The iTunes clutter and users perception

Sometimes companies let technical considerations affect their product strategy in a bad way, allowing “practical” point of view override the “user” point of view. Startups often say “our technology does X, this can be interpreted into several actions, let’s wrap them together to make a bigger offering while keeping small resources and requirements on our side”.
They forget that each product is accepted by users perception under a contextual category, a definition, a purpose. for instance, for me Cyberduck is a ftp client, it’s a utility, it’s used for my professional productive activities. VLC is a video player, it’s for seeing movies, for fun. I see no point in mixing those together into one application, even if the core technology was the same. I said IF. Another point is using terms for ‘normal’ people, correct, understandable, don’t exaggerate. Don’t call your service ‘GPS’ if it only provides numeral coordinates, for me, and probably most users, GPS is something else, it has maps and gives directions, 3D view, etc. your marketing may look more effective but the truth will be revealed eventually and you will never gain my trust again.

Interesting bad example would be iTunes. yes, I love my mac, after 12 years I can’t see my self going back to windows, but still, Apple made some arrogant mistakes in this area, iTunes is one of them. It’s the best music player in the market, I never used the itunes store to buy movies or TV shows, because for me itunes is for music, I would expect to find movies and such in Quicktime, but it didn’t really bother me. Then I got an iPod. syncing music from itunes forced apple to use an interface originally designed for playlists and songs for file system & disk utilities actions, this added a new kind of screen with new set of controls to the ones I already knew in iTunes, which immediately made the entire app a bit more scary.
itunesClutter
And then I got an iPhone, and the AppStore, and then came Ping, and over and over again the whole iTunes experience was stretched to new areas. Why?
Wouldn’t it be easier for us users and you Apple to split this clutter into several existing applications? let iTunes play tunes, let iSync do sync and backup, let Quicktime play movies?

The dark side of the moon

Started working on a new & interesting project for Microsoft’s Innovation Lab, can’t disclose any details, but I can say it’s pretty exciting.
So now I can play with all the coolest gadgets scattered around the lab, drink as much coke as I want, and best, show-off the shiny blue apple on my Mac to all the poor guys here with their industrial-black-plastic-laptops.. :)
Microsoft Innovation Lab

Cool recycled MacbookPro stand, do it your self!

Few days ago my good old 17″ Studio Display monitor died after almost 9 years of devoted service. It’s been about two years that my main computer is a MacBookPro, and the old G4 is nothing more than a file server & itunes jukebox.One thing that I wanted to change for a long time is the angle of the display when I am working with my portable Mac on a table. There are few professional solutions out there, mostly by Griffin, but I wanted something more practical, and yes, cheeper..Here I saw an opportunity – the cool stand from the CRT display, that was never equaled in any model by any brand (at least that I saw) can serve just this purpose, lifting the portable and making air flow easy for cooling the burning machine, tilt-able and even aesthetic.macbookpro_stand_1.jpgmacbookpro_stand_3.jpg
If you want to try this at home, here’s a little tip: after disassembling the stand from the old monitor, you should change the spring direction, to support the portable weight which has the opposite direction from the CRT. to do that, remove the center screw, and the screw that holds the spring, remove the white anchor, and rotate the top of the stand, front to back.Put the white anchor back, and now the string will be facing the other side of the stand.macbookpro_stand_4.jpg
Now hook the spring on the plastic handle. that’s it – you’re done.

SWX PHP – takes only 3 minutes to set up

I am working on a new project that requires serverside development, using Apache, MySQL and PHP. However I didn’t want to change my current personal webserver configuration – the one that comes with OS X, and I remembered my friend Eran’s tip about MAMP – an independent standalone webserver, but never got to download it.Then, few days later, Aral released SWX PHP 1.0 (remember SWX?), and offers a very convenient way to start playing with SWX in minutes, using no other that a MAMP bundle, already configured with a useful Start Page linking to the SWX Service Explorer & Data Analyzer , can’t be simpler than that.. try it out!Great work Aral! I liked the Screencast explaining how to set it up, Aral simply explode you with knowledge : )
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I also find the SWX icon very amusing in my dock..

