Dear Apple, do you hate my family?

Just “watched” Apple’s lat­est from their World­wide Devel­op­ers Con­fer­ence, and they announced a lot of cool things, but they have left me, in the end, wor­ried.

In a nut­shell, Apple hates me (us).

Right now, we have one Mac, two iPhones and an iPad in the fam­i­ly (with anoth­er iPad on the way, we expect). We have music, movies, games, apps, etc. on all of these devices. (Note, “device” now includes Macs, as per Apple’s new nomen­cla­ture.) We have one hap­py Apple ID, and that Apple ID is tied to our ser­vice con­tracts for our hard­ware, our music pur­chas­es, our app pur­chas­es, and our device pro­files. With so many devices, you’d think we’d pay a for­tune buy­ing songs for each one!

But Apple (or the old Apple, at least) was nice about this. Using our one Apple ID on all of our devices, we could buy an app once, or a song once, and use it on all our devices. They all con­nect­ed to one account (on iTunes on the Mac) and if I did­n’t want the iPad (which the kids use a lot) to have cer­tain songs, or cer­tain apps, then I could choose to leave them off. On sub­se­quent con­nec­tions, iTunes remem­bered that the iPad does­n’t get Cee Lo’s orig­i­nal record­ing, that my iPhone does­n’t get Sesame Street Live, and that my wife’s iPhone does­n’t get Solomon’s Keep.

Apple loved me and my fam­i­ly.

But now, I am not so sure.

Every­thing they just described today seems tied direct­ly to your Apple ID. When I get a new iPhone, all I have to do is enter my Apple ID and my pass­word, and whoosh, all my stuff is dropped in from the iCloud. And when I get a new iPad, whoosh! And when my wife gets a new iPhone, whoo..ait a minute. Does she have to have her own Apple ID? If she uses mine (ours) does she get all my (our) stuff? What if she does­n’t want that music, or those apps? What if I don’t want her (or the kids) to have that? Does all my mail show up on her phone? If we use the new iMes­sage (also tied to Apple ID, I think) are we just talk­ing to our­selves?

No prob­lem, you say, Apple IDs are free! She can get her own. And one for each of the kids, too! (And the dogs!) Okay, but then, does she have to buy all her own apps? Her own music? Has the gravy train come to a screech­ing halt?

Cause if that’s the case, you bet­ter betcha iCloud is free, bud­dy, since I’ll be spend­ing beau­coup bucks catch­ing all my “devices” up to where they were before the mag­ic hap­pened.

Here’s hop­ing they did­n’t show us some kind of pro­file fea­ture in iCloud.

Computer, tell me a story

Last week brought rumors that Apple’s next iOS will be deeply voice-con­trolled/­con­trol­lable. I am in favor.

Imag­ine this: You get up from your work desk to go home. You dou­ble tap your ear­piece, and ask (sot­to voce?) “Is it rain­ing out?” A few sec­onds lat­er (after con­fer­ring with your iPhone in your pock­et), a voice in your ear says, “It is not rain­ing. Cur­rent con­di­tions are fifty-eight degrees and part­ly cloudy.”

Or: You’re out in the yard weed­ing. The love­ly day reminds you that you need to buy sun­screen at the store. You tap your ear­piece, “Add sun­screen to my shop­ping list.” A few sec­onds lat­er, your ear­piece replies, “Sun­screen added to your shop­ping list. You have ten items on the list.” Your spouse gives you that look that means you spend too much time play­ing with tech­nol­o­gy.

Final­ly, a lit­tle fur­ther out (next summer/five years from now?): You’re in the mid­dle of a game of Parcheesi with the kids. A thought occurs to you. You call out to the WiFi enabled micro­phones you have placed about the house, “Com­put­er,” and wait for a soft chime indi­cat­ing it is ready and lis­ten­ing, “Remind me to search for a copy of the board game, Careers, next time I am online.” A few sec­onds lat­er, a pleas­ant voice responds, “I’ve added that to your to do list, Dan­ny.”

I think this is all pos­si­ble now, cer­tain­ly the hard­ware aspect of it. Maybe we will see the soft­ware side this sum­mer in iOS 5? If any­one can do it, Apple can.

This is the future, kids.

Leave Gaunt Jobs alone!

