g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
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Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Saturday, December 3, 2005
17:05 - Details emerge
http://www.thinksecret.com/news/0511contentdist.html

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This is gonna be one hotly anticipated Macworld. Further to last week's speculation, here's the latest from Think Secret:

Apple is planning to unveil a robust new content distribution system in January at Macworld Expo alongside its revamped media-savvy Mac mini, Think Secret has learned. The new content system and related media deals, which will include feature-length content, expanded television offerings, and more, will further cement Apple's increasing lead in digital media delivery.

In an effort to appease media companies wary of the security of digital rights management technology, Apple's new technology will deliver content such that it never actually resides on the user's hard drive. Content purchased will be automatically made available on a user's iDisk, which Front Row 2.0 will tap into. When the user wishes to play the content, robust caching technology -- for which Apple previously received a patent -- will serve it to the user's computer as fast as their Internet connection can handle. The system will also likely support downloading the video content to supported iPods but at no time will it ever actually be stored on a computer's hard drive.

This method, which will be every bit as simple and straightforward for consumers as the iTunes Music Store is now, poses a number of advantages over Apple's current pay-once-download-once system, including saving users' hard drive space and essentially providing a secure back-up of everything purchased.

Interesting. That does answer one question that had been nagging at me—namely, how many feature-length movies do they expect people to be able to store on their hard drives, especially if it's a) just a Mac mini, and b) if they're also using that same drive to store iTunes music, iPhoto content, video files, and all their DVR recordings.

But it does also make one wonder about viewer habit tracking; if they have to stream the content to you upon demand, even if it's pay-once rather than pay-per-view, they won't be able to claim unequivocally that they're not watching what we're watching.

Maybe that'll be a necessary evil for this content delivery system to work. Again, after all, there'll be definite logistical benefits. But it certainly underscores the fact that online movie purchasing doesn't follow the same rules and dynamics as online music purchasing does—hence my longtime skepticism of movie downloads fitting as easily into the iTunes metaphor as many others thought it would.

We'll see. It sure sounds like they've got a lot planned.

Friday, December 2, 2005
13:49 - About Wal-Mart (but not really)
http://newdave.com/index.php/2005/12/02/wal-mart-vs-seemingly-everybody/

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Good post here (via InstaPundit) about Wal-Mart and its detractors, and an equally good discussion thread that doesn't devolve into name-calling or snarkiness like it always does in real life whenever the subject comes up among my old-growth whole-bean friends.

But that's not what I wanted to bring up. This is:

About the long lines at Walmart: the large W-M recently opened near me (McHenry County, Illinois) has a substantial number of self-scan lanes. These seem to be the wave of the future in large discount and grocery stores.

Undoubtedly we will now hear moans about how automation is destroying jobs.

Undoubtedly. But add me instead to the moan roster about how automation is destroying the shopping experience.

Granted, the auto-checkout kiosks in stores like Home Depot are great; I prefer them to the hands-on kind of checkout when I'm buying toilet seats or PVC piping or presealed bags of screws. But at the grocery store? No thank you.

We're oscillating between Safeway and Albertson's for our shopping these days. They're both open 24 hours. Safeway has the advantage of slightly lower prices and of being closer, friendlier, and more recently renovated to achieve a very upscale interior look, especially in the produce and bakery areas; although they saw fit to replace the indoor shopping cart corral with a miniature Starbuck's, they correspondingly redid the outside fascia and apron area to accommodate them. But Albertson's has a much better selection; what they lack in price competitiveness or interior atmosphere they more than make up for in the quality of their produce, the selection of interesting cheeses, and their unwillingness to stop stocking something useful (like Sriracha sauce) just because enough people seem to want jalapeño-flavored potato chips for them to occupy ten feet floor-to-ceiling at all times (like at Safeway). Who cares if the lighting at Albertson's is glaring, the signage is cheap-looking, and the bakery section is poorly laid out: the peppers are taut and fresh and the pomegranates are huge. Despite their being further away and more annoying to get around in, I'd be willing to switch to Albertson's full-time except for one deal-breaking feature: they're switching to automated checkout.

A number of times lately I've been in there and the checkout area has been staffed by a total of one employee: the one manning the podium at the four-station automated checkout lane. Which means I have exactly one choice for how to check out.

