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Please forgive me as I talk of finances. This may be considered uncouth, but I think it’s an interesting tale to tell.

I had a plan middle of last year: sell my Disney stock (gained through the employee stock purchase plan), and buy Apple stock. Take the money that was doing me no good, and put it into a stock that was doing very, very well. After a certain time, sell the stock and pay off all my remaining debts.

It was my Debt-Free Super Plan! (Long-time readers might remember me discussing this plan here and here.)

When I finally got all the arrangements in order—setting up an online account, selling the Disney stock, getting the funds deposited and transferred and ready to go—I’d missed an opportune time. Apple was at $40ish when I’d decided to do this, $50ish when I finally got all the tidbits in order, and then $60ish when I finally made the purchase. I was a bit peeved that I hadn’t acted sooner to get in on that $40ish price.

And now here I am. At the close of yesterday, Apple was above $186. Incredible. I have been patient, through some dips, only to be rewarded with this excellent gain. I had decided to be a little more patient, wait for the holiday season, when Apple is going to kick some retail ass. Then, in January, when the no-doubt very exciting Macworld announcements create some buzz, finally sell. Poof! Debt-free, including any taxes incurred from this experiment.

Then yesterday, Google announced their own mobile phone OS platform, Android, to be executed and sold with the help of 33 other companies. This, I reasoned, is the kind of thing that sets people to panicking. I’d lived through a few of these kinds of seemingly bad-for-Apple announcements, and Apple had bounced back. But why not get out now, when I was way ahead? This was Google. Google can do no wrong. Only Google can kill Apple! I pondered this last night, and came to a conclusion: Sell! Even if Apple takes a dive and then recovers, how much more is there to gain? Why not sell and be happy that I did so well?

I logged into my online trading account, perused the trade trigger options, and then sat. Pondered. Made sure I was doing the right thing. I set a trigger to go off if Apple sank below $183 today. Was this correct? Smart? Foolish? Whatever the answer would prove to be, I did it. Time to finish gambling with my money. I went to bed, assuming by this morning that I’d have no more Apple stock to my name.

My trigger never took. This morning, Aplpe was up almost a dollar. Then as the day came to a close, I watched my Dashboard widget in wonder until, by the close of the trading day, Apple ended up at almost $192. Impossible! Amazing! What happened?

The Google announcement, once analyzed, is of no consequence. As some guy named Steven Frank says, he’s “never seen so much hot air.” The press today has, in fact, been fairly unanimous: This is a nothing announcement from Google. Nothing is coming. Sure, Google will be releasing an SDK for their new open mobile OS, but no products are due until late next year, and there’s no promise that such products will even ship by then. Whereas Apple has, today, a shipping product that is popular, revolutionary, beloved, and bound to be even better by the time anything comes out of the Android camp.

Read that Steven Frank post, linked above. He’s exactly right. “A 34-company committee couldn’t create a successful ham sandwich, much less a mobile application suite.” Even though I thought last night that Android might be Apple’s Nikon, I thought the touchy markets might not see it that way. Competition is bad for success in some eyes. But this is Apple, and I think people are learning that that means something. Apple can weather competition. It has a strong foothold in the minds of people who love things that just work and look good while doing it. Vaporware from Google can’t challenge Apple. Only later, if or when Android-based product ships, can we judge what might happen.

Tonight I will ponder this: Shall I return to my plan of waiting for the holidays? Or shall I take today’s boost and sell? Is it worth it to me to have some fun finding out how high Apple can go? Or would I be better off on the sidelines, enjoying Apples success while being free of the burden of debt in my own life?

Oh, what will I do?

Here’s a post from one of my favorite Apple-biased sites, Daring Fireball: “Apple Needs a Nikon.” John Gruber starts off by quoting Stephen Fry, a fantastic fellow with the writing skills of a really good guy with good writing skills (much like myself, if I do myself say so!), and a fellow who wrote a long, glowing post about his iPhone. Then John goes on a bit about design, bandying ideas I can’t agree with more.

I suppose what’s amazing is that Apple has done such wonderful work without any competition whatsoever. The new OS is, mostly, a marvel, and this without having anyone else define what a great OS should be. Microsoft certainly is nowhere near Apple when it comes to either OSs or design, though they would like to have you think they are. On the hardware front, Apple has zero design competition. Even though Gateway and Dell have stirred a tad, their efforts are marginal at best.

Though without competition, Apple does not design in a vacuum. It designs in the world as a whole. Its influences do not come strictly from other businesses relevant to itself, but from any good design anywhere. The shapes and colors and materials Apple has used, from the bondi-blue iMac of 1998 to the glass and aluminum iMac of today, are lovely and intriguing and different. That is good design no matter what it is you’re making.

Attention to quality, too, is an element of Apple’s successful design, as it is with any quality product from any realm. When you pick up an iPod, it’s built like nothing else, and it feels as good as its looks suggest. Pick up a lovely-looking Harman/Kardon TC 30, and the fit and finish, the button-feel, the cheapness of materials, and the lousy UI reveal what a poorly-thought-out product it really is. I have enjoyed owning a TC 30, but it is not a pleasure to use. Every iPod and Mac I have owned has been a pleasure to use.

So I have to wonder, thanks to John’s post: What if Apple did have a Nikon? Would we see even more marvelous baubles of technology than we have thus far? How much farther down the path of design, quality, and reliability can Apple go with some pushing?

