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by Jehuda Saar

A Farewell to Optical Media


When Apple finally released OSX Lion last week, they also announced some new hardware. We will most likely get back to Lion at a later stage (it is starting to grow on me the more I use it) but if there is one thing that we learn from the hardware releases, one clear message Apple are sending to the public at large, it has to do with optical media. 

First of all we got the updated MacBook Airs. I happen to be a MacBook Air user myself, the 13 inch variety from late 2010, and for those of you who are familiar with that machine, you will remember that it comes with no optical drive whatsoever. When I ordered the machine I automatically included the external DVD drive in the purchase. My thinking was: I am going to need a drive to put discs in. Logical right ? Well, here's the thing: more than 7 months have gone by and I have yet to attach that drive to the computer. 

The Mac mini was updated as well. Did you happen to see that little beauty ? Great looking machine. Notice something different on this new arrival ? You got it: no optical drive.

Anyone remember the introduction of the first iMac in 1998 ? Remember what was missing from that machine ? Apple dared introduce a new computer "sans" floppy drive. Everybody said they were crazy. How could people possibly use a computer without a floppy drive ? Well, they're at it again. It is no coincidence that the new Mac mini has no optical drive. The same goes for the MacBook Air. And I will go as far as venturing that pretty soon the new MacBook Pros won't have any either (in fact I am fairly certain that the next iteration of the 15 inch MacBook Pro will look a lot more like the Air than like the current Pro). 

How have I been living without an optical drive ? Very simple really: everything gets downloaded. Between the App Store, iTunes, Amazon mp3, Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, Dropbox and soon iCloud, there is no point to burning shiny little discs anymore. Let's not even talk about more questionable methods like peer to peer services. Everything is a lot more instantaneous. Lion doesn't come on a disc. Apps get updated over the internet. And now with Lion's cool new AirDrop feature, even the old sneakernet method is "out the window". 

So my advice is: embrace this brand new world of discless machines. One day we will look back on a past in whcih we carried around these shiny little things and smile at how primitive they were.

It was so long ago. It was only yesterday.


Inbox Zero Revisited


A while ago I wrote a piece about the importance the Inbox Zero method has had in changing the way I work, communicate and generally address issues on a day to day basis. It is surprising to what extent an inbox with 10,000 messages can make you feel totally out of control of your life. You know you are addressing SOME of the issues that come up, but you also realise that there are countless matters that have been left unresolved, people who have been waiting for answers, isuees that have been left unattended. Taking control of that mess is a huge task and while the Inbox Zero method is not the perfect solution (let's face it, there is no perfect solution to a situation that can never be resolved: while you were cleaning up your inbox two dozen more messages arrived) it is the closest thing to taking control you will ever find.

It is interesting to note that a great number of tech pundits have been declaring email "dead" as of late. Whether as a result of social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (my kids refer to email as something you check for homework) or simply because people tend to opt for instant messaging systems, be they on computers or smartphones, the point they are making is that pretty soon email will no longer be around. Personally I disagree, if only because of the sheer number of email messages that still come into my inbox on a daily basis and the extent to which my entire business is driven by this medium. But it is not too crazy to imagine a nearby future in which the importance of email will fade and other means of communications will take its place. Personally I just hope it won't be something like Facebook.

For those of you who are still plagued by the "living in your inbox" disease, here is another interesting piece that gives some thought to implementing "the method", with special emphasis on the fact that ultimately everyone devises their own system within the method.


Just Talk To It

Star Trek fans have always dreamed of the time they could just to turn to their computer and say "Computer, tea, earl grey, hot" in the manner of Jean-Luc Picard. Those of us who are a little more paranoid will have images of HAL 9000 in 2001 A Space Odyssey trying to take control of the Discovery One spacecraft while speaking in a soft conversational manner.

Talking to our computers is becoming a reality and nowhere is it more obvious then with our smartphones. Here is one example of this sort of interaction entering our daily lives. Nuance has just released Dragon GO, a free iOS app. Check out the video to see this little beauty interact with other apps on the phone to produce immediate results.


Email with Elegance

Every once in a while I get excited about a new piece of software. Email has always been very important to me so when Sparrow was announced I really got excited and I got my hands on it as soon as it was made available to the public.

Now a new piece of software popped up that has got me salivating. Once again it is an email client, but with a twist. Check out the video for Persona to get a feel for this little beauty. I am not sure how this would scale when you take into account the amount of business email I deal with on a daily basis, but I am willing to give it a whirl once the software is made available. For now I'll just follow them on Twitter until I can get my hands on the program and see for myself.



ACTION !!! .....AND...... CUT !!!

This one is of a somewhat specialized nature. Over the past couple of weeks I have started teaching myself Final Cut Pro X. That is after spending a few years trying to become somewhat acquainted with the intricacies of Final Cut Pro 7. Needless to say there has been a lot of noise about this matter, even though to people who are not involved with video editing it all sounds like a lot of gibberish. The trickle-down effect was unusual and we even saw a funny bit on Conan O'Brien about this software "upgrade". 

Then I found this funny little parody ad for Final Cut Pro X using the "I am a PC, I am a Mac" format of  a couple of years ago. I thought it was clever and decided to share with y'all, just for the fun of it.


