Martin @ Blog

software development and life.


Archive for January, 2006

Intelligent parents great risk of children with autism

Slashdot is running a story about the possibility that high educated parents have a greater chance of giving birth to children with autism. While it is not that shocking, because as far as I know autism is something with usually comes with a higher level of intelligence, it seems that there is now a scientific basis for this conclusion. In the story, which is also on the BBC website, is also mentioned that 1 in every 100 children has some form of autism… that is much more than I expected. The research is pointing out that there is a growing number of people who have some form of autism. This possible cause for this is the fact that it is easier for high educated people to meet eachother, for example on conferences, and the fact that more women are working as scientist.

Big Brother Awards 2005

Yesterday the Dutch organisation Bits of Freedom, which is watching the preservation of the freedom of speech and privacy in the Netherlands, procured the Big Brother Awards. This is a prize for persons and organizations who doesn’t seem to care about the privacy of Dutch citizen. The winners for the Big Brother Awards this year are the minister Rita Verdonk, Sony BMG and the Flevo Ziekenhuis. Sony BMG got its award for the famous rootkit which is installed when one tries to play an audio-cd of the company on a personal computer. I wrote about the awards in Dutch on

The real Vista

Today I came across a weblog post which is rather funny in my opinion, and also points out how ‘not-innovative’ Microsoft actually is. The weblog has some video’s (I think Quicktime) of Mac OS X with the audio of Microsoft’s keynote speech at CES in San Fransico this month. I already said to many people (but I think I didn’t wrote about it on my weblog, only this is touching the problem slightly), but Vista doesn’t contain very much ‘new’ features when one compare it to existing operating systems, such as Mac OS X, but also Linux. Fortunately, I’m not the only one who is noticing this, and maybe it will make people think about their software (probably not, but everyone has to keep dreaming 🙂 ).
The main problem is that Microsoft has become a to large company with to few really good developers (one could argue if they ever had good developers, but that’s another discussion). Luckily for the shareholders, the marketing deparment of the company is decent (but the company has to do it without a really good chaiman, such as Jobs, who actually can make people believe that nobody can live without Apple products).

Microsoft Max?

Yesterday, I saw a video on Microsoft’s Channel 9 about a new product the developers from Microsoft are working on. It is an applications for managing photo’s and eventually other media files, such as video’s and documents. The video shows an ‘innovative’ feature of the new application which enables people to share photo’s with other people. This feature uses a client-server system where it will be published that someone is sharing photos. When another person wants to view these photos, the actual files are copied using a P2P connection.
This new product will be available in the future, but is currently in heavy development. Ironically, Apple introduced a new feature for iPhoto which is called ‘PhotoCasting’. As far as I understand, PhotoCasting does the same as MS new application, but doesn’t use p2p (which is good, because if many people want to view your photos, your internet connection is probably not usable anymore) and is already available in iLife ’06. Also, the MS application, which has codename ‘Max’, uses the new userinterface features of Vista (called Avalon) which is according to the MS developers ‘impressive’, but for a Mac user ‘not very exiting’ because on the Mac a comparable userinterface is already available.

Konica-Minolta quits digital photography

According to a press-release on DPreview Konica-Minolta stops selling digital camera’s. The company wasn’t already a big player in this market, but their dSLR-camera’s weren’t that bad. Actually, the Dynax 7D and 5D are pretty good camera’s with the unique anti-shake feature which – as far as I know – no other dSLR has. Also, Konica-Minolta ‘invented’ the market for so-called prosumer camera’s with de Dimage 7D and its successors, with the Dimage A2 as ultimate non-dSLR camera. According to the press-release the company will sell its camera business to Sony. Sony was already trying to get a foot on the ground in the high-end photography market with their recently introduced DSC-R1. On the internet, the reactions of the owners Konica-Minolta digital camera’s aren’t very positive (Dutch). I think, that this step isn’t that bad for the market. Sony has a lot more money available to fund marketing and development of new models. The company is working on a dSLR-camera which will be introduced this summer, and based on the reviews of the DSC-R1, the chances are that this will be a very competitive product. In my opinion, the coorporation between Konica-Minolta and Sony is the only way to compete with the two market leaders in the digital camera market, Canon and Nikon.

Apple introduces Intel-processor Macs

Unfortunately, my weblog was unreachable yesterday, because of a problem with my internet connection. Now everything should work again, so I’m able to write about the most anticipated IT-event this year until now: The MacWorld keynote by Steve Jobs.

Anticipated, because the expectations were that Apple would introduce the first Macs with an Intel processor – and they did. Also, there were rumours that Apple would introduce other existing products, such as a spreadsheet for their iWorks package and even a new version of Mac OS X – these rumours however, were untrue.

