Send Some Holiday Cheer with iMix

The iMix feature in Apple’s iTunes Store is one that I have never really gotten in to. Sure, I used to mix cassette tapes when I was a kid, but for whatever reason, I’ve never really been one to build a lot of playlists in iTunes. That’s not to say that playlists and iMix aren’t really cool.

My buddy Terry Brown of Lazy Revolution fame sent an iMix to me today of some excellent jazz Christmas music. I’m not talking about the normal stuff you hear on the radio. Check out this iMix and see for yourself.

Now, to me, this is a great use of iMix. What better way to pass along some holiday cheer than to hip a friend on to some cool jazz music. If you have some favorite music you’d like to share, feel free to post a link in the comments section of this post.

The Joys of Traveling for Work

Traveling for work is always an interesting experience. A lot of questions flash through my mind before I leave. Will my kids be good for my wife while I’m gone? Will my flights leave on time? Will I run in to yet another incredible jerk on the plane that thinks he deserves something more than everyone else on the plane? Will the people at the client site be as sharp as nails or as dumb as rocks? Will I be able to get done faster than I thought so I can get home to my family? I’m sure a lot of business travelers have the same questions.

Traveling is always a crap shoot. Right now, I’m on a plane surrounded by a group with five tween or early teen kids. They all have their own gadgets, and they’ve generally been fairly well behaved. They have been watching movies with the speakers turned on which has kind of bothered me a bit, but I just cranked up the Allman Brothers on the iPod so I’m in good shape. One of the moms is directly in front of me and seems to be very unrefined and hick-ish, but I am flying to Saint Louis so I guess that’s to be expected a little. The guy next to me has clearly been on too many planes lately (he’s hunched over trying to sleep). I bet he does something similar to what I do. The guy next to him is the jerk of the flight who has treated a truly great flight attendant with complete disrespect. He doesn’t look like the typical road warrior so maybe he’s just always like that.

Anyway, like I said, traveling for work is always an interesting experience. Luckily, this is my last trip of the year. I wonder what 2008 will bring.

Safari Has A New Trick

I have been playing with Safari 3 on Mac OS X Tiger and Windows XP lately to see how it compares to Firefox. Safari 3 definitely launches faster than Firefox on both my Mac and PC, and it also seems to render pages faster. The RSS reader is still one of the best I have seen in any of the browsers although I have switched to Google Reader to keep track of my RSS feeds.

There are still some annoying page rendering differences between Firefox and Safari, and I’m not quite sure who to blame. Is it Apple that hasn’t built in support for the latest web standards, or is it the web designers that have built their website to look good on IE and Firefox? As a content creator, it is incredibly frustrating to me that each browser has its own quirks. My site looks perfect on Firefox and Safari, but it looks like crap in IE 6. For that, I place the blame on Microsoft for baking in a whole lot of proprietary code into IE 6. IE 7 does a much better job at rendering standards based pages, but it still has a ways to go.

I could go on and on forever about bad page rendering, but I did have a point for this post. Safari 3 has a really cool new feature that I have come to use a lot. Under the Window menu, there are two new options: Move Tab to New Window and Merge All Windows. I don’t have a whole lot of use for the first option, but I really like the Merge All Windows option. I have come to really enjoy using Tabs while browsing the Internet, and sometimes, a link will automatically open in a new window. I have to admit, it drives me nuts when this happens, and the Merge All Windows option has been a huge help.

Apple has once again introduced a great new feature to make browsing the Internet faster and easier. Now if they can get together with the major web sites to make sure the pages render properly, I’ll be a happy camper.

Rhapsody on TiVo

Ever since I saw this post on TiVo Blog, I have wanted to test drive the new Rhapsody service on TiVo. Well, I have finally had a chance to spend some time playing with the new Rhapsody service, and I have to say that it’s pretty darn good.

There are some annoying performance issues like songs cutting out and the pages locking up, but I’m not sure if it is because of the service or my wireless network. The USB Wi-Fi adapter I use with my TiVo is kind of old and isn’t in the best of shape so it doesn’t get a very good signal. I have seen comments on other blogs that the performance of the service is a little iffy so my performance issues could be a combination of the service and my USB adapter.

I really enjoy the ability to search for and listen to pretty much any artist I can think of. A feature I like even more is the ability to enter the name of one of my favorite artists and listen to their music along with similar artists. It really is a great way to hear artists and songs that I may have never been exposed to, and with the radio stations in Saint Louis, I need some way to hear something new.

Over all, I am very impressed with the new Rhapsody service on TiVo. I’m not sure that I would spend the money on a monthly subscription to Rhapsody because I have so much invested in iTunes, but for someone without a large music library, Rhapsody and TiVo make a perfect combination to get music from the Internet to the Family Room.

A Few Notes from A Casual User on Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.1

Mac OS X Leopard

I’m a Mac fan … I don’t go all crazy and have to have ALL the latest gadgets. For the record, I have an iPhone, iPod (I’m a generation behind), and a new 20″ aluminum iMac. OK, so I have to have some of the newest gadgets, but by most standards, I’m a very casual user.

Here is a list of the things I use the most:

Apple Apps:

-Safari
-iTunes
-iPhoto
-Mail
-iChat AV
-iCal (but mostly only on the iPhone)
-Address Book (to sync my iPhone)

Third Party Apps:

-Sirius Mac 2

…and a few others but used too scarcely to mention. I didn’t even have Office on my machine until about three months after I bought it.

