Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Back to the Mac Media Event Follow-Up

Well I went scored 4 out of 4 on my predictions.

Mac OS X Lion - The new Lion version was announced and they are going to take things they learned from iOS and bring them "Back to the Mac". There will now be a Mac App Store for purchasing apps. A new launchpad aka home screen will be featured. A lot more support for multi-touch is going in Lion including a new Mission Control window for easy navigation between apps, think new and improved Expose'. Finally lots of apps are going to get Full Screen modes with easy switching between apps. It will be released next summer.

iLife '11 - As predicted this was announced with new versions of iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand.

iPhoto does NOT have improvements for Faces, but does now have a full screen mode and has a look and feel much like the iOS photos app. There is new support for books, letters and some more Facebook integration.

iMovie gets some cool upgrades including improved audio editing capabilities and some new audio and video effects. The other cool feature is the ability to create movie trailers which gives you a story board and you just drag and drop different clips onto it combined with some manually typed in things like people in the movie and activities from the movie. It creates really cool looking videos.

GarageBand had some changes, but I didn't really pay attention since recording new music is the third priority for when I use a computer for creative purposes and I rarely get to my second priority which is making movies.

FaceTime - Apple is going to release a new FaceTime app for the Mac that will allow iPhone4 and iPod Touch users to do FaceTime video chatting with a desktop computer. Very simple and basic app which integrates with the Address Book app.

MacBook Air - A new MacBook Air was announced that is lighter and smaller than the previous generation. It comes with a crazy battery life and a new multi-touch trackpad. There is also an 11" model to go with the 13" model. The craziest part is the starting price for the 11" with a 64GB SSD is $999, which is dramatically lower than the previous MacBook Air.

Overall there were some interesting things. I am most excited about FaceTime and might consider buying iPhoto if only for the full screen move and cleaner UI. Lion is a great first step towards merging the Mac OS X and iOS, but there is nothing completely revolutionary that I can't wait to use.

Back to Mac Media Event Predictions

Last week Apple announced their second media event of the fall season with the title of "Back to Mac", scheduled for October 20, 2010 at 1PM EDT. Of course being an Apple fan-boy I am very excited to see what is in store for the Mac, which has appeared like a red-headed step child since the iPhone was released.

Here is the image for the event.


Okay so here are the predictions:

Mac OS X Lion - It seems pretty clear from the image above that Apple will make some announcement around the next version of Mac OS X. I am predicting some listing of the features and also a couple demos of the new features, but it probably won't be available until the WWDC next summer. The convergence begins....I expect it to include some new UI features with a more iOS look and feel as Apple begins the process of moving towards a single OS for all their devices. Not exactly sure about any other changes besides some general UI stuff, but maybe some updates to the native Mail and Calendar apps.

MacBook Air Update - The MacBook Air was announced back in May of 2009 and hasn't been updated since, so I think a new version is a near certainty. The new MacBook Air will probably be thinner, lighter and have a longer battery life. I think they will probably add a new screen size and also add some more multi-touch support. The long shot would be an actual touch-screen and ability to switch from Mac OS X to iOS.

iLife '11 - Again it has been two years since the last iLife update and it is time for some updates to the suite. Not exactly sure what the changes will be, maybe bringing some more features to iMovie and hopefully some better Faces usability in iPhoto.

FaceTime - I have had an iPhone 4 now for four months and have only used the "killer" app FaceTime on it once. The big problem is I don't know many people with a device that actually supports FaceTime. I think iChat will finally get FaceTime support and Windows may also get iChat as well. Since Apple wants to get this out to as many people as possible I don't think they will include it in iLife and will hopefully push it out as a Mac OS X update.

