January 27, 2012

The Omni Group’s Ken Case talks with TUAW at Macworld iWorld 2012

One of the most innovative and longstanding software development firms in the Apple ecosystem is The Omni Group. The company originally developed software for Steve Jobs’s NeXT in the 1990′s, created some of the first OS X software in the 2000s, and has gracefully made the transition to iOS with the advent of the iPhone and iPad. On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of talking with Omni Group CEO Ken Case about the company’s latest technical achievement — building Siri capabilities into OmniFocus for iPhone — and the history of this venerable favorite of Apple fans worldwide.

Over the next week or so, TUAW will be posting a number of interviews with both established development firms like The Omni Group and new startups that are just beginning to make their presence known in the Apple world. Be sure to visit often to check out our video offerings.

You can check out more of our Macworld|iWorld 2012 coverage here.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

TUAW Meetup: Join us tonight for fun and giveaways

For the second year in a row, TUAW and HP are teaming up to bring you fun! Whether you’re in the Bay Area for Macworld iWorld 2012 or a resident of the area, drop by Jillian’s in San Francisco (4th and Market Streets, across from Moscone West) and enjoy an evening with the TUAW crew.

The festivities start at 8 PM and run until 11, and we have a huge cache of outstanding Mac, iPad, and iPhone accessories to give away to attendees. Refreshments will be served, and HP will have an array of their fine printing and scanning products on hand for demonstrations.

It’s free, it’s a blast, and it’s our opportunity to meet with the people who give us a reason to work — our readers!

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

TUAW TV Live: The pre-Macworld | iWorld 2012 Episode

Today’s TUAW TV Live will be a bit shorter than usual — a half hour — and come to you from a different location. I’m in San Francisco for Macworld | iWorld 2012 with a number of the other TUAW bloggers and editors, so I thought I’d do a quick show about Macworld | iWorld today.

I may or may not have a guest on today’s show, although I’m trying my darnedest to wrangle one of the other bloggers into joining me. The topics may range from iBooks Author to Apple’s cosmic earnings report yesterday, although as you know I have a tendency to not follow a script…

Below, you’ll find a Ustream livestream viewer and a chat tool. The chat tool allows you to participate by asking questions or making comments.

If you’re driving somewhere and would like to watch TUAW TV Live while you’re stuck in traffic, please don’t — keep your eyes on the road! However, if someone else is doing the driving, you can watch the show on your iPhone and join the chat by downloading the free Ustream App. It’s a universal app and is wonderful on an iPad, both for viewing and participating in the chat.

We’ll start at about 4 PM ET, so if you’re seeing a prerecorded show, be sure to refresh your browser until you see the live stream. For those of you who are not able to join us for the live edition, you’ll be able to view it later this evening on our TUAW Video YouTube channel and as part of the TUAW TV Live podcast viewable in iTunes or on any of your Apple devices.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Sign up for an interview with TUAW at Macworld|iWorld 2012

Do you have an awesome app, accessory or hardware product you’d like to demo for the TUAW audience? We’d love to see it. While we’re going to focus on what’s on the Macworld|iWorld floor during the event, we’d like to take the opportunity to talk to anyone at the event for later publication.

In particular, if you have a hot new unreleased product you’re excited about, we’d like to see it. Similarly, if you’ve enjoyed stellar success on the App Store, tell us your story. We only have a limited number of interview times, so you’ll have to use this form to apply.

We’ll be recording interviews on Wednesday and Thursday (Jan. 25-26), so let us know when you want to sit down and chat.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Ask TUAW: How do I setup a Mac with both an SSD and a regular hard drive?

Reader Mark R. Friedman wrote in to ask about setting up a Mac Pro with an SSD in the second optical drive, keeping the /Users folder on another drive; he wasn’t sure how to do it. Macworld just discussed one method, using the built-in home folder path controls in System Preferences. The magic begins with right-clicking or Control-clicking the user name in the Users preference pane, which allows you to access the Advanced Options that control where the home folder lives on your drive.

