a hackintosh for me, iphone applications for thee

I’m embarking on a hackintosh project because I want to dabble in some iPhone/iPod application development. This post is really a sort of notepad for some of the resources I am researching to help with this. The hardware is a refurbished Dell Mini v10, and I can report that it gets 2 fps (Dalaran) to 20 fps (out in the wild) playing Warcraft. 🙂

I was a moderately good citizen and snagged a legitimate copy of Snow Leopard off Amazon – the upgrade disc, mind you. The OSX installation guides vary but here are the main ones (slightly contradictory):

Mech Drew: http://osx.mechdrew.com/guides/

Gizmodo: http://bit.ly/ItgcC

Lifehacker: http://bit.ly/6sdVx

As far as learning how to do app development, I will use the courses on Apple ITunes University and also I bought this book.

unfortunately, none provide a simple way to add an OS/X install as a multiboot option. I used a freeware partition software to create a new 80 GB partition, so hopefully I can use that for OS/X but I’m really treading on new ground here. Ideally I can multi-boot into XP or Snow Leopard.

If anyone has any words of wisdom or advice, please do let me know! This isn’t for the faint of heart, clearly.

Will the Apple tablet be a Kindle killer?

Apple’s announcement today of it’s new iPad tablet system (alas, not named Newton 2), running iPhone OS and featuring a 10″ multi-touch screen – doesn’t strike me as the Kindle killer that everyone is making it out to be. Yes, it will definitely be an ebook reader and will have licensing agreements with textbook publishers like McGraw-Hill and the behemoth book chain Barnes and Noble. But at a price probably around $1000, it will be four times as expensive as the Kindle, and despite the glorious full color multi-touch screen, will still not be as easy to read as elecctronic ink technology.

The price point matters – iPhone and iPod dominate their respective segments, but only because they provide tremendous functionality and design at the same price point as their competitors. Meanwhile, Mac computers remain relegated to niche market share, because they are such a poor value. The Mac OS operating system is innovative but for fundamental computing tasks – office work and online – most users are OS agnostic at best (Word is Word; Gmail is Gmail) and biased towards what they know (ie, Windows).

For the iPad to compete against Kindle – which has a huge marketshare lead and truly is to books what the iPod was to music, despite e-readers from Sony being around for years – it needs to compete on price and functionality. And there’s no way that the average person is going to be willing to read a 400-page book on an LCD screen.

I think Apple knows this, which is why it is courting the textbook market, the gaming market, and also putting iPhone OS on the device to keep it compatible with the universe of apps from the App Store. These add value to the device in the sense that they keep it a general-task device and not a single-purpose one. But in doing so they are competing against their own products – I bought an iPod Touch myself for less than $200 and I can run any app on it that the iPad will, and most are designed for a small screen so what’s the advantage of 10 inches? And why pay 4x the cost? Conversely why spend $1000 for a iSlate when you can drop a few hundred more and get a full-featured macbook? Or spend the same amount of money and buy a full-featured Windows laptop? Or spend half and get a netbook running Chrome OS, or a new Pine Trail netbook which can play real games like Warcraft?

Textbooks and other digital documents can certainly be made more innovative and hyperlinked and interactive on the iPad, but that media revolution will not be confined to Apple’s garden. And it’s a guarantee that Kindle v3.0 is going to incorporate color e-ink and a touch interface (though probably not multi-touch). Any new innovations in content delivery and integrating media and text will be just as exploitable by laptops and netbooks in particular.

And there are amazing new display technologies coming out – including color e-ink and hybrid CD screens, which will let other manufacturers build devices for ebook reading and media consumption at a fraction of the cost of what Apple can. I think that Apple has learned the wrong lesson from it’s success with iPod and iPhone and will end up doing everything poorly rather than a few things well.

UPDATE: Steve jobs dismisses netbooks, saying a netbook is “not better at anything! It’s just cheaper. But it’s not better at anything.” Shows how little he understands about netbooks. And he claims the iPad’s on-screen virtual keyboard is a “dream to type on” – yeah, right.

Mac myths: virus immunity

Apple still touts the Mac's supposed immunity to viruses as an advantage over Windows
Apple still touts the Mac's supposed immunity to viruses as an advantage over Windows
An inconvenient truth, indeed:

For the first time, Apple is recommending the use of anti-virus tools to protect Mac systems.

Long something of a phantom menace, strains of malware capable of infecting Mac machines have gradually been increasing in prevalence over recent months. In addition, VXers are making more use of web-based attack and applications specific vulnerabilities to infect PCs whatever their underlying operating system might be.

Windows-specific malware attacks are still orders of magnitude greater than assaults on Mac machines, but the risk to Apple fans is now enough for the Church of Jobs to admit a risk exists.

The admission that security scanner software was a good idea for Mac users came in an unheralded update to Apple’s support site made on 21 November, first picked up by Brian Krebs at Security Fix on Monday.