Granted, using the self-scanner is fine for cans and bottles and bags. But what about produce? This is a use case that Home Depot doesn't have to deal with: you have to put the bag of vegetables on the scale, then press a series of slowly responding buttons, each screen triggering a loud, cheery narration—PLEASE SELECT FROM THE ITEMS ON THE SCREEN, OR KEY IN A NUMBER—until you've determined what exact kind of stuff you've got. Are these onions Maui Sweet, Vidalia Sweet, Vidalia, White, or The Kind You Hang On Your Belt? The button icons are no help—they all have the same identical "onion" bitmap, and my onions look nothing like what are pictured. I can't remember how the ones I picked up were labeled. I know it said "Sweet", but there are six "Sweet" varieties to choose from on the screen, probably all priced very differently—leading one to wonder, while standing uncertainly at the kiosk, what's stopping me from prodding the "Potatoes (Bulk Industrial-grade)" button and getting my onions for three cents a pound. Aside, of course, from the kiosk attendant who has to come hovering over everyone who stops by, peer over their shoulders, and point out that you can (in many cases) find a numeric code on the stickers on the vegetables which you can key in directly—which only applies to a few kinds of produce anyway. And that's not even to bring up the fact that it's terribly easy to get the machine into a state of confusion where the attendant has to come over and unjam it to get it to stop braying PLEASE PLACE THE ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA at you even after you stuck it there and picked it up and put it firmly down several times. Or the fact that if you're at Home Depot, you're shopping so as to solve one particular home maintenance problem, and you're buying maybe five things, ten tops. But grocery shopping? Who wants to scan fifteen dog-food cans, a slab of shrink-wrapped meat, a French baguette, and forty other bits of provisions for the upcoming week—and then try to cram them all into the little weight-sensitive shelf while ten people stack up in line behind you and the kiosk attendant looks on in harried desperation?

Meanwhile, what if the customer is illiterate—or just not comfortable with using the touch-screen system? It's not easy. It isn't the best designed interface in the world even when everything's running smoothly, and it involves many times the patience and concentration of the average ATM visit. Sure, if one of the regular checkout lanes is open, you can just head over there—but again, sometimes that's just not an option, because the only lane they've got open is the automated one. (And last time I was in there, two of the four stations had OUT OF ORDER signs.)

Further to the Wal-Mart discussion, where the commenters point out that the dynamics of the market will determine what kind of business decisions are good for customers and which ones aren't, I cannot bring myself to give my patronage to Albertson's as long as there is this clear and obvious difference between them and Safeway, who make something of a proud point of not having automated checkout. Sure, they've got to staff more checkers; but these checkers get to use the mechanisms of the checkout counter, developed over many decades, in the manner in which they've been proven to work. And the upshot is that the shopping experience—firm peppers or no firm peppers—is vastly superior. If for no other reason than that a trained employee can process a cart full of groceries in about one tenth the time it takes me to do it myself at the automated checkout kiosk, and I'm not furious and behind schedule when I head out to the car. I feel like I've been served, not like I've been serving the company. And that's worth something to me.


11:36 - Ow
http://www.biosmagazine.co.uk/article.php?id=2509

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I guess the age of bulbosity and shapelessness in industrial design is over... and now we're entering the age where everything is designed to present as small a radar profile as possible. Including mice. Mice that you can cut your finger on.

Via Kris.


09:53 - License nerds
http://soryelectronics.com/

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Chris sends this link—a site with a great headline and domain, but with an underlying thesis I can't help but disagree with. Predictably enough.

Sony has crossed the line. Years ago, they were leading the edge, introducing cutting edge consumer electronics concepts like the WalkMan, the DiscMan, and the MiniDisc. Now they are infecting your computer with a malicious and dangerous digital rights managment (DRM) rootkit that can cause system instability, open your computer up to viruses, spy on you, and impose ridiculous restrictions on what you can do with your own computer.

All well and good. This is a fine public service. However:

DRM is bad for people. DRM stops users from enjoying their content and frustrates consumers while doing nothing to stop pirates from stealing and selling their digital wares. DRM is the industries' way of saying you no longer own your content when you buy it, but are merely borrowing it.

I beg your pardon, Mr. Anonymous. Maybe some DRM stops users from enjoying content while doing nothing to thwart pirates. Maybe Sony's DRM does that. But I'll thank you not to spread your ideological sanctimony with misleading blanket statements. Some DRM—yes, by which I do happen to mean Apple's—has proven itself to be minimally intrusive to consumers' enjoyment, and to present significant barriers to piracy.