Loop The Loop

There is no way that the result of this little exercise would be this good if one lacks the necessary talent. I won't argue that point. But this cheap little iPhone app is just seriously cool. UK-based performer DubFX uses the six track recording app Loopy to create some art. Worth watching all the way through. 


Cover Up

So what exactly are they hiding ? For those of you who have visited the one spot on earth that NEVER closes might wonder what exactly is going on at the 5th Avenue Apple Store in NYC. Everyone is familiar with the glass entrance to the underground store that has become a must-see stop on every tourist's New York tour. And here we are, past 10PM on a weeknight and the glass entrance is entirely covered up (in a way that makes it IMPOSSIBLE to see what exactly is being done to it...from any angle), flatbed trucks and cranes are positioned outside, workers and labourers are coming in and out of the building, occasionally the main entrance gets blocked and people are sent to the back entrance. It is clear that something big is going to happen. And then one cannot avoid thinking: does this have anything to do with the imminent debut of Apple's new Mac operating system, Lion ? The timing is ominous. Friday is July 1st and Lion was announced for July. Also, judging by the round the clock work being done my own feeling is that they are gearing up for something maybe as early as this weekend, or at the the latest early next week. And since Lion will only be available as a download, sprucing up the store may have something to do with hardware, and one cannot help but think about the often rumoured MacBook Air update. 

A few more days and the mystery will be revealed. But I have a pretty good feeling this will happen sooner rather than later.


Apple hurting those they should be thanking


For those of you who complain that I am just an Apple fanboy, here is the perfect example of Apple doing the wrong thing and hurting those they should instead be bending over backwards for. About a decade ago I was one of these early adopters who jumped on the company's first ever iteration of their cloud service (although we did not refer to it in those terms back then): iDisk and They later changed it to and of course I went along with it. During those ten or so years I produced gallery pages of movies and pictures online, created web-pages with name it: a significant online presence predicated on the assumption that Apple would continue to give us a home for all of this so long as we continued to pay for the service.

And now that Apple is about to introduce the iCloud service you would think that they would reward the early adopters and those who committed early on to this online endeavour. Well, surprise surprise: on an FAQ just published by Apple here they are making it quite clear that as of next year in June, we're on our own. That we now need to somehow get all that content offline, back to our computers and find other homes for it all. 

Shame on you, Apple, for hurting those of us you should be thanking. Shame on you.


Let Me Out

And here is one more thing a smartphone will do for you: open and close locks, doors, gates, you name it. Judging by the video this is a nicely executed solution to one more problem we did not even know we had. Product site is here.


iPad Magic

Words won't do this video any justice. Just watch it.


An Apple First: a Pre-announcement

This morning Apple came out with a press release pre-announcing the iCloud service. I can't remember such a practice in the past 10+ years. What happened for Apple to suddenly "ruin" the surprise ?
One can posit that with all the rumors about iCloud making the rounds these pas few weeks, there wasn't much of a surprise left to....surprise anyone with. But there has to be more to the story.
My thought is that Apple are trying to lower certain iPhone-specific expectations. Most industry pundits are no doubt expecting an iPhone 5 announcement, or at the very least an iPhone 4S. Maybe this is Apple's not so subtle way of telling us to expect something else. But knowing them, Jobs might still pull a now famous "one more thing" and drop a new iPhone on us anyway. All will be answered on June 6 - D Day.


Lazy Vulcan Mind Meld

A few days ago Electra Records came out with this "official alternative" music video to the Bruno Mars hit "The Lazy Song". In it you have Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame acting out the song, in many ways reminding us of The Dude in The Big Lebowsky. Some people have questioned the "why" of his involvement in this project. It appears that a little over twenty years ago Nimoy married the mother of the Atlantic Records executive who signed Bruno Mars to the label. In my opinion the video is waayyy too good for the song but I'll let you judge for yourselves.


They're just selling Air

A few weeks back I posted the TV commercial for the new MacBook Air on this site. It was shortly after I got my own 13 inch model (and for the record I still think it's THE COOLEST MAC I have EVER owned). Now an Israeli comedian called Pini and his mates have produced a very funny parody of that commercial selling....nail clippers. The Nail Clipper Air. The actual video it spoofs can be seen here


The Tablet Computer of the Future

This is cool. The video below was produced in 1994. You will see a group of people dreaming up what a Tablet Newspaper would look like. The idea back then was that somewhere around the year 2000 people would be using such tablet computers to consume news. Once you realise that these people were dreaming all of this up just as the internet was coming to the fore and at a time where things like embedding YouTube videos wasn't even conceivable, it's pretty interesting. Listen to how the concept of hyperlinks is described and you realise how far we have come in a very short time. In any case, as we now know, it would take about 10 years more, until the advent of the iPad, for the tablet computer trend to really take off.


Sometimes it just doesn't work

A while back we wrote about a Kickstarter project that looked kind of cool. As it happens this particular project did not get sufficient support and has therefore been shelved. Hey, happens, what can you do.

Now a new story emerges about a group of designers trying to combine the beauty of a Leica camera and the functionality of the iPhone4. Check out the designs shown on their site. Could be quite a product if it ever actually sees the light of day.


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