The ultimate ipad dock

A while ago, I posted my idea of the ultimate iPhone dock. and it seem only fitting that I also post the ultimate iPad dock. Honestly, I’m not nearly the first person to come up with the idea of pairing the iPad with the old-school Star Trek PADD, but I felt it needed to be done. And, for the love of all that’s good and holy, be sure it’s got blinkin’ lights, after all, I still gotta dream!

The ultimate iphone dock

I had an idea for the ultimate iphone dock. To heck with an iPhone pro …

First, get an iPhone and dock. Then go buy an old Apple Newton eMate on eBay. Then, gut the eMate. Yeah, I know I shudder at the thought of murdering such a cute little Newton as well, but … then wire the keyboard from the eMate into the dock, somehow. Embed the dock into the space where the touchscreen of the eMate used to be, such that the iPhone can be docked horizontally inside the clamshell of the eMate.

iPhone Pro Do-It-Yourself

Er, yeah, something like that … just be careful not to obscure the touchscreen with the tape like I did.

You’d probably have to replace the stylus with one with a squishy tip that worked on the touchscreen of the iPod, and I don’t know if there’s a way to actually wire the keyboard or not. Wire the audio out of the dock to the mini jack. Maybe there’s a way to wire the PC Card reader. Ah, it’s a bother, sure … but, you know, a guy’s gotta dream.

Update 1mar09 @ 11:50 pm:

Well, this is an interesting development: iPhone running Mac OS System 7. But, it’s not the Newton OS, which would be even more interesting.

Learn something new

I activated this accidentally when typing an e-mail and found out that it’s a feature. Who knew? (Probably everyone, right?) I mean, not that I’ll probably use it all that much, but … hit ‘esc’ while typing and get a completion list, cool!

completion.gif

Doesn’t work for in HTML forms or in the toolbar of Safari, apparently. But, it works in Mail and TextEdit …

Bento

Ah, here it is finally. I figured there would be something like this coming from inside the Apple camp. Via “Meet Bento — Learn More

Bento organizes all your important information in one place. So you can manage your contacts, coordinate events, track projects, prioritize tasks, and more — faster and easier than ever before.

Bento is designed exclusively for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. It takes advantage of many of the new features of Leopard, including live linking to iCal data, core animation, advanced find, Time Machine backups, and multimedia features.

And, even the name seems like a swipe at Yojimbo. But, this is a move toward a first-party application that does what so many others have been working on, like Tinderbox, DevonThink, and SOHO Notes, to name a few. Seems like it was only a matter of time.

But does this qualify as the Filemaker Express product I thought might be coming? And, why, other than the fact that the product is one they made by turning on the copiers, isn’t this part of iWork or iLife?

And, why the hell is this Filemaker site running as an ASP application?!

How does ZFS compare to Plan 9?

Now that Sun is being quoted as saying that the next version of Mac OS X (Leopard) will use ZFS, I thought to read a bit more about What is ZFS?:

“ZFS presents a pooled storage model that completely eliminates the concept of volumes and the associated problems of partitions, provisioning, wasted bandwidth and stranded storage. Thousands of filesystems can draw from a common storage pool, each one consuming only as much space as it actually needs. The combined I/O bandwidth of all devices in the pool is available to all filesystems at all times.”

But, that sounds kind of familiar. I remember language a lot like that in describing Plan 9. [also] I’m not finding the exact language that I remember, but I think it was in relation to the idea of network transparency and union directories:

“Plan 9 also introduced the idea of union directories, directories that combine resources across different media or across a network, binding transparently to other directories.” [via]

So, I find myself wondering how then are ZFS and Plan 9 alike and how are they different, and is there a genetic or thought relationship between them?

Well, that’s a blast from the past. I haven’t thought about Plan 9 for a long time. I still wish I’d been able to get it running on my old NeXT boxen, but that never happened.

