For all the Microsoft developers out there, you can download a free copy of the MSDN Library here.
Yesterday, I bought a Wii! It took standing in line for an hour outside of Best Buy, but I got one. The Wii is Nintendo's new video game machine. I have to say that while the graphics are nowhere near as good as a PS3 or XBox 360, it is a lot of fun. It does a lot of interesting stuff.
The Wii has built in wireless networking. I was easily able to get it connected to my home network and wirelessly update itself. The Nintendo DS also has wireless networking. I really like how Nintendo seems to be building in wireless networking into all their game machines these days. On top of that, they DON'T CHARGE to play games over the wireless connection. Granted, I don't know of any Wii games that play directly over the network, but I'm sure it's possible.
Browse the web
The Wii uses a version of the Opera web browser to allow you to browse the web using only the wireles s'wii-mote' remote. It actually works a lot better than I expected. Since TVs run at much lower resolutions than a computer, I expected the web pages to look horrible, since the web browser would have to try to render it at such a low resolution. It turns out that the way it works is that it shows the entire web site on screen, seemingly at a PC resolution but kind of shrunk down in size (sort of a 'photo-reduced' image of the site.) Then you can use the remote to scroll around the page and magnify whatever sections you want.
The Wii includes a Secure Digital memory card slot that you can use for various things including viewing photos from a digital camera. It even does some nice little slideshows of the photos.
I haven't tried this yet, but supposedly it can play MP3s off of the Secure Digital card as well.
Buy older games online
I also haven't tried this yet. They have a bunch of old Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64 etc games available that you can buy and play on it.
It comes with a game
Most video game machines are sold as the machine only. They don't come with any games. The Wii comes with a game called 'Wii Sports'. It's a little game that lets you play Baseball, Tennis, Golf, Bowling, and Boxing using the wireless, motion sensitive remote. Granted the graphics on the game are very simple, but they are still fun little games to play and it's nice that it gives you something you can actually play with right out of the box.
I bought one game along with it - Marvel's Ultimate Alliance. (I'm a sucker for superhero video games). I've been playing this game for a while and it is a lot of fun. I'm still trying to get used to the motion controls though... It's very different from what I'm used to playing a game.
All in all, I gotta say, I like this little thing! It's a lot of fun!
Last weekend, I installed the final release version of Windows Vista on my main machine. I told myself that I was going to wait a few months, but I gotta admit I was curious. Plus, with Leopard strangly missing in action at Macworld, maybe I was just suffering a bit of 'new OS withdrawl'. I thought I'd comment on what I've found so far.
The new Aero Glass interface is very nice. I like the semi-transparent borders around the windows. I like how the the minimize, maximize and close buttons 'light up' when you hover over them. I like how the windows seem to 'pop up' rather than just appearing. It's a nice effect. The Windows button in the lower left corner is a nice change. This button no longer says 'Start' like it did in Windows XP. I always thought it was pretty stupid for the 'Start' button to be the button you click to shut down the computer. By doing it this way, it makes more sense.
The user directories seem to be better organized. User directories already come with a 'Download' directory, unlike XP. This is a nice feature, since I do the same thing whenever I download files from the Internet. I just download them to a 'Download' directory on my computer. I just have to get used to downloading them to my USER directory. I have an annoying habit of not using the user directory for that, as I should on XP.
Vista detects USB devices MUCH better. I use Vista through a USB based KVM switch. I have a USB keyboard and mouse connected to the KVM switch. These both get switched between my Mac and the Vista machine. In XP, if I switched the KVM over to the XP machine, it would take a full 20 SECONDS or so for Windows to even recognize the keyboard and mouse again. This made switching between the Mac and the PC very aggravating because the Mac would re-recognize the keyboard and mouse almost instantly, but XP was horribly slow. Vista seems to have solved this problem in that it also re-detects the keyboard and mouse almost instantly.
Some apps have problems with Vista. This is understandable since Vista is so new. Technically you can't even buy it for another 2 weeks, so it's not surprising that not everyone has updated their apps to work properly with it.
