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Apple set a new quarterly earnings record last week with a $1 billion profit on revenue of $7.1 billion for the quarter ending 30-Dec-06, the first quarter of their 2007 fiscal year. Yes, that's "billion" with a B, and represents a significant increase over the $565 million profit netted in the first quarter of 2006. It also eclipses the $546 million profit from the last quarter. Of that revenue, Apple noted that international sales make up 42 percent.
As expected, iPod sales were particularly strong, with 21 million iPods moved during the quarter, compared to 14 million sold in the year-ago quarter and 8.7 million sold in the last quarter. However, Mac sales remained strong as well, with Apple shipping 1.6 million computers. That compares to 1.2 million sold in last year's quarter and 1.61 million in the Q4 2006 time period. While laptops outsold desktops, Adobe's Creative Suite 3 hasn't shipped, and that's expected to be a large driver of Mac Pro system sales.
Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer estimated revenue of $4.8 to $4.9 billion for the second quarter of fiscal 2007.
We got ahead of ourselves last week in "iPhone Seeks to Redefine the Mobile Phone" (2007-01-15) when we said that the iPhone contained the in-progress 802.11n flavor of wireless networking. In fact, it's merely 802.11g, the same as in the original AirPort Extreme.
What can we say? All the hype about 802.11n at Macworld Expo, with the Apple TV and new AirPort Extreme Base Station must have gotten to us. The iPhone should be capable of nearly 25 Mbps of real throughput in the best circumstances, versus the 100 Mbps from 802.11n.
And, while we had heard that no Intel processor was inside, it turns out that that's a very fine point indeed. Multiple sources, including Intel, stated that Apple is using an XScale processor from Marvell, a chipmaker that bought its embedded processor division mere months ago from... Intel. (The source is in Italian, but the Intel exec said, roughly: "It's not ours, but Marvell's, the company to which we sold the business that included the XScale architecture.")
In "Reality and Digital Pictures," (2005-12-12) and "Editing Photographs for the Perfectionist," (2004-9-27), I recommended some plug-ins by Asiva, particularly Shift+Gain. A few months ago they became unavailable, but the developer is bringing them out again under a new corporate entity and is promising to make them available in universal binary form.
After several days of rumors, Apple confirmed on 18-Jan-07 that it would, in fact, charge a small fee for the 802.11n enabler that will allow owners of most Intel Core 2 Duo- and all Xeon-based Macs to get the faster network speed. (Just the 1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac lacks the appropriate chips.) The fee will be $2, not the $5 fee that was widely reported.
While going to the effort of charging only $2 seems absurd, an Apple spokesperson explained that accounting rules now require that "significant feature enhancements, such as 802.11n," come with a charge. News.com and The Wall Street Journal produced stories that disputed Apple's particular characterization, with experts noting that Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures (GAAP) don't per se require a charge.
But experts in both articles supported the general principle Apple was citing: you can't record revenue for a given good or service if you later deliver improvements. Instead, a company must either value the item as a set of parts, and book revenue only as each part is fulfilled, or defer revenue until all parts are in place. Apple would thus have been able to accept the cash for its Intel-based Macs with 802.11n, but that cash would have been prevented from appearing in its earnings reports, affecting its profit under GAAP.
For instance, a tractor company that delivered a backhoe that was designed to accept a part that would double its fuel efficiency, but was sold before that part was available, would not be able to record any revenue for the tractor unless they sold the fuel part separately. If the fuel part was included in the price of the tractor, income from it couldn't be recorded. As with many GAAP issues, this doesn't affect actual cash on hand.
By attaching a value to the update, even one as low as $2, Apple is allowed to book that upgrade revenue separately as the final part of the feature set that's delivered. In recent years, Apple hasn't had to worry about this with operating systems because it always charges for them.
A report from MacScoop over the weekend states that Apple will likely charge Tiger users $30 for Boot Camp. Boot Camp is a software addition in beta testing that enables Intel-based Macs to boot into Windows XP Service Pack 2 ("Apple Opens Boot Camp for Windows Users," 2006-04-10), and which has been promised as an included part of Leopard. The reason could be the same.
The 802.11n enabler will be available in February from the online Apple Store and will be included with the new AirPort Extreme Base Station at no cost. Future Macs will ship with the faster 802.11n standard already turned on, but Apple couldn't state when that would happen. It's also unclear whether if you purchase a Mac today, you'll still be required to pay the $2 for an enabler since the feature is now announced.
Because the enabler won't be locked in any fashion, and because it's needed just once per computer, we anticipate that it will be in wide circulation. Apple might use its normal means of preventing software from being distributed if the enabler appears on mainstream sites, but the company is unlikely to cry "piracy!" for software it feels compelled to charge a "nominal fee" to offer.
I wrote an extensive run-down of AirPort Extreme's revision and 802.11n in "AirPort Extreme Updated" (2007-01-15).
Like so many people these days, I work at home, so for me, nearly every day is "take your child to work day." As often as not, after school my eight-year-old son Tristan helps me balance bank statements or put stamps on envelopes, or "helps" by staying out of the way while I wrap up editing a manuscript or making one last phone call.
