We’re still recovering from our Tiger-related efforts, so this week brings you a variety of shorter articles. Adam solves a Tiger-related iPhoto crash, Glenn looks at NetNewsWire 2.0, the trend toward 2 GB webmail accounts, and what’s happened to Fontographer in the wake of the Adobe/Macromedia merger. Adam also reviews a GPS-enabled cell phone that provides spoken driving directions. In the news, Yahoo launches a music subscription service, and Apple both releases a new video editing component and settles a lawsuit with rapper Eminem. This week’s DealBITS drawing: 3 months of VPN service from PublicVPN.com!
Apple Intermediate Codec 1.0.1 Improves Performance — Last week, Apple posted an update to one of its core video-editing components, Apple Intermediate Codec 1.0.1. If you use iMovie HD or Final Cut Express HD, work with HDV-formatted footage, and are using QuickTime 7, this update is highly recommended. Both applications are unable to edit HDV footage directly; when you import it from an HDV camcorder, iMovie or Final Cut Express convert the HDV video to the Apple Intermediate Codec. (The forthcoming Final Cut Pro 5 requires no conversion and can edit HDV natively.) This update improves performance during playback and when exporting footage, and is a 740K download from the Web or via Software Update. [JLC]
Apple Spreads Some Green for Eminem — Last week, the Detroit Free Press reported that Apple Computer and superstar Eminem have reached an undisclosed settlement in the rapper’s year-old lawsuit against the computer company. The suit centered on a 2003 Apple iPod/iTunes Music Store advertisement which featured a 10-year-old boy singing Eminem’s Oscar-winning song "Lose Yourself" from the film 8 Mile. The ad ran on MTV for three months during the summer of 2003 and appeared on Apple’s Web site, despite the fact that neither Apple nor ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day successfully obtained Eminem’s permission to use the song in the campaign. Eminem’s label claimed the use of the song would amount to an endorsement – for which the rapper would expect fees "possibly in excess of $10 million" – and that Apple’s misuse of the material would entitle him to "exemplary damages." The lawsuit also named MTV parent company Viacom as a defendant. [GD]
DealBITS Drawing: Stock WatchTower Winners — Congratulations to Eric Wisti of wisti.com, Galen Mayfield of yahoo.com, J. Mojsiak of nih.gov, Larry Phelps of uwc.edu, and Rod O’Brien of sbcglobal.net, whose entries were chosen randomly in last week’s DealBITS drawing and who each will receive a copy of Stock WatchTower from WillStein Software, worth $49.95. Even if you didn’t win, you can still save 30 percent on Stock WatchTower through 23-May-05 by entering Tidbits20050409 in the coupon field when ordering Stock WatchTower from the order form within the application itself (choose Order from the Stock WatchTower application menu; the coupon field is several screens in). This offer is open to all TidBITS readers. Thanks to the 412 people who entered, 14 of whom entered after being referred to DealBITS. Keep an eye out for future DealBITS drawings. [ACE]
I’ve talked in the past about determining how worried you should be about security with an emphasis on wireless security: it comes down to determining the likelihood of attack, the liability of having your network accessed or your data stolen, and the cost in time and effort of achieving the level of security you’d like (see "Wireless Security Needs: The Three L’s" in TidBITS-725). When it comes to security, there is no right answer; it all comes down to individual situations.
When using your own wireless network, the simple answer is to ensure security with WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and a strong password. But what about when you’re using a public Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop, hotel, or airport? In such a case, it’s easy for anyone on the network to run a traffic sniffing program that would watch all the data you send and receive and pull out your passwords as you check mail, for instance (I’ve seen someone do this at a conference as a wakeup call; he warned everyone whose password he was able to see). One way of protecting not just your passwords, but all your data, is to use a VPN, or virtual private network. Normally you need special hardware and software to set up and run your own VPN, but with a service from TidBITS sponsor PublicVPN.com, you need nothing more than an account and the instructions PublicVPN.com provides to configure your VPN settings in the Internet Connect application. Once it’s established, all your traffic runs through an encrypted tunnel to PublicVPN.com’s servers and from there out onto the Internet. Anyone attempting to sniff your traffic would see only unintelligible encrypted bits.
I recently upgraded to Tiger using the Erase and Install method that Joe Kissell recommends in Take Control of Upgrading to Tiger; I wanted the cleanest start with the new operating system. Most things went fine, except for launching iPhoto 5.0.2 afterwards; it always hung with the spinning pizza of death. I eventually solved the problem, but to give you an idea how I troubleshoot – along with the eventual solution – here’s what I tried:
I rebuilt the iPhoto Library by holding down Command-Option at launch. Unfortunately, that didn’t help. The goal here was to see if some sort of repairable corruption in my iPhoto Library folder was causing the problem.
