Joe Maller.com

WWDC 2009 Predictions

There’s been a lot of stuff going on in my life this year, and I haven’t had much time to prepare for WWDC or even really to think about it before getting here. But I’ve posted my predictions for the past handful of years so I jotted some thoughts down on the plane. I haven’t been keeping up with the rumors, so these are quite literaly pulled out of thin air. This is last minute again, I’m posting this from the keynote line. I’ll update with right/wrong and clean up typos after the show.

Snow Leopard

Apple will claim they lied last year they said Snow Leopard would have “no new features.” They’ll probably position it as “this was just too cool not to put in.” What we’ll see will be a radical rethinking of elements of the OS X Interface. The team who built the iPhone UI will have been brought back to the OS group to work their magic on Mac OS. The features may not be ready yet and might not be included in the developer build, but it will be demoed and highly publicized. (just don’t call it leopard skin) Possible strategies include something like “the iPhone was built with the best of Mac OS X, now we’re bringing the best of iPhone back to the Mac.” [wrong, but probably just too early]

The total re-thinking of the window menu bar in the Safari beta and elements of the iLife interface (hopefully the less infuriating subset) will prove to have been a hint of what’s coming. Aside from revamping the appearance and function of interface windows, I expect some sort of real-time text suggestion/correction system similar to the iPhone’s inline typing corrections.

We still won’t get true resolution independence. I really want to run at AppleDisplayScaleFactor 0.8, but it doing so breaks all sorts of little things around the system. [seems right, but we'll see]

Hardware

New iPhones will be announced and demoed, but they won’t be available for a month or two. A lot of iPhone 3.0 is known already, but one thing we might see is some sort of demonstration where the iPhone becoming an auxiliary input and display device for nearby macs. Sort of like Remote but more functional. [right on iPhones] [wrong on timing]

I’m doubtful about any new hardware, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see a small upgrade to portables coupled with a simplified portable product line. The distinction between MacBook and MacBook Pro has gotten really fuzzy. [right on new iPhones]

Portables will also be acquiring location-awareness through a basic GPS chip. If they don’t, I’ll just repeat this one for the next Apple product announcement and for every subsequent announcement until it comes true. It is insane that any portable computing device doesn’t know where it is. [still wrong, so I'll be trotting this out again next time]

No tablets or Netbooks. Though everyone will be talking in hushed whispers about their hackintoshes. [right, too easy]

I’d be terrified to bring a hacked-Mac netbook to WWDC, but someone, possibly quite a few, will. I have to leave the conference early this year to attend a wedding, I will be starting a rumor that Apple saw my hacBook and threw me out of Moscone for running Mac OS X on non-apple hardware. [right. I saw many netbooks, though only one guy dumb ballsy enough to run Mac OS X on his]

Jobs is the elephant in the room. Everyone seems to expect some sort of appearance. I don’t think he’ll be here, but if he does appear it will be either via video iChat or there will be a video letter/statement. Either one of those will be an unintentionally hilarious recreation of the 1984 Apple ad. [too much waffling on my part to call this either way]


Last Minute Macworld SF ’09 Predictions

If this isn’t the last Macworld Expo, in 2010 everyone will say it should have been.

What I think we’ll see

  • New Mac Minis. [ wrong ] I don’t even care what the specs are, I’m buying at least one for the office. I’ve been putting this purchase off forever waiting for a newer revision, the current model has been unchanged since August ’07.
  • Unibody 17″ MacBook Pros. [ right ] This just seems obvious. I don’t know how much stock I put in the non-removable battery rumors, though it’s not inconceivable that battery access was reducing rigidity in the aluminum and was dropped for structural reasons. [ wrong ]
  • iLife and iWork 09. [ right ] I just hope Apple looked long and hard at Mobile Me and then ran as fast as they can in the opposite direction.
  • A new 30″ Cinema Display with Mini DisplayPort connectors and a camera. [ wrong ]
  • Phil Schiller will be wearing buttons. [ right ] Consensus will be that he was boring because he didn’t do anything insane.
  • Steve Jobs will not appear. I get the impression he’s so far past completely annoyed with the media attention that there’s no chance he’ll iChat in just to bump the stock a few dollars. [ right ]
  • The stock market is just too erratic these days to call any dependable reaction. I have some feeling that the stock will be punished for less than earth-shattering announcements, [ right ] but it all depends on the broader market. I’m going to be watching the UltraShort tech ETFs.

