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Here Comes "Conroe"
Google Spreadsheets v.1.1.4d
Google's antisocial downside
New Virus Pretends to be WGA
Microsoft drops its XP pirate checks
The Top Ten Most Beautiful OS X Apps
Why Windows takes so long to shut down.
The Anatomy of the Google Product Cycle
HD-DVD clearly outshines Blu-ray
Google's secret IPv6 plans
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006

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Article of the Day

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Here Comes "Conroe"

Without further ado: Intel Core 2 Duo

Intel is set to announce its long awaited Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors tonight, July 14th, at 12:01AM EST. Initially announced at the Spring Intel Developer Forum 2006, Intel’s Conroe was demonstrated beating out AMD’s fastest processors from high end Athlon 64 X2’s to the gaming and enthusiast oriented Athlon 64 FX. Intel also previously launched the Core 2 architecture based Woodcrest Xeon 5110, 5120, 5130, 5140, 5150 and 5160 models. With the new Core 2 architecture Intel is moving away from the megahertz war and moving towards higher instructions-per-clock performance and improved power efficiency instead.

New Core 2 processors are based upon a new micro architecture that shares its roots with Intel’s Core mobile architecture. Intel will launch Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme dual-core processors initially, though a single-core Conroe-L Core 2 Solo processor is expected in 2007. Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors have a plethora of new features including Intel Wide Dynamic Execution, Intel Smart Memory Access, Intel Advanced Smart Cache and Intel Advanced Digital Media Boost. Intel’s Wide Dynamic Execution technology allows the 14-stage pipeline to have a 33% wider execution over previous Netburst based processors. Each core also has deeper buffers, 4 wide-decode to execute, 4 wide-micro-op execute, micro and macro fusion and enhanced ALUs too.

Intel Smart Memory Access has an improved branch prediction unit with new pre-fetch algorithms that accelerate execution of out-of-order instructions and improve data movement between the L2 cache and system memory. With Intel Smart Memory Access the pipeline is always kept full for more efficient memory access that can mask the latency associated with a north bridge-equipped memory controller. Intel Advanced Smart Cache allows both processor cores to share the same L2 cache -- though bear in mind this has already been done for some time on Conroe's mobile predecessor, Yonah. Lower-end Core 2 Duo processors will have 2MB of shared L2 while Core 2 Extreme processors and higher end Core 2 Duo processors will have 4MB of share L2 cache. Intel claims a shared L2 cache reduces access latency and improves performance.

Intel Advanced Digital Media Boost is a performance enhancement for previous SSE, SSE2 and SSE3 instructions. While SSE, SSE2 and SSE3 instructions require two clock cycles to execute a single 128-bit instruction on previous architectures, the new Core 2 architecture can execute the same instructions in a single cycle. This improves performance and improves power efficiency as the processor can accomplish the same task in half the time.

Previous features such as Intel Virtualization Technology, Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology and Execute Disable Bit are available on new Core 2 processors as well.

While the performance NDA lifts later tonight availability isn’t expected until July 23rd, 2006. On July 23rd, 2006 consumers should be able to purchase Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors from most online retailers and stores. That being said, it's not unlikely that some merchants will start showing stock immediately to pre-empt shipments. Intel will officially announce availability on July 27, 2006.

Intel Desktop Performance Roadmap
Frequency FSB
July 23
C2D X6800 2.93GHz 1066MHz
C2D E6700 2.67GHz 1066MHz 4MB $530
C2D E6600
2.4GHz 1066MHz 4MB $316
C2D E6400
2.13GHz 1066MHz 2MB $224
C2D E6300
1.86GHz 1066MHz 2MB $183
P4D 945
3.4GHz 800MHz
2x2MB $163
P4D 915
2.8GHz 800MHz 2x2MB $133
P4D 820
2.8GHz 800MHz 2x1MB $113
P4D 805
2.66GHz 533MHz 2x1MB $93

Intel has priced Core 2 Duo processors competitively with a traditional Pentium 4 processors on all price points. At the low end of the spectrum are the 2MB L2 cache equipped Core 2 Duo E6300 and E6400 priced at $183 and $224 respectively. For an extra few bucks consumers can pickup the Core 2 E6600 with 4MB of L2 cache. Topping off the Core 2 Duo lineup is the E6700 for $530. Core 2 Duo processors will be available with 1.86, 2.13, 2.4 and 2.67 GHz respectively.