But, there's much more to my job than what Tristan normally sees, and some of that "much more" happens at Macworld Expo, an event that is oft-discussed around my dinner table, but that Tristan had never seen. So, this year, thanks to Tristan's aunt Jen and uncle Linus (at whose house he stayed while Adam and I attended the event), Tristan came to the show with me for a few hours.
Our first stop was the DriveSavers booth. DriveSavers rescues data from damaged disk drives, and they can succeed in cases where it would seem all hope is lost. They typically have examples of success stories at their booth, so we checked out a laptop that had been run over by a car, a laptop that had sunk in a damaged cruise ship, and a computer that had been burned in a fire. Great stuff if you're an 8-year-old! The folks at DriveSavers even gave Tristan a little flashlight (his first swag!). You can check out a bunch of these stories online at the DriveSavers Museum of Disk-Asters.
Our next booth was Google, where we played with the recently released Google Earth 4. The interface of this new version is meant to be simpler to use than previous ones, and Tristan enjoyed zooming in on landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower. This new version has "textured buildings," so some landmark buildings look especially real, and "3D terrain," so some landscapes look stunningly real as you fly over them. Tristan also liked looking in on his elementary school, but we couldn't see much - upstate New York doesn't yet rate the same kind of resolution as San Francisco. He also liked turning on and off many layers in Google Earth to hide and show not only basic mapping elements like roads, but also to show icons for where you can click to view a photo of a landmark location or to view a Discovery Channel movie of your location.
I pried Tristan away, pointing out that we could get Google Earth at home (the non-pro version is a free 29.6 MB download), and we headed to the booth run by The Software MacKiev Company. MacKiev has been around for a long time, and they have a good collection of children's software. I didn't bother to show Tristan their various Dr. Seuss-related programs, because he has never much liked fiction and Dr. Seuss doesn't excite him (Tristan can be an odd bird at times). But, MacKiev's 2007 World Book Multimedia encyclopedia ($50) immediately appealed to him, with an article seemingly about Pearl Harbor that had a good chunk of text and a movie. (I say "seemingly" because I was paying attention to the problem that the counter was so high that Tristan had to crane his neck way up to see). However, a booth person helped me boost Tristan up on the counter and then gave us a fun demo of Kid Pix Deluxe 3X 1.1 ($40).
Kid Pix - which is now a universal binary - has grown far past its roots as a comic-book-like, kid-oriented MacDraw, and though the laugh-out-loud standard features like "stamps" that work like stickers, a hose tool that sprays water on the drawing, and an egg-beater tool that mixes up the pixels delighted Tristan, I took note of some features that he wasn't yet sophisticated enough as a Mac user to fully understand - how you can save various pictures in an online album, how an album can become a slideshow, and how you can export the slideshow so it plays on an iPod or be further tweaked in iMovie. Kid Pix also imports from GarageBand, iTunes, and iPhoto.
From Tristan's perspective, other highlights of the show included the tricked-out cars with fancy sound systems and TV screens (living in Ithaca, NY, our concept of a fancy car is an ancient Volvo sporting a bumper sticker about how it runs biodiesel), seeing Adam giving a presentation at the Peachpit booth, and the muffins for sale in the hallway. The escalators also rated high on his list.
As I'd hoped, taking Tristan to Macworld Expo helped him understand more deeply that while it appears that I spend a vast amount of time interacting with my laptop, that in fact I am interacting with people and software that become much more physically real at Macworld Expo. Unexpectedly, though, just as I enjoyed seeing the show through the filter of Tristan's enthusiasm, Tristan enjoyed seeing the show under the wing of a member of the press, and it seems to have rubbed off. Entirely by his own choosing and motivation, Tristan spent the weekend after Macworld writing about Google Earth (and learning exciting Macintosh concepts, like what happens when you press Delete with your entire document selected). You can read his (well-edited) take on it next in "How to Google Earth" (2007-01-22), which gives an idea of how literacy and mapping awareness play a big part in how a child handles a software interface.
[Tristan, age 8, wrote this piece the weekend after returning from San Francisco, where he attended Macworld Expo with me for a morning (see "Take Your Child to Work Day, Macworld Expo Style," 2007-01-22). It's by no means the first time he has been mentioned in TidBITS, but it is his first byline! -Tonya]
In Google Earth, you can fly from San Diego (in the United States) to Portsmouth (in the United Kingdom) in two seconds! In fact, you can fly to anywhere on the globe that Google Earth knows about. If you want to see the Great Wall of China, you can! Google Earth works on newer Macintoshes and Windows computers, and the Google Earth Downloads page gives the details for what you need.
Once you download, install, and run Google Earth, type a place where you want to go in the Search box. Spell it correctly and hit Return. Once you're at your destination, to navigate, notice the controls at the upper right. The vertical bar with the plus and the minus is where you click to zoom in and out. The circle with the N on it is a compass: click one of its four arrows to move in a direction. I suppose you know your directions, but if not, the arrow pointing towards the N is north. The one pointing at the plus and minus is east. The one pointing away from the N is south. And the fourth arrow is west.
