Gloomy Days for FireWire

20 04 2009

The future of FireWire is terminally unknown. IEEE 1394 has always been strong, however in today’s market it may not survive.


FireWire was developed by Apple in the 80’s, with contributions from Texas Instruments, IBM, Sony and a few other companies. FireWire’s first release was in 1995, and its major contender is Universal Serial Bus (USB), which was released in 1996. USB was a collaboration between Microsoft, IBM, Intel, and several other companies.


As shown, FireWire came out earlier (albeit by a year) and was vastly superior to USB. Not only that, but it took USB until 2000 to beat FireWire’s theoretical max. However, what is rarely stated is that even though USB’s theoretical max is higher, this is the THEORETICAL speed, meaning the actually speed is typically slower. In the case of USB 2.0, normal sustained transfer speeds max out around 240 Mb/s, half of its advertised 480 MB/s. Typically speeds are even slower than that, sub 200 (my external hard drives running USB 2.0 usually sit around 200 Mb/s). Of course the same applies to FireWire, however sustain speeds for FireWire are much closer to their theoretical, with their read speeds being 70% faster read and 50% faster write speeds over USB (for Firewire, we see ours sit around 325 Mb/s). Even though USB is slower, USB is on every computer you can buy on the market. FireWire on the other hand has been dwindling.

But USB isn’t Firewire’s only competitor. External SATA has been becoming increasingly more common with external hard drives, boasting speeds of nearly 1 Gigabit/s. And eSATA has plans to start marketing to film cameras soon, which is one of the few markets FireWire has a good hold on.

HDMI is another competitor after FireWire territory. FireWire can be used for TV, but HDMI is gaining a larger market penetration than FireWire has.

FireWire’s major holds in industry are film, automobiles, and military aircraft. These are industries that use FireWire as a standard. But with new standards rising, FireWire may lose its hold. Faster components are coming around every day. FireWire is starting to show its age, and support seems to be dwindling every day.

I wouldn’t say FireWire is going to die anytime soon. FireWire has shown itself to be versatile and fast. It does has a certain niche of the market. However, it seems to be lacking support, especially in the consumer market. USB already has 100% market penetration, and is held as a standard by the entire industry. eSATA is displacing FireWire for transfers to and from external drives, due to its higher transfer speeds. Soon, unless FireWire makes a big jump quickly, FireWire may be lost as a IEEE standard.

The Apple Tax

6 04 2009

It’s a major topic PC users use to bash Macs, and comparing Macs to PCs it seems to be true.


Now that Apple has started to make more headway into the Microsoft dominated market, the flamewars have become more intense. As we know Apple has already made several distasteful commercials attacking Microsoft and Vista, now Microsoft is stepping up to the plate, and hitting where it hurts: the Price.

Microsoft was quite respectable for not degrading themselves to mudslinging until this point, but they undeniably know that attacking the price of Mac products is the most effective way to boost sales. The Apple Tax has become notorious, especially for PC users who try to stop others from switching to Mac. In almost any situation, if you compare Mac and PC hardware, there always seems to be a gap in pricing even when they are almost identical computers.

Continued after the break…
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Mysterious Push Notifications

2 12 2008

With the recent 2.2 firmware update, Push Notifications are still absent from the iPhone OS.

Scott Forstall announcing the Push Notifications

At WWDC 2008, Scott Forstall, Senior VP of iPhone at Apple announced an update to the SDK dubbed “Push Notification Service”. Solving one of the major complaints surrounding the iPhone SDK, Push Notifications would allow you, for example, to receive instant messages even when the AIM application wasn’t open. It works by keeping a persistent connection to the Apple Notification server and lets the third party such as AIM notify the Apple server of events (such as receiving an instant message) if no existing direct connection exists.

Very well received by developers and consumers alike, Mr. Forstall revealed this new feature at the WWDC keynote and said that it would be seeded to beta testers shortly and would be available in September. Shortly after the release of the 2.0 software in early July, iPhone OS beta testers indeed received a seed of the 2.1 firmware which included hooks and documentation for the Push Notification service. After the fourth iteration of the 2.1 beta release, the Push Notification service was mysteriously pulled for “for further development”.

Beyond that vague statement, over two months past the given release window, we have still heard nothing more about Push Notifications from Apple. This seems to be a recurring trend for Apple, who seems to be over promising and under delivering, which could be attributed to its growing size. Perhaps we will get the status of Push Notifications soon, but for now the consumers and developers are still in the dark. If they can’t deliver on these dates, then why give them in the first place?

