Archive for the ‘Apple’ Category

How to distribute the golden ticket

April 25th, 2012 1 comment

The system worked…kind of

WWDC sold out in 2 hours, which was completely expected and shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. You almost certainly got a ticket if you met both of these conditions:

  • Got pre-approval from your boss (or your spouse) to buy tickets when they went on sale. This might be a problem at some companies, but if you knew WWDC was coming and got your manager to sign off on it in advance then you were set.
  • Set up an alerting system to notify you when tickets went on sale. If you relied on Apple’s email, you were out of luck. Mine arrived 4 hours after WWDC sold out. If you were awake and watching Twitter, you were likely fine as well. What about all the sleeping beauties on the West Coast? If WWDC was important to you, you could have signed up for a (free) monitoring solution like Pingdom, which worked great. And yeah, for the past couple weeks, left your ringer on when you go to sleep.
  • If you didn’t meet these two conditions, you probably didn’t get a ticket. Apple only sells 5000 or so, and they are non-transferrable, which kills scalping. You have scarcity in a non-market environment. The result is a lot of disappointed people.

    There are a lot of potential solutions floating around, but they all have problems.

    First of all, one non-solution. WWDC can’t be made bigger or split into multiple conferences. WWDC is put on by working Apple engineers, and these folks’ day jobs are writing actual code for Apple, not putting on multiple conferences each year. As for enlarging the conference, you would lose the direct interaction which is an essential part of the event, and on a practical level, there’s no much larger it could get and remain in San Francisco, even if it took over all of Moscone.

    So let’s assume it will be one conference with 5000 or so attendees. The three most popular ideas for improving the ticketing process all have problems:

  • Let the free market work – in other words, no restrictions on resale. How did this work last time you saw your favorite popular band? I doubt Apple would enjoy seeing massive scalping, or the purchasing of tickets by non-developer speculators for resale. The only plus of a market solution would be that if you really wanted a ticket and money was no object, you’d get one.
  • A lottery – This is both the fairest and most unfair system. Fair because everyone has a shot, and unfair because luck is a cruel mistress and a lottery doesn’t take into account how much a particular developer or company really needs to attend. The element of randomness with a lottery doesn’t lend itself to business planning.
  • An application process – You have to apply to attend and Apple decides who is worthy of coming, based on criteria such as your company, what apps you’ve developed, whether you’ve attended in the past, and so on. This might be more fair for established developers, but we all know how awesome Apple’s App Store curation has been. An opaque system for admitting developers to WWDC would be like applying to some elite college. Even if the acceptance criteria was made public, this system would be unfair to new developers or up-and-comers.
  • So what might an semi-realistic alternative distribution system for WWDC tickets look like?

    There probably isn’t a good one…just keeping things as they have been is probably the way things will muddle through. But, perhaps if we combine aspects of the three alternatives somewhat of a better process could be developed.

    I am thinking of something that combines the lottery and application process.
    Developers would apply in advance for the chance to buy tickets (one application per developer). An application would require membership in one of the paid developer programs, and would cost additional money to apply (which would go towards the ticket cost if you got in and refunded if you didn’t). As part of the process, Apple would see what company you were from and what apps you’ve developed, but this is not a merit-based” application.

    For 4000 or so of the 5000 tickets, Apple would distribute tickets randomly among all applicants. If you “won” you would have a chance to buy a ticket, good for a certain period. You could not resell or transfer a winning ticket; if you can’t go, then you would decline and the ticket would go back into the pool.

    The remaining 1000 or so tickets would be for Apple to use for a “second chance” distribution. These would be for hardship cases – I am thinking of situations where say a large company has 10 applications and doesn’t win a single ticket, they could appeal and perhaps be granted a second chance ticket so at least one of their developers could attend. These second chance tickets would also be available for developers based on merit; you appeal to Apple, “show your work” so to speak and can possibly get a ticket. This wouldn’t be perfect but would give deserving devs who are unlucky a chance to get in. To discourage people skipping the first round, these second chance tickets would be somewhat more expensive.

