MacStories: Apple’s Presentation at Black Hat Now Available to Watch in Full. For those like myself for whom the stories were tantalizing teasers, the presentation is now available on YouTube. I love the illustration of the “physical one-way hash function.”
TechCrunch points to a Fast Company interview with Apple execs, says The Apple Maps launch fiasco led to the iOS public beta program. Really interesting interview with Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi, among others, talking about two big issues that the company overlooked.
The TechCrunch headline focuses on the “public beta” aspect of Apple’s post-Maps transformation. I’d argue that an even more significant aspect is highlighted by Federighi’s comment that “we needed to develop competencies that we initially didn’t appreciate… Maps presents huge issues relating to data integration and data quality, things we would need to do on an ongoing basis.” They’re doing them now, to the tune of an added 4,000 workers in an Indian development center focused on Maps data.
The whole 2012 fiasco – which I believe has been turned around, btw – was completely avoidable had Apple done any strategic analysis on the maps market. A little Porter’s five forces would have drawn their attention to the problem of barriers to entry, and a little thought might have raised the point that data quality was in fact a significant competitive advantage that Google had, and a sustainable one based on their existing efforts around data quality in other, more directly search-related fields.
Via Daring Fireball, behold (the Kickstarter for) The Secret History of Mac Gaming. There is so much of my late childhood and early adulthood here: Ambrosia, the Myst team, Freeverse, Escape Velocity, Bungie and more.
I can actually still play a handful of these games. Escape Velocity: Nova received a Mac OS X port (though I haven’t tried to play it in years), but there’s also SheepShaver, on which I’ve played Bungie’s Abuse and Ambrosia’s Harry the Handsome Executive.
I’ve got about 5000 tracks I’ve purchased from the iTunes store over the last 8 years. That’s a lot of dough. And I’m willing to spend more–$25 a year more–to have those tracks available in the cloud.
I also have about 30,000 other tracks, purchased from Amazon or eMusic, or ripped from my own library. I’m not a BitTorrent collector. I’ve replaced just about everything I ever downloaded in the glory days of Napster with legitimate copies of songs.
But Apple won’t let me participate in iTunes Match because I’m over the 25,000 song limit.
Well, that sucks.
Hope the service is less disappointing for those that actually get in.
Update: There is a workaround, apparently, if you want to manage multiple libraries.
So far iOS 5 has been just fine on my iPhone 3GS (yes, still), but for one important exception: I don’t think the phone has ever completed a sync without my having to eject it.
The symptom is one of those things that gives long-term iTunes users pause: text in the iTunes status window that appears at the end of the sync, saying, “Waiting for items to copy,” or “Waiting for changes to be applied.” And stays there, pretty much indefinitely. Turns out it’s a common problem, with no consistent solution. I have tried leaving the phone syncing all night long (both wired and wireless), even tried turning off syncing of all content. Nothing.
So today I tried the ultimate: restore to factory settings, then restore from backup. And, as of right now, things are… “waiting for items to copy,” while syncing podcasts.
Sigh. Wonder how long I have until we can buy the 4S?
There is one note of wonderment though: as I was plowing through the console looking for clues as to what was going on, I found this:
Nov 10 07:11:44 iTunesHelper: AMDeviceConnect (thread 0x7fff7c774960): This is not the droid you're looking for (is actually com.apple.mobile.restored). Move along, move along.
UPDATE: Aaaand just as soon as I pushed Send to Blog, I found the answer: voice memos. Specifically, deleting all voice memos on the phone was sufficient to fix the problem and allow the sync to complete. Now, mind, this was after a restore to factory settings and restore from backup, so I don’t know if those steps were necessary, but it worked.
Last night’s news about Steve Jobs hit me hard. Not that it was a surprise; Steve was the one CEO I know who was most in touch with, and open about, his own mortality. Of course that was out of necessity; it’s hard to sweep pancreatic and liver cancer under the rug. But Steve’s response to it was like so much else: instead of ignoring it, he acknowledged it while publicly focusing on where things were going next.