Forcing the clowns to break their fall makes high-wire act safer …

Here’s an example that shows that something is messed up in the way products are priced. The article “Slashdot | Apple Turning Cell Phone Market Upside Down?” observes:

Everyone assumed that Apple’s $499/$599 prices for the iPhone was subsidized by Cingular. But, it appears that Apple is not allowing mobile carriers to subsidize the iPhone. Why? Because when Apple comes out with the Touch iPod, they don’t want it compared in price to a discounted/subsidized iPhone.

This is a product that isn’t even on the market yet and the price is already being insulated from market forces through contactual obligation. The price of the goods is pre-determined and conditioned by contract to avoid devaluation. Further, just as in the way that cars are priced, the price is made static by pushing the fungibility of the market cost into incentives and rebates. Only this time, because a dominant market position for the manufacturing firm, like any good captain of industry that has consolidated power, is forcing the partners to assume an assigned role in the circus side-show that is the market.

Of course, partly the market itself is to blame, or rather the consumers who both demand the product and are willing to go along with the show because of a suspension of disbelief, or perhaps due to managed access to information or, moreover, because of a lack of real choice other than to step off the treadmill. The managed perception of the goods is part of the sale, just like any good brand, but more than just a brand. Because the hysteria around the product is managed to a fever-pitch, or, well, at least to a slow-boil, something that Microsoft has really never managed to do, Apple has given itself room to make a deal with a partner that includes for itself a 50% profit margin.

But, what will happen is that the bargain-seeking market will make demands from the end-vendor, the retailer, and the retailer is contractually bound to not pass that pressure up the supply chain to the manufacturer. That seems like an amazingly sweet position to be in, if you’re the manufacturer, anyway.

The image that comes to mind is the high-wire artist that wows the crowd by working without a net, but has convinced circus clowns in padded clothes to gather on the ground to break any fall. It all seems harmless until some clown gets crushed.

Update: 29jan07 @ 11am

There’s a note over at Ars about a USA Today report on the deal Apple shopped and the reaction from the cellular vendors: “Verizon kicked Apple out of bed over iPhone deal.” I note with some amusment the irony that Verizon “said no because of the strictness of Apple’s terms.” Yeah, those abusive, multi-year contracts sure do suck, don’t they Mr. Cellular?

People can’t remember URLs

Via an interesting article that reminds us all that “most searched” lists are PR driven, not data driven, “Business 2.0 BETA blog network” is this comment:

“They’re using search engines as navigation, typing website names or even URLs into the search box that automatically pops up in their browser.”

It’s a funny thing to me to watch people do that. They can’t remember an URL, even a short one, so they use search to find a place that they’ve even been to many times. A primary example for this is watching someone I know look for the This American Life page. Instead of remembering that This American Life is at www.thislife.org or thinking to head to the Public Radio International website … it’s easier for most users to skip over to yahoo and do a search for “This American Life” and sort through the results.

This kind of searching behaviour is, I suppose, similar to how I now behave with own documents. I use google to search through the papers I’ve posted to my website, and I use spotlight to search through the documents on my machine, and even use spotlight to get to applications instead of going through the finder.

But, it’s interesting to me that I retain information about actual URLs. For example, I still remember that the URL for Ultima Online is www.owo.com even though I haven’t played that game since … when? Nine years ago? Or, that the old URL for O’Reilly was www.oro.com (which gave me a turn because they appear to have given that up, because it’s now some Japanese site.)

I think from a user standpoint, the URL address bar should simply be a search input. I really don’t like the way that new browsers separate the address and search inputs. Why should a user have to pre-parse their input and decide which field to use? I realize that I miss the autosearch feature from IE, which is a bit of a shock to care about IE at all, but using a question mark in the address field turned the input into a search. That was nice. In Firefox, I can set up a keyword “?” which does a google search. Why can’t I do this in Safari’s address field? (Apparently, there’s an add-on that does add keywords, extending Safari, in the way that the old Mail.app was extended on NeXT, called Saft, but it costs money.)

NeXT machines used to spy on people too

Noticed a post “Slashdot | Apple Closes iSight Security Hole” which talks about iSight being used to maliciously spy on a user. But, this isn’t new to Mac OS X hardware. In fact, it’s a problem that’s been around since the black box NeXT days.

