Showing posts with label Apple. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Apple. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lessons from Apple

I haven't yet got around to ordering an English-language copy of the biography of Steve Jobs… not even in a digital version for my iPad. Obviously, it's not that the subject fails to interest me. On the contrary, I've always been an impassioned fan, not so much of the man in question, but of the spirit and style of the computer company he founded with Steve Wozniak on April Fool's Day, 1976. But I end up feeling that I've no doubt heard almost everything that could possibly be written about Jobs.

In China, the Jobs biography is selling like hot cakes. That doesn't surprise me. It would be good, I think, if industry-oriented universities in countries such as France were to pose the question: Is there an Apple business model for success in futuristic high-tech computing? The answer is certainly yes… but the model would need to be refined and adjusted to the local environment. The efforts involved would surely be worthwhile. I can imagine future doctoral business classes and challenges on the themes of the successes of Apple Computer.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

One more thing…

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. [Wired, February 1996]

Click the graphic to watch an insanely-great video:
How to live before you die.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Enough cash to buy the USA

When I was working with IBM Australia back in Sydney during the period 1957-1961, I remember being most impressed by an anecdote designed to reveal the fabulous prosperity of my US employer. Somebody told me that IBM was so wealthy that the corporation could simply pay cash for such-and-such a South American nation… in the "banana republic" category, if I remember rightly. At the time, I wouldn't have been capable of deciding whether or not this was rubbish talk, so I simply believed what I was told, and got on (proudly, no doubt) with my computer programming tasks.

These days, thanks to Internet, we're more cautious about tales of this kind, since people are more and more capable of verifying the degree of truth in what is being stated. We're no longer obliged to survive in the kind of informational vacuum that shrouded the planet up until recently… except, of course, if your antiquated beliefs, your inbuilt mental structure and your cultural conditioning force you (with or without Internet) to do so.

Today, we're told (and it's no doubt true) that the Apple corporation disposes of cash liquidities of 76 billion dollars, whereas those of the entity known as the USA amount to 73 billion dollars. The latter sum represents what the USA can actually spend before they hit their official national debt limit of well over 14 billion dollars, illustrated here:

It's said that, if the current US debt were to be materialized in 100-dollar banknotes, the stack of greenbacks would cover a football field up to the height of the left arm of the Statue of Liberty. This explains why a dynamic corporation such as Apple would never—in spite of having enough ready cash to do so—invest in such an unpromising financial affair as God's Own Country.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Apple devices that are beautiful to look at

Apple devices must be beautiful to look at… otherwise there's little point in designing and marketing them. Everybody is aware of that by now, even those skeptics who persist in sticking to antiquated tools, maybe because they're anguished by modernity. The two beautiful and interesting devices that I'm about to present are for different categories of users. The first one can be manipulated immediately by totally inexperienced beginners, maybe with a little help from friends. The second device, on the other hand, is quite sophisticated, and it can only be handled efficiently by individuals who have gone to the trouble of examining closely its operational principles.

I'm obliged to point out that neither of these two devices was accompanied by any kind of user manual, although I acquired a lot of basic guidance from this well-written little book (in French), full of interesting suggestions of all kinds, that I came upon—of all places—at the local supermarket. It was fun to play around with the two devices until I finally succeeded in mastering their concepts. But now that I'm more or less enlightened on their use and usefulness, I'm happy to have made that slight necessary effort. Besides, I have a weird inner feeling of having attained some kind of superior spiritual union with the designers and manufacturers of these devices, as if we were truly on the same wavelength and speaking the same language.

Apple shops in Provence surely stock this first device. I say that because mine was given to me as a gift by friends in Marseille who know I'm a crazy fan of products in this exciting domain.

Critics might say that this device is so simple that it appears to be a toy, and that it hardly deserves to be described as a high-tech tool. Apple products often provoke that kind of reaction, particularly from individuals who have never dared to try them out. You might be wondering about the actual use of this device. While insisting upon the fact that questions of that kind are excessive (often spiked with malice) and hardly worth asking, I will limit my explanations to pointing out that the only way to appreciate this device is to sit down of a wintry evening in front of a log fire, and let the red coals do the rest, transporting you into a marvelous new sensual world…particularly if you happen to be fond of charred fruit.

Apple devices of the second kind are, as I said, a quite different kettle of fish (if I can be pardoned for using an inappropriate metaphor).