This was the same approach my friend Jon Deal detailed in an article explaining how to Move Your Home Folder Off Your SSD Boot Drive in OS X way back in November 2009 (because he’s a huuuuuge nerd. I kid because I love, Jon) but his information is still relevant. If you want to move your entire /Users/ folder to another drive, or to a different partition on the same physical drive, Jon’s instructions will work fine.

There are, of course, other ways to do it.

Matt Legend Gemmell rightly points out that while moving the entire /Users/ folder is straightforward, it may not be your best option. He recommends only moving some specific folders to the non-SSD drive, specifically Downloads, Movies, and Pictures (for some users, Music may also fit in that category). Those folders tend to be the largest ones, and can easily be symbolically linked from your non-SSD drive. (A symlink is the UNIX equivalent of an OS X alias or a Windows file shortcut, but in some edge cases and for some applications it behaves more predictably than an alias would.)

Having used a MacBook Air for about a year now, I can’t stand to use a non-SSD drive anymore. Even accessing files on an HDD is slow enough that I want to avoid it whenever possible.

Another option for setting up your new SSD-based Mac

Mark asked for instructions for setting this up on a Mac Pro, which has plenty of drive bays for additional hardware. Laptop users (who ordinarily would not have space for two fixed drives) may be considering replacing the SuperDrive with an SSD. The user folder process is the same for any of them.

Step 0: I’m borrowing this from Jon, but before you do anything else make sure you have a working backup of all of your stuff. Check to make sure. Disconnect any drives which don’t need to be connected during the install to reduce the chance of accidentally installing it on the wrong drive.

Step 1: Install Mac OS X directly on your SSD (if it isn’t already). With Lion this will mean downloading the Lion Installer from the Mac App Store and following the steps to install it on your SSD.

Step 2: Don’t migrate your apps and settings. If you’re switching to a completely new drive, now is a good time to make a clean break from cruft you don’t really need: apps you installed but never used, leftover project files from 2007 that you’ll never look at again, that folder of animated GIFs from Geocities, etc. Start with a clean installation of OS X. Only install apps as you need them.

Step 3: Use your non-SSD as a reference drive. It will appear as /Volumes/{drive name} and you can access your old files as you find you need them.

For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that your old drive is /Volumes/OldDrive. You will see a bunch of folders in there, including /Users/ which is where your old home account is located, including your old iTunes and iPhoto libraries, if you use them. Matt Gemmell explained how he linked some folders to their usual spots (if you want to do that and are not comfortable with using Terminal.app, I recommend SymbolicLinker which will make it easier to manage.) One potential tricky part is that OS X does not want you to delete some “default” folders, so it makes it difficult to do so. You can either fight it, or you can just leave the system folders where they are and just tell various apps to look elsewhere for their data.

For example, if you start iPhoto or iTunes while holding down the Option/Alt key, it will ask you where to find their library. If your libraries have gotten out of hand, this is a good time to start over. It is particularly easy in iTunes to put the media (songs, videos, podcasts, etc) on an external drive, but keep the actual library files on your SSD. Having the library files on the SSD will makes iTunes faster than you’ve ever seen it before (iTunes is still one of my least favorite apps, but at least it’s faster).

Most Mac web browsers will default to saving files to ~/Downloads/ but you can change that in preferences to /Volumes/OldDrive/Downloads or anywhere else on the non-SSD drive. The same goes for movie/video files. They don’t have to be in ~/Movies, that’s just where OS X defaults to putting them.

Which trade-offs do you prefer?

Now you have are three options for using an SSD plus HDD:

  1. Move Your Home Folder Off Your SSD Boot Drive in OS X as Jon Deal suggested.
  2. Keep everything on your SSD except for a few linked folders as Matt Gemmell suggested.
  3. Use the SSD and change applications to point to your HDD as I have suggested by changing preferences where possible.

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

Jon’s is the easiest, but you lose some of the advantages of the SSD for applications which store library/cache files in your $ HOME. This is probably the best solution if you have a small SSD.