Spacey Leopard

No, sorry to mislead you in the headline… I’m not writing one. It’s already been done for me by someone who actually can write a big, detailed, geek-targeted Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard review.

Where is it? It’s over there, at Ars Technica. It’s by John Siracusa.

I started reading Ars Technica back when Mac OS X 10.4 came out and John had just as intricate a tale to weave about Tiger’s inner workings. I fell in love with the idea that there were people out there that would not only delve so deeply into a Mac OS review, but that there were others out there who would want to read it enough that a publication would have their reporter write it in the first place. Chicken and egg? No. Chegg! Just chegg. It all happens at once.

I am sitting here at work still, re-installing Leopard on my lowly little 12″ PowerBook. My first install, the easy upgrade option, didn’t seem to take too well. So I’m trying an archive and install now. My 12″ PB is, quite literally, the oldest machine upon which Leopard will install. It’s an 867MHz G4. That’s the bottom, friends!

So far, I’ve loved using Leopard on my work machine. The OS is a thing of beauty! A delight! And yet, as is well documented on the Web, some of the new UI design features are… quirky. Okay, okay… they’re downright stupid. The translucent menu bar and drop-down menus? Ridiculous! Makes everything muddy and harder to see at a glance. The 3-D Dock? Unlike some others out there, I’m okay with it, but I agree with them entirely that its angle and shadow-casting are stupid. Destroys many a well-designed icon. Tell me, if the Dock is supposed to be 3-D, why is the dotted divider line on the right not in proper perspective? It drives me nutty! Luckily, there’s a fix for the Dock if you can type a little Terminal. (It looks like this. Much nicer, I think.)

If you dig knowing the nitty-gritty of how the Mac works, read the review. It’s long, long, long… it took me most of my jury duty day to read it on my iPhone (iPhone! Yum!), but you can do it. You’ll also see why Microsoft has no clue what it’s doing. Apple is setting itself up for brilliance and the future of its platform, when all Microsoft can do is bloat its way about the OS stage like a pungent, rotting whale corpse.

BREAKING NEWS! My little PowerBook is so old, it can not handle the fancy translucency in 10.5. My menu bar and drop-down menus are blissfully free of translucent underclutter! Hooray for my PowerBook!

BREAKINGER NEWS! I take it back… My PB does have some translucency, but it is much less obvious, and it does not have the blur that my faster work machine has. Interesting…

Permalink Comments Off on Fake Steve and Fake Steve Take a MeetingComments Off on Fake Steve and Fake Steve Take a Meeting By

Real Steve here to remind you, in case you need it, that there’s this great blog out there written by the Fake Steve Jobs (who’s actually some Forbes editor named Dan Lyons). Considering how embarrassed I was about Steve the Ballmer, I thoroughly enjoyed FSJ’s post today [NOTE: I forgot to post this, so it was really last Tuesday] about his meeting with FSB. You should read it, too, and enjoy it.

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The power just went out in our entire building. I was on my Mac, but it’s a laptop, so nothing was lost. Thankfully, I finished my laundry a couple hours ago, and not long after that, I stopped building my new Lego Star Destroyer set (a random purchase from Downtown Disney last night to lift my spirits—which is a post for, perhaps, tomorrow). So really, this isn’t terribly inconvenient at all. But I can still post, you see, though the DSL modem is down. How, you (don’t) ask?

I am sitting here in the sexy glow of my iPhone, posting this just because I can.

The power should be back on soon. A transformer in the alley caught fire. But of course no one came and told us this. I had to go out and ask the guys with the big important trucks what happened. I think maybe every emergency crew needs to travel with a PR agent to go door-to-door and explain what’s happening. I mean, the trucks had been in the alleyway for nearly an hour before the power was cut (it must have been a very tiny little fire that did its damage very, very slowly), so a roving PR schmo would have had plenty of time to come around and warn us to shut down any mission-critical computers before the power was cut. My mission-critical sexy gay man underwear merchant browsing could have been properly terminated!

I guess really what I should be doing is getting my contacts out and going to bed. My alarm clock won’t wake me in the morning, and nor will my trusty iPhone if I drain the battery with Wren business.

Oh, well, what timing. There’s the power. So much for ending with a little bit of drama.

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Ars Technica once again has posted a very interesting article full of wonderful loathing for the industry in which I work. And, of course, I couldn’t agree with that loathing more. The article is about AACS and how it has to be implemented within an OS for that OS to “legally” play back Blu-ray content.

As Ars has also recently pointed out, DRM needs to be circumventable so people don’t end up with useless media. AACS is the messiest DRM yet.

Oh, sorry, is all this too esoteric and geeky? Then this should be more your speed.

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Just read this. I would have cried tears of joy.

Back yonder ’round about 1998, when I finally dove into the world of the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant, otherwise known as a PIM (Personal Information Manager)), I bought a new but discontinued Newton, the MessagePad 100. It was fairly inexpensive, as Newtons went, and I could not afford any of the newer models.

Newton Box

I loved the thing. The handwriting recognition wasn’t nearly as bad as people had made it out to be… though, granted, my 100 had an upgraded engine for that. The Newton was a study in delightful, fun, easy-to-use design and UI. It was an utter pleasure to use. It synced with my Mac, so I could keep all my data together. That data, free of photos, music, and video, could fit in the tiniest of storage spaces.

Newton 2MB Storage Card Box

Yes, that’s a 2 MEGABYTE card. You would not even be able to store one song on that today.