A critic said that only a trained engineer could use this tool, and that only an untrained engineer could have designed it. To my mind, that's a blatant exaggeration. Even a skilled tradesman with experience in the assembly of agricultural machinery could no doubt figure out, after a while, how this device is to be put in action. As for the idea that an untrained engineer has designed this sophisticated tool, that's sheer rubbish. Not even a first-year apprentice attending a technical college with a view to obtaining a certificate as a machine operator in a factory would be sufficiently audacious, indeed rash enough, to imagine a machine such as this. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the designer went mad while trying to get his device to function, and then he was probably removed in mysterious circumstances by the owner of the workshop that had agreed to manufacture the device. Or maybe they were both assassinated by an investment banker who saw his company's hopes mangled like mashed apples as a result of plans to build and market this device on the international scene.

But I can hear you all screaming out an obvious question: What's it supposed to actually do? Well, let's say that it's a processor. Apple specialists would call it a core processor… and the above photo reveals that this designation is perfectly correct. But it does much more than provide you with a core. It also makes a bloody mess… where the adjective applies literally if ever you were to place the fingers of one hand in the vicinity of the core while turning vigorously the handle with the other hand.

Incidentally, I should point out that the devices I've just described date from some time back, and it's quite possible that they've been replaced since then by more advanced models. In that case, if ever you happened to have the technical specifications of the latest versions of these devices, I would be most grateful if you were to refrain from going to the trouble of informing me. Apple products don't necessarily have to be replaced every time that new models are released. For the moment, I'm perfectly happy with the devices that I currently own.

APOLOGIES TO THE KIND PEOPLE WHO OFFERED ME THESE GIFTS: I've been joking, of course. Your gifts are proudly displayed in my house at Gamone, where they draw attention from puzzled visitors. If only I were young and seductive, I'm sure I could score in the village pubs and nightclubs with the line: "Why don't you come up to my place for a glass of cider, so I can show you my Apple devices..."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Centenary of a computing giant

These days, we hear a lot about the achievements of Apple. I'm unlikely to complain about that, of course, because I've always been totally addicted to the products of Cupertino, from back at the time I wrote my first book about the Mac, in 1984, and even before then, at the pioneering epoch of the Apple II computer.

In the midst of all the talk about the marvelous creations of Steve Jobs, we must never forget, however, that the Big Daddy of computing has always remained a celebrated US corporation that made a name for itself by selling so-called "business machines" on an international scale.

In 2011, the company will be turning 100, which means that it was born in the same year as Tennessee Williams, Ronald Reagan and France's Georges Pompidou. I joined IBM in Sydney towards the end of 1957, and worked as a computer programmer using the Fortran language on a vacuum-tube machine called the IBM 650, whose central memory was housed on a revolving magnetically-coated drum.

The new IBM website designed to celebrate the centenary includes an interesting video on the second-generation transistorized computer that came next: the IBM 1401, seen here in an old marketing photo:

This was the machine I was programming (in a macro-assembler language called Autocoder) at the time I arrived in Paris, in 1962, and started to work at the European headquarters of IBM. Click the above photo to see the video concerning this machine, which shows various former IBMers of my generation.

These days, IBM has embarked upon a colossal computer challenge in the domain of artificial intelligence. Known as Watson (the name of the founder of IBM), this project aims to get a computer to perform better than human beings in the American TV game called Jeopardy! The system, based upon so-called massively-parallel probabilistic evidence-based architecture, incorporates a vast array of big boxes that have much the same external aspect as the units of an archaic IBM 1401… but you can be sure they do more things!

Click the photo to visit IBM's website on their fabulous Watson project.

AFTERTHOUGHT: It's good, in a way, that IBM has been somewhat out of the limelight for many years, compared to companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google. That has enabled IBM to move ahead quietly and constantly in a field such as artificial intelligence without too much media interference. But this situation is likely to change in a spectacular fashion as soon as Watson starts to bare its teeth… which is exactly what's happening at this very moment. Personally, I would not hesitate for a moment in declaring that a project such as Watson represents one of the greatest human challenges of all time: the invention of a deus ex machina that seems to be approaching the spirit of the famous IBM slogan.

I used to dream about that challenge back in the early '70s, when I was making a series of documentaries on this subject in the USA, for French TV, and writing my book on artificial intelligence.

