Scripting News for 9/4/07

An iPod with a radio? 

Tomorrow Apple is going to announce something new, people say it’s an iPod of some sort, and there are rumors that its big innovation is that it supports digital radio, with a tie-in to the Apple site that sells music.

Okay, that’s all speculation, let’s get that objection out of the way. But in case it’s true, let me be the first to say: Apple is chickenshit!

I feel that way about the iPhone, it’s a chickenshit device, from a company that used to be a daring hell-raiser. Apple, after all, was the first mainstream PC manufacturer to build networking into every box, starting in 1985. I’m not even sure that every Dell sold today comes with networking, no matter, Apple was way ahead of its time, and helped make it inevitable that a new network with storage and computing power at the terminals would exist. The world desperately needed that at the time.

Apple was also the company to break through on wireless networking for PCs. It was eight years ago that the first Airport was released, it was a completely new idea, a long-term bet, and because they had the guts to break through there, we now have widespread wifi as a worldwide standard. I can’t use my cellphone everywhere in Europe, but I can use my MacBook. 🙂

So what if…

What if the iPhone didn’t come ready to talk to AT&T over the cellular phone network, rather it came ready to work over an EVDO network? What if, like all Macs, it could then make its wifi capability available to all computers in range, wirelessly of course (Windows machines too). And what if there was already a wifi signal, that the iPhone would magically “just work?” And then just leave out the EVDO. Yeah sales would be slow at first, because wifi isn’t available everywhere, but then when Apple shipped the Airport there weren’t many computers that could use it either. And there were cheaper ways to connect Macs to Laserwriters, but full networking created a powerful platform.

Such a product would, in the next eight years, force the same kind of upgrade to the technological infrastructure of the world that the Airport set in motion eight year ago.

Okay they didn’t do it. The iPhone is a nice device. On Entourage last night, Johnny Drama is showing pictures on an old non-iPhone phone. It looked dated. Stylistically the iPhone is a milestone, but technologically it’s just a brick.

Now on to the iPod, and Chance #2 to blow us away with their gutiness or gutlessness.

Dear Apple: Let it support wifi, let it connect directly to the Internet to get music and podcasts, and let’s at least start to get rid of syncing as a way of life.

But radio? OMG that’s so 20th Century. Fugghedaboudit.

Why road trips are so satisfying 

Carl Sagan in his 1994 book Pale Blue Dot, explains why human beings find road trips so satifsying.

The earth’s climate is always changing, even before global warming, a rain forest would turn into a desert because the weather pattern changed. Or some animal or plant that you’re depending on for food or shelter or trade, might suffer or go extinct. Or a volcano might turn up right in the middle of your civilization.

Leaving one place for another is a big part of being human. And the reason we like travelling so much is that evolution culled out those of us who didn’t.

And maybe this also answers the question why, when I travel, I’m always thinking about what it would be like to live there. It’s not my mind that’s wondering, it’s evolution’s mind.

OPML 2.0 updates 

On Tuesday last week, I published an updated draft OPML 2.0 spec.

The change notes are here.

If you’re actively developing in OPML, or plan to, a careful review would be a good idea, to catch any mistakes before the spec is finalized.

17 responses to this post.

  1. Hey Dave.
    Here’s a nice animated replacement image for tha chicken 😀

    I agree btw.

    I’d like to see an Apple equivalent of the excellent (Linux based) Nokia N800. Which is an amazing little device with loads of potential. Essentially a little palm held computer, connectable via Bluetooth or Wifi (ie: ANY way *I* want to connect it) with a built in (albeit crappy) camera. Expandable memory via 2 SD cardslots.

    Oh and it ha a radio app you can install too.

    Oh yes.. and it supports Flash 9 – and H.264..etc..etc.. 😉


  2. Posted by rawdigital on September 4, 2007 at 11:08 am

    I realize that I’m probably going to sound like an idiot here, but what’s the benefit of OPML vs. what I know as RSS? Also, I think the gPhone will have to fill in the innovation gaps that Apple has left wide open.


  3. raw, RSS and OPML do different things, and they are often used together. For example, lists of RSS feeds are often exchanged as OPML files.


  4. One of the challenges of a pure wifi and/or EVDO (owned by Verizon, so you are stuck doing a deal with them or Sprint) bet is network coverage. Wifi is certainly available in many places, but not all, and not always when one needs to be connected. Many also require passwords or subscriptions of some sort.

    Unfortunately, the telco’s have their place, simply due to network coverage.

    I do have to say, however, that my experience with AT&T via the iPhone has been remarkable. Their customer service has been quite good and the network coverage much better than a few years ago (a 3G phone is a must, however). I mention this as someone who has no love lost for them based on many past experiences. AT&T lags far behind Verizon with respect to Fiber to the Home implementations.

    Your sharing idea is a good one, something I do with my macbook pro and evdo card frequently (sharing connection via wifi).


  5. Like others, I wished the iPhone wasn’t tied to one carrier (in spite of the hack workarounds) but in defense of AT&T and it’s slow EDGE, at least it’s widely available. With Verizon EVDO, as Doc found on his trip, once you’re outside a large metro area you basically have a dead pipe. In MN/WI where I am, Verizon EVDO is available mainly where I don’t need it as there is plenty of WiFi. When I travel, it’s dead and leaves me searching for outback libraries, coffee shops, or a random WiFi signal. Some coverage trumps none most days.


