Why does Apple get away with it all !

Apple recently announced that they will not be taking part in Macworld from next year and Steve Jobs will not be presenting at this year’s (2009) keynote. The blogosphere as usual hasn’t taken very kindly to this news. According to Apple the decision to pull back has been based on the fact that they’re a big company now and they have other avenues to reach the customers.

I don’t have a doubt about the statement. Apple is a really big company now. But, have they ever given the fact a thought, that they’re big because of the users. Apple is not big because their operating system is bundled with 90% of the computers sold in the world. They’re not big because their phone is the most stable platform in the world. They are big because their community of users hasn’t left them for greener pastures … yet.

Apple is probably the onle company in the world that can get away with anything. And I really mean anything. DRM, faulty hardware, sub standard OS performance, “Apple Tax” … anything !

And now this.

Is it really time to look for alternatives. Is it time to really think why we use Apple products anyway !

I’ve been an Apple user since some time. Owned an iBook sometime and when it failed with the infamous logic board failure, I saved up money to buy the latest greatest Macbook – which I’m glad I didn’t buy.

I also own an iPhone and have gone through all the hoops to make sure it works with my provider. Will I buy an iPhone again. Short answer – No !

Long answer is a bit complicated. The reason I didn’t buy a Macbook is the same as the reason why I’m not going to upgrade to a newer iPhone. Freedom. Or the lack of it.

In all these years of using Apple products, I’ve never felt more crippled. Apple’s products are priced more than any of their competitors and don’t really provide any real benefits. Why should I buy those products anymore. Apple is now crippling even the display ports with DRM and they still want us users to endorse their brand.

One thing I really don’t understand is why are more and more developers developing open source application drifting to the Apple world. Attend any open source conference and you’ll find atleast 50% of the developers using Apple machines. Don’t they feel the pain ?

I really hope that Apple doesn’t cripple the Mac mini this Macworld with the display port nonsense. As far as I know, that’s the only decent mac that is left.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Apple. I like the fact that Apple products apparently … just Work. I just don’t like the freedom that I have to give up for that. And I still don’t think OS X has anything great going for it. Its the hardware that Apple is good at.

Thank you Apple …. for showing me the path … for guiding me towards the light. I don’t need to take any more crap from you and I can go back owning my computer and using it the way I always wanted to. Thank you.

Power.com helps manage multiple social networks with ease

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The Internet has never been more social and the large number of social networking sites popping up every other day is a testament to this fact. Not a day passes by without the introduction of atleast a couple of social networks. And social animals that we are, most of us like to be active on more than one network. But, as most of us realise, managing those account becomes a nightmare pretty soon.

Power.com is here to save the day for all you social animals. It is an interesting tool. Instead of working with and adding to the feature set of a particular social network, Power.com, lets the user login and stay active on all the networks that it currently supports.

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What that means is that a user who logs in to power.com will be able to interact with all his/her contacts across facebook, orkut, hi5 and myspace from right within the power.com window.

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While the interface could have been better, the integration of the all the different networks that it supports is pretty consistent. One can see all messages from the supported networks on a single page and also see all your friends on the same page. Power.com displays this information in a layout which looks a lot like the default orkut homepage, although the color scheme is different and very easy on the eyes.

power_main

power_msgAnother interesting feature Power.com offers is the ability to send a message to any of your friends without even visiting their profile or scrapbook. Just hover over the friend’s name and a menu appears which will let you send a message directly.

In fact, you can reply to any messages that your friends might have sent you right from the Start Page of Power.com itself. No need to open multiple windows and having to login to different networks.

Power.com also provides a toolbar which is claimed to work on anything newer than IE 5.0 and Firefox 1.0.1 and provides access to most features without even visiting the website.

Oh yeah, before I forget … if, for example, your administrator has blocked access to orkut.com at your school/office, Power.com will still let you access orkut since the actual site will be opening inside of the power.com window.

Are there any other social networking tools that you guys use to manage your online presence ? Anything that aggregates different networks and provides a single view ?

5 free and exciting iPhone Games

Steve Jobs, while launching the iTunes app store remarked that the iPhone (and iPod touch) is the best gaming device ever made.

And looking at the kind of games available for the iPhone, I completely agree with ‘ol Steve.

The App store has thousands of games available already, both paid and free. And each one of those games has been approved by Apple, so you can be atleast sure that whatever is available on the app store right now, is high quality stuff.

