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Macworld

Articles related to Macworld. Typically links to articles I’ve written for macworld.com.

iPhone 1.0 forever

Macworld logoAs you’ve read by now, Apple released iPhone update 1.1.1 last week. This update adds some compelling new features, most notably the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store, easily-accessible iPod play controls, louder speakerphone and receiver volume, and support for video out.

However, as you’ve also read by now, the update did a few other things. First, as Apple had warned, it turned unlocked iPhones into expensive paperweights, rendering them useless. (A Macworld staffer who unlocked his phone so that we could document this procedure, had this happen to his iPhones.) Second, if you had a modified iPhone that ran third-party applications, like I had, the update removed those apps. So much for my plea to Apple. Finally, if you used Ambrosia’s iToner, or any other such ringtone utility, you discovered that all your custom ringtones were also gone.

Unlike most Apple software updates, I held off on running this one until there were some field reports about exactly what happened. Once those reports started trickling in, I came to a painful but obvious conclusion: I will never install the 1.1.1 update on my iPhone.

Read my Macworld blog entry, iPhone 1.0 forever, for the rest of the story…

Review: VMware Fusion

Macworld logoYou may need (or want) to run Windows, or other operating systems, alongside Mac OS X, and Parallels Desktop (4 mice) is the best-known of several programs on the market for that purpose. (Full native Windows support, of course, is also available via Apple’s Boot Camp, but it requires you to reboot out of OS X and into Windows.) A new-to-the-Mac player now brings a formidable challenger to the arena, however. VMware, an expert in x86 virtualization—that is, the ability to run one or more x86 operating systems as ‘guest’ under a ‘host’ x86 operating system—has released Fusion 1.0, its first OS X offering. Like Parallels, Fusion allows you to run many versions of Windows and other operating systems from within OS X. And unlike Boot Camp, you don’t have to log out and restart in order to use it.

VMware Fusion supports more than 60 operating systems: Windows coverage extends from version 3.1 to betas of Windows Server 2008. If Linux is your cup of tea, you’ll find support for Red Hat, Ubuntu, SUSE, Mandrake, and more. You can also install Novell Netware, Solaris 9 or 10, FreeBSD, and MS-DOS systems. Even 64-bit releases of Windows and some families of Linux, such as Red Hat and SUSE Enterprise Linux, are supported.

Read my Macworld article, Review: VMware Fusion, for the rest of the story…

Don’t break my third-party iPhone apps

Macworld logoDear Apple:

Please ignore my prior request regarding opening up the iPhone for third-party development. At the time I wrote that request, I was convinced that some Apple-approved method of running true third-party applications (and not just nicely-formatted Ajax Web pages) was a key missing feature in the iPhone’s capabilities. Well, I’ve had my iPhone for a couple months now, and I’ve changed my mind: Don’t worry about coming up with a third-party iPhone SDK. Really. Just pretend I never wrote that piece.

Instead, I have a new request. Just do nothing at all regarding third-party application development on the iPhone. Nothing to encourage it, and most importantly, nothing to discourage it, prevent it, shut it down, or otherwise stop it from happening. Thank you.

So why would I (fictitiously, of course) write the above letter to Apple? Is it because I no longer feel third-party applications are important to the iPhone? No, that’s not it at all. Is it because nicely-formatted Ajax Web pages really do get the job done? No, that’s not it either. So why am I no longer concerned about Apple providing an official third-party SDK? Quite simply, I’m not concerned because a number of very bright, talented, and motivated individuals have managed to actually do the job themselves, without any help from Apple.

Read my Macworld blog entry, Don’t break my third-party iPhone apps, for the rest of the story…

The Great iPhone Price Drop Uprising of 2007

Macworld logoAs probably everyone other than Bill Gates probably heard, Apple dropped the price of the iPhone by $200 yesterday. And, very shockingly to me, this somehow upset a number of those who bought iPhones back in June. Over on the Macworld forums, I’ve been involved in some interesting discussions on the matter. Basically, my position is as follows:

  • Nobody was kidnapped, dragged to an Apple Store, and forced to spend $599 on an iPhone. Everyone who bought on June 29th did so freely of their own will. (Note that I’m a possible exception to that statement, as I was asked to stand in line by my employer. But since it was their money, I didn’t really mind.)
  • Whenever you buy any piece of technology, it is a known fact that it will get faster, smaller, more feature laden, and cheaper in the future. Knowing this, I have always treated a technology purchase as a pure sunk cost–whatever you pay, whenever you pay it, it’s gone. If the item’s price changes in the near future, oh well. I made my decision, I have the piece of technology, and I don’t really care if it’s cheaper.
  • People are claiming the “value” of their iPhone took a $200 hit yesterday. There’s only one way I see that as a true statement: if the user was planning on selling their iPhone on eBay today. However, since we’re all on two-year contracts, I don’t see that as a big market at the moment. So if you were going to keep your iPhone and continue to use it, your phone’s value is unchanged: it’s just as important to you today as it was yesterday.

So basically, I’m amazed at the number of complaints over this issue. In one of the forum threads, I asked those who felt this was an issue to explain what they would have done had Apple announced a $200 price increase instead of a drop. Would they have all rushed out to their mailbox to drop a check in the mail for Apple? Not surprisingly, it seems that wasn’t a popular suggestion. People want something for nothing, basically.