And I still do, today, more than ever… particularly since scholars such as and Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker have convinced me that we human beings are "merely" a special kind of machine, imbued with a strange property (not yet understood, of course) referred to as consciousness.

ANECDOTE: You might wonder why software engineers at Google and elsewhere have been scanning vast libraries of books of all kinds, and making them freely available to researchers. Are the corporations and engineers doing this because they want to offer more and more reading material, philanthropically, to old-timers such as you and me? Don't be naive! They're building those vast digital libraries for readers of a new kind: future generations of intelligent computers.

BREAKING NEWS: Stephen Wolfram, in his blog [display], seems to believe that IBM's Watson will win the forthcoming Jeopardy TV event. Moreover, he is encouraging IBM… even though their Watson is a competitor of his own approach: the so-called Wolfram-Alpha system.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Apple developer

These days, if somebody were to ask me what I do to while away the time in my mountain abode, I have a new and prestigious answer: I'm an Apple developer! This doesn't mean a great deal. In my personal case, it's hardly a professional activity, and certainly not a regular paid job (because I'm officially retired). It's more like a pastime… which might or might not give rise to pecuniary benefits, depending on how I go about things. Only one thing is certain: It's hard work to master the art of Apple software development! But I love this kind of intellectual challenge, because it keeps my neurons in good shape… and it's more fun (to my mind) than playing games.

In more precise terms, I've become a paid-up member of the Apple Developers group (more satisfying and worthwhile, after all, than joining the Australian Labor Party or even the French Socialist Party) in the hope of creating applications for the iPad.

The first and last time I envisaged Macintosh development was in 1987, when I was out in Western Australia working as a lecturer in computing at the Curtin University of Technology. I used the Pascal language to dash off a small software tool, which I named AC-DC [America's Cup, Data for Challengers], designed to help me predict the foreign yacht that would win the right to challenge Australia's famous Kookaburra for the America's Cup. I programmed my Macintosh program (running on the primitive box-shaped machine I had brought with me from France) to print out, for each of the twelve contenders, a scenario of the following kind:

Using these scenarios (which had simply "digested" the results of all the earlier match races), I quickly figured out that the victorious contender would be Dennis Conner on Stars and Stripes. The media center had organized a competition among journalists for the best predictions of the outcome of the challenger rounds. There were prizes (champagne and Louis Vuitton bags) for the top three results. Thanks to my Mac tool, I was awarded all three prizes! This meant that, for the remainder of my stay in Fremantle, I guzzled the finest French champagne like lemonade. As for the ugly Louis Vuitton bags, in red plastic, they're still stuck away, almost untouched, in a wardrobe at Gamone. But I'm becoming waylaid by nostalgia…

Today, what are my iPad projects? There are three zones of activity:

1 -- I've imagined a kind of "business card" concept for succinct identity apps (applications) declined for individuals, urban entities (French villages) and firms. I would like to make it so simple for me to design and build such a card that I could offer them dirt cheap.

2 -- An unfinished French version of my Tarot fortune-telling thing at


lets you find answers to all your questions about human existence. Maybe I'll produce an English-language version of this gadget for the iPhone/iPad.

3 -- I'm envisaging an iPhone/iPad version of my Accessor tool at


designed to enable easy access to the archives of my Antipodes blog.

For the moment, I'm printing out the various relevant manuals, and I've bought a big plastic box to house them.

Little by little, of course, I'll need to get around to actually reading and mastering all this documentation.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Doing things on a computer

Using my iMac to communicate through blogs is an interesting activity. In associated domains, I'm fond of Twitter, but I see it as subservient to blogging, or simply as a convenient means of pointing to exceptional things on the web. On the other hand, I get bored by Tweeters such as Nassim Nicholas Taleb (the Black Swan guy) who stretch over backwards in attempts to impress us with 140-character aphorisms. As for Facebook, I find it totally uninteresting, if not vulgar.