    Finally, a couple rule adjustments to allow to ticket exchanges would help. Apple should consider allowing unlimited transfer of tickets amongst members of the same company, so multiple folks could attend the conference. Of course, only one person could actually have the badge (and be admitted) at any one time. Finally Apple should allow anyone who can’t attend to return their ticket to Apple for a full refund. Apple could then redistribute the ticket into the general pool. As before, outside transfers for pay (i.e. scalping) wouldn’t be allowed.

    This is not a perfect solution – for one, it is more complicated, adds an arbitrary element to the process (well, more then there already is), and would require a bit of work by Apple, but maybe it is a starting point if changes are to happen. If nothing else, maybe food for thought or conversation. See you at WWDC!

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    WWDC Wayback Machine: 1999

    June 14th, 2011 8 comments

    The WWDC 1999 Schedule. Click to embiggen

    Ah 1999. President Clinton, fresh from his brave conquest of Monica Lewinsky and the Serbian Air Force proudly led a nation in the grip of economic boom and millennial fever. Grateful citizens dialed in to their ISP and fired up their Netscape browsers to search Lycos for the latest and greatest. No iPod. No OS X. No iPhone. No iOS. No Youtube. No Twitter. No Facebook. No Hulu. Honestly, what in the hell did we do? I think we USENETed our Prodigy or something, but I can’t remember because I haven’t taken my pills today.

    Apple was just coming out of their mid-decade tailspin, and new Interim CEO Steve Jobs was presiding over a company on the rebound. The iMac was fresh, colorful and awesome, and the stock was rocketing into the 20s. And yes, there was WWDC so developers could learn about new technologies. MacOS 8.5 was coming, and MacOS X was the future. WWDC itself was held in the San Jose convention center. It was smaller, less then a fifth the size of today.

    Home from the recently concluded 2011 version of WWDC, I found one of the original 1999 WWDC schedules in my office, and used the poor man’s scanner (i.e. the iPhone camera) to reproduce it for your pleasure. It is a fascinating trip down memory lane of both old technologies, and how WWDC used to be structured. The Stevenote still kicked things off, but Steve shared the bill with Avie Tevanian. The evenings has a lot more ‘official’ activity then today, with events like Apple Masters, Movie Night, and a conference party that was separate from the Beer Bash. The technologies? Some you’ve probably heard of (Java, Carbon, Cocoa), and some have faded down the memory hole (Game Sprockets, anyone?). WebObjects was in big, with numerous sessions, and there is a big focus on Java as well. There’s also numerous IO hardware-specific session on topics like USB and Firewire. There were also tons of Feedback Forums for the various technologies and teams at Apple.

    Anyway, click the photo above to see the full-size version, and party like it’s 1999.

    Categories: Apple Tags:

    Nano way!

    September 23rd, 2010 1 comment

    iPod Nano

    When Apple announced its exciting new iPod Nano 6th generation, with its tiny form factor, slick touch screen, and cool “iOS-looking” interface, I got my credit card out as fast as I could – in order to purchase a 5th generation Nano before they went out of stock! Without a doubt, the new Nano is quite slick, but in terms of actual usefulness and usability, it represents a decline from the previous model and a very un-Apple-like triumph of design over actual functionality.

    Ironically, Apple itself acknowledged that it made a similar mistake with the previous generation iPod Shuffle. You remember, the model that eliminated any buttons on the unit, creating a beautiful little objet d’art that was utterly unusable as an actual music player under many use cases, such as with third-party headphones or in noisy environments. Apple recognized this and re-introduced physical buttons on the newest Shuffle, while retaining the slick voice command system for those who like it. It wouldn’t surprise me if likewise the next Nano brings back some of the functionality Apple stripped away.

    Many of the Nano reviews that have mentioned the taken-away features have focused on “bulletpoint” options, like the missing camera, voice recorder, games, and video player. While these features might be important to some people, they are not the primary reason most people buy a Nano – listening to (and controlling) music, especially in certain environments.

