That Damn Protestant Work Ethic

The follow-up on yesterday's post also happened yesterday: my brother-in-law and I rode a ski lift up with a ski racing coach. Very nice bearded guy from Massachusetts who'd been out here for a while. We were talking about how none of us had formal jobs, were enjoying ourselves, etc. He said, every time I say that I'm a ski coach, people give me grief about it not being a real job. Why can't people accept that it's okay to work at something you like? I said, you're from Massachusetts: it's that damn Protestant work ethic! We all laughed, we three people doing exactly what we want to do at this moment in our lives. I'm savoring it; nothing this good can be uninterrupted, but I don't believe I'm tempting fate. I just accept that as reality.

Five Unemployed Skiers

I'm in Montana (Big Sky) skiing in the beautiful weather and glorious new snow (yeah, cry me a river), with my wife, brother-in-law, and parents-in-law. We were sitting around the table saying something about how great it was to come out mid-week to ski on an off-week, and I said, yeah, well, none of us have jobs!

My wife is starting a business, my brother-in-law is taking the year off to ski and travel, and my mom-and-dad-in-law are retired. Me, I'm self-employed, so it doesn't exactly count as a job.

Cell Portage

Reuters reports that cell service operators want telephone phone portability -- but only if it applies to both wireless and landline phone numbers. It's hard to argue that that's a bad thing. The cell industry cites a huge cost -- $1 billion in this article -- at providing full wireless number portability, or allowing their customer to keep their phone numbers when they switch providers.

It's a road to hell, of course, because the cell companies are already engaged in mutually assured destructive commerce in which the discounts they charge pretty much are guaranteed to lose them money. Add the ability to switch and retain numbers, and you'll see the kinds of migrations that are typically associated with species of birds.

It doesn't have to be this way: the companies have all failed to learn the lesson of the race to the bottom. They'll all wind up bankrupt or albatrosses around parent companies' necks or serving their customers horribly. But that's what happens when the only differentiator they can think of is price and Catherine "expose that flesh" Zeta-Jones versus the "can you hear me guy" guy.

Safari Beta Web Logging (the Other Kind)

I noticed in viewing my Web logs -- the old kind, you know, the raw data describing a hit to your Web server with time, request, user agent, referer, etc. -- that Apple.com users are up to version 52 of Safari; the last beta release on 1-10-03 was 51. So I guess if you want to know how fast Safari's being revised, just look at the Apple.com hits from their gecko-like agent!

Schuss Alert

Most of my friends don't know this, but I've been skiing for a few years, mostly at the request of my wife, Lynn, a lifelong skier. There's a great photo of her peering over her father's shoulder in a napsack while he skis. Apparently she was egging him on to go faster. Lynn's a black diamond skier, and she and her skiing family have been very supportive of my efforts to learn. I've gone to ski school on various local trips, and we've been to Taos, Banff, and Whistler.

But I never really got it, and I've only had maybe 15 days on skis in my life, and wasn't sure if I'd get from slog to schuss. My goal wasn't to become a black run skier, but rather to be comfortable on green and reasonable blue so I could enjoy myself. Before this last week, it was fun but really hard work, which limited the time I could spend on skis.

We bought season passes last summer for Summit at Snoqualmie, the local ski area about an hour from Seattle that's the result of several separate resorts being bought out. It's got a lot of variety. Because we bought passes, the snow came late, of course.

Wednesday was my first day out this season and Lynn's fourth. I fumbled around a bit, but did okay. Lots of snow plowing, some turning, maybe 40 minutes before the boots hurt too much and I was just too worn out in the old legs.

We went back on Friday, though, in preparation for a trip in a week to Big Sky, Montana, and I set out and did a couple of very green runs okay, but still a lot of work. We moved up to a bit of a steeper green -- the steepest Lynn said she'd ever seen -- and I found myself stuck. I did some side slips down, but I knew I could just turn and go, but couldn't quite get up the gumption.

Finally, I just turned and -- well, I skied nearly perfectly. I finally put it all together, and remember to weight that darn downhill ski, and made turn after turn that were pretty terrific, and it felt great. Lynn caught up to me quickly when I stopped and said it looked like a time lapse trick effect of someone learning how to ski. My feet felt fine and I had a lot more endurance -- snow plows and stopping take a lot out of you.

I'm still not sure where it all came from, but I did several more runs, each of them just as good. Look, ma, I'm skiing! I'm skiing! We'll head up to Snoqualmie one more time next week at least, and then six days in Big Sky. Yes, photos and short movies to come.

Open Source and Apple's Safari

Doc Searls has has written an essay on the interaction between Apple's new Safari browser and the KDE/KHTML open source development community that built the code on which Apple relied. Apple has released back a detailed log and the code changes they made, which should radically advance the overall KHTML project, too.

Meanwhile, Safari is the name for the O'Reilly searchable book database that you can subscribe to for access to hundreds of titles' full text -- a very handy reference tool. The logo has a little trademark symbol on it. How did Apple's lawyers miss this?

