The 4th Leg.

What happened to the 4th leg?

So today Apple unveiled iPhone 2.0. The whole Internets is abuzz about how much it sucks or how much it rules or how we wish technology could improve faster or how we hate it when it does. For some reason, my mind wasn’t really on iPhone 2.0 today. It was on something that went completely unmentioned on the Internets, but was subtly referenced to in the keynote today. I normally don’t write this kinda stuff on this blog, but it’s late, I’m tipsy, and I wanted to put my thoughts down on the record so that I could come back 10 years later and see how right or how wrong I was. I’ll laugh either way. So what is this mysterious item I’ve been thinking about all day?

The 4th leg.

The Jobs likes to talk about Apple’s 4 legs. He’s mentioned it a couple of times in prior keynotes – how Apple desires to have 4 legs. The Mac platform was 1 leg. You know, the hardware. Computers. Oh and the software that runs them – OSX. The 2nd leg is iTunes and the mighty iPod – generally speaking, Music. The 3rd leg is iPhone – headliner at WWDC today. In the past, The Steve called AppleTV the 4th leg. The coveted living room. Wars for control of your living room have been waged since the beginning of living rooms themselves. AppleTV was to be Apple’s front-line assault on your living room, but so far has been kept back as a “hobby,” in Jobs’ own words. Disrespectfully, today Jobs all but disowned the 4th leg – instead showing in his slideshow a 3-legged stool sans AppleTV.

So where did the 4th leg go? It hasn’t really gone anywhere. It’s been incubating as a “hobby” while the 3rd leg finishes getting sanded and polished, prior to its final coat of lacquer. I own an AppleTV and have a love/hate relationship with it. Its potential is the most frustrating thing. It has so much potential and would revolutionize entertainment if Apple would put as much into it as they have the iPod and iPhone.

My theory is that Apple is, in fact working on AppleTV, but in a roundabout way. All evidence points to an easy installation for the 4th leg when it is ready. Why? Because the majority of the work is being done by the prior 3 legs.

  1. Leg 1 – Mac Platform – Guess what all 4 legs of the chair run? OSX. Guess what’s coming in Snow Leopard (also announced today) sometime next year? A smaller OS. How did they do this? Apple engineers learned a lot from leg #3 (iPhone) by trying to cram OSX onto a computer that fits in your pocket. Who else benefits from these improvements to the OS? AppleTV.
  2. Leg 2 – iTunes/iPod – iTunes and its vast distribution network was built to support leg #2 (iPod). It is still being refined and improved, and guess who is in line to reap the benefits of a sleek, optimized, well performing distribution network? AppleTV.
  3. Leg 3 – iPhone – Not only did iPhone bring optimizations and improvements to Leg 1, it has also given cloud computing the shot that it needs to become a reality. Mobile life spawns too many headaches revolving around syncing data, losing devices containing all of your contacts, and incompatabilities between formats. In comes MobileMe ( to save the day! But wait, there’s more! You know how annoying it is to type in a movie title with the little AppleTV clicker thing? Apple TV needs a keyboard, but nobody wants to tarnish the elegant design of the Little White Box. Why not use you iPhone’s touchpad typing abilities to control your AppleTV? While you’re at it, use your iPhone to set up your AppleTV to download the latest episode of Planet Mars from your desk at the office. So what do the past 2 years of development for the iPhone and neglecting of the AppleTV directly benefit? AppleTV.

AppleTV will neatly slide in as the 4th leg. All 4 legs will work seamlessly together, thanks to the newly launched MobileMe service. All of our data, and essentially our lives, will someday live in “the cloud,” the ever-present virtual storage space in the sky. The MP3 you purchase from iTunes will be saved into the cloud where it is automatically pushed out to your other devices – your work laptop, your home laptop, your home desktop, your phone, and yes, your AppleTV. All of your emails, your contacts, your calendars, photos, bookmarks, maps, and movies, will always be present on all of your devices at all times. No longer will your laptop/desktop/phone be storage devices for your data, they will merely be interfaces to it. And your iPhone will be the interface to the interfaces!