When I worked at and ISP that used old NeXT machines, I used to tape a wad of paper to the mic on the monitors because it was not unheard of that someone could listen in to whatever conversations were happening in the room. This was a security hole that existed when a machine was configured to allow remote machines to display their application windows on a local machine.

I used to farm TTYs from other machines, primarily in sales because they didn’t use many terminal sessions, because there was a kernel limit on the number of TTYs a machine could use. So, I would remotely run additional Terminal.app instances on remote machines but display the windows on mine. This was so I could stay logged in to all the various terminal servers at the same time. Half of my screen used to be filled with tiles for open terminal sessions minimized.

So, I had my machine configured to allow remote apps to display on mine, and that’s the way the security hole worked. As a precaution, I taped a wad of paper over the mic. Funny to think about it now, but I had no reason to trust it wouldn’t happen that I would be listened to that way. When you work for an ISP started with Russian mob money …

Even funnier, in a sad way, is that the next ISP had a group of immature wannabe gangsta geeks who were just as likely to do stupid and unethical things, too.

Ah, the warm memories … actually, more of a burning … in my stomach.

And, one more thing …

In a previous post, I speculate about some products and topics related to Apple. But, I forgot one of the features I have realized I want in Apple’s iTV product more than anything else: party shuffle of video playlists.

I want to be able to set up playlists or seasons or collections of shows and have the iTV play them like the party shuffle works for music, but output to a TV. So, in otherwords, I want to program my own network.

One idea I had was to watch several shows on the day of the week they originally aired on TV. But, having the ability to set up a playlist of shows and having the iTV shuffle through them indefinitely … now that would be pretty cool.

I haven’t played with Front Row yet, so I suppose this idea could already be in there … This is the major missing feature of the DVR and DVD experience. One of the greatest advantages of setting up a music player with tons of music is not having to futz with changing CD after CD. A replacement for TV and DVD, whatever kind of DVR-like device it may be, needs to have a cool way to program and randomize video content in the same way that music content can be currently.

Freeing the content is only part of the deal. Freeing the user to program their own network is about ordering and making sense with that content.

Speculation on Apples

It’s not just a hobby, but a professional sport. However, I’m going to step up as an amateur and speculate about some things that Apple might be doing, or at least that it should be doing.

So, iTV has an HDMI port. But, no Apple monitor has HDMI or HDCP support, even over DVI, I think, yeah? (Not even to the integrated screens in books and iMacs, right?) Yet. I expect that in the new year. At least one external model will get HDMI with HDCP support. Also, there were comments about the odd size of the iTV, but I think it’s pretty likely that the size was changed so that it would fit under a monitor. Because, until that support is there, there’s not much chance of either HD-DVD or BD-ROM movies on a Mac in HD, and if there’s no HD what’s the point?

I’ll tell you the number one thing I want in the iTV however is that it function as network attached storage. I want to be able to store all my music on the iTV and then sync between that volume and other machines in the house. Frankly, I want iTunes to recognize the iTV on the network and then seemlessly integrate that music into my iTunes library. The iTV should be the consumer level xserve.

(If only an iPod could be a realiable portable home folder, too. But, if you’ve ever mounted one person’s portable to another machine, you’ll see that there’s a clash between unix user IDs … That patent application about portable home folders had what looked like a possible solution, didn’t it?)

Oh, yeah, and about that hard drive. Let us all recall that Disney was testing out a set-top box for content delivery, which they pulled. I’d bet a dollar that the Disney box got a midnight visit from the black mock turtleneck wearing ninjas. The moviebeam service was supported by a set-top box that included a hard drive pre-loaded with 100 movies and would add 4 per month. The specs are surprisingly similar to what we know about the iTV so far. The set-top box was supposed to cost $199, when not rented. Well, Disney’s service was delayed, closed, but was thought to retool and come back again with HDTV support …. as part of the iTV offering, I wonder? Could iTV be one of the target embedded partners? No antenna that we know of, however, is part of the iTV.

