Dear NBC

October 30, 2007

With the news yesterday that NBC wanted to experiment with raising prices on iTunes, and asked for a cut of Apple’s massive iPod revenue, I thought I would voice my thoughts over at NBC’s newly beta Hulu site. As Corey pointed out to me this morning, NBC’s “slice” of the iPod revenue is the network getting their shows on the portable player in the first place. They are not entitled to profits from the sales of the hardware itself. Despite what Bill and Ballmer have done. Here’s my comment over at Hulu’s blog:

“So $15 Million dollars wasn’t enough for you guys from iTunes last year huh? What was the amount you were making for your shows online before iTunes came along? Oh yeah, right. Zero. Your vision is shortsighted, greedy and anti-customer.

If I can’t view your shows on my iPod or iPhone, can only see the last 5 episodes of something, can’t watch them outside the US, have to watch ads and need flash, then I’d say this grand experiment is a massive failure. Too bad too because I like your content, but I’ll never buy another NBC/U DVD. Ever.”

I meant that last bit. Mindy and I bought the first season of Heroes on DVD because I had missed it first time around. Although it’s tempting to buy season 2 when it eventually comes out, until NBC comes back to iTunes, I won’t be forking over any more money to Zucker and company. If you feel the same way, I suggest you head on over to Hulu and let your thoughts be known. Judging from the comments already posted, we’re not alone.

UPDATE: Upon further reflection, anyone wanna take a guess as to why the final season of NBC/Universal’s ‘Battlestar Galactica’ is being delayed until April instead of its planned January airing? Could it be that NBC/U wants Galactica to be their flagship show when Hulu leaves beta? Could be rabbit. Could be.

When the Red Sox won the championship in 2004, I felt a sense of satisfaction that I had never known before. When Boston came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS I knew that all things were possible. The World Series against the Cardinals was just icing on the cake, it felt good, but the real “win” was beating the Yankees into a small, bloody pulp. Quite simply, it was every Red Sox fan’s dream, and it felt goooood.

Sunday’s night win against the upstart Colorado Rockies was a completely different animal. After Denver went down in game 3, in their very own stadium, I felt the series was over. Of course anything could have happened so I tried not to become too confident. My fears all melted away as Boston completed an impressive sweep in four games and ran away with their second world championship in four years.

I’d just like to say thanks to Manny, Big Papi, Lowell, Pedroia, Varitek, Ellsbury, Beckett, Papelbon, Francona and all the rest who played one of the best seasons of baseball I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. The summer was filled with ups and downs, nail biting and celebration, and in the end you guys pulled it off once again. My parents and I thank you, as your efforts have given us cause to speak more often and share in the joy of your victories. I wish I was home in New England for the party that is going down. So, from this tiny little part of Red Sox Nation, here in North Carolina, congratulations! Now go and sign Mike Lowell, will you please?

For those of you just tuning in, financial “analyst”, Scott Moritz of theStreet.com, has proven once again that he doesn’t know jack when it comes to Apple, how the technology sector works, or even the stock market. Moritz first spread rumors that Wall Street expected Apple to sell upwards of 1 million iPhones in the weekend launch of their new product. This despite the fact that no one but Moritz himself had circulated that figure to the press.

Then, later when Apple dropped the price of the iPhone, he reported that the move was because the iPhone wasn’t selling as fast as “some optimists” (read Moritz himself), had expected. According to Moritz, Apple dropped the price to keep sales brisk and catch up with Wall Street’s sagging expectations. More factless speculation on his part, especially since the iPhone eventually hit 1 mil units in just 74 days.

Now we can say with absolute certainty, that Moritz was full of crap on at least one other report he filed. On October 17th 2007, 9 days before Leopard went public, he reported from theStreet.com that Apple would be shipping an ultra-portable 13-inch laptop as a companion to the operating system launch. Do you remember Apple announcing a new 13-inch MacBook on Leopard’s launch day? No, your memory isn’t fading. You didn’t just happen to miss the news that day. Moritz’s prediction never happened.

