What? What’s that I see? I turn the page on the calendar from turkey overload to shopping chaos and I see it’s time for my annual (well, it IS my third) ChristHannaKwanzmas Holiday rant. I’m coming up on my anniversary for my third full year with MyMac.com and the writing fever has yet to leave me. I can’t speak for your reading fever naturally, but I hope you all enjoy these riotous wrangling of writing as much as I do making them. If not…well…NO SOUP FOR YOU!

What to rant about this year? Thankfully, things are looking up for us here firmly entrenched in Macland with computer market-share up, iPods still as popular as ice water in hell, and Microsoft is continuously doing its darndest to pull failure from the jaws of victory. I’m calm; I’m relaxed, and have no real complaints. Well, that’s not entirely true.

Let’s talk about games. I like games and Tim, Chad, I talk about them frequently on the MyMac.com podcast. Why? Because we have game envy. The people who really like Microsoft Windows (Yes, Virginia there are some) love to talk about how many games are available for Windows as compared to the Mac. Of course this is just a distraction from the other shortcomings of Windows. I won’t go into them here because it’s been done to death and since it will be mostly Mac users reading this, who cares?

Games on the Mac suck. Not because the software and hardware can’t handle it, but because the big PC games developers won’t make them available. In the past they had a great excuse as making two versions (one for those 90% Windows guys on X86 chips and one for us poor 5%ers on PowerPC Macs) wasn’t economically sound. Typically one of two scenarios happens:

1. It either gets ported out to a dedicated Mac gaming company that always seems teetering on the brink of death

2. It just doesn’t get made.

On average, number 2 happens (insert poop joke here). Even when number 1 happens (leaving you with that “not so fresh” feeling), it’s usually some 6 months to two years before we see it. Since gaming on computers usually moves very quickly from one hot title to another, if a Mac user starts talking about this great session of “Halo” he had last night, PC gamers usually snicker in their fists and make random puns about the virility and manhood of the Mac user.

This is of course nonsense. PC gaming has been going downhill as far as the number of dedicated users (and no I’m not going to quote statistics or show links to Harvard research to prove the point), while console gaming has been on the rise since the unholy trifecta of the Xbox, Gamecube, and Playstation 2 were released some number of years ago.

If you think Macs are expensive, you should see some people’s gaming rigs. Multiple graphics cards working together using some kind of magic to squeeze another few frames per second in whatever PC game is hot at the moment. There are people who spend literally thousands of dollars a year on their computers just so they can brag about their set-up. The fact that the human eye can’t discern any difference between visual information onscreen at say 60fps and 250 fps (your mileage may vary) is beside the point. THEIR rig can do it and if yours can’t, it sucks.

Macs are now off the PowerPC fix that they used for 10+ years. Maybe the new Intel chips and slowly rising market-share will make a difference with the game makers to throw a little love toward the Mac platform. If not, to hell with them and I’ll keep getting my gaming fix on the consoles I own.

Rather a busy year in politics with the Republicans warning of dire consequences if the Democrats take over the Legislative branch as they now have done. Frankly I see them as mirror images of each other, more interested in the trappings of power than actually doing what is needed to run the country. Most likely they’ll take the White House next time around unless the Democrats are foolish enough to nominate Hillary. I can’t (and won’t) speak for everyone else, but how about a few new directions for the country instead of the same old rhetoric we end up from both sides.

Clinton was not that great a President. He has a certain charm in the way he speaks that seems to make most dems idolize him and reps spit on the very ground he walks. I think he was just another political hack that lucked into the nomination in 1992 when the rest of the most likely more worthy Democrats were afraid to run against GB da first. The country certainly had some good times while he was in office, but a number of his decisions still haunt the landscape today. He took no definitive action against terrorism when it reared its ugly head a number of times during his watch. Perhaps if he had, we might not be in the mess we are today, but hindsight and all that.

George Bush is also not that great a President. The Republicans have lost a lot of the gains they made with him as the standard bearer for the Grand Old Party. No real loss I suppose as neither party should be too strong. The reps have too long believed their own press releases as if they had some divine right to lead this country. The recent elections I believe have taken some of the starch out of their shirts and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of guys.