It made me think about the lessons I carry with me as a product manager, and I suppose as a person, that are directly traceable to Steve:
Thing 1: Always look forward
Steve, and Apple as his company, never hesitated to sacrifice backwards compatibility or even whole product categories if they sat in the way of something better. Viz: a whole long list of things–the 3.5″ floppy drive (which Apple helped popularize), ADB, SCSI, and even hard drives and optical media (on the MacBook Air, at least). PowerPC support. Mac OS Classic.
For most of this list, I don’t think we miss the items. And certainly we couldn’t have the products that we have today if Apple had continued to hold onto the older standards past their sell-by dates. By contrast, it’s inconceivable to me that my HP work laptop, just a year old, has a 9 pin serial port. Really? I would bet that not one in 10,000 users has any use for that port. What a lot of money and engineering QA time they’re wasting including that port in every laptop they ship.
I think one of the hardest things to do as a PM is to recognize the things that are standing in the way of your success, especially if they’re features, technologies, compatibility points, that your customers are using. Steve Jobs’ Apple was always the evidence that if done correctly, moving beyond outdated features and standards could have enormous payoffs for you and your customers.
Thing 2: Do fewer things better
When I was a young developer, just starting out, I wanted to make everything I did like the Mac. I wanted to simplify, to reduce the number of options, to make everything clean to use. It turned out to be really hard, and to require a lot of engineering to make things clean and to just work right. But it was almost always worth the payoff.
As a product manager, it’s a lot harder. Instead of keeping a user interface simple, you’re keeping a product offering simple. But again, the payoff is enormous: having an offering that does something so well that it blows everyone’s mind is so much better than a kitchen sink offering that is “just good enough” to check boxes on someone else’s feature chart. There’s time to expand to other areas of the feature chart, if you want to, but make sure they’re done well first.
Thing 3: Think big
The iPod was never about selling hard drive based music players. It was about turning a corner in so many ways: getting Apple into the selling-content-online business, which became the App Store business a few years later; changing how people consumed music, which arguably saved the music industry from Napsterization (though I suppose few RIAA members would stand up and thank Steve for doing so); even transforming Apple from a computer company into … well, how would you characterize Apple today? Maybe a personal computing device company?
Everybody else’s iPod follower was about selling hard drive based music players. There wasn’t a broader vision about changing the market, the customer’s behavior, or how the company was oriented. No wonder they all flopped.
Thing 4: Emotional connections matter
In technology this is such a weird perspective to have. These things we build, they’re just chips and transistors, right? Just bits. But to the people using them, they’re about getting things done that, if they’re worth doing, have a real impact on their lives. Carrying your music anywhere you go. Connecting the Internet to you in the palm of your hand. Creating a great reading and video experience in the iPad. Making computing so simple a four year old could do it. Connecting people in real and tangible ways.
Talking about features, clock speed and such, doesn’t cut it. This is one area where watching the post-Steve Apple will be telling. There was a fair amount of clock-speed talk in the iPhone 4S rollout, and maybe there should have been a little more storytelling.
Thing 5: Life is short; ignore the haters
I think this last one goes to the question of Steve’s awareness of his own mortality. He summed it up in his 2005 commencement address at Stanford, a year after his initial diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, in which he said:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with thae results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Steve, we owe you a lot, but maybe more than anything else, we owe you for that.
I got a nice gadget under the Christmas tree this year: a second generation AppleTV. Short take: I am way more impressed than I thought I would be.
This fall we experimented with hooking an old MacBook Pro up to the TV in the living room and using the FrontRow UI to watch movies, but the user experience was less than ideal. Knowing the limits of the machine, I copied movie files locally to it so that it had no network lag, but there were still occasional hiccups and delays as it tried to play back movies through FrontRow. Also, because it was essentially working as a disconnected island, only the movies and TV shows I copied to it were available. Oh, I could try to share data from my main MacBook, but for some reason things were so sluggish as to be unbearable.
I had an idea that it might be nice to try an AppleTV someday, if for no other reason than for the simplified UI, integrated rentals/Netflix/Youtube, and smaller form factor. But I had filed it away as a nice-to-have. So I was delighted when I opened it up on Christmas morning. (Thanks, hon!) By Christmas evening I had set it up and was putting it through its paces.
First notes: make sure you have an HDMI cable handy. (Duh. Fortunately I did.) We tried out the UI, which makes FrontRow look like a college art project, and were impressed. Then we tried playing back some of the short movies from my MacBook. This was the first hiccup–startup times were long even for brief movies; for half-hour TV shows I was usually waiting 15 minutes or more for playback. What was going on?