Firefox has a small problem in that it cannot be set as the default browser in Vista. Whenever you set it as the default browser, that setting doesn't 'stick' and IE still ends up being the default browser. My first reaction to this was a typical knee-jerk reaction of "Microsoft is stealing the setting away from Firefox! How dare they do that!" But after a little hunting I discovered that Mozilla (the makers of Firefox) are aware of this problem and are working to fix it. Other than this minor problem, the browser seems to work perfectly.
I still don't think Vista is quite as good as OS X Tiger, but it's definately a lot closer than XP was.
A few days ago, I realized that this year is my 20th high school graduation anniversary! It's amazing how fast those 20 years went by. A lot has changed in my life in those 20 years. I own my own car, I own my own home, I make a lot more money, and my health is considerably better. All in all, things have gone pretty well these last 20 years.
Today is my brother Bob's birthday. I won't mention his age. :)
When I first heard about the iPhone, my reaction was "I'm definately going to get one!" However, after spending a few days reading more about it and thinking it over, I'm not entirely sure if I will get one or not. The iPhone still leaves me with many questions that are holding me back...
Being a slave to Cingular for 2 years
In order to get the iPhone, you need to sign up with Cingular (soon to be AT&T) Wireless and sign up for a TWO year plan. Noone else will have the iPhone, at least for the next couple years. I really dislike Cingular. I was a customer of them for many years. I had frequent problems with not getting a signal, dropped calls, etc. Yeah they have that 'Rollover Minutes' feature, but who cares? I never use that many minutes on my cell phone a month, so I don't really need them. I also really dislike 2 year cell phone plans. I don't like 'signing my life away' for 2 years with a company who's service and/or features could end up going downhill a couple months into those 2 years. If that happens, you are trapped. You are stuck with an expensive cell phone plan, crappy service, inadequate features etc. I don't mind 1 year plans. I can always 'ride out' 1 year and then leave for another company once the year is over. With cell phone number portability, it really has no impact on me. I can easily move my cell phone number to another carrier. Most cell phone carriers are really pushing 2 year plans these days, no doubt in an effort to 'lock you in' for as long as possible. You can still get a 1 year plan if you ask for it and push hard, but they don't like giving them out. I suspect that it's possible to get an iPhone on a 1 year plan, but I doubt it. Also, there is no information on how much this plan will cost. I fully expect Cingular to suck this incredible deal for as much as they can. There will be tons of people wanting this phone. They'll get their phones, but Cingular will lock you in. I forsee many problems with Cingulars network once this flood of new users come in.
Where's the Widescreen iPod???
Yes, this thing functions as a widescreen iPod. The problem is, that while it has an ideal screen and features to act as a widescreen iPod, it lacks the storage capacity. We have HD based iPods with 80GB of space. This thing at best has 8GB of space (1/10th the storage capacity). If you are going to be watching video, you are going to want MUCH more space than 8GB. It really isn't practical to watch video on this thing, due to limited battery life and limited storage space. When is Apple going to make a non-phone version of this? Just take out all the hardware in there that you need for the phone, and replace it with a 80GB or larger hard drive. Boom. Instant real widescreen iPod. I expect they will eventually do this, but as it stands right now, once again I need to become a slave to Cingular to get the iPod I want. What if I want all the features but want someone ELSE for my cell phone service. I'm out of luck right now.
During the keynote Jobs mentioned briefly that the iPhone supports Core Animation and Cocoa - both technologies that exist in the upcoming version of OS X. This would seem to imply to me that you can write your own software for it. That would be fantastic! The iPhone has PDA written all over it. It is the 'iPod PDA' that I've been dreaming about for years! I would certainly be writing apps for it and I'm sure MANY others would too. However, in later news, it was revealed that Jobs said the iPhone was going to be a 'closed platform'. In other words you can't write apps for it. Only Apple can. If this turns out to be true, this really angers me. Yeah, the old iPod is a closed platform as well, but that doesn't really bother me. The iPod is very limited in it's UI. You can't really do much with a click wheel, application-wise. But the iPhone seems perfect for writing portable apps. With a color touchscreen, there is almost no limit on what you can do with the UI of an app. I could easily see full screen PDF viewers (if it doesn't already have one) on this thing. I can easily see a large market for third party games.
It runs OS X?
