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Hell Freezes Over: Bill & Steve Live! May 31, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Events, Microsoft, News, Steve Jobs.
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Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – no introductions needed – take the stage together at D 2007: All Things Digital – The Wall Street Journal Executive Conference at the Four Seasons Resort in Carlsbad. Coverage and video over at Engadget and Macworld. History in the making.

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iTunes 7.2 released May 30, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in iTunes, Security, Updates & Patches.
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Fire up Software Update: a new version of iTunes has just been released. iTunes 7.2 allows you to

preview and purchase iTunes Plus music—new higher-quality, DRM-free music downloads from participating music labels.

Additionally (according to iTunes help):

The iTunes Store also offers songs without DRM protection, from participating record labels. These DRM-free songs, called “iTunes Plus,” have no usage restrictions and feature higher-quality encoding.

The first time you buy an iTunes Plus song, you specify whether to make all future purchases iTunes Plus versions (when available). You can change this setting by accessing your account information on the iTunes Store.

If you already have iTunes Store purchases that are now available as iTunes Plus downloads, you may upgrade your existing purchases. To do so, visit the iTunes Store and follow the onscreen instructions.

At least this saves us all the DRM-purging step of burn-to-a-CD then re-rip. The download is 29.2MB for most systems.

On a side note, also available is Security Update 1.0 for Quicktime 7.1.6. It’s a 1.9MB download. More on this here.

A Dash of Paprika May 27, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Macs in Media.
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With this post we begin a new series and blog category called Macs in Media, which details appearances and cameos of our favorite computer on television, in movies and other popular media. True, most Apple cameos are sometimes chokingly-omnipresent and obvious product placements from Apple’s marketing overdrive department, but now and then they manage a subtle little slip that titillate the Mac faithful, or occasionally even come up with a more meaty appearance where the computer is actually a significant part of the story. Or not. Whatever. (Let’s just say us fanboys get tickled pink when we see a Mac in a movie.)

PAPURIKA (2006), directed by Satoshi Kon, from Madhouse/Sony Pictures Entertainment (Japan):

This first entry shows a cameo of what appears to be a Macbook Pro in Satoshi Kon‘s new anime film Papurika, (Paprika), released late last year, and the DVD just last Friday. The anime is from the creators of Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers, and is a great, mind-bending trip about a gadget that allows someone to slip into another person’s dreams. One review puts it best: it’s like Hello Kitty meets Philip K. Dick.

The Mac shown above looks like a regular 15″ Aluminum PPC Powerbook, but the dual hinges on the top edge give it away as a MacBook Pro – the odd thing is that the iSight lens seems to be missing. (And it’s also telling that the MacBook Pro wasn’t yet around during the production of the film either. I could be wrong though; I’ll look into it.) What’s even odder is that the laptop featured isn’t a Vaio, since the film was co-produced by Sony.

For more info on the movie, check out IMDB, or google some reviews like the one from The New York Times. Catch the trailer here.

What are you listening to? May 26, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in iPods, iTunes.
3 comments

I’m a podcast slut.

I listen to almost anything, and I’ve tried a heck of a lot of shows. Sadly, 70% of what’s out there is not worth listening to for many colorful reasons, some technical, but mostly related to content and talent deficiencies. I can listen to a horribly recorded show if their hosts were good and the material was outstanding, but there are a lot that are as bad-sounding as their material is useless and horribly delivered (including a few locally produced ones that will remain unnamed); they’re really just vanity projects and long-running ego trips for those concerned.

20% of it is ok but just plain boring. The remaining 10% however are borderline fantastic. Some are useful, some are hilarious, some informative and all entertaining. It’s just a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff; given the variety out there, this is a tall order. The only way to find them to dive right in and start trying them out, and being quick not to waste time with the crapola. If it doesn’t hook you in the first five minutes, or you’ve patiently listened to a couple of episodes if one and still feel iffy about it, delete the thing and try something else. There’s plenty more where those came from.

I’m curious to know what people are listening to, so if you have some suggestions as to what to download and what to avoid, most of us would appreciate a heads-up. Drop a comment so we can try out what you like and skip what you don’t, and if you have time, explain why that is.