A little network diagnostic (aside: I cannot recommend iStumbler highly enough) and I found the cause. I have an Airport Extreme 802.11n base station, but the rest of my network configuration is somewhat unorthodox, including a pair of older Airport Express units that only speak 802.11g and which rebroadcast the main network via WDS. On a hunch, I turned off the configuration option on the Airport Express units to let wireless clients connect, and restarted them. The signal to noise ratio on the main base station improved about 10% immediately, and AppleTV performance was likewise improved–TV shows began playback immediately, movies after a second or two. Problem solved–and now my network is generally snappier.
And now is the interesting bit. I’ve had the AppleTV for about four days, and am now for the first time contemplating something that would previously have been unthinkable: ripping my DVDs to hard drive storage. It’s all about convenience and being able to access the movies (and TV shows, and Looney Tunes cartoons) on demand. Of course, in the eyes of Hollywood, this makes me a criminal, but then I’ve never had much sympathy for the studios’ position in trying to keep their hardcoded crypto secret. So I’m checking out HandBrake as a possible solution. While reports of its user-friendliness are somewhat exaggerated–I’d welcome a single setting that says “make the movie look good on a big screen TV”–initial results were pretty good. It might take a while, given that it’s taken me 40 minutes to rip 30 minutes of DVD footage, but I think it’ll be worth it to get instant access to stuff. Particularly when my four year old is waiting.
Almost six months ago, I managed to create a big mess 0n my outboard media drive with iTunes, when, while trying to consolidate all my music onto a new 1TB drive, I managed only a partial move and ended up with files strewn across the old drive and two different directory trees on the new drive. I’ve spent the time since in a lot of manual moving of files, since the Mac does not support merging two different directories with the same name.
I was able to clear up the top level confusion easily enough by doing a diff on directory listings from the top level directories, but that still left issues with subdirectories that had the same names but different contents. I thought I’d be doing the project forever. I tried a couple different tools to help. Path Finder was the nicest UI that I worked with, but it still only supported manual comparison and synchronization of the two directory trees.
I finally broke down and looked harder, and found an amazing tool, DeltaWalker, that seems as though it were designed for exactly the nightmare I faced. Point it at a pair of directories and it will highlight all the differences between them–missing subdirectories on one side or the other, or subdirectories whose contents are different in the two different locations. You can filter the output, too, so that you only have to see the differences that you care about (I didn’t need to know how many folders were in my target directory and not my source). And when you find files that have to come over, it’s a button click to make the move.
Once I found DeltaWalker, it took only about an hour to finish cleaning up the mess that I had started over six months before. It’s an awesome tool, and one I can’t believe I had never seen before.
I suppose it was inevitable. My last MacBook Pro was Apple’s first, the 1.83 GHz 15″ model that was the first to bear the name back in 2006. That was one in a series of upgrades that saw me getting a new machine every few years, thanks to a series of good product launches by Apple and a series of appalling product failures (power supply failures on the G3, the stuck hinge on the G4…) As I noted back then, the first generation MacBook Pro had case damage that rendered the battery unchargeable.
What happened afterwards was the trackpad button started sticking. And suddenly every time I tried to select text or files, the mouse got stuck in drag mode. It finally got to the point, yesterday, where I couldn’t even type. And Lisa said, “It’s time for a new laptop.”
It was time. Four years and four months, the longest time between machine refreshes that I’ve ever had since the year 2000. A testament as much to our financial priorities as to the quality of the machine.
And now, the new MacBook Pro is here. Most everything has been migrated to the new machine, a 13″ Pro model, which has, for the record, 4 GB of RAM, a 250 GB hard disk, and a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo processor. Twice the RAM, thrice the hard disk, and about 32% more CPU clock cycles doesn’t seem like it should make the computer a lot faster, but it does, oh it does.
And I am absolutely in love with the small form factor. The screen has about the same pixel dimensions as my old one but in a smaller form factor, and it’s a nice lightweight machine, rock solid, with a million nice features. We should have done this a lot sooner.
For the love of me, I don’t know how I ended up here again. The last time I moved my iTunes library to a bigger disk, I was able to use the Consolidate Library command and let iTunes do all the file moves. This time… not so much.
