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I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Interestingly enough, we discovered that most people who carry a Windows phone don’t realize it’s running Windows Mobile. We also heard from many people considering their very first smartphone purchase that they’d very strongly consider a phone running Windows because it’s a brand they know and trust. You’ll see us try to simplify our branding so it’s easier for people to know when they’re carrying a Windows phone and easier to find them in stores.

The Windows Blog

[Inbox Zero]’s a term that geeks use so we can convince ourselves that we’re winning the battle against communication overload. We’re not winning. We’re just selectively forgetting certain emails, half-responding to others, and if worse comes to worse, switching communication platforms. That’s not winning, that’s running.

MG Siegler

I don’t think this is a problem with the concept of Inbox Zero and other task-management philosophies. Rather, it’s the most common failure case, and it’s a failure that I haven’t been able to overcome for email no matter which strategy or methodology I’ve employed.

I hereby admit defeat. I’m Marco, and despite my best intentions, I will probably never have the time to respond to your email.

It is not ‘your’ Facebook profile. It is Facebook’s profile about you.

The New York Times: Facebook Exodus (via Katie Schenk)

What bothers me most about Snow Leopard is this simple indicator that shows that I’ve just moved to a different virtual desktop with Spaces using the convenient Ctrl+arrow keyboard shortcut.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the indicator itself, but because its continued presence means that I’m about to be mildly inconvenienced.

A significant portion of the times that I switch Spaces with the keyboard, this icon gets stuck on screen and it won’t release its keyboard capture. Other keyboard commands do absolutely nothing until I launch Activity Monitor (entirely using the mouse, which is incredibly frustrating) and force-quit the Dock process.

This was one of two annoying bugs in the last developer-preview build before Snow Leopard’s release. They fixed the other one, but this remains.

On one hand, it’s easy to feel sorry for AT&T because it takes a long time and a lot of money to build out wireless infrastructure and they clearly can’t keep up with the massive increase in demand from iPhone users on their network. It’s arguable whether any other carrier could have done a better job. In all likelihood, if we had put this tremendous burden on Verizon instead, they probably wouldn’t have done much better.

On the other hand, the entire wireless data business has always been predicated on the assumption that nearly all users would use nearly no data. Even as they rolled out one smartphone after another, they knew that these devices were so clunky and difficult to use that nobody would really do much beyond occasional email checks with their expensive data plans.

When a device comes along that legitimately raises the usage rate of wireless data, and AT&T has trouble delivering a larger portion of the capacity they’ve been supposedly selling to us all along but always got away without, I can’t really feel sorry for them.

From a practical perspective, it’s a terrible place to be. But selling a feature based on almost complete non-use of that feature, without the ability to actually deliver it if people started using it to even a nominal degree, seems like they’ve been getting away with a great fraud. I know this is how the business works, and that’s how many businesses work (such as mail-in rebates), but that doesn’t make it right.

Subway gadget survey

I ride the New York subway every day, and I see a lot of trendy gadgets. New York consumers tend to adopt portable technology early and are much less price-sensitive than most of the country. (Our cost of living is so much higher that nationally constant prices are comparatively low — $300 was two weeks’ rent in Pittsburgh, but that would only buy a few days in most New York apartments, so a gadget that costs $300 is comparatively less expensive here relative to incomes and the other costs in our lives.)

Today, John Gruber said about this Palm Pre poor-sales speculation:

Anecdotally, I haven’t seen a single Pre in use in real life.

The subway is a great sample of the generally upper segment of the market. Here’s roughly what I’ve seen since the Pre’s release:

Among the iPhone OS devices, many people have multiple pages of apps. I assumed that most casual iPhone users would stick to the default set, but that hasn’t been prevalent.

The most frequent activities on iPhone OS devices are, in this order:

  1. Listening to music
  2. Using Mail (iPhones only)
  3. Playing a game (casual, non-action games have clear dominance, such as Solitaire and Sudoku)
  4. Watching video (usually a popular, recognizable TV show or movie)
  5. Using Stanza or Kindle (I can’t often tell the difference)
  6. Using another non-game app

(I still haven’t spotted someone using Instapaper, but some coworkers have. That’s why I keep looking to see what everyone’s doing on their iPhones. Hey, at least I’m honest about my vanity searches.)

Some interesting conclusions I can draw from this admittedly unscientific, imprecise, and limited sample:

Most importantly, it’s very clear that Windows and Palm aren’t in this game anymore.

What this is really about is race. That’s all there is to it.

Robot Heart’s mom (via Dan) regarding some of the extreme hatred and irrational fear of Obama.

