MonthJanuary 2008

RandomMaccess: Now with genuine custom iPhone web clipping icon

RandomMaccess iPhone iconThanks to instructions provided by The Joy of Tech’s Snaggy, RandomMaccess now has a custom icon for those who add it as a web clipping to their 1.1.3 iPhone. The technique is very straightforward. Simply create a 57×57 pixel icon, save it as a PNG with the name “apple-touch-icon.png” and drop it in the root level of your web server. Don’t worry about that glassie effect other iPhone icons have–it will be added automatically (to ensure consistency across all iPhone icons, obviously.) Since the glassie effect makes things at the edges of the icon appear somewhat distorted (pulled in as if the top of the icon has rounded edges), it’s best to keep text or images toward the center.

The icon’s pretty basic right now, but as a “proof of concept,” it’s kind of cool.

My keynote wrap-up in one word: ‘eh’

I didn’t write my annual look at the state of the Mac for the upcoming year this time around mostly because it seemed what was ahead was fairly obvious, with the notable exception of what “one more thing” Steve Jobs might pull out of his hat at some point during the year. I had already called for–and been wrong about–a true “convergence” device and I would have called for it again this year (although the iPhone has some of those qualities and will probably get more.)

Movie rentals were pretty much a given, as was some kind of sub-notebook. The iPhone update had been leaked reports were spot on, right down to the cartoony jiggling of the icons to show they can be moved. I was a little surprised that the iPod touch got so many of the iPhone’s capabilities. That moment was marred, though, by the dead silence that greeted the news that adding them would cost $20. The only thing missing was the sound of crickets chirping.

The movie rentals are priced right, I think, and along with the direct Internet access make the Apple TV Take 2 much more appealing. One thing that Dave Hamilton of The Mac Observer noted, though and I agree 100% is that 24 hours is a little too short a window to start and finish a movie. He gave the example of parents who can’t really start a movie until the kids are in bed. If they start a rental at 10 and don’t finish it that night, they can’t pick it at 10 the next night–the rental period will have expired. Even 28 hours would be alright–it would allow that kind of two-night spanning and still be a reasonable tight window: start at 8 on night one, for example, and you have until midnight on night two to finish.

The MacBook Air was a real disappointment to me, though I admittedly am not Apple’s target market for a sub-notebook. I came away thinking there was a lot missing on the “but” side of the description: “It doesn’t have an optical drive but it has… it doesn’t have an Ethernet port but it has…, etc. The only thing that could have been filled in after the “buts” was “it’s thin and light.” For me, that’s not enough; for others, it may be everything: time will tell. Jobs also mentioned that the optional solid state hard drive was “pricey,” but didn’t mention how pricey: an extra $999.

I like Time Capsule, Apple’s AirPort Extreme wireless router and network attached storage device in one, and I think the price is fair. The next time I’m in the market for an 802.11N router, I’ll probably consider it, but lots of people may already have separate components to do the same thing. One thing is still unclear: does the fact that Time Machine supports the network storage within the Time Capsule mean it will support other networked drives? I asked two separate Apple “Blue Shirts” (the experts the booth staff directs you to if you have a question they can’t handle). One implied the answer was no and one implied it was yes. My guess is that neither of them is sure. I also suspect that–supported or not–it will be possible, although it may well involve a terminal command to do it.

One more note: Jim Gianopulos, the CEO of 20th Century Fox Studios, is by far the best “Guest CEO” I have seen at a Macworld keynote in recent memory, and a refreshing improvement to the stiff PR-speak of AT&T’s chief last year.

‘Two Ems, two Cees two Esses’

I ran into a friend on the show floor who said he’d recently visited the site and was surprised my wife would let me “get away” with what he saw: bikini-clad (and barely at that) women. My first reaction was that the site had somehow been hacked and was now serving up some kind of untoward content. After a little diggig, though, it became clear he had simply mistyped the URL–leaving off an “m” in RandomMaccess. He wound up at a web design company called Random Access, and the swimwear-wearing models in question were on a site the firm had created for one of its clients.

Mystery solved.

Random Access, by the way, was the original name of the Macintosh User Group newsletter column that evolved into this site. I only added the extra “m” because the domain name was already taken.

‘Sony caves; DRM music is dead, dead, dead.’

Good riddance to a stupid idea.

The interesting question to me is not so much what this means for iTunes, but what does the record industry think it means for iTunes? Three of the big four are selling their DRM-free tracks only on Amazon. Is it pure spite? Do they have promises from Amazon of tiered pricing for the future? Do they think they are going to “punish” Apple and use this as negotiating leverage or drive iTunes into the ground? Or will they all eventually allow the DRM-free versions on iTunes?

For all the noise about DRM, I don’t think enough of the buying public cares that much that it’s going to hurt iTunes significantly. The iPod to iTunes to iTunes Store channel is seamless enough that I think that’s where most of the buying is going to come from, DRM-ed or not.

Tiered pricing may come eventually, but I think non-DRM songs are coming to iTunes first.

About that ‘enforcer’ thing

MacVoices Road to MacworldI did an interview with Chuck Joiner for his “MacVoices” podcast (one of several excellent podcasts he produces.) The interview went online today–unfortunately, I can’t hear it yet because of firewall issues at my office, so I don’t know how much of an idiot I sound like. (Always a concern for me when I speak off the cuff.)

Before the main focus of the interview (my Macworld session on WiFi for beginners), we spent a couple minutes talking about this site. For whatever reason, we spent what was probably too much time discussing the role of RandomMaccess as a Mac journalism “watchdog.” I think I used the word “curmudgeon” and Chuck called me an “enforcer.” While I do see commenting on how the Mac press handles its responsibilities as a big part of what’s unique in what I have to say on the web, I’m afraid it may have come across a little over the top in the interview. I see it in a much more light-hearted way than I fear it sounded.

For the record, I plan on covering the Mac press the way I do everything else in this incarnation of the site: observe things that interest me, and when I have time, comment where I think I can add something worthwhile to the discussion. I have no intention of looking over the shoulder of every web writer who covers Apple, and the mental image I get of me as “The Enforcer” is just downright silly, even if I’m the one who created it.

RandomMaccess Macworld appearances

For anyone interested, I’ll be giving a session at Macworld San Francisco this year. The nice thing is that it’s part of the Macworld Learning Center, so it’s free for all attendees — not just those who sign up for the conferences. I think the idea is to give the attendees a taste of what the conference sessions are like in the hopes they’ll sign up next year. I guess that means if the conference attendance tanks next year, it’s all my fault.

The session is called Creating And Using a WiFi Mac Network, and will run Tuesday through Friday from 1:00-1:45 p.m. It’s a very basic session, geared towards new users. In other words: if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably way too advanced for this course.

My other gig is a real gig. Once again, I’ll be playing in the Macworld All-Star Band at the Cirque du Mac Party hosted by my friends at the Mac Observer. The band consists of Paul Kent, Chris Breen, Dave Hamilton, Duane Straub, Bryan Chaffin and yours truly. We’re even hoping Andy Ihnatko will drop in again for a song or two. The party is invitation-only, but I’ll probably have a few tickets to hand out to people who are really nice to me. 😉

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