What I’d like to see

  • I’m hoping for a significant update to the AppleTV. If Apple don’t start taking this product seriously, they’re going to lose this market — if they haven’t already. Roku and Tivo are cutting deals with Amazon and Netflix for huge libraries of TV and movies on demand. These alternates are tempting, especially compared with the often anemic rental selection available from iTunes.

    There’s a lot to hate about the current AppleTV, the movie browsing interface, where you have to scan movie poster thumbnails with text that only appears when active is just horrible. AppleTV doesn’t have to suck like this, make it awesome, just don’t break Boxee.

  • Time Capsule, the Mac Mini and Apple TV… seems like there’s a lot of crossover there.
  • iTunes needs some fresh thinking regarding some interface and usability features, especially regarding video content and large libraries. I’d love to have a media server where I could create playlists from any of the computers in the house, all accessing the same media library. I also would love to be able to sync a subset of my library onto my portable for traveling.
  • iPhoto: Faster please, with less sucking. And share movies already. I’m definitely going to be checking out Picasa and I hope the competition pushes Apple to make iPhoto really shine.

Is Apple pulling out of MWSF so they can attend CES in Las Vegas? I just don’t see it. No matter how much of the Consumer Electronics Show revolves around the iPod ecosystem, CES just feels kind of lowbrow for Apple. Besides, these days Apple can get a gaggle of media assembled in Cupertino on a moment’s notice with five-words and a picture of a light beam. Whenever they want.

I haven’t been to a Macworld Expo in years, but I have fond memories of attending the Boston Expo in the mid 90s. I wish I could go this year, the last-hurrah zeitgeist seems like it would be fun to share in.


WWDC 08 wrapup

WWDC 08 was incredible. While the iPhone gold rush euphoria contributed, everything just seemed especially good this year.

I’ve been quietly disappointed in Leopard since it shipped. It just seemed too rough around the edges and somewhat rushed, especially compared to the polish demonstrated by the iPhoneOS. Because of that, I’m probably more excited about Snow Leopard than I was about Leopard. Besides the promise of generally improving the overall experience, the under-the-hood OpenCL and “Grand Central” additions are truly revolutionary advances for desktop OSs. The idea behind OpenCL being able to utilize the largely untapped parallel processing power of the GPU has the potential to radically reorganize the entire idea of computing, moving things distinctly towards a brain-like collection of specialized processing units. I’ve been joking this is OS X SP1 but that’s just not true, Apple is mainlining some serious innovation into the backend of Snow Leopard and this should be a very, very good release.

My plan for this year worked very well. I managed to set aside the week prior to essentially cram on Cocoa and Objective-C. While that was originally supposed to be three weeks, the time I eeked out still helped a great deal. I also maintained a very disciplined focus about which sessions I went to. In the past I’ve flitted around trying to get a taste of every subject that interested me — which is almost everything. This year’s deliberate focus and pre-study nearly eliminated the blank-stare drift I’d experienced in the past and left me feeling more confident than ever about building stuff with Cocoa, writing FXPlugs and making things for iPhone.

But far and away the best thing about this year was the people. Twitter made a lot of this possible by starting conversations beforehand. I think I probably met half my twitterstream in person, which was awesome and kind of funny. The social dynamic of first meeting twitterers is sort of one where everyone treats everyone else like a celebrity. It ended up being this wonderful abstracted feeling of recognition which wasn’t nearly as creepy as it sounds like it would be. My only regret is not meeting the handful of people I knew were there but never crossed paths with.

There are just too many people to call out, but I was blown away by just about everyone I met.


Really last minute WWDC predictions

Short this year, but I wanted to get something up.

