Wed - January 25, 2006

Let 'Er Rip

There is a tasty new build of Handbrake available, which now allows you to rip and convert any DVD to MP4, even if said DVD was encrypted. Better, you can still mix and match video and audio codecs, so you can make the most of the storage space on portable platforms like iPods and the PSP. Or you can just make you porn fit better on your hard drive. Whatever.

Posted at 01:44 PM     Read More  

Mon - January 23, 2006

Breaking Blackberry News

Posted at 10:33 AM     Read More  

Thu - January 19, 2006

Say Cheese

The Great Camera And Film Shakeout continues. At CES this year a senior technical developer at Fuji gave a seminar in which he revealed that it is now cheaper to make disposable digital cameras than it is to make disposable film cameras. A couple of weeks later, Nikon gave notice that they are ceasing the manufacture and sales of 35mm film cameras, claiming that the consumer film format is officially dead.

Now Konica/Minolta has announced the ultimate bombshell - they are getting out of the camera biz, period. They claim that the market is too crowded, but if you read between the lines of the quotes, it become pretty obvious that they didn't get on the digital bandwagon fast enough, and whey they did they didn't have products that could compete. Generally, Minolta digital gear does suck pretty large, but their copiers are no better so I am not sure how this counts as a better business path. Wait and see, I guess ...

Posted at 06:16 AM     Read More  

Wed - January 18, 2006

Geek Idol

Best. Thing. Ever.

Oooo, oooo ... baby ...

Posted at 04:06 PM     Read More  

Tue - January 17, 2006

8 Bits Of Wearable Joy

It was mentioned last week in These Very Pages that we are hard upon the 30th anniversary of Steve and Steve cobbling together the first Apple - arguably the first "personal" computer, as even the dreaded PET and much-less-dreaded TRS-80 were really aimed at the business crowd.

While Apple obviously has something planned for the big event in April, you can get a head start now with a new shirt from Tomi: The Wozwear 6502. This is easily the coolest shirt Tomi has done to date ... nay, this is the coolest shirt of all time, ever, period.

Goes on sale tonight (Tuesday) at 9:00 EST. 300 units only, signed and authenticated. Don't miss out.

Posted at 08:07 AM     Read More  

Fri - January 13, 2006

MacWorld Postmortem

A couple of interesting things are being talked about at the Apple campuses in Cupertino and Toronto today ...

THING ONE: The keynote you heard was not the keynote that Steve planned to give. The sort of interminable lag in the middle while he demoed iLife (including an unrehearsed bit of "podcasting") was to cover for the fact that a key product announcement was dropped at literally the eleventh hour. The "one more thing" was not supposed to be the new drool-inducing MacBook ... the new laptop was supposed to be shown alongside the new iMac. The shuffle (pun intended) was made because Apple cannot get enough of the Core Duo (nee Yonah) chips right now, and they expect so much demand for this whatever-it-is that they fear insane backorders unless they have stock the day they announce it.

So what was the real "one more thing"? What is this magic device that needs a huge supply of the new chips? Annoyingly, everyone is being wildly tight-lipped about it, but I was told two things:

One -"It is much cooler than anything on the market now."

Two - "You probably shouldn't order a MacBook until you see this."


THING TWO: One of the apps that will ship with the built-in software suite on the new MacBooks will be Plasq's stupidly fun Comic Life package. If you read my blatherings for any sort of time, you will know what this application is and why I think it is the greatest thing since sliced pizza. If you are new to the drill, Comic Life is a wicked-cool little photo manipulation thing that looks into your iPhoto library and lets you make totally fun shit like this:

Yes, it's moronic, that is the point. The above took me 10 minutes to make (including the shooting the photos), so you can inflict this sort of shit like a plague into your friends' inboxes, much to the delight of all. Or at least you. As built-in apps go, this is a winner.

Posted at 02:15 PM     Read More  


In case anyone missed it (the announcements of this were less than intrusive) there is now a version of Google Maps / Google Local available for a large number of Java-enable cell phones, including the Blackberry. There are some limitations with the package to be sure - most of the "Google Local" data is only for locations in the states, and the distances are in bogus Imperial units with, oddly, no way for the user to select otherwise. I mean, come on, even General Motors products have this feature, which is really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

However, it does give you a searchable map and driving directions in a portable format. It is slow, and will never replace a GPS, but in a pinch it looks like it is really handy. Visit the Google Local for Mobile page to download this directly to your handheld ... which is another little bonus on it's own. No jerking around with an external installer that some manufacturers like to torment you with. Enjoy.