I've become accustomed to using my iMac in two or three other ways. Above all, I devote a lot of energy to writing, using the excellent Pages tool from Apple. I've also built various websites, mainly for fun. A typical example is this short presentation of the medieval hermit Bruno [1030-1101] who inspired the foundation of the order of Chartreux monks:


The following archaic example is an online sales demo that I produced for a competition. I rarely show it to anybody these days, because it incorporates unpleasant audio clicks, which I put in deliberately (a decade ago, I thought that was smart). I've lost the source code, otherwise I would eliminate these annoying sounds:


To build these websites, I've been using a tool named Flash, now marketed by Adobe. Long ago, before getting carried away by Flash, I used to create conventional HTML websites by means of a dull tool named Dreamweaver, also marketed now by Adobe. Here's a satirical example, designed in pure HTML, which dates from 2003:


Today, alas, a big problem has arisen concerning Flash: Steve Jobs doesn't like it, and he prohibits it on both the iPhone and the iPad!


Click the above photo to access an article entitled Thoughts on Flash in which the CEO of Apple makes it clear why there won't be any Flash stuff turning up on their iPad device.

Let's suppose that, contrary to my article of February 2010 entitled Second look at iPad weaknesses [display], I were to become concerned by, or even interested in, this new device… primarily because of its potential in the domain of electronic books. If this shift in attitude were to occur (as I think it will), then what should I do about my longstanding commitment to Flash? The answer to that question reflects the fact that "longstanding commitments" simply don't exist in the computing domain, where things are evolving constantly, and we have to accept all kinds of changes, including those that look at first like disturbances. So, obviously, I should abandon Flash… But what should I put in its place?

Steve Jobs provides us with a serious answer, maybe the only serious answer: HTML5, that's to say, the upgraded variety of HTML that the World Wide Web Consortium is currently examining. Apparently, there are significant parts of this future standard that are already operational, as long as you build your sites by means of a "good editor" (such as the latest version of Dreamweaver), and read them with a "good browser" (such as Safari). And of course, any vague feeling you might have that the computing world is becoming more-and-more Apple-dominated is just pure coincidence…

But that's not all. I wrote my first computer programs in 1958, when I was working with IBM in Sydney. Today, I'm still fascinated by computer programming, but purely as a hobbyist. If this new beast known as the iPad is here to stay (as would appear to be the case, at least for a while), then I've decided that it might be a good idea to learn how to write programs for it. In that way, I would surely feel less frustrated about abandoning Flash, whose scripting was a kind of Canada Dry ersatz for real programming.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Second look at iPad weaknesses

Concerning Apple's iPad, my recent article entitled Latest creation [display] was inadvertently but grossly over-enthusiastic. Preoccupied by the amusing phenomenon of Steve Jobs presenting his latest Apple baby, I did not even attempt to say what I thought personally about this new device.

Well, having looked into this affair a little more closely, let me now say that I fear the iPad will be a total marketing flop. Why? For the simple reason that I can imagine few reasons why anybody would ever want to use such a gadget.

For a moment, I had imagined the iPad as a blown-up version of the iPhone. This, of course, was poor thinking on my part: I was forgetting that you can't make phone calls with an iPad. Located midway between an iPod touch (an iTunes reader and portable game player) and a full-blown computer such as a MacBook, the iPad might be thought of as combining the advantages of both. Well, I now believe that this is not in fact the case. In trying to be a little bit of a mobile device, and a little bit of a true computer, the iPad turns out to be neither!

A particular aspect of the iPad shocks me greatly. Like the iPhone, it won't display Flash websites. From that point of view, the iPad reminds me of a French novel entitled La disparition, written by Georges Perec [1936-1982], which doesn't contain a single instance of the letter "e", which is normally the most widely-occurring vowel in the French language. In the same way that I wouldn't rush to buy a gimmick novel that doesn't contain the letter "e", I wouldn't rush to purchase a gimmick Internet machine that doesn't offer Flash.

And why exactly is it so important for me (as for millions of other web-users throughout the world) to have a computer that can handle Flash? Let's start with this blog. Normally, in the right-hand column, there are various small banners pointing to my associated websites. Well, if your computer can't read Flash stuff, you simply won't see any of these links. Over the last few years, I've built a score of websites on all kinds of subjects ranging from my personal genealogy through to cultural stuff about the medieval hermit Bruno who's considered today as the founder of the Chartreux order of monks. Well, without Flash, you won't be able to examine the slightest element of all this work of mine. And a corollary of this antiquated state of affairs is that I wouldn't be able to use an iPad to modify anything whatsoever in my web creations. So, to my mind, the iPad gadget is strictly for exotic individuals with specialized computing needs such as Beefeaters in the Tower of London, Druids, Mormons, six-day bike-riders, Creationists and other yokels.