It seemed all the election talk was about Iraq. Amazingly, the dems took the high ground as if none of their members had voted for the incursion. I think it was needed. Of course I say this nice and safe in my home with no family members having been killed of injured during the 3-4 years that we’ve had troops there. I do have two young sons that will be of age over the next 7-10 years and it is my hope that they won’t be needed to fight another war, so I guess you can say I’m somewhat selfish in that regard.

God bless the men and women who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope you all remain safe and come home as soon as possible.

I’ll end this part of my rant by saying both parties suck. They have fought with each other over every single issue for the last few decades not out of a sincere belief that their way is best for the country, but for personal power. If you’re satisfied with the way your particular political party is being run, then maybe you should re-examine your beliefs. Voting is a right that many throughout the world do not have. To blindly enter a polling booth and just push the buttons for the party of your choice makes a mockery out of the electoral process. Think before you vote. Make the time to be sure that the candidates you vote for are worthy of that choice.

And now for something completely different. Back to tech talk. Microsoft has released the Zune portable media player and it has hit the market with a resounding thud. I’ve played around a bit with one and I must say that the hardware seems pretty solid and the interface for the device is attractive. What it isn’t is intuitive. Tim talked a bit about this on one of the podcasts and I must agree that it is not a fun device to use. Maybe I’m just used to the iPod way of doing things, but the user interface for the Zune seems clunky. Of course it’s the first generation released and it will surely be better the next time around, but it isn’t like Apple is going to remain still while MS tries to figure it out.

Next year will most likely bring around an iPod from Apple that truly is a video playing machine. The current iPod with video has too small a screen at 2.5-inches (the Zune is not any better at 3-inches) so I’m not interested in it for those capabilities. I don’t have enough audio content to justify getting a 30 or 80 gig model, so I’ll just stick with my 1st Gen. 4 gig nano until Apple releases something much better. The screen size isn’t the only thing holding the Zune back from greatness or even mediocrity. Three other deal breakers are making sure that I only look at it and snicker.

The WiFi “feature”. What kind of genius at Microsoft felt that designing wireless connectivity for “squirting” (their words not mine) content from one Zune to another was something that users wanted? Anything sent from one is wrapped with MS’s very own DRM scheme which makes the content unplayable after three days or three plays. Even if the content was your very own. Example: Say you make a song. You wrote it. You composed it. You recorded it with absolutely no copyright material from anyone else. After you make it, you see a friend of yours at some “social” (another buzzword from Microsoft that makes me want to retch) gathering and he would like to hear it. So, you whip out your Zunes and share via the built-in WiFi. Your buddy says thanks and off he goes. He listens to it three times and then, huh? It won’t play anymore. You squirted a self-destructing file to your buddy. I’m sure he’s delighted.

The Zune Marketplace scam. Yes, it’s a scam. This isn’t a DRM issue as Apple pulls the same stunt. I blame neither company for this as the copyright holders of the content would not allow the material to be bought online otherwise. But this isn’t what makes it a scam. What makes it a scam is the pricing scheme. 79 points to buy a song. Wow, cheap eh? Well, no it isn’t really any cheaper (it comes out to about 98 point something cents) because in order to get those points, you have to buy them in at least a 5 US Dollar (the Zune is not yet available outside the US) pack for 400 points. Even if you want to buy 5 songs, you still have 5 points left over. If you buy less of course, more is left in your account. You are essentially giving an interest free loan to MS for whatever value your leftover points are worth. It might not add up to much for you, but now add that to all the potential millions of customers the Zune could conceivably attract. Now you’re talking real money. And to who? Microsoft, the biggest frigging corporation on the planet.

The last thing about Microsoft and the Zune that makes me want to throw it in a burning trash heap was MS’s deal with Universal Music. For every Zune that is sold, MS is giving Universal Music (one of the biggest music publishers on the planet) one dollar. Call it what it is. A bribe to UM to get them to offer content for the Zune Marketplace. Of course the prez of UM called it fitting since they JUST KNOW every digital audio device is just filled to the brim with stolen music. They make the assumption that every one of their customers is a thief. Sure gives me the warm and fuzzies. Of course now they are making veiled hints that the next time Apple’s contract with them is up for renewal, they will be asking for the same from them. Fortunately, Apple is in a position of strength with iTunes, since it holds a commanding lead over every other digital music store, so I hope Steve tells them to pound sand.