Posted at 02:04 AM     Read More  

Thu - January 12, 2006


The new emphasis on GarageBand in iLife '06 has a lot of people starting to poke around with the idea of making something cool. Towards that end, here is a fairly comprehensive collection of free loops for GarageBand.

Posted at 07:49 AM     Read More  


The old saw about it being "aerodynamically impossible for bees to fly" has been put to rest. Another kick in the head for the "intelligent design" crowd, so I heartily approve.

Posted at 06:48 AM     Read More  

Tue - January 10, 2006

Something Useful

One of the better things to hit the floor at this year's CES is a combo pen / USB flash drive. Because this isn't just any pen, this is a pen that positionally records everything you write/draw/doodle/whatever to the USB drive, for easy downloading and retrieval later. So now you can come up with a killer idea at lunch, sketch it on a placemat, and just download the drawing when you get back to the office. No more dragging along the "How About A Cocktail" placemat complete with Kung Pao stains and then roaming around looking for a scanner.


Posted at 03:19 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 10:41 am

That's it. Reminder from Steve that the first Apple will be 30 years old on 2006/04/04. Hints that there may be something special in store for that date.

Full discussion to follow ...

Posted at 01:44 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 10:38 am

Orders for MacBook being taken today. Shipping in February.

Posted at 01:39 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 10:30 am

5 times faster than current PowerBook. Fastest laptop in the world, period. TWO dual-core Yonah chips. Built-in iSight.

Yes, please.

Posted at 01:35 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 10:28 am

Steve shows G4 PowerBook. Claims that they have been trying to shoehorn a G5 in there for months. Tried everything. Despair. Doom. Defeat.

But ...

Who says you need a "PowerBook". How about "MacBook"?

Posted at 01:30 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 10:26 am

New Yonah-based iMacs are shipping today. Yum.

Posted at 01:27 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 10:21 am

The trolls in Redmond claim that the new Yonah apps from them (Office et al) will feature sync to handheld devices including Blackberries. Interesting ... but too little, too late?

Posted at 01:24 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 10:19 am

Tiger 10.4.4 and all iLife/iWork 06 apps are universal binaries - native code for both G5 and Yonah chips. No emulation needed, crazy fast.

Posted at 01:20 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 10:14 am

First Yonah-based dual core iMacs are here. Built-in A/V including iSight camera and video inputs and A/V remote. Same sizes - 17 and 20 inch. Same price. But 3 times faster than the previous one.

Posted at 01:16 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 10:08 am

A quickie here - iWork 06 has reflections and 3D objects for Keynote, new themes, new templates, no demo, Steve says go to the web site and check it out yourself. He has bigger fish to fry ...

Posted at 01:11 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 10:06 am

End if iLife 06 demo. Available now. Bundled on all new macs.

Posted at 01:07 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 10:04 am

Long demo of iWeb. Jobs does a blog to support his demo podcast from 20 minutes earlier ("Super Secret Apple Rumours" ... heh) and publishes both to web.

Posted at 01:06 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:54 am

Score 2 for me ... iWeb makes it's debut to pull all of the iLife apps into an on-line presence. Share your photos, movies, podcasts, music, blogs. Very pretty app ... centred around a "media browser" that puts all of your content at your fingertips for integrating, publishing, editing subscriptons. One click publishing by item, library, or user-defined scheme. Browser independent, geared towards RSS readers.

Posted at 12:58 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:50 am

New podcast "studio". Podcast artwork track now supported. 200 free audio effects and liners. Integrates with iChat for remote interviews / collaboration.

Posted at 12:52 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:45 am

The new iDVD features pre-definable themes. Create or load theme, drop in clips or photos or both, click the "magic" button and DVD is created and authored. All defaults are now widescreen.

Posted at 12:50 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:41 am

iMovie now has real time video effects thanks to coregraphics. Automatic creation of video podcasts. iPod integration.

Posted at 12:43 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:34 am

RSS feeds from user-selected albums in iPhoto.

Posted at 12:36 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:32 am

iPhoto update. New element - photo podcasts out of iPhoto Pick an album, push a button, photo slideshows are streamed as 'casts. Also new one-click editing scripts and effects. Faster speed, full screen editing.

Posted at 12:34 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:30 am

Score one for me. New iLife is all about sharing your digital lifestyle. Music, movies, photos, podcasts, blogs. Huge update, all components completely revamped.

Posted at 12:32 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:25 am

New widgets included with 10.4.4 update - Google, new address book, new calendar, ESPN content (conveniently tied to ITMS video sales).

