Monday, November 08, 2004

Playing with Mac OS X

So I've been playing around with Mac OS X. Things are beginning to fall into place now. A lot of things are really cool - however there is one big disappointment: Media players and management.

So I have a reasonably large collection of mainly mp3s that I have ripped off my collection of CDs. Nothing that unusual. The main thing is that in the Mac OS X universe, everyone seems to think that iTunes is a great media player - when actually it seems to suck quite badly. I've been running with the J. River Media Center on windows which seems to be way better than iTunes. Major areas where iTunes sucks in comparison to Media Center:

1. Gapless playback. I've seen comments about this for the last 2 or so years - but still it has not been fixed.

2. Ability to easily and simply manage a very large number of albums with simple multiple at a time, tag editing.

3. Offering more than one way of browsing media - i.e. more than "Genre-Artist-Album"

4. Offering more than a flat-list of playlists.

5. Ability to browse the file system and edit, import, manage files inside the application.

6. Importing and managing other than mp3 or aac media - including ogg, ape etc. file formats.

7. Customisable display modes for track information, including lyrics and other info.

8. Completely extensible meta-data tracking against tracks.

9. Multiple zone playback for Home Media installations

etc. etc. etc.

Anyone with some reasonable alternatives in Mac OS X land - please let me know.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

New Hardware

So in the last couple of weeks I've been playing/testing/working with new hardware - specifically a new Apple PowerBook G4 17-inch.

For me this has been interesting. I haven't had the opportunity/experience of getting used to a brand new OS or system "from scratch" since the release of Windows 95. Back then (1995) I had already got my hands dirty with Unix boxes and was working as a System Administrator for an ISP working with SunOS 4.1 while my home machine was an old Atari 1040 ST. Since then I guess everything I have done has involved getting familiar with an OS before actually using it in anger as it were. However this time, there isn't much one can do except, buy the machine and immediately start using it!

So my initial reaction was "why have I waited so long?". The combination of cool sexy hardware, easy to handle GUI with a Unix under the hood is really quite extraordinary. The thing I wasn't expecting (jaded long time sys-admin/developer I guess) was how much it just works out of the box!! So for me, there are things that I am really quite fussy about. One particular areas is email - the result of having worked with so many different email systems in the last 18 years - a lot of which just don't cut it. So to find that the default Mac OS X Mail client "just worked" seems really cool. I have an IMAP setup here, that often a lot of clients wont get right - however the Mac seems to be handling it as good as any. Not perfect - however damned good, predictable and reliable.

The predictability bit is so often not what one finds in clients that have just "bolted on" IMAP functionality. Often email clients, assume that you are only going to use email "their way" what ever that is. When IMAP is added to the fray, they simply extend things by just carrying over the assumptions. So for a new user without any previous email this may indeed be reasonable. HOWEVER! this is now 2004. Most people on the Internet using email will have already been using email previously. If they are using IMAP they will most probably already have been using the server and therefore have a folder structure, way of using it and a collection of email already there. Therefore just assuming that the client can go ahead and create new folders, for Drafts, Sent mail, Junk-mail etc. is not necessarily helpful. Neither is immediately assuming that all folders in the namespace need to be checked for new incoming email and immediately synchronised with the offline cache on the workstation. For me both of these habits are so annoying that I will probably remove any prospective client software that I am testing immediately! Why? because I have a mail-folder collection of around 288 folders, containing somewhere around 6-7 Gigs of email.
Not something I want downloaded (possibly on a dial-up) just because I ran up a new client!!

Enough for now. More ramblings to come about mail and Mac OS X I'm sure!