DRM comes in many shapes and sizes. Sony's, which comes on their "enhanced CDs" rather than even being associated with any online download store, is one of the most intrusive forms: it tracks individual playbacks of songs and reports your listening habits back to the mothership. It also places onerous and demented restrictions on what you can do with their digital content installed on your computer. It's unclear that any of it prevents piracy in any way—presumably you can transcode any installed Sony song to an MP3 with freely available tools (I'd be very surprised otherwise). It's indeed one of the most heinous and counterproductive forms of DRM I've yet seen; but there are other kinds too.

Many of the subscription-based online music stores, such as Napster and Yahoo, for example, work on the basis not of counting playbacks, but of a Blade Runner-esque time-to-live feature, usually a month. You pays your monthly fee, you links up your MP3 player to re-validate your account, and you keeps playing your music for another month. Stop paying your fee, stop linking up with the mothership, and your music sighs, "Time to die," and you can't play it no more. But this means you get to freely download anything you want from the store as long as you keep paying your money. This method doesn't track your listening habits, though it certainly could be so used without the consumer's knowing; and as for restricting your enjoyment of music, it's true that it makes you keep paying the rental fee, but the tradeoff is that you get unlimited access to the whole library, which some music lovers might think is just grand. As for prevention of piracy, though, Napster-style DRM definitely has its glaring and unaddressable weaknesses.

But the form of DRM used by Apple, and by most of the WMA-based online music stores, doesn't work like that. You buy your music, you don't rent it—and this means you pay your dollar for each song at the time you download it, so a would-be pirate would have to actually buy the songs before even getting access to them to transcode them. But the price is so low, and the access and quality are so good, that pirates to date have been disinclined to even try to abuse the system the way they would with a booby-trapped CD they had to slog home from the record store. This system doesn't track any playback, because you never have to phone home—the only transaction you make with the mothership for any song is at the time you buy it. To unlock the downloaded music for your computer (and up to four others that you might own), you just make a one-time transaction with the server that is entirely unrelated to any of the music you own—it just authorizes your computer on the basis of its unique hardware ID, incrementing a number-of-authorized-computers counter they've got stored with your account, and once you've unlocked your download account on that computer through the iTunes/QuickTime architecture, you can play any and all music you've ever downloaded using that account, forever. You can then drop off the face of the earth and go live in a Unabomber cabin—the music store never has to hear another word about what music you're listening to or what hot new artists or albums to try to sell you. The transaction's over and done with. You own your song, they have your dollar. That's the end of it.

What's more, Apple—more than the other companies in its position—has actively negotiated with the music industry to win more flexibility for its customers and less onerous DRM intrusiveness. In a deal struck with the labels in 2004, Steve Jobs managed to raise the number of computers that could be authorized to play downloaded iTunes music from the original three (desktop, laptop, work machine) to five. The tradeoff? iTunes was modified to make it so you could only burn seven identical copies of a playlist of downloaded music to CDs, down from the original ten. Now, I ask you, who but a pirate needs to burn more than seven copies of a purchased CD or playlist? And that feature has never been more than a speed-bump in the way of piracy anyway: if you really want to burn more copies of that CD, you just modify or re-create the playlist and keep on truckin'. As "intrusive DRM" goes, that's pretty tiny potatoes.

The upshot is that if you're getting your music from iTunes, you never run up against the DRM in your daily listening life. Never. You just don't. You don't even have to think about "phoning home". Apple never hears a word about your listening habits. And if you're a pirate, well—Steve has this to say:

He confirmed his belief that illegal digital sharing of movies is taking place, but stressed: "There is some evidence that shows people downloading movies illegally wouldn't have bought them anyway."

Jobs believes the best strategy to deal with such problems is to create better legal alternatives to help keep honest consumers honest, and prevent them getting into the habit of stealing: "Hollywood has some time to put in place legal alternatives," he said.

Trust your customers, in other words—just don't make them want to take advantage of you. That'll make fewer otherwise law-abiding listeners into disgruntled pirates in the first place. And by gum, it seems to be working. Besides, hell, you can't pirate an iPod.

SIDE NOTE: I realize that this position is a little bit hard to square with its geopolitical analog, namely that the way to deal with terrorism would be to be nice to would-be terrorists and not give them any reason to dislike you. Using this Apple language to describe our War on Terror strategy would make me sound like Joe Biden or somebody. But that's a separate discussion. For now let's just accept that computers and war are different things for which different strategies might possibly be appropriate.


