Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Shiny Software

I've installed a couple of updates to widely used programs: Internet Explorer 7 RC1, and iTunes 7.0.


I don't use IE6 much, I mostly use Firefox and Flock. I'm not religious about it, though, so I've been trying out the various revisions of IE7. RC1 is definitely a huge improvement over beta 1 and 2. It is much faster and smoother. It's still slow on my favorite JavaScript test, mostly because it is very slow with opening new windows. The UI has continued to be tweaked, and I think it looks pretty nice. I would not be surprised to see open source competitors adopt some of the UI paradigms seen in IE7.

Now would I use it instead of Firefox/Flock? Probably not. The extensions offered by Firefox still make it a better browser for me. Plus there are still some issues with IE7. For example, it still seems to screw up CSS -- probably because of their incorrect box model. It is horribly slow on scrolling on Slashdot, and has rendering problems on it. Again this is probably because of poor CSS implementation by Microsoft.

iTunes 7.0

I could talk about the new menus, UI tweaks, etc. but it's the album artwork-flipping view that is the coolest. Of course this requires artwork, and Apple is kind enough to provide this for free. I tried to perform this operation on my entire library and had mixed results. iTunes requires an exact match on both artist name and album name. Many of my CDs were ripped using EAC+Lame or CDex, so these names don't always exactly match with iTunes. For example, I had "On and On" by Joe Johnson, and iTunes could not come up with any artwork for it. I changed the title fo the CD to "On And On" and then iTunes found the artwork.

So it's a little buggy with the find artwork. It also seems a little bit slower, maybe because of the extra amount of metadata it's dealing with. I like the menus re-org, and don't mind the other UI changes. I've seen some people comment that it looks more like a Java Swing application, which I find amusing.

Of course iTunes was only a small part of the big announcements from Apple. Yes, my Nano is now officially "old" as it has been replaced by smaller, metallic Nanos. It's nice that they have a 8GB option, and I think it is cool that it only comes in black -- a little extra icing on the iPod status symbol. I was most impressed with its extended battery life and quicker charge time. Those are actually compelling features to me, but definitely not enough for me to replace my nano. I was a little interested by the lower priced, better performing iPods.

The really big news was the widely anticipated iTunes movies for sale. Yeah, they only have Disney (and Disney subsidiary) movies, but you know that will change. They used to only have ABC and Disney TV shows, and look how that has evolved. The pricing seems pretty good, and it's good that they've gone to near DVD quality.

But the real kick is the so-called "iTV." It is unheard of Apple to show a product that is not finished yet. Which makes me assume that it actually is finished, and will be available for the holiday season. Forget the "Q1 2007" -- Jobs is just toying with us.

The idea is great by the way. Forget putting a whole computer in your living room. Nobody wants to surf the web and read email on their TV. They do want to listen to music on their home theater sound system, watch videos and look at their huge photo collection. This little box is going to do all that perfectly. And... with $10 movie downloads off iTunes, it could become a very popular way to buy movies. Pre-order your movie for $10 and it downloads while you're asleep one night. Wake up, and watch it on your home theater system, or copy it to your iPod to watch on the plane or whatever.

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