Is This When The Cubs Pull Away?

I haven’t written a whole lot about the Cubs lately. Actually, I haven’t written a whole lot this month about anything, but today is the day I get back on track. Anyway, I haven’t written about the Cubs lately because they’ve been stressing me out. One day they’re up; the next day they’re down. Basically, I haven’t wanted to jinx anything be getting too excited when the Cubbies are in first place.

With only fifteen games left, it’s time to close this thing out. The Cubs have three more critical games against the Cardinals, six games against the Reds, three games against the Pirates, and three games against the Marlins. With this schedule, the Cubs should be able win all or most of these series. The Cardinals and Brewers will beat each other up in a couple weeks so that should help the situation. I’m feeling pretty good about the Cubs chances this year. Is it possible they can pull off a coup and sneak into the World Series like the Cardinals did last year? I can’t wait to see how this all turns out. Hopefully I’ll have nails left by the end of the season.

Go Cubs!!!

The Power of Music and Childhood

My daughter, Kyah, has a birthday coming very soon, and the presents are starting to trickle in from relatives around the country. Uncle Terry and Urbis got her all sorts of cool gifts including an MP3 player that she’s been listening to almost daily. I hooked it up to my Mac to see how easy it would be to update it, and I put some Beatles music on there to see if it would work. Sure enough, it worked just fine, and I’ve been able to teach her how to turn it on and play songs. We’re still working on learning how to turn it off so we’ve burned through a few batteries, but we’re getting there.

Now that you know the back story, I can finally get to the point of this post. Kyah has really taken a liking to the Beatles which I think is one of the coolest things ever. I remember listening to the Beatles with my mom and dad so it’s nice to see another generation enjoying their music. Kyah said the coolest things I’ve ever heard a kid say in my life the other day. She was listening to “Here Comes The Sun,” and she handed one of the ear buds to me so I could hear what she was listening to, and then she says, “Dad, this song is really hopeful and joyful, isn’t it.” I was almost speechless when the words came out of her mouth. After a few moments, I finally responded, “Yes, Ky, it is very hopeful and joyful.” It’s these moments that remind me how amazing my daughter is. I mean, really, how many little kids can listen to the lyrics of a song and feel hope and joy? She’s going to change the world some day.

To Touch or Not to Touch

Unless you’ve been buried under a rock for the last week, you already know that Apple released an entire new line of iPods at their special event on Wednesday. The iPod shuffle has been refreshed with new colors, the iPod nano has a whole new look and feel, the iPod is now a classic, and the iPod touch is the iPhone’s younger cousin. Consumers now have more choices than ever when it comes to their iPod purchases.

Without spending time with the new models, it looks like Apple has a winning lineup for this holiday season. The thing that bothers me a bit is that if I were to buy a new iPod, I would have to choose between form and storage. I would love to have an iPod touch because of its incredible user interface and its new wireless features. The problem with the iPod touch for me is that it really has very little storage. My music library is humongous, I subscribe to many podcasts, I have a very large photo collection, and I have a ton of television shows and movies from my TiVo that I would love to take with me on the road. It would be incredibly annoying for me to constantly have to pick and choose which media to take with me if I only had 16GB of storage to work with. On the other hand, the new iPod classic has enough storage to hold every single one of my media files assuming I don’t put every single movie on there. The classic would be a huge upgrade over my 20GB iPod (dock connector). I would gain photos and video and a whole lot more, but I wouldn’t have Internet or the touch interface.

So, now you know my dilemma. Do I touch, or do I go with a classic?

Probstisms Review: Google Docs

With Microsoft once again delaying the release of Office 2008 for Mac, you may be rethinking your reliance on the folks up in Redmond for your word processing needs. Apple recently released iWork ’08 which helps fill the gap, but there are other options available that provide powerful, easy to use word processing at a very reasonable price (Free!).

Google Docs is Google’s entry into the word processing space. Docs provides an impressive list of features, and considering that the application is web based and free, the features are even more amazing.

Editing

If you are familiar with Microsoft Word or any other word processing application on the market, you will feel very comfortable with Google Docs. Docs provides all of the features you would expect to see like undo, redo, copy, paste, bullets, alignment, etc. You also have a number of fonts and colors to choose from although I would like to see more font families added in the future.

Docs also provides the ability to insert images, hyper links (including links to other Google Docs), comments, tables, bookmarks, and separators (including page breaks). For each type of object, the interface provides enough options to control exactly how the objects appear in the document. For example, when you add an image to a document, Google Docs can resize the image based on the setting you choose, and you can also set the alignment and text wrapping. This is all done with a few clicks on the mouse.