I completely agree. I hate to be politically incorrect (Wait, who am I kidding? No I don’t.), but look at the traditionally more racist regions and demographics. There’s a lot of overlap with the Obama-is-Hitler-and-will-kill-our-children crazies.

This is different from honest political disagreement. Bush was one of the least-liked presidents we’ve ever had, especially by the end of his term, but nobody was bringing assault rifles to his appearances or refusing to air his speeches live because they might turn their children against them with subversive messages.

Racism is alive and well in America. This isn’t news to anyone who’s not white.

(Update to add two clarifications: First, I did not state that anyone who dislikes Obama is a racist. Read more carefully before flaming. Secondly, I did not mean to imply that racism in America is constrained only to certain areas. It’s everywhere, but it’s more prevalent in some regions and among some demographics. I don’t think anyone would argue that.)

I think Tiff is starting to suspect that I may have a problem.

tiff-its-not-just-my-name-its-a-name-i-share

This Wednesday (September 9th) is Apple’s annual iPod event, where they’re likely to refresh most or all of the iPod lineup like they’ve done at nearly every fall iPod event.

The iPod line is admittedly lower-profile since many Apple fanatics have switched to iPhones, but a lot of people still buy iPods, and the Touch lineup is relevant to iPhone users and developers.

(Officially, the product names are iPod shuffle, iPod nano, iPod touch, and iPod classic — note that the second word in each is not capitalized. I choose to ignore that and capitalize their second words, often referring to them only as “the Touch”, “the Classic”, etc. for reduced tedium in articles like this that are only about iPods.)

The Shuffle will probably not be mentioned. It may have its price quietly dropped. $79 for a 4 GB screenless player is steep by today’s standards. A more fitting price may be $49.

The Nano has reached a plateau: it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to fit any additional features into it. Video’s done. They can’t cram the iPhone OS into it — regardless of hardware availability or economics, the iPhone OS wouldn’t be usable at a smaller physical screen size than the Touch’s without extensive modifications and the loss of compatibility with most apps, which removes much of the reason to use it. So I expect to see a minor Nano update, but nothing groundbreaking. (Rumors suggest a camera. That’s not groundbreaking.) A price drop is possible: currently the entry point is $149, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to get that down to $129 or $99, especially since many people buy the Nano because they can’t afford the Touch.

The Touch and the Classic are more interesting. It’s very clear that the Classic is a temporary product, stuck in the lineup as a bridge for high-storage-needs users (I’ll get to them in a minute) until flash memory is cheap enough to make a sufficiently high-capacity Touch. But it may not need to meet that capacity, exactly. When the Classic’s largest capacity dropped from 160 to 120 GB in the last refresh, nobody cared.

Most people buying iPod Classics are those high-needs people who insist on carrying their entire massive libraries with them all the time. They’re a very small segment of the market: nearly every iPod buyer can fit their entire library on an iPod Touch at today’s capacities (8/16/32 GB) with plenty of free space.

Even for people with huge libraries, carrying it all the time is rarely necessary (and often impractical with the limited navigation capabilities of portable devices). Once you’ve decided to only sync a subset of your music, regardless of how you choose that subset, it’s fairly difficult to reasonably use a ton of space. Many high-needs gadget owners have already made this transition to fit their music onto iPhones or Touches for those devices’ other benefits.

It’s clear that it’s in Apple’s best interests that as many buyers as possible choose iPhone OS devices. The iPod Touch should be the new mainstream device, with the Shuffle satisfying the exercise/durability niche and the Nano for people who need something smaller or cheaper than the Touch.

Therefore, I think this is the end of the iPod Classic.

The Touch’s current pricing:

When the Zune HD launches on September 15, this will be the entire Zune lineup (old models were discontinued):

Apple won’t let Microsoft significantly beat them on price in this market, especially as Microsoft launches a significant new product line. I think, at Wednesday’s event, the iPod Touch will have capacities doubled at similar prices. Furthermore, I think it will gain the camera, CPU, and RAM from the iPhone 3GS. None of this is particularly surprising, though, and it’s not going to drive much attention.

Apple’s been a lot more aggressive with the lower-priced markets recently. I think we’ll see a bold move in that department, and I think it will be a Touch. (The Touch is likely to be the hardware focus of the event since it’s pictured on the invitation above and has the most potential for lineup expansion.)

I think, in addition to the elimination of the iPod Classic, we’ll see an 8 GB iPod Touch for $149. And that would be truly big news, especially to iPhone app developers, since the number of iPhone OS devices sold would dramatically increase.