I switched to another iPhoto Library by holding down Option at launch and choosing a different iPhoto Library folder. This didn’t help, but eliminated the possibility of the problem being in my main iPhoto Library folder.
I created a new, empty iPhoto Library folder (again started by holding down Option at launch). The goal here was to see if there could be some problem related to an iPhoto Library folder that had been used in Panther.
I moved the com.apple.iphoto.plist file from the Preferences folder to the Desktop to see if corruption in that file might be the culprit.
I opened iPhoto’s Info window, and in the Plug-ins section, I deleted all third-party plug-ins that I’d installed. Most were turned off anyway, but I wanted to make sure none of them could be the cause of the freezes.
With those five attempts under my belt, I figured the problem was most likely related to the iPhoto application itself (since I’d eliminated everything else I could think of). So I trashed the iPhoto application and reinstalled it from the iLife ’05 DVD. On the next launch, I told iPhoto to create yet another empty iPhoto Library, and for the first time since installing Tiger, it continued to run. I then updated it to 5.0.2 using iPhoto’s Check for Update feature and Software Update, and after that, I was able to load all my iPhoto Library folders.
Since the disk had just been reformatted, I didn’t suspect any sort of directory corruption, but if reinstalling hadn’t worked, I would have used Disk Utility to repair permissions and then, if that didn’t work, to repair the disk itself.
Although I was annoyed at having to work through iPhoto’s freezes, I knew that I had two current backups of my entire hard disk, so I wasn’t particularly concerned about losing any data.
The folks at Ranchero Software have released the latest version of NetNewsWire, an application that aggregates news from Web sites that use any version of RSS (Really Simple Syndication and other expansions) and Atom to publish the latest items on a given page or section. NetNewsWire 2.0 is available in Lite (free) and Pro (paid) versions.
A news aggregator means that instead of powering up your computer and loading 50 Web sites to check headlines and blog entries, you turn to the aggregator, which scours these specially formatted XML (eXtensible Markup Language) files and turns them into an organized list of the latest information.
This new version, which I have been using in its beta form for months, adds a host of features, including Spotlight searching, podcast support (see "Podcasting: The People’s Radio" in TidBITS-766), Automator actions, synchronization among multiple computers of feeds and news items, and scripting support for creating feeds or controlling the program. There’s also an embedded Web browser that supports tabbed browsing.
Version 2.0 omits the previously included blog-posting capabilities, externalizing them as MarsEdit 1.0, a separate program for writing blog entries offline and then posting them to a variety of blog services and software.
NetNewsWire was in interminable beta – although almost always in good working order – due to Tiger’s shipping date. With Tiger out of the gate, Ranchero was able to unveil its Mac OS 10.4-dependent features.
While Tiger’s Safari 2.0 also handles RSS, and offers some interesting sorting and display options, it’s a rung or two down from even NetNewsWire Lite. If you’re trying to get your feet wet with RSS, start with Safari, move up to Lite, and then graduate to Pro.
NetNewsWire 2.0 Pro costs $25 or $40 with MarsEdit, but is free to all paid users of version 1.x. NetNewsWire Lite remains free, but is stripped of more-sophisticated features. MarsEdit 1.0 is $25 when purchased separately.
Last week, Internet behemoth Yahoo took the wraps off Yahoo Music Unlimited, its entry into the online music subscription market. For Mac users, Yahoo Music Unlimited is just another party to which we aren’t invited, since it only supports recent versions of Windows and, in fact, doesn’t even let music from its subscription service play on iPods. Yahoo Music Unlimited is more interesting for the pressure it puts on its primary competition – Rhapsody and the re-born Napster – and, less directly, on MSN Music and Apple’s iTunes Music Store.
A (Not So) New Hope — Yahoo Music Unlimited is an all-you-can eat subscription service which provides access to more than 1 million tracks. The service is largely built on Yahoo’s acquisition of MusicMatch last year: users search for and manage music using the Yahoo Music Engine, an iTunes-like application based on MusicMatch Jukebox; users can then share songs and playlists amongst other subscribers using Yahoo Messenger. Subscribers can play music acquired through the service as long as they maintain an active subscription, and also transfer tracks to a selection of portable music players.
However, because Yahoo’s new service relies on Microsoft’s WMA digital rights technology, the list of supported players does not include Apple’s iPod. iPods support only Apple’s FairPlay DRM technology, and to date Apple has unmercifully squelched efforts to enable support for other DRM systems on the iPod. But you know what? Other online music subscription services don’t work with iPods either, so Yahoo’s offering is basically more of the same.
