Internet Explorer 7 beta 2

Chatter amongst the web design community is getting louder now with the recent release of Internet Explorer 7 beta 2. With much improved CSS support, there's been concerns that CSS hacks used to 'fix' IE 5/6 are no longer necessary, but might still be picked up by IE 7 and thus rendering the page incorrectly. The IE 7 developers have even made it a point to warn web developers about this and NOT to use IE-specific hacks relying on flawed CSS selector parsing. Instead, they are recommending using another IE proprietary feature, Conditional Comments, to import style sheets specific for earlier versions of IE should they be necessary.With dread in my heart, I downloaded Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 and followed the instructions on how to install a standalone version so not to wipe out IE 6 which I'd still need to use for testing. I'd feared that the sites I've built would be completely broken, as some of them require IE hacks to fix glaring problems with its implementation of CSS. Thankfully, this is not the case, so far. I opened up Fritz Gelato (which has CSS-based drop-down menus), Massage Works and my own site here, and all seems well. (phew!) This is one reason why people should be embracing web standards - it ensures forwards and backwards compatibility, as browsers are progressively improved and follow the specifications closely (as they should). I will still need to continue checking the other sites and 'unfix' them for IE 7 as necessary. On one hand I'm glad that IE is finally cleaning up its act, but still, I worry that not everybody will upgrade when it is released. Just like how we still need to test for IE 5/5.5 for people still running Windows 98, I suspect IE 6 with all its flaws and bugs will be around for a while yet.

Getting Real

I've been reading reviews and kudos about 37signals' book, Getting Real, and so I bought and downloaded the PDF book yesterday.After spending a good half hour wrestling with my laser printer trying to figure out how to feed the paper properly to print in duplex as it doesn't have an automatic duplexing unit, I got the whole 171-page book printed out. Much as I am used to reading on-screen, a book of that size would be a bit much to handle. From what I've heard, although the book refers to 37signals' own processes in developing web-based applications, a lot of the principles and techniques are applicable to other design jobs, and even in a non-design, corporate environment. I've been a fan of their work ever since I found their site and read their manifesto. I'll let you know my take on the book when I'm done with it.

Windows XP on Intel Macs using Apple Boot Camp

Boot Camp iconWhen the first Intel Core-based Macs came out and people were asking if they could ever run Windows on it, Apple's response what they don't support it, but they won't do anything to stop it either. However, the decision to use EFI instead of BIOS basically stopped it from happening on a hardware level.Today Apple released a beta of Boot Camp, which enables dynamic, non-destructive partitioning of a Mac hard disk, and installation of Windows XP that will run natively on Intel-based Macs. It even burns you a CD containing all the necessary drivers to support the hardware of the Mac you're installing it on. You still need your own copy of Windows XP (Home or Professional) though. Boot Camp then allows selection of the boot partition on start-up when the option(alt) key is held down. Boot Camp functionality would be incorporated into the next major version of Mac OS X 10.5, code-named Leopard, and would probably be called something else by then. This step is HUGE for apple, and leapfrogging ahead of Microsoft's feeble attempts to port Virtual PC which it acquired from Connectix. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think VPC even got as far as being optimised for the PPC G5. I would personally prefer a full virtualization environment where Windows would be running concurrently, either within a window, or a separate switchable desktop, at native speeds of course. In the meantime, a dual boot option like this is a good start. So now, when you buy a Macintosh, you get a machine that can run both Mac OS X and Windows natively, but the reverse isn't true. It's already been proven time after time that Macintosh hardware is no more expensive than similarly configured brand-name PCs from Dell or HP. Why wouldn't you want to buy a Mac now? But in all honesty, if you've bought a Mac, the question should be - Why would you want to boot into Windows for? Oh, and I love Apple's interpretation of the 4-paned windows logo, as greyscale diamonds, with a glassy, embossed effect.