Matt’s method has you tinkering around with folders Apple really doesn’t want you messing with, but it will work with all applications, even ones which don’t let you define where their data is kept. If you want to dive in, set everything up, but then not have to worry about changing much after the initial setup, Matt’s ideas may work for you. If you have specific applications that you use which cannot change where their files are stored, this is your best option.

My suggestion tries to maximize the SSD benefits for those willing to change some app settings. It works especially well if you’ve been lugging around a bunch of files that you don’t really use that often and are ready for a clean start.

I’ve done this with a 250 GB SSD, and currently have 168 GB free. My large downloaded files, movies, music, and pictures are all on external drives. I use DiskAlarm (US$ 2, Mac App Store) to keep an eye on available space on the SSD. When it starts to get low, I go through ~/Downloads and ~/Desktop delete files I no longer want or need, or move them to external storage if I no longer need them. Of course, I am also using a MacBook Air, which means that I don’t have the option of a second internal hard drive. If you do, you may want to do things differently.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

TUAW TV Live: A look ahead at the next ten days

If things are this crazy before Macworld | iWorld 2012 even begins, I’m beginning to get worried. The PR requests are coming in by the boatload, and my appointment calendar is beginning to fill up. The boxes filled with giveaways for our TUAW Meetup (sponsored by HP) are ready to ship, and I’m starting to go through my selection of hats to figure out what to bring with me to San Francisco.

Today on TUAW TV Live, I’ll talk about Macworld past, present and future. In the past, the show was insanely huge, people stood in lines for hours to attend a keynote, and some amazing Apple products were introduced. The present is a much more cozy Macworld that is finally paying homage to the world of iOS, along with a focus on the Apple community. And the future? Who knows — but I can speculate.

Along with talk about Macworld | iWorld, I’ll also touch on the topics of Apple’s education event tomorrow and the upcoming (1/24) Apple first-quarter earnings call. Oh, yeah — and maybe something about this Sopapilla thing all you kids are talking about.

Below, you’ll find a Ustream livestream viewer and a chat tool. The chat tool allows you to participate by asking questions or making comments.

If you’re driving somewhere and would like to watch TUAW TV Live while you’re stuck in traffic, please don’t — keep your eyes on the road! However, if someone else is doing the driving, you can watch the show on your iPhone and join the chat by downloading the free Ustream App. It’s a universal app and is wonderful on an iPad, both for viewing and participating in the chat.

We’ll start at about 5 PM ET, so if you’re seeing a prerecorded show, be sure to refresh your browser until you see the live stream. For those of you who are not able to join us for the live edition, you’ll be able to view it later this evening on our TUAW Video YouTube channel and as part of the TUAW TV Live podcast viewable in iTunes or on any of your Apple devices.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

TUAW TV Live at 5 PM ET: The pre-show show of shows

There’s lots to talk about on TUAW TV Live this afternoon — tomorrow is the early morning Apple education event, next Tuesday we’ll hear all about how well Apple did in their first quarter earnings call, and next Thursday is opening day of Macworld | iWorld 2012. That means there’s plenty of time for speculation over the next week, so why not get an early start with the craziness on today’s TUAW TV Live show?

As usual, I’ll be starting the show at 5 PM EDT (2 PM PDT / 10 PM BST) sharp, and we’ll take a few minutes to chat before the demos start. To join in on the chat and watch the live streaming video, drop by TUAW about five minutes before the start time to get your instructions on how to participate. If you’re unable to join us for the show, remember that you can always subscribe to the video podcast and watch the show at your leisure in iTunes or any other favorite podcatching app. The past shows are also available on the TUAW YouTube channel.

The chat is now available as well on IRC: join us on server chat1.ustream.tv, chat room #tuaw-tv.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

TUAW on SOPA and PIPA: What they are and why we’re against them

By now, news about two bills making their way through the US legislative approval process, Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), has spread like wildfire across the Internet, along with widespread criticism of both bills.