And now for something even more completely different. My best wishes to all my loved (and some not so loved) friends and family.

To my wife. Still with me after almost 16 years. Either I’m not so bad, or she’s a slow learner. I happen to know she’s a graduate from William and Mary so I’m leaning toward the,”I’m not so bad” category. I love you honey.

To my boys Guy Jr and Peter. I love you both, but blame you for me losing my hair. Even with that, you’re a constant source of joy and bewilderment. I can’t figure you out, but that’s karma for me being such an impossible child myself. I hope you never change except in ways that doesn’t make me go crazy. But I’m not counting on it.

To my scattered family around the country. Bet you never thought I would make it this far. Thanks for everything you do and for who you are. I’m the person I am because of you but it would never hold up in court.

To all my friends. Why would you want to hang out with someone like me? I’m still puzzled by this. I think it was Einstein (or Groucho Marx. I frequently confuse the two) who said, “I will never join an organization that would have me as a member.” Words to live by.

To MyMac.com and staff. Bless you all. Who else would have given me such a public forum to write in? It’s too late to back out now as I have incriminating evidence against most of you.

Lastly, this year I’ll end the ChristHannaKwanzmas rant with yet another open letter to Steve Jobs. I’m sure he read both the ones I wrote before as my ego is most likely only overshadowed by his own.

Dear Steve,
I am stunned by the success of Apple Computers over the last year. I must admit to some hand-wringing and sobbing when you announced the switch to Intel processors in 2005, but obviously I was wrong to doubt your plans for world domination. The switchover went smoother than anyone could have anticipated. Well, except for the exploding notebooks which were obviously an evil plot by Sony and the flesh-searing heat of the 1st glen MacBooks and MacBook Pros for those that survived that. Hey stuff happens and the Mac faithful have already banished from their memories.

The other new Macs are great as well. The 24-inch (I can’t believe it’s not butter…I mean a computer!) iMac is a real show stopper. The fact that it’s priced almost the same as your low-end Mac Pro Tower that has four hard drive expandability AND two for the price of one processors as compared to the iMacs hasn’t stopped me from lusting after one. I’m not counting on Santa to bring me one, so if it’s not out of your way, please drop one off at my doorstep before Christmas. Thanks.

The iPod juggernaut just keeps on rolling. The 5.5 Gen. iPods with video have been selling well. I wish it actually had a usable screen for WATCHING video, but that’s just me I guess. The new year will undoubtedly bring new iPods to market. The Mac rumor sites have been going bonkers for a long time talking about a large screen iPod. Why not just release one so they’ll shut up. It really is getting annoying.

Speaking of annoying, the only other thing they have been talking about lately is an Apple iPhone. If one is in the works, please don’t cripple it like you did with the Motorola RAZR or SLVR. You must have really held a grudge to do that to them. I know you’re busy and all that, but if you have the time, go over to YouTube and search for the iPhone commercial. THAT was a really neat device (even though it doesn’t exist as far as I know) and Apple would make several people’s head explode with delight if it was really something in the works. I can think of several people’s heads on digg.com that I would like to see explode too.

OS X just keeps getting better. I’m loving the features of Leopard that have been announced so far and assuming that I have a computer that will run it, I’m looking forward to getting it as well. Please don’t phase out PPC support too quickly. I can’t afford three new computers right now.

I guess the iTV thingy (it’s called what?) will be announced at MacWorld. I hope you have plans beyond just Airport for your TV. It needs to do more and have the ease of use that Apple is typically known for. Maybe even make it so you don’t need a computer for content. Wouldn’t that make the Windows Media Centers go nuts with jealousy? Well, it might if inanimate objects like computers actually had feelings.

I hope all is well for you and your loved ones and I wish you the best of this ChristHannaKwanzmas holiday season.

 

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