30 December 2006

Why so quiet about the iTV?

One of the most interesting things that I know is comming from Apple is the iTV. Sure, I have a modified XBox and all that, but the iTV does the same thing as the iPod once did. It makes something easier. At least that is what I have to assume. If someone would have made dedicated hardware for XBox Media Center and a good remote to boot and sold it, it would outshine a lot of the HTPC's out there. Complicated beasts that can do a million things. My guess is that the iTV will be simple. Just a little bigger iPod, and it will let me watch or listen to anything I buy from the iTunes store, in my living room, easily. That is more exciting for me than any kind of mobile / cellular phone. There are already excellent mobiles out there. For instance the Sony Ericsson K610i (which I haven't made a single thing for, so nobody can blame me for being biased there:)).

What is more important though, is the connection between the iTV and the iTunes store. With XBMC or any HTPC you can play all sorts of video formats. Probably a whole lot more video formats than with the iTV. You also have a chance to extend them quite a bit. Directly looking at youtube for instance. This the iTV won't do. Well, maybe youtube, but then it will do so from the box. And I am totally sure someone will make Linux or NetBSD run on the iTV. But the important thing remains. iTV is directly linked to Apple's online iTunes store. Click, and you legally will download music, TV series, and Movies. That does more to fight piracy than everything the assholes from MPAA and RIAA have ever done. Bullshit should make a show about them...

But is everything rosy? Surely can't I be this positive about anything? Well, no, I can't. I have a few "itches" that needs scratching with the iTV. First up, quality. 480p isn't really that great for an HDTV. 720p would be acceptable, but the option of getting 1080p surely must be a lot better. $1.99 for 480p, $2.49 for 720p, and $2.99 for 1080p would work, but $0.99 for 480p and $1.99 for 720/1080p would be far far better. So the iTV must be able to play these resolutions without pause, and it has to be able to output them to a TV without grief. This means HDMI 1.3 thank you. HDMI 1.3 really is the answer to so many many problems. Digital baby, digital!

Which brings me to my next BIG grief. Sound. I really don't like any kind of matrix format, so stereo out from the iTV into a receiver for Dolby Pro Logic (II) is not good, not good at all. And listening to Mr. Jobs surely makes me believe that this is the awful truth of the matter. I'm sure it will feature some kind of digital sound out, but why would I want PCM stereo, DD, or even DTS (which really is so much nicer than the others)? I want HDMI 1.3 (can anyone see a trend?) as that means that I can get any surround sound codec to decode on the iTV and send the sound over to a receiver to play in glorious digital surround. Simple, elegant, nifty. Problem free.

With my two major griefs fixed, I could enjoy 1080p (if I owned an iTV and a 1080p projector or TV that is) trailers, TV series, and movies at my own home. And downloading a movie from iTunes (please, please lower the prices! I will never buy from you if the movie can be bought for the same price on DVD/HD-DVD/Blue-ray.) as well as getting 1080p TV series will put me ahead of the general HDTV race here in Sweden. Heck Apple, you have the chance to change how people get their media here. Not just a little downloading of music, but really being the number one way to obtain video material. The HDTV programming you can get through satellite here is close to nothing, and there are far far more people with a fast enough internet connection than people owning a dish.

Which brings me to one more grief. Tear down the borders, please! Why can't I in Sweden, with my own money, buy from the US store? And if you don't want that, why can't I buy TV-series and movies at the Swedish iTunes store? The alternative is spellt XVid, not Kanal 5. Well, I do watch Kanal 5 for my Grey's Anatomy fix, but there are shows not on TV, and it is easy to miss one episode and totally screw things up. And I don't have any recording capabilities in my crappy Canal Digital box, and I surely don't want a separate recorder (if you don't understand why, you are reading the wrong blog:)). Solution? iTV + HDTV + HDMI 1.3 + let_me_buy_it. That's it, after that I can get rid of the stupid ways of getting programming. And with all the money I could save on not having to pay my TV license, I can buy a WHOLE lot of iTunes material. Stuff I will watch! Heck, maybe SVT should start selling stuff on iTunes. Wouldn't that be a funny twist? :)

20 August 2006

Apple natural keyboard

There is one thing that bothers me with the idea of "upgrading" to a Mac instead of the PCs I've used since Commodore went down the drain. It's the keyboard. I've been using the natural keyboard series from Microsoft for a long time now, and it works really great for my hands. I start feeling pain in my wrists very quickly when using traditional keyboards (for example when I hijack the keyboard of anyone who asks me questions at work:)). I can't explain exactly why, either they are actually better [tm] or it's just that my body has gotten used to these types of keyboards. One way or another, if I can avoid pain in my wrists I will go with a natural keyboard in the future as well.

