In my year in review I’m not going to type about the Xbox 360, iPod Nano, and Motorola RAZR. Nor will I expound on marketing foisting stuff like Windows Media Centers, the ROKR or other “gizmos” that are s’posed to make our lives better. Other people are going to tell you all about those products. I didn’t buy a nano or 5th gen iPod. My 1st gen 5 gig works just fine. I’ve also given up phones as a primary means of communication. Instead I’ve switched entirely to internet based communications: chat, email and voip. My thinking is that if I’m not in front of my computer I can’t help you. Thus no phone is in my list. I’m still happy with my Playstation 2 for games so a new Xbox won’t interest me for a while. With disclosure out of the way here goes.

Oh, why disclose anything you ask? First off, I’m in a point in my life where I don’t measure my success “by the stuff” around me. I don’t make a lot of money (anymore) so frivolous spending is right out. Why spend $300 to replace a broken iPod when a $25 battery will make the old one new again? Most “reporters” don’t tell you where they are coming from. I don’t know how “they got those things” they are talking about. I’m sure if they had to go and buy that stuff they would have a totally different point of view.

Heil PR40
It’s been interesting to listen to the podcast “This Week in Tech” not so much for the content but to listen to how the production of it has gotten better. One of the best things that happened to the show was the introduction of microphones from Heil Sound. It’s like night and day in the difference that it made to the way the show sounds. For about 3X what you would pay for a SM58 you get something that sounds WAY better. This isn’t to say that the PR40 will replace the venerable Shure as the standard issue garage band microphone any time soon. There will always be a need for the general purpose ruggedness of that mic. Personally, I haven’t actually used this mic in a production. What I’ve heard from it sounds great so I can’t wait. Because I have access to one just by asking I will do something with it in 2006.

G5 Dual Dual
Four processors! If you don’t believe this Mac is fast, click on over to Apple and look at the spec graphs. Geez. Given its price, this is the most CPU bang for $$$ ever made. Add in a gForce 7800 and you’ve got a workstation that you won’t out grow for at least a year. Maybe more. The shape of things to come. Sadly, someday in the future we’ll say, gee that thing is so slow.

The Death of the CRT
About time. Begone heavy, lead filled, power sucking glass monster. The whole industry takes a collective breath because making and shipping a LCD makes much more sense. Why? To start with weight. And second, size. The whole pipeline can become smaller because LCD’s take less space and weigh less. As LCD’s get larger they don’t get that much heavier when compared to their smaller counter parts. Unlike a CRT. A 36″ TV weighs in at 250 pounds and needs a truck with four guys to deliver. By comparison a larger 50″ Plasma weighs just 50 pounds. Plus you can pack 10 of them in the same space taken up by just one TV box. You know that LCDs have arrived when you offer not so old working CRTs for free and nobody takes them. Not even the street fairies.

When did iTunes get so cool? That’s easy. It gets cool with each and every release. I’ve bought only a few tunes. So I won’t cry if I lose my entire music collection. It’s all backed up anyway. If you are like me, you grow tired of “that one song” after a while making losing everything not that big a deal. Besides, my iPod is forever changing. New music coming in and things I don’t like are banished “unchecked” from the Library. Still around. Just not in rotation. I looked and there really isn’t another choice for a music player on the Mac anymore. There are some DJ tools. But nothing that looks notably better. Since Podcasts got integrated I bother to listen to a few. I’m not wild about the UI that manages that content yet. Still whatever. It gets new stuff to my iPod without thinking about it and that’s what makes it work. No thinking about it. Just rock, rock on! Or talk, talk on.

SoundTrack Pro
Apple is about to do to sound what Apple did to video. It’s just the first version. The 1.0. But it’s already changed the scope of the multitrack sound scape. Integration with Final Cut is seamless. Which has always been a feature with 3rd party editors (kinda) using that thing called OMF. But there was a whiplash. Gah, I’m not in FCP anymore, I’m where? Oh yeah. Edit, edit, edit. Save, switch. Gah. At least when using STP it feels like FCP.

Blender3D, GiMP, Audcity, LMMS, InkScape
Free software! In the past my evangelism of free software has been mixed. There are many issues to deal with in using a free tool. File compatibility with peers, bugs, documentation, geeky configuration incantations, etc. But you know, if you bother to write a bug or a how-to the community gives back with a better tool. Will there come a day when I pass on upgrading Photoshop once and for all? Maybe. Until that day comes I’m certainly not going to ignore these tools. No way.

OS X 10.4
If you do a side-by-side with a Windows machine the Mac running OS X beats it hands down when doing normal tasks. Open a PDF from a web page in seconds. No waiting for Acrobat Reader to load. Preview a JPEG. Double click. Automate something. Automator. Look up a word? Double click then control-command-d. Once I ditched the stock Widgets I found them useful (Oblique Strategies, Reversi, Weather).

Another part of OS X that I’m loving is that there are so many tools built into it that you don’t need other software. Text Edit, the thing I’m using to write this, is as good a writing tool as any werp that I’ve used. Not feature rich like Word but it doesn’t have to be. Dictionary also has a Thesaurus. iCal with the help of an Automator script talks to iTunes. AddressBook integrates with Mail which syncs with my iPod providing a phone number I needed one day. I remembered the feature after a moment of panic checked the iPod and there it was! Preview does color correcting, cropping and file conversion. You can even use it for “powerpoint” like presentation. Something I called CheapNote on a MacBreak segment. A built-in voice reads my words aloud. It’s a great proofing tool. I’ve even started using different users to segregate tasks to keep things less cluttered. Last but not least is Xcode for no extra charge. Tiger is a thing of beauty.

iChat AV / Skype
Once you experience using a internet voice tool you realize there is almost no need to have a telephone or a cellphone. Long distance calling is a thing of the past. The timer stops here. No need to worry about using up minutes. It’s cheap as in free. Yet it’s not. You need a broadband connection on both ends which costs something. But the software has no toll for its use. iChat has one advantage over Skype (right now) which is that it can do video if you have a camera attached to your Mac. Meaning the guy on the other end needs a Mac as well. While Skype works with anything.