The authors of this site, though, are tarring all things describable as "DRM" with the "bad for people and other living things" brush. I won't say that this betrays a telling lack of nuance in understanding—heh—but rather that it betrays the kind of "license nerd" mindset that I see underlying a lot of the open-source software community, those people who insist that free software can't be used for any closed-source commercial purpose, as it can under the BSD license but not under the GPL, and who plaster "Creative Commons" logos all over everything and demand that everyone adopt the enlightened terms of their chosen copyright terminology. Flickr is suffused with this mentality, but more as a concession to users who might want to take advantage of it than out of a need to proselytize; but this anti-Sony site, with its prominent "Some Rights Reserved" logo, badges itself as being run by ideologues right off the bat.

There are so many software licenses out there these days that there's one to fit anyone's idea of "ownership"—it takes a special kind of person to really study all the differences between them, and that kind of person is usually known as a "lawyer". But it takes an even more special kind of person to scold a commercial music company for not pandering to people who seek legalese justification for unfettered MP3 trading; and that kind of person is usually known as a "crank".

Thursday, December 1, 2005
13:36 - Stupid Google Tricks
http://www.digtootherside.cjb.net/

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Man, this is silly. But fun nonetheless.

You know, when people always said they'd end up in China if they dug straight through the Earth, I assumed they were writing from England or somewhere, because US diggers would all emerge in the Indian Ocean. But to end up in China you'd have to start in South America...

Via JMH, via Frank J.


13:19 - Caption-o-rama
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/north_yorkshire/4481796.stm

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I saw this in a local paper over lunch, and it's just one of those things:

Dr Sentamu, who now holds the second highest post in the Church of England, banged on the door of the huge Gothic cathedral with a pastoral staff made from an olive tree grown in Bethlehem before he was allowed to enter.

Several alternate captions leaped immediately to mind:

The bishops inside shouted back, "Not by the hairs on our chinny-chin-chins!"

"You... shall not... pass!"

Newly installed archbishop Sentamu attempts to knock the 95 Theses off the church door using a ten-foot pole.

And given that he's the CoE's first black archbishop, I'll leave it to those more tasteless than myself to do a post-Katrina-coverage "looting" gag...

Wednesday, November 30, 2005
16:32 - But how fast will it render drop-shadows?! Tell me! For God's sake, tell me!
http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=2627&p=1

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Via Steven Den Beste: AnandTech's first look at Yonah, Intel's upcoming low-power dual-core CPU (and likely candidate for the Intel-based Macs, or at least the laptops).

Looks like it comes in fairly square in the middle of the pack, outpaced handily by the top-end AMD64 chips, but better than the previous Intel entrant.

It may be of considerable interest to people geekier than me, but honestly the main reaction I have to this sort of thing is relief. Not that the Yonah is any kind of earth-shattering technological marvel, but that at least this way we won't have to waste time talking about the relative merits of Mac vs. PC performance at the hardware level anymore. No more "megahertz myth" or "pipeline bubbles" or "wider registers" or any of that stuff to deal with. The whole "speed" question has always seemed to me a tedious distraction from the debate—whereas lots of people find great significance in the endless leapfrog game between the latest Intel or AMD chips and the newest-generation PPC chip, to me they obscured the main reasons why you'd ever choose to buy a Mac. Except for very specialized cases like BLAST, it's never for the performance. As I've probably said before and will probably say again, I'd use a Mac instead of a PC even if I had to run it on a 500MHz G3. The software and user experience really are that important.

In the Intel-Mac era, throngs will persist in not using the Mac as a gaming platform, and the Mac will remain the platform of choice for prepress, graphics, and video production. This isn't about speed: it's about software. Game companies won't move their wares to the Mac even if it were running on some mythical chip ten times the speed of Intel's fastest, because the market isn't there—gamers don't buy Macs. And the graphics/prepress/video companies won't abandon the Mac market no matter how wide the megahertz gap were ever to become, because of the very real advantages available on the Mac software platform that Windows simply doesn't provide. That's been the case forever; but now, with everything on the same chipset, there won't be any reason to discuss performance at all, and the debate actually will have to be about the software. 6% increase in the WinBizStone panel over the last Intel chip? Lagging behind the latest AMD chip in Render3DContentStone? Who cares? I'll leave that to Anand to mull over. All I care about is that the stuff that runs on it is still Mac OS X.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005
21:39 - Retailers' dilemma

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So you know how retailers like Amazon.com and Best Buy and so on keep running ads where they mention "MP3 Players" as one of the things they sell? And they have to show some iconic graphic that communicates "MP3 Player" to the audience?

