Tiger Notes

I made it to the university computer retailer 5 minutes before they closed to pick up a new copy of Mac OSX Tiger. The stayed open until 7pm tonight in order to meet demand for customers who insisted on picking up a copy of the OS on its launch date. So far I’m pretty impressed, but I wouldn’t be if I had to pay the $129 retail price (I was able to nab it for $69 on an education discount). Spotlight is by far the best feature, and will be particularly useful once I start transferring and backing up a lot of files from my notebook to my Mac-Mini.

AppleInsider has some interesting notes on both Tiger and iWork:

Based on an analysis of data and information, we believe Apple in the US has shipped upwards of a quarter million retail copies of Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” to its retail stores and Apple authorized resellers in preparation for tonight’s Tiger launch event.

Sources close to the company said the average Apple retail store is expecting to have 1000 copies of Tiger on hand, while flagship locations, such as the company’s SoHo store in Manhattan, have reportedly been stocked with 5000 copies. Additionally, stores are receiving a hundred or so Tiger drop-in kits for preexisting Apple desktop computers in inventory and a few dozen mini drop-in kits for existing Mac minis.

Dare we say it, but Microsoft will love it — iWork sales have become so sluggish that Apple is literally inventing ways to pull sales of the product out of the doldrums.

After an initial modest response, sales of the software have been described as nothing short of “horrible.” Most retail stores AppleInsider spoke to conceded to only moving a handful of copies each week, if that.

I noticed that Apple included a demo version of iWork alongside my copy of Tiger. I feel more reluctant to install it now, though.

This is a headline from a CNN article today:

iPod blamed for spike in subway crime

Is it me, or is this is like saying all that pesky cash is to blame for that bank heist, or that a mini skirt is responsible for rape?

Perhaps a better story would be that there is a spike in the number of people getting robbed on NYC subways. Or maybe better, there has been a drastic decrease in the quality of news articles on CNN.

A Note on Podcasts

The political structure of the blogosphere isn’t kind. Largely, users who are serious about creating a powerful blog factor for traffic their blog receives over a certain period. High traffic dictates that you are indeed a cool kid on the block. There are literally millions of us who wait for a handout from one the big people: instapundit, boing boing, dailykos, little green footballs, and so on. A link from one of these bloggers can generate wildly high traffic patterns to a blog. These granddaddies of blogging have been around awhile – long before blogging became hip during last year’s presidential race (forgive me for not considering those with vanity blogs or who simply run photo-essay or recipes on their blogs who could care less about traffic).

These people are the big guns because they’ve been around for a while. Several years ago, if you found someone who knew what a blog was and mentioned the word to them, they would likely think of one of these sites. Being the first to explore a medium has its advantages, to say the least.

So now comes podcasting. At last count, ipodder was tracking slightly over 5000 registered podcasts. But, again we have only a select few – usually pioneers who receive god-like status: Adam Curry (The Godfather of Podcasting), Dawn and Drew, Illinoise, Coverville, etc. Their popularity is measured by votes on the mainstream podcast feeders like ipodder and podcast alley. Therefore, while we have thousands of podcasts, we now have a top 10 list of podcasts, who dominate the feeders. As a result, podcasters are begging for votes on their podcasts so hopefully they can appear in the top 50 or top 100 podcast lists. This becomes a problem when you consider that the top rakings may not be based on quality of podcasts, but how persuasive someone is to getting their friends or listeners to vote for them. So now, we’re creeping up on the same patterns that exist with blogging: a few select podcasters who throw handouts to the masses who are begging for links or mentions.

A cure for this would be a more streamlined way of measuring quality of content on a podcast. Subjective, I know, but it might work. Voting for top podcasts is democratic and good, but it’s a slippery slope considering all the ways voting can be manipulated considering the rusty beta technology found in ipodder and podcast alley, etc. How about measuring traffic patterns to popular podcasts? Word of mouth travels faster and more efficiently than mere mentions and links within podcasts and blogs. Either way, the system as it is now is problematic. I would hate to see a select few dominate the podcastophere based simply on timing and manipulation of votes. The early birds will get the podcast worm, either way, but it would help to have a better way to disseminate and measure quality of content, rather than simply relying on faulty means.

Online Music Suppliers Have Room to Grow

Rob Pegaroro, on the two year anniversary of Apple’s iTunes music service, outlines what still needs to be done in the online music business:

• A full selection of artists: No matter what legit store you shop at, you won’t find any albums by the Beatles or Led Zeppelin, among others. Just what are these bands — or their lawyers — waiting for? News flash: The Internet is not going away, any more than the CD was 20 years ago.

• Competition on price: A buck a song (88 cents a song in Wal-Mart’s case) is a fair price, and I’m certainly not in favor of that going any higher. But what if a label or an artist wants to sell a song for less than that? Why can’t an independent record label, with far lower marketing and production costs than a major label, choose to sell its songs for, say, 50 cents each? What about offering cut-rate prices on back-catalogue material to goose its sales? Aside from temporary promotions, such as free-song giveaways, that has yet to happen.