I like Google Earth for looking at special landmarks like the USS Constitution in Boston, but I don't think it is reliable, because it often doesn't understand my spelling, and I had trouble finding the HMS Victory because Google Earth doesn't have a way for me to say that I am looking for a ship.
Last week we tried to include everything that was known about the iPhone in "iPhone Seeks to Redefine the Mobile Phone" (2007-01-15) and "iTouched an iPhone" (2007-01-15). But what we held for this week is a look at all the questions that Apple has yet to answer satisfactorily. We shouldn't be too hard on Apple here; the iPhone isn't scheduled to ship until June 2007, and there's plenty of time for features to be added or changed. In fact, given that Glenn cast some significant doubt on Apple's claim that the pre-release announcement was necessary due to prevent the news from escaping from the FCC, we're thinking that Apple may have scheduled the iPhone announcement early both to collect feedback and because there wasn't much else to announce. Apple TV, the new AirPort Extreme Base Station, and a Leopard preview wouldn't have made for a rollicking keynote.
Without further ado, then, let's starting asking the tough questions. Apple PR wasn't forthcoming, but on a hunch, we called the iPhone that Steve Jobs was using in the keynote, and with some wild pressing of the # and * keys, we discovered a prototype voice recognition and response system. Remember how the original Mac talked back to Jobs when he pulled it out of the bag back in 1984? Thanks to its Mac OS X underpinnings, the iPhone was far more loquacious.
[TidBITS] When Microsoft released the Zune, much was made of the fact that even though it has Wi-Fi, Zune owners cannot sync their music via Wi-Fi. Will you be able to sync via Wi-Fi?
[iPhone] Much as it pains me to be lumped in with the Zune (that brown is awful!), my syncing works only over USB as well. I'm hoping Apple enables me to sync via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth soon. But I should point out that my battery life is short enough that you'll want to dock regularly, and syncing can happen while I charge.
[TidBITS] Another criticism leveled at the Zune is that users cannot purchase music from Microsoft's online store via the Zune itself, but must rely on a PC. Will your users be able to purchase music while connected via Wi-Fi or EDGE?
[iPhone] You've done your homework, right? You really want to download multi-megabyte files over EDGE? No way, man. As for Wi-Fi, you've got me there. Maybe in the future.
[TidBITS] We understand that you're available only with a two-year service plan from Cingular. How much will your iPhone plan cost per month?
[iPhone] I'm sorry, but I can't reveal that information yet. I believe Cingular's unlimited SmartPhone Connection Unlimited with Xpress Mail plan costs $20 per month and the unlimited Laptop Connect with Wi-Fi plan costs $100 per month. Expect to see my plan somewhere between those. Hopefully with a shorter name.
[TidBITS] We understand that T-Mobile offers unlimited EDGE data on its not-yet-3G data network for $20 per month to voice subscribers. They offer unlimited Wi-Fi usage at their hotspot network in the United States, plus unlimited EDGE for $30 per month. Cingular's unlimited data plan costs $60 to $80 per month, including its fastest networking flavors, depending on commitment term and whether you're a voice customer. AT&T, Cingular's owner, has its own hotspot network called AT&T FreedomLink on which it offers unlimited access to its DSL subscribers for $2 per month, and to others for $20 per month.
[iPhone] That's, uh, "fascinating." I'm certain that Apple and Cingular will make sure that iPhone service plans are competitively priced with other smartphone data plans. I can't believe I sound like a corporate spokesperson.
[TidBITS] Speaking of which, Cingular is about to change its name to AT&T, and your name is entering litigation. Will you and Cingular both end up with new monikers?
[iPhone] Listen, I support Cingular in its decision, as it grows up, to choose a name that suits it. AT&T is its step-parent's name and its grandmother's name, and even its great-grandmother's name, for crying out loud. As for me, I'm sticking with iPhone. Those late-trademark-filing, sticker-attaching crybabies at Cisco can cry me an iRiver.
[TidBITS] The U.S. Library of Congress has granted an exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that allows consumers to reverse-engineer the locks on phones that prevent switching carriers. Will we be able to unlock you and use you with other carriers?
[iPhone] Have fun trying, bub! I'm not saying you can and I'm not saying you can't.
[TidBITS] In Europe, many more phones are sold unlocked and without subsidies from carriers. However, a colleague at a European publication told us that the trend has switched and about 50 percent of European mobile phone subscribers now accept contracts and phone subsidies.
[iPhone] See, even Europeans are coming around. I'm looking forward to being sold in Europe by the end of the year. And I can hardly wait until I can go head-to-head with all those Asian phones in 2008. I'll show them a thing or two!
[TidBITS] What about using a SIM card from another cellular carrier in an iPhone?
[iPhone] Yuck! That's just icky. No.
[TidBITS] Speaking of other countries, will you work with 3G cellular networks?