Having said this, I hasten to add that, if anybody were to send me an iPad as a gift, I would be immensely happy to receive it. I would pass it on immediately to the neighboring kids in Châtelus, on the other side of the Bourne, who love to play games. As for me, I'm too old for that. Besides, in all my life, I've never, at any moment, been an inveterate games-player. For me, there has always been only one big game, with fascinating and mysterious rules, called Life. Nothing to do with iLife.

POST-SCRIPTUM: Somebody extracted all the positive words and expressions employed by Steve Jobs and other Apple executives during the recent presentation of the iPad, and strung them all together in the following video:



It's hardly reassuring to find that a new product needs such excessive verbal icing sugar.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Latest creation

In some twenty minutes, Apple founder Steve Jobs will unveil the company's latest creation, which has been the subject of broad and intense speculations over the last few months. Everything leads us to expect the announcement of a new product midway between an iPhone and a portable Mac.

There are still certain dull journalists and commentators who have not yet grasped the profound sense of the Apple phenomenon. They refer to Apple buzz as "hype", and they imagine that people who get excited about forthcoming new products are mere groupies or Apple addicts. In fact, this excitement stems from an observed fact: Apple products have a habit of being revolutionary.

Back at the beginning of the '80s, as a freelance journalist in Paris, I received an invitation from Jean-Louis Gassée to test a product from his newly-created company, Apple France. It was an Apple II computer. Jean-Louis told me: "William, this machine is going to change your life." Insofar as I was already enraptured by computers of all kinds (having started my professional career as an IBM programmer in Sydney in 1957), I half-believed Jean-Louis. Today, retrospectively, I can believe him totally. Apple products have indeed changed my life.

People are excited about Apple announcements for the simple reason that they suspect that new products, about to be seen, could indeed change their lives in significant ways. We're not necessarily talking about profound changes of the philosophical kind experienced when you read a book by Richard Dawkins, for example. Personally, though, I'm convinced that the two kinds of changes—the Dawkins revolution and the Apple revolution—are not actually as remote from one another as might be imagined. In both contexts, there's the same kind of spirit of change in the air.

Now, let's see what Steve Jobs is about to offer us...

BREAKING NEWS: So much more intimate than a laptop:

iPad


I find this whole thing absolutely fabulous. The live media coverage (audio/text only, unfortunately) recalls the arrival of man on the Moon. Magnificent!




"Holding the Internet in your hands,
it's an incredible experience!"



Monday, October 26, 2009

Aggressive Apple ads

I would imagine that Microsoft has had enough time and experience by now to get its act together at an operating systems level, in which case Windows 7 should normally be one of the finest and friendliest PC products that could possibly exist. Maybe we'll even discover that it has a nicer look and feel than Leopard and Snow Leopard on the Mac. Who knows? Computing is such an awesome domain that anything could happen. In any case, it will be interesting for certain Mac users (maybe including myself), in the near future, to take a look at Windows 7 in a Boot Camp environment on an iMac, to see if it's a good solution for certain kinds of work. For example, I still dream about being able to use a powerful word processor such as Adobe FrameMaker— which no longer exists on the Mac—for my writing, particularly in the genealogical domain.

Meanwhile, Apple has reacted to the arrival of Windows 7 by an aggressive publicity campaign intended to tell PC users that, instead of upgrading to Windows 7, they should purchase a Mac. Click here to see their latest set of ads.

If Apple has gone vicious (to the extent of frankly aiming to ridicule Microsoft), this is no doubt because everybody realizes that Windows 7 could in fact turn out to be a great operating system. So, Apple is in a now or never situation. In any case, it will be interesting to see if there's a massive move to Macs.

In this eternal PC/Mac conflict (where, thankfully, no soldiers or civilians appear to be getting killed), there's a gigantic gorilla in the living room, which people often refrain from mentioning, as if the beast were not really there. Delegates from both camps talk endlessly about the intrinsic merits of their system, and the weaknesses of the opposition. But the BIG reason why an individual hesitates before moving, say, from a PC to a Mac is the obvious fact that he/she has purchased a lot of software tools, and that it would be painful to have to replace all that stuff.

If you're a home-owner thinking about moving, say, from Choranche to Bergues, you can normally sell your old place at Choranche and look around for equivalent accommodation in the charming countryside in the vicinity of Bergues, or maybe (for adepts of nightlife) within the exciting township itself.

