Personal information nerdvana

Got a Mac? OK, here’s three applications you need to install if you haven’t already, based on your faith in me alone. I’m asking 15 minutes of your time max.
First, install QuickSilver. Don’t ask what it is or what it does because I’m not going to bother explaining it. Once it’s installed (or if you’re the paranoid sort) read Quicksilver – A Better OS X In Just 10 Minutes and follow along with the steps. Yes, follow along and hit the buttons, make muscle memory work for you.
QuickSilver is pretty cool, so is Instiki. It’s a free, browser-based Wiki that is almost as elegant as a native app and runs locally. On OS X, it “just works.” Once it’s installed, there will be a “Wiki” dropdown in your menubar by the time. Play with it.
Now the reason I’m freaking out – An Instiki plugin for Quicksilver (via Merlin). Instantly pull up any page on your personal wiki. Hawt. You’ll also need to install the PyObjC plugin from the Quicksilver Plugins page, but it’s painless.
Information wants to be free, but now it’s downright slutty – at least in the sense that it’s free and easy.

I’ve got one word for you: presence

Happy Festivus all. I’m sure you’ve got your metal pole nearby, and I was going to have an airing of grievances but that’s the sort of thing that can bite you in the ass a few years down the line.
So instead I’ll celebrate the complete lack of sunshine by attempting to predict the future. I should note that this is based more on hope than reality, but come along for the ride anyway. Let’s play the “You Will” game, also called the fantastic scenario.
You wake up and stumble over to the computer to check your email. You get an IM from a friend saying that they’re getting dinner tonight, more details later. You leave your computer as it is and get ready for work.
On the train on your way to work, you get another IM, from your friend saying that dinner at 9:00pm close to you; the IM comes as a text message on your phone.
When you get to work, you sign into your work computer. After working for a little while, your friend does a voice chat with you on your computer (AKA Skyping) to you to let you know that dinner is off. You wander away from your computer to get some coffee and your friend calls you on your cell phone to let you know dinner is definitely on and where it is.
So far, nothing too far fetched. Here’s the cool thing: your friend was able to IM you, text message you, voice chat with you and call you using one piece of contact information – your Jabber ID.
When you were at your home computer, your computer said that it was accepting IMs. When it lost a Bluetooth link with your phone, it decided to lower it’s priority for IMs, so they started going to your cell phone. When you were at your work computer, it took precedence for voice and IM. When you left, voice calls were routed to your phone.
So here’s my prediction for 2005 – the scenario above won’t happen. That’s pretty pessimistic, but the upshot is the building blocks for the scenario above will fall into place.
Apple will begin shipping OS X 10.4 in early 2005. Spotlight and Dashboard are getting all the attention, but there’s also an upgrade to iChat that’s so overlooked, it isn’t even listed on the iChat preview page. What’s changing is that iChat is shipping with Jabber support and OS X Server is shipping with a Jabber server built in.
Jabber is one of those really good ideas that haven’t taken off. Yet. I’ve written about it before, but not in depth. Jabber allows anyone to run their own IM server, and allows them to talk to other IM servers. Assuming this is one of those things that Apple does and everyone copies them on (see: USB, Firewire, Bluetooth…) Jabber could really take off in 2005. Pretty soon having an AIM or MSN IM account would be the social equivalent of having an @aol.com or @hotmail.com email address. Sure it’s fine for home use, but what would you think of a business that uses that address?
Jabber is built on XMPP – eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol. If Jabber hits its stride with Apple, a lot of hackers will start building a lot of cool things for it. I could easily see someone building a routing mechanism on top of XMPP that tells people which services go where. Then a Skype call could go to a computer, a WiFi phone, a cell phone or a landline based on the Jabber detection. Of course, the cooler stuff I described is probably a ways off (although one of the draft extensions might already support this, I haven’t RTFRFC). But at least we have the first step available to us.
(If you want to play with Jabber, my ID is george at hotelling*net, although I have yet to find an OS X Jabber client I like so I’m not always on)

More iChat Problems

I continue to be operating under the impression that this is the correct forum to ask about iChat problems. This time it’s general flakeness over the past week or two. Examples:

  1. I came back from lunch last week and found that iChat was spinning. Jenny left me a bunch of notes, none of which showed up before I force-quit (past tense: forced-quit or force-quited?) it.
  2. iChat at home decided to start trying to sign on while I was at work for no apparent reason.
  3. iChat has been dying quite a bit, especially around file transfers.
  4. When I add someone to my buddy list, they immediately go offline (from my perspective) until I sign off and back on

My paranoid, unsupported by any evidence hypothesis is that AOL has been tweaking the AIM network and since Apple will be supporting Jabber in Mac OS X Server and iChat when 10.4 (X.IV) comes out AOL hasn’t been keeping Apple up-to-date on their changes.
Jabber is an instant messaging system that is not controlled by any one company, so it’s a threat to AOL’s IM business. Jabber is to AOL IM what internet email is to the AOL email in the early 90s that only let you email other AOL users.
Now that I have a hypothesis I need data points to support it, so iChat has been bugging out more than usual for you too, let me know in the comments. If not, you should probably comment so I’ll know that they got to you first.

Wiki test

I got kind of sick of people posting comments on I got 101 problems but Apple ain’t one about whether Konfabulator and Watson were rip-offs or ripped-off (when the real question is whether Apple’s actions affect 3rd party developers decision to make Mac apps) so I closed comments on the entry.
But.
I installed Instiki on my server after using it for quite some time on my Mac (per Matt’s recommendation) at http://george.hotelling.net/wiki/ and put up the full text of Wired’s 101 Ways To Save Apple with my annotations inline on a Wiki page. Go there, click the edit button and add your own evidence of where Apple went right or wrong. I figure this will be a good way for me to experiment with Wikis.