Apple goes further than just recommending the use of one scanner to advise the use of multiple tools. “Apple encourages the widespread use of multiple anti-virus utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to circumvent, thus making the whole virus writing process more difficult,” it said.

The supposed invulnerability of Macs to viruses has long been a selling point and marketing mantra for Macs’ superiority over the Windows world – as the screenshot I’ve taken of Apple.com’s “Why a Mac” page demonstrates (see above). The idea that you need two anti-virus tools by Apple’s own recommendation is actually pretty funny; if I were Microsoft I’d cut an ad saying that the Mac platform is so unstable, just one virus scanner doesn’t cut it!

the iPhone is NOT a netbook, Mr. Jobs

Steve Jobs confirmed what I have long suspected: he has no clue at all what a typical consumer’s usage-model is for their personal computers:

A recurring question among Apple watchers for decades has been, “When is Apple going to introduce a low-cost computer?

Mr. Jobs answered that decades-old complaint by stating, “We don’t know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk.” He argued instead that the company’s mission was to add more value for customers at current price points.

However, he gave a more nuanced answer to the question of whether Apple plans to jump into the “nascent” market for netbooks, essentially restating his comments on the question from last week at the Macbook introduction in Cupertino by saying the company was taking a wait-and-see attitude.

At the same time, he noted that the company already had a powerful entry in the category: the iPhone. (By that standard, Apple is already the dominant netbook manufacturer by orders of magnitude.)

The idea that the iPhone – sexy and cool as it is – is equivalent to a netbook is laughable. But what’s the real implication of Job’s comment? Is the iPhone a computer? If it’s a netbook, then yes, but it’s also sub-$500 in cost and therefore by Jobs’ own standard, “a piece of junk”. If the iPhone is not a computer, but a phone, then how can it be a netbook?

What IS a netbook? In essence, a small but full-fledged computer, weighing 3lbs or less, with full wireless capabilities and a real, physical keyboard. The gold standard is the Asus EEE, which has the added feature of a solid-state drive, which in my opinion is the must-have feature that provides power economy for all-day computing as well as boosted performance. The key however is that the netbook must be fully-functional, ie it should be able to run any software that the user desires. This idea behind a netbook is to be able to connect and compute anywhere. Since the iPhone is a locked-down device which only runs permitted applications, it can not and never be a true computing replacement. On my EEE, I can run MATLAB for scientific calculations, write a paper in Microsoft Word, edit my website templates, pay my bills, and even do an impromptu podcast. On the iPhone, you can only do what the pre-approved apps in the Apple software store permit you to do.

Now, it must be noted that Google’s Android platform – which is now officially open-source – does provide full-functionality computing. The only difference between an Android phone and a netbook will be the keyboard, and it’s not hard to imagine a simple keyboard-cum-case being developed that slots the phone in if you really need traditional typing ergonomics. Apple makes a nice device but it’s way out of its league here in even comprehending why netbooks matter, let alone it’s absurd claim to already be making them. Nice phone, though.

Calvin and Jobs

Hobbes has been replaced by Steve Jobs:

Brilliant. I especially love how Jobbes turns into a stuffed toy when the parents or others are around. The artwork is perfect, but the comic has a sharp edge, too:

Calvin: Jeez! How come all your stuff so expensive, Jobs?
Jobs: Well, Calvin, it’s carefully put together by some of the world’s most ingenious craftsmen!
Calvin: Really? But isn’t it slapped together in China like just about everything else?
Jobs: I was talking about our ads.

Somehow I don’t think Bill Watterson is going to be as tolerant of this as Jim Davis was with Garfield Minus Garfield… speaking of the latter, travors just signed a book deal with Davis’ blessing.

two sticks and an apple

I’m Mac curious.

And while I’m not losing any sleep over how the hair on my head can be fuller with iTonic, which mammals will start flying first, or any other airy announcements likely to come tomorrow, I’m excited nonetheless. Not fan-blind giddy, but excited enough to add a couple extra feeds to my RSS reader.

You see, my first computer was an Apple //c, complete with green monitor, external hard disk drive, and mouse. That Apple was where I first started playing games like the Ultima series and to see it evolve from Ultima to Ultima V, all on the same hardware, was impressive indeed. A recent PC of mine which could play Baldur’s Gate was crippled in spades by it’s sequel. I couldn’t even cast magic missle without the game grinding to a halt. I couldn’t hope to cast something like Vas Flam. But I realise it’s unfair to compare the technological achievements within the Ultima series to the Baldur’s Gate series. Anyway, I digress.

Lately I’ve been hankering to give Macs a try. I’ll admit the main reason is because they look so nice but even the crappiest one is better than my current Vaio. I don’t have any illusion that a Mac will make me more creative, give me chunky framed glasses, or multiply the sweater vests in my wardrobe. In fact, if anything, I have no idea what would be gained by owning a Macbook other than receiving knowing looks in Starbucks.

But I still want one.