To start things off, here’s a quick rundown of what’s currently on my iPod (audio only), in alphabetical order with pasted descriptions of what they are from the feeds themselves. All of them are available on iTunes. Some are staples on my player, like TWIT, MacBreak Weekly, Cranky Geeks, BOL and Filmspotting, and some of the others are just trial subscriptions, but this list gives you a real-time snapshot of what’s taking up space on my shuffle these days:

Answer Bitch
E! Online’s ASK THE ANSWER B!TCH fields questions from readers around the globe, begging to know what really happens in Hollywood. She gets to the bottom of what the glossies, well, gloss over: Do stars get their $30 million paychecks all at once? Do they scoop up after their own dogs? Who’s in your typical rap-star posse? How can you get into a movie premiere? She knows–and she’s not shy about sharing.

Buzz Out Loud
Molly Wood, Tom Merritt, and Veronica Belmont give you their take on what’s happening in tech news this week. Email us at buzz@cnet.com or call 1-800-616-CNET to leave a message.

Cranky Geeks
Cranky Geeks, hosted by PC Magazine contributing editor John C. Dvorak. Each week a group of expert panelists discuss the most controversial topics in tech. Cranky Geeks airs on Thursdays at 2pm eastern, and can be downloaded at http://www.CrankyGeeks.com

Diggnation
Diggnation is a weekly tech/web culture show based on the top digg.com social bookmarking news stories.

DS:Life Podcast
The DS:Life podcast is your source for everything Nintendo DS. We will bring you all the latest news, views and even game reviews. So subscribe and check us out. I think you’ll see that we are different then the normal Nintendo themed podcast.

Engadget
Gadget discussion with Peter Roxas and Ryan Block from THE definitive gadget blog.

Filmspotting
A weekly podcast from Chicago featuring new movie reviews, top 5 lists, interviews and insightful film talk with Adam Kempenaar and Sam Van Hallgren. Can be heard monthly on Chicago Public Radio.

GQ Audio Podcast
A weekly infusion of men’s style and culture, the GQ Audio Podcast gives you the story behind the story. Listen in on conversations between GQ editors and writers about the best in movies, fashion, music, and other areas of pop culture. Each episode averages about 20 minutes and is posted every Tuesday

Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips
Grammar Girl provides short, friendly tips to improve your writing. Whether English is your first language or your second language, these grammar, punctuation, style, and business tips will make you a better and more successful writer. Grammar Girl is a QDnow.com podcast.

Hollywood Party Girl Podcast
E! Online’s Hollywood Party Girl jumps the velvet rope to rub spray-tanned shoulders with stars like Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton. She’s got the skinny on the hottest A-list hangs, bashes and happenings. You know, the important stuff, like: Who’s making out in the bathroom? Which stars are dancing on tables? What’s the coolest drink to down? She’s got the inside dish, ’cause she’s (almost) always on the list.

iLifeZone
You have crossed over into the iLifeZone. It is a special place where you can learn how to get the most out of your investment in your Mac hardware and software.

Infected by Martin Sargent
Martin Sargent knows more about technology than any living American, and each episode of Infected is a deeply probing meditation on how all those 1s and 0s are shaping our world. There’s also a fair amount of poo talk. If you want the funniest, most original take on the world of technology and the Internet, get Infected by Martin Sargent today.

MacBreak Weekly
Get the latest Mac news and views from the top journalists covering Apple today. This roundtable discussion is audio only, and complements the video only MacBreak. Another great show from the Pixel Corps and the TWiT.tv network.

MP3 Insider from CNET
Changes are swift in the new age of digital audio. Stay in the loop each week as Veronica and Jasmine discuss the latest digital music (and video) news, hardware, software, and media services, and address reader calls and e-mail.

PC Gamer Podcast
PCGP is the official podcast of PC Gamer Magazine. Every week, our editors bring you expert commentary from behind the scenes of the week’s biggest gaming stories — including exclusive conversations with the most important developers in the business.

PopSci Podcasts
PopSci.com brings you interviews with the movers and shakers of sci-tech, live event coverage, and answers to your most pressing geeky questions.

SModcast
SModcast is the meandering palaver of a pair of dudes whose voices are so dull, they don’t deserve to be on the radio (and, hence, aren’t). Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier are SModcast.The best thing about SModcast? It don’t cost nothing.

This Week in Tech
Your first podcast of the week is the last word in tech. Join Leo Laporte, Patrick Norton, Kevin Rose, John C. Dvorak, and other tech luminaries in a roundtable discussion of the latest trends in high tech. Winner of People’s Choice Podcast and Best Technology Podcast in the 2005 People’s Choice Podcast Awards. Released every Sunday at midnight Pacific.