Results of My Macworld Predictions

My major correct prediction appears in this month's Macworld magazine: the integration of several of its iApps with each other. It makes perfect sense that each program should play on the strength of the others. Apple's new kickass presentation software, Keynote, doesn't appear to have this integration (yet), unfortunately, which would be helpful.

My scorecard: USB 2.0? No. But 800 Mbps FireWire (twice as fast as current FireWire) in just the 17-inch PowerBook G4. AirPort 3.0 dual-band a+b or g? No, but Apple did unveil AirPort Extreme, which is plain 802.11g and Jobs said 802.11a is doomed to failure. He might be right for consumer purposes, but business will use 802.11a for particular purposes. More Apple software? Final Cut Express, Keynote, both new packages, plus revisions of iDVD, iMovie, and iPhoto. Faster, cheaper, bigger? Okay, we got faster and bigger, and sorta cheaper. No XServe or PowerMac announcements. Quark for X? No! A big surprise. They have a version they're showing around, and Jobs actually knocked them indirectly. Combo Drive everywhere? Nope!

My score is pretty low!

My Macworld Expo Expectations

I don't usually try to predict what Apple will do, because they're cleverer than I am, and I don't follow shipments of chips, LCD displays, and power supplies to figure out what new components are coming. But here are my expectations for what Apple should be announcing at the show, although I believe they will only hit three or four of the following.

USB 2.0 support. It's a small point and a religious war, but there's no good reason for Apple to not spend the few bucks to throw in multi-hundred-megabit-per-second USB 2.0 support. It holds back the Mac because there are a lot of peripherals that are cheaper or only available in USB 2.0 versions. Some pundits predict that if Apple can push out 800 Mbps FireWire this week, then USB 2.0 is more a sure thing.

AirPort 3.0: dual-band 802.11a + b or g. Apple needs to avoid getting behind the curve on wireless networking technology given that they drove the industry starting mid-1999 with affordable equipment. The price tags on their Apple AirPort Base Station ($300) and AirPort Card ($100) are both absurd. Apple may be making as much as $250 on every Base Station they sell from their online store. Apple users should get both a huge price drop and the upgrade to a dual-band 802.11a and 802.11b (or draft 802.11g) support, but this might take until summer given chipmaker Agere's plans, Apple's long-time partner. If Apple fails to upgrade the technology, they could start losing the laptop and enterprise crowd that wants 54 Mbps service in both bands.

More Apple software. Apple will offer up more digital lifestyle iApps, but which ones, I'm not sure. It would make sense for them to start consolidating the software into a more integrated whole instead of forcing users to learn different interfaces and use clunky methods of moving media around. Why not acquire and pictures in the same way? Why not use iPhoto to organize photos to create DVD slideshows? The answer is all about internal communication and development at the company, not the user's best interests.

Faster, cheaper, bigger. I don't have specific insight into what it will be, but Apple will surely have a hardware refresh, most likely on their PowerMac towers or possibly the Xserve rack-mounted units. Processor-speed is still the word across the land, and if they can't keep goosing numbers while keeping prices steady, they face erosion of their most dedicated rendering and gaming users.

Quark for X. Not a very well kept secret, Quark will be demonstrating their Mac OS X version, which has been barely under wraps for several months. Following a major strategic error in 2002 of releasing a Mac OS 9 only version of QuarkXPress 5, the company has been beaten around the head and shoulders by Adobe InDesign 2.0, which is Mac OS X happy. (I just used it for a book and it beats the pants off Quark in many important production areas coupled with OS X's uncrashability.) Quark probably won't have the product ready to ship until March or later, however. Estimates are that Quark's delay in a Mac OS X version has cost Apple potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in delayed hardware upgrades by dedicated publishing firms, along with ancillary software upgrades for other companies. One thousand new Macintosh PowerMac's would be about $1.5 to $3 million, so you can see how tens of thousands of upgrades would drive that market.

Combo Drive everywhere, SuperDrive in more models. Apple has already been pushing the Combo Drive (DVD read-only, CD-RW) into less expensive units. My in-laws bought the bottom-of-the-line eMac two weeks ago, and it had a Combo Drive as a standard feature. I would expect at this show that except for possibly a single educational model, all Macs will have the Combo Drive, and even more Macs will have the SuperDrive (DVD-RW/CD-RW) as the baseline option.

I'll be reporting from the show in print and in blog.

Apple Predictions

I rarely predict anything about Apple, because they're too smart and too close-to-the-vest. Nonetheless, I joined a bunch of colleagues in mild speculation for Macworld magazine about 2003's most likely outcomes. I failed to state something that Adam Engst brought up: it's very likely that Apple will have a new AirPort card and Base Station by mid-2003 that supports at least 802.11a and 802.11b, with a high likelihood of upgradable firmware support for 802.11g or possibly even support for the draft standard. If Apple fails to do this, they lose their corporate advantage for laptops. Also, I predict that at Macworld San Francisco next week, Steve Jobs will announce new version of crappy iCal (which could be fantastic with minor changes, including fixing the sluggishness) and iSync (which mostly works but needs to be finalized). [Minutes after writing the above: Apple released iCal 1.0.1 and iSync 1.0 this morning.]