    Nanos are especially popular as relatively cheap, but very functional music players that can be used in environments where you might not want to bring your expensive (and larger) Touch or iPhone, such as gyms, boats, or jogging trails. Furthermore, the older iPod Nano’s physical buttons allowed for control of the device without having to view the screen. You could have the iPod in your pocket or in an armband and pause the music or change songs by (physical) touch alone, without looking at the iPod.

    The new touch-screen Nanos are impossible to control by, well, touch alone, without looking at the screen. You have to pull the device out and look at it in order to change settings, or leave it clipped to your clothes. While some creative straps and bands (such as the one that turns the Nano into a wristwatch) may help with this, the fact remains – it takes more effort to control the touch Nano then the older click wheel variety.

    Obviously, the touch interface is more flexible then the click wheel, and Apple has already at least provided physical buttons for volume control. Perhaps the next version will add physical buttons for play/pause and next/previous while keeping the touch screen as the major way of interfacing with the device. Like Apple’s compromise with the new Shuffle, a change like this for the Nano would really represent the best of both worlds and make the device even better.

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    It just (almost) works

    August 30th, 2010 1 comment

    I just picked up a new 27-inch iMac.
    I went with the Built-To-Order option of the i7 processor and the Radeon HD 5750 GPU. This is a definite upgrade over my older (although still very capable) 24″ Core 2 Duo.

    My upgrade process was about as flawless as possible. I used Super Duper to back up my old iMac’s entire hard drive to an external drive, then cloned that backup directly back onto the new machine. It was literally a brain transplant. All of my applications, settings, preferences, files…everything was just as it was on the old machine, except, you know, faster.

    However, it was only 99% flawless, there were a few things that tripped me up, or could have tripped me up if I hadn’t been careful, and I want to share them here for any readers who might be interested in doing the Super Duper mac brain transplant route.

    1. Don’t forget to de-authorize your old machine with the iTunes store prior to shutting it down. Since you need to authorize the new computer to play your iTunes content, you’ll need to remember to do this, otherwise the old machine will continue to use up one of your 5 authorizations even if it it never gets used again (or the disk is erased). This is because iTunes authorizations are based on the physical CPU, not the OS.

    2. While almost all application settings get carried over automatically as part of the clone, a few apps store their settings in non-conventional ways and will detect that you are on a new CPU. Little Snitch, a network monitoring app, lost its registration in the move and I had to re-enter my serial number on the new CPU.

    3. If you use any VM software, when you load your virtual machines, they will likely detect the new hardware and go through a Windows driver dance. My Windows 7 and XP VMs handled this without a problem, but Windows’ over-sensitive activation system may bitch at you and make you go through the whole “Genuine Windows” registration crap if it detects that too much of your system specs have changed.

    4. If you are going to use Boot Camp, be sure to create your boot camp partition first, right after booting the new machine, and before you restore from your clone. Otherwise, you may have trouble creating the boot camp partition at a later time. When I forgot this step, Boot Camp complained that it couldn’t create a partition because certain files could not be moved (in spite of the fact I was trying to create a 100 GB partition from a disk with 500 GB free space). I ended up having to reformat the drive, install a rump OS just long enough to run Boot Camp Assistant, and then re-write my cloned drive – a waste of 6 hours.

    5. Some routers get very confused when a second machine with a different MAC address but the same IP and name gets connected to the network. This may cause things like port forwarding to fail. My 2-Wire U-Verse router got completely confused and I had to delete its list of “known devices” and recreate the port mapping from scratch. There’s no way around this, just make sure to test your inbound connectivity after you set up your new Mac.

    So, that’s it. Other then that, so far, everything has worked. Moving into a new Mac this way is far superior an experience to the normal method of either running the Migration Assistant, or manually upgrading. However, keep in mind that this method is a true brain transplant – it brings along all the cruft and crap that is part of the old system too. If your old Mac is not shipshape, its sins will be visited upon the new one!

