure bet is a 3G iphone. I'm willing to bet serious money on this, I mean comeon -- Apple is out of stock, AT&T is out of stock, rumors are rampant and it's been a year. I do hope beyond 3G they get a GPS in there along with more memory (32GB) and (ideally) I'd like to see video camera functionality (to capture short clips) with perhaps a upload to youtube? In term of OS's when I first heard the 'snow leopard' rumors I thought "This sounds crazy, 10.6 has no features, just stability & performance?" but when I sit back it makes a certain amount of crazy sense. Security is increasingly important and in the mobile space even more so. Also, Apple has been really pushing scripting languages for development (Leopard has this cool scripting bridge for instance) and it's 'widely reported' that the iPhone SDK includes a LLVM version of gcc so it's clear they are thinking of changing the compiler technology -- why not go to something like bytecode LLVM for 'most' applications to allow easier sandboxing? My other thought on 10.6 is the first release of the OS without PPC support will bring howls of pain from folks. If you make it a 'feature lite' version release people will have less room to complain. Finally factor in apple actually *wants* you to upgrade your computer so it's in their interest to kill ppc as fast as they can. What about the rumored 'slate' computer? To me it sounds pretty nice in concept and I'd buy it (I love the iphone but the screen is small) -- My ideal would be something about the size of the Amazon Kindle with a long battery life that can be a web browser/e-book reader/mail client. Having said that I don't think they'll introduce it next week.. iPhone 2.0? Probably not next week but it will be out in june so no biggie there. Apple TV updates? They'll announce 48hour rentals iTunes? Nothing to see here, move along folks. Macs? Maybe a small bump but nothing big here. "one more thing"? -- I don't expect much here -- I'd love to be proven wrong however. Regardless of what they announce I'm still pretty excited about WWDC -- I really enjoyed it last year and I expect this to be as much fun.

Thanks Adam!

I've mentioned a few times that I came to the mac late in life (so to speak) and for the longest time described myself as a 'switcher' but I've been involved for a few years now and don't think that way much anymore (unless of course i'm hanging around someone like Isaiah and he starts talking about 'system 7' which makes me glaze over -- system wha?)
The point to the above (and I do have one) is that when I first got involved with the mac was around the time podcasts started getting big (this is before they were in iTunes) and the first podcast I listened to on a regular basis was a little one called the maccast.  It was a godsend to help me figure out which way was up on a Mac and I even emailed Adam a few times (to which he always answered -- a real class guy)
So imagine my suprise when he started talking about mac blog clients and he starts talking about choices, yes you have blogger, or wordpress but for mac specific you might consider Rapidweaver with (ta da) the RapidBlog plugin!  I was driving back from monterey when I heard this and I practically hit the car in front of me (not recommended by the way)
Good fun -- check it out here (toward the end) -- by the way, I'd recommend you subscribe to the maccast (as well as Macbreak weekly) if you are inclined towards podcasts.
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Summer "Vacation" Plans

I've been working with my wife on our summer plans -- when & where to go. As it turns out Apple helped make part of them today. I know where I'll be June 9-13 For the most part it's a 'non' event -- we all kind of 'knew' there would be something either June, July or August with the good money on June. Furthermore it was no surprise that the iPhone would feature so prominently (especially after they announced 'iPhone 2.0 in June') -- In the invite they specifically mention 'three tracks': Mac, iPhone & IT. While I'm excited about the iPhone as a platform to develop for I really hope they don't shortchange the Mac side -- What I really hope they can talk about is 'what's next' for OSX after leopard but I'm a little worried they are so focused on iPhone that they won't have much to say. Time will tell....

Dogged Determination

So the iPhone is being released in the UK. MacWorld UK has a story about it and the regency street store

It's not the longest queue - yet, but two people have arrived outside the store equipped with warm weather clothing, folding chairs and grim, dogged determination to be among the first people in the UK to get hold of an iPhone.

Care to guess who one of those two is?
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Leopard stuff I can't discuss and quicken for mac stinks

I've been testing plugins on Leopard these last several days -- Truth be told even though I've had access to the seed for almost a year I didn't spend much time in it.
Anyway I've had probably half a dozen "holy #$@#" moments in leopard -- Small things that aren't mentioned in the '300 items' Apple talks about (probably too small to make the cut) but to me it is this moment of brilliance.  I wish I could share a few of them right now, perhaps I'll do a blog post friday evening.   
Don't get me wrong, these are not 'big huge' suprises, it's just little things here and there that really put a smile on my face.
By the way, quicken for the mac Sucks -- No, sucks is too generous.  It's embarassing.  Apple -- On the PC side everyone is scared to make Financial apps because quicken (& microsoft money) have such a stranglehold.  On the mac side though it's pitiful how bad the choices are.  It's no wonder there are folks who dare tread into this market.
The 'killer feature' that Quicken has (in my books) is the online access and ability to do bill pay.  This is a must have for me.  Anyway after giving quicken mac a good month of testing I still can't find anything nice to say about it so I'm going back to quicken windows (using parallels)
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My brother just gave me a tip that I can't believe I didn't know.
option -tab to do a list
One of my great frustration of most mac text editing apps (including RapidWeaver) is the difficulty in making lists.  Option tab will start a list. 
It sadly doesn't work in but at least in works in RapidWeaver

new iSuite -- A winner

I've had the new iWork and iLife for a few days and so far I have to say, they are a winner.