iTunes Australia

It's about 2 weeks since Australia got its own version of the iTunes Music Store. It had a few glitches in the opening week with pricing of some albums still being adjusted, and some other oddities like tracks being labelled as 'Album Only' purchases, yet where the 'Buy Album' button should be, it says you can only buy it "By Song Only".Despite launching without music from Sony BMG's catalogue, it was been very warmly received by the press and although no sales figures have been released, it seems like the Aussies are on a shopping spree after having made to wait for this long, and after several false alarms with rumoured launch dates. Apple Australia has struck an agreement with Coles-Myer Limited for them to be the exclusive distributor of the pre-paid iTunes Music Cards, which means you can get them from Myer, Officeworks, Coles, Coles Express, Bi-Lo, Harris Technology, Target and K-Mart. I've already purchased some music and it is just too easy to buy songs there. My first track was Madonna's new single, Hung Up which is a very catchy track that has a sample of Abba's Gimme, Gimme, Gimme. I also bought The Sims 2: Nightlife Soundtrack which is unlikely to be found in stores here. These are tunes from the latest Sims expansion pack with new music and some familiar tunes from the game are given a dance twist by big-name DJs. I've also downloaded some of their free-music-of-the-week tracks. I've also created my first iMix, which is basically a playlist you publish onto iTMS. I compiled a list of songs used in the iPod Ads. It is not complete as iTMS Australia doesn't carry all the tracks that I found in my research. With such a high market penetration of the iPod here in Australia, it's surprising how long it took for Apple to bring the iTunes Music Store to these shores, but now that it's here, I'm sure it would be hugely popular like everywhere else they have opened up.

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Some thoughts on the iPod nano

Apple released the iPod nano last week and having now seen the photos and read reviews of people who actually got it in their hands (and destroyed and dissected it), I've got some thoughts about it.I wasn't very impressed with the looks at first. One of the things that struck me was the proportions. It is narrower than the iPod mini it replaces, thus the scroll wheel is smaller and it just looked odd. Having said that, I have to admit it is growing on me. It is amazingly thin and looks more like a remote control rather than a player itself. This photo made my jaw drop, as to how small it really is. I personally think the black one looks really classy and sleek. A bit of a departure from the trademark pristine white and chrome look of all other iPods before (yes, I know about the black and red U2 special edition!). When the iPod mini came out, although I liked the size and colour anodized aluminium casing, it was the capacity that put me off. The iPod nano has the same 4GB capacity. While it has the looks, physical size and colour screen that blows the iPod mini out of the water, I think I would still want a full-sized iPod that carries my entire music collection. My current 2nd Gen 10GB one is still chugging along, but my music collection has far exceeded the capacity of the iPod and I occasionally get annoyed when I think of a song that I JUST have to hear, right there and then, and to find that it's not synched onto the iPod for lack of space. The other deal-breaker for me is the lack of Firewire in the iPod nano. It is USB 2.0 only. I sync my iPod with my Mac and it's an older one with only USB 1.1 ports, so it will take forever to fill up even 4GB. When the very first 5GB iPod came out, it only had a Firewire connection and the marketing spin was that over Firewire, even 5GB worth of songs could to be transferred in a matter of minutes, and subsequent syncs would take hardly any time at all. Apple was one of the co-creators of the Firewire standard and had been endorsing it fully, but of late, it's been drifting towards USB 2.0, even though in practical tests Firewire is still faster for sustained data transfers. How is it that now all new iPods (not just the nano) come with a USB cable instead of Firewire? I've some speculation to the iPod roadmap ahead. While the iPod shuffle has been a fair success, but now it seems to me it was created merely to test the waters for a flash-based iPod. First of all the shuffle was never a 'real' iPod in the sense it doesn't have a screen nor the scroll wheel, both hallmarks of the iPod which set it apart from the other MP3 players (oops, digital music players) in the market. I suspect the iPod shuffle won't be around for very much longer, instead, Apple might bring the price of the iPod nano down to the shuffle's entry-level $99 (perhaps a 1GB nano?) Also, there is still that huge gap between the high-end 4GB nano and low-end 20GB HDD-based iPod. Perhaps another 8GB iPod nano is forthcoming at the current price point of the 4GB one? I also will go out on a limb and suggest that they took the iPod mini off altogether and replaced it with the nano, so they could have time to rework the mini form-factor and somehow squeeze the existing 'big' iPods to that size. I wonder what's the largest capacity Microdrive is at the moment? Then there's that big gap between the two remaining iPods, which makes it a tough choice since I'd be keen to get one of those. 20GB seems just right for what I need right now but without much room to grow, and 60GB seems like overkill. A 40GB iPod with colour screen would be perfect for me. But then again... I saw the iPod nano TV ad today and damn... doesn't it look sweet! Oh, and the TuneWallet nano case to go with it too...