  6. @rawdigital : OPML lets us create ‘directories’ and ‘folders’ of rss feeds, etc. As well as simple ‘lists’ of feeds – often called ‘blogRolls’.

    It can do a whole lot more too.

    It has the ability to ‘thread’ – like a forum or newsgroup post does.

    All depends how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go. 😀

    An example is all the folders over on my podcast directory page ( ) are created and managed and navigated using OPML (see the small blue opml icon below each folder) – where each time you open a folder, you are essentially loading ‘more OPML’ – we call this ‘inclusion’.

    OPML’s simplicity is what makes it so powerful – imho 😉


  7. Funny you say your cellphone doesn’t work in Europe and at the same time wished your iPhone did EVDO… If your cellphone is an iPhone then it works in Europe where GSM is the standard. Unfortunately the iPhone is only EDGE and I agree with you that it is not up to EVDO speeds. But luckily for you it is not EVDO or else it wouldn’t work in Europe either ! GSM and 3G (and EDGE = 2.5G) are the most deployed cellular technologies today… and Apple chose the right one. They aren’t ahead of time on this one but EVDO isn’t the right choice IMHO…

    You could also mention USB as one technology that Apple pushed before anybody else…


  8. Posted by rawdigital on September 4, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks. I just realized I’ve used it whenever I steal a better-informed person’s Bloglines 🙂


  9. Of course I don’t know what Apple is really thinking, but my impression is that Apple is trying solve one problem: make sure you know where all your stuff is. (Is it on my iPod? Is it on my iMac? Or is it on my MacBook?)

    Apple went with the idea of one computer as a hub of stuff (which means everything syncs off that one hub), I believe, because it is easier to implement in order to solve this problem, than to sync up everything without a central hub.

    This strategy is employed throughout Apple’s product line (iTunes, .Mac, iPhoto, and now iMovie), and I do believe Apple customers will have to live with this decision for now.


  10. I’ve been traveling lots with work recently and it’s just great for getting me thinking, I find new ideas popping out of thin air all the time. It’s like there’s more input, more perspective.


  11. Posted by Mark Kelso on September 4, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    RSS, Google and Wikipedia forever changed the way average people view the Internet. Apple’s newest iPod has a golden opportunity to take everyone to the next level, anything less than what you describe is compromise and business as usual.


  12. Mark, exactly right.

    I noted that Apple has done it before.

    They’re making easy products now, perhaps understandable, but regrettable.


  13. Posted by Damien on September 5, 2007 at 12:34 am

    Dave, have you read “The Songlines” by Bruce Chatwin? I think you might like it. He suggests that man is a nomad by nature and that staying in one place is the source of a lot of our troubles. It’s an unusual book, a little bit all over the place but I found it a strangely satisfying read at the time. I think I’m going to dig it out again tonight!


  14. I imagine in the past traveling must have felt like a more lonely afair. These days we twitter and flickr and have blackberrys and laptops. We can share what we are doing openly as we do it and learn from others at the same time too, there’s this strange sense of ‘aren’t we all having fun here’. Digital nomads making a new sort of history.


  15. Posted by Al Willis on September 5, 2007 at 8:22 am

    If you step back, the iPhone is clearly a revolutionary device, following in the tradition of Apple’s great products. I don’t have a problem with them playing nice with the phone companies–for now. Unless they were going to become a MVNO–a much more expensive and risky proposition–they didn’t have a choice.

    Since the iPhone runs OS X–just let that sink in for a moment–and it has Wi-Fi, it’ll be just a matter of time before there’s VoIP over Wi-Fi, etc.

    The syncing is fabulous–you get all of the information in Address Book in full glorious detail. We live in multi device world, so robust syncing is important.

    You can already listen to streaming podcasts, etc. via Wi-Fi or EDGE. Listening to internet radio on an iPod or iPhone would be a nice addition, which I suspect will be announced today.


  16. Posted by Gene Poole on September 5, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Apple does the industry a service by negotiating well with media companies and technology providers to enbale new paradigm shifts.


    iTunes took the pirated media ideas of Napster and made them legal, affordabale and commonplace.

    OS X took the open goodness of the Un*x OS and made a supported commercial platform for developer’s to revel in using.

    iPhone took the walled garden of cellphone media and open some nice picture windows towards the fields just beyond.

    Shifting paradigms when you have deep pockets is incredibly tricky and Apple beings a lot of old-world business people forward into new ideas. I like Apple for that effort. I also like their attention to the little details like system security (my wife and kids don’t need 1/10 the tect support from me that they did when they all used VAIO’s and the current MS OS). “Bonzi Buddie” and all those spyware traps… yuck.

    So, give Apple credit for enabling change and keep pushing them to change their partners faster. The real driver for the change is always a paying customer and not just a percieved degree of freedom. Linux has freedom if that’s what you’d prefer.

    Get a Frontier port to Linux and you’ll have a lot ore programmable goodies to mashup. Of course, you’ll probably have to fund the port… at least the deepest Frontier voodoo like the GUI hooks and such. Expensive but worth it to you and the OPML editor crowd.


  17. Yes on WiFi, based on twits coming from across the block at Moscone West.

    Deep conversations here at the Office 2.0 unconference at the St. Regis.


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