Mark just sent me to an arti­cle about how investors at Apple’s lat­est quar­ter­ly earn­ings report were ner­vous about Steve Jobs’ health. They report­ed­ly asked him to name a suc­ces­sor. Which is just sil­ly. I went back and looked at the list of like­ly suc­ces­sors. I not­ed that my favorite (and Job’s favorite, if the arti­cle is to be believed), Scott Forstall, Senior vice pres­i­dent, iPhone soft­ware, may be watch­ing his star fall, giv­en all the reports of bug-rid­den iPhone 2.0 soft­ware. Which only serves to illus­trate that pick­ing a suc­ces­sor now means hav­ing to pick a dif­fer­ent suc­ces­sor down the road, if Jobs hap­pens to live a lit­tle longer, and/or the Anoint­ed One screws up. So give it a rest, and let’s not kill Steve before his time is up.

Why I’m waiting on a new computer

Got a new job, got an old iMac (800 MHz G4!), gonna get a new com­put­er!  Right?  After spend­ing two sol­id days re-mas­ter­ing the Home Com­put­ing Mas­ter Plan, I think I can safe­ly say, maybe.

The first thing that has to hap­pen is item num­ber one in the Mas­ter Plan.  We need a new disk for the back­up sys­tem.  We’re start­ing to get full, and they are cheap ($135) so there’s no real rea­son to avoid it.

The sec­ond thing that needs to hap­pen is that I need to get a pay­check.  We need to see exact­ly how much I’m bring­ing in after tax­es, com­pare it to exact­ly how much we hem­or­rhage each month, and fig­ure out if we can buy a new com­put­er, and whether that is before or after we plug the leak in the base­ment, or clothe our chil­dren, etc.

And so, I wait.  Slow­ly.  Just today I have had two encoun­ters with the Dread­ed Beach­ball on my Mac.  The first took twelve min­utes to resolve itself.  The sec­ond one was final­ly end­ed with a Forced Quit after twen­ty min­utes.

I’m already standing in line for an Apple DVR

This patent appli­ca­tion by Apple regard­ing their research into dig­i­tal video recorder (DVR) tech­nolo­gies has me sali­vat­ing. If you know me at all, you know how much I love my TiVo. And yet, were Apple to build a DVR, I would hap­pi­ly back over my TiVo on the way to the near­est Apple Store. I’m just say­ing. In case Apple is lis­ten­ing.

Apple Displays and the iSight

Any­one else won­der­ing when Apple will put an iSight cam­era in their free­stand­ing LCD dis­plays? Or if they ever will? I believe that every time some­one at Apple takes a look at the issue, they flash back to the ADC mon­i­tors with their all-in-one Apple-only cable, and all the prob­lems and bad press they got with those, and they shud­der and move on to con­tem­plate the New­ton II as a more fea­si­ble project. But I sure would like an Apple dis­play with a cam­era built in.

The Home Computing Master Plan: Macworld 2008 Edition

Here is the orig­i­nal mas­ter plan. It is notable most­ly for pre­dict­ing yes­ter­day’s Apple TV announce­ment, and for my woe­ful bitch­ing about the com­put­er that I still have now (that was more than two years ago!) I now present to you, the new edi­tion of the Home Com­put­ing Mas­ter Plan, as informed by the recent­ly con­clud­ed Mac­world 2008 Stevenote.

Caveat: Some of these items may not be made by Apple, but that should not dimin­ish their worth in your eyes.

The Home Com­put­ing Mas­ter Plan has sev­er­al com­po­nents that fill basic needs in our dig­i­tal life. Those needs include the pro­tec­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of our pre­cious data, the avail­abil­i­ty of per­son­al pro­cess­ing, and the desire for access any­where.

  1. Pre­cious Data: We have a lot of data that only exists in dig­i­tal form. Pic­tures, movies, music, doc­u­ments, etc. Much of that (the pho­tos espe­cial­ly) is price­less and irre­place­able. This past year, we spent upwards of $2,000 recov­er­ing that data from two failed hard dri­ves, and I don’t care to do that again. Our data should be secure and backed-up.
  2. Per­son­al Pro­cess­ing: The orig­i­nal plan called for “Pow­er­house Pro­cess­ing,” a tow­er-grade com­put­er some­where in the house that could real­ly crunch. At the time, I was com­ing off of a job where I had that kind of pow­er, and I thought it was a required item in the Plan. Well, it isn’t. We just need com­pe­tent com­put­ers. But we each need our own, that much is clear.
  3. Access Any­where: To best enjoy our dig­i­tal life, we need to be able to get to it from where we are: the TV room, the kitchen, the car, the store, school, vaca­tion, wher­ev­er.

The plan: Pre­cious Data

Right now, all of our pre­cious data is stored on an Infrant Rea­dy­NAS device. Our data takes up a lit­tle less than 500 GB. That’s all our stuff. The NAS is in RAID mode, and cur­rent­ly has two 500 GB dri­ves. That means, if one of the dri­ves fails, I can run out and buy anoth­er, slip it in, and all will be well. We’re start­ing to butt up against the lim­its of the two dri­ves, how­ev­er, and it may be time to buy a third dri­ve (there are four slots).