Sadly, in the case of moving from a PC to a Mac, there's no obvious way of selling your old software and using the financial resources to purchase new Mac stuff. It's a variation on that old story—which I've been telling in one way or another for the last four decades—about the specificity of information: the fact that you can give it away to friends, but you still keep it. In harsh economic terms, there's no way in the world that you can sell old software to buy new stuff. It's not even a biblical matter of putting new wine into old bottles. The simple fact is that the old software is obsolete: antiquated worthless shit. In the world of information and computers, before people can move readily from A to B, a revised science of economics needs to emerge.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Apple influence

Recently, I suggested that I had been hit on the head by an apple, which was my way of introducing a possible link, in my personal genealogy, to Isaac Newton [display].

My compatriots appear to have been hit on the head by this fruit for different reasons. First, a fellow came up recently with a new name for a variety of Vegemite, the yeast-based edible mud that has always been consumed ritually, spread on bread, by generations of Australians. This new logo didn't last for long. After a few days, it was howled down violently by Vegemite aficionados all over the planet. This is understandable. It would be unwise to eat this stuff while using a high-tech iDevice. If ever a drop of muck reached the inner electronics, the gadget would surely be corroded irreparably. (That danger reminds me of the Comic Book Guy in the Simpsons who complains regularly to the after-sales people because his DVD reader is full of mayonnaise droppings... or something like that.)

The Aussie branch of Woolworths has just invented a new stylized W image, which reminds us of a familiar logo that usually appears these days with a silvery hue. Now, if ever Woolworths started to use this new logo in their marketing of consumer-electronics products such as PCs and portable media players, it doesn't take much visual thinking to imagine that certain customers might suppose they were purchasing stuff that had something to do with my favorite computing company.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Paranoia

Ever since Apple announced that our hero Steve Jobs wouldn't be delivering the keynote address at the recent Apple Expo, and that this would be the company's final presence at this trade show, I have the impression that everybody is talking about this insanely geniustic guy, and that the entire business world is in a state of fever.

Or is it just me?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Apple deception

I've been using Apple products since 1981. In general, I've always looked forward to product updates, because Apple's new hardware and software are inevitably better, often in subtle ways, than what existed beforehand. Well, for the first time ever, I've experienced a reversal of this situation.

For the last couple of years, I've been using an excellent Macintosh word-processing tool named Pages, designed and sold by Apple. At the Apple Expo that has just taken place in California (which will go down in history as the last one at which the Apple company participated directly), many observers were shocked to discover that there were few announcements of new products from Apple. Personally, I was nevertheless happy to learn that an update to Pages had appeared. Last night, I downloaded a trial version of the latest version of this word processor and started to play around with it. I had imagined that, after testing the updated product to make sure that everything worked as indicated, I would purchase it immediately. Well, surprisingly, this is not going to be the case. There is nothing whatsoever in the new version of Pages to justify my paying 79 euros.

The most disappointing thing of all is a new Apple-hosted website service called iWork.com. The basic idea is that, if an author uploads his Pages files to this website, then his friends can view his writing, make comments about it, and keep copies of the files. On the surface, this sounded like a great idea for both my genealogical documents and my ongoing autobiography. The nasty truth of the matter is that the proposed service is incredibly slow. Besides, it doesn't really solve any problems that I haven't solved already by means of the nice technique of PDF files. On the other hand, there are new gadgets for Pages users who want to create cute newsletters with illustrations and gimmicky layout. Meanwhile, the glaring weaknesses of Pages still persist: namely, the impossibility of creating indexes and cross references to figures.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Trade shows v. Apple stores

For the last twenty-four hours, the international computer world has been thrown into a feverish state of agitation following a couple of negative but innocuous announcements from Apple:

-- First, the company will no longer be participating in the traditional Macworld Expo in San Francisco, 5-9 January 2009.

-- Second, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs will not be delivering his usual keynote address at that trade show.

Many observers jumped immediately to the conclusion that Jobs must have a major health problem, in the wake of his bout with pancreatic cancer. It's true that, on recent occasions, he has had a lean and hungry look, but that's surely because (as Shakespeare put it) he thinks too much. Me too, if I were Jobs, I wouldn't bother too much about trivial stuff such as shaving, eating and sleeping. If I were Jobs, I reckon that I probably wouldn't even try to win friends and influence certain kinds of people. But I would surely be intent, like him, upon pushing forward the limits of the personal computing revolution. Readers will have understood: Steve Jobs is my personal Che Guevara!