So, in my casual use, there have been a few noticeable differences since upgrading to 10.5. I’m going to vent on two here:

Let’s start with Safari. I use Safari as my main web browser. I know that Safari 3 is still in Public Beta but I never used to have this problem. When viewing RSS feeds, it takes what feels like forever (up to about 10 seconds) to load as little as 5 new feeds. It never did this on the previous versions. I have not tried the RSS feed in Mail heavily yet so I don’t know if the problem exists there or not so I’ll have to try that and find out. Point is, I like viewing the RSS feeds in Safari while I’m browsing my other websites.

In iTunes, if I’m viewing a video (usually a TV show or music video), I often times will close the video window when it’s a music video that I don’t have the song file for. When I select another video, the audio will play, but the video window will not pop back up. If I select a size for the video screen, I get the turning beach ball, and iTunes quits. This also happened on Tiger so I’m not sure if it’s something I’m doing, but I don’t think such a simple thing should be such an issue.

More to come as I continue to discover new and hopefully exciting things!!

Editor’s Note: Greg Probst is the author of Blue Sleeves Blog and is a regular contributor to Probstisms.

Scoble’s Little Computer Problem

It sounds like Scoble’s pissed off at his Mac. Apparently, his computer had a little trouble after the latest Mac OS X update, and it was restarting over and over again. What this usually means is that there is some conflict either with hardware or other software drivers. I haven’t had a problem with a Mac OS X upgrade or update as far are I can remember, and I’ve been using the same Power Mac G4 since 1999. To think back even further, I don’t remember having any problems with System 7, Mac OS 8, or Mac OS 9. Now, that’s a lot of solid updates over the years.

I understand the frustration Scoble is feeling. There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when your computer isn’t working right. There are so many potential issues that it’s almost overwhelming to even get started with troubleshooting, but you have to do it. I’m really surprised he gave up so quickly and ran to his blog to light up Apple like a Christmas tree. His post really sounded like a computer novice wrote it, and I expect more from someone who has a background like Scoble. He could have at least pulled out his Mac OS X disk to see if it would work. Sometimes, it’s something really simple, but you have to at least start the troubleshooting process.

Unfortunately, I think this is just the beginning of the Apple backlash. There have been so many switchers in the last several years that there are bound to be people who feel like they need to run back to their Windows machines at the first sign of a problem with their Macs. They’ll spend a day or two with their Windows machines and realize why they moved to the Mac in the first place. Apple’s not perfect. Mac OS X isn’t perfect. It is certainly better than Windows, and that is coming from someone who has been using a Mac since System 7 and Windows since 3.1. Unless Microsoft makes some dramatic user-targeted improvements to Windows, I will confidently recommend Apple computers to anyone who asks.

If you want an entertaining response to Scoble’s little rant, you have to check out Fake Steve’s reaction. Hilarious!

Sirius’ XM Acquisition

For a really long time, I was very anti-Satellite radio. Why pay for something when you can get it for free? I just couldn’t understand why somebody would do such a thing!

When the head unit in my car stereo went out on my old car, I thought about upgrading to an HD Radio unit but couldn’t justify the cost of it … so I went with an HD Radio-ready unit just in case I wanted to upgrade. Luckily for me, only a few months later I bought a new car that had Sirius Satellite Radio pre-installed. At first, I was still kind of iffy on it, and being from Chicago, I had my favorite radio station, The Mix … and when I don’t have my Sirius, I definitely turn them on, but they had been doing this stupid social experiment, and that’s when I turned off over-the-air radio for good.

The choices that Sirius (and I’m going to be Sirius heavy here because I have never subscribed/used XM Radio) offers are amazing. Mainly, I listen to the music and talk stations as my two main staples. There’s a wide variety of point of views, from liberal left to radical right … and they seem to get along. Even the gay/lesbian station invites Fr. Dave from the Catholic channel on from time to time.

And for a number of months, there has been talk about an acquisition of XM by Sirius. Personally, I’m in support of the merger. While I’m not a share holder and therefore don’t have any say in the matter, CNN reports that shareholders of both have approved the acquisition to continue. Now, the only thing that can stand in the way is the U.S. Government … hopefully, it won’t be too bumpy for the two, but who knows. We’ll definitely see how it will play out.

I am very excited to see the combination of resources to focus on programming choice and flexibility of subscriptions rather than competition and customer retainment. From the same CNN article, it appears as if there has already been some preliminary discussion of the future choices that may be offered. You have Sirius, here, for a little more, pick some of XM and vice versa. Personally, I can’t see this going on for too long before they’re merged into one force. Why maintain two separate staffs, etc … But for my two cents, as little as they’re worth, I’m glad to see the acquisition move onto the next step. I know that Sirius has made a committed customer out of me (for now), so let’s see the service only get better!

Editor’s Note: Greg Probst is the author of Blue Sleeves Blog and is a regular contributor to Probstisms.

A New Probst on Probstisms

Today is a great day for Probstisms. I am very excited to announce that my brother, Greg, will soon be contributing content to the site. Like his big brother, Greg is a Mac guy and is into all of the latest and greatest gadgets from Apple and other companies. A love of music also seems to run in our family. Greg is almost nine years my junior so he will bring a younger perspective to Probstisms.

I look forward having Greg’s posts published here on Probstisms, and I think you’ll enjoy them too.

Welcome Greg!

Some New (Old) Posts

Some time ago, I wrote three blog posts as part of an application to join the blogging crew over at TUAW. Having not heard from them since I sent the application, I figure that it is time to make those posts public on Probstisms. All of the posts have been back dated to when they were written.

The first post is about the iPod halo effect.

The second post is about the Apple/Starbucks partnership.

The third post is a review of Google Docs from a Mac user’s perspective.

I felt pretty good about the posts at the time, and I hope you enjoy them too.