Gamers and enthusiasts looking for more performance can pickup the Core 2 Extreme X6800 for $999. Unlike previous Pentium Extreme Edition processors which only added a faster front-side bus and Hyper Threading technology, the Core 2 Extreme is clocked at 2.93 GHz, a 263 MHz clock frequency advantage over the Core 2 Duo E6700. Hyper-Threading will not be available on any initial Core 2 based processors. Intel will launch a 3.2GHz Core 2 Extreme processor later this year, and a quad-core Kentsfield Core 2 Extreme processor early next year.

With the launch of Core 2 Duo Intel will aggressively cut prices on current Pentium D 945, 915, 820 and 805 processors. The 2x2MB of L2 cache equipped 3.4 GHz dual-core Pentium D 945 will drop to $163 while the 2.8 GHz Pentium D 915 will drop to $133. Pentium D 820 and 805 processors will drop to $113 and $93 respectively.

Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme compatible motherboards are expected from Asus, Epox, Gigabyte, Intel and Universal abit with 975X, P965 and G965 chipsets.
Here Comes "Conroe" - Thursday, July 13, 2006 -

Google Spreadsheets v.1.1.4d

googlespreadsheet.gifThe version number for Google Spreadsheet has been updated from 1.1.4b to 1.1.4d today — with it comes some new features that will be useful for anybody actually using the service. In addition to new features, the loading time seems much faster to me, though I am unable to do benchmarks that confirm this.

There are now context menus that provide easier access to some basic functionality. You can right click in a cell to perform actions like cut/copy/paste or you can right click on a row to perform actions like inserting and deleting.

Cell formatting has been improved in this release as well. You can manage borders using the new toolbar item, and you can also use the copy/paste function to change only the formatting of a cell if you don't want to lose data.

Even though this is a minor update, it shows that they are continuing to improve the product. I have a feeling the Googlized version of Writely will be making an appearance soon too — the sub-sub domain has been created (writely.l.google.com) which is usually an indication that the sub domain (writely.google.com) shouldn't be far behind.

Google Spreadsheets v.1.1.4d - -

Google's antisocial downside

news analysis In the social-networking party sweeping the Web, search titan Google is playing the wallflower. Is it being smart or just plain nerdy?

MySpace.com, Facebook.com and others have turned heads for their skyrocketing traffic and massive appeal among young people, who flock to the sites by the millions to bond via photos, videos, blogs, e-mail and instant messaging. Meanwhile, top portals MSN and Yahoo, threatened by the prospect of losing favored-site ranking to MySpace, have begun to organize their applications around social networking, as well.

But Google's 2-year-old social network Orkut--which connects friends and friends of friends around shared interests, but does not include blogging or video features--has lagged in the popularity contest. It's still not widely available and has yet to adopt the Google brand. "It proved to be a problem for Google so now they're watching it," said Stephen Arnold, author of "The Google Legacy," referring to accusations that Orkut members promoted gang-related violence in countries like Brazil.

"It will be interesting over time to see how close Google can come to understanding people through algorithms."
--Esther Dyson, editor, Release 1.0

But as Google takes time to tinker with another one of its many young services, competitors are fast encroaching on the company's other turf.

Blogger, for example, was the Web's top blog-publishing tool when Google bought it in February 2003. Although Google hasn't turned the service into a full-on social network, Nielsen/NetRatings considers blogging a social activity.

In the last year, MySpace, which lets members include blogs on their personal pages, surpassed Google's Blogger as the top social-networking site by Nielsen's measure in the United States. In May 2006, Blogger had 20 million unique visitors, up 67 percent from May 2005. In contrast, MySpace drew 42 million unique visitors in May, up 329 percent from the same period a year ago, according to Nielsen.

Orkut fell below Nielsen's reporting cutoff at roughly 300,000 unique visitors.

According to Google, which responded via e-mail, the company is "committed" to social networking through Blogger, Google Video and Orkut. "Where it makes sense, Google continues to integrate its products to provide the best user experience possible, as with Gmail and Google Talk, for example," according to an unnamed spokesperson.

Of course, some proponents say Google is savvy not to invest heavily in services that have questionable benefit to its search and advertising business, which is worth near $6 billion annually. What's more likely, they say, is that Google will invest in technologies that can improve Web search and its rate of return on advertising "clicks."