So, what did Steve Jobs announced? He began with some sale figures to illustrate the success of past year. He told that the Apple Stores sold for more than one billion dollars last quarter, and because he released this figure (which is information relevant for stock traders) he was forced by his CFO to tell the revenues for the latest quarter, which was 5,7 billion dollar. Steve also told that there were 42 million iPods sold over the entire lifetime of the musicplayer, and that in 2005 the company sold more iPods than every year before (32 million iPods). Of course iTunes Music Store can’t be left out when talking about numbers. Apple sold 850 million songs via IMS and is now selling 3 million songs per day, which means a market share of 83 per cent. This left you wondering where record companies have their guts from to threat Apple with not selling songs via their store, because the ‘prices are to low’ in their opinion. They seem to really don’t want to sell music at all, so they can even complain more about piracy?

After these ‘boring’ numbers, Steve announced that Apple will start selling new content via IMS. One of the new series is ‘Saturday Night Live’. While the rumours suggested a new iPod shuffle or iPod nano, Apple introduced only a remote control for the iPod which also includes a integrated FM tuner. The new accessoire is going to cost 49 dollars. Finaly he also mentiond the coorporation with Crysler, which is going to add iPod support to their cars. In order to improve the iPod sales Apple has created a tv-ad featuring the trompetist Whyton Marsalis (who mostly plays jazz, so probably not many people will know him.. actually i do)

After the iPod and music talk, Jobs starts talking about the ‘important’ stuff: computers. He starts with Apple’s new professional photography workflow application Aperture. After a short movie about Aperture, Steve continues to talk about the Widgets which were introduced with Mac OS X 10.4. He introduced a few new widgets from Apple: a Google search widget, a new Address book widget, a weather widget and a few widgets which are pretty much only intresting for US citizens. The new widgets are available with a new update of Mac OS X which has version number 10.4.4.

More software: iLife. Microsoft is currently working on new software for the upcoming Windows Vista, which includes a new music and photo applications. These applications are in functionallity almost identical to what Apple has for a few years: iTunes and iPhoto. These applications are in my opinion the most important parts which makes Mac OS more userfriendly than competing operating systems – one of the reasons I think that Linux distro’s should include Mono by default, because F-spot is the only application which comes near to what iPhoto is and Muine or Banshee are also the best music libraries for Linux.

Steve introduces iLife ’06 which includes new versions of iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, iDVD, Garageband and a new application called iWeb. The new iPhoto supports more photo’s than previous versions and is faster than the older version. He demonstrates how the new applications works with full screen edition on large screens – it makes you almost want to run to the store to buy a nice 30″ Cinema display (unfortunately I don’t have the money for it and it won’t work on my Mac mini because it lacks a dual-DVI connection. iPhoto has improved support for photobooks, it addes the possibility to create calenders, postcards and features ‘photocasting’. In fact this is nothing more than uploading selected photos to .Mac, where people can subscribe to such a gallery and the photos will automatically be available in their iPhoto. Changes made by the author are automatically updated to the people who are subscribed to the album. You have to be an .Mac-member in order to ‘cast’ a photocast, but everybody can subscribe to a photocast – even if you don’t own a Mac – because it uses RSS to publish updates.

iMovie features animated themes, which enables you to create professionally looking movies with photos, video’s and music without using ugly effects or slideshows. The movie will look more like ‘one piece’. Jobs demoes some of the possibilties with iMovie, which are rather impressive. When you talk about iMovie, you also will be quickly talking about iDVD for creating a DVD of your movie. New in iDVD ’06 are widescreen menus and support third party DVD-burners, which is nice because until now it was only possible to make DVD’s when your Mac contained a build in superdrive. Also Garagaband features some minor updates, mainly focussed on Podcasting. Steve demonstrate it by creating a funny Podcast – you can easily see that this is very good prepared and probably rehearsed several times, because the timing is perfect.

iWeb is a new application in the iLife suite for publishing stuff on the web. This application will be ‘easy to use to create beautiful websites’. The app can create online photoalbums, weblogs, podcast sites and other stuff. Especially creating photogalleries was a missing part of the Mac OS operating system, because Linux has standard applications which are able to do this, such as gThumb and F-spot. According to the screenshots the pages you can create with iWeb look pretty good and will work on IE, Firefox and obviously Safari according to Steve Jobs. For the photogalleries the program uses AJAX to create slideshows which will work on the current browsers. Unfortunately the program also only works when you have an .Mac-subscription. Also a new version of iWorks is introduced.

