Thursday, September 27, 2007

The One Ill Building

When I first saw the banner unfurled on Sixth Avenue, I figured The One Ill Building was the Beastie Boys' first foray into urban planning....

If not a real estate development, then surely was promoting a new documentary about sick building syndrome, perhaps narrated by Al Gore.
(via Daring Fireball)

Time for some retro intercapping?


Waiting For Google's gPhone: What Will The Perfect Mobile Device Look Like?

Until it was released in late June, Apple's iPhone was envisioned as the perfect mobile phone, a sleek, elegant device designed to deliver usability, performance, and versatility at the same time.

It came close, but it wasn't perfect....

In the absence of perfection, the technology community awaits the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) phone, or gPhone. Though unlikely to be as aesthetically pleasing as Apple's first foray into phone design, the gPhone is expected to be more widely available and more affordable than the iPhone.

It will probably be built using some version of the open-source Linux operating system, a J2ME middleware layer, and a Flash/Ajax presentation layer or something similar based on the vector graphic technology developed by Skia, which Google acquired....

But putting aside reality for a moment, let's imagine the perfect phone.
Yes, indeed. Let's....


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Amazon Launches ‘Public Beta’ of DRM-Free Music Download Store

Man, Gruber is all over the new Amazon store. He makes some good observations, though, so here's a guide to Gruber's coverage:

Amazon Launches ‘Public Beta’ of DRM-Free Music Download Store

Very cool: Amazon has launched a “public beta” of Amazon MP3, a DRM-free music download store. Compares well against iTunes: singles cost $.89 or $.99, albums cost $5.99 to $9.99, and, because the format is DRM-free MP3 (encoded at a respectable 256 kbps), the files are compatible with all digital music players, as well as all operating systems.

The Amazon MP3 Store and Amazon MP3 Downloader
The new Amazon MP3 Store looks like no previous iTunes Store rival. The music is completely DRM-free, encoded at a very respectable 256 kbps, includes a ton of songs from major record labels, and offers terrific software support for Mac OS X.

Paul Thurrott, Unimpressed by Amazon MP3 Store
I think offering the largest library of DRM-free downloadable music is quite exceptional. I predict a year from now, Amazon’s store will be a solid #2 to iTunes — and that Wal-Mart’s, assuming it’s still peddling DRM-ware, will remain in nowheresville. Any store selling music that won’t play on iPods is doomed.

More on the Amazon MP3 Store
So why Amazon is even bothering with a music download store, given that “everyone knows” the iTunes Store is a loss-leader that Apple offers just to sell more iPods? Because that’s bullshit. Apple is making good money from the iTunes Store.

People are talking about this all over the place. Why all the curiosity and analysis? It's not just because Amazon is a player, as other big players have tried and failed. I think people sense that Amazon might be on to something and that maybe this store has a chance to take on iTunes. Certainly, there's wide agreement that Apple could use some healthy competition in this space and that the music labels need to see that DRM-free distribution is a viable and preferable model that benefits everyone.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

EchoStar says to buy Sling Media

EchoStar Communications Corp, parent of the Dish Network Satellite Television service, said on Monday that it will buy Sling Media Inc, a privately held company known for its Slingbox device that relays home television programs to laptops and cell phones.
Not sure what this means for the innovative and highly useful Slingbox, but I sure hope it means accelerated product development and not just integration into the Dish Network set-top box. And I certainly hope it doesn't mean the end of the standalone boxes in favor on Dish integration only.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Justine Ezarik has lost her mind.

OMG. If you recognize the parody, you will find this unbelievably funny and yet disturbing. If not, then just disturbing. (via Fake Steve)


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Connect More Easily to Wi-Fi Hotspots with the iPhone

Devicescape has released a simple application for the iPhone that lets you connect to Wi-Fi hotspots without all the fuss of tapping in user names and passwords, clicking Accept buttons, or remembering WEP and WPA encryption keys.
(via Daring Fireball)


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Microsoft Reveals Windows Vista SP1 Will Install XP

"We're focused on giving the customer what they want, and want they want is to just go back to XP," said Microsoft.
Hahahah. Dunno which is funnier, that MS would release XP as SP1 for Vista or the notion that MS gives two shits about giving the customer what they want.


Live from the Apple announcement, London

Quite a few sites have reported on the UK iPhone announcement today. And no one that I've seen so far, not even the rumor sites, has remarked on this tidbit regarding His Steveness' answer to a question about why they haven't launched a 3G version of the handset.

It's pretty simple, says Jobs. "The chipsets work well apart from power. They're real power hogs. Most phones now have battery lives of 2-3 hours and that's due to these very power-hungry 3G chipsets. Our phone has 8 hours of talktime life. That's really important when you start to use the internet and want to use the phone to listen to music. We've got to see the battery lives for 3G get back up into the 5+ hour range. Hopefully we'll see that late next year. Rather than cut the battery life, we've included Wi-Fi and sandwiched 3G between Edge and a more efficient Wi-Fi."
The key part being, "Hopefully we'll see that late next year." Sounds to me like Steve is pretty much saying that we'll see a 3G iPhone by late next year. Given his aversion to revealing Apple timelines, or even plans, I'd say that's a pretty significant comment. I suspect he really intends to release earlier than that, so as to maintain some surprise.