As part of that criticism, if you’re reading this on January 18, 2012 and you try to click on either of those links above, you may notice that neither of them work as expected. That’s because Wikipedia, one of the most-trafficked and most well-known sites on the Internet, has pledged to “go dark” for 24 hours in protest against both bills. If you hit Google for information on the two bills that same day, you’ll likely find that the Internet’s most popular website is also protesting the provisions in these controversial bills.

We briefly considered following suit and taking TUAW offline during the same period, but we decided that it would be better to take the opportunity to educate our readers on the implications of these two bills, and why we think they’re ill-advised.

SOPA is the US House of Representatives’ version of a bill intended to “promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes.” PIPA is a broadly similar bill working its way through the US Senate, with the full title “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act.” Depending on how libertarian your mindset is, this type of phrasing either sounds perfectly innocuous or like the stamping of marching boots right outside your front window.

The intent of both bills is to crack down on illegal sharing of copyrighted media content, colloquially known as “piracy,” especially of films and music. Not coincidentally, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) are the biggest supporters of both SOPA and PIPA; the MPAA in particular has issued a somewhat melodramatic response to the criticism of these bills.

PC World had a good overview of SOPA as far back as November — things move slowly in the US legislature — and Kirby Ferguson from the “Everything is a Remix” web series produced a short video, embedded below, which outlines the US Senate’s similar PROTECT-IP Act, criticizing it as a lashing out against the fundamental freedom Internet users have enjoyed since day one.

Essentially, both bills are designed to increase the United States’ ability to enforce US copyright law outside its own borders, since the Internet knows no national boundaries. The bills specifically mention “rogue websites” that function outside the US — and I think we all know who some of the biggest targets are — which the various content producers have accused of being repositories of pirated copyrighted works. Court orders against such sites would be intended to block websites, financial institutions, ad networks, and search engines from linking to or having anything to do with “infringing” sites, essentially walling them off from the rest of the Web like a cyst — or such is the intent. [Some of the most technically problematic portions of SOPA, including the ability to DNS-blacklist offending sites, are already working their way out of the bill. –Ed.]

In reality, neither bill is likely to stem the tide of copyright violations in the slightest. The site blocking provisions in each bill are almost laughably circumventable — in many cases, simply knowing the IP address of the offending site and inputting that rather than its URL is enough to get around the restrictions. What has the rest of the Internet (and us) up in arms are the rather Orwellian implications of these bills, which essentially amount to Internet censorship in the name of safeguarding the profitability of the entertainment industry.

SOPA and PIPA threaten to undermine the Internet and transform it into something no one wants to see. Opposition to this bill isn’t coming solely from vocal, idealistic neckbeards, either; SOPA opponents include not just Wikipedia and Google, but other organizations you may recognize such as AOL, Facebook, Twitter, the Mozilla Foundation, and the White House itself.

Why the opposition? Let’s take a step back and answer a question: Aside from “a series of tubes,” what exactly does the Internet represent?

The Internet has arguably done more for the free expression of ideas than any other invention in human history, including the printing press. I’m sitting in a swiveling office chair in my lounge in New Zealand as I type this, and these words will find their way onto the Macs, PCs, iPads, and iPhones of tens of thousands of readers all over the world. My benevolent corporate overlords at AOL have a few basic guidelines for the things I can and cannot write here, and my fellow TUAW editors have some guidelines of their own, but other than that, I can say pretty much whatever I want with a guaranteed global audience.

That’s an incredibly powerful set of circumstances, and it’s one that virtually anyone with a computer and internet access can build for themselves. Anyone with a voice can broadcast that voice to virtually anyone anywhere in the world. That simply wasn’t possible before the Internet; free exchange of ideas still existed, but the power to broadcast those ideas rested within the hands of a relatively smaller subset of society. That’s no longer the case, and unless a rogue solar flare fries the electrical grid beyond repair, it will never be the case again.

Here’s a more pertinent example with more wide-ranging implications than anything I’ve said on TUAW. People have debated how much influence the Internet had on the Arab Spring riots of 2011, but if the Internet was even a minor player in the organization and communication of these movements seeking democracy in countries that have never known it, that’s something worth fighting for.