Some time after I got my Newton, I got my first cell phone, a Qualcomm thing where you could slide the earpiece to answer and end calls. It was an amusing phone, looking back on it. But it had a mean streak. One day, I put my Qualcomm on the top of my cubicle storage shelf. I forgot it was there, and when I closed the door to the shelf, the phone came sliding off, and it smashed my Newton’s screen. It was a sad day.

My Newton, Shattered

The Newton being a “dead” platform by then (more on that later), I decided I should buy a Palm Pilot instead of another MessagePad. The “Pilot” part of the Palm name had already been sued out of existence by the Pilot pen company, so the device I bought was simply called a Palm III.

The Palm was nice. It was small, incredibly simple, sipped on battery power, and was perfectly suited for my needs. But it was not a Newton by any means. It had frustrating limitations based on OS design choices, and, worse, synced very poorly with my Mac. Thanks to that, my Palm became my one repository of all phone numbers and calendars. I could access the info via the Palm Desktop app for the Mac, but it was such a terrible program, I simply never bothered. My Mac was cut off from my information.

When the Palm III began to show its age, I upgraded to a Palm Tugsten T. The Tungsten had a color screen, a fast processor, Bluetooth, but was still limited by Palm’s unchanged app designs and inability to sync properly with my Mac.

By this time, the Mac had made a huge comeback. OS X kicked ass, and Mac hardware itself was becoming utterly sick, as the kids these days might say. The new OS improved and began to offer wonderful features combining integrated use of calendar and contact data. Because I wanted to use these features, I had to double up on locations for data. In the world of information, you should never do this. You should only ever have one place for personal information, otherwise confusion and mismatched data will ensue. However, technology was not allowing me to work this way, so I made a valiant and very successful effort at managing two contact lists.

In the meantime, I seemed to go through cell phones like water. I was definitely a Nokia fan, as you can see, because their interface was the most well thought-out, in my opinion. (Below are all my cell phones, minus the Qualcomm and my first 6230. From left to right are the 3360, 3560, 8290 (the greatest!), 3120, an unlocked 6230, and the Microsoft mPhone Vista Personal Ultimate Edition.)

All My Cell Phones

The following is not one of my old phones, but I had to include the picture anyway. It’s a circa 1994 Motorola sitting next to the new Motorola WSHR. Thanks to Fuz for letting me have this brick.

Motorola Circa 1994

A year or two ago, I was tired of keeping two sets of records, so I stopped using my Palm for contacts and moved everything to my Mac. My Palm was then only being used for my calendar and a list of all my passwords. The Mac stored my contact information so I could use it seamlessly for iChat and Mail. With .Mac syncing, I had my contact info on my home Mac and all of my work Macs, and if for some reason I needed the info on the road, I could look it up on my Nokia or iPod. iSync did an okay job of syncing a selection of my contacts to my Nokia cell phone, though again, there were limitations.

This was all a mess, but it worked somehow.

When rumors of an Apple phone started to surface years ago, you can understand why I was so intrigued. Many was the time I had been tempted to buy a used Newton 2100 and spend the time to hack it to work with OS X. Believe it or not, people out there still hack the Newton, and you can find solutions to make a now-ancient MessagePad sync with any modern Mac.

The temptation to buy another Newton never took solid form. I had become accustomed to a smaller device. Newtons were huge by modern standards. No, what I really, really, really wanted was a new Apple device. No one else was going to have the smarts or the business drive to make a really good phone/PIM gadget that worked seamlessly with the Mac.

This January, for the first time in maybe 14 years, I got to attend Macworld. I went on Disney’s dime, and so I bought the package that got me good seats for Steve Jobs’ keynote. I have never been to a Steve keynote before. His October appearance at a Studio work event was fantastic, but that was not a keynote. The January 2007 Macworld keynote will, of course, be the one that goes down in history, because it’s when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. (Download the “Macworld San Francisco 2007 Keynote Address” video if you follow that iTunes link.)

I wish I had a video of myself and Ben at that keynote, because the iPhone, as Steve was revealing its many wonders, turned out to be far more exciting and fantastic and brilliant than I had ever imagined it would be; Ben and I were excited beyond reason. My facial expressions alone would, I’m sure, be priceless YouTube fodder.

Here it is, over six months later, and I’ve had my iPhone for two weeks. I love the thing. The keyboard is much better than people—most of whom had never even used it— have made it out to be. The iPhone is a study in delightful, fun, easy-to-use design and UI. It is an utter pleasure to use. It syncs with my Mac, so I now, once again, keep all my data together.

Between the Newton and the iPhone, I had probably 8 years of simply passable PDA experiences. I am finally at the day I’ve thought about for so long.

Of course, there is another similarity between my old Newton and my new iPhone: both are early version products. Had I been able to own a newer Newton back in 1998, I’d have had a more refined product, with less quirks and a very mature feel. My iPhone, being on version 1.0, has plenty of things it could do better. However, the iPhone feels like it’s already been around for years. As someone else said, verison 1.0 of an Apple product is like version 7.0 of another company’s. What’s so fantastic about both the iPhone and the Newton is that Apple got the basics right from the very beginning. The concepts were sound, the designs were top-notch, and intelligence just oozes out of both products. As the iPhone gets updated over the next few years, I know Apple will fix some things, add others, and the iPhone will only get better.

