Macintosh Clone Maker Counter-Sues Apple

August 26th, 2008

A few months ago, a small company called Psystar introduced a fairly generic Intel-based PC which they were offering pre-installed with Apple’s Mac OS X.  Apple’s official End-User License Agreement (EULA) for the Mac OS indicates that it is not permitted to run it on hardware that isn’t made by Apple.  From the start, it appeared to me that this company probably existed largely to provoke a lawsuit.  Not surprisingly, Apple did file suit against them claiming copyright violations and the news came out today that Psystar is counter-suing with a claim of anti-trust violations.

In a cnet.com article reporting the counter-suit, Psystar outlined their case as follows:

Psystar argues that its OpenComputer product is shipped with a fully licensed, unmodified copy of Mac OS X, and that the company has simply "leveraged open source-licensed code including Apple’s OS" to enable a PC to run the Mac operating system.

I’m pretty unsure of how strong Psystar’s position really is, but I think this could be a fascinating and fairly ground-breaking test case, assuming that Psystar has the financial backing to go the distance on this case.  This could end up having a substantial impact on the strength of EULAs and the degree to which they can restrict how a customer uses a piece of software after purchase. 

Although they appear to be citing a number of different issues in their defense/counter-claim, the two main items that Psystar’s case appears to hinge on are the fact that Apple sells boxed-copies of OS X in stores separate from the hardware and whether or not the EULA’s restrictions that the software only be installed on Apple hardware are really legitimate.  

While I’m uncertain of what the legal finding will be, my own view is that Psystar’s argument represents the way that the situation should work.  Basically, if a customer goes into a store and purchases a piece of software, I believe that he/she should be free to install and use it as the purchaser sees fit.

That isn’t to say that I don’t think Apple should be required to make it readily available or easy for customers to run the software on non-Apple hardware.  I’m perfectly fine with them putting technological barriers in place that are designed to prevent unintended use.  I just don’t think that there should be any legal restrictions that will prevent the legal purchaser of the product from bypassing those restrictions, assuming he/she can find a way to do so.  Along the same lines, I also don’t think there should be any legal restrictions against someone publishing, or even selling, that solution or offering to perform that service for the customer.

My view is that this is how it should work in a free-market system.  I essentially see this as a matter that is between Apple and their customers and I believe that the legal system should essentially stay out of their way.

Tech Blog – Take 3!

August 26th, 2008

Yes, I’m re-inventing this blog once again.  I originally started this as a blog for discussing Ultra-Mobile PCs back when I bought one of the first ones off the line.  I later decided to broaden the coverage to all mobile technology as I kind of started to run out of things to say about UMPCs.

I’m now transitioning this into a completely generalized technology blog.  The main reason for this is that I kind of hit a wall as far as what to talk about even within the broader realm of mobile tech.  While I use my UMPC and cell phone pretty much every day, I’m not a gadget collector and have realized that my attention to that market in general tends to wane when I’m not in the process of shopping for an upgrade.

There have been a whole bunch of more general issues regarding computers and technology that I wanted to cover, but didn’t really fit in the narrow mobile technology category.  I also have been hesitant to talk too much about technology on my personal blog.  That blog has a pretty small readership (mostly family and friends) and I know that most of them would get pretty bored if I got too much into technology issues.

I am a software engineer working in the web division of a major media company, so I certainly am surrounded by computers and technology pretty much every day.  I have a pretty nice selection of gadgets at home and also tend to be something of a do-it-yourself tinkerer (my desktop PC is home-built).  With the subject broadened in this way, I don’t think I’ll be too short on subjects to talk about.

My plan is to treat this as more of a traditional weblog than I have in the past.  I hope to put up much more frequent posts, but most will be very short.  I read a lot of technical sites, blogs, and even magazines and expect to often use this blog to highlight interesting items that I come across.  I also want to put up occasional short tips and observations from my everyday experiences.  I’m sure I will also put up the occasional lengthy review or essay when I have something to talk about, but those do take a lot of time to write (as well as a topic of inspiration), which is why my updates have always been very infrequent when those articles were my focus.

I am changing the primary URL for this site to http://tech.bigbeaks.com to better reflect the new subject, although I am going to retain the old http://umpc.bigbeaks.com as a mirror in order to retain those that may already have the site in their feeds or bookmarks.

Hopefully this version of the blog will work out better for me and at least a few people will find it to be interesting!

Vye S37 Review – WMP, Origami Experience, Media Center

April 10th, 2008

In previous posts, I’ve promised that I would continue my review of the Vye S37 with a discussion of music players.  Although I started working on the post quite a while back, I’ve held off on completing and publishing as I realized that I really needed to spend more time using the various players.