There is probably a good reason we still don’t have Push Notifications, however, since Mr. Forstall took the liberty of announcing it at WWDC, why haven’t we had an update? If anything was learned from the 2.0 firmware and the related bugs, or the MobileMe launch, we should be glad Apple is keeping a low quality release from going public, but there is no reason to be in the dark about it–especially considering it is almost two months late already. There are developers and consumers who are anxiously awaiting the release of this new feature and we all just want to be in the know! According to recent rumors, due to major issues with the initial implementation, it appears we might have to wait until we start receiving push notifications to our devices.

RSS, why no full text???

29 11 2008

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication is a great tool for staying on top of the latest news. But a growing trend is hindering this protocol.

I love the fact that my RSS reader allows me to quickly browse through all the blogs I read,—plus it wirelessly syncs up with my iPod Touch (Thank you NewsGator/FeedDemon/NetNewsWire)—however, lately I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. A few feed publishers have begun offering only a short summary of their articles, requiring you to click a “Read More..” link(I’m calling you out Ars Technica), forcing you to open the page in a new window. The reason this bothers me so much is that the whole reason I use RSS is that I want all the content from multiple blogs in one place. Having to open up the article in a new window is frustrating, but it’s even worse on my Touch, where I can’t quickly switch back and forth between windows. Of course, to add insult to injury the article isn’t pre-fetched, slowing me down even further.

More importantly, I don’t understand why Ars would choose this format. They were never in print media; they started as a technology blog that caters to technologists who are on the go and want information quickly. Why would they want to slow down their readers, much less force them to work to access their content? Furthermore, even the newspaper industry, which has traditionally provided only snippets of text, is starting to relax its death grip on its content. For example, The Guardian has started releasing full text in its RSS feeds.

So, to all content publishers out there remember, readers want information on their terms, not yours. This includes letting your readers selectively subscribe to your articles, which has been a request by many readers on other blogs during this election season, who think that tech blogs and politics do not mix, (cough lifehacker cough). Really, just give the readers what they want.

Keep a look out for my next post coming up in the next few weeks.

Thoughts about the 3G iPhone

19 06 2008

Since the release of the 3G iPhone at WWDC last week, there are still many questions unanswered and speculation regarding the new iPhone.

This years WWDC keynote brought us the hotly anticipated 3G iPhone. Aggressively priced at $199, it is clear that Apple wants to take on the smartphone market and get iPhones in more hands this year. True to some rumors, the new iPhone is launching for $199 in 22 countries later next month. Thanks to subsidization by AT&T and the other official iPhone carriers in other countries, Apple was able to cut the price of the iPhone in half.

While this is ultimately a win-win situation for both AT&T and Apple, it could cause some consumers headaches. One of the greatest parts of the iPhone started with the privilege to activate at home through iTunes. This slick implementation of Apple’s existing software allowed for consumers to avoid the hassle of activating your phone in the store- and for Apple employees to quickly sell more iPhones, Macs or iPods.

Although it is still preliminary speculation at this point, it seems that because of the subsidization, In-Store activation is going to be required. This means that if you want to buy an iPhone, you must purchase the phone and activate in the store regardless if you’re in an AT&T store or an Apple Store. During busy times, such as the holiday season or during launch day, July 11th, this could mean many Apple Store employees being tied up with activating iPhones instead of helping other customers with Mac or iPod sales- which just leaves both sides aggravated.

It also means that the unlocked market is going to suffer. Because Apple gave consumers the liberty to purchase the hardware without any binding contract, many people took their iPhones onto other GSM networks such as T-Mobile. It is believed that over 500,000 iPhones have been unlocked and brought onto other networks around the world. This time around, because AT&T is paying for a portion of the iPhone hardware, requiring immediate, ins-store activation would make sense to further deter these people from bringing the iPhone to other networks.

However, some theorize that since Apple already requires a credit card for an iPhone purchase, they could charge AT&T’s subsidization amount back to their card if the phone wasn’t activated within a certain period of time. This could allow Apple to continue to activate phones through iTunes, but keep AT&T from loosing money.

Because there hasn’t been any official announcement, theoretically, we won’t know for certain until there is. The iPhone 3G is set to launch on July 11th. If you can’t wait, check out our new dashboard widget. Stay tuned for more information regarding the launch and launch coverage of the new 3G iPhone here at

A World Without Wires

4 06 2008

First Generation iPod

Since its founding, Apple has designed products aimed at changing the way we use technology. From early computer offerings like the Apple ][ to today’s iPhone, Apple has always changed the way we interact with technology. And Apple, since the introduction of the first AirPort base station in 1999, has continually pushed for a world with fewer wires and more elegant connectivity.