Old Newton, New iPhone

For a great set of beautiful pics that inspired me to dig out my own Newton, go visit philcarrizzi at Flicker.

From philcarrizzi on Flicker

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It is almost 11 at night, and I am currently in Grauman’s Chinese waiting for the 12:01am showing of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Steve’s SO, Michael, has been waiting in line for many hours, and was kind enough to save me a place. The theater is already packed, and I can’t wait to see the movie with this crowd. I deabted whether seeing such a late movie on a school night was super stupid or just stupid. I settled on just stupid. It’ll be worth it. Sven and Carol are here, too, so we’ll have a great time.

Oh, and what better time to try my first post from my iPhone? I can’t do pictures yet, and the category selection doesn’t work, but this is still pretty friggin’ cool.

UPDATE: The movie was great. Thoroughly enjoyable, and maybe the fastest-moving of all the Harry Potter flicks. Though, admitedly, I could have used 20 more minutes to cover some of the stuff from the book.

I am not posting this part from my iPhone. I know. You’re shattered.

I put some pics from the evening up in Steve’s Snapshots. Take a peek! Here’s a sample for your sampling pleasure.

But can they conjure a patronus?

iPhone Pre-Opened
Click the photos to see more pics of my new toy(s).

Here was me on Friday, June 29th:

  • Calling AT&T business services to find out how much exactly my bills for my company-paid phone service have been costing, and comparing that to how much I’d save with an iPhone plan;
  • Calling AT&T business services to see what I’d have to do about making sure I could get an iPhone with my same phone number and discovering I can only do that if it’s changed to a personal account;
  • Calling AT&T business services again to see about changing my business account to a personal account and if that was something I could do right then and there;
  • Not being able to do so because it is a business account and I am not in control of said account;
  • Calling the lady at work who does control my account;
  • Calling her again and finding out she had, between my calls, left a greeting saying she was out of the office;
  • E-mailing some guy at the lot to ask, hey, since we now have personal responsibility for our accounts and have to pay them ourselves, either by expensing the charges or eating the charges, is it not okay for me to just get an iPhone as a personal device and do the very same thing?;
  • Reading same some guy’s reply that, oh my goodness, no, because a corporate liable device is not the same as a personal liable device bleedy bleedy blee; Becoming resigned that, in fact, I would need to wait six months or more to get an iPhone through work.

Here was me once June 29th entered the five-o’clock hour:

  • Deciding that I was more than so over my busted Palm Tungsten and my wonky, failing, second Nokia 6230;
  • Making up my mind that it was worth it to pay for my own mobile phone service for six to nine months until AT&T allowed business accounts to activate iPhone-specific plans;
  • Wondering if I were to, say, head out for an iPhone that night if it’d be better to go to an AT&T store since they might be less crowded;
  • Realizing, with no hint of surprise, that the Apple Store in the so-called Fashion Square Mall was on my way home and would offer, without question, a better shopping experience than any AT&T store could ever hope to offer;
  • Half-assedly assuring the tiny, frugal part of my brain that it should relax because, hey, by the time I got there, I’d be so far back in line that they’d mose definitely run out of the 8GB iPhones before I got into the store;
  • Half-assedly priming the much larger, less-frugal part of my brain by asking, hey, how big exactly would the line even be at Fashion Square?;
  • Realizing, with some small sense of thrill and a bucket-load of tempered excitement, that I was going to go iPhone shopping.

And that, friends was me just setting the stage. To quell your desire for a cessation of the drama, yes, I got an iPhone on its first day of availability. I got two. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

I got to Fashion Square at 5:30, half-an-hour before the Apple Store would re-open to sell the iPhone. The line was longer than I thought at first. It wrapped around one end of the second floor and then back the other way toward the food court. Once I got in line, I discovered that several people arriving at the same time as me had been waiting at the AT&T store to which I had considered going. After waiting there all day, the staff finally let the fans know that the store had not received its shipment of phones. They offered to overnight phones to those who’d been waiting in line, but what was the point of that? What would be the point of waiting in line all day to not get a phone at all? So the refugees had made their way to Fashion Square, and now were in the same place in line as me. We discussed the possibility of there not being enough iPhones for us all, which made me realize how frustrating that would be for anyone who’d waited for so many hours in the hot sun at the AT&T store.

This is only my second time waiting in line at an Apple Store. The first time was for the opening of the storer at Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. I wanted to go to that partly to see what all the excitement was about—for every Apple Store opening up to that point had been a big local event—but mostly to get one of the free T-shirts they hand out at every opening.

So on Friday, as at every Apple Store opening, the staff, in black iPhone T-shirts, were pacing the line and getting everyone excited. Shoppers from other realms of consumerland walked by, looking askance at the strange people in line for what they did not know. The few people who did stop to ask, though, when told we were waiting for the iPhone, knew exactly what we were talking about. Even the people who didn’t want an iPhone know what the iPhone was. That did not make them think we weren’t crazy, just a tiny bit less crazy.

Soon, the black paper that had been put up to cover the Apple Store windows was taken down. The “Coming June 29” that had been part of the large iPhone window displays had been removed. They think of every detail. At exactly 6:00pm, cheers went up from down the mall, rippling through the line. We could just see the glass doors open, and the first wave of people entered to clapping Apple employees and what even at this distance were unmistakably huge smiles. They let chunks of 20 people into the store at a time, so we had a wait ahead of us.

