Category Archives: Technology

Commentary about what happens across the country from me in Silicon Valley and other technology news.

I don’t hate my music player anymore!

The hardest part about switching to a Mac was the serious hoops it would have taken me to retain Winamp as my music player. The Mac adds a third inevitability to fans of music with local libraries: Death, taxes, and iTunes. iTunes has been a bulky mess for years, especially when compared to a minimal Winamp installation. Sure, there are some alternatives out there for the Mac, but iTunes generally works better.

Today is the day I no longer hate iTunes. iTunes 11 has slimmed down, is easier to move around in, is more functional as a mini-player, and it is fast. (The last part is super-important on a mid-2009 Mac.) I live and die by my local music library (I’m not the only one), so it’s awfully nice that it got some attention.

iTunes 11 is a much-needed win for Apple on the software front, too — they’ve taken a beating with Maps and iOS 6 in general. And if this is where their software design is going, I think I’m OK with that. (Though the use of Helvetica Neue is this decade’s brushed metal look.)

Quick thoughts on the iPhone 5

On Friday, I upgraded to an iPhone 5 on Verizon from my iPhone 4 on AT&T (with much appreciation to my parents-in-law!). You will have read this in 100 different places by now (and this is not intended to be a serious review), but here’s a few of my quick thoughts after my first weekend with it:

  • Everything about it is wicked fast. Even sending text messages seems faster. The iPhone 4 was no slouch on performance, but the iPhone 5 blows it away.
  • If you haven’t held it yet, it will blow your mind how light it is.
  • Get the black unit. The blacking out of the antenna band really puts the emphasis on the brilliant screen and just looks slick as hell.
  • Changing connectors is a giant pain in the butt, but the Lightning connector’s robustness and size will be worth the change. (Some iteration of USB would still be really nice, but if this means the connector won’t change for 10 more years, that’s not all bad either.)
  • Verizon LTE is very good and tests on par with my cable modem. One test on Hilton Head Island showed 34 mbps down, but it’s a more reasonable 10 mbps here in Charleston. There are indeed some cases where a Wi-Fi network may actually be slower than LTE. (Amazing.) AT&T users here are getting better benchmarks right now but they will likely come back to earth a bit once the network saturates a bit more.
  • I’m going to need a big data plan. LTE makes blowing through data caps a trivial exercise.
  • On paper, the screen size increase was not tremendous, but in practice, it sure does make a difference. Color saturation is much improved (though I am noticing a bit of a blue bias).
  • Battery life on LTE is not awesome. Get it on a Wi-Fi network for best battery performance.
  • There are still a lot of apps that haven’t yet updated for the new screen. Hope they get it together, because it does make a difference.
  • This is the first Siri-capable iOS device I’ve owned. I see Siri being something I play with a bit, but not use very seriously. (I might use it more if there was a way to map a “Siri key” to my car’s Bluetooth package.)
  • I haven’t yet put the camera through much rigor, but the lens flare issue is there. (Any leads on iPhone 5 lens kits would be appreciated.)

I Survived the 10.7.3 Delta Update

I successfully updated to Mac OS X 10.7.3 the other day via Software Update, but there were a lot of people who didn’t. Looks like Apple is now pushing the entire 1.3GB Combo Update package at least temporarily until they find and fix the delta update.

For what it’s worth, 10.7.3 has been great so far. Wi-Fi after wake is much faster and I’m not quite seeing the discoloration issues I once was switching to my external monitor. Fingers crossed…

Mac OS X 10.7.3 soon?

Looks like Mac OS X 10.7.3 is close. I’m hoping that’s the case, because I’ve suffered from an incredibly annoying bug where portions of the user interface are discolored when I attach or detach from an external monitor (a configuration I switch between a couple times a day). It’s not just me, so here’s hoping that a fix will be along sooner rather than later. 10.7.2 was a pretty rough build of Lion in general so it will be good to get an update.

MetaFilter on being on the wrong end of DMCA abuse

If you’re curious as to why there is such an uproar about the Stop Online Piracy Act and its companion in the Senate, the PROTECT IP Act, read Mat Howie’s post at MetaFilter, in which he describes a situation where he was targeted by a mistaken takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and nearly lost his site completely (which comes up very rosy in comparison with SOPA and PIPA).

The DMCA is imperfect law. SOPA and PIPA are downright dangerous and unnecessarily broad. Jam your representative’s and Senators’ phone lines today!

Gillmor on SOPA: It’s not about piracy

A common thread through the SOPA drama is that Congress is legislating from a position of ignorance on how the Internet works. In a column for the Guardian today, Dan Gillmor argues the opposite:

[…] What we’re seeing does not derive from any misunderstanding. Rather, I’m convinced, this concerted push to censor the internet, through measures that would fundamentally break it, stems from a very clear understanding of what’s at stake. Indeed, legislation like Sopa, or its US Senate companion, the Protect IP Act (Pipa) – and a host of activities around the world – share a common goal. These “fixes” are designed to wrest control of these tools from the masses and recentralize what has promised to be the most open means of communication and collaboration ever invented.

I’d take this one step further and posit the question: Do you think WikiLeaks could exist in a SOPA-fied world? Not a chance.

(Also: Interesting that Gillmor frames it as an attempt to recentralize the Internet. Seems like we are doing a pretty good job of that ourselves with the current generation of social networks.)

SOPA tabled for now

Update 1/17 @ 4:21PM EST: SOPA markup will resume in February. It’s not dead yet.

SOPA has been tabled for now (though the Protect IP Act, SOPA’s contemporary, lives on in the Senate).

Pardon my cynicism, but I’m fairly sure that in an election year, no member of the House would want to be saddled with passing a bill that the public believes would censor the Internet. Something tells me this will be back (especially if PIPA presses on in the Senate) — let’s just hope there is some actual technical consultation in the next go-around (though I have yet to be convinced we need something beyond the DMCA).

Experimenting with LESS

I’ve been exploring LESS this weekend as a way to make writing CSS a much more efficient affair. So far, so very good! I’m using for Mac OS X to compile my .less files down to CSS with each save. There are Ruby scripts and JavaScript available for interpreting LESS on the fly, but I far prefer to serve up already-baked CSS with the app, which gets bonus points for spitting out minified files. Be careful with the minifier, though, if you’re writing CSS with LESS for WordPress (try saying that three times fast) — it will strip the comment block WordPress needs to identify your theme from the CSS file. There are a couple workarounds for this; the easiest way is probably just to use a minifying WordPress plugin (I use W3 Total Cache’s minifying facility myself), or if you want your server to have one less thing to do, you can spit the minified files out to a different location, reference that location in your HTML, and just use style.css as a way to identify the theme and for nothing else. (WordPress doesn’t require you to store your styles there, but it is generally more consistent to do so.)

Using the app has another great side benefit as its compiler flags errors it finds in the code and tosses up a Growl notification with a brief explanation of the problem — so not only am I writing CSS more efficiently, I’m also writing much more error-free CSS as a result. Win-win.

Who else is using LESS (or its contemporary SASS) to write and simplify CSS?