It started with the the Macintosh Portable in 1989. While the Macintosh Portable was a small step towards a portable, wireless device we have become accustomed with these days, it suffered from several fatal flaws- it was large, slow, awkwardly shaped and expensive. As a result, the Macintosh Portable didn’t sell as well as Apple would have liked. But Apple didn’t stop there. They followed the Macintosh Portable with the PowerBook, and it stuck. The PowerBook lived on Apple’s product line from October 1991 all the way to January 2006 when it was replaced by the MacBook Pro. Since then, Apple added the iBook and, recently, the MacBook Air.

Let’s step back a few years. On October 23, 2001, Apple Computer, Inc. released what some consider to be the most revolutionary product of the past decade: the iPod. The iPod took digital music and put it on the go. Suddenly, you could have thousands of songs at your fingertips without changing a single CD. Over the course of 5 years, Apple’s iPod reached the pockets of more than 30 million. To date, Apple has sold 150 million iPods.

Flash forward to January 2007, when Steve Jobs announces the iPhone. Apple redefines another mobile device. The iPhone went past cell phones’ old limits in a manner only Apple is capable of. The iPhone is reinventing the cell phone market like the iPod did for portable music.

With the imminent release of a new iPhone and iPhone firmware 2.0, Apple is moving us in a direction that will change the way we interact with technology once again. With the help of our favorite Cupertino company, we are being set free, and moving to a world without wires.

Windows to Mac: Prologue

22 04 2008

To understand my switch to the Mac requires a little background.

I’ve been a dedicated Windows user since the DOS age. Onto Windows 95, to 98, to XP, I’ve never truly experienced another operating system. But over the years I’ve grown very tiresome of fixing the problems on Windows. Everyday seems like a new issue appears just to piss me off. Well I’m finally sick of it.

Needs more LEDs
Needs more LEDs!

So what finally sent me over the edge was this year when I was (once again) trying to fix a memory issue my computer has been experiencing since its last reincarnation. My current rig actually started from the bones of a ’95. I inherited the computer from my brother at 11 years old in the winter of 2001-2002, as my brother got a overpriced Alienware (which he had to send back about 6 times over the course of its first year). Upon receiving the aged machine, I decided that I would build a custom computer with the help of my neighbor. New case, new motherboard, 1.4 gHz AMD Athlon processor, and a salvaged graphics card. It started out rocky, I had a 6 gb harddrive, half of which was reserved to run windows, the other half I had to conserve and manage. This was soon met with my graphics card already being outdated, as well as the release of XP and other problems.

2002 – new graphics card; new harddrive; XP
2004 – fried my motherboard (dust); new board, new graphics card, new cpu;
2005 – fried my motherboard (electrical short); new harddrive
2006 – new graphics card

Currently, I’m running a GeForce 6600, 2.8 AMD Athlon XP, a gig of ram.

This computer has run into numerous issues, I can’t even recall all the software problems I ran into that either caused me to need a hardware upgrade, or a reinstall of windows. And this latest iteration has a major ram problem which, after trying many different paths, seems to be a motherboard issue. It is not due to incompatibility, it’s due to the motherboard being lower quality than what I expected.

So after 7 years of reboots and reconfiguration, I think it is time to retire my machine, and aim for something that I don’t think I’ll have to spend the next couple years fighting to get into working shape. In (hopefully) less than two month’s I’ll be ordering a brand new, shiny MacBook Pro! I will detail my switch over the coming weeks in more detail and certainly keep you all posted about my new MacBook Pro.

Trip to the Apple Store

25 03 2008

Over this past weekend, a friend and I decided to take a trip to the 5th Avenue Apple Store. The experience below.

Apple Store 5th Avenue Cube Outside
Outside the 5th Avenue Apple Store, Jobs’ 32 foot cube in sight.

My friends and family know that I often like to take trips to the Apple Store for no apparent reason. About every month or so, I’ll make at least one trip to my local Apple Store- there are quite a few, actually! Because I live in New Jersey, 10 miles from New York City, I have access to 3 flagship stores and 3 regular Apple Stores within a 15 mile radius!!

After the opening of the West 14th Street store (which you can see here), I was instantly in love with the 3 stories of Cupertino goodness found on 14th Street- which still holds the crown as my favorite Apple Store ever. However because it was Easter Sunday and all other stores in the area were closed, my friend and I went to the 5th Avenue store, which is open 24/365. Upon our arrival we found the store to be quite crowded, probably due to the Easter Parade which takes place on 5th Avenue, not to mention it was one of the few businesses operating that day.