You’ve probably also read by now that Apple has decided to grant a $100 store credit to all those who bought iPhones prior to the price drop. Hopefully this will silence the criticism, but I doubt it since it leaves $100 “missing” from the pockets of those who are complaining. From my seat, though, Apple didn’t have to do this at all. When you choose to buy something, you’re basically fulfilling a contract with the product supplier: I agree to give you this much money, and you agree to give me the product. Anything that happens after that (outside of normal “price protection” windows, which are not 60+ days in length) is just something that happens.

Anyway, am I all wet in my thinking? This demand for a credit due to a price drop seems unprecedented to me; nobody complained when iPod Photos plummeted $200 a few short months after their introduction. Why is the iPhone different?

The Beatles on iTunes: Tomorrow never knows

Macworld logoSo if my esteemed coworker Philip Michaels is correct, next week we’ll see the release of The Beatles’ catalog on iTunes. This news has literally been years in the making, and the excitement surrounding this potential announcement seems to be huge. Crowds are (virtually) forming outside the iTunes Store already—well, OK, maybe not. But you’d have to be sleep-surfing not to have seen some mention of “Beatles,” “iPod,” and “iTunes Store” over the last couple of days on hundreds of sites, including ours.

And here I sit, a child of the Beatles era—literally a child, as my first exposure to The Beatles came from hearing it played on my parents’ record player. (Anyone else remember those?) While there are clearly bigger Beatles fans in the world, I do enjoy their music, and presently have something over 30 of their songs in my iTunes collection. (I’m what you might consider a fair-weather fan, as I tend to prefer their more popular songs to the remainder of their catalog.) The Beatles created some amazing songs, and definitely helped change the future of music—with over a billion units sold worldwide, they have definitely left their mark. So with that background, you think I’d be thrilled to hear they’re on their way to iTunes.

The truth is, my reaction to the rumors has been more along the lines of “Umm, why does everyone seem to care so much?”

Read my Macworld blog entry, The Beatles on iTunes: Tomorrow never knows, for the rest of the story…

Review: Numbers

Macworld logoSlowly, but surely, Apple’s iWork is turning into a full-fledged office suite, as iWork ’08 gains Numbers, Apple’s latest foray into the world of spreadsheet programs. So what is Numbers? Is it at long last a replacement for the spreadsheet component of AppleWorks? Is it a direct competitor to Excel? Will it enable users looking for alternatives to finally move from either AppleWorks or Microsoft Office to iWork?

The answer to these questions is any of yes, no, and maybe, depending on your specific spreadsheet needs. Those with basic needs will be impressed with Numbers’ ability to make short work of their projects. People with more complex requirements, and those hoping to migrate from Excel or AppleWorks, will find the transition more difficult. And some people—scientific users, students, and advanced Excel users in particular—may find that certain details in Numbers make it impossible to use the product in its current form.

Read my Macworld article, Review: Numbers, for the rest of the story…

First Look: Numbers

Macworld logoIn January 2003, Apple introduced Keynote, a fairly groundbreaking presentation application. Two years later, along came Pages, a mixed page layout/word processing tool.

Together, Keynote and Pages were sold as the $79 iWork’05 “suite.” Compared to the venerable AppleWorks, though, iWork was missing both spreadsheet and database applications. With the release of the still-$79 iWork ’08 (Best Current Price: $67.41), Apple has plugged the spreadsheet hole with Numbers.

Read my Macworld article, First Look: Numbers, for the rest of the story…

Three things I don’t understand about Apple’s moves

Macworld logoAfter Tuesday’s announcements from Apple, I walked away both impressed and confused. The new iMac, with the possible exception of the glossy screen—more on that below—seems to be a solid design, and, at up to 2.8GHz, it should be screaming fast as well. iLife and iWork both look like solid upgrades, and I’m anxious to spend some time with Numbers, Keynote, iPhoto, the remade iMovie, and the rest of the collection. So much for the “impressed” side.

The “confused” side is curious about three decisions Apple has made regarding the following items…

Read my Macworld blog entry, Three things I don’t understand about Apple’s moves, for the rest of the story…

My Apple event wishlist

Macworld logoBy now, you’ve probably read that Apple’s holding a “Mac-related” presentation on Tuesday at 10 a.m. Pacific. You may have also read the predictions that we’ll see a new iMac introduced at that meeting.

The prediction makes sense—the iMac is currently the “gray beard” of the Apple lineup, an aging-if-dependable workhorse that’s made its way into many homes as the first Mac in the household. So predicting that Apple has chosen to upgrade this machine, and swath it in aluminum to match the mini, MacBook Pro, and Mac Pro, is about as risky as predicting that Paris Hilton will make tabloid headlines or that George Steinbrenner will rant about his Yankees’ poor performance at some point during the season.

Read my Macworld blog entry, My Apple event wishlist, for the rest of the story…

Ten of my favorite iPhone things

Macworld logoEver since the first time I saw (but couldn’t touch) the iPhone, I’ve sort of become Macworld’s resident iPhone curmudgeon. Long before it was ever released, I came up with a list of shortcomings. Then, at the Worldwide Developers Conference last month, I was unhappy with the announced support for third-party web pages, er, apps. And finally, once the iPhone was out and I’d had the chance to use it, I put together a list of 10 iPhone apps—real apps—that I would find most useful on my iPhone.

If you were to simply look at my body of iPhone work, you might conclude I hate the iPhone, and would rather be dropped in the midst of a swarm of Africanized honey bees than be forced to use the thing. Surprisingly, perhaps as much to me as to you, that’s not the case. For all the things it’s lacking, the iPhone really does get quite a few things right—and it’s the things it does oh so well that keep me coming back to it, despite its shortcomings.

Read my Macworld blog entry, Ten of my favorite iPhone things, for the rest of the story…

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