Not only did it not happen, there was no reason to ever believe it in the first place. Apple has never announced new hardware in tandem with an operating system release. Never. And why would they? Jobs wouldn’t risk overshadowing an OS launch that has taken years for Apple to develop, test and ship with that of a flashy new sub-notebook or powerful desktop computer. Any “analyst” who tells you differently is blowing smoke up your ass for some reason. As I’ve speculated before, I suspect Moritz is either very bad at his job or is intentionally trying to manipulate Apple’s stock price. Either way theStreet.com needs to grow a spine and get a new Apple expert. All investors of AAPL need to know is anything that comes out of Scott Moritz’s mouth or published in his columns isn’t worth the time it takes to watch or read it.

Disclosure: I own stock in Apple Computer.

Leopard’s Little Things

October 27, 2007

Scads have been written about the big new features in Apple’s new OS offering. Apple has made sure to fill Leopard chock full of compelling reasons to upgrade, from Time Machine and Spaces to improved versions of Mail and Safari. All of these great features help to keep the Mac ahead of our PC using counterparts and give the average user even more reasons to consider a Mac for their next purchase. And while Time Machine, Boot Camp and any number of the over 300 new features make upgrading to Leopard worth it, for my money, it’s the little things that really make me happy. Here’s a list of just some of the things that make using a Mac even better under Leopard.

A Flexible Finder

It’s no wonder that Apple highlights the Finder on the Leopard home page. Users have been waiting for an update to this portion of the operating system for many, many years. The Finder’s often touted, unified appearance, is just the tip of the iceberg however. The sidebar now mirrors the structure of iTunes, which instantly gives non-Mac users a sense of familiarity. This single user interface change may help sell more Macs than any other aspect of Leopard. At first, I thought having the Finder mimic iTunes might be confusing, but after only a few hours, I could see the wisdom of this important design decision.

I suspect it was difficult for execs to sell the unified appearance in marketing meetings, and so Apple gave us Cover Flow in the Finder. This sexy little bit of code looks great, but I’m not sure how often I’ll be using it. Like the “genie effect” of days past, it gets old quickly and ends up being just eye candy. Even though Cover Flow is purely an attempt to lure switchers with “cool” parts of the Mac, if it helps build mindshare, I can deal with it.

For me, the real meat and potatoes of the Finder update are additions that make navigating my data quicker and easier. The Finder’s column view finally has options to sort by more than just name. For the first time, I can move through columns with recently changed items listed at the top. I can’t say how much I appreciate this addition. For those who like to view their Finder windows in List View, there is the new Path Bar. The bar gives navigational bread crumbs similar to the column view, but allows for maximum line widths in the List windows themselves. I may end up using this configuration even more than columns in the weeks ahead as I’m enjoying it immensely.

iChat Love

Without a doubt, iChat is one of my most used applications. Keeping in touch with Craig in Laguna Beach or Dave in Stockholm is critically important at work. Lately however, Apple’s lack of attention to iChat forced me to seek out Adium with its rich feature set like tabbed chatting and invisible buddy status. I’m happy to report that so far, iChat in Leopard has once again reclaimed the top spot for instant messaging on my desktop. iChat 4.0 has tabbed chatting, SMS messaging, invisible status settings, improved audio and video conferencing (something Adium is just now adding) and unlike Adium, file transfers work every time. One downside however is the ability to set invisible status directly from the menu bar pull-down. For some reason it is missing and must be activated by key command or by going to “My Status” in the main iChat menu. Strange.

In addition, iChat 4.0 adds all new emoticons including nerd, confused, sarcastic, crazy, thumb’s up & down and what may be the best little improvement in all of Leopard, a new “Stick your tongue out” smiley. Ever since iChat was introduced, it has always bugged me that the “Yuck” smiley, as it is called, has looked more like a goofy expression than “I’m sticking my tongue out at you!”. Someone at Apple must have thought the same thing, because the emoticon now looks like it should have. An expression of “Take THAT!” instead of “Whatever?”.