    Categories: Apple, Computers Tags:

    Getting to the root of the matter

    August 1st, 2010 2 comments
    iPhone 4 root

    SSHed into my iPhone 4

    Yes, the long-awaited iPhone 4 jailbreak is released. Even better, it is now definitely legal (although Apple will not provide warranty service to jailbroken phones…you gotta restore a stock OS before bringing it in for service)

    It is both the best and worst jailbreak I’ve ever used.

    It is the best because by far it was ridiculously easy to use. You visit a web site in Safari on the iPhone, and the jailbreak is done right there, in userland, no reboot required, no restore, no patched IPSW, just a minute of churning, and you are jailbroken with Cydia and ready to go. It’s an amazing piece of programming – an elegant exploit that I would be shocked if Apple doesn’t close in a hurry with iPhone OS 4.1 (which might make this a short-lived jailbreak).

    It’s also rather buggy. The jailbreak killed Facetime (which I could care less about) and MMS messaging (which I really don’t care about either), so if you rely on these features, I would definitely hold off on the jailbreak.

    Furthermore, a lot of the major jailbroken apps (like SBSettings) aren’t fully compatible with iOS 4 or the iPhone 4 hardware. Cydia crashes if you try “fast app switching” to it. Still, most things mostly work, and I was able to at least my all-important custom Legend of Zelda SMS tones and BiteSMS for instant SMS’ing from the lock screen installed.

    I am also really looking forward to trying Notified which promised to bring the (much better then iPhone) Android-style notification system to the iOS.

    And hey, it’s nice to have root on my phone.

    Categories: Apple, Computers Tags:

    Quick first impressions of the Magic Trackpad

    July 31st, 2010 Comments off

    I just picked up one of the new Apple trackpads.
    (by the way, that is not my hand. Do I look like a hand model to you?)

    Anyway, here are some super fast first impressions:

    The device ships with 2 Energizer batteries already installed.

    No software comes with it; there is a little sticker telling you to go to the Apple web site to download the drivers

    Even though I downloaded and installed the drivers in advance, when I powered on the trackpad, it didn’t automatically get discovered; I had to manually add it as a bluetooth device.

    Once added, the trackpad works exactly like you expect; same as on a Macbook.

    The surface area is very big, which is nice to use with a larger desktop display as you don’t have to worry about your finger sliding off the edge.

    The angle of the device is much higher then the default Apple wired keyboard. This isn’t that big a deal but it looks kind of funny.

    The four-finger swipes don’t seem to be well detected, and even when they are detected right, you can’t just keep swiping to switch apps; one swipe brings up the tab switcher, and then you gotta do things manually.

    Most other gestures work pretty well, but a lot of apps don’t support the fancy gestures. I wish there was a way to send a key event with a gesture or define custom gesture. Guess we need to wait for the inevitable third-party drivers.

    Safari scrolling works fine, but the momentum thing isn’t really noticeable.

    In iPhoto, rotation and pinching work great, but weirdly, pinching doesn’t zoom when you are viewing a single photo, only when you are viewing a library (to make all photos bigger or smaller).

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    Some quick snapshots with the new iPhone 4 camera

    June 24th, 2010 Comments off

    So I got my new iPhone 4 yesterday and took a few very quick snapshots outdoors when I was walking Tova. Still haven’t tried the flash or anything fancy, but wanted to throw these up here, at full size, so you can get a look at the camera’s quality.

    License plate
    Amazing detail here. If you view the photo at full size, you can see the reflection of my wedding ring in the Toyota logo!

    A nice close-up of a pretty yellow flower.

    Peace pole
    A generic outdoor scenery shot

    Tova sniffing (HD movie)
    Short movie of our dog sniffing around. Shaky as hell – it is hard to hold an iPhone still and I hope the iMovie for the iPhone has the shake-remover feature of it’s desktop big brother, otherwise post-processing in iMovie will almost be required.

    iPhone screenshot
    A screenshot of my iPhone’s screen, to get an idea of the pixel density.

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    Au revoir, mon jailbreak

    June 21st, 2010 1 comment

    iOS 4.0 will be released tomorrow (or today if you are reading this Monday morning). The iPhone 4 itself will arrive on Thursday.