[iPhone] I'd love to talk about that, since GSM-based 3G networks are so much more widely deployed across Europe and chunks of Asia, but you'll just have to wait and see.
[TidBITS] Many cell phones can be used via Bluetooth or a USB cable as a cellular-data modem for a computer. In fact, Cingular sells some phones and service plans designed for that purpose, as do other carriers. Can you be used as a modem?
[iPhone] I'm insulted! Use me as a modem? What do you think I am, a Telebit Trailblazer? I am a state of the art mobile phone and Internet communications device. A modem, really.
[TidBITS] Can you answer the question, please?
[iPhone] I'd rather not.
[TidBITS] Why not?
[iPhone] I don't know the answer. But let me find out and get back to you on that. In June.
[TidBITS] Your Google Maps widget appears to lack driving directions. Will that be rectified by June?
[iPhone] My Web site says it will, and I certainly hope so. I'm pretty good at knowing where I am, but I have a terrible sense of direction.
[TidBITS] Can we infer from that comment that you have GPS capabilities?
[iPhone] Well... no, not really. Like all cell phones in the United States, I support wireless Enhanced 911, so my location can be determined roughly by triangulation from cell towers. But I'd really like full-fledged GPS capabilities because then I could use my speakerphone to give you voice navigation directions while you're driving. Perhaps in the future.
[TidBITS] Let's talk about ringtones.
[iPhone] Yes, let's! I have some, and you can buy more. Cool, eh?
[TidBITS] Can we create our own ringtones?
[iPhone] Why would you want to do that when you can buy more from Cingular?
[TidBITS] Because I already own the music I want to use?
[iPhone] Oh. Maybe. But you'd probably pick something tacky.
[TidBITS] How about a vibrate mode?
[iPhone] Please! You can get your jollies with some other phone. Leave me out of your sordid little fantasies.
[TidBITS] What about deaf folks or just those who prefer not to advertise to the world that they're receiving a call?
[iPhone] You have a point. I have a Ringer On/Off switch on my side, but my accelerometer isn't sensitive enough to tell me if I'm vibrating or not when it's off. Check back in June.
[TidBITS] You're supposedly running a full version of Mac OS X.
[iPhone] Yes! Isn't that cool?
[TidBITS] Does that mean we'll be able to install Mac OS X applications on you?
[iPhone] Ooo, I hope not. Not everyone has as much taste as Steve. And I wouldn't want to be exposed to nasty code with viruses or other hacks. But I'm sure Apple will provide new capabilities for me. And Apple might allow some third-party developers to write applications or widgets for me. They haven't decided yet.
[TidBITS] How would a user install a new widget that was approved?
[iPhone] Beats me. Perhaps you could buy it through the iTunes Store and sync it to me that way. After all, that way Apple gets a cut of the sale too.
[TidBITS] What about games? The iPod has games.
[iPhone] A waste of time. You should be buying video from the iTunes Store if you want to waste time. OK, I'll admit it, I don't know the answer.
[TidBITS] Can you display Word or Excel documents?
[iPhone] Certainly! Just convert them to HTML or PDF and put them up on a Web site.
[TidBITS] How about running iChat?
[iPhone] Isn't SMS text messaging enough for you? It looks like iChat.
[TidBITS] Wouldn't iChat AV be cool? Or Skype?
[iPhone] Cingular wouldn't like that.
[iPhone] Yes, no, maybe, and yes.
[TidBITS] Let's say I wanted to start a secure shell (ssh) session on you to connect to a remote computer. If you're really running full Mac OS X, shouldn't ssh be there somewhere?
[iPhone] Now you're getting personal. A phone is entitled to its secrets.
[TidBITS] Will you offer voice recognition for commands in Mac OS X, voice dialing, or voice memos, like other cell phones?
[iPhone] I'm not saying. I might in June.
[TidBITS] Speed dialing?
[iPhone] Let's just say that I hope Apple has something up their sleeve for me.
[TidBITS] Can you be synced with Outlook in Windows for contacts and calendar events?
[iPhone] It doesn't give me warm fuzzy feelings inside, but yes, just like on the iPod. And you can sync contacts with Outlook Express in Windows, along with Web bookmarks. But I'd really prefer that everyone used a Mac.
[TidBITS] Can you enter new contacts and calendar entries, or is that data read-only, as on the iPod?
[iPhone] You can. My goal is to outdo the iPod in every way.
[TidBITS] Will your technology be used in stand-alone iPods or Internet communicators?
[iPhone] I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. Good thing I'll have a death ray in June too!
[TidBITS] What about disk mode, then? Can you be used to store data files, like the iPod?
[iPhone] I certainly hope so, but I'm not sure right now.
[TidBITS] Can you use accessories designed for the iPod's dock connector?
[TidBITS] Including the Nike+iPod transmitter?
[iPhone] Don't you dare expose me to all that bouncing!
[TidBITS] Can you sync photos from a Mac, like an iPod?
[iPhone] Absolutely. And I can take photos too. Try that with an iPod.