How about a Greener Apple?

greener_apple.jpgWhen I just got my first car, It felt like I was set free – I could go wherever I want, whenever I want.. few years later I got a similar feeling when as a graphic design student I bought my first Mac – suddenly I could do everything (well, almost) on my own, in my own time.As a teenager I didn’t know how polluting my first car really was, just as I did not notice (up until recently) that Apple are ranked somewhere in the bottom of the Greenpeace green mobile and PC manufacturers line up.Hey, Apple, you can not allow this to your self, this is something that counts for your target audience, being different has to be better.

Window resize – Apple are you sure?

The difference between PC and Mac in term of window resizing (where to drag in order to resize a window) is old and everybody got used to it by now.Basically PC windows have a drag-able border, when you place the cursor over the window border it changes to a resize-cursor and allow you to drag the window border resizing the window, this works the same in all directions, and in corners:
xp_resize.jpg
Macs windows however have one single resize area in the bottom right corner, there is no cursor feedback, if you drag it the window will resize – towards down and/or right only:
osx_resize.jpg
Switchers find it a little annoying but Mac OS X has other features that compensate this – the green button that toggles window size and of-course Expose.And now, suddenly after years of industrial silence, comes Adobe with the new CS3 UI for Mac, that allow you to resize the interface windows (aka ‘palettes’) from the border – XP style..
cs3_resize2.jpg
It’s about time to change this behavior in the Mac Aqua, it is not convenient.At least add a feedback cursor.

OpenOffice for Mac – great news!

According to Philipp Lohmann, Sun Microsystems joins porting effort for OpenOffice.org for Mac. I’ve been using NeoOffice for a while now, and even though it got better (it should with the amount of patches they release), it is still kinda slow. But the current OpenOffice Mac port uses X11, and performs even worse, it been years this way.
Better late than never.

Apple portables issue – a holiday killed my mac’s battery!

I was working the other night, and then I simply left my macbook pro on without hooking the AC cord on, same as I do every night. Since it was a holiday the day after, the computer had another day and night to rest.. it went to sleep, and apparently drained the battery completely.Now the battery indicator went to “X” and it wont recognize the battery. The AC connector has a constant green light, and unhooking it causes immediate power down, loosing any unsaved data.dead_battery.jpg
A short googling brought that this is a commoncommon phenomenon, and it happens under perfectly normal use, the macbooks (and pros) simply let the battery discharge to a point of no return, killing the battery.so my battery is dead.I am still under first year warranty so I guess I can replace it, but this is very disturbing because it can happen again. as a professional one of the reasons I use a mac is the reliability, no crashes, no hardware issues, no surprises. I payed good $ for my mac and I have very low tolerance for such problems. The minimum Apple could do is publish a warning or instruction to avoid this phenomenon.One bad point added.

Porting app to Mac – mash native services

Scott Stevenson of Thecacao has a great point differentiating cross platform applications and native mac applications, another basic difference in the user experience between ported apps and native Mac apps is that Mac native applications enjoy core services such as Dictionary-Thesaurus, Speller, etc.. I rely on those services, and the consistency in keyboard shortcuts they bring to my working environment.For example take a look at Photoshop CS3 beta for Mac – it has a built in speller, the interface is primitive and not really attractive compared to the advanced docked palettes (see cap), surely less intuitive than the OS native speller.
adobe_speller.jpg
confusing interface – what was checked? is that correct?
adobe_dictionary.jpg
primitive interface – so many buttons, the default button is not aplying the change!
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the good familiar mac dictionary – even look nice..
Skype provides the native mac Speller and Dictionary services, Firefox (and Camino) has no speller nor dictionary :(
Applications well ported to Mac should respect user habits, unless they really upgrade or improve the native OS service – they should not confuse the user by not providing those services or providing poor alternatives, for me it is not that different than the ability to copy & paste from one app to another.