Tuesday
May202008

Re: Common Myths for the Macintosh

David Alison's Blog: Common Myths for the Macintosh: "There are however an increasing number of people that are moving to Macs now - many of them people like me that hated Macs at one time. I believe there are lots of reasons for this, not the least of which is that people that are running Windows XP are faced with an upgrade to Vista as their next logical step and feel that maybe it's okay to consider a Mac since they have to go through a full operating system refresh anyway.

One of the reasons I was not interested in Macs for a very long time was that I clung to many facts about the Mac that I felt eliminated it from contention. Well, as with many things in life it turns out the facts that I knew about the Mac were either hopelessly outdated or simply myths. What I wanted to do was tell you the ones that I was aware of and often cited when I dismissed Macs in the past."

(Via David Alison's Blog .)

I love reading these articles from switchers, especially technical ones. Interestingly, these are exactly the things that I've been explaining to my PC-using friends and colleagues for years. The question that still remains is why didn't people believe me up until recently?

I think that given the status quo of XP, they were content to ignore my demonstrations of OS X, but post-Vista release, it seems that people started paying more attention. The basic facts of the situation have been pretty static on the Apple side (counting from the release of Tiger) but most people were unwilling to accept the facts I presented as detailed by Mr Alison. I suspect that the bad press (and some disappointing experiences) surrounding Vista had more of an effect that people are willing to admit to. Or was it the insanely massive buzz around the iPhone that made people stop off at the Apple site more frequently and be exposed to the OS X collateral as they passed through looking for more iPhone information?

On the Vista front, I'd say that highly technical people are the ones who were first in line for Vista and that seems to be where I'm seeing the most movement to OS X. Something that's really important here is that these people are influencers that non-technical people look to for advice.

There's obviously some additional factors at play other than just Apple's products and marketing since the latest NPD stats show that Apple has an astounding 66% retail marketing in machines over $1,000 in the US last quarter. Now this is exceptionally interesting when you figure that most corporations don't buy retail, so this is truly the general public's voice speaking here. It means that when individuals are ready to put down a serious amount of their own money, they're choosing the Mac.

The pessimist pundits are all saying that the reason is because Apples are more expensive, but that's only part of the picture. The fact that these are the figures while we're in an economic downturn, combined with totally flat PC growth means that the high end PC market has disappeared and been replaced by the Mac market. If the numbers were more evenly distributed, or if it was also in a period of overall growth I could almost understand it. It indicates to me that people with willing to spend the money are no longer content with the cheap-PC experience and want something else.

Now it's not a vote in pure numbers, but I'm willing to bet that the people who buy the more expensive machines are also the people that carry more influence so I'd say that we're seeing the beginning of a generational shift here.

I really wish I knew what the tipping point was that obliged switchers to revisit their internalized myths regarding Apple and actually take the step towards purchasing one. I'm curious. What is the catalyst that lets switchers look past their internalized myths and misconceptions?

For amusement's sake - here are a few more that I still run into today :

  • It doesn't matter since Microsoft bought Apple back when they were in trouble (referring to the 150M stock purchase back in 1997, which was more of a PR move than anything else)
  • (often nonsensically combined with) Microsoft only keeps Apple alive in order to not be a monopoly
  • Apples are really chatty on the network (referring to the obsolete Appletalk protocol)
Monday
May192008

Review: "Here comes everybody" by Clay Shirky

I've long been a fan of Clay Shirky's writings published on the web, and just finally received my copy of his latest published work "Here comes everybody" which collates much of this work into a very nicely packaged tour of the impacts of our new media world on social networks and group behaviour.

My first introduction to Clay's works was his article Ontology is overrated, which is an essay on the transformative power of tags vs categorization. It opened my eyes and quantified something I'd been seeing happen, but unable to express coherently. Highly recommended reading.

His new book covers the transformative power of our newly acquired ability to form groups of various sizes and types based on the tools that are now ubiquitous due to the various online tools that eliminate much of the friction of creating and assembling groups. The book is full of fascinating examples that, while anecdotal, clearly demonstrate that we are starting to move into a different era of communications.

This is a must read for anyone interested in the psychology of groups and the impact that ubiquitous social tools have on them.

He's not sitting still on these subjects, and his latest talk concerning what he calls the cognitive surplus of society is making the rounds and is well worth reserving 15 minutes to watch.

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday
May152008

Cool LaunchBar feature

I use LaunchBar as my primary application launcher on my daily machine and have been a happy customer for ages. There's a ton of subtle intelligence built into the application that often goes undiscovered until you type something by mistake

Up until today I've always launched NetNewsWire with my customary Control-Space, followed by 'netn' which works just fine. I was in the middle of typing a note about NetNewsWire with a colleague and had started abbreviated it as NNW and by chance I fired up LaunchBar and muscle memory fired off 'nnw' and it pulled NetNewsWire up to the top of the list!

Very cool. It would appear that in addition to the basic text string of the name of the application it also does some additional smart indexing based on capitalized letters, hence the efficiency of the 'nnw' shortcut. It also seems to index individual word elements, subdivided by the presence of capital letters in the names, so 'og' or 'graf' both get me to OmniGraffle in record time.

This is of course part of the ongoing effort to optimize all of those little daily repetitive actions and save a little more time here and there (so I have the extra moment to blog about it...)

Thursday
May152008

Getting extended attribute file information

Now here's something potentially useful. I'm often writing up documentation for clients and use PDF files that I've downloaded from various sites for supporting information. I can't simply copy the whole PDF into a Word document and dragging a multipage PDF document into Pages just imports the first page. So the usual solution is to note the URL where you can go get the document and put that into the text. Of course if you're like me, you have a ton of files downloaded and I certainly don't bookmark each and every one of them.

So what to do? Well, under 10.5 Apple has intelligently decided to give you some breadcrumbs in the extended attributes, including the URL from whence you downloaded the file. Except that it's tantalizingly out of reach. You can see it in the Get Info window, but you can't copy and paste it into your document. Nor can you click on the link to bring it up in Safari (note to self: file a bug report on that one). I'm not sufficiently masochistic to want to retype out some of these URLs that are usually buried 4 levels down on a vendor site so I went poking around on the command line.

Sure enough there's an easy way to get this information out fairly easily. On the command line the mdls command will happily dump out all of the various metadata information on the file, including the very useful "kMDItemWhereFroms" attribute. From there it's a simple copy and paste operation. Or you can be more specific and ask for this value only by specifying it by name:

mdls -name kMDItemWhereFroms myFile

Thursday
May152008

Rands In Repose: Saving Seconds

Rands In Repose: Saving Seconds: "The point of this exercise is awareness. Once you’ve found one or two shortcuts that shave a micro-second here and there, you’ll become more aware of other places where you’re repeating yourself. You’ll start looking for time-saving shortcuts elsewhere because there is bliss in saving time."
(Via Rands In Repose .)

Absolutely brilliant. This is a must read for anyone that spends any amount of time in front of a computer. I have to admit that it's physically painful for me to watch colleagues mousing around their desktop on either OS. At the end of the day, hunt and peck for a key is always going to be faster than hunt and click on a small target button.

Dialog boxes - why in the world do people (and I'm talking about serious computer geeks) click on individual text fields instead of tabbing and then grab the mouse to click the default button when they've got a nice big return key under their finger?