Converting from iPhone to Google Android

About a year ago, one of our cats decided to take a drink of water. She did this from a glass that was on my desk, and in so doing she tipped it over and gave my iPhone a bit of a bath. Thankfully, the water was shallow and my phone wasn’t destroyed, but it was damaged and the home button hasn’t worked right since.

Continue reading

Are Apple’s Lawsuits Legitimate?

Re: http://gizmodo.com/5483689/the-apple-patents-cockpunching-all-smart-phones-an-illustrated-guide/

From a discussion on Google Buzz:

I don’t know the details, but from looking at the patent pictures, it looks like the patents are of implementation rather than idea. They couldn’t sue, for instance, if another company had an interface where you slid your finger across the screen to accept a call. But they CAN sue if the box that pops up to notify about the call is very similar, and the slider is in the same place, and is the same width, etc.

I’m pretty anti-patent in the vast majority of cases, but I wanted to offer an opposing viewpoint: Apple puts a TON of R&D into UX, particular when it comes to things like distance and resistance, so I can understand their being upset when they develop a product/implementation based on that research, patent the implementation, and then a company copies the implementation wholesale.

Apple is pretty anti-competition, and they’re pissed that Google and HTC are getting so chummy, so I don’t doubt that the legitimacy of the suit is questionable. But just looking at the pictures, I don’t think it’s quite so black and white yet.

Severe Java Vulnerability in Mac OS X

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a huge hole in Mac OS X’s security in regards to Java that has been there for some time and remains unpatched. This Java exploit is proven to work 100% of the time on all browsers and operating systems that are unpatched, but both Linux and Microsoft Windows are patched. Apple, as yet, remains open and vulnerable.

After learning of this, I quickly wrote some directions on how to disable Java in your web browser on OS X (we’ll be adding more operating systems and browsers later) and how to install both Firefox and NoScript to protect yourself in case you do need to use Java on occasion.

I’ll be honest here, OS X really isn’t that secure. If you use a Mac, be sure to disable Java or at least install NoScript. Otherwise you’re just leaving yourself open to attack.

As for me, I’ve now got Ubuntu 9.04 installed in a virtual machine running a second firewall, NoScript in Firefox, and a few other security hardening measures. Nevertheless, I still worry about this stuff.

How to lock the screen in Mac OS X

One of the things I missed when I switched to this MacBook was the easy ability to lock my screen. When I leave my desk at work, I desperately do not want some hooligan sitting down to write the president of our university an email, asking for a pony while using my account. Gnome, the user interface I prefer with Linux, has screen locking available from the logout window pretty easily, and in Windows I just have to perform the three-finger-salute (alt+ctrl+del) to get a Lock Screen button. But there was nothing obvious in OS X to mimic this functionality.

Rob at work showed me how to lock the screen on OS X server, though, which is identical to OS X for the desktop, so I thought I’d share.

Step 1: Opening the Keychain Access utility

Keychain Access can be reached through the Utilities folder or by typing "keychain" in Spotlight.
Keychain Access can be reached through the Utilities folder or by typing "keychain" in Spotlight.

First, open up the Utilities folder. You can get to this by either hitting Command+Shift+U with the desktop (Finder) selected, or by opening Finder, browsing to the Applications folder, then double clicking on the Utilities folder.

Step 2: Opening the Keychain Access Preferences

Reach the preferences window through the menu bar at the top of your screen.
Reach the preferences window through the menu bar at the top of your screen.

Once you have Keychain Access opened up, you’ll see the Keychain Access window on your screen. You can ignore this, because what we really want to get into are the Keychain Access preferences. To reach these preferences, click on the words Keychain Access at the top left of your screen and then select Preferences from the drop-down menu.

Step 3: Modify Keychain Access Preferences

Check the box labeled Show Status in Menu Bar.
Check the box labeled Show Status in Menu Bar.

All we need to do in this window is check the box labeled Show Status in Menu Bar. Once completed, go ahead and hit the red button (X) at the top left of this window to close it. You can also close the main Keychain Access window.

Step 4: Lock Screen (if so desired)

You can now lock the screen by clicking on the padlock icon at the top right of you screen.
You can now lock the screen by clicking on the padlock icon at the top right of you screen.

You can now lock your screen by using the padlock icon at the top right of you screen, located on the menu bar to the left of the clock and other icons.

How to modify System Preferences in OS X

System Preferences

Apple’s OS X operating system has a centralized system preferences window akin to the Control Panel in Microsoft Windows, and while it can be easier to navigate and use (after you get used to it), saving those preferences is a little less obvious. There are no “Save” or “Apply” buttons, and there often isn’t any indication that your changes have been saved. The key is to know how it works and, like all things Apple, just drink the Kool-Aid and trust.