The Revenue Strikes Back — What’s new about Yahoo Music Unlimited is its price – $6.99 a month, or annual subscriptions for $59.88 (which translates to $4.99 a month) – and the fact that it’ll be a component of one of the world’s most-trafficked Internet sites.
Yahoo’s prices substantially undercut both RealNetworks’ Rhapsody and Napster, which charge $14.95 a month. Yahoo isn’t saying whether Yahoo Music Unlimited prices are an introductory offer or how long they might last. However, considering that both Napster and RealNetworks’s music subscription businesses have been struggling at their current rates and many of the businesses’ costs are similar (music and technology licensing, bandwidth, user support, staffing, etc.) Yahoo’s initial pricing likely means Yahoo Music Unlimited is making little to no money – or even taking an upfront loss – on every subscriber.
The real question is the degree to which Yahoo cares. Yahoo has both deeper pockets and a substantially more diversified business model than either RealNetworks or Napster, and can probably afford to subsidize an online music venture longer than its immediate competition can stay out of a price war. If Yahoo can bring enough eyeballs – and mouse pointers – to its music service, it may be able to make up any loss on subscription fees via advertising. And as one of the most frequently visited sites on the Internet, Yahoo’s high-margin online advertising business is a virtual juggernaut.
Return of the FUD-y — Right now, Yahoo Music Unlimited doesn’t pose a direct threat to Apple’s iTunes Music Store. For one thing, incompatibility with Apple’s iPod makes iTMS the primary online music store for more than 15 million white earbud-wearin’, head-boppin’ iPod aficionados. (In comparison, Napster has yet to crack half a million subscribers.) For another thing, the iTMS model of purchasing downloaded music – rather than merely purchasing access to it for the duration of a subscription – still seems to hold mind-share: according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, right now only about 15 percent of online music consumers would prefer to rent music rather than own it outright.
Nonetheless, both the online music and wider technology industries are still setting their sites on Apple and iTMS, if for no other reason than it’s not yet worth the trouble of aiming at other market players. If Yahoo Music Unlimited succeeds, Apple may have to offer music subscription services in addition to its paid-download model. (It’s worth noting that all the subscription services also let subscribers purchase music at prices comparable to iTMS; of course, those fees are on top of base subscription costs.) On the other hand, if Yahoo’s music subscription service fizzles or turns in lackluster numbers, it may represent the last serious effort to redefine the online music space as a renters’ market, rather than a buyers’ market.
Perhaps the darker cloud on the horizon of Apple’s music business is, ultimately, whether devices like the iPod or devices like mobile phones will be the primary means by which consumers purchase and listen to music. Sure, Apple has sold more than 15 million iPods, but that number is dwarfed by the estimated 500 million cell phones shipped in 2003 alone (75 million of those were camera phones with substantial on-board memory and processing capability). Last week in Frankfurt, Germany, Microsoft founder Bill Gates commented that he felt the current iPod business model was unsustainable, and he’d bet on mobile phones taking over the top spot for music listening. (He even drew a parallel between Apple’s current iPod success and its early lead with graphical user interfaces.) Current mobile phone technologies and business models are certainly more supportive of a music subscription model than a purchase model.
Nonetheless, it’s too early to start writing an epitaph for the iPod or iTMS. The online music market is still volatile, and in the last few years it has shown only two constant themes: 1) unexpected success and innovation from Apple, and 2) pundits and industry leaders claiming Apple can never succeed.
It’s all about the Gmail. Google continues to control the vertical and horizontal for nearly everything they touch, and Gmail’s upgraded capacity of 2 GB of free email storage has set the target for other companies that want some of that sweet, sweet ad revenue from people who use webmail instead of their ISP’s service. ISPs must be sweating a little, because unbundling email means that the pipe to the ISP is really just delivering water, not chicken soup, coffee, and bisque (to stretch a metaphor).
AOL is the latest entrant, and a surprising one. They purchased Mailblocks almost a year ago, a provider that offers challenge-response based email so that only recipients with human characteristics wind up in your In box. Mailblocks charges modest fees for its modest storage service, but AOL used their technology to build their free, 2 GB, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) connected webmail. An AIM account will link to a webmail account. AIM accounts are free and self-standing and can be used with iChat.
Yahoo upped its mailbox to 1 GB a few months ago, and offers 2 GB for $20 per year. Apple’s .Mac service includes just 250 MB of storage for $100 per year, with 1 GB total available for $50 extra per year. Hotmail includes 250 MB – with only 25 MB of that available in the first 30 days – with 2 GB costing $20 per year.