The question is, how much earlier? Dunno, but I'd say this means there's not any chance it will happen in 2007, and very slim that it will happen in early 2008 (like Macworld in January). So, if you're thinking about buying now or waiting for 3G, I'd say you're safe in assuming the wait for 3G is going to be on the long side. (via Fake Steve)

UPDATED: AppleInsider did mention it with regard to a report indicating a Q1 release for the 3G model. So there's your window of possibility. Steve is a sly one.


iToner Still Works

So yesterday’s iTunes 7.4.2 update breaks all the known workarounds for freely adding custom iPhone ringtones via file-extension renaming and AAC metadata hacking. But Ambrosia’s $15 iToner still works like a charm. (iToner doesn’t go through iTunes, it communicates directly with your iPhone, so I think only an iPhone software update could affect iToner, not an iTunes update.)
Sure glad we have Gruber to stay on top of this for us.


Facebook Considered Harmless

Zeldman offers a nice consideration of the appeal and usefulness of Facebook by way of explaining why he joined and is now apparently addicted like the rest of us, but let's just skip to the end, shall we?

The real reason, of course, for all this stuff, is that it provides a way to blow off work you should be doing, while creating the illusion that you are achieving something. At least in most offices, you can’t masturbate at your desk. But you can Tweet.
(via Daring Fireball)


Friday, September 14, 2007

The Ringtones Racket

The whole ringtones racket is predicated on the notion that ringtones are something different than songs. This notion is bullshit. You don’t turn songs into ringtones; you treat them as ringtones. They’re not even a different file format. It’s just a different context for playing the same song on the same device.
Gruber sounds off on ringtones. Or, perhaps, goes off on ringtones. For the most part, I agree with his stance. Apple's offering is weak (and strong) for all the reasons cited, but I think much more blame should be heaped on the music labels to whom Apple is beholdened and less on Apple for not taking them on more aggressively over this issue.

Further, I think Gruber underestimates the complexity of negotiating music rights -- there might be only 500,000 ringtones in the initial offering, not because the labels said no, but because there are so many parties involved who have to sign off on any changes in rights. You can't just "turn on" ringtones for each major label -- all the little guys downstream have to agree also.

Of course, Gruber's central tenet that additional rights aren't necessary removes those hurdles altogether. Unfortunately, the precedent is otherwise and we must suffer the consequences until someone breaks the model. I don't think Apple would mind that at all.

UPDATE: Fake Steve Jobs weighs in: I hate to say it, but Gruber is right about ringtones


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fair Use Worth More to Economy Than Copyright, CCIA Says

"Much of the unprecedented economic growth of the past ten years can actually be credited to the doctrine of fair use, as the Internet itself depends on the ability to use content in a limited and nonlicensed manner," CCIA President and CEO Ed Black said in a statement. "To stay on the edge of innovation and productivity, we must keep fair use as one of the cornerstones for creativity, innovation and, as today's study indicates, an engine for growth for our country."
Here's a powerful new argument for protecting fair use rights -- economic prosperity. It's not just about consumers having flexibility in how they use licensed media (which is important enough in its own right), but also about driving economic growth. This is just the sort of argument (and big dollars) to attract the attention of federal legislators to the issue. Yeah, $4.5 trillion in annual revenue ought to do it.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Apple Eyes the Wireless Auction

Steve Jobs & Co. consider joining the FCC's auction of wireless spectrum, and a win would give Apple many intriguing options—for the iPhone and more.
I don't think it makes any sense at all for Apple to try to manage a broadband network. But that's what partners are for. This is an easy one: Apple + Google (+ maybe one other partner). Or, as one commenter suggested, Apple + Intel on WiMax. Either way, the interesting part to consider is what Apple would do with their own broadband network:
Apple could conceivably move to a "cloud computing" approach, where it would store customers' files, music, movies, e-mails, and other content on servers in its own data centers, and dole it out directly to whatever device a customer is using at any given time.
Tell me that doesn't sound like Google's territory. Consider this scenario: Apple delivers the front end (devices, user interface, client OS, etc.) and Google delivers the back-end (data centers, network management, etc.) and they work together on services (iTunes, Gmail, VOIP, etc.). That's certainly a sandbox where I'd like to play.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Scourge of That Damn Frog Song

Jeff Harrell on Apple’s ringtone strategy. Well-reasoned and hilarious, but Gruber doesn't buy it. Here's a taste, jump for the full plate:

When Apple released the iPhone, lots and lots of people — every single one of them between the ages of twelve and twenty-four — complained to high heaven that the device the company touted as the most amazing advance in telecommunications technology since the bullhorn didn’t support musical ringtones.
(via Daring Fireball)


Free Custom Ringtones in iTunes 7.4

Tip of the week, from “Cleverboy” on the MacRumors forums: just duplicate any (non-DRM-protected) AAC file, change the file extension to “.m4r”, and iTunes 7.4 will treat it as a ringtone.
(via Daring Fireball)

Followed by...
So that “change the file extension to ‘.m4r’ and get free ringtones” trick? Broken in iTunes 7.4.1, which seemingly has no other discernable changes. But — and this is just weird — Joe Maller reports that if you change the file extensions back to “.m4a”, the trick works again.
(via Daring Fireball)

And if you need step-by-step instructions.... (via Daring Fireball)