I got 101 problems but Apple ain’t one

I’ve closed comments on this because a lot of people seem to want to focus on whether Konfabulator and Watson are rip-offs or were ripped-off. Instead, I’m trying an experiment and have moved everything to a Wiki page so people can contribute evidence about each item in the list. What’s a Wiki?

So Matt Haughey was looking back on a 1997 article from Wired giving 101 Ways to Save Apple and since he’s into hippie copyrights he won’t mind me stealing his blog post idea. (You too can steal future blog ideas at del.icio.us’s toblog tag)
Remember that the list was written in 1997, before the iPod, before the MP3 revolution, before even the Bondi Blue iMacs. As far as anyone could tell, Apple would be dead within a year.

Continue reading “I got 101 problems but Apple ain’t one”

AirTunes

So Apple just announced the AirPort Express, an 802.11g access point that’s roughly the size and shape of my PowerBook’s AC adapter. It can be used as a regular base stationThe most unique feature is AirTunes, wherein you can stream music from iTunes to the audio out jack on this $130 gadget.

The concept is that it acts as a remote set of speakers for iTunes, so that you can DJ from your laptop without being tethered to your stereo. This is a pretty cool concept, but I’m surprised they didn’t offer a way to hook iPods up to it. I think that a lot of people would be interested in being able to put their iPods on their big speakers wirelessly without having to resort to using an iTrip.
If you’re looking at getting this, you would do well to check out Salling Clicker for Bluetooth mobile phones

Firefox, Flash and OS X

[Update: It looks like a lot of people are finding this page when searching for “firefox flash.” If you’re looking for instructions on how to get Flash working on Firefox, try downloading Flash player or just go to Mozilla Plugins for easy-to-install plugins. You might want to get Java while you’re at it.]
If you’re using Firefox on OS X, you’ve probably seen the Flash problem. Bug 106397 describes the problem pretty well, basically Flash is hella slow, can lock up or even crash Firefox and the only way to try to recover is to hold down the mouse button. It is by far my biggest complaint with Firefox, and Mozilla in general. My favorite part is that the bug was opened in late 2001 and still hasn’t been resolved, 2 1/2 years later.
Safari isn’t a much better alternative, due to the fact it sometimes gives me the spinning beach ball when I load Bloglines or when I click on a mildly complicated form. I wish Apple had put its energy into Gecko instead of KHTML, but I suspect Dave Hyatt got tired of being frustrated with Gecko on Camino and wanted a new type of frustration.
I’m probably going to have to start playing with adblock, which kind of sucks because I don’t want to deprive sites of their income. On the other hand, I rarely click ads anyway, so it won’t be a huge loss to anyone.
[Update: Steve pointed out FlashBlock in the comments, which may be exactly what I was looking for. Well, almost exactly what I’m looking for. Exactly what I’m looking for would be for Bug 106397 to be closed.]

cLife

One of Apple’s big selling points of OS X is its applications. These applications are targeted at filling the need of people to manage their content in as easy a way as possible. Here’s a list of applications found either in the default dock because I will be coming back to these apps in a moment: Safari, Mail, iChat, Address Book, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iCal, QuickTime.

Completely shifting gears, let’s look at some of the best things on the web right now. Four sites that I can’t live without are Bloglines, del.icio.us, Upcoming and LiveJournal. Google too of course, but I haven’t figured out how to work that into my thesis, so I’m going to pretend that I could go a day without it.

The common theme of these sites is to provide a collaborative space for people to connect and share. What struck me was the intersection of these social sites and Apple’s product line. iCal flows perfectly into Upcoming. Safari’s bookmarks are distributed by del.icio.us. And what are Bloglines and LiveJournal but inboxs for other peoples’ email to everyone? Now you see where I’m going with this.

The Apple programs provide a good guide for what collaborative, social programs work well. Let’s go through that list of programs again:

  • Safari – del.icio.us provides a good service backend for a collaborative Safari.
  • Mail – Aside from being implicitly social, Mail has some parallels with RSS. Bloglines is just the tip of the iceberg. With something like rss2email or Info Aggregator you can have RSS feeds delivered to your inbox.
  • iChat – This already is social software, although it would be nice if it was easier to explore your social network.
  • Address Book – Sites like Friendster, Orkut, Tribe.net etc. are examples of how a collaborative address book could work.
  • iTunes – With it’s music sharing feature, it’s a pretty good piece of social software as is. Then sites like MusicMobs, Audioscrobbler and *cough* SongBuddy come along and allow you to share your music preferences with anyone on the Intarweb.
  • iPhoto – Flickr provides a way to share your photos with your friends, although I don’t know of any direct hooks into iPhoto
  • iCal – The aforementioned Upcoming (with some temporary help from me) works with iCal, and Meetup.com could be tweaked to do the same.

It’s surprising how well Apple’s product line matches up with collaborative sites. There’s a line of thought that says that Apple creates software for people who create, while Microsoft for people who consume. This could have something to do with it; because social software requires a two way Internet they and Apple would migrate to the things people create.

Where could Apple go with this? iMovie is conspicuously absent, most likely due to bandwidth concerns. Of course you should never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of dvds, but there’s still a latency problem.

What would be nice is if Apple could somehow unify social presence under an open protocol. The same platform that lets me IM would also let me check out someone’s public calendar and read their weblog. Dashboard provides a glimpse of how this might work.

Apple could also make it easier for content producers to become content distributors. They already have started the process with the iTunes Music Store, what if they made a P2P platform that allowed anyone to publish their iMovie online? Or a content server for network illiterate people on cable modems? iLife, except collaborative and social. cLife. Apple could lead the charge into the world of ends.