Short Nerd Chief

Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

IE7 vs. Safari 3.1 vs. Firefox 3 beta 4

Posted by Fred on March 20, 2008

ie7_logosafari_logo firefox_logo 

Apple has released another update of its Safari browser for Windows, and claims in usual hyperbolic Cupertino fashion that it is “the fastest, easiest-to-use web browser in the world.”  Mozilla is on beta 4 of the next version of Firefox, and Microsoft released IE7 not that long ago (and is beginning to test IE8).  So I decided to do a few quick tests to see how much Safari has improved.  When it was originally released, I kept it installed for about 15 minutes before returning to FF.  For purposes of the following, I created a new FF profile with no extensions, but kept everything else as a stock install.  The test PC is a Compaq Presario A900 notebook (1.6 Ghz dual-core Pentium, 2 GB RAM, Vista Home Premium SP1), which is squarely middle-of-the-road these days.

For the first test, I loaded the default home page of each browser (MSN for IE, Firefox Start for Firefox and Apple Start for Safari) and used the Vista Sphere Timer gadget to time the startup time.  I did this three times and averaged the results:

IE7 Firefox 3.0 b4 Safari 3.1
7.15 sec 5.70 sec 6.63 sec

Firefox has an advantage in this test, as the Google-driven start page is sparse and relatively graphic-free. While I’d argue that this is relevant as indicative of design philosophy, nevertheless I set the default home page to be about:blank in all three browsers and ran the test again:

IE7 Firefox Safari
4.04 sec 3.30 sec 2.64 sec

Safari is noticeably zippier when not asked to load the Apple start page.  How many users ever change the default start page, however?  In any event, the differences here are minor.  Apple also claims superior HTML and JavaScript rendering speed for its new browser, based on tests using iBench 5.0, a test suite developed in 2003 by PC Magazine and VeriTest.  It has been criticized, however, for giving Safari an advantage because Safari reports that a page is loaded before calculating layout of the page.  Other tests show different results.  I decided to use the JS test at Celtic Kane, running each browser through the test ten times:

IE7 Firefox Safari
1336.3 ms 676.7 ms 394.6 ms

Test results are only as good as the test, but this test tends to support Apple’s claims regarding JavaScript speed.  I have not, however, noticed much of a real-world difference on AJAX-heavy sites like Gmail.  Finally, I opened four tabs in each browser to check memory use.  In this case, two different Gmail accounts, Google Reader and my blog Dashboard at wordpress.com.  It appears Mozilla’s efforts are paying off:

IE7 Firefox Safari
189.96 MB 63.64 MB 131.62 MB

Benchmarks don’t tell the whole story, of course, and each browser has additional advantages.  Safari has SnapBack, resizable text areas and proprietary color and font management.  Firefox has an open and extendible structure, which allows users to add virtually any conceivable functionality via extensions.  IE has ActiveX (which is as much curse as blessing, of course, and achievable in the other browsers with some tweaking) and a shrinking but still sizable library of sites that work better (and sometimes only) in IE.  The latter also comes preinstalled on the dominant OS, obviously.  I plan to use each browser extensively over the next week or so and cover features and real-world performance later.

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Posted in internet, software, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Apple announces that iPhone to become what it should have been in the first place

Posted by Fred on March 7, 2008

About a year after it’s initial release, the iPhone will finally have a fairly complete feature set.  Apple calls the software version 2.0, but given that the primary features are push email support via ActiveSync and a development environment for third-party software, wouldn’t it be more accurate to call it 1.0?  This makes the iPhone fairly complete, but there’s still (of course) no 3G data, no GPS, no support for software not approved by Cupertino and distributed via the iTMS, no access for developers to all of the iPhone hardware.  Maybe iPhone 3.0 – until then, it’s still an overpriced but pretty semi-useful pile of plastic, glass and chrome.