Now I just have to wait five more hours and find out if my predictions are true.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My New Apple TV

The new AppleTV was officially released at the end of September, but with most Apple devices I couldn't actually buy one in the Apple Store (so annoying). However, this time instead of getting on a waiting list or going to the Apple Store everyday for three weeks I decided to order it online. About a week after ordering it appeared on my doorstep while I was at work. Of course now being the parent of two children I couldn't just start hooking it up when I returned home and had to wait a few hours before I had some free time. Once I heard the "five minutes 'til dinner" call I figured I would get started and see how far I could get. It turns out that is all I needed to get it hooked up to the TV, integrated with the iPhone remote and playing music from the MacBook. Apple has done a great job of simplifying the AppleTV and no longer requires syncing media like an iPod, instead you just start Home Sharing (which only involves entering an Apple ID and password) on the AppleTV, iPhone and MacBook and you have access across the devices.


I was very curious about whether or not I could set up the screen saver to use my photos instead of the stock photos and was happy to see it was not only possible, but much easier than worrying about syncing and having enough free space for photos. Of course the MacBook does have to be awake with iTunes open, which will be a change for us since we usually close it after every time we use it. It certainly makes me want to get a Mac Mini so the media will always be available, but I need to think about how that setup will look a little more before diving in with another new plan.

Finally, I tested out the Netflix application and it was a dramatic improvement over the Tivo Netflix application. The Tivo requires you to adding things to your InstantQueue on another device before it is available. The AppleTV on the other hand lets you browse movies and watch them right away complete with descriptions and controls for modifying your InstantQueue.

So far I have only spent a little bit of time with the new AppleTV, but I am happy with my purchase. For $99 the improved speed, Netflix and small size is well worth the price, but the possibilities going forward with AirPlay and integration with other iOS devices makes this a no-brainer.

Oh yeah and having a new device also gave me a chance to move some electronic devices around and clean up my setup. I ended up removing our audio receiver since we never use it and in its spot in the entertainment center moved the cable modem, 3G MicroCell and AirPort Extreme. Ever since I added the 3G MicroCell to the picture the kitchen was beginning to get cluttered with wires and devices, but I couldn't find a good place to put everything. Now they nicely sit in the entertainment center and also allow me to have some hard-wired network connections between the Tivo, Wii and Apple TV.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Quick One: SQL Server Image Column to Text

I am working on a project where I have some xml data stored in an SQL Server database column of type Image. Apparently there is now an XML column available in SQL Server, but for some reason we don't use it.

I was working on a similar issue a few weeks ago and downloaded, SQL Lob Editor, which was really great. It allowed you to point to specific tables and columns and download all of the content to the file system. Unfortunately my trial expired and I rarely need this functionality so I didn't think the $75 would be worth it.

So again today I set out on Google trying to find some free tool to get this xml data. A colleague mentioned that there is a way to do it from SQL Server natively. A few minutes of searching and I found the query:

select convert(varchar(8000), convert(binary(8000), xml_data)) from letter

It is a simple select query that converts the image to binary and then the binary to a varchar.

That's all folks!!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

FaceTime Finally

It has been about two months since my long drive to Cape Cod for my iPhone 4 and so far the device has been a joy. The only functionality I hadn't really been able to use was FaceTime, well that all changed yesterday. My friend send me a text message and said he had just picked up an iPhone 4, so like any true Apple fanboy I quickly attempted to FaceTime with him, but he wasn't on WiFi. I told my friend to let me know when he was on WiFi, but didn't tell him about FaceTime, because I knew it would be a surprise (don't ask). I received a text a half an hour later saying he was at home and this time when I hit FaceTime it connected us. Woohoo, finally!!!

The quality of the video was great, a little pixelated at times, but the audio was crystal clear and most of the time the video was very sharp. I had video chatted before and know about my difficulties with eye contact on a video chat, but seeing that combined with my inability to stand still during a phone conversation was dizzying. I would love to blame my walking around on poor cell reception from AT&T, but unfortunately it is just me not liking to stand still. It was so noticeable my friend actually pointed it out to me saying it looked like I was standing in front of a green screen because the background was changing so much.

It makes me really excited for the following: broad acceptance of FaceTime on devices besides just the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch, such as Mac's and maybe even GoogleTalk AND the ability to use it over 3G airwaves. Once we get there I hope I can learn that walking around is just going to make me look like I am a participant on the reality show that used to be on MTV where they tried to scare people.