Random Acts of Kindness

There are lots of other little things that should help make Leopard a satisfying experience. Leopard’s new Quick Look feature is just great. I had doubts about this since Preview always seemed like an easy way to look at the contents of a file. But after having used Quick Look for just a short while, it runs rings around Preview. It’s “always on”, really is lightening fast and lets you view multiple files just as easily as one. Now if it just played Windows AVI files…

The dictionary in Dashboard now not only offers thesaurus mode, but also an “Apple” mode. Want to look up a term like “firewire” or find out what the heck “Keynote” is? Just set your Dashboard dictionary to Apple mode and search away. I tried looking up Steve Jobs, but alas, there was no entry.

John Gruber already mentioned about a neat little feature that I think is worth highlighting. When you click to rename a file, the Finder now automatically highlights only the name portion and omits the file extension. This is a tiny change, but one that will make life on the Mac just a little bit better. Lastly, on Tiger when I used to plug in my iPhone to charge, iPhoto would always launch just for the heck of it, even if I had auto-syncing turned off. I’m pleased to report that in Leopard this no longer happens. WooT!

Conclusions

So far I’m really enjoying Leopard. It seems a much more solid update than Tiger ever was. Of course, some people, like Talos, are having problems upgrading and may think differently. My upgrade went fairly smoothly, although I did lose all of Tiger’s keychain information. This would have been a major bummer, but I followed John Gruber’s backup instructions before upgrading and was able to re-import my keychain with ease.

There are things missing from Leopard that I had hoped would make it into the build. The most notable among these is the ability to sync Notes from my iPhone directly from Leopard. I’m a firm believer that Apple needs to provide a way to create and edit notes on the desktop for use on the iPhone. Creating a shopping list, for instance, would go much quicker if I could create it in the Finder.

Overall I feel that the move to Leopard will be one of the best upgrades Mac users have had to date. The promise of Core Animation, increased speed from native software applications, and Apple’s effort to bring data backups to the masses all add up to a real winner. Of course there will be bumps and bruises along the way, but in my book, the pros heavily outweigh the cons. Oh yeah, and did I mention 512×512 icons? :-)

UPDATE: Seems as though Talos isn’t alone. Lots of people are reporting problems being stuck on a blue screen prior to login after Leopard installation. If you’ve not upgraded yet, I really would urge you to check out Gruber’s post about how he installs OS updates. Did the trick for me. We’ll see how this develops.

UPDATE II: According to this support thread at Apple, it seems at least part of the problem with the blue screen hangs may be related to Unsanity’s Application Enhancer (APE) haxie. APE is used by Shapeshifter and other 3rd party system enhancers to alter the look, feel and behavior of the OS. While APE doesn’t seem to be the culprit in all cases, it seems prudent to uninstall it prior to upgrading. Hat tip to Louie Mantia.

I Believe

October 25, 2007

… 8 days of rest are bad for professional baseball teams.

… I never want to have to choose between fires, mudslides or earthquakes.

… in Bigoot Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster & the theory of Atlantis.

… Apple is the most valuable computer maker in the world.

Scott Moritz couldn’t “analyze” his way out of a paper bag.

… there is only one OCTOBER!

… Halo 3 is overrated.

… Digg is a double-edged sword.

… Hiro is his own father.

… chemists know their puns.

… people regret re-electing George W. Bush.

… watering golf courses during a historic drought is a mistake.

… “Deal with it!” is my new favorite TV catch phrase.

and

… Kirk > Picard.

I’m taking a cue from Dan Cederholm and putting my vote behind the man who should be the American League Rookie of the Year, Dustin Pedroia. The 2007 Red Sox are heading to the World Series against the Colorado Rockies, and it is in no small part thanks to the efforts of this scrappy little guy. To be totally honest, I’d like to nominate the entire darned team, because right now I’d follow them anywhere.