We’d love to know what you guys like, so drop us a line sometime.

Security Update 2007-005 May 26, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Updates & Patches.
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Fire up Software Update!

Apple released yesterday Security Update 2007-005 (which incorporates 004 if you still don’t have it) and improves security for the following:

bind
CarbonCore
CoreGraphics
crontabs
fetchmail
file
iChat
mDNSResponder
PPP
ruby
screen
texinfo
VPN

It’s a 16.7mb download for PPC, 29.2mb for Universal, 42.5mb for OS X 10.3.9 Client and 56mb for the Server version. Security Update 2007-005 requires a restart. It is also available through Apple Downloads.

No word yet if it screws anything up as is sometimes the case, so downloader beware. We’ll update you if there’s anything in the wind, but so far so good. Details and fine print on the update here.

iTunes Store short film freebie May 21, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Downloads, iTunes.
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You can get all sorts of free downloads from the iTunes Store, ranging from podcasts to songs to audiobooks, game demos, movie trailers and TV episodes, but every now and then they let go of a nice and out-of-the-ordinary treat. This is one of those times.

If you check, there is something pretty interesting being offered for free download at the moment. It’s a short film called Raving, part of the Elle Magazine Fashion Story Series brought to us by Plum Pictures. Raving stars Zooey Deschanel and Bill Irwin, and is directed by Julia Stiles. Yes, that Julia.

Raving premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. It runs fullscreen at 23 minutes, and is a 272 mb download. Never mind what it’s about, it’s free, just get it. Go direct to the iTunes Store by clicking here. Grab it soon before they take it down.

FCC approves the iPhone. Finally. May 20, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Announcements, iPhone, News.
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The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the Federal Communications Commission of the United States has finally given approval to Apple’s iPhone, removing the last hurdle for its coming release in June.

The iPhone was granted the required FCC certification milestone late last week and is on track to sell next month, according to Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris. A lot of critics have cited this delayed FCC approval as a sign that all was not well, and that the iPhone would not be able to ship as scheduled, if at all. With the approval, pre-selling can begin, along all sorts of long-delayed (and unnecessary) marketing and selling campaigns.

It’s real, folks. It’s definitely coming. And on time, it seems.

Blink May 20, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in iPods, Rants.
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Curious, this problem I now have with my 2nd generation iPod shuffle.

A couple of weeks ago it began to just blink back at me, yellow-orange-yellow-orange, instead of the comforting steady yellow it usually does when it’s playing my podcasts back at me on the train. Then after a bit of this, it shuts down, refusing me my daily MRT fix of Buzz Out Loud. At first I thought it needed to get charged, but even when I hooked it up overnight to the Powerbook, I got the same blink blink blink the next day. Uh-oh.

I restored it and reloaded the files, and it worked for about a couple of days, and then blink blink blink again. So I gamely did the restore routine once more, and it steadfastly refused to play. I thought it was some problem with the laptop, so I restored it on the desktop Mac, and while connected on both computers it seemed to work fine, unplugged it was blink blink blink. I did it several times over until I gave up for the meantime. I resorted to carrying the bigger 5th gen while I figured this one out.

Did I drop it somehow, crunch it underfoot? Did I leave it in the coin pocket of my jeans and let it go through the laundry? Did the dog ingest it and return it from the other end and the maids just cleaned it up and didn’t tell me? No, it had been just where it usually was – on my ID lanyard.

At the office, Clarissa Concio, Editor-in-Chief of our music magazine Burn told me her beloved iPod had gone bad too at around the same time, and she was afraid our iPods were exhibiting the Blink of Death, also known as Error 1418, which apparently had been happening a bit more often than was comfortable. This notorious problem, also known variously as Error 1415, Error 1417 and Error 1428, attacks any model iPod when upgrading to iTunes 7 or later. Even Apple seems dumbfounded, as evidenced by their page on the problem, and advises people to “attempt to restore your iPod.” Helpful.

What I did try out of desperation was restore the thing on the Thinkpad T43, effectively changing the nationality of my shuffle to Windows whether he liked it or not. Lo and behold, it started working again! So thinking the thorn, whatever it was, had been pulled from the paw, I went back and restored it again on the Mac.

Blink blink blink. No dice.

At least it isn’t a permanent hardware problem, I thought. Just some software snafu with iTunes. At the risk of driving the shuffle insane, I shifted it back to Windows, authorized the T43 on the iTunes Store, resubscribed all my podcasts (and even added a few) and resynced everything. I had no choice. Now it works fine, only it thinks it is a Windows iPod now, which essentially, for all intents and purposes, it is.