And whither Moviebeam itself? Still alive on the web, anyway. They claim they will send me a box for $99, to which I can add an HD kit for another $40. And, do I get this right, there’s no subscription fees, just paying for the movies one wants? Kinda like iTunes music and movies, yeah? I also note that only a few movies are actually available in HD, and then only in 720p, which is … meh, okay.

Back in ’04, CNET quoted someone saying:

“These guys are all hovering about the same space–they’re thinking, ‘How do we push content to a disk drive and get it onto your TV set?'” said Kaufhold, who expects Disney to announce a new partner later this year.

Heh, new partner, yeah. By the prickling of my thumb, something Steve Jobs this way comes …

There’s one feature I want more than anything else in an iPhone: internet connectivity for my laptop. If I could toss Qwest for phone service and get reasonable Internet connectivity for my laptop on an iPhone, I’d jump in a heartbeat, unless there’s some other wild show stopper. If not good for connecting, then I’ll skip it. The only thing cooler than an iPhone would be an iTablet / Newton Unbound device of some kind …

No one seems to have commented on the odd naming of Filemaker, Apple’s database, when the new versions were introduced. If “Filemaker” became “Filemaker Pro” and “Filemaker Pro” bacame “Filemaker Pro Advanced” then what is the new “Filemaker”? I don’t think it dropped off the map. Anyone else think that a basic version will appear in iWork come the new year, along with the expected spreadsheet application?

(Has anyone built yet a wrapper around the CoreData framework to create a face for the built-in data storage now in OS X? Could the entry level FM be just that face?)

The only thing missing, if iWork adds spreadsheet and database and one accepts Pages as both layout and word processor, is the app for creating graphics to match the Appleworks package, I think. With CoreImage and other frameworks now available, a graphic tool might be in the future too.

(Can I hope for support of Openoffice and Open Document formats, too?)

Back in the day, Steve Jobs owned Write Up, a word processor, which ran on NeXT. What happened to that code, I wonder? I’ve wondered that since forever. I vaguely recall it was a nice package, certainly not perfect. I just don’t remember what happened to that.

As far as graphics go, there’s some stellar stuff out there. The whole Omnigroup quite of tools, including the new OmniPlan, have always been amazing. But, I have to wonder about the old Lighthouse apps that Sun swallowed in order to get at the Java code they had. I recall those apps as being quite nice as well, and frankly the inspiration for OmniGraffle is clearly in the lost Draw app.

(I still want to know if anyone has tried to run an old Intel NeXT binary on an Intel-based Mac. Anyone? Mac OS X recognizes apps, fails to show their proper icon, but when run simply compains that the binary is for a different architecture. When I asked someone at the Genius Bar in Tacoma, they didn’t know.) [cf]

Where to keep movies? Everywhere, of course.

I don’t know who asked, “If you had everything, where would you put it?” However, my answer has always been, “Everywhere, of course.”

So, almost under the radar, I find that iPhoto version 5 imports movies. I assume version 6 does also. Also, iTunes holds movies. And, there’s a movies folder which is where neither iTunes nor iPhoto stores the movies that it holds. iMovies uses the movies folder. Also, iTunes may import music when downloaded via a browser, but movie downloads are placed in the folder for downloads in preferences, which defaults, I think, to the desktop. (I’ve set mine to my documents folder.)

This is some very confusing design which suggests that the strategy for movies is either not very well thought out or the various teams at Apple are in competition over how to handle movies. It also means that users are given confused messages about organization.

One of the things that I don’t like about iPhoto is that there’s no clear distinction between pictures that one has taken and pictures that one has collected. There’s context menu option to put images from the browser into iPhoto, but that confuses what purpose people should use iPhoto for. Is iPhoto for storing all picture assets? Maybe, but it’s not well defined.

One might hope that spotlight is a snapshot of a future where the filesystem and metadata fully unified, and there’s a universal interface to all the kinds of files. When all these applications are developing different file management systems, in addition to the filesystem management in the Finder, things are bound to be implemented in different ways by different teams.

In the future, using metadata tags, each application might merely show the spotlight results for files that the application can handle. Where ever a file shows up on the filesystem, or when, an application would have files it can manipulate show up. Perhaps there would be an unsorted folder for files that had no application specific metadata added. When a file is moved to some collection, this would be reflected in metadata, which could then be used by other applications to re-create the same collections.