One feature that users will find to be very helpful is the Revisions feature. Docs automatically saves your document as you type, and it provides a very easy way to go back and see and revert to each revision if the need arises. Docs also provides the ability to compare different revisions (think Track Changes in Word). This is a very powerful feature and one that I expect will be used very often.

Collaboration

The most impressive feature of Google Docs is its ability to share documents with other Google Docs users. When you share a document, you can make other users collaborators on the document. Those users can make changes to the document while you are making changes. This is extremely useful when working remotely with other people around the world. This also makes the Revisions feature even more important in case one of the collaborators accidentally deletes or changes a section of the document that shouldn’t have been changed.

In addition to adding collaborators to a document, you also add viewers. As the name implies, these users can only view the document and cannot make any changes. This makes it possible to share documents with others while maintaining full control over the content.

With more and more people working remotely, the sharing features in Google Docs makes it very easy to work with other team members with real time collaboration.

Publishing

With Google Docs, it is very easy to publish your work so the world can see it in all of its glory. Users can choose to publish the document using Google’s servers. The document will receive its own web address (URL) that you can send to anyone that needs to see the document. Users can also choose to publish their documents to their own personal blog. Google Docs supports most of the major blogging services as well as several APIs for self hosted blogs.

Working Offline

As with other web-based applications, the one negative for Google Docs is that it cannot provide a seamless offline experience. Google has been working on a product called Google Gears which may be something that could make it possible for users to work in Google Docs while offline. If you would like to experiment with Google Gears, you can work with it while using Google Reader.

Without an offline mode, users must export their documents in order to work with them offline. Here, Google Docs provides many format options including HTML, RTF, Word, OpenOffice, PDF, and Text. Once you are back online, you can import the document back into Google Docs and continue to work with it through the web interface. Obviously this is not the smoothest user experience.

Conclusions

Google Docs is a very powerful word processing tool that has all of the features most users would need in a very easy to use web based interface. With its collaboration functionality, it is way ahead of most of its higher priced competitors. As long as you maintain a connection to the Internet, Google Docs provides a more than adequate replacement to Microsoft Word for Mac. If you’ve had enough of Microsoft’s word processing behemoth, I recommend that you give Google Docs a try.

So, Should I Be Excited about This Starbucks Thing?

At the special Apple event on Wednesday, Apple introduced a collaboration with Starbucks. Basically, if you go into a Starbucks Coffee shop with an iPhone, iPod touch, or laptop running the latest version of iTunes, you will be automatically connected to the iTunes Store and Starbucks Now Playing content for free. Really, how many times have you walked into a Starbucks and wondered what song was playing? Now, you can buy the song right from your iPhone, iPod touch, or laptop.

The announcement was pushed to the side by most of the media, but this partnership has huge potential. Let’s think for a minute about other restaurants that play music as part of their concept. Two that come to mind immediately are Chipotle and Potbelly Sandwich Works. Surely other restaurants will want to get in on the action.

If we take this a step further, where else do people listen to music while they may have an iPhone or iPod touch with them? Now, concert venues of all shapes and sizes come into the picture. It would be pretty cool if while you were at a place like the House of Blues listening to a concert, you could buy the song being played or perhaps even the entire album from the artist. This is especially true of opening acts that just blow you away.

Apple and Starbucks may have started something truly revolutionary with this new partnership.

Why The iPod Halo Effect Was Just The Beginning

As a long time Apple computer user, it is sometimes hard for me to understand why Windows users are so afraid of giving a Macintosh a chance. Working in a Windows world, I have had countless conversations with co-workers about which computer they should buy next, and, of course, I always suggest they should buy a Macintosh. This statement is always countered with the normal Mac-bashing comments: “They’re more expensive,” “I don’t know how to use one,” “There’s no software.” When you think about it, Microsoft has done a fantastic job at convincing the world that these comments are actually true. When I hear comments like this, I often go into my usual speech about how Macs are competitively priced with Windows computers of the same quality and because Macs use the same processors as Windows
machines, it is possible to run Windows and all of their favorite Windows applications if they really want to. This information is usually received with a bit of shock as if it’s the first time they have ever heard it. Occasionally, someone will come back and thank me because they went with a Mac and will never go back. What a great feeling it is to save yet another soul from Microsoft.