Specifically the new iMovie is stunning -- I took about two hours of footage that has been sitting around and in literally 20 minutes I had it worked down to a 5 minute video with nice titles & transitions. 5 more minutes and it's up on youtube.

To be sure I could still 'tighten it up' and the camera work is clearly amateur but I finally have a hope of actually doing something with the video (and honestly, when you use the new iMovie to upload to youtube the quality on youtube is much, much better)

I love the new events feature in iPhoto -- very slick. I have 22K photo's and it's always been pretty painful to navigate in iPhoto. the new skimming in 'events' really works well. I also appreciate the borders you can put on prints (sometimes handy) and the new keyword (tags) system seems much improved.

I haven't tried the new garage band or iDvd though.

Now on to iWork.

With the new pages I see only one reason to buy microsoft word. If you are in a corporate envioronment that requires it (even if you are the importer and exporter seem pretty solid). The new pages having two modes (page layout or document) really make it all the word processor you need (as far as I am concerned)

Keynote has always been better than powerpoint and continues to be so -- very slick.

And finally numbers. I have a special thing about spreadsheets -- in my day job I use them all the time but in my 'night' job much less so. I'm very impressed with Numbers, the layout features are amazing and having multiple sheets on a canvas is very nice.

Having said that I found it a tad pokey on what I think is a reasonable current machine (24" iMac, 2.16GHz core2, 2GB of ram). Also they are missing some features that I tend to use a lot (pivot tables) and finally excel exported spreadsheets don't seem to upload to google docs (but perhaps that's a google problem) -- it's a very nice 1.0 effort and very usable but it's still clearly a 1.0 product (and won't displace excel anytime soon in my opinion) however for most folks it's plenty.

Finally .mac -- As some of you may know I cam to the mac platform about 3 years ago having never used a mac (always a PC user) -- I've never, ever, used .mac and honestly didn't feel the need to but I broke down and purchased it yesterday (it arrives on Friday). The reason?

  1. Syncing. I have a desktop and portable and I've never been happy with the syncing solutions available -- I hope this fixes it (from what I hear it will)
  2. Movie and Photo sharing. Yes I hav youtube, Yes I have flickr but the integration into .mac seems really tight. PLUS I love the idea of automatically uploading multiple size movies from within iMovie.
  3. Backup -- I know, I'll be hearing howls of pain but honestly I have pretty simple backup needs (for the most part) There is probably 2GB of stuff that if I lost would really really hurt -- stuff I change a lot that I need to have backed up. the 10GB gives me enough room to keep this super critical stuff backed up. I have another 30GB of stuff (mostly photos) that I also want but I have a system for that and it doesn't change as often as the critical 2GB
  4. Web Galleries from my iPhone -- Yes this was what put me over the edge.
So we'll see -- it's $80 at Amazon so the investment isn't huge.
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iDay - random musings

One of the advantages of living near an Apple store is that sometimes they get products the day they are announced. This, to me, is amazing and while it doesn't always happen I was pleasently suprised when I called today and they confirmed that yes, they do have iLife '08 and iWork '08 in stock. So I now have them in my hot little hands -- I won't be able to play with them for a few hours but I'm excited to see whats new (and I'm really excited at the new iWork suite -- I've been needing some more office type apps for various reasons and while I really had admired Pages and keynote I didn't want to spend the money on such long in the tooth applications. Anyway I rushed down and I'm not the proud owner of iLife 08, iWork 08 and .Mac (I've never really used .mac so thought I would give it a try) I'll report later what my thoughts are once I've played with them. On the way to pick up the iLife suite I saw this, a truck (or Lorry for those of you across the pond) trying to go into a parking garage. Of course I had my iPhone so I snapped this photo and mailed it to my flickr account. Bad  day Finally a few thoughts on the iPhone. I'll start by saying I love, love, love it. It really exceeded my expectations and I'm oh-so-glad I picked it up. Having said that it's not perfect -- One of the things people keep on saying is "It's the best iPod ever" which is patently untrue. As a audio iPod is only middling good (it is a great video ipod). The biggest thing I hate is no scroll wheel -- I loved being able to fast forward and navigate through the scroll wheel and on the iPhone you really can't do it without concentrating on the phone. Finally if you are still reading I wanted to share that I'm working on a new plugin, FaqMaker, for doing Faqs. It's getting closer to being released so keep an eye out for it.
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