go ahead, mac my day

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

December, 2007

  • go ahead, mac my day

    iTunes movie rentals vs Netflix

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    The latest Apple news swirling about comes to us courtesy of the Financial Times: Apple signs film deal with Fox studio. This will bring the long-rumoured movie rentals to iTunes.

    I'm a Netflix customer. For $20 a month, I have three of their DVDs sitting at home at any given time. (Current DVDs: March of the Penguins, Flight of the Conchords (season 1, disc 1), and Firefly (disc 1).) Would the addition of movie rentals to iTunes be enough for me to give up Netflix? I've been mulling it over.

    Netflix has given me a few things that I like. The major reason that I signed up for it in the first place is that I can keep a DVD for pretty much as long as I want to. The DVD arrives in my mailbox, and I watch it when I feel like watching it. There have been many times when I walked into a traditional movie rental place, walked out with a film, didn't watch it that night like I had intended to, and ended up returning it unwatched because I never had enough time or didn't feel lie that film.

    Another feature that I've come to like is the queue. My queue has 128 items in it right now. When someone recommends something to me, I look it up, and if it seems interesting, I toss it in the queue. Every once in awhile, I go through the queue and bump something up so that I can watch it sooner. This means that I don't have to remember movie recommendations anymore, Netflix manages all of that for me. I love that feature.

    I've found that their suggestion feature is pretty good. They seem to get it right. It's not 100% (no, I really don't want to watch Balls of Fury), but it's good enough that I scroll through their list to see what is there, and add a few ratings if I see that they've suggested something that I've already watched.

    The social aspects of Netflix have also kept me as a customer. I like checking out the movies that my Netflix friends have watched to see where our tastes match up and diverge. I like seeing what the other residents of Mountain View like (Helvetica and The Sopranos right now).

    I don't go to the Netflix site that often -- maybe once every couple of weeks. But every time I'm there, I spend at least a few minutes, and my Netflix queue grows. However iTunes handles rentals, it will have to be more attractive than Netflix is to me now.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Nadyne's unofficial guide to working in a booth at Macworld Expo (part one)

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    MWSF is coming! In the past few weeks, some of the newer members of MacBU have asked me what it's like to work the show floor at Macworld Expo. We've got a big booth there, and we staff it with honest-to-goodness MacBU employees. It's a great experience for everyone involved. MWSF attendees get to come over and chat with someone who actually works on the product that they have questions about. MacBU folks get to interact with our users and hear firsthand what they like and don't like.

    Working in a booth at MWSF is a lot of fun, it's hugely tiring, and it's occasionally frustrating. (At least, that's my experience working the show floor in the MacBU booth; someone else will have to say whether it's different in booths from other exhibitors.) I learn a lot when I'm at MWSF. I love it. You have to be prepared for working your booth there, though. This is some of the advice that I've given people who have asked me this question.

    If you haven't worked at a MWSF before, plan to write a trip report. (It's important even if you have worked at MWSF before, but it's essential for you if this is your first time.) You're going to learn a lot at MWSF. You're going to talk to a lot of people. You're going to be asked questions that you don't know the answer to. If you take someone's business card, make sure you jot down something on the back of it so that you can remember who this is and why you want to contact them later. You should jot down some quick notes at the end of every day for your trip report. You'll forget a lot if you wait until you're back in the office to write your trip report or sort through those business cards.

    Know what you don't know. I know that I'm not an Excel expert, so the first thing that I do when I'm working at our booth is to figure out who is an Excel expert so that I can direct questions to them. I also identify the other gurus that I'm working with. I can answer a lot of Entourage questions, but not all of them, so I make sure that I can identify the Entourage guru who's working with me at that time. If you don't know an answer to something and you can't find someone who does know the answer, don't be afraid to say 'I'm sorry, but I don't know'. Do not, under any circumstances, make up an answer or give an answer that you're not sure about — it will come back to haunt you.

    Always remember that you're not going to be able to make everyone happy. Accept this. You're probably going to talk to someone at MWSF who you can't make happy. Listen to what they have to say, help them out if there's something that you think you can do, but don't take it personally if you can't make them walk away with a smile on their face. If they get agitated, remain calm and polite. Don't get upset, and don't take it personally.

    Make sure that you have comfortable shoes. You're going to spend a lot of time on your feet, plus you're going to want to walk around all of the rest of the booths to see everything else. If you're working every day, you probably want a couple of different pairs of comfortable shoes. I can't stress this enough — you're standing on concrete (or a piece of carpeting over concrete, which is only marginally better) all day, and you will hurt if your shoes aren't up to the task. If your feet hurt, you're cranky, which means that you might snap at someone in your booth. Don't do it!

    This has gotten long, so I'll write about my day-by-day impressions of working in the booth in another post. Stay tuned!

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    don't forget - sign up to participate in usability studies!

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    It's the end of year, which means that lots of people are on vacation right now. I'm in the office this week, gearing up for a series of usability studies that my team will be conducting after MWSF in January. Which means that it's time to put out my standard plea: please sign up to participate in usability studies. I've got a lot of work to do in the upcoming months, and I can't do it without you!

