One of the earliest first-person shooter games, and maybe still the coolest
, makes its way into the iTunes app store
The image is from the front door of the game's official site. You can also find a truly wonderful story
by John Carnack, its designer, on how Wolf3D made its way to the iPod Touch/iPod platform.
More coolness: the developer has released the source code! Tweak away, my pretties! And expect Doom and Quake soon
(I'd forgotten that, in 1995, id Software had also released the source code for the original version of Wolf3D
When Wolfenstein 3D was released for Mac in the early 90s, it was for many, many years the only game worth playing on that platform, even after later games came along. (Slowly. Until the iTunes app store, Mac games were 100% pathetic. Besides Wolfenstein. Okay, and Myst.)
Looking at it today, what I notice most isn't its primitiveness, but its zen-like simplicity, both visually, and in its objectives: Kill Nazis. Win prizes.
Maybe one of you kids knows who to ask, but if you ask ME, the castle scenes in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (which it certainly should have been) were explicitly inspired by Wolfenstein. I really think so: castle setting, supernatural overtones, lots o' Nazis. In fact, my favorite line in the movie, snarled through gritted teeth, comes as Indy sees who his true hosts are at this castle: "Nazis. I hate those guys."
certain that MechaHitler was the inspiration for the classic "Mecha-Streisand"
episode of South Park. Seen below as she faces defeat by Robert Smith of The Cure.
Anyway, you can buy Wolfenstein 3D in the App Store for a tenth of what I paid for it in 1991 or so. Lock and load.
Now THAT'S what I'm talking about! None of this "I'm going to MacWorld to check out the professional video news" bullshoes. What? You think is 1995 or something? No way, man. Feel free to pooh-pooh Apple's news, because the one and only reason to go to MacWorld anymore is to check out iPod doo-dads.
Pun intended. But no kidding. This is a combination iPod dock and toilet paper dispenser that they just ROLLED out. Holy crap!
Seriously. This is a real live iPod dock with stereo speakers that sits right on top of your toilet paper roll. I'm repeating myself because even *I* can barely believe it. It's the iCarta, by Atech Flash Technology.
You mean Atech FLUSH Technology, right?
Music in the toilet? They should have called it Loo-ey Loo-ey.
I'm trying to figure out a punchline with the word "Air" in it, but I can't think of anything yet. Anyway, get it here. As of today, it's still on sale for only $69.
This is the best MacWorld ever.
Apple is notorious for filing bogus patent applications, but this one looks kind of cool. Ars Technica points to the Apple-filed patent application 20070103454, Back-Side Interface for Hand-Held Devices.
Dude, they really said "Back-Side Interface."
An electronic device uses separate surfaces for input and output. One of the surfaces (e.g., the bottom) includes a force-sensitive touch-surface through which a user provides input (e.g., cursor manipulation and control element selection). On a second surface (e.g., the top), a display element is used to present information appropriate to the device's function (e.g., video information), one or more control elements and a cursor.
The idea is pretty slick. Instead of wasting the back side of the iPod, the patent application imagines the back side as a touch-sensitive navigation surface.
As is often the case, Apple is coming late to the game. Touch-sensitive surfaces have been around in other MP3 players for a while. (I can name names if you want.) But as is also often the case, Apple's idea sounds more interesting.
SOUNDS more interesting. As Ars Technica points out, holding an iPod and spinning a wheel with your thumb is one thing. Try holding your iPod and using your index finger on the back-side (stop laughing). It feels much more awkward to me than navigating with my thumb. Here's my favorite quote:
Sometimes a patent is just a bad idea that's original
The example they use is the easily-smudged iPhone -- they realllly don't like it -- but I'm not so sure they're right about that. Does anyone besides Walter Biscardi really know how the iPhone really works yet?
But given how easy it is to scratch some surface or another of an iPod...if not most of the surfaces...it's an interesting question. Just as interesting as the question of whether this thing will ever see the light of day.
It's the George Foreman iGrill, model number GIPOD200. (Did I miss the 100 model?) Okay, on closer examination, it's a George Foreman grill that you can plug more or less any MP3 player into. But the ad and the model name namecheck iPod by name. Built in speakers and amp, too. Gotta love that. You could go to George's site to see it yourself, but I've been thoughtful enough to save you the trip by pasting the picture here:
My favorite part is "Knockout tunes! Knockout the fat!" at the bottom.
He's such a sweet guy now...and maybe he was a sweet guy then...but I've never seen anybody hit harder than George Foreman in his prime.
Uhm, you kids know he was a boxer, right?
One of his biggest fights, the one documented as "The Rumble in the Jungle" in the fantastic documentary "When We Were Kings," resulted in a hard loss to then-underdog Muhammed Ali -- one of only 5 in a career that included 68 knockouts in 76 fights. These weren't against palookas either -- back then, heavyweight championships meant something serious. These guys were arguably the most respected athletes in the world.
One of George's most famous victories came in the first HBO boxing transmission, with Howard Cosell's call becoming, as Wikipedia reminds us, one of the most famous of all time: "Down goes Frazier!, Down goes Frazier!, Down goes Frazier!" George knocked him down 6 times, with the last blow actually lifted Frazier's feet off the floor. Gotta give our man Joe credit for getting up all six times before the fight was declared a technical knockout. Another non-palooka: "Smokin' Je" Frazier knocked Ali out in the 11th round in "The Fight of The Century," which I think probably was...although I didn't see them all.
Since he retired, my favorite thing about George isn't the grill. It's that he named all five of his sons....George.
BTW, little known fact about me: I used to box. Loved it. Nothing brings clarity like being punched in the face. A finite number of times I suppose.
