Fastest Windows Laptop

PC World tests Windows laptops for raw speed, and gives the nod to … Apple’s MacBook Pro.

The fastest Windows Vista notebook we’ve tested this year is a Mac. Try that again: The fastest Windows Vista notebook we’ve tested this year–or for that matter, ever–is a Mac. Not a Dell, not a Toshiba, not even an Alienware. The $2419 (plus the price of a copy of Windows Vista, of course) MacBook Pro’s PC WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 88 beats Gateway’s E-265M by a single point, but the MacBook’s score is far more impressive simply because Apple couldn’t care less whether you run Windows.

From the minute I first set up Windows under Parallels, I swore it was the fastest Windows I’d ever used — including boot time — so I’m not shocked by PC World’s finding. But it is just a wee bit ironic.

Music: Patti Smith :: Hey Joe


Ugly truth: Photoshop takes so long to launch that I’ll sometimes defer doing small graphics jobs that need doing just to avoid sitting there staring at the splash screen. Funny how 60 seconds can seem like an eternity in the middle of a fast-paced work day. 90% of the time, 90% of people are doing everyday tasks that don’t require all of Photoshop’s functionality — and all of its bloat. The LE version is stripped down (don’t know what it’s launch times are like), but there’s an aching need out there for an elegant, fast, affordable but highly functional image editor for the Mac that basically works like Photoshop.

Pixelmator is exactly that. The UI is at once radically different and totally familiar. For me, there was no learning curve at all – just grab it and go. And the 3-second launch is barely noticeable. The one thing I use constantly in Photoshop that’s missing in Pixelmator is the Save for Web feature, which lets you compare multiple compression levels and their relative file sizes during the save operation. Other than that, I can see getting comfy with Pixelmator real quick.

Music: Daniel Johnston :: Some Things Last A Long Time

Apple Locks Down the iPod

It’s never been possible to stick OS X on any old hardware – you’ve been required to buy Apple hardware for the privilege. But the iPod has not had the same locked-down connection — because the iPod’s internal database format has been transparent and readable, 3rd-party devs have been able to make iPods happy on Linux systems, and it’s been possible for tools like Senuti to grab songs off any iPod, even though Apple makes it initially appear impossible.

But the latest crop of iPods are different – their internal database structure has become opaque, resulting in a lot of pissed off Linux users – users who paid Apple good money for their iPods but are still being cut off from the ability to use their player of choice with their OS of choice. Looks like this one is going to take some serious reverse-engineering to solve, too.

I’m wondering what the real motivation for this change is — Is it Apple’s attempt to cut tools like Senuti off at the knees, and Linux users are just collateral damage? Or the other way around? I suspect the former, since I can’t really think of a reason why Apple would care if users hook iPods up to Linux.

Music: Damo Suzuki’s Network :: Bellevue Cocktail / Floating Bridge Mix

Safari’s RSS Puzzle

Every few months I get tired of Firefox chewing memory and hanging every 2-3 days, and decide to return to Safari. It’s a dilemma: Safari’s speed, elegance, and stability, or Firefox’s wealth of plugins? For now, I’m going to put speed and stability first and make Safari primary again. I can switch over when I need to do something Safari can’t do.

As long as I’m tweaking the apple cart, decided to finally check out the Safari 3 beta. Love the new in-page search, love the resizable text fields, love the speed. But the RSS reader? Unchanged, as far as I can tell. What’s going on here? Over at my O’Reilly blog I’m letting Apple have it over Safari’s anemic RSS tools:

OK, geek boys and girls, pop quiz: How do you use Safari’s built-in RSS reader as a feed aggregator? Go ahead, take a minute to figure it out. Take 5. Whatever you need. I’ve got time.

Apple – Whatever you do with RSS in Leopard, please turn up the voltage on the de-confusifizer. RSS is important technology, and consumers aren’t going to get excited about it until you simultaneously show them its power and make it simple. Isn’t that what you do best?