  • New iPhone demo
  • iPhone not immediately available
  • 10.6 demo. No, this isn’t 10.5 SP1 (really!)
  • No new MacBook Pro, much as I want one
  • A cleaner architectural re-alignment of OS X from a developer perspective
  • Twitter will melt
  • AAPL will be up at the end of the day
  • I don’t see how they can launch the store until next week. Half the people here would be immediately flooded with support and administrative requests. There will be pre-launch resources available, but the store won’t launch right away.

    10.5 is great, but there are a lot of rough edges. The rumors about 10.6 being previewed are probably true, but I don’t think this will be a $129 upgrade. This will essentially be Service Pack 1. Apple isn’t Adobe, they won’t charge money to fix things that are broken.

    Twitter is going to add such a bizarre additional layer to this.

    And we’re walking in… or at least closer.


Home movies as iTunes TV Shows

Update: At some point, probably with iTunes 8 though I didn’t notice at the time, iTunes added support for batch changing video format, making the script featured in this post obsolete… as it should be.

itunes_multiple_info

Original post follows.

We usually keep our home movies in iPhoto, but recently I’ve started moving some select clips into iTunes. Unfortunately, the list of Movies quickly becomes unmanageable. These kinds of videos are much easier to work with when grouped as TV shows, but unfortunately iTunes won’t batch convert Video Kind.

So I wrote a script. In addition to defining selected movies as a show, it also tags their season with the current year and sets the Show Title. Here’s the script: (Open in Script Editor)

set showTitle to display dialog “Enter TV Show Title” default answer “Family Videos” buttons {“Cancel”, “Ok”} default button 2

set theYear to year of (current date) as integer

tell application “iTunes”

copy selection to tracklist

repeat with theTrack in tracklist

set show of theTrack to text returned of showTitle

set season number of theTrack to theYear

set video kind of theTrack to TV show

end repeat

end tell

 

To use that, just select some movies in iTunes and run the script. Whatever’s selected will be tagged and grouped under the title you entered.

Now our home movies are all grouped together and easily synced to iPhones or other iTunes fed products like iPods and Apple TVs. To view videos on any of those devices, the movies will need to be converted to iPod compatible format. QuickTime can do it, but iSquint/VisualHub can do it much faster.

This could have been done with AtomicParsley, but AppleScript is easier and pre-installed on every Mac.

What would be really great is if iTunes and iPhoto could talk to one another and pull video content out. iPhoto has supported movies for years now, why can’t they talk to each other? (because neither was designed for handling video formats?)

There’s plenty of room to improve this, if you do please post a link in the comments.


iTransmogrify update

The main iTransmogrify! script has been updated with a bunch of new functionality:

  • YouTube.com pages are now supported (see notes)
  • Daily Motion videos are supported for new-style urls (see notes)
  • Kink.fm player and listings page are now supported
  • Sideload.com play links are now supported
  • WordPress Blogs using Viper Video QuickTags are supported for YouTube
  • All media links now open into new windows, so you won’t have to re-transmogrify a page with several media files after playing one. Note that this is dependent on the iPhone, sometimes it will blank other windows)
  • Some content in iframes will now be converted.
  • MotionBox, Viddler and Vimeo embedded videos, while not supporting iPod/iPhone alternate content, now link to their respective detail pages.

The main bookmarklet code was updated. This was necessary to workaround a frustrating oversight with Google Code hosting. Everyone will need to update their bookmarklet, in the future all updates will be automatic.

This has turned out to be far bigger than I ever imagined. Thank you to everyone for the links, feedback, compliments and ideas.

Known issues

LiveJournal pages redefine a bunch of core JavaScript functionality, breaking all kinds of stuff including jQuery. Additionally, they’re serving media in an iframe from a different domain, meaning JavaScript couldn’t access the frame even if they hadn’t broken it.

Notes

YouTube Internal pages
Because of a strange iPhone quirk, these links all need to go through the Google redirector, otherwise they bounce back to uk.youtube.com instead of playing.