In this post, I am going to talk about Microsoft’s Windows Media variants: Windows Media Player 11, Origami Experience, and Windows Media Center.  For many UMPC owners, I’m sure these are essentially the default choices for music playback.  On my eo v7110, I pretty much exclusively used a combination of WMP and Origami Experience and they were the first players that I tried on my Vye as well.  In time, I found them to fall short of many of my needs, though.  I eventually tried a few other products and ended up selecting Media Monkey as my preferred music player.  In the near future, I will write up a separate post entirely about that product.

Finding the right music player for use on my Vye was essential as it is one of my key uses.  I have a big CD collection that I have accumulated over many years and have put a lot of time and effort into ripping them all to digital copies.  My wish to have my whole library on my UMPC was a major motivator in buying the Vye and upgrading it to a 250GB hard drive.

Part of the reason for the large size of my collection is that only a fairly small percentage of it consists of typical 10 track or so pop albums.  Instead, I have a very extensive collection of film scores and compilations as well as quite a bit of classical, Broadway and film musicals, and other similarly specialized music.  In those genres, many of the CDs approach the 75 minute maximum and frequently have large numbers of fairly short tracks.  My collection includes over 1,400 albums with over 26,000 separate tracks.

When I first started the process of copying my CDs to digital files, hard disk space was a lot more expensive than it is now.  In order to limit the space needed a bit, I stuck with MP3 files at 128 kbps.  The sound quality on that isn’t bad, but certainly could be better.  Now that you can get a terabyte of storage for not too much more than $200, I’ve been re-ripping the entire collection in the lossless, open-source FLAC format.  Obviously, those files are still too big to be practical for the Vye.  For the portable use, I have converted each of the FLAC files to 128kbps WMA files, which are roughly the same size as the old MP3 versions, but with a better sound quality.

A music library this large does tend to be a bit of a challenge for most digital jukebox software.  That is a lot of meta data to keep track of and I also need a user interface that doesn’t make it too overwhelmingly difficult to locate whatever particular music I am looking for at any given time.

After the jump, I go into a more in-depth discussion of the 3 Windows Media based music players.

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Slow-down should be fixed

March 31st, 2008

Over the weekend, I migrated my sites to a new hosting company.  On the advice of a couple friends, I went with Dreamhost, which offers a good mix of features for a pretty reasonable price.  In fact, this service generally seems more feature rich and an overall better value than iPowerWeb was, even when it worked well.

I went with Dreamhost despite the fact that they had suffered a pretty serious billing problem that got a fair amount of attention back in January.  While researching them, I found that it did cause a fair amount of consternation and that they made a few mistakes in dealing with it (most notably, trying to be too lighthearted in their initial apology), but they did pretty quickly make good on the problem and never attempted to deny or excuse it away.  My overall view on this kind of thing is that any company can make mistakes and what I really care about is whether they are resolved quickly and satisfactorily.

That pretty much sums up my frustration with iPowerWeb.  Even as I sent in the request for them to formally transfer my domain to Dreamhost, they included a note in their response promising that fixing the MySQL issue was a top priority and that they expected to have it resolved soon.  They still didn’t really define "soon", although this morning’s email claimed that they have already added the additional space to the server.

Even if the problem is fixed tomorrow, I’m still glad to have changed over as I no longer trust iPowerWeb.  The only information that I have received from them was through direct responses to my inquiries and I’ve had to often ask multiple times.  Since this was a known issue, why weren’t they keeping all affected customers informed?  Also, this problem has lingered way too long.  Since this blog is just a hobby, I let the problem go for a few weeks before taking action.  If I were running a business or otherwise making much revenue from this site, I certainly would have jumped ship weeks ago.

Hopefully, Dreamhost will now truly earn my trust and I won’t end up regretting the change.  For now, I’m just glad that my site finally loads in a reasonable amount of time again.

Slow Site Loading

March 27th, 2008

Visitors to this blog may have noticed that it has been very slow loading recently.  At best, it seems to take about 15-20 seconds for a page to load and during really busy times for my hosting company, the delay can be quite a bit longer (even a minute or more).

My sites are all hosted by iPowerWeb and after a bunch of back and forth exchanges with their support department, they have confirmed that it is a capacity issue with their MySQL database servers.  The WordPress blogging software that run my blogs uses MySQL, thus resulting in the slowness.

While iPowerWeb support keeps telling me that they are working on adding additional MySQL servers to take up some of the load, they also are refusing to give me even a rough estimate for how soon this will actually happen.  As a result, I’m researching other hosting companies and, hopefully, I’ll get this site migrated in the next few days.  With any luck, that means that the site should start loading at normal speeds again soon.

For anyone reading this, thanks for looking in on the site, even if it does require a bit of a wait!

Vye S37 Review – One Month Report

February 20th, 2008

I’ve received a few comments on my earlier review posts about the Vye wondering if I was going to continue to post more.  I know that a long time has passed between posts.  Part of that is my usual bad procrastination as a writer, but also a lot was my chosen subject.  I’ve been working on a discussion of using the Vye as a music player and it has turned into a pretty big task.  The main reason is that I have tried out a few different software packages and have wanted to allow enough time to really feel comfortable with the experiences.  I’m also preparing a number of photos to go with that report.  It is pretty far along and I hope to have it posted before too long.