[TidBITS] At 2 megapixels.
[iPhone] Well, yes. My camera doesn't have the highest resolution around.
[TidBITS] Can it do video?
[iPhone] Not yet. But why do I have a sense this is circling back to your sordid little fantasies again?
[TidBITS] Anything else you'd like to share with us?
[iPhone] Not until June.
Every year as we walk the show floor, we keep part of our attention focused on what's cool, different, or otherwise worth mentioning outside of the major news of the event. Contributions this year come from Adam Engst, Glenn Fleishman, Jeff Carlson, Tonya Engst, Dan Pourhadi, and Andrew Laurence.
Did you see something we missed? Contribute to the TidBITS Talk thread devoted to this year's superlatives.
Most Fit Hotel -- Many hotels include a gym or exercise room for their fitness-conscious guests, but The Mosser was able to impose some exercise without any free weights: the elevator was in the midst of refurbishment, making for inexpensive rates. Plenty of porters were available to carry bags (though we didn't avail ourselves of their services), we got a great nightly rate, and we burned plenty of calories climbing to and from the seventh and eighth floors! Fortunately, we learned long ago that hotels during Macworld Expo are really meant for sleeping and not lounging about, so we didn't find ourselves making the hike too often. [JLC]
Biggest Energy Saver -- Greenpeace activists were politely handing out literature at the keynote, and our friend Raines Cohen was tromping the show floor in full pirate regalia as a comment on climate change. (If you're unaware of the reference, in the Pastafarian parody religion, the inverse relationship between the number of pirates since the 1800s and global temperatures is used as an example of how correlation does not equal causation.)
But this award goes to Power Save Mac from Faronics, a utility that enables far more flexible control over when a Mac sleeps, wakes, shuts down, or starts up than Apple provides in the Energy Saver preference pane. Power Save Mac provides full time and day of week scheduling capabilities, monitoring of inactivity as defined both by lack of keyboard and mouse usage and by CPU usage or application activity (in other words, don't sleep if a nightly backup or long rendering job is underway), and the capability for users to override tasks when appropriate.
Sounds neat, but the part that makes it truly important is that network administrators can save sets of Power Save Mac settings and then distribute them via Apple Remote Desktop. Plus, individual tasks can be installed into Apple Remote Desktop for remote invocation across a large number of Macs. Power Save Mac costs only $25 with workstation licenses at $12 each ($2 of which is for a year of updates and tech support). If you manage a large group of Macs, check out Power Save Mac to see how much you can save your organization in wasted power. [ACE]
Best Guerilla Marketing Effort -- Can't afford a booth at Macworld? Take a page from the marketing playbook of the TuneTether guys. They hung around Macworld's booth when journalists were giving presentations, and then when we came offstage, they'd introduce themselves and show us their product. They hadn't heard of TidBITS before (they were probably in preschool when we started), but nice guy that I am, I listened to their spiel anyway. The $10 TuneTether is a thin plastic collar of sorts, with notches on the two ends to hold earbuds and keep them from getting in the way. TuneTether currently comes in black, white, and hot pink, but clearly there's room for a wide selection of fashion styles. [ACE]
Most Incorrectly Sized Booth (Undersized Division) -- Parallels purchased a 5-by-10-foot (1.5-by-3-meter) booth, which was probably about 20 percent of the area that they would have needed to handle all the people who were interested in learning more about the Windows virtualization product Parallels Desktop, were coming by for advice on their installation, or were well wishers. Their blog noted that people were 10 deep around the booth sometimes, and I can vouch for that. It was like swimming to reach the actual staffers. [GF]
Most Incorrectly Sized Booth (Oversized Division) -- Apple had little to show that an Apple Store couldn't offer, and thus had the smallest crowds I've ever seen at the Apple booth during Macworld. While the demonstrations of Apple TV were interesting, a few minutes playing with it showed that it's not very different than Front Row. iPhone and Leopard demonstrations were shown off in the main stage area, and while those were well attended, they weren't packed by Wednesday. [GF]
Biggest Blast from the Past -- Every now and then I long for the days when ResEdit hacks were cool. Riccardo Ettore remembers those days too, and has a new utility, Sounds4Fun, that ties sounds to events on your Mac (if you haven't been using the Mac for the last 20 years, Sounds4Fun is the latest version of iBeep2 from 1987, which evolved first into SndControl, after which it was included in the NowFun package as FunSounds). Want your Mac to yawn when you put it sleep? Or perhaps you'd like to be warned audibly when you accidentally press the Caps Lock key? Riccardo's new utility, the $14 Sounds4Fun, can link sounds to all those events and nearly 70 more. He has so many events, in fact, that there's a filter field you can use to restrict the list in case you can't find the one you're looking for. Gone are the days of extensions and control panels, though. Sounds4Fun is a normal preference pane in Mac OS X, with a secondary application that offers an optional menu for easy access to basic controls, so it isn't doing anything funky. And most people will have oodles of cool sounds in GarageBand's sample files (in /Library/Application Support/GarageBand/Instrument Library/Sampler/Sampler Files/). [ACE]