    What is my team working on? We've got some studies to wrap-up our work on Office 2008. In these kind of studies, we want to measure how well we succeeded against our goals for Office 2008. This will help us determine what our goals will be for the next version. We also are continuing our work on the next version of Office (I've been travelling for months conducting research for the next version already), so now I'm narrowing down my priorities and should start to look at early designs in the next few months.

    What's in it for you? The most important thing is that you help shape the future of Office. When you come in to one of our usability studies, you get to spend about two hours in a one-on-one setting with one of us. You have the opportunity to see what we're thinking about and give us your feedback about it. To thank you for your time, you get to take home a Microsoft product with you: one of our Mac products (getting Office 2008 for free is a great thing!), Windows or a Windows app (to install in Boot Camp or VMWare, of course), hardware (including our Mac-only desktop set, although all of the desktop sets work fine with your Mac), or even Xbox games (Halo 3, anyone?).

    The majority of our studies are conducted in Redmond, WA, and Mountain View, CA, so readers in the Puget Sound or San Francisco Bay Area are highly encouraged to sign up (and please make sure you fill out the form -- I really care which apps you use!). As I mentioned earlier, we do travel to meet our users as well, so those of y'all who live elsewhere should also fill in the form. I've been trying to come up with a good reason to convince my manager to send me to Hawaii, or Brazil, or Italy, or ...

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: what Apple news sites do you read?

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    In the comments to my last post, someone asked what Apple news sites I read. I looked over to my newsreader and discovered that the list was way longer than I realised (I'm such a geek), so this gets its own post. These are in alphabetic order, since that's how they show up in my newsreader.

    • 9 to 5 Mac: They're a pretty new entrant into the Apple news space. They've stayed in my newsreader because I think that they do some great analysis, and they're not as fanboy as some of the other Apple sites out there.
    • AppleInsider: A good ole-fashioned rumours site. They generally post about five stories per day. In general, they focus more on the hardware and OS side of things than software.
    • Cult of Mac: Written by Leander Kahney (author of the book of the same title) and Pete Mortensen, this site is a mix of thoughtful analysis and puff pieces (like the Steve Jobs in a tie from a couple of weeks ago).
    • Infinite Loop: Ars Technica's Apple blog is one of the better news sites. With five or six writers, they cover all things Apple pretty well.
    • MacRumors: I got my job because of MacRumors (yes, really), so I have a soft spot for them. This site and AppleInsider are the two most rumour-y sites that I read.
    • The Apple Blog: Lots of commentary, some news. They're not the first to report on anything, but they're thoughtful enough that they haven't been kicked out of my newsreader.
    • The Unofficial Apple Weblog: Great mix of hardware, software, and third-party news and tips. They don't get rumours first, but they'll pick up the more interesting rumours that are going around the other sites.

    There are some other Apple-related blogs I read, but they're not about Apple news and rumours. They include (again with the alphabetical order):

    • Call Me Fishmeal: This is Wil Shipley's blog. Shipley is the man behind Delicious Monster. He's got an ego roughly the size of Montana, but he's got some good coding skills.
    • MacApper: As you're smart enough to figure out from the name, this is a site dedicated to Mac apps. It's a great way to learn about all sorts of nifty Mac apps. They've got a high enough ratio of apps that I wasn't aware of (or had forgotten about) that they stay in my newsreader. I bought UniSudoku a couple of weeks ago because I was in need of a casual game and it had just been reviewed there.
    • MacWindows: A site dedicated to the integration of these two platforms. This site is mostly geared towards hardcore IT geeks, and you'll find lots of information here about Entourage/Exchange, virtualisation solutions, Boot Camp, and networking.
    • NSBlog: Mike Ash (of Rogue Amoeba) has a blog mostly focused on developing Mac apps. It's a great blog if you want to learn more about the ins and outs of being a developer.
    • The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs: Bar none, Fake Steve writes my favourite Apple-related blog. He's both funny and insightful. My favourite non-Apple target of FSJ's is the OLPC.

    There are lots of other things in my RSS reader (the other MacBU blogs, lots of UX ones, a few WinOffice folks, and some random sprinklings of other stuff), but now you have the highlights of my Mac reading list.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    ThinkSecret closes its doors

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    Today, ThinkSecret has announced that it has settled its lawsuit with Apple and is closing its doors. To which I said ... hunh? they're still around?

    For me, ThinkSecret stopped being relevant quite awhile ago. I can't remember the last time that I read something there first. News there has felt like it's at least a day behind everything else. I could forgive ThinkSecret for that if they had something interesting to say about it, but they haven't been publishing thoughtful analysis in quite awhile either. There are enough Apple news sites out there that ThinkSecret has long fallen off of my reading list.

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    the bits have left the building

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    We've reached the last milestone in the release of Office 2008: Release to Manufacturing (RTM). The bits have left the building, and are on their way to manufacturing plants around the world to begin to make our DVDs. Then, come Macworld Expo, you can walk into your friendly local Apple retailer and buy your very own copy.

