January 22, 2006
Disney buys Pixar; Jobs largest Disney shareholder
The board of Pixar Animation Studios, the digital animations company, is set to meet tomorrow to approve the company's $7bn (£3.9bn) takeover by Disney.
The all-share deal will make Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, around $3.5bn and the single largest shareholder in Disney. Jobs created Pixar in 1986 when he paid $10m for the computer animations division of Lucasfilm, owned by Stars Wars creator George Lucas. [Telegraph; hat tip to MacSlash]
January 20, 2006
Goombah usability testing
I haven't talked about Goombah in a long time. The reasons is that we've been deep in the salt mines, working our hardest to make the product better and better.
My main responsibility is the recommendation code. Recently I made some enhancements to the recommendation engine. I'm not going to describe the technical approach here, because it's proprietary. Also, there have been a large number of improvements to the user interface over the current public release, mostly due to direct user input in formal usability testing.
I'm very happy with our progress, particularly with the recent recommendation improvements.
Here is feedback from yesterday's test subject: "For me this [Goombah] is the only method I would use [to find new music]... Can I keep this after you leave? You’re not going to take it away are you? I really want to have the chance to explore it some more. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for... And, these [songs] are really interesting to me... Will you keep me updated, send me notices when you have new releases?"
It won't be very long now before we release the new version publicly. I'll provide updates here with the latest info when we're ready.
Frankly, I was so excited about everything last night that I lost some sleep, and am tired today! :)
January 12, 2006
Proselytizing about headphones
For Christmas I got some Sennheiser HD590 headphones. I've been wearing them a lot the time while working. The sound quality is so much better than, say, Bose computer speakers, that they are transforming my experience of music -- I just ENJOY listening a lot more. I'm also encoding using AAC at 320kbs -- in an A/B test I could hear no difference between the CD and 320kbs encoding.
I mention it because I am feeling that for years I was missing out because I didn't give sound quality much priority in my office space. I found that I wasn't listening to music there that much and wasn't sure why. (I can't listen to music with vocals in any case when I'm working because it's too distracting, and sometimes any music at all is too distracting, but much of the time it is helpful for concentrating. Right now I'm listening to Billy Cobham's Spectrum.) I now think that if you don't have the quality, a real part of the enjoyment goes away. At one point I got some Grado headphones that have good sound quality, but weren't comfortable enough for extended use. The "Sennies" are extremely comfortable as well as great-sounding.
And they are sensitive enough to be driven by an iPod or laptop output -- most audiophile headphones lose too much sound quality if you do that because they weren't made for it.
In any case, the overall message of this post is that if find you aren't listening to music as much as you might have expected to, and you don't have audiophile-level sound output, that might be the reason.
January 09, 2006
"Disk" vs "Disc" continued and completed
In August I noted that Apple had published a Knowledge Base article on the difference between a "disk" and a "disc:" "disc" refers to optical media, and "disk" magnetic. I wondered why, and today someone has provided an answer via a comment:
The spelling is most likely due to the fact that Compact Discs were invented by a task force led by Philips (a European company), whereas hard disks were developed by IBM (an American company, naturally).
Investigating further, I find:
In British English disc is the usual spelling, but American English uses disk, and disk is also more common in computing, as in disk drive. [Tiscali.reference]
Now I will rest easier at night, knowing that this momentous mystery has finally been resolved.