May 31, 2007

Apple Delivers DRM-Free Music, YouTube for Apple TV

Filed under: Apple, DRM, Media — Tom @ 4:43 pm

Yesterday Apple made good on its promise to put DRM-free content in the iTunes store. It comes in the form of iTunes Plus, a separate section of the iTunes store dedicated to the higher-quality, DRM-free audio announced last month. After updating to iTunes 7.2, I was able visit the iTunes Plus section.

A banner at the top of the iTunes Plus page told me there were only 15 songs I could upgrade out of the 236 iTunes Store purchases in my library. I’m hoping the remaining labels go DRM-free soon.

Apple TV + YouTubeApple also announced a software update for the Apple TV that will add the ability to stream YouTube video. It looks like you’ll be able to browse featured videos, the most recent videos and the most popular videos, in addition to being able to search for content.

The Apple TV also received a build-to-order option for a 160 GB hard drive for $399. Additional storage on the Apple TV has been one of the most common requests and its great to see this upgrade. I hope that we’ll continue to see enhancements to the Apple TV.

Apple also announced iTunes U, a section of the iTunes Store that carries audio and video content from major universities. The content includes MIT’s OpenCourseWare, MIT’s initiative to provide open access to their course materials.

Pretty cool stuff.


May 28, 2007

iPhone Hysteria Spawns Dumbest Study Ever

Filed under: Apple, iPhone — Tom @ 9:46 am

The iPhone is magic. Many are lusting after it. Many more are talking about it. And really dumb speculation abounds.

But the latest is over the top. In a report issued by a company called Strategy Analytics and getting picked up by numerous blogs, they claim that 90% of mobile handset owners prefer the iPhone experience over their existing phone. Wow! 90%!

There’s no mention that Apple participated in the study in their press release. They say they “explored the appeal of iPhone features, developed comparisons with current products, investigated the nature of the iPhone experience, and gained insights on design criteria for future devices.” In other words, they speculated about what it would be like to use an iPhone and then got a bunch of people to discuss their speculation. And then they issued a press release.

Here’s the secret — the study appears to be a ploy to get people to register at the Strategy Analytics website. Registering and downloading the study gets you a document that links back to information on Strategy Analytics and their services. Searching for the report on their site shows that the latest iPhone report is dated February 28.

So this is little more than a press release about a discussion with some people who use mobile phones. If I was a professional in the wireless telecomm industry, registered for this report and found their was nothing behind this study? I suspect I’d do my shopping for strategic analysis elsewhere.

May 25, 2007

Sony Announces Flexible OLED Display

Filed under: Technology — Tom @ 10:01 pm

Boing Boing points to a YouTube video of Sony’s new OLED display prototype. It’s pretty incredible stuff, with the display unaffected as it’s curled into a semi-circle.

It’s unfortunate that Sony so frequently fumbles. The Playstation 3 still hasn’t found its footing after giving the XBox 360 a massive lead and getting upstaged by the cheaper, more innovative Wii. And their obsession with DRM led to the rootkit fiasco and years of ATRAC-only devices while the iPod and Creative ran away with the market. It’s obvious they can still make cool stuff — now let’s hope they do something cool with it.

Three arrested for Portland car arsons

Filed under: Portland — Tom @ 10:56 am

Wow. There’s been some mini-excitement in Portland lately. Last Tuesday, there was a rash of car fires that claimed seven SUVs over two days.

Now the Oregonian reports that three people have been charged with arson in these cases and they don’t seem to have any ties to enviro-extremists. How do three people ranging in age from 29 to 14 decide to start torching vehicles? Just out from some pre-dawn fun? Was the Playstation broken? Couldn’t find a Wii? I can’t wait to hear the explanation for this one.

Please note that the OregonLive link in this post has a life of 14 days, after which it will slide into the Oregonian’s paid archives. This is apparently a strategy on the part of the Oregonian (and many other newspapers) to hasten their obsolescence.

May 23, 2007

I Am Missing Chicago Food

Filed under: Chicago, Food, Travel — Tom @ 12:47 pm

One of the things I miss most here in Portland was the Chicago food scene. While Portland has some great food, the pizza here is no match and I have some other favorites that I wish I could find.

Last weekend, my girlfriend was in Chicago. That left me begging her to bring back some blue cheese steak fries and buffalo chicken strips from Leona’s and a stuffed pizza from Giordano’s.

Leona’s has always been one of my favorites even though they’ve become a little more corporate as they’ve expanded. There was a time when Leona’s had the best pizza in the city — its stuffed pizza was second to none. I suspect it was sacrificed to move the customers through more quickly. A popular dish with an hour-long cooking time can really slow things down.

While I understand the business logic behind the stuffed pizza assassination, I’ve always been puzzled by Leona’s decision to replace ordinary hot fudge with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce a few years back. I don’t understand businesses that buy into the idea of having a named brand on their menu for its own sake. I like Ghirardelli chocolate, but their sauce was a nasty substitute for the delicious hot fudge it replaced. I asked the wait staff about it; they also didn’t understand the change and confirmed that my reaction was pretty common.

Leona’s redeemed themselves shortly after the Ghirardelli incident by introducing the blue cheese steak fries. Wedge fries. Alfredo sauce. Blue cheese. Bacon. Awesome. Not health food.

Unfortunately, we decided that the blue cheese steak fries appetizer wasn’t going to travel well and an entire pizza was a bit awkward to bring back. I did get a couple orders of buffalo chicken strips and some blue cheese sauce. Extra buffalo sauce to be used in the reheating didn’t make it to Portland — the O’Hare TSA confiscated it, keeping America safe from that particular tub of spicy condiment.

