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

This enhancement is not so transparent

Macworld logoWhen Steve Jobs demoed Leopard at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, one of the new features included in the revised Desktop is a semi-transparent menu bar. It's clearly visible in the streaming video of the keynote, and in many of the screenshots on Apple's Leopard pages.

Now, I'm all for fancy effects, at least where it makes sense and might actually help the user. But in this case, I don't think it makes sense—look at many of Apple's own screenshots, and you'll see that certain entries in the menu bar are quite hard to read, owing to the bad mix of black text, a semi-transparent background, and a dark background image. Instead of being useful, it seems to me that—based on what's been shown, at least—the semi-transparent menu bar will do nothing but annoy me when I try to find a menu item against a non-cooperative background image. Of course, I won't know for sure until October when Leopard ships and I can test (and discuss) how well it does or doesn't work.

Read my Macworld blog entry, This enhancement is not so transparent, for the rest of the story...

What computer should I buy?

Macworld logoJoe: I'm in the market for a new computer. Any suggestions?

Jane: Buy a Mac.

Joe: But wait; I haven't told you anything about my requirements!

Jane: Ah, yes, you're right. Sorry about that. Are you a hard-core gamer who needs the absolute latest in system and video card hardware?

Joe: No, not at all.

Jane: OK. Do you enjoy building your own computers, taking them apart, putting them together, replacing parts, and that kind of thing?

Joe: No, not at all.

Jane: OK, do you use any software or hardware has any sort of strange hardware requirements, like an ancient serial port security dongle, for instance?

Joe: No, not at all.

Jane: OK. Buy a Mac.

Read my Macworld blog entry, What computer should I buy?, for the rest of the story...

iPhone, therefore iTap and tap and…

Macworld logoAh, morning—time to check the overnight e-mail that came in over the iPhone. Let's get to work!

Press the iPhone's power button. Tap the screen (that's screen tap #1) and drag the unlock slider. Press the Home button to get back to the main screen from whatever app I was using last on the iPhone. Tap (#2) the Mail icon. Oops, I left the iPhone reading a message the last time I was in Mail. Tap three times (#3, #4, #5) to get back to the list of accounts.

It's on this screen where you'll notice a big change from OS X's Mail program. In OS X's Mail application, the top-level folder is the global Inbox, and then within that folder, each of your accounts is listed separately, letting you easily view all of your new e-mail at once by just selecting the top level Inbox folder. On the iPhone, however, there is no global Inbox. Instead, the main Mail screen just shows a list of your accounts. You have to open each account to see the Inbox (and Trash and any other folders associated with that account).

Read my Macworld blog entry, iPhone, therefore iTap and tap and..., for the rest of the story...

Ten future iPhone apps

Macworld logoI've lamented on the lack of third-party access to the iPhone, and now, with quite a few actual usage hours on my belt, my lament has become a plea: please, Apple, if you're not going to do some of these things yourself, let third parties provide real solutions! Exactly what am I talking about? Well, here's a list I've been building of the Top 10 Missing iPhone Apps. I think third parties could do a great job at providing some or all of these solutions. (If Apple wants to do it, that'd be great, too, but I'd really like someone to make them available, and sooner rather than later.)

So here, in increasing order of importance, are the 10 applications that I think would be a perfect fit with the iPhone and its current application suite.

Read my Macworld blog entry, Ten future iPhone apps, for the rest of the story...

An odd thing happened today…

Macworld logoAnd that odd thing is this: I'm now an iPhone owner. As of yesterday, I had no plans to be anywhere near an Apple or AT&T store today. But that all changed when Macworld asked me to stand in line, buy a phone, and then mail to the corporate office--they wanted to make sure they had several phones in hand for review next week.

iphoneI detailed my camp-out experiences in this blog entry on, along with this afternoon update.

Shortly after that last update was published is when my day got really surprising: Macworld asked me to buy two phones, but just send one in their direction--I was to keep one and use it myself, replacing my Treo. Wow. I was quite surprised, to say the least. You see, I didn't even really want a first-generation iPhone; it's missing many things that I'm used to on the Treo. But I guess now I get to see if that's really true, and to write about just how well, or not well, the iPhone works for me. As I have time with the iPhone, my write ups--covering the good and bad of the experience--will appear on Macworld's new iPhone Central pages (and probably on, too).

The iPhone is now activated, and it's busy synching all my content. I'll post links here to anything that winds up on Macworld, in case you're contemplating an iPhone of your own.

Apple’s disappointing iPhone message

Macworld logoOne of the biggest questions surrounding the iPhone since its January preview was whether developers outside of Apple would be able to create software that would run on the phone.

And just 18 days before the iPhone's June 29 release, Steve Jobs stood on stage at the Worldwide Developers Conference and told software makers that Apple had found an answer: a 'sweet' way to support outside iPhone development.