In many cases, retailers just use pictures of iPods these days, because no matter how you look at it, the iPod is the de facto standard "MP3 Player" right now, the one everyone is really asking for when they put "MP3 Player" on their Christmas lists. But not all retailers use iPods; some go out of their way to use non-iPod players and use non-brand-specific language when referring to them, in an effort to look non-partisan.

But in so doing, by bending over backwards to avoid looking like Apple shills, such retailers just end up looking more partisan.

Discuss.

UPDATE: Ah, the quandaries retailers face. For instance, suppose you're Round Table Pizza, whose menu still contains things like "Guinevere's Garden Delight" and "Montague's All-Meat Marvel"—yet it's been at least twenty years since you used the "King Arthur" theme at all in your marketing. It was already the company's anachronistic aunt-in-the-attic in the 80s. The theme is outmoded and all but abandoned—yet you're still called "Round Table Pizza", and it's the basis of all your branding, and the name people mentally associate with your particular style of pizza. What do you do? What do you do?


18:20 - More Mac than you can handle
http://daringfireball.net/

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John Gruber's Daring Fireball has changed its format to reveal a whole other content stream I hadn't even known about before now: little one-line links to external stories and tidbits. Up till now I'd thought it was only the exhaustively long feature articles that comprised the site.

Now there's all the more to love, including heretofore obscure links to stuff like this. Brilliant.


16:34 - Pretend it's 2004
http://www.thinksecret.com/news/0511macmini2.html

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Interesting:

Apple's Mac mini will be reborn as the digital hub centerpiece it was originally conceived to be, Think Secret sources have disclosed. The new Mac mini project, code-named Kaleidoscope, will feature an Intel processor and include both Front Row 2.0 and TiVo-like DVR functionality.

. . .

The new Mac mini is also said to sport a built-in iPod dock, a feature that was scrapped from the Mac mini Apple first introduced one year ago. Other hardware specifics are unknown, such as whether the Mac mini will feature video recording out of the box or whether an add-on will be offered for those looking to employ the Mac mini not as a second computer but as their living room command center.

I guess it doesn't count as speculation or rumormongering to revisit this topic, since when the Mac mini was first announced everyone was expecting it to have been a media-center device right out of the gate. And now that Apple's released Front Row, curiously on an iMac with a remote but without any clear tie-in to home-theater applications or even hooking it up to your TV, and now that the video iPod is out grazing the market looking for a compelling reason to exist other than competitive checkboxism, I guess this news doesn't surprise me much. Still, though, word of an Intel processor (hinting that it'll be this and the iBooks that will be the first to go Intel), a video iPod dock, and a real TiVo-esque DVR application with the full weight of Apple's software design behind it, would seem to indicate that Apple's ready to explain to all of us what their long-term video strategy's supposed to be.

So it's to be a Mac mini for the home theater, with Front Row and that little white remote and a direct TV connection—and the iMac G5 for what, then? Teleconferencing? It's important for there to be a clearly delineated use case for each of these products, and it's telling that the iMac's marketing material has skirted any mention of turning it into a DVR/media center plugged into your TV—instead it's got that built-in iSight and PR copy that leads off with iChat AV. I have no idea how well that kind of thing sells; but minus the iChat stuff and plus DVR/TV connectivity, it becomes the media center everyone expected the mini to be in the first place. That angle doesn't seem to be lost on anyone.

The interesting bit, to me, is the alleged built-in iPod dock—it's that sort of thing that would support a use case for the video iPod that centers around something other than $2 U2 videos. Apple would have to roll out a raft of marketing material explaining what they hope to have people do with their Mac Media Center and video iPod; as of now their wired-digital-home strategy is based upon AirPort Express supporting iTunes music broadcast throughout the house, but what's the new story they're preparing to sell? Will this media-center machine be pressed into service as the household's primary iTunes data store and purchasing station as well as the main Front Row device for playing movies? Is it there that you'll be expected to dock your iPod, load it up with music and videos, and take them on the go? If so, it makes for a compelling advertising visual—a home theater with an iPod stuck into the top of the little white box on the shelf next to the widescreen plasma HDTV—but it makes people using iPods on their desktop computers wonder whether they're being relegated to legacy mode.