    With my new iPhone, I have to bid a very fond farewell to my jailbroken iPhone. While the iOS 4.0 itself will remain jailbreakble on older iPhones, it is likely that it may be weeks if not months before the new hardware will be jailbroken by the Dev Team.

    I am looking forward to my new iPhone and its awesome screen and great camera, but I will miss a lot of the features that third-party developers have created.

    What is especially sad is that the three things I will miss the most are not esoteric tweaks useful only to hackers; rather they are essential usability enhancements that make using the phone more pleasant. It boggles my mind that after three years Apple’s engineers have not yet implemented basic ideas such as…

    1. Customizable SMS notification tones. The crappy piece-of-junk phone your carrier gives away free probably includes a feature allowing you, the user, to utilize your own custom tones for incoming SMS message notification (or they will at least let you pay to change them). This feature isn’t available on the iPhone at any price. iPhone users are stuck with the same six (crappy) tones that have shipped with the iPhone from day one.

    2. Instant reply functionality for incoming SMS messages. On the iPhone, when you get an incoming text message, you have two options. Either ignore it until later, or choose to reply. If you reply, whatever app you are currently running is unceremoniously quit and you are dumped in the full-fledged text messaging app to write your reply. On a jailbroken iPhone you can choose to permit q “quick reply” pop-up window, allowing you to dash off a text message response without quitting the app you are already running. Hopefully, multitasking on iOS 4 will help here, but even so, is the ability to instantly reply to messages too much to ask?

    3. Quick access to common phone settings. On a jailbroken iPhone, frequently-used toggle settings, like turning wifi, bluetooth, or data on and off is a single fast swipe no matter what you are doing on your phone. On the stock iPhone, even with iOS 4, doing something simple like turning off 3G requires quitting what you are doing, and navigating deep within the Settings app. Ugh.

    Notice that none of these three items requires changing the fundamentals of how the phone works, or opening up the OS or bypassing the app store. In other words, they are all things Apple should add to the basic OS without changing the iPhone business or use models. I hope that these features show up in iOS 5, but in the mean time, I eagerly await the time when a jailbreak for the iPhone 4 is revealed. I have to have my custom SMS tone, after all!

    Categories: Apple Tags:

    Ten Ghosts of WWDC Past

    May 21st, 2010 30 comments

    Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference kicks off in just over two weeks. If you want to get a good idea of what the conference is like, Jeff LaMarche’s guide is a good place to start.

    This will be my 12th WWDC. The first one I went to was in 1999, when the conference was much smaller and took place in San Jose.

    I was feeling kind of nostalgic, and thought it might be fun to come up with a list of ten things that used to be part of WWDC but no longer are. Come along with me on a random trip down memory lane of WWDCs past.

    Beer Bash at the Apple Campus Believe it or not, Apple used to charter what must have been every tour bus in the Bay Area and ship some 3000+ geeks over to Apple HQ for a beer bash and concert in the parklike area in the middle of Apple’s campus. This was a highlight of the week…you got to visit the Apple Company Store, drink beer with 3000 of your best friends, go to various plugfests and other interest areas, and of course, drink beer? Why did Apple put an end to this…it should be obvious…it was a logistical nightmare, and once WWDC moved to SF and the attendance kept growing, it became ridiculous…with several hour waits to board busses and get into the campus. These days, Apple holds the party at Yerba Buena gardens right across the street.

    Movie Night One of the nights of the conference used to be devoted to Movie Night. Apple would project a first run movie on the big screen in the main hall, and provide popcorn and snacks. It was a lot of fun, but in an increasingly packed week, I suspect they decided it just didn’t make as much sense to keep the tradition going. I don’t recall when they stopped, but certainly before the move to SF in 2003.

    Major-league swag giveaways Every year, you would get some type of laptop carrying case (wanna bet this year it will be an iPad case?) However, Apple has really topped themselves in the past, with expensive and desirable giveaways like the brand new iSight cameras back in 2003 and a really nice leather OS X logoed jacket in (I think) 2001.