• A way to transfer purchases to other people: Right now, transferring an individual song from the buyer to somebody else — which is completely your right with a CD — is not possible unless you go through the workaround of burning the song to an audio CD, then copying the song back to your computer in some other, unrestricted format. All you can do is transfer an entire collection by giving the lucky recipient your account log-in and password.

• A choice of software and hardware: Apple is the worst offender here: Without the use of unlicensed hacks (or that burn-to-CD-then-re-rip workaround), a song file downloaded off the iTunes store can be played only on hardware or software from Apple. Period. If you want to take that file with you, you’ll need to listen to it on an iPod. If you want to send it wirelessly from computer to stereo, you must use Apple’s AirPort Express WiFi adapter.

McMurtry to Close Shop

If you head north from Dallas toward Wichita Falls, you won’t exactly feel like you’re in an area conducive to expansive collections of literary artifacts. On the three-hour trip, you will see the number of protestant churches and catfish restaurants increase exponentially. You will also see (and smell) lots of livestock and, well – not much of anything else. Nevertheless, if you take the right number of turns at the right moment and press through vast and lonely fields on barren highways, you may be lucky enough to end up in Archer City.

I arrived early on a Saturday afternoon to see famed Texas author Larry McMurtry’s sprawling collection of antiquarian books (photostream). McMurtry graduated from Archer City High School many decades ago, and lives here now part of the year. Archer City is the backdrop for McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show. He also penned Lonesome Dove and Terms of Endearment.

He opened the All Booked Up bookstore here in 1986, fifteen years after opening the original store in Washington, D.C. I’m drawn to this city to see the bookstore before it closes later this year. McMurtry announced he would close the store to pursue additional writing and traveling interests. It remains unclear if the stores will ever be re-opened.

It’s difficult to describe the number of books housed in the four buildings that make up All Booked Up. There are lots. The store, which is actually housed in four seperate buildings scattered throughout the town square, is operated on an honor system—customers can peruse the stores, then visit store #1 to pay for their purchases. Books are somewhat aggressively priced, but I was able to find a copy of John Melville’s Guide to California Wines, published in 1960, for about $5. More collectable books, housed in store #1, can fetch up to $1500.

I was on the lookout for McMutry for most of the day with no luck. I did, however, get to spend some time with his two cats, Sophie and Leo, who spent the day sauntering between the rows of dusty volumes. McMutry does not sell his books at All Booked Up, and signs near the cash register indicate they McMutry will no longer autograph copies of his books, either in person or through the mail.

“Forty years of signing has had a bad effect both on his signature and on his deposition. Read and Enjoy.”

For lunch, I checked out Onion Creek Grill, located between store #4 and store #1 on the town square. It’s hard to go wrong with a double cheeseburger and home-sliced French fries with the skins still on. The iced-tea is served in glasses are robust as the George Strait songs booming over the speakers. Several local men perpetuate stereotypes by wearing camouflage while eating chicken fried steak. I’m saddened by McMurtry’s decision to close the stores, a sentiment no doubt shared by Onion Creek’s owner, who caters largely to hungry tourists and regulars who meander from store to store with armloads of books.

Archer city feels like Texas. Even Hollywood’s version of Texas: lonely, desolate, kind, a little dusty. I left to return to Dallas Love Field to catch my flight, looking at Archer City in my rearview mirror, and wondered when I might be back.

An MP3 Rant

The biggest problem with the file sharing thing is not that I can’t lawfully download music for free, but that there aren’t many options for downloading music lawfully that isn’t limited by sneaky technology that dictates what I do with music once I purchase it. I don’t mind paying for music. In fact, I prefer it. This is good, because copyright laws won’t be changing any time soon, and artists still need to make a living. If I buy a CD, I can pretty much do whatever I want with the content of that CD as long as I’m not distributing it or making money from it. I can copy it onto my computer’s hard drive, I can play it in the car, make backup copies of it, and load it onto my iPod. Strangely, when I purchase a song on iTunes, I’m limited to keeping the song on no more than 5 different machines and my iPod. I can put it on a CD, but I’m limited in terms of where I can store it and what I can do with it.

iTunes is no doubt a near-revolutionary concept. I can purchase just about any song or album I want right now, on demand. No more unnecessary purchasing of entire albums just to have one song. No more annoying CD cases and inserts. Fine. But I would like to see more competition in the music downloading business.

I want to see a company that can offer near unlimited restrictions on the music that they sell, much like when I purchase a CD (which I haven’t done in at least 5 years). I still get the sneaking suspicion that Apple is limiting my use of the music that they sell so I’m bound to iTunes and my iPod. Apple doesn’t like me to manipulate music files. Files on an iPod appear as “hidden” by default, which means a novice user wouldn’t know how to transfer their music from an iPod to their PC in the event their computers hard drive failed. Shouldn’t data transfer involving mp3s go both ways if you’ve already purchased the music? I think so.

More competition in the mp3 business might mean a gradual development of responsible and ethical use of music, instead of these guerilla tactics being conducted by the RIAA et al. Let’s consider selling music that is cross compatible with different players, and allows users to have universal rights with the music they purchased, while still respecting the copyrights of the artists.