In this vision, creating a collection of movies in iPhoto of, say, my trip to Ireland would add metadata to the movies that could be used by iMovie, iTunes, Quicktime, etc … to show those files in a folder.

Smart folder are then just saved searches, which can be used by any application to show smart collections that include files that application understands. Smart folders / saved searches should also be available across application.

Another thing I’ve noticed which is annoying is that normally burn folders contain aliases to the originals, but if one drags a file from iPhoto or iTunes to a burn folder the entire file is copied. There’s no good reason for that since the files are still located in the filesystem in locations to which an alias could point.

And, all of these applications would have immediate access to files across additional drives, including external or archived sources. One could put collections on a removable device and have items reflected in their applications when those devices where available. This has been an annoyance for me with both iTunes and iPhoto. Why can’t I have multiple locations so that I can have my portable collection on my laptop but store the bulk of my files externally?

Old NeXT apps on intel, I wonder?

I was going through a box and found some CD-ROMs of old NeXT software. On a lark, I thought I would stick one in and see what happened. Well, Mac OS X recognized the app, gave it an icon, but with an overlay.

Starting up the application offers that the application cannot open because it is not supported on “this architecture” so that begs a very interesting question. The original architecture for the NeXT cubes and slabs was old motorola 68000 chips. The self-same motorola chips that Apple was using in their Mac II machines, which honestly boggled me at the time because of how much better the NeXT systems were when compared to the Mac II, in my experience.

However, most later applications offered fat binaries, essentially just the ‘app’ directory contained distinct compiled binaries for each architecture. Along with the motorola 68000 binaries, NeXT fat binaries often included PA-RISC and Intel.

So, do old NeXT apps for intel work on the new intel Mac OS X boxen?

For the most part it just wouldn’t matter, since the old apps are mostly curiosities now. The one app that I couldn’t live without was Diagram, but that has been replaced on my Mac by Omnigroup’s OmniGraffle, which for the longest time I called OmniGiraffe for some reason. In the back of my head, I do think about WordPerfect, although I doubt I’d use it, prefering to place my hope in some future native OpenOffice to replace Microsoft Office or if Apple keeps working on iWork. Of course, I also have InDesign, which I have yet to touch …

Yeah, okay, it’s just pure geeky curiosity then.

Congratulations! It’s a Design Flaw.

Via F-Secure : News from the Lab

“When Windows Metafiles were designed in late 1980s, a feature was included that allowed the image files to contain actual code. This code would be executed via a callback in special situations. This was not a bug; this was something which was needed at the time.

This function was designed to be called by Windows if a print job needed to be canceled during spooling.

This really means two things:
1) There are probably other vulnerable functions in WMF files in addition to SetAbortProc
2) This bug seems to affect all versions of Windows, starting from Windows 3.0 – shipped in 1990!

“The WMF vulnerability” probably affects more computers than any other security vulnerability, ever.”

A fundimental design flaw then, is it?

Back in the day, there were essentially no ways to infect NeXT machines. However, I remember having a conversation with someone I worked with that had worked with NeXT boxes longer than I had. Turns out that there was a way. The display system in NeXT was called Display Postscript. Postscript could contain executable code, and so it was possible to have a file, and image, that when viewed on a NeXT machine, would execute arbitrary code.

The display system in Mac OS X is essentially the same except that Adobe wanted to torpedo the display postscript, and so Apple went with, if I remember, essentially what could be called “display PDF” instead. I am not sure of PS files are still vulnerable to embedded code. I have vague memories that the issue was addressed in the past.

So, the flaw in WMF of having embedded executable code isn’t something that was only by design in WMF files. It appears that this design flaw was widely expected in graphic files that were to be used for printing graphics.

I wonder if the design flaw in WMF was developed to copy the postcript funtionality? I mean, would that not just be just? Instead of innovation in vulnerability, Microsoft may have even copied that from someone else, too.

And, some say that Open Source is all imitation of other people’s work?