Posted at 12:29 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:20 am

Self-congratulation is done early this time (only 20 minutes) and onto the real meat. Official reveal and demo of Apeture which is to digital photography what Final Cut Pro is to video. Consider it a Photoshop variant that is hyper-optimized for photographers. Only product on market optimized for RAW file format. I can vouch that this product is very nice.

Posted at 12:26 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:17 am

New item - external FM tuner for existing and future iPods. iPod screen displays tuning functions. 49 bucks. That should shut up the Microsoft brigade.

Posted at 12:19 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:12 am

ITMS selling 3 million songs and 500k tv shows a day. 83% market share.

Posted at 12:18 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:11 am

14 million iPods sold at xmas 2005. 100 sold every minute in Q4.

Posted at 12:15 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote Update - 9:09 am

Apple Stores had first ever $1 billion quarter in Q4 2005. This does not include "authorized retailers" or the web, just the 135 corporate stores.

Posted at 12:13 PM     Read More  

MacWorld Keynote

Today's the day, and as you can see, everyone is all agog over the mysteries of Steve's keynote:

So - without further ado, at T minus 7 hours and counting, here are the latest bits of semi-educated guesses and wild stabs in the dark:

Smaller iPod nano: No, not smaller in size, you would lose the damn thing. Smaller hard drive, with the potential to replace the Shuffle in both general price point and storage capacity. I'm still hanging on to this as the best possibility of a rumour-come-true.

Debut of the first "Yonah" PowerBooks: Call this one a sorta-maybe. The PowerBooks traditionally get a little goose at MacWorld, and they are logically the first ones to get the new Yonah processors as Apple moves to an "all-portable" market strategy. But there are enough bugs to work out at this point that Jobs may not want to risk pulling a "Bill" and having his hardware fail on stage.

iLife 06: The "digital lifestyle" suite that ships with every Mac (and is available for dirt cheap if you already have one) will be revamped with a built-in blogging/podcasing/web presence package called iWeb. This one is a slam-dunk at this point - essentially 100% probability.

Apple PVR: This seems pretty much off the table now - originally thought to be part of the iLife package, it seems dead in the water unless it just happens to show up in ....

Big-ass Plasma Flat Screen Macs: This is the wild card, and the crazy rumour that was making the rounds at Apple Canada yesterday. Either a 50" Apple-branded plasma HD display, or a 42" plasma display with an integrated Mac that would be the centre of your media suite with built-in PVR and satellite/streaming audio interfaces. The computer would nominally be controlled by a 12-button remote with a built in LCD navigation display, but you could also plug in a keyboard and mouse (wired or Bluetooth) for email, web surfing, programming, etc. Far-fetched? Very. But - we all know how much Steve loves things that are insanely cool ... and this would definitely count.

Stay tuned ...

Posted at 07:27 AM     Read More  

Mon - January 9, 2006

Giant Televisions Of Doom

The "bigger is better" mantra is out of control at CES, and the television size wars go from "startling" to "ludicrous". And to think that some of you mopes laughed last week when I used a 105-inch TV as a reference point for the new "iBud". I'm just ahead of the curve is all.

Posted at 02:50 PM     Read More  

Press Play - Stand Back

One of the big centrepiece attractions at CES is the firing of the opening salvo in the hi-def DVD wars. If you haven't been following along, there are two emerging standards in hi-def DVD, meaning that we are on the verge of another "VHS .vs. Beta" format war. And, must like those days of yore we have a demonstrably superior product (Blu-Ray) that costs more, and a ghetto product (HD DVD) that has crappy quality but costs a lot less.

Now the smart money (given the state of North American consumer mores) would bet on the loser format winning out - just as VHS did despite looking like vomit on your screen - simply because of the price difference. But there is a big wild card this time around ... the announced adoption of the Blu-Ray system by Sony for the Playstation 3. The marketing inertia that can be brought to bear by the PS3 juggernaut is far from trivial.

Countering this, of course, is the fact that Microsoft has jumped on with the HD DVD crowd - a natural fit, considering the fact that it is a second-rate product. Of course, being in bed with Microsoft has it's own set of catches and caveats, not the least of which is the potential of the Microsoft DRM software failing and leaving you with a dead box in the biggest possible live demonstration of your shiny new product.

You may have to excuse me while I laugh uproariously at this point in time.