DailyMotion
DailyMotion videos using new-style urls, which are usually about six digits long, work correctly. Videos using the old-style alphanumeric ID do not work yet. I’m probably just going to resort to building a simple web-service to grab those. Additionally, there is no way to programatically access the mp4 alternate content url, so I just linked to their iPhone pages. I’d prefer embedding QuickTime directly, but it’s just not possible yet.


Rotating sub-pixel text rendering

John Gruber of Daring Fireball (thanks for the link!) knows a lot about font-rendering, however in a recent post discussing screen-rotation and sub-pixel text rendering he let this slip:

“I tested it on my Cinema Display with the screen rotated 90°, and, to my eyes, sub-pixel anti-aliasing still looked good.”

That is just preposterous. Aside from his observation being completely wrong, he also revealed a bug in OS X: The current system doesn’t recognize rotated pixel orientations, sub-pixel rendering on rotated screens should probably be disabled automatically. (rdar://problem/5627732)

Here are two screenshots of my browser’s address bar as displayed on my Cinema Display, which clearly shows the difference. The top image is Leopard’s default sub-pixel rendering. The second image is the same bar photographed with my display rotated 90°, the photo was then rotated back in Photoshop for better comparison.

Comparison of rotated sub-pixel type

The text was apparently calculated against the presumed horizontal LCD primary orientation. But because the pixels were rotated, several of the letterform stems (verticals) are drawing as full-pixel-width colored lines. The first “h” is especially glaring, its stem and stroke are drawn as a pair of dark red and light blue lines.

Sub-pixel rendering takes advantage of a known horizontal alignment of the three color primaries that make up each physical pixel. The algorithm seems to render text at 3x the horizontal resolution, ignoring the color information and treating each third-pixel as a valid light source to use for drawing letterforms. That 3x width is then striped with red, green and blue to match screen’s component primary ordering. (That was an educated guess)

As Steve Weller stated in the post John linked, the human eye has “pathetic color-resolution”. This fact is exploited all over the place in video, with many formats sampling color only once for every four luminance pixels.

Several things are at play here:

  1. Human vision is the bifocal product of horizontally arranged eyes.
  2. Most written human language uses letterforms which are vertically oriented and horizontally distinguished. Especially Latin-derived languages.
  3. Most human languages read horizontally.
  4. Human vision tends to be less color sensitive for motion, or when scanning information (like reading)

It all just kind of worked out perfectly. Digital color reproduction combined our horizontal predisposition with our soft and slow perception of color, and then arranged color primaries horizontally. Text also reads horizontally, and since the viewer is rapidly moving their eyes, we perceive shape and contrast before color. Additionally, Latinate languages evolved letterforms which utilize horizontal variations against a largely regular vertical syncopation. Presto: sub-pixel rendering just seems fantastically obvious.

Regarding John’s closing supposition,

“I’m not sure the iPhones rotating display is reason enough to rule out sub-pixel rendering.”

Based on everything leading up to sub-pixel rendering in the first place, most of the benefits would be lost if the underlying pixel grid was vertically oriented. The sensitivity of computer text falls across the horizontal axis. Adding resolution to the vertical axis isn’t worth the effort.

Sub-pixel rendering is ultimately a transitional technology anyway, a half-step that improves the now while waiting for a better and inevitable future to arrive. Once we start seeing iPhone level pixel-densities all over the place, sub-pixel rendering will began its transition to technology footnote.

Digital displays will someday reach a point where every physical pixel is capable of producing every color of visible light. (And someone will doubtlessly push into near infrared and ultra-violet, claiming increased realism and fidelity). Future displays will also be operating at a density where anti-aliasing may not be necessary at all.

I still think Apple’s decision to use standard anti-aliasing for the Leopard menu bar was a mistake. Unless they’ve got some spiffy high-pixel-density cinema displays ready for MacWorld and enable system-wide resolution independence in 10.5.x, switching to standard anti-aliased text rendering in the menu bar was a change that should have been postponed. The necessary hardware pool just isn’t here yet and the result is an interface that looks markedly worse than it did under previous releases.



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