The official Apple explanation of this doubly-negative announcement is that the company is less attracted, these days, by old-fashioned trade shows, because they've been developing bigger and better marketing vectors, notably in the form of so-called Apple stores, which are sprouting up like golden mushrooms in various high-profile places.

While I understand that people might be nostalgic about the glamorous ambience of mega-sized trade shows, and the excitement of listening to a charismatic Steve Jobs preaching from such pulpits, I don't feel that this has much to do with the joyful efficiency of working/playing with Apple's superb products.

It's sad to say so: The people who get the most upset about unexpected news from Apple are rich shareholders, who often know fuck all about computing and don't necessarily give a shit about this phenomenon (except to calculate their dividends). Do they really care a great deal about the health of the man in charge of ideas, apart from the fact that it would be annoying to have to replace him if he were no longer able to work? That's not personal computing. That's personal greed.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Simpsons revisited

Last night, I posted an angry article concerning a few silly happenings in my native land, including a court case that has applied the nasty "pornography" label to virtual sex acts of a comical kind performed by the comic-book Simpson personages. This morning, although my irritation had not abated, I decided to erase my acrimonious article, since it's pointless getting hot under the collar concerning affairs that don't touch me directly. Now, since my readers no longer have an opportunity of being joyfully depraved by the porn images of Homer Simpson and his wife that I had included in last night's article, I've decided to make up for their absence by providing links to four amusing videos in which Homer and his daughter Lisa encounter the fascinating Apple universe. [I can already hear my friend Corina lamenting: William, in the way of porn, that's worse! ]

Video #1 : A dazzling Mapple Store springs into existence in Springfield Mall. Young Lisa is excited to discover a fabulous world of Mypods, Myphones and other marvelous Mapple gadgets.

The Comic Book Guy—who has the habit of eating messy food behind the counter of his boutique—comes into the Mapple Store to complain.

Mapple man in black: "Did you get peanut butter in your Ethernet port once again?"

Comic Book Guy: "No, I got mayonnaise in the CD drive."

Homer lingers in front of a glowing computer.

Mapple man in black: "I see you're admiring our Mycube. It's fueled by dreams and powered by imagination."

Homer: "What does it do?"

Mapple man in black: "You should ask yourself: What can I do for it?"

Mapple products are expensive. Lisa envisages buying Myphonies, which are fake earpods for those who can't afford a real Myphone or Mypod, but she balks at the $40 price tag. By chance, Lisa receives a Mypod from a disgruntled clown who got it as gift and doesn't know what to do with it. She's thrilled.

Lisa: "I'm a Mapple person!"

Mapple man in black: "We're all Mapple people."



Video #2 : Privileged customers in the Mapple Store are invited to a live announcement from the charismatic big boss of the Mapple Corporation: "It is I, your insanely great leader, Steve Mobs." However, just as the Chief Imaginative Officer is about to deliver his revelations, Bart Simpson fiddles around with the public-address system in the Mapple Store, enabling him to broadcast a totally subversive speech. The listeners are stunned.

Comic Book Guy: "Traitor, your heart is blacker than your turtleneck."

Rendered furious, he hurls a sledgehammer at the multimedia screen... evoking Apple's famous publicity of 1984.



Apple 1984 : Here's the original video, a landmark in publicity:



Video #3 : Meanwhile, Lisa Simpson receives her Mybill: her huge Mapple bill for downloaded music.



Video #4 : Kind Mr Mobs invites Lisa to become an employee of the Mapple Corporation. Her job consists of telling pedestrians in the street to "think differently".



For aficionados of the real company and its products, this is fine stuff, full of subtle insider humor.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Messages from Mac men in black

Many years ago, my marvelous friend Marie [whom I encountered at a Paris computer fair, where we were both employed] told me about a trade show of female lingerie where she had been working as a hostess: "William, I can't be expected, of course, to know what goes on in a man's mind when he sees sexy females. But there were times during that trade show when I imagined that, if I were a male, gazing at some of those girls parading in front of us would have been a kind of sweet torture." I told Marie that her imagination was no doubt spot on.