Unfortunately, if you're thinking that Apple really addressed third-party development in Steve Jobs's keynote, you'd be wrong. While many people—including myself—have clamored for support for widgets and applications, Monday's announcement actually did nothing at all to address either issue. Instead, it told developers that since Safari on the iPhone is a full-fledged web browser, they can use Ajax and CSS to make nice, pretty Web-based applications.

Read my Macworld blog entry, Apple's disappointing iPhone message, for the rest of the story...

The waiting game…

Macworld logoIf you read any of the Mac Mania blogs, you probably know I got to play around with a digital SLR--the Nikon D40X--during the cruise. Well, after I got home, I decided the time was right for an upgrade from my pocket digital camera. In a case of wonderful timing, Costco happened to have a D40X kit (camera, two lenses, memory card, case) available during our last visit, so I got my birthday present (and Christmas and next year's birthday and...) a bit early this year.

You can read about why I chose to upgrade, including some interesting comparison photographs, in this Macworld blog. I've only had the camera for a few days, but I'm having a blast with it so far, and really looking forward to taking it to WWDC next week--I have a free Sunday in San Francisco, and I hope to take a bunch of pictures.

One of the things I wanted with the camera was a more powerful zoom lens, so I also ordered a 70/300mm telephoto from Amazon. It shipped on Tuesday for a Wednesday delivery, but a recorded phone call early Wednesday reminded me that a signature would be required. So I was basically locked in the house until the lens showed up. And (eventually), it did:


Yup, nearly 12 hours into the waiting game, the lens showed up! Urgh. Just in time, too, as I was literally backing the car out of the garage to go pick up the girls at day care when the UPS van pulled up! Now that it's here, though, I love it, though I haven't had much time to play with it. Here's a shot of the lens (with the hood as shipped, not in shooting mode!), as well as two pictures I took--both from about 15 feet away, standing on our back porch one evening. (These were handheld shots, too--the lens includes an image stabilizer that seems to work quite well). Click any image for a larger (640x480) version:

Lens  Lens  Lens

Of course, the presence of the large lens meant that the nice Nikon bag that was included in the kit was no longer large enough to carry the gear...guess it's time to find a nice camera kit backpack!

Shopping (or not) at the Apple Online Store

Macworld logoI wrote this piece back in May, when the Apple Store was down for about four hours, and for what? To release some very modest speed bumps to the MacBook line. I can't think of any other major online vendor that takes their store down when they add new products, which is what inspired me to write the piece.

Mac Mania VI / Aperture Aura blogs

Macworld logoI wrote a few weblogs for Macworld during our journey to Alaska last week. Here they all are, in order based on our cruise's destinations:

I had a lot of fun on the cruise, though I felt I didn't have as much to offer the attendees this time (as I couldn't discuss Leopard, which was the original plan). For anyone who might be contemplating one of these, I can say that they are quite a lot of fun, for two reasons. First, it's a great way to get some quality instruction in reasonably small class sizes. There's also a lot of out-of-class contact with the speakers, including dinner each evening. Second, the cruises themselves can be fun. I'd never been on a cruise ship before last fall's Caribbean excursion, so I'm quite new to the whole thing. I think cruises are a great way to see a number of places quickly and relatively inexpensively--which can help determine where you'd like to go back for a longer, more personal stay in the future.
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Home from Alaska…

Macworld logoAs some of you may know, I spent the last week on the Mac Mania VI Geek Cruise, cruising from Seattle to a few spots in Alaska (and one in Canada), and then back to Seattle yesterday morning. (You can read my blog posts about the journey on the MacMania blog page over at Macworld.)

Alaska picThe blog posts contain a few of the images from the trip, but given that I took over 700 pictures, and that our boat's connection speed was slow (and the cost was high), it wasn't feasible to run more than a handful or so in the blogs. I've now looked through the whole batch, and picked 55 that I felt were most interesting, and tossed them into this photo gallery. These are basically unedited images--I haven't done any cropping, color correction, or other such tweaks as of yet. I just thought it'd be fun to share a bit more of the Alaskan and Canadian scenery from the trip--even based on the limited experience one gets from a cruise ship, Alaska really is a most interesting state (this was my first visit of any sort there).

Click the first image to view the larger version of that slide, and you can then use the arrow keys to advance from one large image to the next. (You can also use the Index Page buttons at the bottom of the main screen to just view each of the three index pages.)

If you'd like a full-size version of any of these photos, just let me know the file name, and I'll send you the original (no watermark, either--I just put that there to stop the casual image lifters). My favorite shot is probably the orange sunset, though a couple of the glacier/ice in water shots are interesting as well.

I'm home for a week, then it's off to see what interesting things are revealed in the "feature complete" Leopard beta that Steve will (hopefully) be discussing at WWDC--and maybe we'll even see some cool new hardware, if recent rumors turn out to be true.