"Fundamentally, information, not people, is Google's forte," said Esther Dyson, editor of tech newsletter Release 1.0, which is owned by CNET Networks, publisher of CNET News.com. "It will be interesting over time to see how close Google can come to understanding people through algorithms," she added.

The rival advantage
Onlookers have doubted the staying power of social networks like MySpace, calling them fads. But efforts to get into social networking by portals Microsoft and Yahoo show that the social services can resonate with Web surfers and prove beneficial to display and search-related advertising.

Microsoft, for example, is leveraging social networking to gain a tactical advantage over rival Google.

Moz Hussain, Microsoft group product manager at MSN Spaces, said that by incorporating social features into its blog publishing tool MSN Spaces, the company is driving consumer loyalty and ad revenue.

MSN Spaces, which was launched in December 2004, has become the most popular social network on a global basis, according to ComScore Networks. That's a fact the software giant attributes to social-networking features inserted last year that alert people to changes within friends' blogs via MSN instant messenger.

"The obvious way you make money is by generating a large number of page views and (displaying) ads against those pages," Hussain said. But he added that "if people use two of our products, they become much more valuable and use all of our products more."

The result has meant more display and search-related advertising, he said.

In the next month or two, Hussain said the company will infuse more networking features into MSN Spaces and its social-network brand, Windows Live Spaces. With the tool, people will be able to see lists of friends on their blogs or IM windows, and then, via an upcoming product called "Friends Explorer," use the cursor to peruse friends of friends.

Arnold, the author, said social software is ultimately a shortcut for MSN in the search race because it provides the software giant with easy markers for spidering the Web and producing relevant results.

"Microsoft's looking...to do something Google's not doing aggressively," Arnold said.

"Google would be smart to start thinking of social networks as infrastructure for other applications on their network as Yahoo has done."
--David Hornik, venture capitalist

Google introduced Orkut in January 2004 as the sideline project of one of its engineers, Orkut Buyukkokten. Like most of the company's new products, Google's Orkut enjoyed enormous buzz early on, thanks to an invitation-only policy that included many Silicon Valley muckety-mucks as community members. But since then, Orkut hasn't grown significantly in the United States compared with the speedy trajectory of other social networks like MySpace.

Most of Orkut's following comes from Portuguese-speaking countries, and Google has encountered problems with the Brazilian government for member content promoting gang violence in that country.

In May, Orkut had 210,000 visitors in the United States, up 85 percent from the year earlier, according to ComScore.

Worldwide, Orkut enjoyed more popularity. It ranked fifth in May by ComScore's measure, more than doubling its visitors for the year to 33.7 million. In contrast, MSN Spaces doubled its visitors to 101 million, and MySpace grew 250 percent to 74 million, according to ComScore.

In contrast, Yahoo's 360 amassed nearly 5 million visitors in May since launching in March 2005. Microsoft's MSN Spaces drew 9.6 million visitors, up more than 200 percent in that same period. And MySpace attracted 51.4 million visitors, up 230 percent year over year.

Social networking demands attention not only for its expanding influence among Web surfers, but also because sites like MySpace are encroaching on the amount of search traffic on the Internet--a key driver of the $14 billion online advertising business.

In May, MySpace for the first time joined the ranks of top search sites counted by ComScore Media Metrix, a New York-based measurement firm. In June, it continued to hold the sixth slot, garnering about 53 million searches, behind No 1. Google, followed by, in order of ranking: Yahoo, MSN, AOL and Ask, according to ComScore. To be sure, it reaches only a small fraction of the market versus Google's 43 percent reach, but its newly held recognition could mean that social networks are the portal of the future, investors say.

This could indicate that Google needs to cultivate its own social aspirations quickly in order to protect its multibillion-dollar advertising business.

"Google was early to the pure-play social network party, which was certainly smart at the time," said David Hornik, a venture capitalist at August Capital. "But social networking has evolved into an important underpinning of other key experiences, such as photo sharing with Flickr or blogging with Vox," a new personal blogging service.

"Google would be smart to start thinking of social networks as infrastructure for other applications on their network as Yahoo has done," Hornik added.

Robert Goldberg, an early stage venture capitalist at Ridgelift Ventures, doubts Google will pay much attention to social networking, and will instead opt to focus on advertising technologies and services such as Google CheckOut, the company's recently launched payment service.

"There are a few things that Google's going to get deadly serious about," said Goldberg, "but social networking is not one of them."