Biggest Drive -- A terabyte (TB) of storage in a single external drive package is no longer unique or unusual. Several vendors at the show had FireWire 400/800 plus USB 2.0 drive packages that contained 1 TB, usually in the form of two 500 gigabyte (GB) hard drives that could be striped (1 TB, higher speed) or mirrored (500 GB, with identical data written to both drives). Multi-terabyte drives were also available, although more typically in vastly more expensive configurations tailored for video recording and editing. Hitachi and others will drop the price for this storage, with a single mechanism containing 1 TB on the market in March for about $400. [GF]
Newest Mac Convert -- I passed 3Ware's booth several times before I realized I'd never seen them at a Macworld Expo before. 3ware is a long-standing vendor of storage controllers in the PC world, and the 3ware Sidecar is their first foray into the Mac market. It's a hot-swap enclosure for 3.5-inch SATA hard disks (which are not included with the Sidecar), and a hardware RAID controller on a PCI-Express card. The 4-port card supports several RAID modes (0, 1, 10, 50 and JBOD) and connects to the enclosure via eSATA cabling. At present the card can be configured via an embedded Web interface or command line; 3ware says they're working on a Mac OS X-native interface. (No word yet on whether the Mac-specific firmware will work on 3ware's other cards.) [ATL]
Most Intriguing Graphical Collaboration Tool -- Plasq showed a beta of a graphical collaboration tool called Skitch that provides tools for quick visual collaboration via iChat or email, making it easy to share sketches, iSight pictures, and screenshots. You can emphasize and annotate the original image by adding elements like circles, arrows, and text to a separate layer. Skitch eschews menu use for common tasks, and puts most of its controls around the edges the workspace, making for a fluid workflow that is both friendly and well suited to the fast-paced nature of online collaboration. For example, although Skitch has a Save dialog, most users will probably never see it. Instead, they'll simply use the filename field at the bottom of the Skitch window (Skitch saves in a default location). The bottom also has a tab from which you can "drag off" a copy of the file to put it in an email message, in iChat, or in a folder of your choosing. My favorite feature exemplifies the fun, easy nature of Skitch - when you start typing, Skitch selects the Text tool for you and puts your typed text into the document. Skitch isn't generally available yet, but when it is, I'll write more about it here in TidBITS. [TJE]
Best Dual-Mode Geek at Show -- While Robin Williams - the actor, not the Mac book author - was present at the keynote, singer Graham Nash takes the prize as the most famous geek present. Nash and his partner R. Mac Holbert have been producing extremely high-quality digital prints since 1990 at Nash Editions in California. (I met them briefly in 1992 in Camden, Maine, when they came to lead a workshop at the Kodak Center for Creative Imaging.) They're still at it. While Nash is a literal rock star, Holbert earns that figurative sobriquet in the world of digital print reproduction. Peachpit Press released "Nash Editions: Photography and the Art of Printing" in early January.
During a short conversation with Holbert, I mentioned the high-resolution scanner that Nash Editions had in the early 1990s that was an order of magnitude above what could be commercially purchased. He said that they now have a device that can read 512 samples per inch at up to five by seven feet. And photographers still complain about the resolution. [GF]
Most Convenient In-Ear Solutions -- The most inhibiting factor of any convenient earphone is the tangly mess of the intrusive cable hanging from your head. Exercising, traveling, or just walking - the cable can always get in the way. Two companies, Shure and Etymotic Research, realized this, and developed new products to combat the inherent flaw. Shure introduced its new line of SE in-ear headphones, the first in-ears with a modular cable design: if the included 3-foot (.9 m) cable is too long or short, simply replace it with another, more convenient size. Etymotic introduced ety8, Bluetooth-enabled wireless earphones, eliminating the cable altogether. The SE headphones come in four models and start at $150, and the iPod-specific model of the ety8 is available for $300. [DP]
Most Fun from a Business Application -- A good phone system can help a small company seem like a big one, and Parliant's PhoneValet lets you use standard telephones and phone lines to do the job of expensive telephone systems. It can announce, answer, transfer, and record calls, and it both simplifies dialing and keeps an extensive call log (see "PhoneValet, Can You Get That?" 2003-09-29, for a full review of a much earlier version). But what garners PhoneValet 5 this superlative is its newfound capability to identify incoming calls by caller ID and then feed them into customized voicemail systems, complete with extensive phone trees. I'm sure you can come up with plenty of useful examples with how you might use this in the real world, but all I could think of was prank phone trees for particular callers. "Press 1 to leave a message. Are you pressing 1? Come on, you can press it harder than that. Well, if it's not working, press 2 instead. 3? Why did you press 3, you nincompoop? I told you to press 2!" And so on... PhoneValet 5 costs $170 per line, with upgrades from PhoneValet 3 or 4 priced at $40 per line. [ACE]