    The lead-up to RTM has been weird for me. I haven't experienced a Microsoft RTM before, so I don't know if this is normal. The team has been heads-down on beating the bugs into submission. Then, a release candidate is identified. Everyone seems to tiptoe around the hallways as it is determined whether this release candidate is THE release or not. We let the release candidate bake for a couple of days (which actually means that our test team is absolutely pounding at it — you can tell that whoever started calling it 'baking' has never actually baked anything, since a cake would fall if it was pounded like this!) and then declare it final if there are no showstoppers. I'm sure that the MacBU collective sigh of relief was heard 'round the world when we made it.

    What's next? Well, I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm on vacation starting in a few hours. :) Of course, we're going to be at Macworld Expo to launch Office 2008. I haven't been able to convince the marketing team to let me in on the secrets of launch yet. Sheridan, our lovely marketing manager, just gives me a knowing smile and says, 'it's gonna be big'. I do know that MacBU will be out in full force at MWSF, staffing the booth and showing off Office 2008, and there's a big party scheduled too. Make sure you swing by and have a chat with us!

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    why I love living in Silicon Valley

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    I really do love living in Silicon Valley. I like that it's 56 degrees outside and I think that it's cold. I like that meetings almost never start before 10am, and if they do, they're accompanied by both apologies and breakfast.

    When I first moved here, and my mother came to visit, she was appalled on Monday morning when she saw what I was going to wear to the office that day: blue jeans, a t-shirt, Birkenstocks. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was probably going to be one of the more dressed-up people in my office, since my jeans weren't ripped and I wasn't wearing flip-flops.

    When I got up this morning and found a story from Cult of Mac reporting that (gasp) Steve Jobs wears a tie, I was heartily amused. This is exactly why I live Silicon Valley. Not only are ties things that happen to other people, but when one of our own actually wears one, it's newsworthy.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    my MWSF wishlist (MWSF 2008 edition)

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    It's that time of year again -- time for my MWSF wishlist. This is only a wishlist, not some deep analysis of what I think will actually happen.

    1. iPhone games -- Please, Apple, please help me pass the time. I want casual games on my iPhone. Yes, I know about webgames with iPhone versions. That doesn't work when I'm on a plane. I can pre-load Bejeweled before I get onto the plane, but I lose it when Safari crashes. I want local games, and I want several to choose from. Please. Having one free game (yes, even just Solitaire) would be a nice bonus.
    2. MacBook Pro Mini -- I want a sleek sexy ultraportable laptop. I desperately want this. You can tell the depth of my desire when I'm looking at someone's Thinkpad and seriously considering whether I could make it work.
    3. headless iMac -- I have long felt that Apple's line is missing something. My mini is getting a bit long in the tooth. It's having trouble loading my iTunes library (okay, that's not surprising, there's more than 1000 CDs' worth of music in there), and sometimes stutters on video playback. I would like a real desktop that's more powerful than the mini, but I really don't need to jump up to a Mac Pro. I want a middle ground, and I don't want it to be an iMac.
    4. a great backup solution -- With Time Machine, it's time to make external hard drives more attractive. I've got a pile of external hard drives attached to my mini, and they're all as hidden as I can manage. Maybe it's time for a Mac RAID, to be the little brother of the Xserve RAID?
    5. iPhone v2 -- I was amused last week to read breathless reports that there's a new iPhone in the works. Apple is a hardware company, the iPhone has been pretty successful, so of course they're working on a new version. We can take it as a given that there's a new one in the pipeline, just like there's an updated iPod somewhere in the pipeline. I'd love to see iPhone v2 dropped at MWSF. (The people who got one for a holiday gift might disagree, but c'est la vie.) I want 3G because EDGE drives me batty. I want the built-in wifi to support certificates so I can use it on the corporate network. I want to be able to customise the main screen because I hate the order of the apps on it and I don't care about many of the apps. I want over-the-air sync because I don't always want to plug my iPhone into its dock (especially when I'm on a quick trip up to Redmond, when I usually forget to bring the cable).
    6. iPhone v1 software update -- A lot of what I want in iPhone v2 could be given to me today via a software update. Most of what I want really isn't in the hardware, it's in either the OS or the software. There's no reason that I should have to buy a new iPhone to get certificate support for my wifi network. We've had some updates to the iPhone so far, and I want to see it continue so that I get new features.
    7. Software Updater for all -- Software Updater makes my life better. I totally forget to do all of those maintenance things that I'm supposed to do if I'm not reminded. But I hate cluttering up my task list with a "troll around for software updates" item, and I'm not smart enough to remember all of the apps I have installed.
    8. New ad campaign -- I really liked the Get a Mac ad campaign when it was first launched. But it's wearing thin, and the ads just aren't feeling edgy anymore. Isn't it time to move on?
    9. AppleTV v2 -- Steve Jobs has famously called the AppleTV a hobby. How about giving it some lovin' and making it more than a holiday? Although now that my spiffy new Xbox 360 has high-def downloads available, maybe I don't care any more. Hmmm.
    10. Office 2008 -- The bits are final, so we're gonna ship it!
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