I like the RAID sys­tem, but I wor­ry a bit about the lack of a real back­up. I’d like to have anoth­er copy of the data some­where, not just a redun­dant ver­sion on the NAS. Leop­ard’s Time Machine is easy to use, and turns out to be pret­ty flex­i­ble. I like the idea of being able to revis­it my files from a few days ago. That’s pret­ty cool. And it can use the Infrant NAS as a Time Machine disk. I just don’t know if it can do it over a net­work.

Also, to use Time Machine, you need a com­put­er run­ning Leop­ard. So that pret­ty much requires a desk­top com­put­er some­where to “man­age” our pre­cious data.

So, the plan is to get a Mac mini with the min­i­mum 120 GB dri­ve, and attach an exter­nal dri­ve, like New­er’s min­iStack series, prob­a­bly in the 1 TB size (just for fun). That’ll live in the kitchen, and hold all our data, run iTunes, etc. It’ll have a wire­less key­board stuck in a draw­er, and a third par­ty LCD in the small­ish size (13 inch­es?) on an arm so I can hide it away.

The NAS will act as a Time Machine disk for the mini, and for the exter­nal dri­ve (and for all our oth­er Macs). This is, of course, assum­ing Time Machine will work over a net­work now, or soon. That way, all our data will exist in two places, and the back­up will be a RAID device. Excel­lent!

The plan: Per­son­al Pro­cess­ing

With the mini in the kitchen han­dling server­ish duties (and kitchen-relat­ed web brows­ing, maybe bill pay­ing) we’ll each need our own machines to keep our per­son­al stuff. These machines will also be backed up to the NAS via Time Machine (the net­work­ing caveat still being exi­gent).

The wife will be stick­ing with her Win­dows lap­tops for a while. More pow­er to her. I’ve got my old 12″ iBook G4, which is des­per­ate­ly in need of a refresh. The new Mac­Book Air is not for me. I have my eyes on a 15″ Mac­Book Pro, a large exter­nal mon­i­tor, and an exter­nal key­board and mouse. I’d love a dock, but am unsure about the one dock avail­able for the Mac, the ones from Book­Endz. I guess you take what there is. I’ll also get a sec­ond bat­tery and a bat­tery charg­ing sta­tion. Noth­ing like hav­ing to teth­er your lap­top.

The boys don’t need com­put­ers yet, thank good­ness.

The plan: Access Any­where

To enjoy all of this, it is impor­tant to be able to get to my stuff wher­ev­er I am. With a lap­top, I can take impor­tant stuff with me, and with Leop­ard’s screen/computer shar­ing, I can get to the mini when I need to. It may require a (shud­der) .Mac sub­scrip­tion to be trans­par­ent.

We like lis­ten­ing to our music on iTunes, and our cur­rent set­up is just about per­fect in that regard. iTunes runs on our desk­top machine (the mini in the new plan), and pipes the music to an Air­port Express (should that be a ven­er­a­ble Air­port Express?), which sends it out the audio jack to a hob­by built FM trans­mit­ter. We tune the music in on our radios all over the house. Yay! But to change tracks, we need to go to the com­put­er, or use one of sev­er­al imper­fect “remote” itunes con­trollers via my lap­top. So, the plan calls for an iPod touch with Remote Bud­dy installed. Music lis­ten­ing nir­vana. We have a lit­tle iPod (thanks, sis!) for the car, and that’ll do for now. Next car we buy had bet­ter have bet­ter iPod options though.

We’d also like to enjoy our pic­tures and movies more. Right now, the only way to do that is to set the 12″ iBook down on the cof­fee table, snug­gle up three feet from the screen, and wait for stuff to stream from down­stairs. We’ll solve this prob­lem with a few items. First, a new base sta­tion, oper­at­ing at the much faster 802.11n pro­to­col. Then, I think I might spring for an Apple TV, prob­a­bly the small one (we’d only be rent­ing movies via its inter­face, any pur­chas­es would be done on the desk­top machine and streamed to the TV via the new base sta­tion). I’ve offi­cial­ly giv­en up on the TiVo as a home media stream­er. Sup­port on the Mac is woe­ful, and the Apple TV is cheap enough (and I have an HDMI slot open on my receiv­er) to get it, as it promis­es to work with the Apple ecosys­tem I already have. Yay, pic­tures and slideshows and movies (and rentals and ripped DVDs) on our TV. About time, I say.