Poor thing.

iTunes Store Rants May 20, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in iTunes, Rants, Services.
2 comments

Let’s get this out of the way first: I don’t hate the iTunes Store; in fact I love it. For instance, I love that you can buy tinge style, song by song, a Filipino quirk that even foreigners love. Which makes it all the more irritating that the niggles are even there – in comparison to the rest of entire service, the mistakes are glaring and magnified.

I’m just glad I can even purchase from it, although “purchase” is a big stretch. I do buy occasionally, but like most folk hereabouts, I’m mostly after the weekly freebies: songs, TV episodes, audiobooks, a game demo now and then, and of course the wealth of podcasts available on the site.

This isn’t to say they haven’t been working hard to make the site a good one. Some time ago they modified the downloading rules to allow you to get discounted rates if you purchase a complete album where you’ve previously bought individual tracks from. That’s one less on my list now.

What am I talking about?

1. I don’t like it that the Store doesn’t make any obvious and up-front distinction between audio and video content. I use a 2G iPod shuffle exclusively for audio podcasts, and I sometimes go fishing for new and interesting content when I get tired of my staples Buzz Out Loud, Filmspotting, TWIT, Cranky Geeks and so forth. It’s damned irritating to find something interesting, drill down the pages to get to it and discover at the end of it all that it’s a big fat vidcast, which makes it useless for my 1gb screenless shuffle. Can’t they just say so right off so I don’t waste my time?

2. The Top Songs and the other”Top” lists on the first page of the store don’t seem to really reflect the top anything, as in most popular or most purchased – it’s more like the newest additions and recommendations for the week. Eh?

3. The 30-sec previews seem to be selected automatically, without any intellectual intervention as to which 30-sec portion should be made available so you can make an informed choice whether to buy a song or not. Thus you sometimes end up with a 30-sec tuneless instrumental intro which cuts out just as the vocals start. Or maybe some boring random, out-of-context stanza rather than the catchy hook of the refrain. It’s just plain marketing common sense.

4. They don’t update or warn people that certain podcasts have died a natural death, i.e., the creators have disappeared from the face of the earth and there hasn’t been a new episode for months and months, yet they’re touted as subscribable still. I’d rather they’d just be archived and us told that it’s a dead end.

5. They nag you to death on iTunes if they see you haven’t listened to a podcast for a while, and automatically withhold downloading new episodes. Sometimes I just can’t get to the episodes because of work, and then when I do update, there are a half-dozen shows undownloaded and marked with an exclamation point. I have to deliberately activate the subscription again, and after I do it just starts to download the latest one, forcing me to click on each episode I’d missed one by one to get them. Argh.

6. The free tracks are only available for a week. Sometimes I forget, and they’re gone forever – at least as free tracks, making me feel bad. Hey, I’m OC that way.

7. There is officially no iTunes Store for my country. Still.

8. The search feature isn’t thorough and a bit wonky. There have been times I can’t find a track with the most basic and logical search argument, and I have to figure out alternate ways of looking for it.

9. I wish the games can be played in iTunes on your computer. Sometimes the small iPod screen gets to me.

10. I wish there was a way that when you delete the songs from a playlist, there is an option to delete it from the library for good at the same time. You have to muck around the lib to clean up stuff you don’t want anymore, and going through that massive pile is tough. While we’re on the topic, it would be great if the software was intelligent enough to root out duplicates right off at ripping time and keep you from wasting space with multiple copies of the same exact song. Wishful thinking, I know.

For all I know there are existing solutions to these niggles already, I just haven’t discovered them , or I’m too lamebrained or lazy to figure it out. If so, chime in and enlighten me, or add your own complaints to the list. Maybe Apple might take notice somehow and correct them, if not in Leopard, in the next iTunes update. It doesn’t cost anything to hope, right?

Macbook Redux! May 15, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Announcements, Notebooks, Updates & Patches.
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Heads-up!

Apple just upgraded the MacBook line with faster processors, 1gb RAM and larger drives today. Everything else remains the same. Specs:

2.0GHz White MacBook, 80GB, 1GB RAM: $1099
2.16GHz White MacBook, 120GB, 1GB RAM: $1299
2.16GHz Black MacBook, 160GB, 1GB RAM: $1499

More on the Apple website. Time to upgrade? Again?