One thing I did experience this year was a “phone” that connected to WiFi that could dial out to a phone number or to any other device that supported the SIP standard. It was mind blowing. Its downside is it doesn’t work everywhere. Someday people will figure out the “mesh network” and wireless will be free everywhere. And that will change the world.

Home Theater = Projector + Surround Around Sound + NetFlix
In 2005 I saw only a few movies in a theater. I can count them on two hands. One of the movies I saw twice. The reason? Home theater. There have been home theaters as long as there have been projectors to be sure. The difference today? Cost. For the cost of two people seeing 5 movies a month for a year you can put something in your own home. The benefit? You don’t have to go anywhere. The seats are better. The sound is better. The movies arrive at your door. They go away just as easily. And nobody will annoy you with needless talking, phone calls or babies. Don’t pop corn in the microwave, use real butter and grab your adult beverage of choice making watching a better experience to boot. Oh yeah, don’t be afraid to invite people over once in a while. Especially for comedy.

What I saw on the big silver screen.
Sin City (2X), Robots, Hitchhikers Guide, War of the Worlds, Walk the Line, Star Wars, Willy Wonka.

Oh yea, one last thought on Star Wars and I’m freed of it forever:
rm -rh /starwars

Dr Who (2005)
The Doctor! It’s a new opening, new theme, new Doctor, new companion, and the same old TARDIS. The potential to suck was so high. But then again, this is Doctor Who! King of cheese, camp and puns. Where bad special effects rein. And evil goes on and on about how evil they are. It could be as bad as bad could it be and still be good! Given modern tools it should actually be really good if anyone who helped make it cared at all.

I think I’m still dreaming it but I think this was the like the best Doctor Who season ever!Was I taken in by nostalgia? I played them all again just to be sure and sure enough it was every thing I’d wanted it to be. As if I’d imagined the Doctor to be so good….

Lots of people are praising Battle Star Galactica as this years best TV. It’s good, don’t get me wrong. But most of the people in the world didn’t have a way to see this show so it wasn’t even on their collective radar. Don’t miss this in 2006.

Cory Doctorow
Out of all the people that have inspired me to be creative and venture into new ways of thinking no person has inspired me more. I’ve read his books. I’ve listened to his podcasts. Which cover topics from his fight to change copyright, limit DRM, maintaining fair use to him reading his latest story. So what is the take away here? Give things away that are bits. Charge for things that are real.

Lulu / Cafe Press / Zazzle / SpreadShirt / 4by6 / Pixel Outpost
If you have a need to put some art on some other object these companies will do it for you. And they’ll pay you for your efforts. Even if you need “just one” they’ll do it. Books, posters, cups, shirts, lunch boxes, stickers, business cards, post cards, DVDs, CDs, whatever. Think of it as having a printer for anything. Because in the end, I want to print on things, not own the printer. I just need to borrow it for a while.

These services have been around for a while. But the quality of the product wasn’t always, well, much better then I could do myself. Everything that I have ordered or seen from them in the past year has been very good. In fact, it’s better than that. It’s a thought that has grown up and is ready to be at your service.

This was the year when there was mad integration with digital photos and the real world. Somebody figured out a way to have my digital photos printed with them being ready to pick up in an hour. Anywhere. There are many different services that will do this. Big box stores like Wallmart, Wallgreens and Target or smaller guys like Ritz-Wolf will have your prints waiting for you. Wait it gets better. It turns out its cheaper to use a service like this then it is to do it yourself. I’m also blown away at the other options there are for making other things out of photos. Books, posters, enlargments. And sharing photos. Flickr and .Mac make it pretty easy. In fact I’m not sure it could be any easier.

Sadly all this digitalness takes its toll. Several companies announced they were done making film cameras. AgfaPhoto is closing shop. And Kodak finally took our Kodachrome away.

Last Lasts
I thought about writing about a 3rd party app that I liked but nothing stands out. Although the Comic Life, Power Game Factory, and TextMate come to mind. There are other lists that are wrapping that subject anyway. Besides what I use and why is not really going to help you. Maybe. It might.

As for a movie that stands out? Everyone gushed about the Penguins. But it’s not even on my top ten. I’ll cut to #1 and say my pick for that spot is Sin City. I’ve always been a Frank Miller fan making seeing it come to life simply spectacular. It works for me on so many levels. It’s rawness. The characters. The performances. Keep in mind this is not a movie for kids. Likely 60% of adults that watch it won’t like it much. The name alone will put them off so it won’t even be an issue. However, if anyone was shocked by what they saw all you have to ask is “what did you expect? Spy Kids?”

Apple. I’ve reread this and find that I’m Apple centric. It may be because I do so much of my work with the tools that one company makes. Momentum for Apple is grew in 2005. The coming year be pivotable as Microsoft becomes less significant around the world. All caused by viro, evil DRM (worse then what Sony did) and companies unwilling to pay for what they can find else where for less money or free. If you don’t have a Mac look to the lists. There are free or nearly free Macs all around. What you want is something G4 tower. It doesn’t have to be fast. Add all the RAM it can take making your total cash outlay about $200-300. Start learning.

Tomorrow (or today) we all start over. Fresh blank page. I know I’m going to get up, say ouch, make coffee, walk the woofs, eat some eggs, then work on finishing my damn book. It’ll kinda be just like every other day. Hmmph.

2006 will be interesting. Stay tuned.