Ok, this strikes me as a bit evasive on Apple's part. In the keynote, Jobs announced to much applause that the iPhone runs OS X. This would lead people to believe that any app that runs in OS X would run on the iPhone. I seriously doubt that. I just can't see myself running Photoshop on my phone! Also, from looking at the UI we've seen, it clearly has a different UI than OS X does. There are no title bars, no windows etc. This is clearly not running the same OS X as on Macintosh computers. It is clearly running a scaled down embedded version of OS X. This is really a new OS that they wrote specifically for the iPhone. Why not just be clear about it and SAY that? Call it "OS X Mobile" or someting like that. I'd be find with that. I just find this choice of only calling it "OS X" a bit deceptive. Supposedly the iPhone will be available in June. This is not long before their yearly Worldwide Developers Conference. I can easily see them spending a lot of time talking about the programming side of "OS X Mobile" at that time. Of course this all hinges on whether they allow people to develop for it at all, which they have so far indicated, they won't.
I have to say that right now the iPhone leaves me with way too many questions and concerns to decide whether I'm going to get one or not. I'll just have to wait and see.
By far, the most interesting development to come out of the Macworld 2007 Keynote, at least for me, was the introduction of the Apple iPhone.
The Apple iPhone is a cellular phone, designed by Apple, that has long been rumored and drooled over, before the thing even existed. Technically, it still doesn't exist, since you can't buy one yet, but at least we know what it will have.
You can't buy one until June of this year. The reason it won't go on sale until June is because it still hasn't received FCC approval (which is required of all cell phones). I suspect that it will be on sale much earlier than June, though. The only thing holding them back from selling it right now is that FCC approval. I'm sure they'll do their best to push that approval through as fast as possible. I'd be surprised if this thing wasn't on sale by around April. Apple has a way of doing that. Announcing something as being available at a certain date, and then delivering 'early'. It's likely intentional, but it's a great way to look good because they complete something 'early' (as they did with the Intel transition).
This phone is one of the most feature laden, and amazing phones I've ever seen. This phone is going to have the people at Motorola, Nokia, and even Microsoft quaking in their boots. Here are just some of the features this thing has:
First, this thing finally brings to reality the other long rumored and drooled over device - the widescreen iPod. The entire face of the phone is a color touchscreen. There is only one real button on the front of the thing. The rest is just a touchscreen. This allows them to essentially integrate a full blown iPod with widescreen full motion video and sound. The iPhone comes with either 4GB or 8GB of flash RAM. Granted, even 8GB isn't all that much space for video, but it's more than enough for several hours worth of video and many, many, many hours of music. Essentially, it's a 'widescreen video iPod Nano' built into the phone. I can easily imagine seeing lots of these phones on treadmills at the gym with those earbuds plugged into it. This feature alone will have many iPod nuts buying this thing in droves.
A Cell Phone
Obviously. It does all the usual cell phone stuff, like placing calls, keeping an address book, etc. It includes a built in 2 megapixel camera for taking photos, which you can associate with an entry in the address book. Because of the touchscreen nature of the thing, it makes managing your address book, and making calls very easy.
This is another very 'iPod-ish' feature. It allows you to sync all your photos from your computer and view them on the screen. It also includes various photo management features. I'm sure that since it has a 2 megapixel camera too, it will allow you to sync your photos the other way too - from the iPhone TO your PC.
This is a huge feature. Frankly, this feature alone is one of those features sure to sell many iPhones and to scare the hell out of other cell phone makers and cell phone carriers. It supports BOTH 802.11b and 802.11g networking, automatically. You can find free WiFi access points everywhere and this gives you almost unlimited, free access to the Internet from your cell phone. Since the screen on this phone is pretty high resolution - 320 x 480, it even makes browsing the web quite practical, for a change.
Why would this feature scare cell phone makers? It will scare them because most cell phones have very low resolution screens. This makes web browsing on your phone clumsy at best and useless at worst. Now, with a big screen and a fast connection to the Internet, I forsee even more WiFi access points popping up, and the ones that exist getting a lot more use. Why in the world would someone use your clumsy little phone, when they have a full blown web browser and a large screen to browse the Internet with?
