iTunes / AppleTV movie rentals: a user point of view

At MacWorld in January 2008, Apple announced the shift from purchasing videos through iTunes to renting them (from the US store for now, with other countries to certainly follow). At the same time, they introduced updates to the software for iPods, iPhones and the Apple TV to make it all work together. And the other big news was the introduction of a digital copy on certain DVDs you can buy in stores (in North America). At about the same time, the “war” between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray is (already? / finally?) coming to an end with the solution backed by Sony in the lead. Having (almost) all the devices that form the iTunes ecosystem, I needed to give it a try.
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MacBook Air Multi-touch trackpad + airplane power = Interferences?

Comfortably sitting on a 15+ hours Air Canada flight between Vancouver, Canada and Sydney, Australia, I was looking forward to experiencing my MacBook Air for a longer period of time. Good news, I got plenty of battery time (above 5 hours) with normal usage and with all wireless disabled.

But after 5+ hours of usage, I needed to recharge the battery. Good news, there was a 110V power plug in the seat, so I connect my power adapter. And then, I get a huge surprise… the multi-touch trackpad starts behaving in a very strange way… the cursor starts jumping across the screen, when in the finder, the desktop icons change sizes… and as soon as I disconnect the power, everything is back to normal. I was therefore able to watch a movie on the Air, but every time I needed to move the cursor, I had to disconnect the power cord first???

I will try this again on my flight back, and if the problem is still there, I will report the details to Apple. It sounds really strange that a sub-notebook designed for road-warriors could have problems when used in a typical scenario for the target audience.

Winterlude in Ottawa, 2nd year

As posted in my blog last year, people in Ottawa enjoy going outside when the temperature drops below -10 degrees Celsius. Winterlude, or should I say the celebration of Winter, this year is no exception to the rule. Today was a beautiful day here in Ottawa and provided for a great excuse to go and see the ice sculptures and the canal before the end of the “Bal des Neiges” as it is called in French.

Ice sculpture at Winterlude - Ottawa, ON

In addition to the great ice sculptures, local inhabitants go and skate on the canal… well, I’ll see next year if I want to give it a try again. It’s been so long that I haven’t skated on ice that I’m not sure if I could actually still stand straight.

Ice skating on the canal - Ottawa, ON

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“Wikinomics” by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams

It’s always interesting to look at different business models, different thoughts and ways to build successful companies and products. A best-seller about the subject is the book called “Wikinomics” by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, looking at how to build on the power of openness and transparency for success.

Building on the amazing success of open-source in the software development world, this book looks at business models that apply similar strategies as a competitive advantage compared to other players in their respective industries. With many insightful examples and sometimes ideas going at the opposite of the traditional corporate thinking, this book is worth a read!
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After DRM: Remove borders for content sales

2007 has seen a major shift related to digital music sales. Yes, it was possible to purchase DRM-free songs from various sites such as eMusic, but the big majors were noticably away from it. Then, Apple and EMI got to their senses and started offering music in high-quality without any digital rights management associated to them. The good news is: it doesn’t seem to affect sales in a negative way as the other majors are starting to embrace un-protected digital music sales over the Internet.

The two next steps are for other types of contents to be available DRM-free (TV shows, movies, audio-books, eBooks, …) and for the removal of country borders for digital sales and subscriptions… DVDs and Blu-Rays / HD-DVDs are region-encoded, but even more annoyingly, you cannot buy DRM-free music legally from Amazon.com and you cannot watch shows on hulu.com if you are outside the United States of America!

Why not make the digital content sold online available simultaneously world-wide… record companies and movie studios should consider this as another “virtual” country around the world, just like other physical countries / geographies. I would love to see the reaction of the press and blogosphere if there was a killer content available everywhere but in the US.

It’s not that I don’t want to pay for my content, it’s just that I can’t do it legally from where I live… I believe that this is really wrong.

PS: When is the iPhone coming out in Canada? 😉

A great Blog post editor: Windows Live Writer

When working on my Mac, I’ve been using Ecto as my blog editor of choice. It gives me a lot of flexibility, enables me to write the drafts of my blog posts while off-line (I find airplanes a great place to write entries) and integrates nicely with Apple iPhoto. You can also customize it greatly and automated many tasks and repetitive HTML snippets quickly.

On the Windows front, I have also used Ecto for a while. While it works almost as well on Windows than on MacOS, except for the iPhoto integration obviously, you can feel that this is not a native application. Listening to episode 42 of Windows Weekly, I wanted to know more about the Windows Live applications from Microsoft, and especially the one to write blog posts: Windows Live Writer. And I have to say: Microsoft, great job!

live_writer

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GTDwRTM anyone?

Remember The Milk logoIncreasing productivity certainly seems to be one of the biggest challenges of the decade as the available time is set (only 26 hours a day and 7 days in a week) and the things to do increase on a regular basis. One of the most popular methodologies, especially around high-tech geeks around the world, to increase productivity and to deliver on commitments is called “Getting Things Done” and has been defined by David Allen in his book with the same name. Wikipedia and 43 Folders have very detailed entries about GTD, abbreviation under which this is known by its followers.

To help implementing the GTD methodology, many software and online implementations that have been specifically developed. One of the software I used initially is called ThinkingRock, a Java based software that works on Mac OS, Windows and Linux, and applies GTD to the letter. Many more are available and there are even sites that index all the GTD applications available. While the data file saved from ThinkingRock works on all platforms, I ended-up carrying a USB stick with me at all time when going from my home computer to the one I have at work. I also wasn’t able to quickly add something to my inbox when on the go or check my lists while away from my computer(s).

I therefore decided to move to an online solution, and the one I selected is called “Remember The Milk“. While not specifically designed to implement the GTD methodology, its approach at managing lists and its support for off-line, keyboard shortcuts, notifications and mobile access, including an iPhone compatible version, ended up making this my solution of choice that is both fun to use and easy to maintain up-to-date.

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The Sony PRS-505 eBook Reader, reading Dan Browns’ Digital Fortress

During a recent trip to the US, I got myself the new Portable Reader from Sony USA (looks like all the cool devices from Sony are not imported in Canada, just like the Mylo I reviewed previously) and have found it to be a very handy device, especially when you don’t want to carry more than one book with you.

With all the noise about the Amazon Kindle these days (yet another device that won’t be available in Canada for the foreseeable future), I was really surprised by the bad press the eBook Reader from Sony was getting. Well, if Sony only sold a few thousands of these, I am one of the happy owners. Overall, the book reading experience is really nice, PDF support is bad and the Connect online bookstore has a long way to go before it can be at the same seamless experience level as iTunes.


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