The reason I say this is that to tout a thru-the-TV computer interface seems like a huge departure in interface design. How's it supposed to work? Just a glance at Front Row tells you right away what kinds of compromises have to be made when designing an interface that's legible and navigable from the couch ten feet from the screen. And what about input? You don't get a keyboard, do you? Or a mouse? (Or does Apple expect to sell Bluetooth keyboards and mice to every buyer?) And what about iTunes itself? It's the back-end for all this media-center stuff; how will it operate through a TV screen, where you have to account for interlaced composite video signals where text smaller than about 24-point can't even be read? That'll hardly be an ideal environment for running the text-heavy iTunes; you'd pretty much have to have HDTV, and I don't know if Apple's ready to release an HD-only media center product (though it would help explain why they've waited this long to jump into the already well-established, and even already stagnant, segment). I don't think they're going to want to make users wrangle the entire Mac OS X desktop in a media center context, in any case, even on an HDTV.

I'm running through this thought experiment because if Apple doesn't intend this machine to be your iTunes Central box, then what's the workflow they're proposing? AirTunes broadcasting of music and videos from an iTunes on someone's computer in another room—possibly with the AirPort Express base station and media bridge functionality built right into the new mini? Possible, but that's way too needlessly complex to be their primary recommended topology. And how does that idea tie in with the iPod Dock built into the mini? It doesn't, is how; either you dock your iPod with your main iTunes computer, or you dock it with the mini—one or the other, and whichever one you pick is where all your iPod media comes from. You don't get to use it to ferry your music and videos from one to the other. Even if it were rigged such that the software allowed you to do such a thing, it's a hopelessly clunky solution—who wants to shuttle your iPod from one computer to the other every time you want to get newly purchased music or videos from your iTunes computer onto your TV? Yuck. And nobody's going to go for a solution from Apple that's sold as requiring you to buy two computers, one of which isn't even really usable as a computer.

No, if this thing is for real, they've got to have some kind of software solution for delivering iTunes' feature set to a TV-based interface. Even if they make it HDTV-only, that's no mean feat. It'd involve rethinking the entire navigation and input paradigm—it'd have to be menu-driven instead of mouse-driven, it'd rely on the textual browser columns rather than the flashy purchasing pages with their tiny info boxes, and it'd have to either trim down features like AirPort music sharing and album art management, or significantly rework them to be TV-friendly. Even if Apple were to stipulate that you must have a component-video HDTV display and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to join your array of remote controls sitting on your coffee table, it remains to be seen how iTunes could be incorporated into Front Row itself, leading you into the purchasing and organizing functions in the same way as you'd ideally be navigating the playback options for your music and home movies and DVDs.

It's this kind of complexity in making sense of the user experience that had led me to think Apple would never release a video-enabled iPod; the signals it sends end up getting really badly mixed, unless they're managed very carefully. It's worth noting that although all my friends seem to have giant LCD/plasma TVs these days, usually with hacked TiVo units with massive hard drives, nobody has Windows Media Centers hooked up to them; somehow, the media center paradigm has failed to grab the attention of the geek set, the very people Apple's wooed into being the iPod Generation. Either Apple thinks it has the solution for turning those people on to the media center bandwagon—a solution as hip as the iPod itself, as I'm sure they hope to convince themselves the new Mac mini will be—or they're going for a whole different demographic, the one that's already buying media center devices and worshipping TiVo and might potentially be looking for a better-yet solution.

Neither of these possibilities seems like a slam-dunk to me. But the things that become smash hits—like the iPod—usually seem to be greeted upon their release with widespread skepticism. As a printout on the wall of the User Experience cubicles here at work says:

If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have asked for a faster horse.

—Henry Ford

Via Chris M.


09:48 - Pretty damn cool
http://pandora.com/

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Chris pointed me at this site, Pandora, which appears to be completely revolutionizing streaming music.

"The Music Genome Project". Now that sounds cool. And I'm thinking about filing a bug with Apple that reads "Problem: you guys haven't bought Pandora and incorporated them into iTunes yet."

It's just streaming, and they have legalese that says stuff like "Our music licenses do not allow us to let you back up the music to replay a specific song," so they're not running any ragged edge of legitimacy or anything. But it does mean you get to direct how the upcoming songs get queued, through nothing more explicit than the heuristics of the music you indicate you like as it plays.

Plus it already has iTunes and Amazon purchase links built right into every song. This would be a no-brainer if Apple's looking for a competitive advantage. And even if not, it's going to warrant at least a fair amount more attention from me.

Monday, November 28, 2005
14:46 - Just wondering

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If you buy this, do they make you register it?

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© Brian Tiemann