Nobody seems to be noticing the forest because they’re too focused on the trees. Nobody is noticing the chair because they’re too focused on the legs.

The worlds of separate computers, phones, music players, televisions, living rooms… hell, even life itself, will be merged into one, and Apple (and it’s soon-to-be-polished AppleTV) will be at the forefront of this revolution.

Buckle up.

iPod stuck with Apple logo on screen

My 3G iPod got stuck with the Apple logo on its screen. The way to fix this is to put the iPod into Disk Mode and restore it from there. Here is how:

  1. Reset the iPod by holding down the Menu and Play buttons simultaneously.
  2. As soon as it reboots, hold down the Fast Forward and Rewind buttons simultaneously.
  3. Your iPod will now be in “Disk Mode” and you should be able to plug it into your computer, open up iTunes, and restore your iPod.

iPod does not appear in iTunes.

I have an old 3G iPod, and all of a sudden it would not show up in iTunes when connected to my computer via Firewire or USB. It did show up in Finder. After some research, the only way I found to fix this is to format it using Apple’s Disk Utility. WARNING: Doing this will wipe everything off your iPod. You won’t be able to recover the files off your iPod, but at least you’ll be able to use it with iTunes again.

  1. Connect your iPod you to your Mac.
  2. Open up Disk Utility (Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility).
  3. Select your iPod in the left-hand window pane.
  4. Click the “Erase” tab, accept all defaults, then click the “Erase” button.

Your iPod will now be re-formatted, and you should be able to plug it into iTunes and Restore the updated iPod software.

UPDATE: For PCs, you may be able to do something similar with Windows’ Disk Manager. I haven’t tried though, so I can’t verify, but I bet it would work on Windows too.

iPod on Windows XP: Delayed Write Failed (UPDATED)

A couple years ago I posted about a fix for Delayed Write Failed errors when updating an iPod on Windows XP. While my suggestions in that post worked for the most part, I still encountered the error from time to time.

So it’s been a couple years and now I NEVER receive this error. Here’s how I did it:

I used to connect my iPod to my PC via USB. However, I had purchased an external Firewire hard drive which required me to install a Firewire card into a PCI slot on my machine. The card had 4 Firewire inputs, and I needed to free up a USB port for some other peripherals that needed them. So I decided to move my iPod connection from USB to my new Firewire card (Koutech KW-582V2 – cost me $21 bucks from NewEgg).

Ever since then I have NEVER received the Delayed Write error. So if you’re having trouble updating your iPod and get the “Delayed Write Failed” error, perhaps it is your USB connection. Try moving your iPod to another USB port, and if you’re using a USB hub, try bypassing the hub and plug your iPod directly into your computer’s USB port. If THAT doesn’t work, try a Firewire port. If you don’t have one, grab yourself a Firewire card. You can get them cheap and are much more valuable than all the hair you’re pulling out trying to fix your Delayed Write Failed.

iPod on Windows XP: Delayed Write Failed

Note: Be sure to read my Update to this post

When trying to update my shiny new iPod via iTunes on Windows XP, I kept getting the following error:
Delayed Write Failed
Windows was unable to save all the data for the file x. The data has been lost. This error may be caused by a failure of your computer hardware or network connection. Please try to save this file elsewhere.

The iPod would lockup and I’d have to reset it to get it to work again. After some research I found the cause: Write Caching was disabled on my hard disks. Because iTunes tries to push as much data as possible as quickly as possible, Windows was unable to keep up, resulting in the error.

To enable Write Caching on your hard disks:

Start > Control Panel > System > Device Manager > Disk Drives > Properties > Policies > Enable Disk Caching

Note that this option was unavailable to me (grayed out), and after some research I realized it was because I had the Intel Application Accelerator installed, which turns OFF write caching and prevents you from enabling it. So after a quick uninstall of Intel Application Accelerator and a quick reboot, I was able to enable Write Caching on my hard disks, and now the error is gone and my iPod is updating as expected.