Faced with entities of a quite different kind, the latest sexy Macs, I've often felt that Apple's men in black are capable of enhancing their products with an aura of lust. Click on the following image to see a video that describes the latest MacBook:

At one point in the video, I felt frustrated that I couldn't lay my hands upon the naked aluminum unibody, as it's called, run my finger tips over the glass trackpad, or simply gaze wide-eyed and breathlessly upon the LED-backlit display.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Vista blues

The first video in Microsoft's new publicity campaign, named Shoe Circus, aimed at popularizing their Vista operating system, is dull and meaningless. Unbelievably bad. Judge for yourself:



On the other hand, I found that one of Apple's recent videos on this theme is charming:



The difference in style and content between the two videos reflects the differences between Vista and Leopard.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cult of Mac

Way back in 1984, I wrote a book about the Macintosh, when this machine was as little known as the Internet concept. But it would be wrong to brand me as an elitist Mac cultist. Some of my best friends still use PCs. But this post is not for them.

Dyed-in-the-wool Macnuts are ordinary-looking folk who feel frustrated around noon if they haven't yet heard something new and spectacular from or about our Favorite Computer Company. For us, there's now a website [display] that enables us to view old images of Steve and hear exiting words that made us salivate with Apple lust back in the days when we were losing, for eternity, our consumer innocence.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tech marvels

Apple aficionados were thrilled as usual by the announcements made by Steve Jobs in yesterday's keynote presentation at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. After last year's introduction of the revolutionary iPhone, many observers weren't sure that the Apple CEO would be able to surprise the world in a comparable fashion today. For me, the most striking aspect of today's keynote was the emergence of a coherent and integrated approach to computing, multimedia and the Internet that might be designated as the wireless philosophy. To see what this expression means, let's start with the most spectacular product presented today: the world's thinnest notebook, called MacBook Air. Steve Jobs actually extracted a specimen of this amazingly compact silver computer from an interoffice Manila envelope.

Much could be said about several splendid qualities of this machine: its LED-backlit display, its black backlit keyboard, etc. [Click the image to visit Apple's site, where you can find a lovely ad concerning this product, along with a guided tour of the new laptop.]

But I prefer to draw attention to a familiar component that is totally missing in this computer. It has no CD/DVD drive! At first sight, that sounds pretty crazy, because we've all become accustomed to using removable disks on our Macs to install new software, perform backups, play CDs and DVDs, etc. You can, of course, attach an external CD/DVD drive, but the absence of an inbuilt device sends out a new message. As far as the all-important question of backup is concerned, Macs running Leopard will henceforth be able to get backed up constantly and automatically by means of the extraordinary Time Machine software tool, which will store our precious data through a wireless connection on a delightfully simple piece of hardware called the Time Capsule:

This new approach to backup will be truly a godsend for a Mac user such as me... who has been struggling with the ugly Retrospect tool for too long.

As for other exciting announcements made by Steve Jobs, such as the possibility of renting movies through the Internet, they affect a spectators' multimedia universe that doesn't really concern me greatly. Maybe I'll end up giving in to the gadget charm of the iPhone, whose new software will make it possible to ascertain the user's geographical location by means of an ingenious system that has nothing to do with GPS. [See Apple's website for details.]

Right from the start, back in the early '80s, I became a fan of Apple products for the simple reason that they were usually ingenious, powerful and friendly. Over the last few years, I haven't been too astonished to discover that Apple's imagination and superiority are soaring exponentially. I can understand perfectly why Steve Job is looked upon, throughout the planet, as an exceptional visionary.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Apple and the others

Apple's latest publicity in the personal computing domain, directed aggressively against Microsoft's Vista system, is a little like firing upon an ambulance... but few of us Mac enthusiasts feel sorry for Bill Gates and his failing universe.

In the iPhone domain, Apple's ads have been delightfully naive, invoking nice reassuring individuals such as an airline pilot equipped with his ever-present friendly iPhone.

This kind of publicity can be easily spoofed. I love this specimen about a friendly guy whose favorite pastime is punching cops and then running like hell. In a memorable line that deserves to go down in cellphone ad history, he explains: "Finding an escape route after a random act of violence can be tricky." Thankfully, he owns an iPhone!

In a neighboring domain, Google has just announced its much-awaited Android system, with $10 million of prize money offered to ingenious software developers. I'm going to try to jump onto this bandwagon, in ways that I'm already indicating to interested friends.