Posted in Mobiles, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Macbook Air: great product for a market that doesn’t exist (yet)

Posted by Fred on January 16, 2008

I was going to write about how underwhelming the Macbook Air is, but CrunchGear did it for me

The MacBook Air is not a subnotebook. The Eee and Everex, and Redfly are subnotebooks. They are tiny, basic, and are designed from the ground up to be micro-sized and limited. The Air is trying to be a regular notebook but failing – what Apple has done is take a regular notebook and flatten it (very well I might add), while simultaneously crippling it. Everything about it is a compromise except the width, and even the width doesn’t make it small; a real subnotebook is more than thin, it’s small in the other ways too. It may be thin, but with a 13.3-in. screen it’s not going in any cargo pockets. Look, it’s a sexy little thing but at that price it’s an atrocity and it is not a subnotebook or ultraportable. Sorry, but size, price, and hardware put it in budget laptop territory, and it’s simply not competitive there except in sex appeel. (Sexy lemon — get it).

This is a product built for a world that doesn’t exist yet.  If everything was distributed via the cloud, if movies and software was 100% downloadable and you had ubiquitous access to backed-up data via the internet, the lack of an optical drive would be acceptable.  If wireless communication with peripherals was more robust, then the single USB port would be tolerable.  If we had always-on access to internet file storage, then the 80 GB hard drive would be OK.  If photo and video editing wasn’t such a processor hog, the slimmed down chip in the Air would be adequate.

But none of those things are here yet.  You still need an optical drive for lots of software, and the iTunes movie rental service just isn’t good enough.  Wireless USB is out there, but still nascent. WiFi and other wireless broadband is more common, but hardly ubiquitous.  Web 2.0 is full of web app startups, but none of them are good enough yet.  So what are you left with? A laptop with budget-class performance at a premium price, a really thin laptop that doesn’t provide that much benefit over its very thin competitors (slipping it into an inter-office mail envelope is cool but useless), a laptop that’s too wide and too heavy to be ultraportable.  I’m sure Jobs will sell a bunch of them, but the specs just underwhelm. For now.

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Apple Introduces MPAA-crippled iTunes Movie Rentals

Posted by Fred on January 15, 2008

As expected, Apple’s going to offer movie rentals via iTunes:

As anticipated, Steve Jobs used the early part of today’s Macworld 2008 keynote to introduce movie rentals for iTunes. Rentals will be available to iTunes users, beginning today as an update to the app, priced at $2.99 for older films and $3.99 for new releases, from a library that is set to include some 1,000 films by next month. Titles will become available 30 days after their DVD release.Users will have 30 [days] from purchase to watch films, and 24 hours after they first begin to watch them. Titles can be watched on Macs, iPods, and iPhones.

The idea of downloadable rentals is a good one. The idea of streaming downloads to a set-top box is also a good one, as most people neither have their PCs hooked up to their HDTV nor prefer to watch a movie on a 19 inch LCD instead of a 50 inch one.  But, as usual, the movie industry has crippled a good idea and turned it into a bad one.  I don’t want to wait 30 days to watch a new release; I want to get it on Tuesday. I don’t want to have to watch a movie within 24 hours either – sometimes I start a movie but can’t finish it for a day or two. Other times I want to watch something a second time two days later. With Netflix or Blockbuster I can do both, but with iTunes I can do neither.  The pricing isn’t that great either.  Download three movies in a month and you’ll pay $11.97 for standard definition or $14.97 for hi def on that new Apple TV.  For that price, you could sign up for the 2 DVDs at a time Netflix plan and get unlimited PC streaming to boot.  About the only benefit to the Apple offering is the ability to play movies on an iPod, but I’d really rather use the DVD drive on my laptop instead of the 2 inch screen on my nano if I’m on the go.

Maybe the reality will be better than the early reports suggest, but for now Apple’s movie rentals don’t seem much better than their movie sales.

Posted in Movies, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gizmodo editor: we’re not sorry and our critics are all sell-outs

Posted by Fred on January 15, 2008

baby_crying_closeup.jpgAs most geeks know by now, “irreverent” and “provocative” tech blog Gizmodo disrupted CES by turning off displays with a TV-B-Gone.  CES responded by banning a Giz blogger from the trade show for life.  Rather than expressing any remorse for acting like a bunch of six year olds hyped up on Pixie Stix and Pop Rocks, so-called editor Brian Lam is attacking Giz’s critics instead:

But bloggers and trade journalists, so desperate for a seat at the table with big mainstream publications have it completely backwards: You don’t get more access by selling out for press credentials first chance you get, kowtowing to corporations and tradeshows and playing nice; you earn your respect by fact finding, reporting, having untouchable integrity, provocative coverage and gaining readers through your reputation for those things. Our prank pays homage to the notion of independence and independent reporting. And no matter how much access the companies give us, we won’t ever stop being irreverent. That’s what this prank was about and what the press should understand.