I was trying to do two things at once with this move: put all my music onto a larger external drive (a 1TB MiniStack from OtherWorld Computing. Can’t recommend the enclosure enough for form factor, ports, and reliability; my older 500 MB drive is in the same enclosure), and move to the new iTunes library layout, where there are separate top level folders for music, movies, podcasts, etc. This didn’t work, because partway through the process writing to the disk errored out. I quickly realized that the problem was that I was doing it over the network (the new 1TB drive and my older drive were both connected to my AirPort Extreme). So I directly connected the new drive via FireWire, left the old one on the AirPort, and tried to consolidate again. Only this time, it told me I didn’t have enough disk space. On the new 1TB drive.
Then I realized what was going on. The restructuring of the library wasn’t moving files, it was creating another copy of the files on the same drive. I had started consolidating before I did the library restructuring, so now it was trying to write a second copy of all my music on the drive. Since I probably have about 515 GB of music to work with (some resident on my MacBook Pro’s internal drive), two copies weren’t going to fit on the new drive.
So now I had: a full copy of my library spread across the old drive and my hard drive; one partial copy at the root of my new drive; and another partial copy in the proper location in a Music subdirectory. I didn’t want to delete either of the partial copies because songs in my library were mapped to both locations; I couldn’t reconsolidate on the old drive for lack of space. But I still had over 160 GB free on the new drive, so I could probably copy over the missing files by hand.
So I’m going the manual route to clean up. First, I went to the Terminal and ran the
comm command, which compares two text files line by line; I fed it the directory listings of the old external drive and the new final destination, and it spit out about 165 differences, directories that didn’t get copied from the old drive to the new one.
Second, I’m going line by line through the results of the comm listing. For each line, I:
- Copy the missing files from the old drive to the new one.
- Delete the old files from the old drive.
- Go to the matching tracks in iTunes and do a Get Info. Amazingly, since I’m copying the new files into the correct directory structure, a lot of the time I don’t have to do any more work and the library automatically finds the files in the new drive. Sometimes I have to browse one file at a time to link up to the new files, which is a drag.
I expect I’ll be done with the process sometime next week. Painful, but at least no data is lost. Then I can repeat with any files from my laptop’s disk, a much shorter list.
The final cleanup may take some XSLT fu. I will need to triple check the final library to make sure no tracks point to locations on the old drives. I’m going to try using XSLT on the iTunes Library.xml file to see if I can cull out the problem tracks that way; if not, it’ll be a matter of trial and error, because there’s no convenient way to find the file system locations of iTunes tracks from within iTunes itself, other than one at a time.
I’d love to have this be a more error-free process. I’m beginning to think that iTunes libraries on external drives simply isn’t a well tested scenario by Apple.
Four reactions that I agree with (parts of) in response to Apple’s iPad announcement yesterday:
- Doc Searls places the iPad in the context of vertical integration (apps all the way down to CPUs) and horizontal playing fields and says, “What you have to appreciate, even admire, is how well Apple plays the vertical game. It’s really amazing. What you also have to appreciate is how much we also need the horizontal one. The iPad needs an open alternative, soon.”
- Dave Weinberger says that the iPad is the “future of the past of books” and says it’s missing interactivity and collaboration as key features.
- John Gruber says that the iPad user experience feels like it’s all about speed, and says that Apple’s vertical integration play (the aforementioned Apple A4 chip) is responsible, and that “this is Apple’s way of asserting that they’re taking over the penthouse suite as the strongest and best company in the whole ones-and-zeroes racket” ahead of Sony, Nokia, and Samsung.
- Michael at Cruftbox sums up the reactions of the rest of the world and says, “You’ll bang on about features, data plans, DRM, open source, and a multitude of issues. You’ll storm the message boards, wring your hands, and promise you won’t buy one till ‘Gen 2.’ The din will grow and grow as time passes. And then one day, in a few months, you will actually hold one and use it. And you will say, ‘I want one. Iwant one right now.'”
I think what disappointed me about the launch was not the device but the position it occupies. Jobs sees the iPad as occupying empty space in the consumer world between a PC (laptop) and phone. And there is probably room in that position. But the iPad seems also to be firmly positioned, at least for now, as a companion device. You sync it to another computer over iTunes. There’s no USB port or optical drive. It’s not going to be replacing anyone’s laptop any time soon.
