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Daniel Eran

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The Apple Wishlist: Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard
4.5 New Workgroup Services : Information ripping server
With a central server in place that provides directory services, archival version control, and user profile syncing, the next step is to deliver an information ripping server that aggregates information to go.

The information ripping server connects the personal server (that Xserve mini I keep talking about) with Apple's portable iPod data appliance.

The idea of podcasting almost always refers exclusively to publishing regular intervals of audio content; Jobs described it as "Tivo for radio." It's not hard to imagine how the new video podcasts work, but what about text or data podcasts?

People are using news aggregators to efficiently surf the web on their desktop, but the iPod is largely missing out on making use of syndicated data. The iPod's built in Notes system, while limited, could be used to do some cool things.

Notes get short shrift both in Apple's iPod marketing and in Apple's desktop software support, and nobody seems to be exploiting the iPod's existing abilities. So the first subject the ripping server addresses is:

Syndicated Data Compiling
One example of syndicated data is Vindigo. They began in the dot com days by offering a feed of reviews and directory information for restaurants, movie theaters and bars for Palm Pilot users in various cities.

Vindigo delivers maps and walking directions, as well as a bathroom locator and shopping information. A regular Palm sync pulls down the latest information, and users can select the types of information and what cities they want copied to their device.

Vindigo tried to get into cell phones, but never tapped into the iPod, even after the CEO described it as the "ideal mobile device" two years ago. Adapting Vindigo to work with the iPod seems like a no-brainer, but apparently the company spent all of its dot com cash chasing mobile phone vendors.

With a ripping server, you could assemble information to go for yourself. Imagine setting your personal ripping server to work, in its off cycles, to browse the world for information you might find interesting.

Depending on your style, you might set up your ripping server to pull down the text of conventional news stories or sports scores off the web for offline reading on a laptop or iPod. But the ripping server could also use text-to-speech to produce audio files you could listen to while commuting, or rip down web pages with graphics you could browse offline.

Lots of people have already found something they like in audio podcasting, and its just as easy to find a feed of video clips to download. But nobody seems to know about the iPod's Notes, and since Apple offers nothing more than an instruction of how to manually copy files over, no one uses it.

Notes are more than offline text however; they allow hyperlinking of documents together, and can link to other media on the iPod. It's all done in ultra-simplified HTML that anyone can create.

You can make a Notes page that references songs with a description about each one (remember liner notes?). Even better, an automated tool on the ripping server would build pages of iPod Notes for you, with links to photos, audio files and video clips, and deliver a customized, offline web experience for the iPod.

For more information on the development of regularly updated data feeds, see the accompanying article "A Brief History of Data Syndication and Podcasting"

The second application of the ripping server:

Scaled Media Formatting


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