Final­ly, to real­ly get the most out of our dig­i­tal life, I need to make more pic­ture books. I’ve made a few, but they are a lit­tle expen­sive, so the incen­tive is not there. I could also make some DVDs, but I am peren­ni­al­ly wait­ing for the next ver­sion of iDVD to make the process eas­i­er. I wait still.

Get­ting there

This list is a lit­tle less pie-in-the-sky than the pre­vi­ous iter­a­tion, but much still hinges on one unan­swered ques­tion: will Time Machine back up to a net­worked dri­ve? No answer as of this writ­ing.

So, the cost of all this? Too much, I’m sure, and the small LCD mon­i­tor will be hard to find, espe­cial­ly one that is VESA arm com­pat­i­ble. Let’s price it out, using my wife’s per­son­al pur­chase .edu dis­count for the Apple Store stuff:

  • Mac mini — 2.0 GHz, Super­Drive, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB HD, wire­less keyboard+mouse, .Mac: $1113
  • New­erTech min­iStack v3 — 1 TB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB data cache: $480
  • Sea­gate Bar­racu­da 7200 RPM, 500 GB SATA inter­nal disk for NAS: $160
  • 15″ LCD Mon­i­tor (like one from View­Son­ic or Dell): $160 to $190
  • VESA-com­pli­ant wall mount swing arm for LCD: $60 to $100
  • 15″ Mac­Book Pro — 2.6 GHz, 2GB RAM, 200 GB SATA 7200 RPM, Glossy Dis­play, Apple­Care: $2943
  • 4GB RAM kit for Mac­Book Pro from Cru­cial: $108
  • 24″ LCD Mon­i­tor (Apple if they do an iSight, Dell if not): $700 to $800
  • New key­board (wired): $50
  • Book­Endz dock for 15″ Mac­Book Pro: $300
  • New­erTech 15″ Mac­Book Pro bat­tery charg­er: $150
  • Replace­ment bat­tery for 15″ Mac­Book Pro: $116 from Apple (the only source cur­rent­ly)
  • iPod touch — 16 GB: $400
  • Remote Bud­dy license: $40 or so
  • Air­port Extreme 802.11n Base Sta­tion (assum­ing TimeMa­chine fix): $160
  • Apple TV — 40 GB: $229

So, that comes to a grand total of $7339. Less than I thought, frankly. Secur­ing our Pre­cious Data would cost $2043. Upgrad­ing my per­son­al com­put­er would cost $4467. Ouch. And get­ting all fan­cy with our dig­i­tal assets would cost only $829.

We’re tak­ing dona­tions!

MW 2008: Liveblogging winners

Clear­ly the win­ners of the live­blog­ging com­pe­ti­tion were the guys at MacRu­mors. Their AJAX-pow­ered inter­face gave news updates in a time­ly man­ner, and their pho­to feed was show­ing rel­e­vant pho­tos at the right time.

Sec­ond place goes to Ars Tech­ni­ca, for their almost-as-up-to-the-moment feed as MacRu­mors, com­bined with a lit­tle more com­men­tary (the MacRu­mors stuff was a lit­tle dry). They get dinged on the slow and ill-timed deliv­ery of pho­tos, and their non-AJAXy good­ness. The refresh but­ton is so 2006.

Third goes to Mac­world mag­a­zine, which came through with the most in depth cov­er­age, giv­ing links and per­spec­tive. Guess it helps to have an edi­to­r­i­al staff at home to rely upon.

Engad­get and Giz­mo­do were both behind with their updates, had some serv­er deliv­ery prob­lems, and were out­classed by the oth­er three.

Questions about Time Capsule

Part of the Mac­world 2008 Keynote post-mortem. Time Cap­sule is Apple’s wire­less hub + back­up dri­ve all-in-one prod­uct. It pro­vides fast wire­less net­work­ing: 802.11n. It pro­vides a large, “serv­er-grade” hard dri­ve, acces­si­ble wire­less­ly. (By “serv­er-grade” they seem to mean 7200 rpm, SATA.) You can use this hard dri­ve to make Time Machine back­ups from all your Macs (yes, more than one can back­up to the same dri­ve, wire­less­ly). It also pro­vides a USB port for anoth­er device (a hard dri­ve, a print­er, or a USB hub) to be shared wire­less­ly.

Time Cap­sule is a big advance­ment from the pre­vi­ous 802.11n base sta­tion for one rea­son, Time Machine (the back­up soft­ware) would not work wire­less­ly before. That’s great, for the inter­nal disk in Time Cap­sule. What I can’t find out, how­ev­er, is whether an exter­nal hard disk attached to Time Cap­sule’s USB port and shared wire­less­ly will be com­pat­i­ble with Time Machine.

That would make all the dif­fer­ence to me.