iTunes 7

While I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fanboy, I’m a big fan of Apple. My powerbook G4, while now a bit underpowered, is still a great example of the crossover between form and function. It ranges from being an able dev environment while being an acceptable fixture on the coffee table when visitors are around.

Problem number one: I use Total Recorder to occasionally record an audio stream to an MP3 – oh no you don’t. After finding a vague reference on USENET to a possible conflict, no amount of tweaking TR helped. This was after installation, so it wasn’t clear whether my library was intact – reverting to v6 was an option, but not a great one at this point. Uninstallation of TR at least stepped around the problem – but it’s not one that can continue. I don’t use TR that much – but that is not the point.

Then there’s the second problem – I have several iPods and iTunes has become part of my routine. I have (too many) podcast subscriptions and an important aspect is the smart playlist that shows my unheard podcasts.

So when iTunes 7 installs and asks “should I arrange your music collection automatically?” I guess I wasn’t expecting it to trawl through my entire hard drive and import all audio and video; when this includes the cache from my external podcast catcher, thus duplicating several hundred podcasts, this is really annoying. Cue much gnashing of teeth while I have to delete a pile of external references. (At least if it had copied those files into the iTunes archive it would have replaced the files and not created new references.)

So I’ve finally cleaned up the podcast references and the nano is going to be updated again. All well and good, but plugging in the nano causes the audio to be disrupted, potentially until stopping and starting again. The nano’s connection is then hard to fathom – sometimes the “do not disconnect” symbol doesn’t go away … and then when it does, it drops out of the list of sources on the screen!

So the verdict so far? Definitely mixed. The new interface is alright – a step up from v6, sure. But worth the hassles? Not yet.

Update: oh, and while we’re at it, the Nano is occasionally stuttering since too. And can’t count the number of tracks in the smart playlist that holds my unheard podcasts – and has some issues with reporting the amount of free space, too.

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Will they listen?

Three votes in three days and the nanny state is in even fuller effect. On Tuesday came ID cards, on Wednesday the total smoking ban and today, probably, comes the "glorifying" terrorism bill.

While MPs at least want to investigate some of the technical mechanisms that might be employed for ID cards (how nice of them), it doesn’t remove any of the risks that have been so lucidly put forward by greater minds than are apparently operating in the Commons.

And when Gordon Brown, our Prime Minister in waiting, can’t even differentiate between biometrics and isometrics, then we must have an inkling that HMG is in trouble?

Joining the flock

The key thing to overtly displaying your geek credentials is the software you use, the websites you visit – “digg is so 2005″ – and the podcasts you cite. (And if you have to ask what podcasts are, well, I’m making my point, right?) 

So, as if to test out the theory, I’m writing this post using flock. It’s a browser built on the Mozilla/Firefox platform which attempts to seemlessly link your browsing to some of the more popular next-generation (i.e. “Web 2.0”) sites, such as del.icio.us and Flickr

It’s still in beta, so it’s liable to break … but it’s quite nifty so far …

ThinkSecret.com: 13.3-inch iBook, Mac OS X 10.4.4, Plaxo for Mac

I’m not worried about the iBook and OS X will make sure that 10.4.4 gets sucked down when it sees fit, but the news that Plaxo is getting ready for its first release of a Mac client is interesting.

I have two independent contact systems. I’ve got my work (Outlook) and Thunderbird clients (windows at work to read home email and the home Windows PC) configured to use it. It is great but there’s far too much out of your control. I like the fact that my Powerbook (against which I sync my Palm and phone) is independent of that system. So Plaxo tells me something’s changed and I decide whether I’m interested in the information.

The other week I edited my Plaxo card and removed an email address. Suddenly one Plaxo contact found that his Outlook client had forgotten completely about that email address. I hadn’t deleted the address or disavowed it, I’d just edited my card. It’s a little disquietening when Big Brother acts like that.

Not to mention the number of duplicates and such that Plaxo creates. It’s a great system, but I don’t want to have to rely on it. I rely on my Palm/Powerbook being up to the minute – Plaxo’s not going to get its fingers on them.

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The Unnecessarily Wireless World

So I was heading into town to meet a friend for lunch. In the old days you’d arrange a time and a place and you’d be there (or not). If you didn’t make it, you’d both move on and you’d telephone later. Admittedly I’m talking 10-15 years ago here, but the constant flow of information that we’re being submerged under isn’t just 24 hour rolling news and live sport from the other side of the globe. It’s personal
information, too. SMS, email, mobiles, wireless LANs …

It’s hard to imagine that one day in the not so distant past there was a time of only wires. Of the local loop and comms via copper wiring.

Not today. A few emails (picked up on my laptop via Wireless LAN from my kitchen table, naturally) to confirm the general location and a general time. (We’re heading to the centre from opposite directions.) Then, when I’m on the train rolling into the terminus, a quick text to confirm I’m really en route. Of course, it’s not just a text. The phone is snug in my pocket, but because I’m working on some notes on the laptop, I call on a new best friend BluePhoneElite – it is simply marvellous. Text from the keyboard, the phone is barely involved.

Of course I can on one side convince myself I’m being secure – as the adverts say, don’t advertise your mobile phone. Of course I am advertising my shiny 12″ G4 PowerBook, but these things can’t be helped. Alain de Botton has written recently on Status Anxiety. Ya boo sux to that.

Meanwhile I’ve written some notes that I’ll want to read on the plane tonight. A quick addition to the AcroReader for the Palm and – boof – a quick bluetooth sync later and they are there on the Palm in my other pocket.

Look ma, no cables.

As I roll into Waterloo the dialog box pops up with the new SMS confirming the RV – a Starbucks near Liverpool Street. I’ll not bore you with the details as to which, there are enough and you need to retain some mystery.

So a coffee and a few bites in Starbucks – of course we’re discussing some bits and bobs and need some information. Wireless LAN to the rescue again. A credit card payment later and I’m hooked up again, mainlining data. It’s a more addictive drug than the caffeine in the cup.

But in 9 hours I shall be in the air on a trans-continental flight, aloft for about 10 hours. Out of contact, blissfully bereft of that feed. A time to read. To think.

No connections – wirelessly out of contact. It’s the only joy of being herded like cattle through the skies.

4 little digits

So. Just how secure can a PIN be?

Just about everything surrounding the Chip and PIN system seems to be designed to irk and mislead. From using the phrase PIN, with a huge minority insisting on calling it a PIN Number, to the banks trying to insist it’s a good thing for the consumer.

It’s not.

How can using the same 4 digits be secure? When the banks have spent years trying to educate us to be careful with ATMs and to make sure that they haven’t been tampered with, suddenly we’re expected to use the same PIN code on a 1001 different types of epos terminals. Madness, I tell you, madness.

But the banks insist it is secure – and worse. This insistence means that if you are unfortunate enough to have your account plundered with mis-use of a valid PIN it must have been your fault!

Fortunately the public has a secret weapon. Step forward those nice people from Cambridge with their Chip and Spin. Read it, fear it and wonder just what life means with so much control being exerted by unelected entities which you need to be involved with. Life in the modern world without a bank would be virtually impossible. Life with only cash? Just how realistic is that going to be?

I’m a technology professional, I’m as big a gadget fetishist as the next house-trained geek, but when you’re not given a choice and the options left to you so utterly inequitous, you sometimes wonder how things can change in favour of the little man.