This is part and parcel with the “Motorola is a big corporation so anything you do to them is OK” defense originally adopted by Giz fans.  And it doesn’t make any more sense now than it did then.  No, journalists shouldn’t accept press junkets from manufacturers and then write glowing reviews of products they’ve never used.  But there is a happy middle ground between selling out and sticking it to The Man.  It’s called independent journalism, and despite what Denton and Lam think, it doesn’t have anything to do with “pranks” or being provocative or acting like a child.  Real journalists are independent and fair and honest, but they don’t disrupt public events to prove they won’t play nice.  Real journalists don’t kowtow to corporations (or consumer advocacy groups or unions or anybody else), but they don’t prove their independence through irreverence, either.

There’s a huge difference between Ann Compton or Don Gonyea asking tough questions at the White House and shooting Dana Perino in the face with Silly String. The former are journalists.  The latter is Gizmodo.

Finally, Gizmodo’s claim to hard-hitting tech journalism is laughable anyway. Lam says this, in the obligatory “other people are worse than us” portion of his argument:

Many of our harshest critics have done far worse than clicking off a few TVs. I’m talking about ethical lapses such as accepting paid junkets to Japan by Nikon, or free trips to Korea by Samsung. Turning a blind eye to Apple’s mistakes when they didn’t make an iPhone SDK and sought to lock down the handset.

The idea that Gizmodo is impartial when it comes to Apple doesn’t even pass the laugh test. Saying “don’t buy the iPhone yet” instead of “give Steve-o all your money immediately” isn’t exactly hard-hitting criticism. Seriously, go read Giz’s year-end report on Apple and find anything even remotely negative. Apparently it’s OK to kowtow to Cupertino, just not anybody else.

[via All Things Digital]

Posted in Blogging, Not Funny, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Apple to Offer Movie Rentals? About Time.

Posted by Fred on December 28, 2007

Among the many things I missed yesterday while stuck on an Amtrak train to nowhere: Apple is apparently set to offer movie rentals via iTMS, starting with Fox:

In an effort to jump-start the market for online movies, News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox and Apple Inc. are preparing to announce a deal in which Fox movies would be available for rent digitally through Apple’s iTunes Store, according to people familiar with the matter.Apple has for months been trying to persuade the Hollywood studios to agree to a digital rental model, in which consumers would be able to download movies through iTunes that could be played for a limited time. Until now, no studio has agreed to such a deal with Apple, and some companies have continued to resist Apple’s pitch.

In a related move, Fox also plans to release DVDs that use Apple’s digital rights management system, a move that would allow consumers to make legal copies of the disc that could be played on an iPod or other device, such as a computer. The moves were reported by the Web site of the Financial Times.

I for one hate, hate, hate the idea of music rentals, but movies are a different matter.  How many movies does one really need to own on DVD?  Schlepping down to the Blockbuster is a pain, and both Blockbuster’s online offering and Netflix are too expensive, expecially if your movie viewing is intermittent, like mine.  Downloadable rentals seem to address all of these issues – you pay only when you rent (no monthly fee), you don’t need to drive to the store and deal with the surly teenagers behind the counter, everything is always in stock, and there’s nothing to return.  Win-win-win.

The biggest downside to the arrangement is getting the movie from iTunes to the TV.  I have little interest in watching a movie on either my PC or the tiny screen on my nano.  Perhaps this service will jump-start Apple TV, which has always been an idea without a market.  Apple will need to make the box cheaper and more Windows-friendly first.  What a movie rental service would be great for, of course, is travel.  Download a big stack of movies to a laptop and you’re set until the battery dies.

The bigger news may well turn out to be not the service itself but that Apple is finally licensing FairPlay to a third party, with Fox to release FairPlay-encoded DVDs of the same movies available for download.  It’s about time.  Scrapping the FairPlay DRM entirely would be better, but maintaining it as a wall around the iPod ecosystem garden never made much sense.  Now if Apple will only license it to Sonos, Netgear, Linksys and Belkin, we’ll have something.  Better yet, let me stream from iTunes to my existing set-top box and skip yet another piece of plastic in the entertainment center, or even download directly from Cupertino’s servers to my DVR.  So long as the movie is playable only on a computer, iPod or an Apple TV box, the market will be limited.