Of course, Google is still tweaking their approach. When they lifted the limit on April Fool’s Day from 1 GB to 2 GB, they said it was only the beginning. And it’s true. My mailbox keeps getting slightly larger. I have about 535 MB of stored mail (it’s an automatic CC’d backup for my main account) and every day the upper limit rises slightly.
The Adobe/Macromedia merger isn’t even near completion, and already a product has spun off (see "Adobe Swallows Macromedia" in TidBITS-777). The hoary and lovely Fontographer type design program will be licensed by Macromedia (which acquired it along with Altsys in 1995) to Fontlab, the software’s only real competitor. Fontlab will offer upgrade paths for users of Fontographer and their own products. Fontographer 4.1 for Mac and Windows costs $350; registered TypeTool users can buy Fontographer for $250.
I have fond feelings for Fontographer, as I used it as a critical part of my senior project in graphic design at Yale College. At the suggestion of a mentor, I recreated the Berthold Wolpe typeface Albertus with some tweaks to make it slightly more modern and regular. I documented the drawing, scanning, and font-creation process, and received an A-minus on the project.
The font was released as shareware under the name Furioso in honor of the university printer who had suggested the idea to me, Roland Hoover. "Orlando Furioso" is an epic poem, which translates to Roland the Berserker, hence the name. As an early shareware product in 1990, I wound up receiving nearly $500 in checks from well-wishers. This was a godsend to someone just graduating from college.
The shareware version was $10 and I released just the titles for free; I sent a disk out with the full typeface for dollars. So it was really an early demoware or partialware rather than true shareware. It’s still available for download. In 1994, I let the font go for free, asking people to donate $10 to NPR in memory of Berthold Wolpe.
Have you ever found yourself driving at high speed or in heavy traffic in an unfamiliar area while the person in the passenger seat frantically attempts to read the map and tell you where to turn next? If you’re like me, it’s stressful. And if you’re anything like Tonya, trying to figure out the current location on a map and give coherent directions, all while the car is moving is equally as stressful, plus a bit nausea-inducing.
Our recent trip to New Mexico was made even more enjoyable by our decision to spring for the extra $10 per day to rent a GPS-enabled (global positioning system) cell phone from Alamo that spoke directions for each upcoming turn. It was brilliant, despite some notable design flaws. We’re not gadget freaks, but we’ve already decided to look into buying a similar device for the next time we have to do any significant driving in unknown parts.
Driving by Wireless — Alamo wasn’t forthcoming about what the device actually was and how it worked, so my apologies in advance if my deduction and speculation prove somewhat incorrect. From what I could tell, the GPS device itself was a Motorola i58sr cell phone with Nextel service; the phone had a relatively small black & white screen, and Alamo provided a suction cup mount so it could attach to the windshield.
When turned on, the phone ran some kind of specialized Java application that asked for your permission (presumably because you could have been tracked through the device) and then dumped you into a predictably lousy interface for searching for an attraction or entering an address. Once you entered the address, the phone used Nextel’s data network to download driving directions from your current location, determined by the GPS, and then both read them out loud to you via its speakerphone and displayed the next turn on the screen, with running countdowns of how far until your next turn and until you reached the eventual destination. It always started talking about half a mile away, and it repeated itself as you got closer, but never so much that it was annoying. As you came up on a turn, a progress bar showed you how many meters until the turn; that was great in situations where there were two turns quite close together.
Although the interface was poor, and it took us longer to figure out than ideal (remember, we were driving; it’s not like you have time to sit down with the thing beforehand, and Alamo didn’t include any instructions at all), we quickly became addicted to the driving instructions. With one exception – where the GPS phone would have had us get off an arterial, cross a road, and get right back on – the instructions were extremely accurate. And interestingly, a second pass through the area where it gave the foolish instructions did not repeat them; it’s conceivable that we were in a different lane and thus triggered different instructions. If you missed a turn (the mistake was the only direction we ignored), it detects that you’re not on course and quickly downloads new directions to reroute you.
More problematic, particularly in the rural parts of New Mexico, was that you had to enter a full address. We were staying with fellow authors Robin Williams and John Tollett for a few nights, and although we had directions to their house, and thus had the final road name, we didn’t have their street address handy. We were able to fool the GPS phone into giving us directions anyway by guessing that the house number was 1 instead of 2745 or something, and we were lucky, since in some cities, that difference could have put us entirely across town. A bed and breakfast we stayed at in Chimayo had only a P.O. box for an address, and the device’s database had never heard of County Road 0100, so it wasn’t much help there.