In this post, we’ll look at some interesting iPhone games that are available right now and, of course, are free to download and use.

Matches

Matches is the iPhone version of the old game known as Memory or, well, Matches.

Each card on the screen has a matching that the player has to find and there is a time limit for uncovering all the matches. There are many levels and the time available to find all matches keeps shrin

king and so the game becomes increasingly more challenging as the levels progress. Exactly, the kind of thing you want to be engrossed in on a Sunday afternoon 🙂

iBowl

iBowl is from the makers of iGolf, another exciting and addictive free iPhone game. As is obvious from the name, iBowl is a bowling game – With a twist.

The difference between iBowl and the other bowling games that most of us have grown up playing on other consoles is that iBowl uses the accelerometer built into the iPhone for the bowling part. What that means is that the player presses a button and pretends to bowl as if he’s playing a real bowling game, with the iPhone in hand instead of the, well, ball.

You can even challenge a friend to a game of Bowling, althought this doesn’t exactly do this using multi player gaming. Instead, iBowl sends an email to your friend asking them to load up iBowl and then probably uses the developer’s website to keep track of scores. I’m saying probably because I haven’t personally tried this option till now. I’m happy playing and winning against … myself 🙂

WordWrap

WordWrap is the iPhone implementation of the classic jumbled words dictionary based game – You get a set of letters, jumbled up, and you’re required to form as many words as you can out of those letters. If you use all the letters to form a single word, bonus points. Each progressive level gets more difficult, or not, depending on how well you’ve studied the dictionary. ‘Nuff said … this game has to be played to really be able to appreciate it.

Vegas Pool Sharks Lite

This is another of my favorite iPhone Games. I can spend hours playing this one, or atleast as long as the battery on my iPhone lets me.

Vegas Pool sharks is like playing Pool with a twist. The Lite version is the good ‘ol Pool game which you play against an opponent controlled by the computer iPhone. The paid version promises to make the game even more fun by letting you play against stakes. Now, this is one thing every gamer knows. Put some money on the table and watch a boring game transform into the most fearsome encounter ever.

Tic Tac Toe

I’m sure this one will bring back fond memories of all those classes spent sitting in the last row playing Tic Tac Toe with your best bud, while the teacher continues with the most boring lecture ever.

It sure evokes those feelings in me. I’ve literally spent ages playing this game and the last page of all my school notebooks will testify to that. I’m just glad the game is back in its most eco friendly avatar ever. I love it.

Those were some of our favorite iPhone games and I’m sure I’ve missed tonnes more. Go ahead … type in those comments and share with us your favorite iPhone games. We’d love to hear about any tips you’ve got too … for getting past the difficult levels, you know 😉

2 Gmail Labs features that make Gmail rock even more

I love Gmail … There … I said it. And I love the Gmail Labs feature even more. I’ve written an article on some of my favourite extensions earlier on MakeUseOf.com, And this post will talk about two more awesome extensions that I have been using for some time now.

The team at Google has slowly but surely been picking up steam with their plans of world domination as is evident from the two new Labs gadgets they’ve released, Google Calender and Google Docs.

Google Calender has long been the online Calender of choice for a lot of us, including yours truly and I, for one, love it as much for its simplicity as for the features offered at the price point, i.e. Free ! Now, who can argue with Free ! No seriously, I use Google Calender all the time and features such as SMS notification of events absolutely rock my world.

It is disappointing that Google Calender hasn’t been integrated even more with Gmail. Well, guess what ! Google has been listening and Google Calender is now available as a Labs gadget and can be integrated into the Gmail user interface. It isn’t perfect but, hey, its a start.

Now, that’s one tab less in your browser. The calender entries are displayed in a nice and compact interface which feels just right and integrates well with the Gmail UI. This extension definitely brings Gmail one step closer to competing with desktop email clients like Outlook/Thunderbird.

Another great Google product is Google Docs. I use it for colaborating with my collegues, for planning my next himalayan trip and for almost everything that, well, an office suite can be used for.

The latest addition to Gmail is the Google Docs gadget. With this gadget enabled, you can see a list of the documents that you have created in Google Docs and work on them from inside Gmail.

Well, not really but it is close. Clicking on any document name will open a new browser window and take you to the Google Docs homepage with the said document ready to be edited/viewed.

The Google docs gadget is functional, useful and is a nice way to keep your most used documents in sight.

Google regularly updates Gmail with new Labs gadgets and if you use or know of any other useful gadgets, let me know in the comments.