George Ou over at Real World IT talks about his quest for a universal power adapter. Wouldn't it be loverly? Then he observes that USB is becoming the new standard for charging devices including iPods and other portable music players, portable GPS, and an increasing number of phones. All true. He leaves out PDAs and portable gaming devices like PSP and Game Boy.
Then he says, Now all I need is a single cigarette to USB adapter and a single 110 V to USB adapter where ever I travel and I don't need to worry about forgetting a proprietary adapter.
Done and done, my man. I've had USB-charged devices for 3 years, and have found all kinds of goodies. The exact chargers that George is talking about have been around well longer than that. (Yes, you can find white ones designed to work your iPod, for which you'll pay way, way too much.)
After trying the offerings from a handful of vendors, I highly recommend Boxwave. Here's the link for the wall adapter, which I've used more often than I can count in the last three years. The same page has links to other handy devices, including a USB adapter for cigarette lighters.
My very, very favorite device is the miniSync retractable USB cable. The one I have both connects my iRiver "multi-codec jukebox" to my computer and charges it at the same time. There are similar cables for every USB iPod, and even the iPhone. Again, I've used my USB chargers more times than I can count. Even if it's just a few minutes in the car, or a few minutes from a spare laptop, I can keep going.
Since my iRiver has a dandy built-in mic that records to both MP3 and WAV (among others), I've used it for interviews at tradeshows (easy enough to slip the USB connector into any laptop, especially the ones at the Apple booth -- shhhhh!) I've also used it in press briefings, plugged into the interviewee's laptop.
The most life-saving feature is drawing power for a phone over USB. I'll bet you've been in situations where your phone is dead, your laptop has juice, but the phone number you need is on your cellphone. Connect the phone to the laptop, and you're back in business.
Of course, for regular travel, this also means that the only adapter I need is for the laptop. I can charge both a music player and a phone from a USB adapter the size of a 50-cent piece....if you're old enough to remember those...which means you're probably old enough not to say "fitty" every time you pronounce 50.
There are a ton of these little adapters that handle USB 2.0 transfers from the Canon XL-1, hundreds of digital cameras, and much more.
Anyway, Boxwave has a ton of such things: replacement styli for Palm and Treo; dual Firewire-USB adapters for car, wall, and planes; high-quality retractable earbuds (no more tangles!); international power adapters, and on and on. They're cheap, fast, and a pleasure to deal with: the road warrior's best friend since Odwalla Superfood juice.
Not a paid spokesman, just a satisfied customer.
CNN reports that Apple has started charging credit cards for the shipment of Apple TVs. They continue, "Analysts say it's likely to sell well initially." Wow. You think so? The same analysts believe that Apple has taken pre-orders for more than 100,000 units, and, well, since I read it on the internet, it must be true.
Blog pioneer (he was doing it 10 years before blogging had a name) Dave Winer reports that one of his readers says he got a notice from Apple that his has actually been shipped. I got Dave's link from NewTeeVee, who quotes Dina Kaplan of Blip.TV: “The impact of Apple TV is going to be pretty big.” You think?
I'm not mocking Apple TV, just the analysts. And not even all the analysts. Jonathan Hoopes is an analyst for ThinkEquity, and has been bullish on Apple for a long time. (He rates Apple a buy, with a target of $120/share. You can look it up.) He sent a letter to his clients with a slightly more articulate take on the potential impact of Apple TV:
"In addition to sharing digital content within the home, we believe investors should understand the value of the various potential business models that Apple TV could enable.
As a digital media content delivery vehicle positioned in users' living rooms, we think the AppleTV/iTunes combination could become as disruptive to legacy video purchase-and-consumption behavior as the iPod/iTunes combination has been to the traditional music business model."
Ah, disruption! Now we're talking.
Jeremy Horwitz adds another dimension to the picture:
Apple has quietly added an “Export to Apple TV” feature capable of creating high-definition videos viewable on the Apple TV accessory. Unlike Export to iPod, which currently creates sub-DVD-quality 640 by 480 videos,
Export to Apple TV creates not only full DVD-quality 720 by 404 videos, but also 1280 by 720 videos.
He's done a little experimenting with this, and observes that a 90-minute movie weighs in at about 3 gigs. That sounds about right, but it also sounds a little heavy for Apple TV's initial offering of a 20-gig hard drive. (Oops.)
Still, check this out: the video from Jeremy's experiments so far only plays back in iTunes! It seems to herald HD delivery through iTunes. I don't think our boy Hoopes was even aware of this when he wrote in the article linked above that Apple TV is poised to blow Netflix clear out of the water, and is a step away from torching TiVo too.
That said, Apple is quick to admit that the average iPod user has bought 20 tracks from the iTunes music store. Which suggests to me that the stunning majority of iPod users have bought nothing from iTMS.
So this is one area that Hoopes is clearly flat-out wrong. iTunes isn't disrupting the music industry's basic business model. I don't think it ever will. Disrupted the portable music player industry that iPod was so late to join? Absolutely.
Is it going too far to say that iPods have taken off because you don't need to buy anything from iTMS to get a dandy experience? iTunes is awesome software for ripping your entirely legally purchased CDs and elegantly getting them on your iPod.
Unlike the iPod, Apple TV will require payment to view content on a big screen. Apple can't include DVD ripping tools in its official software so you're going to be limited to viewing content purchased from the iTunes store.
That's Jason O'Grady, one of the hardest of the hardcore Mac users ever. Like Hoopes, I think he lets some of his arguments take him off course, but I think he's zeroed in on this: Apple TV takes off when I can use it for my media.
Anyway, we're about to find out, ain't we?