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ATPM 10.12
December 2004


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by Wes Meltzer,

Coming Attractions and the Faithful Past

Sometimes an unintended sentence or turn of phrase proves to be a lot more prescient than you expected it to be. Last month I wrote that the Mac user community was fighting wars of attrition “built on waiting for Apple to give us new fodder for something to oooooooh or aaaaaaaaaah collectively about in Tiger.”

Well, I was half right, but that’s better than wrong, my usual track record. Let’s play the usual assign-a-mood-to-a-month game. November was about what’s coming for Mac users, and it’s really pretty cool stuff. Think about Tiger, or ways to avoid Microsoft software, and you’ll see why I’m optimistic after this month’s news.

The Future Is Now

I bet your feet get cold in the winter, don’t they? Well, did you ever consider the welfare of your pretty little white music player? I bet you didn’t. Start now. You’ll probably like the absolute lamest and yet coolest invention in the world, the iPod Sock. I already have plans to invest in some for my iPod. Julio Ojeda-Zapata—a socks-and-shoes joke is waiting here in Spanish—calls this new fad “iPodiatry,” and you know what? It’s pretty catchy, and reasonably funny.

Nevertheless “funny” is still a registered trademark of As the Apple Turns, whose screenwriter, Jack Miller, is especially hilarious when he waxes about the socks, saying, “iPod Sock production is limited entirely by craftsmanship; our sources report that each and every Sock is hand-knitted to perfection by a tiny magical weaving gnome that Apple captured in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, who unfortunately can’t crank out more than about 60 a day.” He also reminds us that we fanatics will buy just about anything with an Apple logo on it. Thanks, Reality Distortion Field!

Also in the “coming attractions” category is liberation from Microsoft software. For those of you still holding out on switching browsers, you now have two compelling products: Safari, obviously, and Firefox—which now, in 1.0 release, feels as slick as Safari. But in March 2005 some of the most exciting Aquafication is due to arrive, in Firefox 1.1, according to Kevin Gerich. They ultimately decided to release 1.0 Mac at the same time as the Linux and Windows releases, which wasn’t the original plan, because the amount of work that would go into the Mac version to get it fully nativized would take much, much longer than they expected. So, keep your eyes peeled; and in the meantime, really, kiss Internet Explorer goodbye, like Robert Vamosi did quite publicly at ZDNet UK.

On the Microsoft horizon also may eventually be the finally-completed suite, but I’m not holding my breath. Neither is Sandy McMurray, who says to get rid of Word, you should check out three different sets of packages: Merlin to give you a Microsoft Project-alike, Mellel for word processing, and TextMate for text editing. (Now, Sandy isn’t convinced Microsoftware is going anywhere, but I wouldn’t mind something with a BBEdit-like interface that can feed me an easy word count, as a real-life journalism major and freelancer.)

In addition, I’m starting to get excited about the coming OS X 10.4, because it will bring with it Spotlight, which provides useful metadata searching and the like. I admit I miss that about my brief fling with BeOS. Spotlight sounds exciting, especially now that Apple has a developer’s overview up. (Thanks to Chris Cummer at Salad With Steve.)

The Past Is Also Now

In case you need a blast from the past, read up on the bittersweet tale of Audion, Panic’s once-flagship product, the MP3 player. I remember when I first discovered the MP3 craze, what feels like a thousand years ago. I was a WinAmp user at home and an Audion user at school, where I had my own Mac in the newspaper lab. I was definitely sad and walking down memory lane with that story.

Cabel Sasser of Panic wrote a beautiful eulogy (with lots of sidebar information) for an amazing application. You will learn things you never knew, like that Steve Jobs wanted to buy Audion for iTunes and, because of a scheduling conflict with Panic’s other bidder, AOL, they were neither bought by AOL nor by Apple. I smiled, I laughed, I cried, and I felt a little (OK, a lot) of hometown pride.

Kirk McElhearn (yes, my fellow ATPM staffer) wrote a very nice (if brief) send-off as well; there were a thousand more, but I didn’t want to write a eulogy myself, so I will leave the discovery to you. (Or you can check Bloggable: The Companion Weblog.)

My other blast-from-the-past for this issue is Dock replacements. Some people are still getting used to the Dock after all this time in OS X, even super-early adopters from 10.0 like me. Eric Strongheart has a fantastic round-up of Dock replacements at ArsTechnica, the Mac geek’s preferred tech magazine. He is pessimistic about Apple resolving the problems with the Dock in 10.4, so he points his readers to Dock-It, DragStrip, DragThing, and Drop Drawers. Some of these packages are as old as the hills, especially DragStrip, DragThing, and Drop Drawers. (And maybe someday one of these will do or emulate tabbed folders, which would hugely simplify my workflow for this column. Do you hear that, guys?)

An Assorted Round-up

  • Have you ever wondered about the interior of the very, very cool Apple Design Award? The guys at Mek & Tosj won one for their work as the authors of the very cool 4Peaks, then ran it through a CT scanner and processed a 3D image to see what the inside looked like. The answer? It’s at least as cool as the award is on the outside. Although I’d hate to have to change the AA batteries when they die. (This is a very scientific way to go about the examination.)
  • Kirk McElhearn, again, brings us the fun story of a French program on Macs and PCs—which suggests a bit of bias, painting happy cult-like Apple users on one canvas and PC users crouched in a mod shop on the other. I’m not convinced it’s fair, but hey, it’s good press, right? RDF to the rescue again!

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