More Leopard Problems

Like many others, I’m having more and more problems with Leopard on my four-core, 4GB RAM, 3+TB disk Mac Pro. In addition to my previously mentioned problems, which have only gotten worse, let’s see…

  • HP printer and scanner drivers are a mess. HP says, We’re working on it.
  • My wireless Microsoft mouse gets lost requiring more reboots.
  • Mail can’t recover from once being able to send through my SMTP server.
  • Forget about Parallels. Once you run it, just assume you’ll reboot within an hour.
  • QuickTime has completely crapped out. I can’t play anything with a filename ending in .mpg. The application (QT, iTunes, or anything else using the QT engine) crashes.
  • Like Oliver Rist wrote on PCMag.com, it doesn’t just work like Tiger used to.

Two things are clear to me:

  1. Third-party ISVs like HP and Parallels weren’t given adequate opportunity to develop and test with this software.
  2. Someone in senior management said “ship it!” despite the recommendations of his/her QA department in order to meet the already once-delayed release date. Whatever you might say about Microsoft, they don’t have too much trouble missing multiple release dates.

Dave Winer on the Future of Podcasting

Dave posted his thoughts about whether podcasting has or hasn’t achieved its promise and what that promise was, is and should be. He’s right about the devices, and as he points out regarding his own listening habits, it’s all about the content. Programs that have a high value to listeners will continue to be heard. Low-value novelty-only material never has a long-term future.

CC Sampling License Revisited

Two weeks ago we started looking into The Conversations Network’s use of the Creative Commons Sampling License, which is no longer officially supported by CC. We received terrific feedback including this email from CC founder Lawrence Lessig, who is also on our own Board of Advisors:

As others have commented, the license continues to be served (and will always be served) and you are free to use it. The Sampling Plus license is preferred of course, but of course it permits noncommercial reposting. While that is inconsistent in theory with your objectives, I would urge you to think practically about it. There are not many incentives to hosting large files that are not commercial, so while there may be a few who do it, I wouldn’t think it would be deeply inconsistent with your objectives to allow it.

For a variety of reasons, we’ve decided to stick with the existing CC Sampling License, at least for the time being. It really does come closest to meeting our set of objectives. But we’ll continue to review this issue on a regular basis.

Kindle, Day Five

(This is a follow-up to a first-impression review I published four days ago.)

Now on my fifth day as a Kindle user, I can say that we have a love/hate relationship. I love:

  • The Connectivity. We’ll look back on this as the first major deployment of bundled wireless connectivity. No Sprint EVDO account; it’s transparent. This makes the iPhone/AT&T registration process look klunky, kludgy and intrusive. You buy it from Amazon, and as soon as you turn it on the Kindle knows who you are and it’s already linked to your Amazon.com account. Really cool. No separate bills (or even charges) for connectivity. It’s all paid for as part of the content-purchase cost. The only features that don’t include usage-based pricing are the web browser and dedicated Wikipedia access. But the browser is so awkward to use, I don’t think anyone will be exploting the free connectivity to any significant extent.
  • The Content-Purchase Experience. Download a first chapter for free. Get a free two-week subscription to a periodical. It feels like the content is downloaded to the device almost as soon as you’re done the transaction. And it’s all as simple as one-click buying on Amazon.com. They nailed this.
  • The Display. It’s identical to my Sony PRS-505, both of which are much better than my older PRS-500. While I look forward to continued improvements to this technology (like faster page changes, more contrast, color), it’s already quite usable.

I hate:

  • The Device. The navigation buttons are awful. Its pointy corner digs into my palm when I hold it. (Maybe a third-party case will save me.) It’s ugly. I’m still accidentally pressing buttons — they line the edges — every time I pick it up. It feels like the first time I drop it, I’ll have to throw it in the trash.
  • The Case. You’ve *got* to be kidding!

Whoever designed the e-commerce aspects, particularly the deal with Sprint, should get a bonus. Whoever is responsible for the ergonomics of the device needs to find another line of work.

Update: James Kendrick posted a good but somewhat basic 25-minute video demo of the Kindle.

Kindle, Day One

Like Don MacAskill and others, I’ve been a fan of Sony Readers for some time. Today, an Amazon Kindle arrived, so I’ve spent most of the day avoiding getting any real work done. Unlike Don, however, I’m not all that happy with the device itself. Here are some observations, some of them different from what you might have read elsewhere. Some are in comparison to the Sony Reader (PRS-505).