Essentially, preference changes are made as you click the button and make your modifications, but they don’t take effect immediately. Instead, you need to back out; often, closing the window isn’t sufficient.

So, the steps go something like this:

  1. Open System Preferences from the Apple logo at the top left of your screen.
  2. Pick whatever it is you would like to change (Sharing properties, your dock, accounts for password change, etc.)
  3. Make the changes.
  4. Hit the Show All or Back button at the top left of the System Preferences window.

Now your changes have actually been saved and you can continue with your day. Congratulations!

Genius Review — iTunes Automagic Playlist Generator

It's like Pandora, but with music you already know you like.
It's like Pandora, but with music you already know you like.

Having recently purchased an Apple Macbook, I thought I’d give iTunes another shot. The last time I had used iTunes was about three years ago following my first iPod purchase. Beholding the shinyness that all the cool kids had been using for years, I poked around, marveled at the quick downloads of podcasts and music, and generally enjoyed the experience. There are, of course, some things about iTunes that absolutely infuriate me (DRM, poor file management, duplication of tracks, etc.), but it’s obvious that this product demands you drink the Kool-Aid, and if you do, it’ll be a wonderful, magical ride.

Part of my impetus for purchasing an Apple computer was because I want an iPhone sometime in the future, and if I’m going to drop that much cash on a portable device/phone, I want to get all the functionality I can out of it. Therefore, I transferred my 12+ gb of music to the Macbook and imported it into iTunes to see how it worked, as well as to prepare for iPhone syncage when that glorious day comes.

Immediately following import, I decided I wanted all the cover art for my discs, so I told it to pull those down. Of course, iTunes demanded I register an account with the iTunes store (requiring my address, credit card number, and a vial of blood from our first born), but then happily opened its vault of artwork to me. It then asked me if I’d like to turn Genius on.

Genius is a relatively new feature in iTunes that looks at your music collection and compares it to the collections and playlists of other people. This means that you have to send information about your music library to Apple, which made me a little nervous (though I do not pirate music, or anything else as a general rule), but I went ahead and agreed to the ToS so I could find out what this thing does. Like any proper geek, my curiousity grabbed me by the throat and drug me along.

Overall, it’s been an extremely pleasant experience. When listening to a song, you can hit the Genius button (located in the track information pane at the top or at the bottom right of iTunes) and iTunes will instantly generate a playlist for you of songs similar to the one you were listening to when you hit the button. These playlists are usually about an hour and a half; I’m not sure if that’s because there’s a preference somewhere that dictates the length of the list or because I don’t have much music, but it’s sufficient for my purposes. If you like the playlist Genius produces, you can listen away, or you can run it again and again to generate slightly different lists.

Mix, match, and re-arrange, and you can also save these as permanent playlists. Of course, Apple also displays the Genius sidebar with recommendations of other albums similar to those you’re currently listening to in a bid to get you to buy some music. But it’s not really in my face, doesn’t pop out or anything, and all-in-all, I’m liking Genius. It’s like Pandora, but with only music I already know I like.

Genius doesn’t supplant Pandora, and I don’t view them as being in competition. Pandora allows me to listen to a lot of bands I either haven’t heard of or wouldn’t otherwise hear, and I’ve bought a few albums through Pandora of bands I just fell in love with after hearing a few of their songs. But Genius is a wonderful compliment to Pandora, and the fact that it’s local (requiring no Internet connection) and isn’t streaming (so there’s no buffering) is really nice.

No, iTunes isn’t the greatest music player ever (it’s probably not even in the top 5-10), but Genius is a great feature that will keep me opening it time after time.

Why I bought an Apple Macbook

macosxdesktopsmall

Looking back, I’m not sure why I was so anti-Mac once upon a time.

Oh wait, yes I am. Because they were expensive, not as functional, and didn’t bring enough to the table to justify the investment.

Enter the new Macbook

When I saw the video detailing the changes and updates in the body and design of the new Macbook, I salivated. The way they put the laptop together was very cool, and between hardware changes and the standard integration of OS X, it looked like it ran very well indeed. “If only it was around $1200 instead of $1800,” I said. “Then maybe I could justify such an extravagant piece of machinery.”

Then I looked at the page on Apple’s site and discovered that the base Book was sitting at $1299. That was almost reasonable, I thought, and I began considering it more seriously. I’ve been thinking about getting a new laptop for around two years now, and my old lappy was originally purchased in late 2003 or early 2004. It weighs around 6.8 pounds and currently gets around 30 minutes of battery life, so you might consider it more of a desktop replacement than a true mobile computer. I didn’t use it much anymore because it just wasn’t that useful for my purposes.