Just don’t turn iTunes into a music subscription service, and all will be good.

[via Apple 2.0]

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Gizmodo Year-End Report Card: A, for Apple rulz and MS is teh suck!

Posted by Fred on December 21, 2007

Gizmodo’s doing a bunch of “year-end report cards,” rating tech companies’ performance for 2007. Today they gave Apple an A.  And in other news, the Pope is Catholic, the sun rose in the east, and I like pie. Steve Jobs could shut downApple and spend the rest of his life rolling around in the screw-the-consumer payola he gets from the record industry and Gizmodo would give Apple an A. Apple had a good year, but remove the fanboy glasses and you still have a company that gets media fawning disproportionate to its success.  I love my nano, but Apple TV is less than useless, existing only to pimp for iTunes.  Apple still hasn’t produced a low to mid-range desktop. They still stick it to their customers with things like the iMac, a bunch of laptop parts crammed into an monitor case that results in travesties like $600 for $100 worth of RAM.  The iPhone is pretty but non-functional if you actually want to get work done.  they make shiny, happy products for shiny, happy people, but giving them an A devalues the A.  But what would you expect from Giz, whose idea of hard-hitting criticism is to say “don’t buy an iPhone yet”?

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Macrovision complains about DRM, irony meter explodes

Posted by Fred on December 20, 2007

Self-professed Apple fanboy Richard Bullwinkle bemoans the Apple iPod/iTunes lock-in at CNET:

Consumer electronics manufacturers and entertainment giants need to put the consumers first. They need to realize that “we” consumers don’t want to repurchase our media for each new device that comes along. We want beautiful products that work well together and can share media. I’d like to see technology companies, including manufacturers and content creators, start working together to create standards. When devices are standards-based, the best solutions will still win.

Fair enough. Who can disagree with that? Then you get to the bottom of the piece and discover that Bullwinkle is the “chief evangelist” at Macrovision, a company dedicated to preventing customers from doing exactly that. I guess sharing media across devices is only a good idea if Macrovision isn’t making a buck off preventing the sharing.

[via All Things Digital]

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Amazon vs iTunes – which is better for singles/album only?

Posted by Fred on December 3, 2007

Omar likes Amazon’s MP3 store over the iTMS because he can buy individual Daft Punk songs.  In my limited testing, I think there’s a lot to like about the Amazon offering.  It certainly seems cheaper than iTunes Plus for DRM-free music.  It also seems to have more DRM-free selection.

I also agree that searching for a song on iTunes only to be told it’s Album Only is incredibly annoying.  I’m not sure, however, that Amazon is much better.  For example, search for Nina Simone’s Sinnerman (my usual test of Album Only-ness) on Amazon, and you’ll strike out just like on iTunes :

amazon_simone.png

Truth be told, it’s probably more the labels’ fault than it is Apple’s.  One advantage Amazon does have is variable pricing.  Normally, this operates just as a way to screw the customer, but in this case, if Amazon charges more for an otherwise album only track, you’ll still come out ahead if you don’t want the whole album.  Overall, the Amazon store is great for the music listener if it encourages labels to pick MP3 over AAC or WMA.  Even better is Pepsi’s promotion with Amazon, which will distribute up to a billion DRM-free MP3s and Wal-Mart’s apparent ultimatum that labels give it music in MP3 format only (no more DRM-choked WMA files).

Posted in Music, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Scoble’s apple tastes sour

Posted by Fred on November 16, 2007

Scoble appears to have run into a snag with his MacBook:

Screw you Apple and your ads saying you’re better than Microsoft. Screw you. Screw you. Screw you.

Screw you and your controlling PR machine.

Grrrrr.

I’m guessing he’ll soon be inundated with comments that fall into these categories: (1) Scoble is obviously an idiot (these will often start with “Why don’t you just…”) or (2) yeah, but think how bad it would be if you were using Windows (these will often include the phrases “Winblows”, “Windoze”, “M$” or “Windows ME”). This is why it never pays to join a cult of personality, whether it be in Jonestown or Cupertino (was that over-the-top?).

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