SOPA and PIPA are antithetical to the free expression of ideas underpinning the foundations of the Internet. The entertainment industry has been at odds with the Internet almost since its inception; the film, music, and television industries have never had customer convenience as their core principle, but rather tight control over the supply and distribution of their content. As recently as the 1960s, these three industries essentially had total dominion over the cultural landscape; with rare exceptions, you’d never see a film outside of a theater, or a television program not broadcast on one of the big three US networks, or be able to purchase for yourself a song you’d heard on the radio anywhere but inside a record store.

This was a sweet setup for the entertainment industry, but not so great for consumers. Over the years, as technological improvements have made it easier to distribute such media content — over both sanctioned and “rogue” channels — the balance has tipped in decidedly the other direction. With few exceptions, I can go from thinking about watching a film to actually watching it within minutes. I don’t even need to have a broadcast antenna hooked up to my television in order to keep up with my favorite TV shows — and indeed, I don’t have one. Using apps on my iPhone, I can hear a new song on the radio, identify it, find it in the iTunes Store, download it, and listen to it again, almost instantly.

The entertainment industry has fought against that kind of user convenience every step of the way.

In the 1970s and 1980s, it was all about trying to ban cassette tapes and VHS so that consumers couldn’t record songs off the radio or movies off of broadcast TV. In the late 1990s, when DVDs and MP3 players first hit the market, the industry made sure to wrap DVDs in layers of copy protection and tried to ban digital music players (ask Apple how that one worked out).

Remember the nearly decade-long, drawn-out battle between the RIAA and the rest of Earth? It sued Napster out of existence, pursued further suits against teenagers and old ladies, and tried its damnedest to thwart Apple’s efforts at digital music distribution. As recently as a few years ago, songs sold on the iTunes Store were still encumbered with DRM restrictions — at the insistence of the major labels and against Apple’s wishes — but those restrictions have since disappeared, and the iTunes Store is now the number one seller of music in several parts of the world.

The film, television, and music industries have fought tooth and nail against technologies and distribution methods that emphasize user convenience over distributor control for the past 50 years, and they’ve funneled millions of dollars into Congress in order to get laws like the DMCA, SOPA, and PROTECT-IP passed. The end result of the DMCA itself has been a confusing, Balkanized landscape as far as online media distribution goes, and it hasn’t affected piracy in the slightest.

For all their intentions, neither SOPA or PROTECT-IP are likely to measurably impact piracy either; instead, they will make it easier for the entertainment industry to abuse its already outlandish influence over the US government, and it will make it easier for the US government to undermine the very foundation of the Internet.

Here’s how you stop piracy: You won’t. Ever. There will always be people who want something for nothing, and no amount of trying is going to stop those people from looking for and finding it. Just accept it and move on.

Here’s how you reduce piracy: Make it easier for people who want to access and pay for your content. That means no more arbitrary restrictions on what devices we can view it on. That means making the same content available to everyone, worldwide, simultaneously or as close to it as feasible, and at a fair price that consumers won’t balk at.

No more geo-restrictions on online content — this is the Worldwide Web. No more distribution delays to overseas territories. No more region coding on DVDs and Blu-rays. No more DRM on electronically-distributed media. And for God’s sake, no more forcing me to sit through two minutes of anti-piracy propaganda every single time I insert a DVD. In short, stop punishing the people who want to pay for your “intellectual property.”

Oddly enough, Apple’s already provided the tools to do this, from the distribution method down to the devices the content’s viewed on. But in countries like the one I live in, content makers still Don’t Get It. Let’s try to do the simplest thing imaginable: I want to watch the latest episode of 30 Rock. It’s a show made in the States, but I live in New Zealand. And… go.

Right off the bat, I know I can’t watch it on broadcast TV. Because of various Byzantine workings of the entertainment industry that I as a content consumer couldn’t care less about, New Zealand won’t broadcast the latest episode of a US TV show until weeks or months after its US airdate — and that’s assuming the show is aired here at all.