iMac with Intel-processor and Cinema displayAfter the software, Jobs moves on to the hardware – the most interesting part of the keynote. He repeats that he announced that by june ’06 the Macs with Intel processors will be available. Then there appears an from the smoke (in a previous keynote Apple ‘burned’ these dudes) Intel-dude which says: ‘Intel is ready’, to which Steve Jobs replies: ‘Apple is ready too’. Steve thanks Paul Otelini (the Intel-dude) for their support when Apple moves to Intel processors. Then the iMac with Core Duo (Yonah-processor) is introduced, as was expected by rumours, because the design of the last update of the iMac with G5-processor wasn’t as sophisticated as the previous iMac G5. The iMac with Intel-processor is available in the same size and design as the previous iMac, so with a 17″ and 20″ iMac. The other features are identical and the price is identical – probably to emphasize that the change to Intel isn’t as difficult as it seems. The only difference is the speed, according to Steve Jobs. The processor is two to three times faster – Steve also says that this doesn’t mean the computer is two to three times faster, because the disks aren’t faster and the memory isn’t faster. Every application Apple now introduces will be ‘universal binaries’, which means that it will run both on Power PC and Intel Macs. In March all the professional software of Apple will be available as universal binary. Finally it is announced that Microsoft will ship new Macintosh products for at least five years. There is also a tv-ad for the Intel Mac which is verry ‘Applesque’.

MacBook ProAnd the last thing of the keynote is the introduction of the PowerBook ancestor, the MacBook Pro. This new laptop has obviously an Intel processor, namely a Core Duo. The powerconsumption of these processors is significantly lower than the consumption of the G4 and G5. The speed is four to five times better than the previous PowerBooks. It is the thinnest laptop from Apple and available with a 15,4″ widescreen with high brightness and iSight webcam. The laptop come with a remote control and Frontrow. Also it feature MagSave, which is a powerconnector which is magnetically held in, so when someone pulls on the powercord, it yanks right out from the laptop. This feature is ‘patent pending’ according to Steve. The MacBook Pro is available with a 1,67GHz Core Duo processor and a model with a 1,83GHz Core Duo processor.

LightRoom: An Aperture concurrent

Adobe today reveiled the public beta version of their new software package for professional photographers. The program carries the name ‘LightRoom’ and is a direct concurrent for the Aperture program, which Apple introduced last year. According to sources Adobe’s main selling point will be the lower system requirements of LightRoom. While Aperture seems to run only on high-end Macs, LightRoom will work on even a 1GHz G4-computer with 768MB RAM. This means that it for example should work on an Apple Mac mini, which I own accidently, so I will give it a try to see if it is really that impressive as they claim.

Pointlessness of game journalism

An editor at Tom’s Hardware Guide wrote a column about the pointlessness of current game journalism. The writer argues that the major part of game journalist, both for online as offline media, are an extension to the PR-machines of the gaming companies. The previews and reviews they write are most of the time a constant flow of positive statements about the product and only some minor part of the article is critical, becaus the magazine or website is afraid of not receiving new products for review purposes.

I think the editor of Tom’s Hardware Guide has a point and I think this problem doesn’t only exists in the gaming journalism. In a small country like the Netherlands, were the pr-organisations of manufacturers of computer hardware are pretty small, most publications are very afraid of losing their ‘good relation’ with the pr-people. Many journalists (where one can argue if they deserve the therm ‘journalist’) are very afraid of publishing negative stuff about new products or services. Very recently I heard about an article about new products from a certain company which weren’t officially introduced yet. The editor who wrote the article did receive a press release, but at the end of the press release was stated that there was a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) which provided publication of the information before a certain date. The editor or the organisation he was working for didn’t sign this NDA, so it was an real ‘agreement’ and in fact no reason for not publishing the information. However, the organisation decided to conform to the NDA because it could potentionally damage the relations with the pr department of the company. I think this is not a good thing. Something ‘unimportant’ as a product announcement isn’t a major thing, but what about news about vulnerabilities of certain products? Are they also not published if the producer of the vulnerable software asks it?

Intel introduces Centrino Duo-platform

Today Intel introduced the Centrino Duo platform which is the successor of the current Centrino platform, codenamed Sonoma and based on the Pentium M-processor with Dothan-core and i915-chipset. The brand new Centrino Duo platform comes with the much anticipated Yonah processor which is a dual core processor for laptops, but incorporates the energy efficient technology of the previous Pentium M processors. The codename of the new Centrino platform is ‘Napa’, and apart from the Yonah processor, it exists of the Intel Mobile 945 Express chipset and the PRO/Wireless 3945ABG wlan chip (don’t know if it is already supported on Linux, probably not).

Intel Yonah (Core Duo) processorOf course, the most interesting part of this new platform is the dual core processor. According to benchmarks of AnandTech is the performance of the processor better than its predecessors. Not only speedwise the processor is better, but despite its extra core and other enhancements, the energy consumption is lower in comparisation of the Dothan core.

The expectations are that Apple will introduce new systems based on the Yonah processor coming Tuesday. Rumours are that probably the iBook will be renewed, but also the possibility of a new Mac mini are discussed. The new Mac mini should be powered by the Yonah processor and include a iPod dock.

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