I do have to say that the iPod has made these conversations much easier over the last five years. Now, people usually come to me and say, “Hey, I really love my iPod. Is a Mac this easy to use?” Gladly, I can answer this question with a resounding “Yes!” I have no doubt that people are buying Macintosh computers for the first time because the iPod has given them a glimpse into why Mac users are so loyal to their computers. iPod users see the ease of use, they see the attention to detail, and they see the high quality of the product. The iPod Halo Effect is clearly working.

With the introduction of the iPhone and now the iPod touch, Apple has made it even easier for millions to see why a Macintosh is so easy and fun to use. On each one of those little devices is Apple’s Trojan Horse, Mac OS X. Without even knowing it, iPhone and iPod touch users are enjoying the benefits of an operating system built to just work. Like the iPod before them, every one of those iPhones and iPod touches is a portable demonstration of the power and ease of Mac OS X. As Apple introduces more products based on OS X, it will become clearer and clearer for more consumers that Apple truly makes the best computing products available today.

The iPod was just the beginning. The iPhone and iPod touch have kicked the halo effect into high gear.

Paul McCartney on BBC 1

So, Fake Steve Jobs says that Apple will change the world all over again today. Even though I know he’s fake, he gives a sweet little tidbit of information on his blog this morning. Paul McCartney will be doing some sort of announcement at 10:00 AM PDT. Is it just coincidence that this is exactly the same time Steve Jobs will be starting the Apple special event in San Francisco? I think not! Go out and get your free trial for Sirius radio and listen in a little less than an hour.

More Evidence of NBC’s Stupidity

I’ve already written about the silliness going on between Apple and NBC here and here. Now, NBC and Amazon announce that NBC’s shows are now available through Amazon Unbox. Let me paint the picture for you. Shows like The Office are available for $1.99 per episode and can be played on two PCs (Windows) and two portable devices (PlaysForSure) at the same time. The shows can also be downloaded directly to networked TiVo devices. You can download entire seasons at discounted prices. Does all of this sound familiar? This is basically the same pricing that we saw on the iTunes Store.

So what’s the big difference here? Well, with iTunes, you can play the shows on five computers and any number of iPods at the same time. Is this possibly what NBC was complaining about when they decided to not renew their contract? So, they basically went from iTunes which runs on virtually 100% of personal computers and the iPod which holds over 70% of the digital media player market to a Windows only Amazon application and PlaysForSure devices which account for less than 30% of the market. How in the world did NBC think they were making the right decision here? This seems like an enormous step backwards to me. This has to be a bargaining ploy by NBC to try to get Apple to let them tighten up the number of devices on which their content can be played. Because the pricing is the same, this has to be the sticking point between Apple and NBC.

Via (TechCrunch)

Rubin Knows Music, Not Consumers

The New York Times ran an article in The Times Magazine on Sunday about Rick Rubin. For those of you who don’t know who Rick Rubin is, he is a legendary music producer that has been around the block with the likes of LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Johnny Cash. Rubin recently took on the challenge of leading Columbia Records with Steve Barnett. For the sake of a great record label like Columbia Records and the sake of the music industry in general, I hope Rubin is successful at transforming Columbia into a new kind of label.

In his interview with The Times, he made some comments about how the future of music was going to be a subscription model. I cannot disagree more with Rubin on this point. It has been proven time and again that consumers have little to no desire to rent their music. The success of iTunes provides enough evidence for most to understand this. Music is a very personal thing. Music stirs emotions. Music brings back memories of certain times in your life. Who would want to rent something that important? This is the fundamental difference between music and video, and this is why all subscription based music products have failed to date.

People want to own their music, period. There is something to be said about flipping through your old albums to find something you listened to in high school or college or when your kids were born. Who would want to pay subscription fees for decades to be able to relive memories like that? Let’s hope Rick changes his mind and leads Columbia in the right direction.

Via (CrunchGear)

Apple vs. NBC Part II

A couple days ago, I first wrote about the spat between Apple and NBC over iTunes pricing and policies. A couple press releases have gone back and forth with the two companies basically blaming each other for the contract problems. At this point, it’s really difficult to believe who’s being honest with the public. The biggest problem with the whole situation is that now that the two companies have started fighting in public, it will be even more difficult to come together for an agreement that makes it look like both companies win. Let’s hope that both companies make the best decision for the consumers who have come to rely on buying episodes from iTunes when they miss them on television. It doesn’t make any business sense for Apple to block NBC shows from being on iTunes, and it doesn’t make sense for NBC to not sell their shows on the best digital media store on the Internet. I have to agree with The Unofficial Apple Weblog on this one. The two companies will come together and come up with an agreement before the end of the year. Nothing else makes any sense.