Most Missed Figure -- Our late colleague Bruce Fraser was on the minds of many at the show involved in digital imaging. Fraser was gracious, hilarious, and generous with his time, as well as a prolific writer. Graham Nash hosted a celebration of Bruce's life that brought out a couple hundred attendees. We wrote an appreciation of Bruce's life a few weeks ago ("In Memoriam: Bruce Fraser, 1954-2006," 2006-12-18). A number of people have posted accounts and photographs from the event - Peachpit's Victor Gavenda offered a good word picture of it - at which Bruce's friends spoke, and then threw back a shot of his favorite single-malt Scotch. [GF]
Coolest Database Trick -- One of the dirty secrets about databases is that they often don't communicate all that well with each other, either because they're too different or because it's impossible to connect them directly. Enter WorldSync's SyncDeK, which has for several years synchronized data between remote FileMaker databases. The latest version, SyncDeK 7, extends that capability to SQL data sources, including MySQL, Oracle, and Microsoft Access, among others. SyncDeK is particularly useful for mobile users who need access to a corporate database but are often offline and remote sites that must share the same core database but don't have sufficient network connections to do so live. Pricing varies; see the WorldSync site for details. [ACE]
Least Secret Apple Revelation -- People taking their Intel-based Macs apart had already figured out that Apple was using Wi-Fi chips that could handle the in-progress 802.11n standard, even though Apple hadn't enabled the faster modes possible in those chips. 802.11n requires extra antennas, too, and Apple had to build their computers around that principle. While Jobs was too busy sliding and pinching on the iPhone to mention the release of AirPort Extreme with 802.11n, and the base station remodel wasn't on display (it ships in February), it was pretty much a given. [GF]
Largest Piles of Marketing -- Maxtor made their point about why you need to back up by placing huge stacks of CDs and massive piles of photos in the hallway between Moscone's North and South halls. Every time I walked by, I grinned, thinking of how easily all that data would fit on even a laptop drive these days. But yes, you do want to back up all that music (more from the iTunes Store than from CDs you could rip again) and especially irreplaceable digital photos. [ACE]
Best Alternative to Pinch and Unpinch -- If you pinch to zoom in on an iPhone picture or map, what is the opposite gesture? Flab? Sandee Cohen, Illustrator expert and book author, suggested we adopt Adobe's terms: pucker and bloat. Pinch, Pucker, and Bloat - my former attorneys. [GF]
Best Film Organization -- People who shoot digital video with consumer camcorders mostly just record on the fly. But when amateurs seek to move into creating longer features, they quickly realize that it takes coordination to pull all the pieces together. Jungle Software's Gorilla is a package for scheduling, budgeting, and organizing a video shoot. It helps to keep track of actors and locations, draw up shot lists, and speed up video shoots where often the biggest expense is the amount of time that the rest of the crew is standing around. Gorilla comes in three packages: Student, Standard, and Pro, depending on budget and number of shooting days; costs range from $200 to $400, and a free trial is available for download. [JLC]
Largest USB Peripheral -- Although Moscone's South Hall is underground, that didn't prevent the folks at Software Bisque from showing off what must have been the largest USB device on the show floor: the Paramount ME Robotic Telescope Mount (and separate telescope). In conjunction with their software Seeker, the $12,500 base can help you scan the stars (and maybe find the droids you're looking for). In the interests of full disclosure, the mount was powered from a Windows laptop, because the company is still working on USB device support for the Mac version of Seeker. [JLC]
Best New Mac -- Sure, Apple didn't have any new Macs at the show, but that's not stopping us from giving out this award to OWC and Axiotron, for their ModBook tablet Mac. Not content to wait for Apple to produce a tablet Mac (which may never happen), OWC and Axiotron teamed up to design a full-fledged tablet Mac using technology from tablet company Wacom. The trick with the ModBook is that it's not a new Mac as such, but a reconstituted MacBook. OWC and Axiotron perform radical surgery on a stock MacBook to add a better screen and the pen digitizer from Wacom, and to repackage it all in a smooth looking case with the original iSight camera and a stylus holder. A built-in GPS is an optional add-on, as is a 6x DVD burner with up to 8.5 GB capacity. And if you don't always want to control Mac OS X using the stylus and Apple's InkWell technology, the ModBook can be attached to VESA-compatible desktop arms and used with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (or USB devices, since it has the same ports as a MacBook). The GPS may be an important addition for some mobile professionals for whom location is key data. Pre-reserve prices range from $2,200 through $2,700 and all include the GPS. Oh, and if you were wondering, the price difference from a MacBook is about $1,100. [ACE]
Cleverest Use of Cardboard -- From a distance, the booth for bag-makers Crumpler seemed to have an interesting texture. Get closer, and you discover their 25-foot-square booth was, in fact, comprised entirely of cardboard boxes. Metal bars were placed inside the open end of some boxes which contained line-drawing pictures of animals, looking much like O'Reilly's cover art menagerie. [GF]
