Linked List: April 16, 2012

File Under ‘Imagine if Apple Did This’ 

“Free Dongle!”, they proclaim, like it’s a good thing.

‘Publishing With iBooks Author’ 

Speaking of iBooks Author, O’Reilly has a new free e-book about it, by Nellie McKesson and Adam Witwer.

FoxTrot for iPad 

Speaking of e-books, FoxTrot author Bill Amend is trying the self-publishing route:

I’m calling them FoxTrot Pad Packs, because I like the metaphor of collectable cards and how you build up your collection via booster packs. I made them myself using Apple’s free iBooks Author software. Each $1.99 book contains 100 strips, some old, some new, some story lines, some stand-alone jokes, some black and white dailies, some color Sundays. The idea is to create mini books that take maybe 20-30 minutes to read and which aren’t bogged down with a ton of outdated references, as happens with my older, chronologically arranged print books.

Jordan Weissmann: ‘The Justice Department Just Made Jeff Bezos Dictator-for-Life’ 

Jordan Weissmann:

In other words, Amazon will have two years to consolidate its hold over the fast growing eBook market by offering virtually any sort of discount it pleases — a marketing strategy it can afford thanks to the volume of business it already does. The question, then, is what happens after that time is up? Will there be any company that can challenge Amazon in the digital market? Maybe not. Thanks to the use of DRM technology, most eBooks can only be read on a propriety device. Amazon’s eBooks can only be read on a Kindle, or a Kindle app. Barnes & Noble’s books can only be read on a Nook. So the larger a library any one customer builds with a single retailer, the less likely it is they’ll ultimately switch.

Weissmann’s argument is along the same lines as Scott Turow’s, who wrote, “The irony of this bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.”

FCC Hits Google With $25,000 Fine Over StreetView Wi-Fi Spying 

Why fine them at all? I bet Larry Page could find $25K in his seat cushions.

In Praise of Apple’s Original Extended Keyboard 

Speaking of classic Apple keyboards, Thomas Brand argues that Apple’s short-lived original Extended Keyboard is superior to its successor. We had a few at my college newspaper, and it definitely had a different feel and sound, but I never preferred them.

As for Brand’s speculation regarding substandard key switch tomfoolery being at the heart of my slight preference for my first Extended II over the replacement I’m now using, I’m nearly certain that’s not the case. I think what I liked about my first one is that it was broken in — I think the key switches get better with age (until they break). I’ve since obtained another near-cherry Extended II, and I don’t like the feel of that one as much as this one, and this one is starting to feel more like my beloved original one with the broken E key.

My Favorite Keyboard 

Remains unchanged since 1992: the Apple Extended Keyboard II. I wore my first one out in 2006 after 14 years of daily use; I’ve been using my second since then.

Justin Williams Reviews the Das Keyboard for Mac 

Justin Williams:

Every key press is substantial and satisfying. The keys have a slight inset to them that allows your finger tips to rest comfortable in them. As you push down on the keys, you are greeted with the classic “click-clack” noise of the keyboards of yesteryear. At first the amount of noise coming from my keyboard was incredibly distracting. Working around others it also made me a bit self conscious about my typing. As the week progressed, though, I started to notice the noise less and less. Das Keyboard does make a quieter version of their Windows keyboard. I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar Mac variant made its way to market someday.

I used one for about a month, and rank it as my second-favorite keyboard.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on Comcast and Net Neutrality 

Reed Hastings:

For example, if I watch last night’s SNL episode on my Xbox through the Hulu app, it eats up about one gigabyte of my cap, but if I watch that same episode through the Xfinity Xbox app, it doesn’t use up my cap at all.

The same device, the same IP address, the same wifi, the same internet connection, but totally different cap treatment.

In what way is this neutral?

35th Anniversary of the Apple II 

Harry McCracken:

Thirty-five years ago, on April 16 and 17, 1977, more than twelve thousand proto-geeks flooded into San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium. They were there to attend a new event called the West Coast Computer Faire, and the room brimmed with excitement over a new, futuristic gizmo known as the “personal computer.” The throngs packed the aisles, marveling at microcomputers and related gizmos from tiny startups such as Cromemco, IMSAI, Northstar, Ohio Scientific and Parasitic Engineering.

One of the tiny startups benefited from having an especially slick booth located in prime real estate near the entrance. The company was called Apple Computer, and a handful of its employees, including founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, were demoing an unreleased machine they called the Apple II.

Exploded iPhone 4S T-Shirt 

New, from the gang behind the original exploded iPhone t-shirts: a gorgeous new t-shirt and poster design by Garry Booth, of an exploded iPhone 4S. $19, or get three cool Apple-related shirts for just $43.

Accept no imitations.

Charlie Stross on Amazon’s E-Book Strategy 

Great piece by Charlie Stross on the DOJ’s e-book price-fixing lawsuit:

DRM on ebooks is dead. (Or if not dead, it’s on death row awaiting a date with the executioner.)

It doesn’t matter whether Macmillan wins the price-fixing lawsuit bought by the Department of Justice. The point is, the big six publishers’ Plan B for fighting the emerging Amazon monopsony has failed (insofar as it has been painted as a price-fixing ring, whether or not it was one in fact). This means that they need a Plan C. And the only viable Plan C, for breaking Amazon’s death-grip on the consumers, is to break DRM.

I think he’s right, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. DRM is a religion for old-growth media executives. Rational thought could lead them to this solution, but won’t, because they’re starting with an irrational bedrock assumption: that there can exist a technical solution to defeat piracy. Their belief in DRM is a matter of faith, not logic.

If I’m wrong though, and the publishers see the light of day and start selling DRM-free ePub books, I think that’d be a win for Apple, in the same way that dropping DRM from music has helped, not hurt, Apple’s music business. Amazon is the one whose Kindle devices and apps do not support DRM-free ePub books.

iCloud’s First Six Months: Developers Weigh In 

Federico Viticci surveys iOS developers on the iCloud storage APIs:

The general consensus among developers is that, while users “love” iCloud when it works, iCloud integration has also quickly become the #1 source of support requests over the past months. When iCloud doesn’t work, users are frustrated, annoyed, and there’s little developers can do without proper debugging tools and detailed error messages.

Is iCloud better — for either developers or users — than Dropbox? I’d say “not yet”.

Aspect Ratios and 4-Inch iPhones 

Dan Provost on two different paths Apple could take to an iPhone with a 4-inch diagonal screen. Keep the 3:2 aspect ratio and make the device a little wider, or, switch to a longer-screen aspect ratio (say, 9:5, which is very close to 16:9) and keep the phone width the same. Where he goes wrong, I think, is with the mockup that assumes the longer-screen idea would necessarily increase the height of the device itself. I doubt Apple wants to make the device itself bigger in any dimension. The existing iPhone has a significant amount of non-display surface area — plenty of room for a 4-inch display.