May 15, 2007

Portland’s Polite Drivers

Filed under: Portland, Portland Traffic — Tom @ 10:41 am

Despite all of my complaining, the fact is that Portland’s drivers (while slow and infuriating at times) are unbelievably nice. The other day I was at a stop sign waiting to make a right hand turn. There was a stop light right around the corner and stopped traffic was lined up past my intersection. Some guy was blocking me but the woman behind him stopped and left some room, indicating that I should go ahead when the intersection cleared.

The guy in front of me notices me and he’s genuinely embarrassed that he blocked me. There’s completely no harm done here — traffic’s already stopped and the woman has already given me room to slide in behind the guy. But he actually backs up and lets me into his place in traffic.

2007 Road Rage Survey Results Now a survey of 25 metro areas finds that Portland is the most courteous city of all.

The survey, commissioned by AutoVantage for the second year in a row, also found that Portland had the fewest tailgaters.

Miami topped the list with the rudest drivers. Have you ever driven in Miami? What a zoo. Portland drivers, you have been warned. Those people will eat you alive.

I was surprised to find Dallas as number 5 on the most courteous list. In my experience, Texas drivers have always been one of the worst when it comes to boxing you out while you try to merge onto the freeway. They really, really don’t want be stuck in traffic behind you.

So I guess I should cut Portland drivers a break. I promise I’m going to honk at you guys less. Well, I promise to try.

May 12, 2007

Charges Dropped Against Boston Guerilla Marketers

Filed under: Weird — Tom @ 4:06 pm

Boing Boing’s got the latest on the Mooninite drama in Boston.

So the unfortunate guys who installed the light screens promoting Aqua Teen Hunger Force will not be going to trial. Maybe prosecutors in Boston decided that they’d have a hard time proving the two guys intended to induce a panic.

The mayor, however, stands firmly behind his decision to throw the city into chaos in the first place.

“I hope the message goes out to all guerrilla marketers who plan on doing business in Boston that we take the public safety of those who live and work here very seriously,” Menino said yesterday in a statement.”

Who knows? Maybe it’ll send the message to everyone that it’s easier to just not do business in Boston.

May 11, 2007

BarCamp Portland Starts Tonight

Filed under: Media, Portland, Technology — Tom @ 3:38 pm

I’m thinking of going to BarCamp Portland tonight.

I’ll admit that the BarCamp site has me a little nervous — rules about no tourists and everyone must contribute or present or something. I don’t consider myself much of a blogger. I haven’t been doing this very long and don’t have many people visit here. I’m not a technical guy and couldn’t code my way out of a paper bag. I’m not certain that my interest in the social aspects of technology and media provide a whole lot of material to fuel my contribution.

What the hell. I’ll show up and see if they throw me out.

May 9, 2007

Motorcycle Blogging

Filed under: Motorcycling — Tom @ 1:48 pm

I’ve decided to create a blog focused on motorcycling called MotoBrief. I’ve reproduced my few moto-related posts there and probably won’t be discussing moto stuff here in the future.

May 1, 2007

Ballmer Says iPhone Has “No Chance”

Filed under: Apple, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 1:24 am

The Unofficial Apple Weblog reports that Steve Ballmer has pulled out his crystal ball and made another prediction of iPhone failure. He said there is no chance the iPhone will achieve any significant market share, adding that, “They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60 percent or 70 percent or 80 percent of them, than I would to have 2 percent or 3 percent, which is what Apple might get.”

If you remove his total speculation about Apple’s chances, it looks like all he’s saying is that he’d really rather see 780 million Windows Mobile devices sold than 26 million. This is the kind of bold thinking that Microsoft needs. Sell more! Of course! Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?

I have no doubt that Steve would prefer that 60% of smartphones were Windows-based — recent numbers show Microsoft a distant second with 14% of the worldwide market. Symbian continues to dominate with a 67% market share. (I’ve seen a variety of percentages reporting, all citing the same Canalys data. I’m going with what’s quoted at the site above, but recognize that these numbers may be off somewhat.)

There seems to be plenty of room for Apple. Symbian’s market share is split between different versions of its OS. The software to synchronize my P800 and P910i with my Windows computer was a disaster — a hodgepodge of different applications that would sometimes lose track of whether my phone was plugged in or not. (Maybe it’s an omen that the best syncing experience has been — take a guess — once I started using the P910i with my MacBook Pro. I haven’t had any problems using iSync.) Both phones ended up with trips back to Sony Ericsson for service. The software on the phone has its fair share of quirks — I’m particularly irritated by the oddly short fields in the calendar application (vital information is always getting truncated on the phone) and the terrible web browser. As much as I love my P910i, there’s enormous room for improvement. And it made the iPhone’s pricing look like a bargain.

Palm — now called the Garnet OS — could also be an easy target. Incredibly innovative when it was first introduced, the Palm OS is now looking a bit tired. They just haven’t kept up and their market share shows it. Garnet OS has an enormous catalog of applications available for it but they trail with a paltry 5% of the market.

I’ve had only limited exposure to Windows devices and RIM devices. Windows Mobile seems to have come a long way from the early, crash-prone Orange SPV I saw years ago. And the Blackberry interface drives me crazy. I know many, many people love these things but they’re not for me.

There aren’t many people — least of all Apple — claiming that the iPhone is going to take over the mobile market. Apple does say that they think they can carve out a small chunk of the existing market. There’s a lot that says they can — I don’t need much convincing to give up poor syncing, awful email programs and unusable web browsers. How far can they ultimately go? We’ll have to see how well that multi-touch display works. I’m pretty used to dialing one-handed by touch.

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