Music: Pete Townshend :: Forever’s No Time At All

Maximum Altitude: 10,000 Feet

Your daily dose of seldom-used tech trivia: Checking out the specs on the new iMacs, noticed a one-liner at the bottom of the Electrical and environmental requirements:

Maximum Altitude: 10,000 Feet

Not sure whether this is new to the new iMacs – I’ve just never noticed the stipulation before. So… what computer components are altitude-sensitive? Floated this question to a mailing list I’m on and got back some good theories, such as the fact that thinner air doesn’t circulate as well, and therefore lacks the cooling power of air at lower altitudes. Another respondent noted that mountaineers scaling Everest had purchased multiple iPods to find one that kept working all the way to the top (apparently some do, others don’t).

Found the most plausible explanation in a thread at Metafilter:

Specifically, the altitude concern is for the operation of the hard drive. Above a certain altitude, the low air pressure will allow the drive’s heads to scrape against the platters when in use, resulting in physical damage and data loss.

Larn something every day…

Music: Nick Lowe :: I Must Be Getting Over You

FileTypes for OS X

The fact that OS X still has no central FileTypes preferences panel for controlling associations between file types and the applications they launch in, defining new file types, seeing and editing metadata associated with filetypes, etc. is, IMO, a glaring omission from OS X. BeOS, of course, had File Types nailed. OS X has inherited and expanded on a lot of great ideas from BeOS over the past few years, but for some reason still keeps this kind of control out of the user’s hands (you can set the application associated with a file, or with all files “of this type” from Info property panels, but seriously – this kind of functionality should be baked into the system preferences panel.

The excellent RCDefaultApp gives you the control you’re looking for. Let’s just hope something similar is in Leopard.

.command for OS X Shell Scripts

For the next version of gpx2txt, I was looking into AppleScript wrappers and other methods so users wouldn’t be required to run, when I discovered that under OS X you can rename a shell script with the “.command” extension and it’ll run with a double-click. Works a treat – no path issues even. Next version will be much more user-friendly.

Music: Manu Chao :: Luna y Sol

Why Safari?

The video demos of new features in OS X Leopard are pretty chill — OK, more than chill — some of them are downright amazing. But I’m trying to wrap my head around the release of Safari for Windows.

With iTunes for Windows, it was a slam dunk – you can’t sell iPods and tracks to people who can’t reach your platform. But with Safari, it’s not so clear cut. What are they selling? Ostensibly, it’s about giving Windows developers access to the browser that will be running on the iPhone. But I’m not buying that that’s the whole reason. Developers are just too small an audience to warrant the work it must have taken to do the port, and to support it going forward.

There’s the old “gateway drug” argument – give Windows users enough tastes of Mac elegance – and in this case a faster browser than anything available on Windows right now (Apple claims Safari 3 is twice as fast as Internet Explorer 7 on Windows, and 1.6 times faster than Firefox 2) – and eventually they’ll wander over to take a closer look at the whole enchilada*. But how many Windows users are going to care? Those who care enough about security and extensibility to try another browser are already using FireFox, and Safari doesn’t have FF’s thriving plugin landscape going for it. Speed alone isn’t going to cut it.

So… they’re going to end up with a tiny percentage of developers and geeks running Safari on Windows. And this benefits Apple how? Maybe I’m wrong – maybe the need to provide a platform for Windows iPhone developers is reason enough, but somehow that doesn’t ring true. I think there’s another shoe ready to drop, lurking stage left.

* Update: I wrote that bit about “elegance” before seeing any reviews of Safari/Win after it was released into the wild. Now that the opinions are starting to roll in, I think it’s safe to say that this beta was released long before it should have been. By all accounts, Safari/Win so far appears to be a steaming pile of $%$%!@ with little to recommend it.

iPhone Ads

Apple has started pushing the iPhone on TV. Probably nothing you haven’t seen already, but damn, the presentation is sooooo fine. The Calamari ad ties it all together with silk — portable video, geolocation, maps as bridge to… the lowly phone call (it can make phone calls too? Damn!)

Music: Paul McCartney & Wings :: Mamunia