To the Internet! NBC.com streams episodes for free on its site… but not to me, because I don’t live in the US. Hulu is the same story.

The show will find its way onto the iTunes Store a day later… but not the NZ iTunes Store, because it doesn’t sell TV content. I have to switch to the US Store, which thankfully isn’t as geographically limited as the rest of these digital distributors — so long as I have my US-based credit card handy, I’m golden.

But that episode of 30 Rock will only work on a PC, Mac, or iOS device. My poor PlayStation 3, which I use as my media center, just has to sit there feeling sorry for itself unless I insert a DVD or Blu-ray instead — but I have to make sure it’s a DVD or Blu-ray from the United States, because media manufactured in New Zealand won’t work on my US PS3 thanks to region coding. (I can stream media to my PlayStation, but not DRM-encumbered video like the TV shows from iTunes.)

If I want to watch a DVD made in New Zealand, I have to put it in my wife’s MacBook, which has its DVD drive set to Region 4. If my wife wants to watch one of the DVDs we bought in the States on her MacBook, she’s out of luck, because industry-mandated firmware encoding on her MacBook’s SuperDrive will only let her switch DVD regions a set number of times before locking the drive down to whatever region she picked last.

If I want to watch a film I purchased on DVD on my iPad, according to the entertainment industry that’s just tough cookies. According to my personal code of ethics and Handbrake, the entertainment industry is on the losing side of that argument.

I’m sure this is a bit of preaching to the choir, but isn’t all of this more than a little ridiculous? I follow this stuff and write about it on a daily basis, yet even after reading over the past few paragraphs my head is spinning over the needless complexity of it all. And I pay for this?

Here’s what a “pirate” has to do: find a magnet link to a torrent, click it, and walk away. Depending on the speed of his connection, he’s probably watching Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin yuk it up about 15 minutes later — on any device he wants, with no restrictions and no BS. Do you know how much I would pay for that kind of no-nonsense, unrestricted access to content? At least as much as basic cable costs. At least as much the iTunes Store charges for its DRM-wrapped digital bit buckets.

Instead, content producers keep finding new and improved ways of making their content more difficult to access, and they try to push through legislation like SOPA and PIPA — wrongheaded bills that will do nothing to prevent piracy, but are exactly the foot in the door the US needs to make its version of the Internet look a lot more like the locked-down version you get in places like China, Saudi Arabia, or Iran.

At the same time, I don’t have much sympathy for an industry that’s making hundreds of billions of dollars per year, giving a huge slice of those profits to studio and network CEOs, then complaining that teenaged pirates are stealing billions from them every year, when instead of embracing distribution methods like iTunes that make things easier for content consumers they go crying to the government and demand that basic freedoms be curtailed in the name of (theoretically) greater profits for themselves.

The day the entertainment industry makes it simple for consumers in every corner of the world to have easy, equal, and simultaneous access to content, at a fair price, and with the ability to view it anywhere at any time without restrictions, watch how far the piracy rate drops. That initial drop is as good as it’s ever going to get. You can write the rest off forever, because those are the people who were never going to pay for your content no matter what you did, and no amount of legislation is ever going to change that.

In the meantime, stop punishing the rest of us. We need more freedom, not less.

Photo: Paul Stevenson | flickr cc

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Ask Different contest starts today with bonus for TUAW readers

The other day I wrote about Ask Different, the Apple-centric site in the Stack Exchange crowdsourced tech-help network. At the end of that article I mentioned something was coming, and now I can tell you the rest of the details.

The Contest

Starting today, Ask Different is running a contest. The rules are simple: ask a question related to iOS, and be sure to tag it “iOS” (plus whatever other relevant tags apply). There will be two winners: the question which gets the most views and the question with the highest number of votes will win a 16GB iPod nano (6th Generation) or Apple accessories of comparable value (your choice).