Posted at 08:54 AM     Read More  

Sat - January 7, 2006

Google Video

So the big centrepiece of Larry Page's talk at the CES bash was the birth of Google Video, an on-line broadcast video store with content deals in place with CBS, Sony/BMG, and the NBA. This obviously births out of the insanely successful video sales of first-run TV shows over on iTunes, and is interesting in that - unlike iTunes where Steve strongarms the providers into forking over content on his terms - the rights holders are free to set their own limitations on playback, ownership, and windows of opportunity. So the NBA will make games available for sale and unlimited viewing 24 hours after the final buzzer for about five bucks, but Charlie Rose will have his show available for immediate free streaming as of the broadcast date and for sale the next day at 99 cents.

Meanwhile Sony is talking about a "download-to-rent" option complete with the same sort of evil "digital rights management" software that they tried to use on their CDs ... what will be interesting here is that the marketplace will get a chance to "vote" on these concepts with their download dollars. If users buy a lot of the iTunes-style shows (download for a fair price and own it forever) and eschew the lame schemes like Sony's "we still own it, you bastards, and you can only watch when we say so" deal, someone might actually get a clue and stop trying to shaft consumers with heavy-handed DRM bullshit.

But, as we like to say on these pages, don't hold your breath.

UPDATE: Some mainstream coverage just trickled onto the web here, with more details.

Posted at 06:47 AM     Read More  

Fri - January 6, 2006

Geek Heaven

Must ... have ... giant ... Nerf ... rocket launcher ....

Posted at 12:18 PM     Read More  

Thu - January 5, 2006

Gadget Action From CES

Hey - silicone wristbands are everywhere! Hey - USB flash drives are everywhere! Hey - hot off the floor at CES, it's the silicone wristband USB flash drive!

Actually, this is a pretty cool idea - nothing is more of a pisser than losing your USB drive. These babies will be in Target stores as an exclusive release in the states this month ... I just hope they get that little porn problem fixed up first. The usual Canadian retailers of Imation products (Best Buy, Costco) should have them within 2 or 3 weeks of the U.S. launch.

Posted at 09:10 AM     Read More  

Tue - January 3, 2006

Rumour Mill Rundown

Two of the bigger geek events of the season are hard upon us ... the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, and MacWorld in San Francisco next week. Both are major drool-fests for all sorts of tech and gadget freaks, and as such are also a happy hunting ground for wild rumours and general crap-mongering. As we head into this delicious 10 days of fun, here are the biggies that have tongues a-wagging:

CES: Google co-founder Larry Page will be giving the keynote address in Las Vegas on Friday, and the breathless word is that he will announce a Google-PC with a proprietary (ie: not Windoze) operating system. No licensing fees to Redmond would make for a seriously reduced cost of sale, in the $200 range. It is a known fact that Google is talks with Wal-Mart now to retail some sort of device in 2006.

This is probably bogus because: A Google-OS would mean an inability to run current windoze software, something the unwashed Wal-Mart masses tend to want.

This could possibly be true because: Most people just use their box for web, chat and email - something that can be provided by open-source (and already in bed with Google) products like Firefox and Thunderbird - pre-configured to use Google web products, of course.

Possibility of fruition: 20%

Mitigating factor: If Google has a web-based word processor and spreadsheet package secretly ready to go, people might be willing to give this a shot. In that case, raise the number to 45%.

And on the other side of the valley ...

MacWorld: The scuttlebutt is that the iPod Shuffle (which many saw as a stopgap device) will be discontinued and that spot in the lineup will be taken by a super-cheap 1GB nano. We'll know after Steve Jobs' keynote next week.

This is probably bogus because: Apple never likes to downgrade specs - a beefed up Shuffle is a better bet.

This could possibly be true because: Apple has secured a huge supply of the nano-sized screens, more than they need even with the insane level of xmas nano sales.

Possibility of fruition: 40%

Mitigating factor: If the previously-rumoured wireless iPod turns out to be true, it will appear in both nano and 6G forms. In that case, expect the Shuffle to remain unchanged and the sole inhabitant of the low-price marketplace, and lower the chances on this to zero.

Posted at 03:44 PM     Read More  

Blackberry Security Woes

A lot of network and computing professionals have long held serious reservations about the security of the Blackberry email system. This stems partly from RIM's traditional reluctance to reveal the guts of the transaction system, and mostly from the fact that blackberry servers - both internet and enterprise - run on a Windoze architecture. These reservations are now outright fears as a number of security holes have been found in the Blackberry communications strategy and in the Blackberry server dataflow.

The main upshot of the problem is that the Blackberry encryption keys for every registered device on a network are stored as plaintext in a Microsoft SQL database. As has been well documented, Microsoft SQL is has 100% non-existent security, and the keys can be easily be retrieved by sending messages to Blackberry users that have a specially-corrupted image file attached. More disturbingly, the corrupted images can also be used to parse code on the Blackberry server and provide and entranceway to either pull data, intercept email, or corrupt the local network from this staging point.