After loosing three straight games to the Cleveland Indians, I really thought the Sox were done for. My faith had been shaken before and I should have learned my lesson, but thankfully guys with names like Lowell, Ellsbury, Youkilis, Beckett and Drew sent me to detention, stepped up and won the ALCS. After the first three games there was so much talk about Manny and Big Pappi and how they had carried the team, even I was starting to think these two sluggers were on their own. How wrong we all were. J.D. Drew’s grand slam in the first inning of game 6 set the tone for the next 18 innings as time after time hitters other than Ramirez and Ortiz drove in the runs. Tonight’s RBI’s by Pedroia, Youkilis and others have cemented the notion that this year’s Red Sox are not a fluke. They are the real deal, working together as a team, and I can’t wait to see what happens against the Rockies.

As a side note, anyone who says that Twitter is useless or “doesn’t get it” should add some friends who follow the same sports team as they do. I’ve found nothing more enjoyable than reading tweets from fellow Red Sox nation fans during these post-season games. It’s not quite as good as actually being in Fenway, but it does allow for shared celebration, commentary and emotional support like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Thanks go out to all those Sox fans tweeting along at home, you’ve been wonderful. Next stop, a little thing called the World Series. Come on down Denver!

UPDATE: Well, he may be too young to take over as President, but this week (11/13/07) Dustin Pedroia was awarded the American League Rookie of the Year. Congratulations Dustin, you really did make a huge difference this year. We’re all proud of you!

Five Frightening Flicks

October 21, 2007

Since Halloween is my favorite time of year, and Dave Caolo was looking for something spooky to watch, I thought I would carve up my very own top five horror movies. Maybe some of these are on your list of frightening favorites, maybe not. Either way, always remember to look behind you and have a happy Halloween!

• • •

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

What do you get when you combine clever film making, our innate fear of the woods and a brilliant marketing campaign? You get perhaps one of the least appreciated horror flicks of modern times. The Blair Witch Project was made on a shoestring budget and employed improvisational techniques to effectively paint the picture of a student documentary gone horribly wrong. Sadly, the film has been lampooned so many times it’s difficult to take it seriously these days. Never-the-less, it does have moments that will scare the living piss out of you. I especially love the scene when they stumble on the grotto. Who knew arts and crafts could be so scary? The film makers do a great job of turning location into a character in the story. The woods are dark, confusing and claustrophobic and play on our very real fear of getting lost in the forrest. Despite the iconic booger-in-the-nose scene and some weak acting, I still say the ending is one of scariest you’ll ever see on film.

• • •

Alien (1979)

Essentially a futuristic “haunted house” movie, Alien is to some, the quintessential horror flick. From the moment we set down on LV-426, we know there is going to be trouble. The crew of the Nostromo seems more interested in turning a profit than responding to a supposed distress call. The next thing you know, John Hurt has a face-hugger shoving an alien embryo down this throat and the whole mission goes to pot. Director Ridley Scott does a masterful job of showing just bits and pieces of the alien, proving the adage that it’s not what you see, but rather what you don’t see, that’ll scare you silly. We watch the crew get picked off one by one, until only Ellen Ripley and her cat Jones are left. The climatic scene in the Nostromo’s shuttle is hair raising, but the part that creeps me out the most is Dallas’ demise in the air vent. Giger’s nightmarish creature seems to pop out of nowhere, creating one of the best “gotcha!” moments of any horror flick.

• • •

Jaws (1975)

What can you say about a movie that made an entire generation afraid to go swimming? The success of Jaws stems from our instinctual fear of things we can’t see. When we wander into the ocean, we know there are all kinds of creatures swimming down there just below our feet. Some of those beasties are nice, and some are not so nice. Despite the technical hurdles of making Bruce the shark believable, director Steven Spielberg manages to pull the entire premise off with shocking perfection. From floating eyeballs and crushed shark cages to Quint get chopped up into little fish food, Jaws is one heart pounding thrill ride that bites down hard and never lets go.