Microsoft SkyDrive now at 25GB

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It seems like Microsoft is quite serious about making their Live SkyDrive a serious contender in the online storage business. They launched the service about an year back with 500MB of space, hardly enough for … well anything … increasing it to 5GB in February and surprised everyone last week by announcing that SkyDrive will now come with 25GBs of free online space. Wow !

Microsoft’s competitors in the Online storage space are Box.net, Wuala, Xdrive, Mozy (an EMC subsidiary) , Adrive and countless others. Granted that this space is already crowded, Microsoft’s decision might come in as a surprise to some. I, on the other hand, feel that this is just another attempt by Microsoft to establish a presence in the online space. Wonder how long before Google joins the party.

Adrive offers 50GB of free space, and in terms of free space, looks to be the only real competitor in the space. The rest of them all offer anywhere from 1-5GBs free and while that is enough to get a reviewer started with the service, a real long term user would definitely be looking for more than that. I know I do.

I’m sure with this latest update (and Microsoft’s massive Marketing machinery) Skydrive will definitely gain a lot of new users. How long can they maintain the momemtum and all the good press that Live (and Windows 7) has been getting is anyone’s guess.

Friday Linkfest

Been a while since the Linkfest … well, I’ve been travelling and have been kinda busy. Here is the collection of links from what I’ve been reading this week.

Business

Scobleizer.com: Rober Scoble has been travelling in China this week and he’s amazed by the speed of development in there and the way business is conducted in that country. He posted about it earlier this week.

China makes, the world takes: The Atlantic’s excellent article on China.

Humour

I’m a Mac, I’m a PC

And I’m Linux, losers

Technology

Build your own Wall-E: This dude is awesome !

Yahoo officially introduces their new Open Strategy

The Best way to tether your iPhone to your laptop … for free – Unlike AT & T, which is going to charge $30/month for this basic facility. Boooo AT & T !!

Convert youtube videos online for free

I have a confession to make. I LOVE youtube.

So ? Whats so great about it, you ask ? Everyone loves youtube.

Well, yes and no. Everyone likes to spend time on youtube, watch a dozen videos everyday and then move on. I, on the other hand, actually like some of those videos enough that I like to take them with me and play them back on my iPhone/iPod video.

Unlike some other video sharing sites, though, youtube doesn’t offer an easy way to download videos for offline viewing.

There are a ways to download videos from youtube to your personal computer and then convert them to a format which the iPod can play back, but they’re all just inconvenient hacks. They work, but not if you’re in a hurry and are not really in the mood to play around with the countless options that tools like ffmpeg (which, by the way, is an excellent open source video converter) support.

This is where ConvertDirect comes in.

ConvertDirect is an easy to use and free online service for converting youtube videos to one of the many video formats it supports.

Just enter the link to the youtube video and chose the format you want your converted video to be in. Type in your email address and ConvertDirect will send you an email with a link to the converted video. The link will be live for 48 hours during which time you can download the video from their servers.

If you only want to use a desktop player like vlc to play back the videos offline, then click on the “Download the online video directly” tab and download the video to your computer.

Converting youtube videos for offline playback couldn’t have been simpler and more convenient than this.

Go ahead and download all those music videos great educational videos you’ve been waiting to watch and take them with you on the road.

Are there any other great online-to-offline software that you guys use ? Cool websites ? Let us know in the comments.

Will Open Source survive the economic crisis

Will it ?

Conventional logic would say, Yes ! I mean, Open Source is free, right ? Everyone should infact be only using Open Source in an economic crisis.

Well, Andrew Keen doesn’t think so and he’s on Slashdot right now for thinking the way he does. Now, Andrew is entitled his opinion and all that jazz, but, seriously, I think the article is a load of bull****.

The reason Andrew’s thought process doesn’t make sense to me is because he completely and conveniently has chosen to forget the very reason why Open Source even exists. Andrew thinks opensource is for making money and since money is scarce these days, it will not survive. And he’s confusing web 2.0 with opensource.

For the lazy ones, I’ll summarize, Andrew says that the tough economic times that we’re going through will spell the end of the “free” web 2.0 days. That we won’t be seeing any websites providing free services anymore. Fair and square.

He also goes on to say that Open Source is free labour and since it is free, it won’t survive the economic downturn either.

The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren’t going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some “back end” revenue. “Free” doesn’t fill anyone’s belly; it doesn’t warm anyone up.