In the mean time, I figured that it would be good to do another of my "stream of consciousness" posts reporting on some general thoughts and experiences now that I have had the Vye for a little over a month.  As with the one-week report, this will probably not be exceptionally focused, but I hope the info is interesting.

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Thoughts on the MacBook Air

January 24th, 2008

I’m going to take a short break from my ongoing reports on my new Vye S37 to write a bit about the mobile computing device that is getting the most attention right now.  I’m referring to Apple’s MacBook Air ultra-portable, which was announced with quite a bit of fanfare during Steve Jobs’ annual keynote speech at the MacWorld Expo.

I’m certainly not a big Apple fan and the MacBook Air definitely wouldn’t fit my own personal needs (its footprint is way too big, for one thing), but I do think it looks like a reasonably decent device that should be a good fit for some users.  It has received a fair amount of criticism from some quarters, but I think most of its shortcomings are just examples of the types of compromise that has to take place when portability is a primary focus for the device.  Every such design has to require a fair amount of give and take.  Some potential customers will not be able to get by with the compromises that Apple chose to make, but those same concerns will be less important to others.

The key issue with the MacBook Air is really one that is inherent to Apple’s computers in general: the Mac OS remains a closed platform inextricably tied to a single manufacturer’s hardware.  Competition is one of the main things that makes the compromises on mobile PCs tolerable.   As noted in my recent post outlining the factors that led to my decision to purchase my Vye S37, there were all kinds of factors that led to my rejection of other decent systems in favor of the one that most closely matched what I wanted.  This was made possible by my preference for using an OS that woks on hardware from a wide variety of companies.

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Vye S37 – First week observations

January 18th, 2008

As the next part of my series of posts about my new Vye S37, I initially started to write up a detailed description of the process of configuration and system setup.  After a short time, I found that I was even boring myself.  Therefore, I’m going to instead just share some overall observations on my first week of use.  I’m going to take a bit of a stream-of-consciousness approach here, so hopefully it won’t be too rambling.

More on the Keyboard

In my last post, I already talked a bit about my early experiences with the keyboard.  The presence of the keyboard definitely is the biggest difference compared to my previous UMPC and I’m already seeing a substantial change in my use patterns.  With the eo, I found that I generally used it primarily as a sort of a combination of a web browsing device (essentially a MID) and an MP3 player.  When I bought it, I had visions of using it more for writing than I ever did.  The truth is that I never really got the hang of making handwriting recognition work.  Even with the improvements in Vista, I still had to make a huge number of manual corrections.  Even short discussion board posts, blog comments, or even emails took a ridiculously long time.

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Vye S37 – Aesthetics and design

January 16th, 2008

Continuing my early impressions of my new Vye S37, I’m going to spend some time here going over my “first impression” reactions to the overall aesthetics and design of the system. As a reminder, I have previously been using a TabletKiosk eo v7110 UMPC for close to 2 years, so it will obviously serve as a key point of comparison.

Exterior size and appearance

Even having used a different UMPC for quite a while, I still couldn’t help but react a bit to how small the Vye is. Even when the FedEx delivery man handed me the package, I was struck by how small it was. I suspect that if I had told the delivery man that the box contained a full-featured Windows Vista laptop computer, he probably wouldn’t have believed me.

IMG_0530

Since it is a convertible rather than a slate, the Vye is definitely a bit bulkier than the eo was, but it actually gives more of an impression of smallness since the form factor is one that we are generally used to seeing in devices that are twice as big or larger. The eo looks a lot like an enlarged iPod while the Vye looks much more like a laptop that was hit by a shrinking ray.

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Vye S37 – Pricing and Purchase Process

January 14th, 2008

After seeing the announcements from CES all moving towards smaller, less-powerful UMPCs and MIDs, I realized that my earlier research was correct and that the Vye S37 was clearly the best fit for my needs.  I placed my order late last week and received my unit on Saturday.  I haven’t really spent much time actually using the Vye yet as most of my focus this weekend was on getting the system configured.  This post will be my comments on the purchase process and I will soon add a post with my initial impressions of the system itself.

As I had mentioned in my earlier post, a key factor that attracted me to to the Vye was its use of a 2.5-inch hard drive and the assurance from the company that they could sell me a unit with 250GB of internal storage.  The larger hard-drive added an additional $218.60 to the base system prices that were listed on their web site.  This price came from the $168.60 price (including shipping) that Western Digital charged for the drive plus an additional $50 installation fee.  I also went with the upgraded 2GB memory option. After reviewing the various OS choices, I ended up selecting Vye’s "no OS" option since their price difference for adding Windows Vista Home Premium was actually more than the price of the OEM edition of Vista Ultimate from Newegg.com.  The total price of my system (including FedEx Saturday delivery) came to $1512.60.

 

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