Why would this feature scare cell phone carriers? It will scare them because in the past, cell phone carriers could easily charge customers large sums of money to access the Internet over the cellular network. They make a lot of money doing these things. With this new WiFi support, all that money is now gone. No longer can they force customers to pay all that money for a service that should be free. I expect to see a lot of cell phones in the future gain WiFi connectivity, if only to compete with the iPhone.
Now for the ultimate question. Will Rick buy one? I'm not sure. More on that in Part 2.
I never did understand the philosophy of spamming. Spam emails are often filled with nonsense text added in to throw off spam filters. They also tend to use images lately to prevent filtering based on text content. I've never understood how anyone could be expected to take these nonsensical emails seriously and actually buy stuff.
In the spammers continuing quest to attract your attention and make you actually read their pathetic sales pitches, they often try to write subject lines designed to get your attention. Usually these are generic subject lines like 'Hi!', or stuff like that. Anything to make you think it's not an ad, but some friend trying to contact you. Personally, if the sender's name is unknown to me, I'll just delete these without reading. I've noticed something new in their bag of tricks over the last few days.
Lately, I've been getting spam emails where the subject line is the same as the subject line of a recent news story. These include such things as celebrity news, tech news etc. I imagine the idea is to make you think a friend is emailing you an interesting news story you should read. But then, when you read the email, only the subject line is the 'news story'. The rest of the email is an ad. It's getting to the point that I don't trust my email at all. If someone unknown contacts me, it's likely that email will get deleted by me as spam, even if it's not.
Spam is rapidly making email completely useless.
Today at the Macworld 2007 keynote, they announced the AppleTV.
The AppleTV is what used to be called the iTV when the originally demoed it back in September of last year. I wrote another blog article about it back when it was released gushing on and on about how I thought it was going to be a great product. I expounded on my theory as to what this thing meant and how it worked. Turns out a lot of what I thought was right, but not quite what I expected.
I wrote originally about how it gives you the ability to stream iTunes content to your TV. I wrote that this would essentially turn your TV into a giant iPod with a big, high definition screen. One interesting question was, what type of wireless would it do?
In regards to the wireless capabilities, all that was said was that it used 802.11 networking... They never said whether it was 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n (all of which have their pluses and minuses). The prevailing theory was that they left off that letter at the end of the 802.11 intentionally. Many people stated that 802.11g wouldn't work because it's too slow to stream video reliably. They expected that it would be 802.11n, which is supposed to be plenty fast enough for this. Turns out they were right.
One other concern I and many others had was, even with the fast 802.11n networking, could this thing keep up? It has an HDMI port on it, so you can easily imagine it being able to later stream HD content to the TV. This would be more data than can be sent over wireless networking and be able to maintain a steady playback. Turns out that they fixed this too by including a 40GB HD in it! It uses this HD to sync the data on your PC with itself. Essentially it copies everything off your PC wirelessly onto that internal 40GB HD and then plays it from there. It still uses the wireless for syncing and for viewing streaming video in other cases, but this relatively large hard drive easily compensates for that. With the addition of the internal HD in it, this thing really does turn your big screen TV into a giant iPod! You even sync the thing directly from within iTunes. It truly is the 'wireless iPod' that all the rumors have been talking about. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see multiple models of this show up in the future with larger hard drives. Apple already has an 80GB standard iPod. There's no reason they couldn't throw one of those in the AppleTV as well. Or even bigger hard drives. Could this be the new 'hard drive iPod'?
Will I be buying one of these? Not at first. It's not that I don't want one. Hell, Apple has that effect on me. They make so much cool stuff, that I practically want everything they make (with a few exceptions). I won't be buying one simply because I just got for Christmas what I call my 'poor man's AppleTV'. It's a basic iPod docking station that lets you play music and videos off the iPod on the screen of your TV through your stereo. It's more or less everything the AppleTV does except the wireless. That just means that I have to load stuff on the iPod manually at the PC and then 'sneaker-net' it over to the docking station at my TV. Not a big deal and it eliminates that whole wireless bandwidth issue. :)
Tomorrow I'll write my thoughts, and concerns about the other big item announced in the keynote - the Apple iPhone.