Best Use for an old iPod -- Anyone who supports Mac users needs a good utility drive for booting recalcitrant Macs and running disk recovery or backup software. You could use Micromat's cute TechTool Protege FireWire flash drive, which can boot a Mac and includes Micromat's TechTool Pro. Or, if you have an old iPod around, or any other hard disk or flash drive, you could use Micromat's new ProToGo, which is a software product that helps you turn the device of your choice into the equivalent of the TechTool Protege, complete with the capability of booting Macs (this is of course dependent on individual Macs; PowerPC Macs can't boot from USB, for instance) and a collection of Micromat's utility software, including TechTool Pro 4. ProToGo costs $135, or $87 if you're upgrading from TechTool Pro. [ACE]
Best Tchotchkes -- One indication of the health of the industry is in the number of tchotchkes (free giveaways) that are available. Google handed out socks with the slogan "It doesn't stink" on the bottom, while Griffin Technology gave away mints in tins that were reminiscent of its iTrip FM transmitter for iPod. CodeWeavers, whose CrossOver commercial implementation of the open-source WINE environment lets you run Windows applications on your Mac without running Windows, gave out a wine stopper. (Get it? WINE? Get it?) And Tolis Group, the vendors of the BRU backup software, gave out a yo-yo that lights up when in use; neat, but does a yo-yo really signify backup/restore software in a positive manner? Perhaps they should have been giving out beer steins instead. [ATL]
50%-off Coupon with TidBITS Archive CD -- For those who missed the announcement of our TidBITS Archive CD (see "Introducing the TidBITS Archive CD," 2007-01-08, for full details), note that along with more than 6,500 articles spanning all 860 issues of TidBITS from 1990 through 2006, the CD includes a special 50%-off coupon on your next Take Control order. Through the end of January, the TidBITS Archive CD costs only $29.95, and with the coupon, you could add to your Take Control library and end up with a net result of essentially getting the TidBITS Archive CD for free.
Review a Book, Get a Free Ebook -- We were happy to hear from our friends at Peachpit Press that Joe Kissell's "Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups," which contains "Take Control of Maintaining Your Mac" and "Take Control of Mac OS X Backups," went into a second printing recently. The book was selling extremely well on Amazon.com for a while after it first came out, with very high sales rankings. But then Amazon ran out of stock, and with a 1 to 3 week wait, people stopped ordering, and the book lost its momentum. Curses! So, we're trying an experiment to see if we can get Joe's book back on track, along with Sharon Zardetto Aker's "Real World Mac OS X Fonts," which contains "Take Control of Fonts in Mac OS X" and "Take Control of Font Problems in Mac OS X." Here's the deal. If you have purchased one of these print books, or one of the ebooks included in these print books, and you write a review on Amazon of either print book, let me know via email and I'll send you a free ebook of your choice.
iPhone as an all-in-one remote control -- Why not use the iPhone as a remote-control for your Apple TV, too? This brings up the question of whether TV manufacturers are ever going to start including the programming software in the sets, versus requiring an extra set-top box. (2 messages)
Event-based sounds" -- Several methods are available for performing audible alerts that are linked to computer events. Here's how to take advantage of them. (3 messages)
Wireless mouse rollerball; weird Word problem -- A reader notes a peculiar lag when viewing Word documents by scrolling using his mouse's scrollbar. (2 messages)
Speculating on Leopard's ship date -- We had hoped to hear more details about Mac OS X 10.5 at Macworld Expo, but Apple kept mum. So, based on what's been reported online, when do you think Leopard will ship? (10 messages)
Mac-compatible webcams -- If you're looking for small video cameras other than Apple's iSight (which is no longer available), here's a place to start, including Mac software that supports most Windows-only webcams. (9 messages)
How to "untrust" a WiFi network? -- Follow these steps to make sure your Mac doesn't automatically join a particular local wireless network. (4 messages)
Latest Office updates -- A reader looks for help in determining if a font corruption issue has been fixed in the latest version of Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac. (1 message)
Apple and the enterprise -- Did Apple abandon the enterprise market, or is the term "enterprise" too hard to pin down? (8 messages)
IMAP in the iPhone -- A reader points out that the "push" IMAP email service provided by Yahoo to future iPhone owners is more comprehensive than normal IMAP. (2 messages)
Apple TV vs. other video solutions -- With the imminent release of the Apple TV, Elgato Systems is no longer producing its EyeHome device. Does this spell doom for other similar products, or does some of the limitations in the Apple TV provide a market opportunity? (3 messages)
New AirPort Extreme with 802.11n and 5 GHz -- Will the new AirPort Extreme's 5 GHz network frequency interfere with 5 GHz cordless phone systems? (2 messages)
ResEdit replacement -- What alternatives to the vaunted ResEdit are available for customizing Mac OS X? (4 messages)
Macworld SF 2007 Superlatives -- What do you think of our list of superlatives from this year's Macworld Expo? Tell us what we missed. (1 message)
Two Bucks for 100 Mbps 802.11n Enabler -- Apple will charge $2 to enable 802.11n firmware on some Macs (unless you purchase a new AirPort Extreme). The company claims it's due to legal accounting rules, but could it be because Apple is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)? (6 messages)
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