Now, first of all … praise where its due. That’s a nice headline you’ve chose for this post Andrew. I mean, Copywriting-101 … Nail it with the headline. But, I don’t think you took the rest of the class, because the rest of your article is full of half baked assumptions that come through pretty clear.

OpenSource is not Web 2.0 and while Web 2.0 does use a lot of opensource at it’s core, they’re both different. Web 2.0 also doesn’t mean making a website and then giving away the services for free. Free services have always been a part of the web and will be.

Web 1.0 or whatever they called it back then was about the Internet finding it’s feat and Web 2.0 has been about cleaning up the house, making the designs plain and simple, making sure the visitor can find what they’re looking for and giving the visitor a reason to pay and come back again. Flickr, 37signals and smugmug are Web 2.0. Sure the 1.0 guys made mistakes, but then that was 1.0 – IT IS EXPECTED 🙂

Now, coming to OpenSource. Andrew, my man, you really have to understand that people don’t contribute to OpenSource for the money. Sure, some people do. But, that’s not how opensource survives. It survives because it has a community. You know the kind, where like minded individuals come and discuss ideas and stuff. Well, in the 21st century, they code, apparently !

A lot of these opensource contributors actually like to code. Not, because they get money out of it, but because they like to … well … code. And make friends in the process. Now, friendship is a weird concept. Give stuff away for free and make friends doesn’t actually endorse the idea of OpenSource but then people who get the idea of OpenSource … just do. And that is the power of it. It doesn’t change the world but it goes a long way towards it.

Did I tell you that it is free ? Does it make sense now ?

The problem with your theory is that it goes beyond any logic I’ve heard about or can think about. Oh wait, there IS NO logic in your theory.

Hyper-V vs. ESXi – Response to techtarget's article

So, I was reading this article which talks about the advantages of MS Hyper-V over VMware ESXi and I’m amazed at the FUD that Microsoft has been spreading. I don’t usually write about virtualization over at this blog, but this I just have to clear.

It is quite clear from the article that the author, Greg Shields, has no clue about ESXi (or Hyper-V, for that matter). Greg starts his post with the following sentence,

Hyper-V Server is a free, recently released download from Microsoft that brings free virtualization hosting to small environments, as well as to those that don’t want to pay the extra cost of ESXi.

What extra cost Greg, would you care to explain ?

ESXi is free and has been for a while now.

Oh and ESXi supports SCSI (FC/iSCSI) and NFS data-stores, which means that the virtual machines can reside on any of the above, and not only flat files on a vmfs formatted volume.

Greg talks about the advantages of Hyper-V over ESXi and claims the following,

One particular administrative boon of Hyper-V Manager over ESXi is its use of NTFS partitions for the storage of VMs as opposed to VMware’s proprietary VMFS. Hyper-V Server can support the hosting of virtual machines through virtually all forms of Direct-Attached Storage and Network-Attached Storage, in addition to traditional SAN storage via iSCSI, SAS, and Fibre Channel. Since Hyper-V Manager runs atop Server Core, whatever storage back-end you select must have client-side support for this special operating system version.

First of all, Like I’ve already said, ESXi supports all transports that Hyper-V does and secondly, I really don’t understand why storing VMs on an NTFS partition is an advantage compared to VMFS ? How does it even matter where the VMs are stored ?

In my opinion, just the fact that ESXi is 32MB in size vs. the over 1GB of Hyper-V should be reason enough for a consumer to try ESXi. 1GB of Microsoft written software … hmmm .. let me calculate how many vulnerabilties would there be in that !

Now, I’m a fair guy and I do agree that Hyper-V has its advantages. Like the fact that it is a Microsoft product. And that reason by itself will make it the default option for a large number of Microsoft shops. But, this article here … give me a break ! I know a trashy article when I see one. I’m all for comparisons as long as they’re fair.

Friday Linkfest #3

Welcome to the Third edition of the Friday Linkfest. Read on for the best of the web 🙂

Travel

World’s top 10 trekking destinations

The adventures of Wan

Must read for anyone who likes to ride on two wheels.

Roopkund Trek

Flickr stream of a friend who just came back after completing the Roopkund trek.

Technology

10 insanely useful Django tips

Amazon Kindle 2 in the wild ?

OpenSource you can use

Install boxee or xbmc on an Apple TV

Life

Bollywood – a misleading model for contemporary cinema

Deal Sealed