Interestingly (or shockingly, depending on your mindset) the folks at RIM are dealing with this in their usual misinformation-based manner and are referring to this attack as resulting in a "possible disruption of blackberry service" ... no mention at all of a major security breach. I can understand their uber-secretive ways when it comes to dealing with the fact that the Blackberry may be based on someone else's patented technology, but in a case like this some basic consideration for their user base should come into play and the issue should be addressed with full and complete disclosure.

As the saying goes, though ... don't hold your breath.

Posted at 01:01 PM     Read More  

Fri - December 30, 2005

DS WPA Update

Version 0.20 of the DS WPA patch is available on the other page. Have fun, and remember, whatever happens to your DS is not my fault.

Posted at 10:12 AM     Read More  

Thu - December 29, 2005

Random Animal Crossing Letter #2

Are you coming home for the holidays?

Don't worry, we found the hamster and gave it a proper burial. Your dad cried.

Love, Mom

Hamster? WTF?

Posted at 01:45 PM     Read More  

Completely not news.

Blah blah blah Windoze trojan blah blah use Windoze and Explorer and your system will be fucked blah blah same old not even really news.

Posted at 09:48 AM     Read More  

Fri - December 16, 2005

Katamari Couture

There are two types of people in this world: Those who love Katamari Damacy, and those who are complete fucking morons. If you are looking to pick up an unbearably cool gift for the former group, try these actual official honest-to-little-prince KD t-shirts. The phrase that comes to mind is "insanely awesome" and the best - and most surprising - part is that they were actually designed by Katamari design god Keita Takahashi himself, which accounts for the fact that they are (like his game) subtle and refined.

Better, if you click on each shirt on the web site you get both alternative and close-up views and a critique of each shirt by the Great Man himself. And yes, he is his own toughest critic.

Posted at 06:40 PM     Read More  

Tick Tock

Digital watches are pretty lame, and unless you happen to be an athlete who needs the heart-rate and stop watch functions, wearing one makes you look like a leftover from the 70s, a feeb, or both.

But GIANT DIGIAL CLOCKS OF DOOM are far from lame, and are in fact totally freaking awesome. This puppy weights less than 2 kilos, and is three millimeters thick. Slap it anywhere. Be the envy of geeks everywhere. Just the words "electronic ink" are enough to entice some heavy breathing.

The best part, of course, is that this is an obvious precursor to giant flat character displays and eventually giant flat video displays.

Posted at 06:26 PM     Read More  

Xbox 3600

It appears that the industrial designers attached to the Xbox 360 team are somewhat proud of their work ... any 360 that comes with a hard drive (as opposed to the budget model that doesn't actually play any games) has a pre-loaded "Designing The Xbox" video feature on board.

Yeah, well, those guys suck. The real genius is in taking a shiny new 360 and cramming it into a spare Atari 2600 VGS case. Forget emulators - this is retro gaming taken to a whole new level.

And remember - despite those notes on the doors at your local Besy Buy ("Worldwide shortage! Yow!") there will be plenty for all on the shelves come Tuesday morning. Shhhhh ....

Posted at 06:15 PM     Read More  

Wed - December 14, 2005

More Xbox Follies

A couple of weeks ago in These Very Pages it was postulated that the Xbox 360 shortage was pretty much a fabrication, the result of a collusion between Microsoft and the bigger retailers to hold back supplies until the week before Christmas in an effort to generate some mainstream media buzz and make the somewhat flawed system seem artificially attractive.

You can now add some more weight to that theory - a recently acquired copy of an internal newsletter from Best Buy appears to confirm that there are a fair number of Xboxen out there, held back until the magic Tuesday release date on December 20th. Better yet, this baby also seems to confirm that stores both sold units out from under the feet of people who had pre-ordered and that stores (despite the heated denials of Best Buy) gave units to customers who had bigger upsells instead of on a first-come first-served basis.

Click on the image to get a full-size copy of the scan. You're welcome.

Posted at 04:35 AM     Read More  

Tue - December 13, 2005

The View From Above

The best way to enjoy Google Maps is with the awesome little Google Earth application. Sadly, Google has been a little slow off the mark with an OSX version of the package, much to the universal grumbling of Mac owners. That little oversight seemed to be well on the way to being taken care of earlier this week when a beta version of Google Earth appeared for download. It turns out, however, that this version was not supposed to be for public release and the Googlemeisters had it taken down forthwith.

Fortunately, the page you are reading right now is not Google. Enjoy.

Posted at 11:25 AM     Read More