Continue reading

Improving spontaneity

I get in this bad cycle now and again where I’ll have work I need to do, not want to do it, and yet can’t bring myself to do anything else because I know that I should be working on whatever it is that needs doing. For example, right now I need to work on my creative project for my Buddhism class (I intend to write an epic poem), but I really don’t want to. And though I’d like to do some writing on other topics, I don’t want to do that either because I know that I should be working on Buddhism stuff. In the end, I get nothing done and waste a lot of time. It’s stupid.

In addition to that, I’ve found that my blogging habits have become more and more structured, and I don’t really like that. The structure is killing all of my writing because it gets me wrapped into a logical loop where I feel I can only write so much at once, only post every so often, only write on certain topics at certain times… and that if I blog, it has to be of a certain length, depth, and consideration before it’s worth putting up here.

The result is that very little work is getting done, and that’s worthless. I have the potential to have a great deal of productivity and output, but I’m sabotaging myself to try and meet some warped expectation, imposed either by myself or some nebulous “other.”

Writing is work, and it’s not easy, but I need to apply myself. Just like going to the gym early in the morning, it kind of sucks at first, but once you get into the routine, it’s not so bad, and the end results are definitely positive.

In other news, I’m considering a new writing implement. It would be nice to be mobile again, but buying a new laptop will have to wait until sometime next year. We’ll see how our tax return turns out, and how my raise looks; I also need some time to change my mind another dozen times before settling on such a big purchase. I think it would be all kinds of helpful to have something I could carry around easily (the laptop I’m looking at weighs a total of about 3 pounds less than my current one when you include the power adapter), but I want to make sure I’m making the right decision since I’m going to have to stick with it for 3-5 years.

Updated – Why Chrome Concerns Me

Google has recently announced their web browser, Google Chrome, and while a variety of bloggers and news sites have begun reporting on and hypothesizing about Google’s motivation and the browser’s functionality, nobody seems to have any negative concerns regarding Chrome other than its competition with Mozilla Firefox. Some have shared their concern that this will kill Firefox as well as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which is a fine concern to have, but one I think isn’t major. People who care more about privacy will look at Google’s continuous data mining and give Chrome a miss. Firefox will still be used, and it’s Open Source, so it’ll continue being developed (unless Google buys it…). But again, not my main issue.

My concern is where Google states that Chrome is more than a web browser. Rather, it’s “a modern platform for web pages and applications,” with the word application mentioned 5 times in three paragraphs there. While Mozilla Firefox uses Gecko as its application engine, Chrome will use Webkit (along with Safari and Konquerer), just as Google’s mobile operating system (Android) will use Webkit.

Application compatibility and development could certainly put a dent in Mozilla Firefox’s usage statistics, but more importantly, it sends up a red flag to me. I fear we’ll return to the lack of standardization that was a hallmark of the browser wars in the early to mid 90s. As webapps become more prevalent, I fear web developers will have to begin writing apps to be compatible with Gecko, Webkit, and Microsoft, and that’s simply ludicrous. We are finally achieving standardization when it comes to HTML, and with Javascript, PHP, and ASP we’ve got languages that are understood equally by all browsers.

With Google entering the browser wars and choosing Webkit, it appears that we are establishing a lack of standardization for the future, which bothers me. Moreover, as Google moves more towards web development, with their own web browser in place I fear that they will build something akin to Microsoft’s ActiveX, where their web applications will be even more advanced and powerful, but will require their web browser to achieve that full functionality. I am concerned that Chrome will encourage Google to create proprietary web applications.

Of course, they may stick to their creed of “Do No Evil,” and my concerns may be completely unfounded. But as Google gains more power and popularity, I wonder how far they can push the definition of “Good” before losing the favour of their users. Regardless, I’ll check out Chrome so I can support it, but I doubt I’ll be switching to it full time. I already give Google my email and contacts, but adding my browsing into that… I like to pretend to have at least a little bit of privacy.

Addendum:: Google Chrome is Open Source, as is Webkit, so it’s not like THE END OF THE WORLD if they develop stuff that’s Webkit-only. It would just make me a little sad, and be a step in the wrong direction, I would think. Unless Webkit became a standard (and I’m sure someone will make the argument that Mozilla could always switch from Gecko to Webkit), and no news or rumours have arisen yet that such a move is likely in the web development community… though with both Android and the iPhone using Webkit, it certainly wouldn’t be absurd for Webkit to become so prevalent it became a standard…

Regarding Privacy:: Another update, since I mentioned this earlier. Since I’m in meetings all day, I haven’t downloaded, installed, and tried Chrome yet, but CNet takes a closer look at the Terms of Service attached to Chrome. Of particular concern to me is:

By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any content which you submit, post or display on or through, the services.

Since my own content is copylefted under Creative Commons, I don’t particularly like the idea of Google serving up my content in any sort of advertisement and potentially making money from it.