With a Touch at $149, there’s not much reason to have two Nano configurations. My admittedly risky prediction for the complete iPod lineup, therefore, is this:

And, since very little of this is exciting enough to justify an entire event, I’m assuming that the main focus of the event will be a new version of iTunes and new content accessibility, such as iPhone TV rentals.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about living a life it’s that you need to keep moving, and if there’s another thing it’s that you really should quit your job every once in a while and take on something new, maybe even something that seems crazy and scares the hell out of you.

Jonathan Coulton (via meaghano)

Interesting results from OpenCL Benchmark on my 8x2.8 Harpertown Mac Pro:

IKEA takes their power strips seriously.

I own a bunch of these. They cost almost nothing (usually around $2 each). Since most surge strips don’t provide much protection, you might as well not spend much money on them.

It’s the same reason I continue to recommend DreamHost for people who need shared hosting. It’s no worse than most shared hosts, and in many ways it’s actually much better. Since shared hosting is never particularly great, and nobody’s significantly better, you might as well not spend much money on it and just go with the inexpensive DreamHost plans.

monkeyairplane brought up the best counterargument against my iPod predictions:

A $149 iPod touch would be a masterstroke. But there is something in the back of my head that keeps telling me Apple will drop the 8GB if they introduce a 64GB model. Four levels of iPod touch seems like too many options for Apple. They’re more simplified and streamlined than that. Even at the expense of expanding the iPhone OS with a (relatively) cheap 8GB iPod touch.

This, not component costs or any other factor, is what was holding me back the most from predicting the 8 GB Touch. For it to happen, at least one somewhat unlikely condition must be true: either they need more Touch capacity choices than they usually offer, they need to not introduce a 64 GB model, or they need to skip obvious capacity steps between them. And all of that is assuming that an 8 GB Touch at $149 is even economically possible (it’d be tight, but I think it’s possible). The 8 GB Touch is definitely my riskiest prediction — riskier, in my opinion, than the death of the Classic.

How to predict Apple product releases

For some reason, a few popular blogs took me as an authority on this and linked to my iPod predictions post as if it were newsworthy. (Sometimes my audience becomes bigger than I intend. I know. It actually sucks in some ways.)

Let me be absolutely clear on this: Apple speculation is completely theoretical. It’s like the “futurists” in the 1950s who predicted that we’d have flying cars and all-plastic furniture in 1999 (well…). You should expect a very poor success rate on such predictions.

I have no idea what Apple is doing. Nobody does. I have no informants and no connections. I have no more information than you could find on the rumor sites — in fact, I don’t even read them and I usually ignore their information (because it’s usually wrong). Predicting Apple’s upcoming product launches with a moderate degree of accuracy, which is all you need to be “credible” in the area, is very, very easy. Here’s how.

Realistic or wishful?

When the possibility of a new product arises, separate the allure of what fans want from the reality of what’s best for Apple, the integrity of their product lines, and their long-term goals.

Netbooks are a great example. The Apple netbook was rumored for so long because fans wanted a very cheap Apple laptop. (See previous rumors for the xMac tower.) But there won’t be a $299 MacBook for the foreseeable future. It’s just not realistic in the big picture of what Apple does.

You can safely discount any rumor that Apple will significantly lower the entry price of a high-profile product line. They’re selling an assload of laptops at $1200, so they’re almost definitely not going to drop the price to $500 or less just because of price-related whining by some fans who end up buying them anyway.

Eventless updates

Some product updates aren’t important or consumer-focused enough to justify being introduced at events most of the time, such as Mac Pro or Mac Mini refreshes, or minor spec bumps in the laptops. These are likely to be done suddenly one morning with an Apple.com frontpage feature at best. It’s not worth trying to predict these with any precision.

Events

For event-worthy introductions, what type of event is coming up? Product introductions rarely fall outside of the norms:

Since tomorrow’s event is the annual fall iPod event, it’s very unlikely to be used to introduce unrelated products, such as the mystical tablet or a new iMac.

Gaps

Look for gaps and shortcomings in the product line.

If the 15” MacBook Pro has been updated more recently than the 17” and has a faster maximum CPU, the 17” will get the new CPU shortly.

The iPod Touch currently has significantly slower hardware than the iPhone. They’re usually kept at or near parity for CPU speed and RAM capacity, so this is extremely likely to be rectified at the next cycle, which is probably happening this week.

The Intel roadmap

The Mac Pro’s updates coincide with Intel’s server CPU updates, so even if an exact date can’t be established, you can usually predict the update within a few months by looking at Intel’s server roadmap. (For a product with an 18-month lifecycle and nobody trying to dig up rumors about it, that’s not bad.)

The iMac and MacBook Pro have historically used the same mobile-series CPUs. Intel’s roadmap has the Nehalem core coming to mobile this winter with the Clarksfield series (supposedly in late September, but Intel’s “paper” release dates usually lag general availability by a month or three). But it has a 45W TDP and a marketing-unfriendly clock speed of just 1.6-1.73 GHz at that TDP — that’s too much power draw and too much of a marketing challenge, so Apple is likely to skip it for its laptops and iMacs.

In all likelihood, they’ll wait for Arrandale, which can squeeze 2.0-2.13 GHz into a 25W TDP, but that won’t be out until “Q4 2009” (which, in Intel land, means at least January). We’ll probably see an iMac and MacBook Pro update in Q1 2010 with Arrandale CPUs. It remains to be seen how (or whether) Apple will advertise Intel’s semi-bullshit “Turbo Boost” speeds.

Pushing the limits

Always bet on Apple pushing the limits of what we think is possible, reasonable, or realistic for technology or the market to bear.

In 2005, everyone assumed that flash memory was far too expensive and short-supplied to replace hard drives in portable media players anytime soon. Everyone also assumed that the iPod Mini, the best-selling iPod by far, was about to receive an update. That September, having negotiated excellent high-volume deals with Samsung, Apple replaced the Mini with the all-flash Nano. Geeks whined that it was a lower capacity than the Mini. It didn’t matter.

In the first few days of 2007, nobody thought that anyone would pay $600 for a mobile phone. Six months later, Apple gave them a reason. By 2009, nobody thought Apple could find a way to offer an iPhone with a contract for less than $199 without cutting it down and making a cheap “iPhone nano”. But in June, they dropped the contract price of the full-featured iPhone 3G to $99. Today, you can buy most of that pocket computer’s hardware for $229 as the iPod Touch. Tomorrow, that may cost even less.

Apple aggressively drops backward compatibility and older technologies if their absence creates a compelling benefit, such as reductions in size, cost, complexity, or power consumption. The original iMac dropped the floppy drive and nearly all tower-hardware expansion potential. The MacBook Air dropped optical drives. The iPhone dropped the physical keyboard. In all cases, people whined because they thought everyone needed these things. And everyone didn’t.

Apple is not concerned with matching other products’ technical specifications or prices on paper. We all looked at the MacBook Air’s introduction and thought, “Why would anyone pay $1700 for a laptop with a slow CPU, a small hard drive, no optical drive, and an inaccessible battery when you can get a white MacBook for so much less that’s better at every spec?” Then, when we saw and felt the Air, we instantly understood.

If a product upgrade or new product makes sense in the lineup, but seems slightly out of reach for some minor technical or economic reason, don’t discount it.

I believe my predicted 8 GB iPod Touch at $149 falls under this category.

But they can only push boundaries within reason. They can’t make a 3-pound laptop with decent performance and a 12-hour battery life for $799. But they can get a custom CPU package from Intel to make a new form-factor possible, and they can find a way to make people want to pay $600 for a phone or $1700 for a slow and limited laptop.

And finally…

Leave room for surprises, and never bet on updated Cinema Displays.

The best way to increase your productivity, hack your life, and be minimalist is to stop reading those sites.

Oh.

iCal. The built-in OS X app with the worst ratio of attention to potential.

As an experiment back in my teenage days, I tried to eliminate all ums, ehs, likes and pauses in my speech. More than anything, I loathed the vagueness and repetition of “I/he/she was like…”, or even just “like”. Hated the way my peers stumbled around every sentence as though they were only partially convinced they should be speaking at all.

Jack Shedd

When analyzing the seemingly baffling decision to add a video camera to the Nano but not the Touch, Jobs’ brief interview provides a clear explanation that I think is credible and not an attempt to bullshit us: lowering the Touch’s cost is more important now than adding new hardware features.

But beefing up the Nano was more interesting to me. (Yes, all of my guesses were wrong. But that’s how the Apple prediction game goes.)

Apple’s focusing on improving the Nano for many reasons, but one that we’ve probably overlooked is to combat market saturation. Previously, there wasn’t much of a reason for iPhone owners to buy a separate iPod as well. There certainly isn’t much motivation for them to buy the Touch. But the Nano? If it can do things that the iPhone can’t, or it can serve in some roles better, Apple has expanded the market for people who buy and use multiple iPods.

The Shuffle had already accomplished this, to a degree. Lots of iPhone owners get Shuffles for exercising and other situations involving high risk of damage or theft. But the Shuffle sucks, and if more people buy Nanos instead, that’s a healthier bottom line and it keeps iPod revenue growth going.

Renting usually is cheaper than owning. In really expensive cities, such as New York and San Francisco, renting is so much cheaper that it’s tough to make the case for becoming a homeowner. Buying in these markets often means settling for a much worse property or an awful commute, compared with what you can afford if you continue to rent.

You’re not really throwing money away when you send a check to your landlord, anyway. You’re exchanging it for a place to live. You’re also getting flexibility and freedom — things you sacrifice when you buy a home.

When you’re a renter, it’s the landlord, not you, who is generally responsible for maintenance, repairs and fixing the toilet that blows up in the middle of the night. If the neighborhood should start to slide or you get or lose a job, you can up and move, often with just a few weeks’ notice.

Bad reasons to buy a home (via wiesen, peterwknox)

I’d love to buy a place, but this is accurate: for any area in New York that provides a tolerable commute to the city, the economics just don’t make sense. (And believe me, we tried.)

Renting is great: the longest you ever need to wait to move is a year, which is usually over before you know it. You can take risks on new cities, new neighborhoods, and new jobs without the huge financial burden of buying and selling real estate.

It’s not perfect, of course, but there are a lot of upsides that are easy to forget if you fall in love with the idea of home ownership.

If your site has become so burdened with features that it’s cluttered, confusing, and too slow to load on many internet connections, is making a separate “lite” version really the best solution?

Audio Hijack Pro makes the Beatles’ new stereo-mixed remasters listenable. (Tip: Get the mono edition for the albums that were originally mono.)

I’m sure, at one time, there was a good reason to put all of the instruments in the left channel and all of the vocals in the right channel. 2009 is not that time.

When Van Jones called the Republicans assholes, he was paying them a compliment. He was talking about how they can get things done even when they’re in the minority, as opposed to the Democrats, who can’t seem to get anything done even when they control both houses of Congress, the presidency, and Bruce Springsteen.

Bill Maher: New Rule: Float Like Obama, Sting Like Ali (via clint)

Tiff and I are re-doing the office.

Still to do:

Downside to getting most furniture in the room from IKEA: It ends up looking like an IKEA showroom.

Upside to getting most furniture in the room from IKEA: When we move, we can inexpensively replace the pieces that don’t fit in the new room new with pieces that fit perfectly. And since we always get Galant desks and already have legs and frames, it’s much cheaper to just get new tops when we need new shapes or sizes.

Intel raised their X25-M SSD prices sometime recently. In July, they dropped the 160 GB from around $630 to $440 and the 80 GB from $315 to $225. Those prices held steadily since then.

Unfortunately, they’re now back up to their pre-drop prices: $630 and $350. Hopefully this is the result of a temporary shortage or other supply-chain issue.

I was really looking forward to buying one of these after the next major price drop, when I could presumably get 160 GB for around $350, but that seems further off than I expected.

A month with the 15” MatteBook Pro

After a month of use, I appreciate my new matte-screen MacBook Pro even more.

The battery life is very good. During typical web/email activities at medium screen brightness, it’s easy to get 7-8 hours. I never expected it to be this good, and it has changed the way I use it at home: since I almost never need to use it for more than 2-4 hours at a time, I never worry about running a power cord to wherever I’m sitting. I just use it on battery, then plug it in when I put it back into its stand for the night.

It runs cool. Some parts warm slightly after a while, but no part of it gets noticeably hot unless you’re heavily loading the CPU for a while. Again, I never expected it to run as cool as it does, and this makes longer periods of use much more comfortable than I expected.

It’s fast. And it will be even faster once I put an Intel X25-M SSD in it (whenever prices make sense). This is likely to extend its useful life.

The matte screen was worth every penny and every bit of hassle for the exchange.

The only downside is the weight, which really isn’t bad unless you’re loading up your bag with other heavy things, in which case you’ll want either the Air or no laptop (usually the better option). But I’m not bringing it with me every day anymore since I no longer have a commute during which I can reasonably use it. It mainly exists as a secondary household computer and a travel/mobile workstation, so the weight is far less important than if I were carrying it in a bag every day with a heavy camera.

The lineup is clearly defined for me now, and I’m confident that I made the right choice:

Some glass-screen owners say it doesn’t bother them. They’re fortunate: they have the most options. But many weakly accept the glass with excuses like “It’s not too bad” or “I’ve gotten used to it.”

I prefer to buy products that don’t need me to make excuses for them. “Not bad” isn’t enough. I want good. I don’t want to tolerate my computers — I want to be delighted with them, like I am with my Mac Pro.

So, until (and unless) there’s a matte-screen option on the 13” MacBook, I see two major contenders in the lineup: the Air with SSD for ultraportability, and the 15” with matte for most other priorities. Given my priorities, I’m extremely satisfied with the choice I made, and using it is a delight.

In fact, this is the happiest I’ve been with a laptop since my first one, the 15” PowerBook G4 that introduced me to the Mac in 2004. Both times I’ve chosen the 15” form factor, I’ve been happiest with my choice. Hopefully I’ll remember this myself before I have another three-year affair with the 13” lineup full of performance and screen-size frustrations.

Realizing you’ve lost is usually the last step in losing.

Rands

Awards shows are the list posts of television.

Livejamie put it nicely:

People who claim that Obama is a communist don’t understand what communism is. People who claim that Obama is a socialist don’t understand what socialism is. People who claim that Obama is a fascist don’t understand what fascism is. People who claim that Obama is a Muslim don’t understand what Islam is. And people who support the Republicans because they’re capitalists don’t understand what capitalism is.

I don’t know what to think of this video of last weekend’s right-wing-whacko D.C. march. This sort of thing used to anger me. Now, it’s more sad than anything.

I’m all for civilized, informed political discourse. This couldn’t be further from that.

When speaking about his skepticism in Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader, Jobs has said that avoiding disclosure of product sales is a sign of weakness, because ‘Usually, if they sell a lot of something, you want to tell everybody.’ Clearly, Apple does not have much to brag about with the Apple TV.

Brian X. Chen for Wired.

I have an Apple TV and use it regularly, but there’s no question that it’s a niche product that needs a lot of help.

In perhaps one of the most insensitive marketing ploys since Air Force One buzzed the Statue of Liberty, Burlington Coat Factory is planting “lost” bags all over the city.

I Am Not a Plastic-Explosive Bag (via lrusso, peterwknox)

What a spectacularly bad idea.

As much as I love coffee, I’m actually pretty terrible at drinking it.

I only ever get the smallest size when I’m out, and I usually don’t finish it. My preferred cups at home are only 9 oz., and I don’t fill them up all the way.

Caffeine hits me hard, so I rarely have more than 6-8 ounces of caffeinated coffee per day. To allow me to comfortably have more than one cup, or to drink coffee in the evenings, I always blend in some decaf beans when brewing at home. I’ll usually make two-thirds decaf, one-third regular.

Even if I could get past the (bad) taste of Starbucks’ regular coffee, I can’t drink it — it has far too much caffeine.

I rarely try to order “half-caf” coffee because I can never get the servers to give me a consistent ratio. It’s far from “half”, usually with too much regular and not enough decaf.

I wish more places had “some caffeine” options. I don’t like all-or-nothing extremism. If I ever start my own coffee shop, I plan to offer a 33%-caffeinated option.

We’ve had affordable, mainstream, consumer-class 64-bit CPUs since 2004.

I don’t think anyone in 2004 would have predicted that we’d just now be going through most of the 64-bit transition in our operating systems and mainstream applications.

Good Night and Tough Luck (via 2arrs2ells)

The opposite of a mosquito is spooning: mosquitoes are awful, whereas spooning is super. The one thing I haven’t really figured out is where the person in the back is supposed to put that bottom arm.

The entire series is excellent.

I wish people cared as much about anything else as they do about the trivialities of celebrities.

My iPhone home screen is now up at First & 20. You may be surprised at how many apps I don’t use. But I did include a sneak preview of an upcoming app that I’m excited about.

(After you see how boring my home screen is, you can browse others’.)

I’ve always wanted Boxee to succeed, even before they moved into the office upstairs and we learned what nice guys they were. But, having been discouraged by the prospect of buying a dedicated computer to use its full potential on my TV, it has always been relegated to “I’ll try it someday.”

Now that Zach Klein has joined to lead product development, I’m watching Boxee much more closely. (And looking for a bargain on a Mac Mini.)

Ars’ iPod Nano Design History (via maniacalrage).

I love how they conveniently left out the hideous third-generation “fat” model. We’d all like to forget it.

Businesses I’m Thankful Not To Be In

  1. The music business.

Weekends.

Last night’s Monsters of Podcasting: NYC show, featuring You Look Nice Today and Jordan, Jesse, Go!

More photos here.

iStat Menus was recently updated for Snow Leopard. I always have this app running — I’m a very impatient computer user, and when something’s slow, I want to know exactly why. This helps me figure out what component or condition is to blame so I can make better decisions for future component upgrades and computer purchases.

This is my 2008 Mac Pro encoding a DVD with Handbrake, maxing out all eight cores while occasionally touching the disks. This task is obviously CPU-bound, but I don’t do it frequently enough to need a CPU upgrade — in fact, CPU power is the last limit I’m likely to hit with this computer. But if I’m doing something frequently that’s really slamming the disks, that’s worth knowing so I can plan a disk upgrade.

The new version of iStat Menus has a power-consumption monitor (far left) as reported by the power supply. (I didn’t even know that the Mac Pro’s power supply could report on its own consumption.) While I don’t intend to keep the power-consumption display enabled for very long, I’m running it for a few days to get a general idea of how much power I’m using. (Why, you ask? Well, why not?)

The “idle” consumption (web browsing, other easy tasks) with four disks is about 140 W, while it pushes 270 W at full CPU load. iStat breaks it down further in that item’s pulldown menu: at full load, my CPUs are using 47 and 43 W, respectively, with the northbridge using 23 W (which sounds high — do dual-Harpertown northbridges really use that much power?) and the RAM banks using 14 and 16 W, respectively.

At sustained full load, the Mac Pro’s four 120mm fans kept the CPUs at a healthy 50ºC, only 28º above ambient, spinning at 600-800 RPM. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve never had my Mac Pro spin its fans up to an audible level, even at full load. This, alone, is an impressive feat of engineering.

My computer is really a fantastic machine, and like a high-performance car’s engine noise and tachometer, iStat Menus keeps me updated about what’s going on under the hood.

Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment.

Clive Thompson on the New Literacy (via Jeff Atwood)

Hosting your own Windows 7 launch party: “In a lot of ways, you’re just throwing a party with Windows 7 as an honored guest. Sounds easy, and it is!” (laughter)

More on the Windows 7 launch party campaign, first from Cabel Sasser:

Are there people who can relate to — let alone enjoy — this video? And has there even been a more vibrant and tangible demonstration of the difference between Apple and Microsoft?

And Valhalla Island:

The concept is insane. I love OS X and there is no way I would ever host a “launch party” for a new release, no matter what the incentive.

It’s hilarious to think about how such a party would really go. Is everyone going to gather around your laptop awkwardly so you can demo new features of Windows? Does anyone ever do that with any software in any setting remotely resembling a “party”?

Or will guests bring their own laptops (one guy will bring his whole desktop) so you can all have a happy party and upgrade to Windows 7 together and burn a driver CDR for that one guy whose wireless card isn’t recognized and accommodate the guy who forgot his power cable and give up on that other guy whose installation gets hosed in the middle (yes, they’re all guys, because women know better than to attend this), then crush the host’s DSL connection when everyone whose upgrade actually worked starts downloading all of the updates?

Sounds like a blast either way.

Whereas reading offline is for downtime, reading online has been demoted to killing time, and tablogging is to blame.

Rise of the Tablog (link via Merlin Mann)

Laptop battery myths

TUAW ends this article about laptop batteries with this advice:

Never leave the machine plugged in all the time. Laptops are meant to be portable. Using it as a desktop that never runs on the battery will destroy your battery life.

Cycles are your friend. Never letting the battery complete a cycle will greatly diminish your run-time. Try to avoid charging the battery unless it’s drained past 30%. Any time the battery drains past 50% and charges more than 50% counts as a cycle. The farther you let it drain before the charge - the better its overall health will remain.

30 cycles in a year is not a good thing. ;)

Let the battery drain completely a few times a week.

Never let it sit for long periods of time without use. Batteries need to be loved or else they won’t love you.

Most* of these tips are incorrect for the lithium-ion (and, more recently, lithium-polymer) batteries that are used in nearly every laptop manufactured in the last decade.

The “memory effect”, or the need to “refresh” or “deep-cycle” the battery by completely discharging before recharging, is stale knowledge from the time of NiCad and NiMH batteries. Lithium-ion batteries don’t suffer from the memory effect.

It’s also not bad to leave your laptop plugged in. In fact, it’s a good thing to keep it plugged in whenever you don’t need to be running on battery power.

* Update: Apple recommends that you run it on battery for a while at least once per month. It’s pretty difficult to own a laptop and not do this, but it is an edge case that some people achieve. So I’ll amend this: You shouldn’t technically leave your laptop plugged in all the time, but you certainly don’t need to deep-cycle it “a few times a week” as the TUAW post states. Furthermore, the recommendation for monthly battery usage isn’t just for capacity preservation: it’s mostly so the charge indicator can maintain accuracy as the battery’s capacity decreases naturally over its lifespan.

With that said, here’s how lithium-ion batteries behave.

Due to their chemistry, their capacity slowly diminishes with age. Laptop batteries usually lose most of their useful capacity 2-3 years after manufacture (not initial use). The new lithium-polymer batteries in the MacBook Air and unibody MacBooks (only the non-removable ones) claim to have improved this, but it’s too early to tell if these claims have merit. Assume that most laptop batteries will need to be replaced after a few years.

If you use the laptop on battery power a lot, the battery lifespan will be shortened. This “wearing out” effect is much less severe than with older battery technologies, but is still present. This is why you should plug it in if it’s convenient.

When plugged in, the battery is not in use. The laptop’s power circuitry bypasses the battery unless it’s needed. Depending on how smart the charger is, it may occasionally poll and “top off” the battery if its charge decreases to a certain threshold below 100%, but this is rarely needed in practice.

If the battery is not in use, it will slowly lose its charge due to all rechargeable batteries’ tendency to slowly self-discharge. Lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries have the lowest self-discharge rates of any common battery technology, estimated at less than 1% per month and difficult to distinguish from the loss of capacity with age.

In reality, if your laptop is closed, the battery slowly discharges with time because it’s not really “off”. A small amount of continuous power is needed to preserve the RAM’s state during sleep. It’s not the battery wearing out — it’s being used, but much more slowly than when the computer’s in use.

When Apple decides whether a battery is defective or has been worn out normally, the “special utility” they run is System Profiler. You can run it, too. Check the Power section, and it’ll tell you your battery’s cycle count, the intended capacity at manufacture, and how much capacity per cycle remains. Apple technicians compare the cycle count to the capacity loss. If your battery has lost a lot of capacity in its first year but hasn’t performed enough cycles to reasonably correlate to the capacity loss, they’ll replace it under warranty.

I love dot season. It’s the Tiff Dipper.

My plumber has an excellent business card. It says ‘Phil Jones’ on the top line. Underneath that is his job title: ‘Plumber’. It’s great because it tells me everything I need to know about what he does. He doesn’t try to dress up his line of work by calling himself a ‘Strategic Pipeline Analyst’ or an ‘Aqueous Substance Manager’. He does what it says on the tin. Your job title should do the same.

The Job Title Blacklist for the Self-Employed

Tiff told me that for our first anniversary, our gifts needed to involve paper.

I believe that I satisfied that requirement.

(photo by us)

The view from our balcony tonight.

(Long exposure, right out of the camera, unprocessed.)

As more great new companies are absorbed into big old companies, a whole new generation of change is lost. They can issue press releases saying how excited they are to be able to bring their product to a whole new world of customers, and how their new suitor will bring enormous resources to bear, but we know that’s usually not really what happens. Development slows, products stall, the staff that built the great stuff leaves, and mediocrity creeps in. Not always, but usually.

Jason Fried: The next generation bends over

iPhone app paging strategy

As nice as it is to have an app for that™, I hate being bogged down by tons of apps and needing to swipe and skim through multiple pages to find the one I want to use.

I recently went through another app cleanout, and I’ve settled on this layout for the time being.

It’s intentionally small: I don’t like having more than four pages, and I don’t like a page to fill its fourth row. If I start filling any of the pages, I reevaluate my priorities and go on a deleting spree.

  

Page 1: Fast or frequent access
These are the apps that I either use the most, or need the fastest access to. That’s not necessarily the same thing. For instance, I rarely launch Voice Memos, but when I need to quickly capture something, I don’t want to page through to find the app. So all forms of quick-capture are on page 1: Simplenote, Camera, Voice Memos, Birdhouse. I also recently switched the double-tap-home action to launch Camera for quick capture (on John Gruber’s recommendation) because that’s the capturing action I do most frequently.

Page 2: A lower-priority Page 1
This is more of an overflow of page 1 with apps that I still use semi-regularly but don’t need fast access to.

In practice, most of the time, that’s as far as I get. But when I occasionally want to play a game or look at a more detailed weather report:

  

Page 3: Games
I burn through a lot of games because I tire of them quickly. This is the more timeless set that has kept my interest for longer than most. I’ve purchased more than three screens worth of games, but only end up playing a handful on a regular basis.

Page 4: Occasional utility value, and unused Apple apps
Apps that I rarely launch, but either can’t delete (Contacts, Calculator) or occasionally need (iSSH, Sketches).

So far, this is working better than any of my previous organizing or deleting methods. I can do a lot with my iPhone, but I’m not filling it with cruft and constantly flipping through pages of apps.

What’s Google Wave? Will it reduce the number of inboxes I need to deal with in my life or add to them?

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