And, frankly, that’s what I was hoping it would do. Because while it looks like it blows away its target use cases (web browsing, mail, calendar, gaming, music, book reading, even office apps), there are some very real use cases it doesn’t handle. And not just being a development platform. Like:
- Preparing taxes (though Intuit could probably do a tax application for it)
- Scanning documents (no USB port…)
- Printing (ditto–though I wonder if it supports network based printing?)
- Videoconferencing (no camera and no ports)
- Organizing photos
- Making a calendar or Christmas card
Additionally, I have question marks about some of the use cases that it seems to handle well otherwise. Like: can I point its version of iTunes at my 500 GB network drive and play music from there? How do the new iWork apps manage their files? (Remember, there is no user visible file system on the iPhone OS, on which the iPad is based.)
But, my quibbles aside, I have to confess that I’ve already talked with my wife about getting one. We’re pretty excited for the brave new iPad future. Because for most of what it does, it does beautifully.
Looking at the new iTunes Store experience in iTunes 9, I had difficulty finding any information about iTunes Plus upgrades, Apple’s offer that allows you to upgrade your old DRM-crippled protected files to the new “purchased” format.
Fortunately, it seems that the page is still there and working in the store, just not promoted. Bookmark the link…
Update: In the comments, David C. points out that the link is there, but it looks like it’s not loading reliably–it certainly didn’t ever load for me yesterday. The box in the upper right corner of the store loads progressively, and the bottom links (including iTunes Plus and Complete My Album) load after a delay.
I did the Snow Leopard upgrade last night, and it went OK.
First step was to back up my MacBook. It’s an exaggeration to say that it had never been backed up–I do, or did, regularly back up files to my .Mac iDisk, but rarely if ever did a whole system back up. A $99 external USB hard drive let me use Time Machine for the first time and I let that run for about three hours. Once it ran, I kicked off the installer and went to bed. (Yes, tempting fate.)
In the morning, I came down to the login screen. After login, about five copies of Software Update popped up, prompting me to install Rosetta so that “HP IO Classic Proxy 2” could run. I cancelled all of them, and went to HP’s site, where I found a suggestion that I didn’t need that driver, or any of HP’s software. Seems that the printer drivers are included in Snow Leopard, and scan support has been added to the built in Apple Image Capture application. Um, yay. Scan support from pressing the printer button is gone, but I never used that.
I couldn’t get my Cisco VPN working, but I should be able to get a later version of the client from work on Monday. Even better, I’ll be able to try out the built in VPN support once I turn up my connection file (it’s in a directory that’s not indexed by Spotlight, apparently).
Best of all? The update did free up disk space. About 11 gigs. Now that’s what I call a good upgrade.
You can now pre-order Mac OS X 10.6, aka “Snow Leopard,” at the Apple Store for delivery on Friday. I forgot what it feels like to be excited and waiting for a Mac OS X release, even what is admittedly a point release with a handful of features. Some of those features are pretty cool, though, like Exchange support.
I’ve decided to get ready for the new Exchange features by doing something I should have done a while ago: I created a new dedicated “work user” on my laptop for those times I need to get into the office from home, and locked down the account–deprivileged it, used File Vault for the home directory, the whole nine yards. When Snow Leopard comes out, I’ll hook that user’s Mail and Calendar into the office Exchange server over the VPN. Nicer experience than Outlook Web Access and still secure.
I think, though, that most of all I’m looking forward to getting up to 7 GB back on my hard disk.
This one was counter-intuitive, but it worked. I’ve been suffering through static and interference ever since my Monster iPod FM adapter burned out and I replaced it with a different model. My Passat has the rear-roof-mounted antenna, and it’s apparently too far away from the FM adapter that I use for my iPod. It’s great at pulling in distant radio stations, which tend to swamp the empty channels that I’d normally listen to the iPod on.
So I removed it.
Yep, just unscrewed the antenna and now the reception for the iPod is crystal clear. Smart but totally counter-intuitive.
Credit goes to this anonymous poster on MacOSXHints. I read this a while ago and just today had the nerve to try it. No more static for me!