I keep saying “we” instead of “me” because a certain camaraderie tends to crop up at any Apple event. Every one of us in line was there, and just as geeky and excited to get one of these fancy devices as the next. Well, there was the guy in the orange shirt behind me who didn’t seem to know exactly what the iPhone was, even though he was about to wait hours for one. “Do you know much about it?” he asked me. Inside, I could not help but laugh. I knew too much about the damn thing. I had been keeping daily vigil by my NetNewsWire since January to catch every scrap of iPhone news. “Yes,” I said simply. A bit later, orange man asked, “What does it do?” I must have looked stunned. I did not know what to say, not because I thought it was a stupid question, but because the iPhone does so much. How do you describe it in simple terms… I mean, beyond the Apple marketing blather triumvirate—not untrue—of “revolutionary mobile phone, widescreen iPod with touch controls, and breakthrough Internet communication device.” Orange man tried to narrow his question down, seeing how I couldn’t answer. I told him what I could.

So we had a wait ahead of us.

Not long after the doors opened, the line had moved up and we were queued next to a cart selling those “amazing” windows you see on TV, the kind that are double-paned, energy-efficient, and swing open to be washed with ease from inside your abode. An older woman manned the cart. She was lively, if worn. We apologized for blocking any view of her cart from the “normal” shoppers, but she didn’t mind. We all had a good laugh at hundreds of people lining up to drop $600 on a cell phone. Window lady suggested that, had she known today would be special, she would have made it a party. Brought margaritas. Fireworks. When she had a chance, she would try to get us to at least give her our names and numbers for a free window installation estimate. The only guy (we were all guys in my recent vicinity) that seemed to actually live in a house was some tall, young, incredibly hot guy with long hair pulled back in a pony tail, wearing flip-flops and a wife-beater. He humored the lady a bit, but he had no more interest in buying windows than he did in visiting Nigeria. Not that I knew whether he wanted to visit Nigeria or not. He just seemed too cocky to want to visit such a place.

After quite a long stay at the window cart, and after much joking about how very few of us “did Windows,” the line moved on. Each of us took breaks to go get Wetzel’s or pizza or cookies or hit the poorly-maintained restrooms. Places were saved with a smile. I brought back a small bag of Mrs. Fields to share, but not a single person wanted any cookies. That’s L.A. for you. Carbs? CARBS!!! A young guy directly in front of me, though, said he used to work in this mall, at the Abercrombie, and so mall friends had often come to give him loads of end-of-day cookie leftovers. He never wanted to eat a Mrs. Fields again.

From time-to-time, the subject of iPhone supply came up. Would they run out of 8GB phones? Would we be willing to buy a 4GB phone if that’s all they had? Who was buying two, and who just one? The limit was two. I hadn’t intended to buy two, but as I waited there, I thought, geez, if they do sell out of these things, I’d get a pretty penny for one online, and then the pain of paying for my own would be lessened significantly. Would I buy one or two? Well, like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you already know the outcome, so there’s no need to reveal once again that I did, nearly at the last moment, decide to buy a second phone.

Two iPhones! Two!

We rounded the last corner. Then we inched up toward the 20-person holding point. Everyone was pretty damn excited. I even said to the people around me, “You know, I feel pretty stupid, but I’m incredibly excited about this! Look how close we are!” Just like the approach of Christmas, the closer you get, the longer it seems to take. Finally, at the front of the line, waiting to be let in, our group of 20 stalled. Or did we? It sure felt like it. We were there for a long time. Or were we? We were all very excited that we were going to actually get a phone, that they hadn’t run out. When would we get our turn?

A subtle signal from one security guard to another, and off we went! It was after 8:00pm, but the Apple people were still clapping and smiling and greeting every person who came in. The store was not packed, but was brilliantly arranged just for this night. The line went to the left side of the store, where we could finally touch an iPhone for the first time. “I don’t know if I’ve ever come to buy something I’ve never even tried before,” I said. Which was the same for every person in that line that night.

Waiting in that last stretch, in the store, I picked up an iPhone. I gave it a few pokes. It was fantastic. Already. The weight, the build, the feel, the screen, the animation, the UI… It worked exactly like the commercials and the vids on Apple’s site demonstrated. I held it for no more that 45 seconds, then gave it to the next person. I was so glad I was there. This was going to be great.

A very happy, smiling, joking fellow was at the head of the line, waiting to send us to a cashier to purchase our phones. As each person left the store with phones in hand, the employees at the door clapped them out. Then we got to take a turn at the register. When I got to my slot, I told the girl there I wanted two 8GB phones. Guess that was when I made the final decision. “One bag or two?” “Oh, two.” Everyone who bought an iPhone got it in a very nice, fancy bag. I’m sure they were made just for this occasion, and once they run out, there will be no more. So I imagined. If I was going to sell the second iPhone, having the bag would be a must.

While the runner was getting my phones, the girl was talking to me about something. I can’t for the life of me remember now what it was. This is due to a mix of my early-onset Alzheimer’s, and the excitement of the moment. She was very friendly, though, and we had a good chuckle or two. She swiped my Amex, handed me my bags, and that was that.

The brilliance of the store set-up was this: They were only letting people into the store who had been waiting in line to buy iPhones. The line went straight to the back of the store, and you bought the iPhone without any delay. After that iPhone purchase, then you could browse the rest of the store for cases, headphones, Macs, iPods, whatever else you wanted, and pay at a second register (the Genuis Bar, annexed tonight for this purpose only). I chose not to buy a case, but did get some protective film for the screen.

Once out of our line, my temporary iPhone friends dispersed amongst banter such as, “Have fun!” and “Enjoy that thing!” As I walked out of the store, my two fancy bags and precious boxes of phone in-hand, I was clapped out by the employees, and thanked. I thanked them back, with a huge smile.

I rushed back to my car. It was all I could do not to run. A big, black guy commented on my stash, and I smiled. Some ladies in a car asked me how much I wanted for them. I mumbled an answer. Why had I parked so far away? What if someone stole these before I even got to my car? Where was all the security to protect we iPhone buyers?

Oh course, there had been nothing to worry about, and I got to my car, got on the 101, and headed home.

This is not the end of my iPhone postings. Oh, no. The phone is a marvel, and I will be sure to post my thoughts here eventually. I’m already on my second phone, and the other one I bought has found a good home… There’s a lot more to say.

Holding My New iPhone

If you can believe it, there are still people out there who think the iPhone is going to be a horrible failure. They think the iPhone is not that great a device. Everything it’s done has been done before.


I have been drooling over the features of the iPhone since I saw Steve J.’s keynote in January (watch entire keynote via podcast from iTunes or the iPhone announce via QuickTime stream). Now, there’s a 25-minute “guided tour” of the iPhone that shows, without question, that Apple has created a device that is so simple to use, so fun to use, that any iPhone nay-sayers should just pack up their Motorola Qs and go home.

(If the above link to the guided tour doesn’t work, try this direct link to the large-size video.)

One thing that strikes me as important about the iPhone is the design of its icons. Icons on PCs and even Macs have become a bit confusing. Some icons are so well-designed that you know what they are for. But most applications these days have so many icons, and the icons are so poorly designed, you need to have text below the icon to know what it is. Failing that, most buttons and icons now in applications and on the Internet allow you to hover over them with your mouse so that you may bring up a pop-up box explaining what the icon does. (The links in this post have pop-ups, even.)

Since the iPhone is a touch-screen device, you do not have the luxury of hovering over an icon or button to wait for a pop-up that tells you what it does. You have to know what it does simply by sight. Just like in the olden days of computer GUIs. The icons on the iPhone do this with great success. Sure, most of the icons have text as well, but really, when you’re on one call and have another on hold, can you even doubt for a moment what the merging arrow icon does? Right. Exactly. Or to swap the calls, does the curvy double-headed arrow not tell you that, hey, this button will swap my calls? No, it does.

Tiny details, as always, are the clincher for good design. Notice how you can flick up or down in a list on the iPhone and the list flies up or down in that direction? Notice how the speed is determined by the speed of your finger flick? How the scrolling slows down? All fantastic. We’ve been seeing this design feature since January. The tiny clincher detail, that you can see for the first time in the guided tour video, is being able to stop the scrolling by simply touching the list. Well, duh!

All of that sounds rather obvious, but that’s what so brilliant about the GUI of the iPhone. It makes sense. No one else has done that on any other phone. Trust me, they will try and try and try in the coming years to emulate this GUI, but no one will have the smarts, the money, or the patience to do it well.

The iPhone, even here in its v1.0 incarnation, is a marvel. It literally gets my adrenaline up to see such a beautiful device with such a functional interface. The bad news for me is that, according to rumor, anyone with a business account will not yet be allowed to switch to an iPhone-compatible account. I have a business account through work, and so, as much as I want to wait in line next Friday to get a shiny new iPhone, I can’t because it won’t work. Thanks, AT&T.

I will have an iPhone. If not next week, then the instant I’m allowed to by AT&T. I can finally trash my Nokia. I can toss my malfunctioning Palm. I can finally get the address book and calendar on my Mac and my phone/PDA to be in sync. And I can browse the Wren Forum in its full glory!

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You remember Detective Lamberto Cohen, right? Well, meet… er, Bodygroom Man.

I know I often need to trim the hair on my kiwis.

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I’ve been meaning to post my thoughts on this week’s D conference, at which Mr. Gates introduced the Surface interactive table thingy, where Mr. Hawkins introduced the Palm Folēo [NOTE: this link is now dead, as is the Folēo.], and Mr. Jobs made Apple’s stock fly up dozens of dollars just by attending. But I got a little sidetracked. Sorry.

In the meantime, however, here is a hilarious bit from the funny Mr. Colbert. I agree with him 100% on the chocolate cake thing, by the way. How could I not? (Sorry about the ad in the video.)

(Notice how Microsoft’s Surface site doesn’t work quite right in Safari. Typical.)

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Instead of a blaring noise to shatter you out of sleep each morning, how about a fun and perfectly-spoken phrase in the Queen’s English? Read by none-other than Stephen Fry?

I knew sir would be pleased. If I may gently steer your attention toward the Voco clock

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…My guess? About 30 seconds.

Get a Mac: Flashback

Yes, it’s the new Get a Mac Flashback ad.

If you feel like wasting another half-minute, check out the new Cart ad.

Once again, I’m sure I’m really late coming to the party on this one, but here’s a fun skit from MadTV. It mixes two things I love: Apple and Bitching About Our Stupid President.


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I have been using some of the Fingertips songs from They Might Be Giants‘s “Apollo 18” as my ringtones for a long time now. It’s fun. People tend to have no idea what’s going on when my phone rings.

Now, Wired online is offering 8 TMBG ringtones… for your very own use! Go take a peek for yourself. They are all charming and amusing, my favorites being “Call Connected Thru the NSA,” “My Other Phone is a Boom Car” (utter hilarity!) and “Devil Spawn.” Some of them simply would not be audible through my pants pocket, so I can’t use them all, but I’m so pleased I have more TMBG product for my tiny tone needs!

Steve Jobs, as is his habit, stirred up the entire universe two weeks ago with his open letter advocating the removal of DRM from music files.

Did you not read it? Oh. Well, where have you been? Quick like a bunny! Go read it now!

As you can imagine, response has been pretty negative from those who make money off music or make money “protecting” that music.

As a mostly law-abiding music consumer, I can only agree with Jobs. And I don’t just agree with him because I’d rather have a dinner conversation with him than with Jesus Christ, Ghandi, and Space Ghost combined. No, I just find that as the entertainment industries get more and more consumed with beating piracy, their schemes have become more and more intrusive.

One of the frustrating things for me has always been getting the music I used to own long, long ago into digital form. Before the iTunes Store even existed, I had to use Napster to go hunt down the wacky 12″ single versions I had of many songs that made up my high school mix tapes. To Napster’s credit, back in the day before it was bought, neutered, and then left to die with a sad, unheard wimper, I found all but one of the obscure versions of my old favorite tunes. Extended version of “Perfect Way” by Scritti Politti? Check! The extended version of “The Sun Always Shines on TV” by A-Ha? Check! Extended Version #2a of the theme to Miami Vice? Nope. That’s the one I never found. I got close, but no banana.

What I’m trying not very hard to say is that I had to go find these things “illegally” because the music industry offered me no way to get them otherwise. I might have paid for the files if they were offered… but I would not have liked it. Just because my record collection is sitting somewhere in the possession of my parents and I have no way to transfer the records I paid good, hard-earned, teenage cash for does not mean I should not be allowed to listen to that music now, here, in my free-wheeling near-40s.

Often, there are songs that I can not get to this day on iTunes. And the Napster replacements have all sucked. If I want something obscure, I can just forget it, unless I’m satisfied with the poorly-transfered, truncated file that is cloned a bazillion times. I’ll be good God-damned if I ever join a music subscription service. Sure, they’re Windows only, but even if I were clueless enough to use Windows, I would not be stupid enough to toss good money at something that, in the end, I do not own. Okay, sure, maybe it’s like renting a movie and then later deciding you want it for good… You just buy the DVD. I could, I guess, go buy the song I found so wonderful in my subscription. If I wanted to pay an astronomical fee and only maybe get to burn it to CD for safekeeping. Or spend $18.99 on the CD, if I can find it, for the one song I like.

So far, for me, the iTunes method has been great. One of the only issues has been the over-registering or duplicate registering of computers to play my purchased music. Both times, this has been easily fixed. The other issue has been trying to use a song a friend had bought in a video montage we were creating for Amelia’s funeral last year, and I couldn’t because it was registered to him. A simple CD burn and re-rip later, and this very legitimate use was accomplished.

As we get into the age of widespread digital movies, the issue of DRM becomes more complex. First of all, music and movies are incredibly different. Music is like fistfulls of MnMs you can scarf down while driving or working or jogging or falling asleep. Thoroughly enjoyable, singable, yummy. Movies are a gourmet meal you need to sit and pay attention to. (Well, okay, I know some people who watch their movies on their computers while multi-tasking, but that’s really not getting the full enjoyment from the movie at all. And, come to think of it, those people aren’t much into enjoying a good meal anyway.) I don’t think movies should be more protected than music, even though my paycheck comes from a home entertainment entity who would fight to the death to prevent me from doing much of anything with whatever copy of a movie I might own. (More parentheses: To be fair, the people at my work who are in charge of things have a more lenient theoretical stance on DRM than idiots like Edgar Bronfman, Jr., who, aside from being a businessman who cares only about money, is also a money-loving businessman who cares for nothing but money.)

Then there’s the DRM surrounding computer software. I asked myself, would Steve Jobs be so keen to get rid of the copy protections woven into his own company’s software? Sure, you can get iLife for free from anyone. There is no registration code. The $79 Apple charges for that is just for fun, really. Try to use iWork without a code and it won’t happen, but it’s also just $79, which is a bargain if you actually use it like I do. Though iWork needs a code, you can simply use anyone’s and you’re fine. The really pricey stuff like Final Cut Studio? That app will sniff out the code and make sure no one else on your network is using it, and it will refuse to launch if it finds a duplicate. Not horrible. It’s definitely made us be sure we have the right number of codes for our Final Cut installations at work. But if you only run it on one Mac at a time, you’re okay.

Once again, software is different than music. Back when I got my first Mac (I had always had to use ones at school or work until then), I was lucky enough to have won a full copy of the app I needed most, Aldus PageMaker. I won it at Macworld Boston. I was such a happy clam. But had I needed to buy it? It would have been a huge burden back then. I would not have been able to pay cash, and my credit card did not have the horrifyingly extravagant limit they seem to toss at us all these days. In essence, I would have found a way to pirate the software. I needed it, I used it, but I was not a rich company or corporation who could afford to actually buy it.

Fifteen years later, though I have a better-paying job and I’m on my 4th Mac (yes, Macs do last that long!), I’m not sure how much I’d be willing to shell out a huge chunk of cash for something I really use. I would consider dropping the $1,300 for Final Cut Studio because I know Apple’s DRM is not horribly limiting. Adobe, however, is another matter. Adobe has become a company run by sales guys instead of actual people and, therefore, their software design and functionality have suffered and their DRM scheme is vile. I’d be very hard-pressed to shell out $900 for the standard version of Creative Suite.

Back when CS 2 came out, Adobe decided it would be a great idea to have the software feed your reg code out to their servers and marry that particular machine to that code, meaning you can not install that software and use that code on any other machine. Right, okay, it sounds perfectly legitimate on the surface, but, really, come now… What a pain it has been at work when we get rid of a machine and find—OOPS!—that we can’t register a new machine with an older code because we forgot to unregister the code form the old machine. And so on. You see how annoying that can be. And unregistering a machine is not as easy with Adobe as it is with iTunes.

If I ever were to have three Macs in my personal service at once, I can install (but not run) Final Cut on them at any time. That’s acceptable to me. Here’s my money. Adobe would force me to have to install three copies of Creative Suite on my three personal Macs. Screw you, gents. I’ll “find” it elsewhere.

DRM is simply commerce vs. use. Edgar and his ilk would love, love, love to charge us all a fee every single time we move a song from disc to computer to iPod to Apple TV. And Edgar would charge something like $2.99 for a “good” song each time, when, really, even asking consumers to do that at the 99¢ iTunes price is a gouge. I dislike DRM because I dislike corporate greed. I get more fed-up with companies in the U.S. every year as I see them change little things here and there that, in the end, build up to more money for them and less product or convenience for those that they purport to serve.

I linked to it above, but I link to it again: Daring Fireball’s amusing dissection of Macrovision’s CEO’s response to Steve. (Sorry for all the possessives.) Slimy, slimy, slimy, this guy. He could give a crap about consumers. All he wants is money.

Similarly, consumers who want to consume content on only a single device can pay less than those who want to use it across all of their entertainment areas—vacation homes, cars, different devices and remotely. Abandoning DRM now will unnecessarily doom all consumers to a “one size fits all” situation that will increase costs for many of them.

Spoken like a true dimwad liar who has no clue what consumers really want. Make’s your stomach turn, eh?

Steve Jobs is right. Music should be free of DRM. Movies, probably, too. See, as I’ve always said, the people who will pay for media will do so. Those who won’t, won’t, no matter the price. If you start to make the price too high and the DRM too restrictive ($4.99 for crappy games for my Nokia… that I can’t backup or save or move to a new phone????), you’ll lose people, like myself, who are willing to pay. But no. In their minds, these corporate leaders see us all as flush with disposable cash that will all be earmarked for their multimedia product! Insane.

I hope Steve Jobs wins on this one. Gosh, what a great day that would be for people who actually buy and enjoy music!

Speaking of corporate images, Apple has launched region-specific Get a Mac TV ads in Great Britain. (Great Britain is the big islandy thingy up off the north-west of Europe.) This follows region-specific ads for Japan. (Japan is the big islandy thingy over off the east coast of the various Koreas.) It’s fun to compare three versions of the same commercial, linking below.

The American Version: “Work vs. Home”

The Japanese Version: “円グラフ” (Pie Chart)

The British Version: “Pie Chart”

Interesting that the American one has a different name. “Pie Chart” makes much more sense. You can certainly tell how they’ve refined the same ad as it’s been re-shot for the other countries. For instance, the subtle differences between the American and Japanese versions demonstrate a more clever attack on the humor. When the Japanese PC says, “This light gray area can represent activities representative of fun and activity shameful to our ancestors,” not only did Apple shift the tone for the culture, but also made it more laugh-out-loud funny. (Translation provided by Jim’s Auto Body and Foreign Cultural Translation Service Station.)

The British one is a culmination of all that Apple has learned. The use of a physical pointer is key, because not only is it funnier than a laser pointer, but the Brits probably don’t have laser pointers yet. But the clincher in the British spot is the dialogue used for the pie chart sections themselves. “Hang-out time” and “kicking it” are good and all, but “shenanigans and tomfoolery” and “hijinks” are much funnier. Splitting “hijinks” further into sub-categories with yet more archaically British language is brilliant. Or, as the Brits like to say, “brilliant.”

The performances themselves are interesting… Maybe I’m nothing but an over-patriotic immigrant-hating Minuteman American redneck trailer-park floozy, but I believe the best acting comes from John and Justin in the American ads. The way John says “pie charts” is nothing short of comedic genius. The PC guy in the British ads is very funny, true, but the Mac guy seems a little… stiff. He’s stiffer than the Japanese guys. How is that possible? Must be all the bangers and mash and bubble and squeak. (If you think the Japanese guys are totally, like, so totally stiff, please take a moment to watch the Japanese PC guy boogie.)

I simply can not contain myself when I ponder the excitement of viewing Kazakhstani and Ugandan versions of the Mac ads. I do hope those are in the works!

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Oh, Steve Balmer! I know you have to say these things, but do you have to say them like a goober? It just means when Apple kicks your ass in the phone market, you’ll have one more overly-cocky, dumbass remark to attach to your Marley chain. (And what I hear from Windows Mobile users is that Windows Mobile sucks… Sure, the Q you mentioned does the things you said it does, but it does them poorly, which was the entire theme of Steve Jobs’ iPhone announce.)