    Printed conference guides These amazing gizmos were made from processed tree carcasses, and contained a list of sessions and logistical information. Of special note were foldable grids and maps for each day’s sessions the would slide into the back of your badge holder, making quick reference checks super easy. These days, it’s an iPhone app and we’re all better off, but 2000 years from now, will WWDC archeologists be able to run an iPhone app? I think not!

    Conference Expo Apple used to have a mini Macworld Expo-like show floor the first three days of WWDC. Companies with a development or IT focus would actually exhibit at small booths. This was actually a really great way to find out about obscure tools and applications, as well as score swag, and it was a shame when the plug was pulled.

    Jamba Juice All the free Jamba Juice you could drink. Unless I was blind or am going senile, I didn’t see them last year. I’m guessing it is cheaper to provide the pre-packed drinks and snacks.

    Birds of a Feather Birds of a Feather sessions were “out of band” semi informal conference sessions about relatively obscure topics where aficionados of, say, Ruby, GUI scripting, or QA would gather and geek out. Usually held after hours or sometimes during lunch, they were great ways for there ot be coverage of topics for which there wouldn’t be enough interest for a full-on conference session.

    Gaming Area Apple used to bring out a few dozen high-end Macs, give them big monitors and gaming mice as well as a few of the best new Mac games, and let you play. It was like a big, floating all-day LAN party, and if you had 15 minutes free, you could relax by fragging a few noobs in between sessions. The last frag in a WWDC gaming area was at least 3 or 4 years ago.

    Feedback Forums All of the items so far (except maybe the Birds of a Feather) are ancillary to the purpose of WWDC; not so the Feedback Forums. These used to be an opportunity for attendees to give direct feedback to the various teams at Apple. There would be a feedback forum for each area (such as Quicktime, Core OS, Server, IT, etc.) and the session was basically an open mic where you could talk to the engineers in a structured but informal way. Best of all was the Vice Presidents Feedback Forum, where a bunch of Apple’s VPs would answer questions about anything. Can you imagine that now? Apple did away with “Ask the VPs” several years ago, and gradually whittled the other Feedback Forums over the years until they disappeared entirely in 2008. In these iPhone days, I think it is obvious why they will never return!

    Developer Store There used to be a big third-party developer store. Essentially an Apple Store on wheels, where you could buy pretty much any Mac accessory you might suddenly find yourself needing (spare HD, USB cable, etc.). These days, you walk the five blocks to the Apple Store on Market.

    Ah, nostalgia.

    Categories: Apple Tags:

    The spirit of freedom

    May 5th, 2010 Comments off
    SSHing into the jailbroken iPad

    SSHing into the jailbroken iPad using Terminal on the Mac

    I jailbroke our iPad last night. For those unfamiliar with what jailbreaking is, it is the process of opening up Apple’s iPad software to allow modifications to the operating system that Apple itself doesn’t allow – the primary one being multitasking. In other words, on a jailbroken iPad I can listen to music in Pandora while using other apps like Mail or Safari. This is impossible on a stock iPad.

    I used Spirit, a new piece of software that works with iPads and iPhones. It was the easiest jailbreak I have ever done. In the past, when I have jailbroken my iPhone, it was an hour-long process and involved a full software install. With Spirit, it was literally plugging in the iPad, clicking a button, and rebooting the iPad.

    Here’s how to do it, step by step:

    1. Download Spirit here.

    2. Plug your iPad into your Mac

    3. Let iTunes back up your iPad (better safe then sorry!)

    4. Launch Spirit. The Spirit window will show you have an iPad connected.

    5. Click “Jailbreak”

    6. The iPad will reboot and you’ll see a progress dialog on a “spacey” background for about 30 seconds as the jailbreak is applied

    7. The iPad will reboot a second time. That’s it, you are done and can disconnect.

    Cydia, the iPad “jailbreak app store” will be installed. From there you can install useful apps like “Backgrounder”

    For a more detailed “how to” as well as more information on what apps have been made compatible with the iPad jailbreak, check out MacStories.

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