CNET News.com's Elinor Mills contributed to this report.

Google's antisocial downside - -

New Virus Pretends to be WGA

UPDATED: A virus posing as Microsoft's controversial anti-piracy software is spreading via AOL's popular Instant Messenger network, but it appears to be more of a jab at Microsoft than a real threat.

The message itself does not spoof someone in the user's Buddy list, it comes in from an unknown sender. The virus then comes via a link in the instant message, should the user be foolish enough to click on a link sent by someone they don't know.

Once infected, the virus registers itself as a new system driver service named "wgavn" and has the public display name of "Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Notification." If the user shuts it down, the user is informed that removing or stopping the service will cause system instability.

Unlike WGA, the virus poses a real danger because it disables the Windows firewall and opens a backdoor to the infected computer. It's not known at this point whether anyone has actually exploited such an opening caused by the new virus.

"If you get it, it's as bad as any of them," said Randy Abrams, director of technical education for Eset Software, developer of the NOD32 antivirus program. "Ok, it's not flashing your BIOS chip or grabbing specific banking info, but once you get a backdoor on a computer, it's trivial to download a bot or do much more."

ESET's anti-virus hunters first heard of the WGA impersonator, which it dubbed Win32/IRCBot.OO, on June 29 and got in a sample of the virus on July 1. But Abrams admits it hasn't been thoroughly examined because as far as threats go, this one is pretty far down the list. It ranked 1,400 on Eset's threat list.

"The choice of names makes it clear it's an attack on WGA. Its effect is not in harming users but in making bad publicity for Microsoft," said Abrams.

Windows Genuine Advantage is a controversial utility in Windows XP that verifies that the installation is not pirated. However, it has drawn user ire and two lawsuits over the fact that Microsoft did not disclose what it does. Also, users were forced to download WGA or forfeit receiving non-critical software updates from Microsoft.

At this point, Abrams notes there are probably more names for the virus than there are infections. It's a long-standing problem in the antivirus vendor world; every vendor gives a new virus its own choice of name. When a new-found virus comes in, the first concern is finding a fix, not worrying about naming conventions, Abrams pointed out.

According to the virus names list on AV-test.org, AVG calls the virus Worm/Opanki.IP; BitDefender calls it Backdoor.IRCBot.JV, F-Prot calls it a new variant of W32/Threat-HLLIM-based!Maximus, Kaspersky calls it Backdoor.Win32.IRCBot.st, McAfee calls it W32/Opanki.worm.gen and Sophos calls it W32/Cuebot-K.

Updates prior version to correct spelling of Abrams' name.

New Virus Pretends to be WGA - -

Microsoft drops its XP pirate checks

MICROSOFT has dropped Big Brother-style plans to track down pirated copies of Windows XP, dumping elements of its Windows Genuine Advantage Notification after they ignited a firestorm of controversy.

The stealth application, introduced with auto updates in Australia in April as part of a pilot scheme, "phoned home" every time the computer was booted to confirm that the operating system was genuine.

If the software was pirated it triggered a series of irritating warnings. Now Microsoft has reacted to user anger by switching off the boot-up check.

The company has retained another tool, WGA Validation, which checks back periodically with Microsoft headquarters.

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to speak to The Australian about the issue.

"No Microsoft spokespeople have spoken to the press regarding the update to the WGA Notifications program," she said.

US users have already filed a class action against Microsoft alleging that the tool is spyware, and Australians are fuming over the covert nature of the program.

Computer repair companies, frustrated that the changes were introduced with no advance warning, have been left to deal with angry customers who have inadvertently bought PCs with pirated operating systems.

"Most people say the validation procedures are probably fair enough, but if your software is legitimate and they come back and check it every day, well, that's why people are a bit reactive," said Ian Smith, a user angered by the WGA Notification pilot.

"I bought my software legitimately, I validated it, I go to Microsoft for updates, and if they want to check it then, that's okay. But coming back every day is too much."

The secrecy of the initiative, with the tool downloaded through the Windows auto-update feature, is what has angered users most of all. Mr Smith said the anti-piracy measure was "slipped under the radar", making it difficult to avoid and leaving most users completely unaware that their system was checking up on them.

"It ended up on my machine without me knowing about it," he said. "The fact that they didn't tell anyone was the worst part of it."

The notification scheme has caught plenty of people unaware, with computer service companies left to deal with clients who thought they had bought their software legitimately, only to find, sometimes years down the track, that it was pirated.

