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this week's gadget bignews

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Jan. 9th, 2009 | 09:58 am

Okay, so we had the Macworld keynote speech which announced three new things - new iWork, new iLife, and an upgraded 17" Macbook Pro. Apparently, this is some sort of amazing disappointment for some people. "Oh no, Apple's boring now, they've lost it." What did you want, an iPhone Nano? Maybe an iPhone Shuffle?

Phones are so last year now. I'm bored with phones. In 2009 it's all about computers. I'm actually quite happy that Apple had a keynote that had products for Macs in it - you know, things you might want and can go and get without having to sign up to a new contract. Funnily enough, most of the things I do technology are actually done on computers. Call me weird if you like.

So anyway it had iLife '09 in it, which seems to have
  • an improved iPhoto. iPhoto has got a lot better since the first version, believe me, and the one in '08 was not too bad, but this one looks significantly smarter, with lots of nice tagging options, face recognition, geopositioning etc. I imagine they knew that Google were putting Picasa out for Macs; Google's date to release the Mac version suddenly seems a bit more deliberate.
  • an improved iMovie; the one in '08 famously sucked huge balls, and the one in '06 sucked quite significant balls. Apparently the one in '09 doesn't suck any size of balls. Perhaps little teeny shrew balls. I don't know, I've not tried it, but this is what I would buy iLife '09 for should I buy iLife '09.
  • some stupid shit with Garageband that nobody cares about where you can get music lessons from Sting or something. Apple, nobody cares about Garageband. What the hell is it doing there? I'm prepared to tolerate its existence in the same way that I tolerate sport on TV - fine, keep it in if you must, but it better not mean less effort goes into other things.
I have not tried iLife '09 but I have tried iWork '09 a little bit. I like iWork. Sort of. I don't use word processors or spreadsheets very often myself and I don't give presentations, but people send me documents for all of these, which need opening and editing and saving. I am not paying Microsoft's stupid price for its latest crappy Mac version of Office, and I hate to say it but OpenOffice for the Mac is still a pile of crap. If you run it and start up a new document you might think "this isn't so bad, takes a little time to start up but it works okay", but try something fairly standard like opening a 12-page presentation - not even one that needs converting, in its native format - and it takes about five minutes and groans and drags its feet like a teenager every time you try to do anything after that. "You want me to change pages? You're so unfair!" It makes MS Office look like a sprightly gazelle.

iWork looks nice and is quick and responsive and easy to use. What it isn't is compatible. Despite OpenOffice on the Mac being a pile of crap, it is apparently fine on other platforms, and lots of people use it. Given that, and that it uses an Open Document Format, I'd expect any decent office package to be able to import and export to it. Mais non. iWork will read and write MS Office junk happily, even coping with those awful .docx things, but not ODF, and this has not changed in iWork '09.

On the other hand, there are quite a lot of little bug fixes and UI improvements which seem generally good, there's an automatic web publishing function where you can send documents to iwork.com and people can view and annotate them in a browser, there are way more functions in Numbers that make it a lot more professional, and, critically for me though you won't find an awful lot of mention of it about, the applications are now properly Applescriptable. The ability to tie my apps together, have iCal running scripts to update my task list, or Mail take emails I send to myself and add them to a note-taking app, that sort of thing, is extremely useful and I find it frustrating when I'm prevented from using an application except by point, drag and click. This makes iWork into a much more useful package. So I will probably buy it even if you won't.


Oh yes, the other thing was that Palm dragged itself quite convincingly out of the intensive care unit and announced an entirely new phone and OS. While yes, it is a phone, and as I said I'm bored with phones, the basis of writing apps as HTML/Javascript widgets could work well. It does mean that Palm is abandoning everything it has already done and everything everyone has written for its products - this is not going to be backwards-compatible - which will irritate the hell out of the three remaining people who were writing for Palm OS, I'm sure, and also means that Palm suddenly has no base of existing software, which was always one of their strengths. But when you're at the point of death you may well think that the only thing that will save you is to completely change your lifestyle.

The Palm Pre isn't out for a while, so we have to wait to see what ridiculous price they'll be asking for it and which appalling network gets exclusive rights to distribute it in the UK. We will also see whether Palm has legitimately been discharged from ICU or whether it's just been pumped full of stimulants and is going to keel over any second now. I used to use Palms a lot, though I've moved away from the platform completely now by necessity and am very unlikely to move back, so any interest I have is mostly due to nostalgia and geekery... those are fair enough motivations for blogging.

And now I should do some work.

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Comments {4}


(no subject)

from: mjl
date: Jan. 9th, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC)

OpenOffice sucks on Windows too in my limited experience. I was trying it out on our office computers, and despite having the OpenOffice pre-loaded quickstarter thing, it is many times slower than MS Word at basic things like opening documents (scientifically measured with a watch) and the UI is a mess. We're still on Office 2000, which doesn't do well with docx even with the importers (although better than Openoffice in some cases), and won't get security updates as of mid-2009, but I'm thinking we're going to have to go for MS Office 2007 (or possible 2003) because anything else is going to cost far more in time than the cost.

I hadn't seen the news about the Palm Pre... I'm still using (but not much) an old Palm Zire.

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(no subject)

from: fridgemagnet
date: Jan. 9th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)

I believe that WordPerfect is still going. I met somebody over Christmas who was using it with his team. I always preferred WordPerfect back when I was still using Windows and it was still available, mostly for the tag system which made debugging horrible format problems much easier.

I only ever really use OpenOffice on Linux netbooks, and to be honest you don't expect much speed from a netbook anyway so I've never thought "oh this is a bit slow". However, on a dual-core Intel iMac I expect a bit better.

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Balls ?

from: anonymous
date: Jan. 9th, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC)

Enlighten a super-annuated old badger.

This sucking balls, thing. Is it a term of disapprobation or of approval ?

The context of your report does not make this clear.

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Re: Balls ?

from: fridgemagnet
date: Jan. 9th, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)

who _are_ the Beatles?

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