• • •

Halloween (1978)

Forget Jason Vorhees and Freddy Kruger. Before either one of these wanna-be psychos sidled onto the scene, there was John Carpenter’s Michael Myers. Myers was a honest-to-goodness lunatic who spent 15 years in a mental hospital after killing his older sister. Now he’s escaped and off to conduct a repeat performance on his younger sister, played by Jamie Lee Curtis. Talk about devotion to family! To top it off, Carpenter’s baddie likes to stalk his prey in the scariest costume anyone could imagine, a mask of William Shatner. The small town setting, creepy music and over the top acting by Donald Pleasence all help put this macabre spectacle it in a league of its own. It always amazes me that this little film set the tone for all other slasher flicks to come, and none of them have even come close to replicating the sheer terror that is Halloween.

• • •

The Ring (2003)

I can’t exactly put my finger on what makes The Ring so disturbing. Maybe it’s the subtle mix of macabre elements like the blurred faces in the kids’ photos, or the calculated use of the gray-green color palette that permeates the film. Whatever it is, it works because every time I watch this nightmarish flick I get goose-bumps. The story is woven so cleverly and makes such great use of foreshadowing that when the “gotcha!” moments arrive, they seem even more upsetting than they should. Like Halloween, The Ring spawned a bunch of would-be knock offs including The Grudge, Saw and Hostel. None of them come even close to the terrifying poetry that The Ring represents. Every year at this time, The Ring is right at the top of my list of spooky films to watch. Sometimes before popping in the DVD, I even turn off the phone. Oh come on, like you don’t!

We’re All DOOMED!

October 19, 2007

Forget ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night. Every mac user knows the true meaning of fear. It goes by many names: The Spinning Beachball of Death. The Marble of Doom. The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse. Ok, maybe not that last one. But the OS X spinning wait cursor is well-known and well-dreaded by Mac users around the world.

Now there is a fun way for Mac users to band together, share their frustrations and take solace. Thanks to the marvel of the Internet, MarbleofDoom.com lets Mac users vent their collective annoyance at being held hostage (5 or 10 seconds at a time) by this unwanted glassy harbinger of OS X.

Photoshop hung up for almost a minute? Is Xcode showing you the beachball love? Spin on over to MarbleofDoom.com and select the appropriate application, and the time spent waiting for it to relinquish control of your system. A running total of all the time wasted is displayed for all the world to see. The site also includes a more detailed data page where you can see how much time individual apps have contributed to the total. If misery loves company, then MarbleofDoom.com is a way of organizing one big, online therapy session for frustrated Mac users everywhere.

So don’t just powerlessly shake your fists in rage! Powerlessly shake them, then tell the world how long you were shaking them. All of us over at the Iconfactory hope you’ll spread the word far and wide, and remember, it’s all in good fun. Enjoy!

P.S. – Watch for a follow-up post about how MarbleofDoom.com came to be. It really is a funny story, so stay tuned!

The Rainstorm

October 15, 2007

I had never really known how much something as simple as a phone call could change one’s life. In the early morning hours of September 29th, 2005, I picked up the phone and got news that no one should ever have to hear. My wife and I huddled around the speakerphone to listen to my doctor tell me the results of my biopsy were in. The growth I had felt on my right clavicle, was in fact, a malignant lymphoma. Mindy and I had been bargaining our fears away for a week leading up to the results. We thought it was an abscess, a fatty deposit or Cat Scratch Disease. When the doctor told us that instead I had Hodgkin’s Disease, my world quite literally crumbled all around me.

“Then the rainstorm came, over me and I felt my spirit break. I had lost all of my, belief you see and realized my mistake.”