Mark Ahern, a specialist with Brisbane support firm computersbehavingbadly, said some of his clients who bought their hardware elsewhere had found they had been ripped off.

"Not many people realise that unless there's a sticker on the box, the chances are it's dodgy," he said. "I had three clients who had their systems flagged as non-genuine, and they had paid their money to the whitebox assembler and been stung."

Microsoft should have warned users before introducing the changes, he said. "Part of the issue has been that there was no form of warning," he said. "The end-user licence states that they can do that, but who reads it?"

Mr Ahern said the WGA program was part of a wider attempt by Microsoft to slowly but surely crack down on pirated operating systems and other software. Ultimately, even additional hardware may be locked out if the operating system was pirated.

"At the moment it's an annoying warning, but the machine still functions," he said. "My theory is that they'll gradually make it so you can't install software, and it will be necessary to have the genuine stuff."

San Diego lawyer Scott Kamber has filed a class action against Microsoft on behalf of millions of computer users, alleging the tool is spyware.

A Microsoft Australia spokeswoman refused to discuss the action. "WGA is not spyware," the company's statement says.

"It's installed with the consent of the user and seeks only to notify the user if a proper licence is not in place".

The Australian

Microsoft drops its XP pirate checks - Monday, July 03, 2006 -

The Top Ten Most Beautiful OS X Apps

Top ten lists are a dime a dozen, but I haven’t seen one floating around yet on the most beautiful OS X apps out there. And as someone who’s hitting MacUpdate daily as a small part of my job, always on the hunt for what’s cool and new, I thought I’d share some of my insight, condensed down for mass consumption into a neat little list. Before you go on, remember that this is going to be controversial no matter what. I haven’t found a single top ten list that doesn’t get most people complaining. But honestly, after a lot of thought, I feel there are very few truly beautiful OS X apps left out if you include the honorable mentions. Oh, and before you begin, note that Apple apps (like Front Row and Aperture) have been knocked off the list. This one features independently developed freeware and shareware apps. So, without further ado, presenting the ten most beautiful OS X apps in the world:

The List

#1Transmission Icon

Starting off this list is the first of two extremely eye-pleasing P2P apps. (Coincidentally, the other one links to this from within its Help menu as the recommended BitTorrent client.) Transmission is an exercise in simplicity and Aqualicious UI design, with notable exception to its icon. (Look for a replacement icon coming soon on this blog by Tom.) For all of you Azureus and BitTorrent users out there, feast your eyes on this baby. And for an even appearance, download an alternate set of toolbar icons by artist Matt Ball.

Transmission UI

#1Voice Candy Icon

The Potion Factory’s second release may not be quite as useful as Podcast Maker is for many podcasters (it’s also on this list), but the UI is just as lickable. Starting with the mouth-watering application icon (ok, I’ll stop with the food analogies there), the eye candy gets only better. (Doh.) You definitely have to try this one to experience it. For what is ultimately an extremely fun voice recording and filtering toy, there’s been a lot of love put into this app. You’ll notice some really cute icons for each filter effect by the excellent Mischa McLachlan of Zyotism, and the secondary windows for setting reminders and viewing alerts are just as gorgeous. If you have any kids, or never fully grew up, check this one out. Useful as a voice recorder, fun as a prank tool, and costs less than a Yakbak or Whoopee cushion.

Voice Candy UI

#1Podcast Maker Icon

I’m no podcaster, but Andy and Jin at the Potion Factory must be doing something right with their flagship app, Podcast Maker, because after one look at the demo, I actually fired up Garageband and tried to record a few shows, just to fiddle around with PCM. An hour or two later I realized I wasn’t cut out to be a celebrity podcaster, but regardless, the app’s UI was something I was glad to have experienced. For all experienced or novice podcasters out there, there is no better tool on the Mac to put your shows together. Just ask “The Office” creator Ricky Gervais, the band “They Might Be Giants”, Senator Debbie Stabenow, or any of the other celebrity podcasters and happy customers listed in the Podcast Maker gallery.

Podcast Maker UI

#1Transmit Icon

Ahh, finally, the much loved FTP application from Panic. Transmit, around since OS 9, made the UI jump to OS X with much grace (unlike some other competitors still figuring it out), and has since matured at a very consistent, comfortable pace. The single most impressive UI feature of Transmit is the remarkable amount of features and functionality it squeezes into its pretty, pitch-perfect Aqua window. Basically, you’re left with the feeling that if Apple had their own “iFTP”, it’d look something like this.