  • The Kindle Store purchase experience is great. Based on Amazon’s One-Click model, it’s super easy to buy and download books and periodocals. That part, Amazon got just right.
  • My biggest complaint is the buttons. They’re too large and way too easy to press accidentally. Both the left and right edges are lined with long navigational buttons: Next Page (two of ’em), Previous Page, and Back. They’re much smaller on the Sony Reader, and just fine that way. It’s not easy to hold this thing without pressing one of the buttons. I find I rest the lower-left corner in the palm of my hand, but that’s not too comfortable after a while. And if I set it down, when I go to pick it up, I inevitably press one of those damn buttons along the edge.
  • The supplied case is awful. It’s cheap, doesn’t hold the device well, and it doesn’t protect the buttons from being depressed when something hits the cover.
  • For that matter, the entire unit feels cheap and a bit flimsy as comared to the Sony Reader, which has a metal frame. I feel I have to treat it carefully, particularly those oversized buttons. In an interview, Jeff Bezos said something about taking it to the beach. I don’t think so, although I’ve successfully used my first Sony Reader there.
  • I’m using a two-week trial subscription to the NY Times. I’ll put my hardcopy subscription on vacation hold to see if I can survive without it. The Times is certainly readable on the Kindle, but the navigation is awkward. It takes a while before you get used to using the Back key (as opposed to the Previous Page key), which acts like Escape to take you back one level in the hierarchy. I think I’m like most people in that I skim the paper reading headlines to find articles I want to read, then drill down into the opening paragraphs, possibly skipping the rest of the article and going on to the next one. But it’s not as easy as scanning two pages at a time in the hardcopy paper. You lose track of where you are.
  • One thing that really annoys me about the Times is the way the op-ed page displays. Rather than showing me the name of the columnist, it gives me the title of the column. I want to see David Brooks or Thomas Friedman, but instead I have to select each op-ed item separately just to see who wrote it, then go back or on to the next one. Some more thought needs to go into what’s in the metadata, people!
  • You don’t really need to connect the device to a computer since you do almost everything you need via its Whispernet (Sprint EVDO) connection, but if you do want to copy files to/from a computer, the Kindle supports PCs and Macs. The Sony Reader can’t be used with a Mac unless you run under Parallels, Bootcamp, etc.
  • I don’t miss it all that much, but the Sony Reader has the ability to rotate the content to display in landscape mode. The Kindle does not, as far as I can tell.
  • As Don and others have written, the content selection isn’t great, but it is better than what you can get for the Sony. And the Kindle’s “store” experience is vastly superior. Sony’s Connect software is extremely clunky and Windows only. I expect Amazon to increase the selection over time more aggressively than Sony, but that’s just my expectation. 🙂
  • I had to call the toll-free Kindle support line because of a (reasonable) problem with my registration. The guy at the other end (located in southwestern Washington) had never encountered my problem before. No surprise since it was the first day you could get one of these if you weren’t some kind of VIP. But he was generally knowledgeable and friendly, and he did figure it out in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Yes, as so many others have said, the DRM is a real problem. For example, I’ve already bought and paid for a few books on my PRS-505, which I cannot now move to my Kindle. But I’m ignoring that issue, at least for the time being. Not that it isn’t important, but I do understand that there are some things I can’t do with these devices. I still find them useful.

In summary, I love what’s new about the Kindle (wireless connectivity and the one-click purchasing directly from the device), but I wish it were combined with Sony’s packaging, interface and styling. In any case, this is a great step forward for eBooks, and for that I’m glad. What will be most interesting are (a) do I stick with the NY Times subscription or go back to my hardcopy, and (b) when it comes time for my next trip (two weeks from now), which one do I take with me?

Update: See my Day-Five review.

Leopard: The First Two Weeks

I did think twice before upgrading my Mac Pro to Leopard, but I’ve been looking forward to Time Machine for too long. I had to take the plunge. I wouldn’t say that I regret the decision, but there’s no doubt that certain aspects of my OS X experience have taken a step backwards. In particular, my computer is now substantially less reliable.

  • I have to reboot typically once per day. (Previously, I went for months without restarting.) Most often, the problem is an unresponsive application that can’t be terminated, even with Force Quit. Common offenders are System Preferences, Parallels and Mail.
  • There’s a connectivity problem with Mail. Many times each day the retrieval of email via POP3 from Gmail fails, but unlike in the past, Mail doesn’t appear to recover. Sometimes it retries and recovers, but it appears as though under certain unknown circumstances it gives up trying until I manually Get Mail. I can’t tell if it’s an application issue or a networking problem, but it’s new. Similar thing happens on outbound (Sent) email. I used to have a problem sending about once a month. Now it happens many times a day. And unlike the reception of email, it appears there are no retries for sending. You get a modal dialog box that waits for your input.

I do like Time Machine. I bought a 1TB drive for about $350 at Best Buy. It’s already 2/3 full with the various rotating backups. I’ve only retrieved one file so far, but it worked reasonably well. Time Machine’s backup algorithm isn’t particularly sophisticated and it has some flaws, but I love that it’s built into the OS and I don’t have to think about it. And the UI is reasonably straightforward although rather over-the-top full of itself.

Of all the applications I moved over, I was surprised that the Apple Apps such as Final Cut Pro and Sound Track Pro required me to re-register. Nearly all third-party apps worked without that step including Adobe Creative Suite 3 stuff.

Update: It appears that Leopard gets into a state where any newly launched application gets stuck in limbo: The application has started, but it can’t display a UI and it can’t be terminated via Force Quit. Once in this state, any application you try to start (or started by another app) only gets as far as limbo mode. The only solution is to power-off the hardware.

Update: Looks like there are many others with the same problem on the Apple discussion forums.

Get to Know Phil Windley

We think of him as our own superb Executive Producer of IT Conversations, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of Phil Windley’s past, present and future. Yahoo’s Jeremy Zawodny published this great video interview with Phil, recorded at the Defrag conference.

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