Tears came as we spoke to the doctor as he recommended I meet my new oncologist as soon as possible. The call to my mother that morning to inform her was one of the worst things I’ve ever done. Her only son had developed cancer, and I could feel the pain in her voice as we spoke. Fighting back sobs, mom, dad and Mindy all comforted me, and I did my best to assure them that I would fight this thing. I would make it through with their help. The more I learned about Hodgkin’s, and the support system I had in place to help me beat the disease, the more my fears turned to hope and resolve.

“But time threw a prayer, to me and all around me became still.”

Everywhere I turned, from the gang at work, to prayers offered up in my name by those in my home town of Laconia, N.H., to the supportive and loving words of Mindy’s family, I knew I wasn’t alone in this fight. Mindy’s mom, Ann, had battled against a far worse form of ovarian cancer and won. My own mother had won her fight against breast cancer, as had my Aunt Lucile. I was turning out to be just the latest member of our family to come up against this disease and damned if I was going to be the one to kick it in. Any lingering fears and doubts vanished after I met my oncologist. From the moment I met Dr. Kahn, I knew I was blessed. She explained to Min and I what Hodgkin’s was, how she was going to treat me, and what I could expect from chemo and radiation. From my PET and CT scans, Kahn was able to diagnose me with stage 2A Hodgkin’s. While serious, it was still a highly treatable form of lymphoma. When she told me that she was going to “cure me” of the cancer, I could hardly believe it. Over the course of the next year, I learned Dr. Kahn was a woman of her word.

“Through the rainstorm came sanctuary and I felt my spirit fly. I had found all of my reality. I realized what it takes.”

Mindy and I drew strength from each other, as husbands and wives often do. She made me laugh, helped me take care of myself and led me to her mom & dad. Through their unwavering support and experience I was prepared for what lay ahead. Everyone at the Iconfactory did their part too. As I worked at home on the re-design of the company’s website, they took on my client projects so I could focus on getting better. As chemo progressed, and I watched the tumors melt from my body, the support from those I loved raised me up to a place I had never known before. Friends, family, neighbors and community had all come together for the benefit of me. It was a humbling and remarkable experience that I will never forget, nor be able to fully repay.

“Oh I, don’t bend, don’t break. Show me how to live and promise me you won’t forsake. ‘Cause love can help me know my name.”

I have been free of cancer now for two years. As I head for my semi-annual PET and CT scans this Thursday, I am proud to be counted as just one of the millions of people who have fought and survived their battle with cancer. I beat Hodgkin’s thanks to the love of my friends and family, the remarkable staff at the Wesley Long Cancer Center and good old fashion faith. Initially, I had never wanted to be defined by my illness. I resisted telling casual acquaintances about it for a long time. I knew that someday I would be able to help others through what had happened to me, but I wasn’t sure if that time was now. Today, I write this to tell you I am a loving husband and son, loyal friend, artist, geek, and now proudly, cancer survivor. Let me help.

UPDATE: I received word from my doctor today that my scan results are still negative. A clean bill of health for another six months. Thanks to all those who wrote or tweeted with words of encouragement. It means a great deal to me.

You really have to hand it to Al Gore. First he wins an Academy Award for his groundbreaking work on An Inconvenient Truth with Davis Guggenheim. Next he stages the largest entertainment event in the history of the planet, and now he wins the Nobel Peace Prize along side the IPCC. All of this was done in the name of raising awareness to the growing problem of man-made climate change, and his efforts seem to be paying off. People everywhere are starting to list climate change as one of the most important problems facing our nation and the world. With record temperatures being set, hurricanes that strengthen in record times and ever shrinking glaciers, the general public is starting to feel global warming’s effects directly.

Of course, this doesn’t stop the climate deniers from insisting that there really isn’t a problem. It seems that even when faced with overwhelming scientific evidence, from thousands of leading scientists across the planet, it’s just not enough. Well, today we learned that one man’s hard work and perseverance, along with the dedicated research of thousands of climate professionals, may just help to save us all. Bravo Al, from all of us who happen to think our pale blue dot matters.

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