Transmit UI

Just about every corner of thish app oozes with polish and works as you’d expect it to. Tabs and column view are reimplemented from scratch better than just about any other shareware app out there, and Transmit even comes with a pretty nice widget for customers to use in the Dashboard. (And hey, that’s coming from the guy selling a competing widget.) It’s an app I use nearly everyday, and use with utter pleasure.

#1Quinn Icon

The small shareware/freeware Mac game market doesn’t exactly offer a wealth of UI gems, so this is pretty much the exception. While the icon needs some work, Quinn’s interface looks more like a sleek skin for an expensive utility than, well, a tetris client. Pop open the drawer, and you get a slick animated radar type dealy while searching for servers, and just about every action in the game is smoothly animated, whether it’s the pane shifting around after joining a server, or typed chat messages quickly wiping in with a neat, subtle sci-fi sound. The score display looks extremely cool, and the blocks themselves look suitably clean, though I’d like to see some slicker skins. (Future “Pimp your App” feature on this blog perhaps?)

Quinn UI

The coolest part perhaps is how far this freeware game has come along in the UI department. When I tried it a few weeks ago for the first time in over a year, my jaw dropped. I’ve never before seen an app’s looks improve this much. Oh, and the game itself is fun too.

#1AppZapper Icon

By far the simplest in function and UI among the rest of these apps, AppZapper packs an incredible amount of tasteful visual punch per pixel into its tiny, efficient UI. Factor in the animated dropzone, the truly iconic application icon, the smooth sliding and fading between window views, the construction warning strip for “safe apps”, and the utter elegance of the package as a whole, and maybe this #1 spot will start to sound reasonable. And let’s not forget that beauty is not limited to what our eyes take in. I wouldn’t call it ‘beautiful’ necessarily, but there is something to be said about this magical combination of screen flashing and the “zap” noise that makes appzapping waaaay more fun than it should be. If this doesn’t snag this year’s Apple Design Award for Best OS X User Experience, I will honestly be very, very shocked.

Newfire UI

#1Acquisition Icon

David Watanabe’s extremely slick and polished P2P application Acquisition won’t win any Apple Design Awards for a pretty glaring reason (think Apple’s tenuous deals with the record companies), but if the “Best OS X User Experience” category was judged without politics, this would surely take it, or at least make runner-up. That not being the case, Dave can hopefully take some comfort with this spot on the list for a very well-deserving app. Sporting one of the most polished unified window apps out there, Acquisition manages to pack in a lot of features while maintaining what is ultimately a surprisingly spare and aesthetically pleasing UI. There is no single outstanding visual element here, unlike Delicious Library’s shelves, or CoverFlow’s 3D effects. It’s all about the presentation as a whole.

Acquisition UI

Props to the slick in-list progress bars, the visually contextual search button that animates while searching, the Mail rules style filtering UI, and even the use of the main pane for one of the most visually pleasing nags ever, and some discreet branding for registered users. Acquisition does a lot with its single window interface, and is so intensely polished and perfect, that you just know the app is in really, really talented hands. Which is true, because with three apps in this post (one as an honorable mention), Watanabe is a powerhouse dev with a perfect eye for masterful UI design.

#1CoverFlow Icon

This little app came out of nowhere last year, and has since managed to pretty much universally wow everyone who tries it with its unique 3D visual effects. CoverFlow attempts to fix one of the more glaring shortcomings of the modern music jukebox application’s user interface: its lack of visual navigation, and general lack of attention to album art. The solution the app’s UI offers is by far the most fun way to browse music since flipping through LP’s at the local record store. (The icon pictured is coming soon. For now you can download it and install it through artist Jasper Hauser’s blog by dropping in the icns file into CoverFlow’s resources folder.

CoverFlow UI

#1Newsfire Icon

Newsfire 0.1 debuted two summers ago to a very crowded RSS feed reader market which included the venerable NetNewsWire and of course the not yet out Safari RSS, announced at WWDC just months before. That hasn’t stopped this app from fast becoming one of the most popular RSS feed readers out there though, in large part due to its obsessively polished UI. Watanabe looked towards iChat’s buddy list for inspiration, and the result is a UI that contains a feed list in Newsfire that smoothly shifts around items when feeds are updated, displays unread items in familiar green badges, and perhaps most importantly, presents news and podcasts in an extremely slick fashion. Sure, even at version 1.3 Newsfire lacks some of its competitors’ features and customizability, but this is a case where you won’t have a problem with giving up UI control to developer Watanabe’s hands. He knows what he’s doing, and frankly, sometimes, it’s best not to mess with works of art.