Inside the store, it was nicely crowded, you had to wait to do anything, not to mention the line coming in and out of the store. As usual, most people were just surfing the internet and playing on iPhones and iPods- I saw relatively little retail activity- even though there was a large line to the registers!

We started by playing on iPhones (which I’ll get into at a later date), and then wondered over to the MacBook Air table, which we spent a lot of time at. We were on one for maybe 20 minutes, when all the sudden someone took control of our mouse and promptly shut down the computer- via Remote Desktop, of course. Puzzled we turned the computer back on and quickly slid down one MacBook Air and resumed our browsing.

MacBook Air Table Apple Store
Yay! Photobooth lawls.
Exploring the contents of an Apple Store MacBook Air.

Later, we moved over to an iMac, where I was showing my friend something by Control+Scrolling (via Mighty Mouse) and found myself stuck zoomed in to a portion of the screen. Maybe you guessed it, but the down scrolling wasn’t working! I ended up navigating into System Preferences and turning off and on the Control Zoom feature to bring the display back to normal. Dammed Mighty Mice!! While an easy fix for my mice at home, I was disappointed that at the Apple Store it wasn’t taken care of.

Then later, it happened again! Before leaving, I wanted to play with Aperture 2 on a new computer (ie, not a PowerPC based computer), so we found an empty iMac in the opposite corner of the store to play with it on. Not remembering my previous experience with the Control Zoom, I did it again, showing a section of the new Aperture UI. This time a little more frustrated, as it is something that I use often, I realized that this Mighty Mouse didn’t scroll down either! Gah! How are people new to the Mac platform supposed to scroll down? Or see Apple’s hardware not working?! I am currently drafting a formal complaint for the store.

Otherwise, it was a typical Apple Retail experience, good, clean, pleasurable. I hope next time I go to use a Mighty Mouse it can scroll both ways. If not, I’ll have a nice template to send my complaint with.

MacBook Air: A Laptop for the Others?

20 03 2008

The MacBook Air is Apple’s smallest laptop ever- but where does it lie with other laptops?

More to the MacBook Air
Is there something hidden under the MacBook Air?

When Steve Jobs released the MacBook Air, the intention was to fill a gap in the existing Apple laptop lineup. Following the buzz of Macworld, many reviewers have ripped apart (literally) the MacBook Air and comparing it to the other ‘Ultra-Portable’ computers from other manufactures. From the non user-replaceable battery, to no Ethernet jack and only one USB port- people have poked at some of the cons of using the Air and since given it mixed reviews.

While the complaints are genuine, now more than 2 months since the release of the MacBook Air, I have found most of the reviewers are slightly biased. As the reviews came out I would always find myself saying- “Well, this is what someone tech savvy might say, but what about the others?”. The answer is usually: “they don’t really care”. Most people don’t care about taking advantage of all the features in their computers- both hardware and software. They just want to do whatever they want to do. Those who take full advantage are usually the more technically inclined- ie, the people writing the review!

While I am not refuting the claims made by reviewers of the MacBook Air, I feel that most people who are interested or buy the MacBook Air don’t really mind the tradeoffs associated with it. And while you can say that with virtually any product ever, the MacBook Air appears to be in strong demand. I think that the MacBook Air might prove to be a very successful laptop, but certainly never overthrow its big brother, the MacBook Pro. Currently residing on the number one spot on the Apple Online Store, seventh on Amazon Notebook section (joined with five other Apple laptops), one can assume it is selling with reasonable pace. Apple even keeps a MacBook Air availability badge for each one of it’s retail stores, updated daily at 9pm, much like the iPhone badge seen in June of last year.

MacBook Air Availability Checker
The MacBook Air availability checker.

So what is my point? The MacBook Air appeals to a certain type market of people. While this may not be everyone, it appears that a substantial amount of people are buying it. They feel that the other benefits the Air offers outweighs the non-user replaceable battery, one USB port or lack of Ethernet jack. While no product can ever be perfect, we shouldn’t forget that everyone sees things differently. This holds true not only with Apple, but the entire tech industry.

The College Perspective

31 01 2008


Hi, I’m Matt Hamilton, and I have joined as a contributing writer. I am a first-year at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation College of Engineering, and I have been paying much attention for many years to first the Apple Corporation and later the new web start-up boom we currently find ourselves in. Mainly, I’ll focus on how new developments in both the Apple and overall technology sphere affect me and my colleagues here in New York City, but also general advancements and controversies in the technology and web industries. The first topic for me is how Apple and other technology products help out college students. To me, one of the best tests to determine whether a product is actually useful or necessary and fashionable is if college students use it, or really want it. Full article after the jump!
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