Here is where the problems start. A PC keyboard doesn't go that well together with a Mac in several different ways. First of all it doesn't have that Apple look. Not the new white one, nor the old "yum" colors. So aesthetically it's a no go. I did try the natural keyboard (this very one that I am typing on now) with Lerin's iBook and I found out that the windows keys (never tried that weird "menu" key I never found a real use for...) doesn't match the special Mac "rune" keys. The layout is entirely wrong. I got the short cuts wrong all the time. How much fun is that, I ask of ye, my fellow nerds?

So we are down to three problems, "naturalness", look, and feel. Which brings me to the point of my little microthesis. Apple should release a Pro keyboard. Let them call it the Apple Mighty Keyboard, or the Apple Keyboard Pro, just please consider making this hardware. Your industrial design department should be able to draft such a keyboard in a mere coffee break, and as an encore you could do the mighty mouse pro (more ergonomic!).

Not only would this keyboard make me happy, it should work as another piece of the halo effect puzzle. Surely a keyboard won't a Mac buyer make, but it could help tip the scales. Seeing that sleek beautiful (and wrist sparing) keyboard next to a generic PC (or worst yet, a DELL!) might just make people think again, if they can make this beautiful keyboard, shouldn't the computers also be the same? And, whoa, what if their software would be the same? Mr. Jobs, you can thank me buy sending me a Mac Pro, because this advice is for free.

17 August 2006

Mac envy

I don't own a Mac. I never cared for them until I got the chance to use OS X, which has changed my mind. Recently I started to look into Cocoa and Objective C as well, and now I am coveting the mighty Mac Pro. The problem with this scenario is that a Mac Pro is quite expensive, so I started to look into getting a hold of a PowerMac G4. Something with 800+Mhz should be enough to be useful, and with a new 3.5" disk it surely should be fast enough to run OS X and XCode.

But alas, the prices for such an old machine is astronomical in Sweden. People do for some reason believe that they can charge 4-5 times the price here than what it costs to get a used one on ebay (England, the US, Austria, Germany, I looked all over the place, all much cheaper than here). I for example found a great machine in England. Dual 1.42Ghz G4s, 1.25 GB of memory, and for around 120 sterling pounds. Smack in a reasonable 7200 rpm modern disk and I would be in business.

I could buy it, but then I would have to have it shipped to a friend in London, and well, it would cost me both an arm AND a leg to have it shipped over here, which really is a drag. Something tells me that I will have to get a gig on the side to make some money to be able to buy a real proper Mac Pro, but before that happens I guess they have already released a new Mac:)

Which brings me to another thing, webcams for the Mac. How come the only webcam that says "Made for OSX" on is the iSight? It is horribly expensive for a webcam, we really don't need that kind of quality. And again, where does people get off thinking that you can charge that kind of money for used things...

But where does that leave me with me wanting to code for OS X? Well, luckily for me my wonderful little girlfriend/fiancé/sambo/cutie of a laundry fairy does own an iBook. So the next best thing after that nice dual G4 would be to get an external firewire/USB disk and install OS X on that one plus XCode and all that glory. Then I could finally be in business and be able to finally code some Cocoa. See what all the fuzz is about:) And I could post some more interesting posts about my struggles with Objective C instead of whining about not being able to get a Mac myself:)

(Anyone who would want to donate a decent G4 Mac to me, email me:))

13 August 2006

First post :)

This is the first post to my brand new blog. Isn't it exciting? Well, not really. But hopefully it will turn into something exciting and interesting. Inspiring posts about development, insightful posts about programming, interesting posts about ideas, and flaming hot posts about things in the computer world I care for very little, which hence will upset people:) Now, stay tuned, for the next post...