Newfire UI

#1Delicious Library Icon

With a reported $250,000 in sales in its first month of release, Delicious Library will go down in history as one of the most successful shareware application launches ever. With a price tag of $40, it’s also the most expensive shareware app on this list. So, why did masses of people pay a solid chunk of change for what is in its essence an app that helps you organize your media collection and borrow items out to your friends? Witness the power of UI design.

Delicious Library UI

Clearly, Delicious Library’s most viscerally appealing feature is its ability to let users relive the joy of building their collection, this time for free and with little hassle on their Mac. What Delicious Library did to differentiate itself from the competition in this regard, in addition to its slick improvement of the “adding” process with iSight barcode scanning support, was represent your media collection about as realistically as it was technically possible to do. The super slick representation of CD album art and book covers downloaded from Amazon as jewel cases and real paperback and hardcover books in a virtual wooden bookshelf truly resonated with its users, and I feel, ultimately contributed hugely to its success. There’s more of course, but I’ll let you try this app out for yourself, in the unlikely event that you haven’t yet of course.

Honorable Mentions

Finally, there was of course a list just as long of apps that didn’t quite make the cut. If you found some gems in the top ten and want to explore further, I highly recommend trying these additional ten apps out: Inquisitor by David Watanabe, TextMate by Macromates, Pixadex by The IconFactory & Panic, Omniweb and OmniDazzle by The OmniGroup, RapidWeaver 3 by Realmac Software, CSSEdit by MacRabbit, Comic Life by Plasq, Adium 1.0 SVN, Quicksilver by BlackTree, Inc., and StickyBrain by Chronos.

These apps are all pleasures to behold, and definitely worth a spin.


My thoughts after compiling this list? I have to say that there are definitely a lot of clean, HIG complying freeware and shareware apps out there, but when you try to really narrow it down to the truly slick, beautiful, and eye-catching, there ultimately aren’t that many contenders. And, let me add, the shareware contenders listed in this post generally tend to do pretty well. Developers, listen up. UI matters, a lot more now than it did in OS 9, or does in Windows, and I’m not talking about just slapping in some nice toolbar icons and calling it a day, customers can respond amazingly well to what many programmers will write off as extraneous eye candy. (Delicious Library’s shelving? AppZapper’s screen flash?) Some of the most successful Macintosh shareware companies are represented on this list (Delicious Monster, Panic, and The OmniGroup among others) and I think you can get an early glimpse at the next generation of powerhouse companies as well, and it’s not a coincidence. Good UI sells, so give it the time it deserves. And for the rest of you, enjoy these apps! Hopefully you’ll find a few gems in here that you’ll be trying out for the first time.

The Top Ten Most Beautiful OS X Apps - -

Why Windows takes so long to shut down.

We all have been there. It is 4:55 and you want to get out of work...But you want to make sure your system is shutdown for the night. You dutifully close all of your applications and start shutting down

5 minutes later it *finally* powers off

It happens to more machines that it should. I decided to see what the problem might be. I searched google, forums, and newsgroups for an answer. The biggest culprit is a problem unloading the current users profile.

This can happen when third party, or even Microsoft applications have not properly cleaned up when exiting. Windows will keep trying to unload the profile until Windows finally decides that it can't and should shutdown. Even if you find the application causing the problem - it may be impossible to do anything about it.

This is why Microsoft released the User Profile Hive Cleanup Service

This free utility automatically cleans up user profiles and prevents you from playing the timeout wait game.

Once you run the setup wizard it will look like the installer did nothing. If you open up your services list, you will see that a new service is running in the background:

The idea of this program is to reclaim resources when a task is finished (memory, handles, etc). It accomplishes this by monitoring for users to log off and verifying that unused resources are reclaimed. This approach is superior as it works for any known reason that profiles do not unload and also will keep working to address new unknown issues.

Now when you go to shutdown, logoff or restart it will happen within seconds. Instead of minutes.
Why Windows takes so long to shut down. - -


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