The Rules

  • The contest is open to both new and current Stack Exchange and Ask Different users.
  • Everyone is eligible to participate regardless of geographic location. If you live in an area of the world where it is too difficult for Stack Exchange to ship you your prize, they’ll figure something else out on a case by case basis.
  • The only metrics in use to determine winners are the number of page views and votes your questions get. So ask as many good questions as you can, and share them using whatever means you see fit. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google Plus, whatever!
  • There will be separate (and equal!) prizes for The Unofficial Apple Weblog readers who are participating in this contest. Make sure include in your Stack Exchange profile that you’re a TUAW reader. (You need to include the word “TUAW” so the contest search can find you.)

The Dates

The contest begins today (Monday, January 16th) at 10 am EST and goes until Friday, January 27th at 11:59 pm (EST). Only questions that are asked within that time period will count towards the contest.

New to Stack Exchange / Ask Different?

If you don’t already have one, go to http://apple.stackexchange.com/users/login and create an account. Be sure to mention TUAW in your profile (or add it if you already have an account).

If you are not familiar with Stack Exchange, I would highly recommend checking out the Ask Different FAQ which has a list of “best practices” including etiquette and protocol for asking and answering questions. It also explains some aspects of the site such as voting and reputation.

Win/win and maybe win again

Of course you can continue to send us questions for our Ask TUAW and Aunt TUAW series, but we get far more questions than we can answer. I also know that many of our readers have a wealth of information to share with others. Getting more people to know and use Ask Different is a win/win for the Apple community. The chance to win a prize for asking a great question is just icing on the cake.

Disclaimer: The Ask Different iPod contest is managed entirely by Stack Exchange. The prizes awarded and the contest process are completely under the control of Stack Exchange, and decisions made by Stack Exchange are final. TUAW and AOL have no administrative or legal role in this contest and cannot be held responsible for any questions of eligibility or other matters.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

TUAW visits Scosche at CES

Yesterday we got a chance to stop by the Scosche booth at CES. While we were there, we got to see all manner of items, from the just released to the recent but also pretty cool. Here’s what we saw:

Kelly’s top pick: A new car charger. Why? It has three very important features all in one convenient package! It is not only a dual USB charger, but both ports will charge iPads, AND it’s the teeny compact style that just barely peeks out of your power port. It’s coming soon, and when it does, I’ll be getting several.

Victor’s top pick: freedomMIC Bluetooth Wireless Microphone. Not only is it a wireless mic that is handy for recording nicer audio when you are shooting with your iPhone, but you can also use it as a remote to start and stop recording, or snap a still photo with your iPhone camera. If you use your iPhone for reporting (as I have done), you’ll find this mic super handy.

We saw a number of other neat things in the Scosche booth as well. We saw a case with two pieces for the iPhone that has a silicone sleeve to protect the back and front of the iPhone, and then an aluminum Element case style band that buckles around it (think springform pan) for extra protection (and aesthetic coolness). This was really neat to see and very sturdy to use, the latch was solid and it really did look sharp on the iPhone. Plus, unlike the Element, you don’t need a tool to get the metal band off.

Also there was a really interesting cable. I know, cables aren’t THAT interesting, and that’s true, until you see one cable transform from one you always have to carry into the other one you always have to carry. Since I basically only need two cables, it was nice to see them both in one. You take the 30-pin end and it lifts up and pivots over, unveiling a micro-USB end as well. Generally I only need to charge on micro-USB, and this way I can have the “emergency” iPhone cable as well without taking up another cable’s worth of space. It’s called the syncABLE Pro.

Speaking of iPhone cables, another nice thing to see was that Scosche has expanded on their line of flipSYNC cables, a compact cable about the size of a car alarm remote that unfolds into a USB charging cable. Now they have the clipSYNC which includes a carabiner-style clip to attach it to your bag, and also a flavor that has a battery in it and is still really compact.

One thing I personally liked a lot about their booth was all of the hands-on they had available. There were a lot of companies with things set up under glass or back on a wall where you couldn’t really get at them, so it was nice to get the chance to touch all of it and really see what it was like.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog