Mac Rumours

So, my thoughts on Tuesdays announcements? We’ll see an iMac replacement. This was my worry when I first bought a Mac almost a year ago. It wasn’t the switch or the initial purchase. It was the upgrades the following year to lovely new hardware. However the iMac still feels new to me so I’m not too fussed. I guess we’ll see how true this is later in the week.

I expect something on iLife as well although that might come later on with Leopard. The one product I’d liek to see change is .mac. I bought it earlier this year and it’s been great for keeping the mac’s in sync. However the access over the web is lame compared to other Web 2.0 apps and the tiny 1Gb disk space makes a mockery of taking docs anywhere. Increased disk space, an improved range of apps and more than the ‘Back to mac’ functionality announced at a previous Leopard demo. How about a nice wrapper around the Google suite of tools coupled with the web disk. That would really make a portable office accessible from anywhere.

So that was much of the draft I wrote at the weekend. Now there’s speculation that there really could be some .mac announcements as there’s downtime scheduled on the .mac service during the keynote. I still have my doubts. Hey ho – we’ll all know this time tomorrow.

Who needs Apple TV?

Nullsoft have update Connect360 to play nicely with the 360’s spring dashboard update. While this is good news as after the update it was a bit buggy the best bit for me is that .mov files are now supported. Well, WMV+WMA, H.264 and MPEG4 are actually supported now which means the 360 alongside Connect360 can playback all my video podcasts plus movies stored on the Mac. Fantastico. I’m sure the Aple TV menu system is slicker and it’s obviously quieter but the 360 makes for a great free alternative which I already own.

Ruby Monday

The inner geek has been satisfied today. Since getting the Mac I’ve had an urge to do a bit of programming. Nothing fancy but I really wanted to play around with Ruby on Rails to see just ow easy it was to get a nice web app up and running. The only problem was getting a development environment. My web host offers Ruby skeleton and I couldn’t get command line access. No worries – install it all on the Mac. Todo that meant installing MySQL also. Firstly I followed the excellent post on Hivelogic, Building Ruby, Rails, LightTPD, and MySQL on Tiger. This takes you through everything you need to get Ruby up and running. This was also my first proper use of Mac terminal. I loved the following warning…

We trust you have received the usual lecture from the local System
Administrator. It usually boils down to these three things:

#1) Respect the privacy of others.
#2) Think before you type.
#3) With great power comes great responsibility.

Anyway, the install went well and I’m now at the point of starting to dabble but that will have to wait until later in the week. One final tip – there’s an excellent set of MySQL GUI tools available from the MySQL developers. Handy if your not familiar with command line MySQL.

Tangerine

Tangerine is a new beta app for the Mac that has one major aim – to create playlists for iTunes based on the Beats per Minute (BPM) of a track. It also wants to do that quickly while looking good at the same time. First impressions are that it manages all three.

AnalyzeOnce installed and running Tangerine will locate and analyze your iTunes library. There are issues if your library is located on an external drive but mines detected without a problem. The analysis is very quick – Potions website states around 3 tracks every second but obviously the anaylsis will be dependant on your library size and your encoding quality. Once analyzed it’s then down to you to create playlists based on the BPM that’s been associated to the mp3 file.

Playlist OptionsBy using sliders to easily change the criteria it’s easy to make varied playlists – from fast paced workouts to slow burners. Once complete the playlists is displayed and you have the option of saving it in your iTunes library. Another nice feature is the ability to write the BPM values back to iTunes allowing you to use the BPM within iTunes itself.

Completed Playlist

All the basic functionality worked well but there were one or two quirks especially with the BPM analysis. It seemed to mark some real slow tracks with very little beat with a high BPM. However it didn’t mark any of the faster tracks incorrectly so hopefully this can be addressed before official release. The look and feel of the app though is terrific. Once the playlist has been generated it is shown in the Tangerine window along with it’s album art. There are also some nice speech bubbles used to show track info. Playback controls (more accurately playback info) could have been displayed with more clarity though – again something that could be addressed before 1.0 release.

Some features I’d like to see – ability to use a playlist as a source for the newly generated playlist rather than the whole library. I’d also like to pick genre or ratings (you can select use predominately higher ratings) and base new playlists on those criteria. Actually I can pick genre or ratings – you just need to add a rule in the preferences which you can enable/disable to you liking. Nice. I guess the one thing it really does need is a readme…and a help file.

This is a really handy app for gym bunnies or runners that want to tailor there playlists to not only good songs but songs that match their pace. I’ll be using it to generate some game based playlists – high for racing games (or Lumines), low for something like golf. One little point to finish on – the installation screens on Mac are great and Tangerines is one of the best. Enjoy.

Tangerine Install

I've Moved

It took a long time to deliver but I’m finally there – I’ve moved to Mac. They say a picture is worth a thousand words…

iMac up and running

I’ve posted a full Flickr set of the unboxing of the iMac and iPod – not too many pics as it’s been done already. It’s too early to feel settled with OS X although I’ve so far managed to do everything I’ve wanted to, including an almighty struggle to get my iTunes library over to the mac from the pc. I ended up hacking the library xml file to get it to work. However the iMac hardware is stunning. Quiet, fast and bright – in fact too bright much like when you view a TV in a store and it’s set to 100%. I ended up reducing the brightness to just over half to make it easy on the eyes. Even then it was brighter than my last LCD. Still can’t get used to using the Apple key for cut, copy, paste and there are obviously lots of oddities that will take time to understand. Expose is stunning though and makes managing multiple windows a painless task – windows could learn a lot and that still hasn’t been addressed in Vista which is an issue as more people move to larger and larger desktops.

The iPod is as impressive as ever. Screen is bright, video’s look sharp although I still think it’s too small to watch TV episodes and movies on. Most noticeable are the new earbuds – comfy and sound good. Gapless playback is also welcome…at last.

Downsides. Only one at the moment – the Mighty Mouse. It is OK but not a patch on my old Logitech which will be pressed back into service. The virtual right mouse button is awkward and the side buttons require a lot of pressure to activate. Not for me and it defies logic as to why Apple couldn’t design something better.

Seeing as I’ve spent only a day with the iMac I’m surprised how easy it is to perform basic tasks although I do feel vulnerable due to my lack of knowledge. If something went wrong I would probably struggle badly. With Windows I felt comfortable that no matter what I did I could rectify the situation – it will take a while to get that feeling with the Mac. Hardware has also worked like a dream, both new and old. Joy of joys – I don’t have any dead pixels (well none that are obvious and although I’ve scanned a few times and can’t see any I ain’t going hunting). Thoroughly delighted that I finally made the move. It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks go as I scratch beneath the surface. To be honest I can’t wait.