Winamp 5.08 vs. Itunes 4.71

I’ve been a Winamp diehard since the beginning. Back before CNN even knew what MP3 was, I was using my 14.4 modem to download, download, download, and using Winamp to listen, listen, listen. I love WinAmp and have been a loyal user since v1.0, but I have to admit that the past couple years have left much to be desired. The way we listen to digital music has changed over the past couple years, and Winamp was starting to feel inadequate to handle things like 35GB music libraries. On top of that, it just doesn’t seem stable or fast any more. Here are some problems I’ve had with WinAmp:

  • The random shuffle sucks. It often seems to like a certain “section” of a huge playlist and stay in that general area. If I’ve got 20 days-worth of non-repeatable music in my library, I shouldn’t be hearing the same band 4 times in an hour.
  • Winamp doesn’t seem to “watch” my library folders very well. In otherwords, if I rip or download some new tunes and stick them in my library, I have to manually re-scan my library and wait 5 minutes for my new MP3s to show up. Sure, I could just schedule a rescan to automatically happen every minute, but that’s rediculously slow and unneccesarily bogs down my system. I want my new music files available for play now.
  • As much as I like the modern skin, it sure is a resource hog
  • WinAmp doesn’t support the newest ID3 2.4 tags. They’re great for album artwork, grouping (eg: compilation releases, multi-disc sets), auto-normalization for quiet tracks, etc.

I fear change, but these problems more than encouraged me to try out Itunes to see if it would solve them. While it’s been cool so far, there are some things I miss and/or don’t like. Here are some comments:

  • The Song Name column is stuck as the left-most column in all views. Why? I like to sort my tracklistings as Artist – Album – Track# – SongName. One problem I’ve always had with Mac stuff is that they assume they know what’s best for me. I know what’s best for ME. This is very annoying, and it makes me feel like a prisoner in my own system. I don’t see any reason why Song Name must be locked as the left-most column, so it makes me very angry. Hey Apple, why am I on lockdown?
  • The taskbar doesn’t show the currently playing Artist/Track. So when I have Itunes playing in the background, and I hear a song and want to know who it is, I need to swith to Itunes to find out. This makes me less-than-productive when I’m trying to code or whatever as it forces me to stop what I’m doing and switch appplications.
  • Similarly, with Itunes open, the currently-playing-track display only shows either Artist, Song Name, or Album Name, never a combination of the 3. I want the display to show “Artist – Album Name – Song Name,” but of course, that is not an option. To get the information I need, I have to click 3 times instead of just looking at the screen. Sure I can just look down at the playlist, but what if I’ve scrolled far far away from the currently playing track? Finding it again by scrolling is impossible in a 30GB library.
  • It would be nice if applications kept the native UI. If I wanted a brushed metal UI I’d use OSX. But I am using WinXP and I expect my apps to look like they belong. I’ve always hated Mac’s widgets (eg: play buttons, volume slider pully things), and it bothers me that when the tables are turned and you’re running non-Mac software on OSX, you’re forced to use their native widgets. But I guess Winamp is the same (non-native UI), so this shouldn’t bother me too much.
  • I’m very anal about my file nameing & directory structure, and for some reason Itunes gives me the uneasy feeling that it’s going to magically hijack all my stuff, rename files, re-order directories, and convert eveything to AAC. Perhaps it was all the promps on install asking me if I wanted to do all this stuff. LEAVE MY SHIT ALONE, and just play the freakin’ music.

Overall, Itunes feels more solid and stable than WinAmp, which is pleasant if you’re someone like me who is on their machine all day with MP3s playing. Itunes also wins with their superior ID3 support, as well as the superior playlist shuffling algorithm. The auto-volume adjustment is a godsend, as I was never able to find a suitable compressor/normalizer DSP plugin for Winamp. However, Itunes lacks in terms of customization, and what I would call obvious usability and interface design. This is the utmost ironic thing, because Mac, the supposed “superior user interface designers” fail miserably – and on the simplest of things!