Although Tonya found a GPS menu in the phone’s interface somewhere, we never managed to see if it would give us a map view of the area (and my reading of the phone’s user’s guide afterwards would seem to indicate not). It would have been helpful to be able to point at a spot in the map and say "Go there!" It would also have been useful on at least one occasion to see a map view and which direction we were traveling; luckily my normal handheld GPS device showed us that we were headed in entirely the wrong direction. That was before we’d quite realized how helpful the GPS phone would be, and we hadn’t planned on using it that trip, since our final destination in Los Alamos didn’t have an address (it was probably classified information, though we were again able to fool the phone into taking a random address on the final street). According to the user’s guide, the phone can communicate with a computer to work with mapping software, though it was unclear if it would really work on the Mac or not.
As you might expect, the reliance on Nextel’s data network for instructions proved problematic in several locations, since Nextel’s coverage where we were in Taos and Santa Fe was poor to non-existent. We were fine getting to those locations, since the phone downloaded all the instructions it needed initially, but it couldn’t access any new instructions until we were within range of a Nextel tower again.
Planning for the Next Trip — Such voice-enabled GPS devices are not new; I’ve been hearing people talk about them for years. But they’re pricey ($400 to $1,000), and particularly in Ithaca, where we know the roads well, I couldn’t justify the expense of such a device. But this GPS phone and associated service, thoroughly mediocre though it may have been, fell squarely into the category of gadgets that improved our life. Particularly when I’m under time pressure to arrive somewhere, I’m not one of those people who is relaxed about potentially getting lost. I hate not knowing where I am, and I absolutely can’t stand the feeling that I’m going to be late because I took a wrong turn somewhere. And in turn, Tonya doesn’t enjoy reading maps and feeding me navigation instructions while we’re driving. So the clearly enunciated directions both increased my peace of mind while driving and Tonya’s relaxation level.
I’ve started to look into other devices that might work better than the Motorola GPS phone; it’s not acceptable to be without directions just because you can’t get cell service. It also sounds from this PC World article as though it would be fairly expensive: the cost of a Nextel data plan plus $11 per month for the GPS service.
There are a number of dedicated GPS devices that promise features well beyond what the GPS phone provided, such as multiple map views, route choices if you don’t want to take freeways (or if you want to take only freeways), and more. Voice instructions are key, since paying attention to gadget interfaces in the car is dangerous. A few of the devices I’ve found and plan to look into further include:
Magellan RoadMate 300/500/700
Garmin StreetPilot c320/c330/2610/2620
TomTom GO 300/700/Rider
If you’ve used one of these devices, or another voice-enabled GPS system for providing navigation, let us know on TidBITS Talk <[email protected]> what you think.
"Take Control of Upgrading to Tiger" Updated to Version 1.0.1 — When we released the 1.0 version of this ebook simultaneously with Apple’s release of Tiger, we knew that we’d be doing a fast update – important new information always comes to light during the first few days after the release of a major operating system. The new version, now based on 44 test installations of Tiger, walks readers through installing Mac OS X like never before. If you own the ebook, click the Check for Updates button, located in the lower left hand corner of the cover, to find out what’s new and download your free update.
The second URL below each thread description points to the discussion on our Web Crossing server, which will be faster.
‘Evil’ Widgets in Dashboard — Here we go again. It seems that it may not be entirely safe to download Dashboard widgets; read on for details. (8 messages)
Moving between base stations under Tiger — Moving between AirPort base stations while using Tiger may not work properly, but Apple knows about the problem. (1 message)
Tiger’s keys and cursors — In Tiger, you can remap the Caps Lock key to be anything you want, and readers share other helpful suggestions about keys, buttons, and cursors. (2 messages)
Power user features vs. whizz bang features — Is Apple spending too much time on eye-candy features like Dashboard in favor of things that will make a difference to power users? And is that a bad thing? (7 messages)
Reading NeXTstep disk — What do you do if you have data on an old NeXTstep disk that you need? (4 messages)
Mounting a Mac OS 9 network volume in Tiger — Reports of problems using AppleShare over AppleTalk networks in Tiger leads to talk of how the two terms are often confused. (13 messages)
Science applications on the Mac — So what are Mac-based scientists using for experiment programming, publication-quality charts and graphs, and more? (7 messages)
New File System in Tiger — Does Tiger lock files differently than previous versions of Mac OS X to prevent multiple applications from changing the same file? Or not? (6 messages)
Old PowerBook SCSI hard drives — Can you pull data from an old SCSI laptop hard disk these days? Finding an adapter proves challenging. (2 messages)
Spotlight and backups — How will Tiger’s new search utility affect the way we back up data? If everything is scattered about one’s hard drive, can backup utilities handle an anticipated breakdown of hierarchical filing? (2 messages)