MacMost: Archives

2/27/08

It’s cold here. So very cold. A dreadfully chilly, finger numbing cold. Oh. It’s not cold outside. I’m talking about inside. During the winter months my wife prefers the thermostat to be set in the minus 30s – even if that means a crust of ice in the toilets. As a loyal non-complaining hubby I simply don all that’s wearable and jump up and down a lot. Regrettably the the extra-wear and the hopping aren’t enough, the chill still finds me and the house shakes from my shivering. If it weren’t for the radiating heat of my Macbook Pro Core Duo our warm cats would be stuffed in my armpits.

When this spiffy laptop warms up it gets really hot. Hot enough to cook waffles or brand cattle. If you’re wife is about to have a baby this is the computer you want to boil the obligatory water. It will have it to a churning roil in minutes. I think the water is for baby soup.

hot laptop

Others have complained that their Macbook Pros get just as hot, and I can’t help but wonder if the silhouetted dancers in iPod ads are hopping barefoot on a floor of Macbooks.

The excessive heat may infuriate those with sensitive laps and annoy the already hot, but I see it as a feature. An uncomfortable relief from the cruel touch of the chilly months. Or from a wife’s cold cold hands.

hot laptop

2/27/08

I was on the phone with a friend, trying to help him solve a Web design problem, and he said, “The client wants it to work on an 800 by 600 screen,” and I said, “What? Nobody designs for 800 by 600 anymore,” And then I realized that pixel creep had happened to me. That’s right folks, we’ve super-sized again. 1024 by 768 is the new 640 by 480. If those numbers are Greek (or geek) to you, I’m talking about screen size.
I teach classes on GarageBand and Soundtrack Pro at the local community college. We have video projectors and these things called Smart Boards, where you can navigate the computer screen from the projection screen. This is like magic except that the maximum screen size is 1024 X 768. This is the minimum recommended size for those applications. GarageBand is cramped but usable and Soundtrack Pro is practically unusable, as is Final Cut Pro. I have to wonder when it was that the software engineers all got together and said from now on, no applications under 1024 X 768?
I’m spoiled, with dual 20″ LCDs at the MacMost office and a 20″ iMac with another 20″ LCD at home, but I gotta feel sorry for you if you’re still stuck with a CRT that only does 1024 X 768. It’s only a matter of time before the minimum will be full HD 1920 X 1440, and CRTs and VGA will be a distant memory.

2/27/08

With Apple’s release of iPhone update 1.1.4 we get exciting new, um, well, nothing. Looks like it is just a bug fix release. I wish I knew what the bugs were, but they don’t say.
But anyway, it is a free release, so no big deal, right? But even though the release is free to us, doesn’t make it free to Apple. Consider just the bandwidth costs. Everyone that downloads the update is requesting 160MB from Apple. If there are 4 million iPhones out there, then that is 160MB x 4 million, or 640 million MB, which is the same as 640TB (terabyte) of data transfered. Looking around, I see that $100 per TB is “discount” bandwidth, so that totals $64,000.
That’s a nice salary for an engineer. Well, in northern California, a salary for a starting engineer.
Now, Apple probably gets even better rates on bandwidth than I can imagine. Plus, the needs of the iTunes music store probably dwarfs this 640TB distribution anyway. But the idea is that this does cost them something, so it is unlikely it is just superficial bug fixes. More likely it is something dealing with DRM, communication with AT&T’s network, hooks for the upcoming SDK or something like that. I’m sure they don’t release a set of “bug fixes” without a very good reason.

2/26/08

Gary, Will and Jay talk about the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros.
2/26/08

Okay The new MacBookPros came out today and three of the four models sport the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT 512MB graphics card. and I say card because these reportedly use the NVIDIA MXM graphics card connector. I remember a while back that I read in a Gizmodo article that the new 24″ iMacs used the MXM connector and were theoretically upgradeable. Do you see where I’m going with this?

2/26/08

Hardware-wise the Apple TV is super-fly. 802.11n, component and HDMI or even DVI (with an adaptor) video output, Toslink digital audio, and USB 2.0.

2/26/08

Lets take a look at the new features:

  • Penryn processors: larger Level 2 cache, SSE4 media instructions, less power consumption.
  • MacBook Pros get multi-touch trackpad, like the MacBook Air.
  • MacBook Pro 17-inch gets LED backlighting like the MacBook Pro 15-inch had already.
  • Better video cards: GeForce 8600M GT 256MB in the 15-inch Pro, 512MB in the high-end 15-inch and 17-inch Pro. The MacBooks still have integrated video.
  • Larger hard drives: 200GB in the 15-inch Pro, 250GB in the high-end 15-inch and 17-inch Pro, 120GB-160GB in the standard MacBooks, 250GB in the black MacBook.
  • Processor speed: 2.4GHz and 2.5GHz for the Pros. 2.1GHz and 2.4GHz for the MacBooks.
  • Memory: 2GB for all machines except the lowest-end MacBook with 1GB.
  • Prices are $2,799 for the 17-inch Pro, $2,499 for the high-end 15-inch Pro, $1,999 for the low-end Pro, $1,099 and $1,299 for the MacBooks and $1,499 for the black MacBook. All of the models, except the lowest-end MacBook have a superdrive (Writes CDs and DVDs). The lowest-end only writes CDs, but can read DVDs.
    The Apple Store online appears to have all models in stock, listed as shipping in either 24 hours for MacBooks, or 1-3 days and 2-4 days for MacBook Pros.

    2/25/08

    Gary, Will and Jay talk about whether movies on the iPhone and iPod is the right way to watch a film.
    2/25/08

    At the center of rumors about new MacBook Pros this week is the Penryn processor, a new Intel processor. What this will mean is a smaller, cooler, slightly faster processor that is a little easier on battery life as well.
    The Penryn processor is already in other machines, such as the HP Pavilion.
    There is something new in the Penryn, something called “SSE4”. This is a set of instructions built to improve performance when encoding audio, video and images. There is also a speed boost for the Level 2 cache.
    There is also a mode where the processor almost completely shuts down an requires almost no power while sleeping, though we don’t know how well new MacBooks would take advantage of this.
    For most of us, this just means that the MacBooks will get a little faster, and maybe the battery will last a little longer.

    MacMost Now 48: Protecting Your MacBook While Traveling
    2/25/08

    Gary Rosenzweig looks at ways to protect your MacBook from being stolen, and how to prepare for the worst. Methods include: cable locks, security software, backing up and insurance.

    2/25/08

    The rumors are pretty strong that we’ll see three new models of MacBook Pros tomorrow as well as Time Capsules shipping.
    The Time Capsules are reportedly in this weeks Best Buy printed flyer, and the stock numbers for the new MacBook Pros have been entered into Best Buy’s Point of Sale system, according to multiple forum posters on the MacRumors website.
    The rumored features of the new Macbook Pros include multi-touchpads ala the MacBook Air and LED backlighting on the 17″ Models. Also Penryn processors are anticipated, one hopes that the Penryns run cooler than the current processors, which seem to run just below the melting point of the Macbook Pro’s Aluminum case.
    Don’t hold your breath for iPhone SDKs tomorrow, most are saying that the SDKs wont ship for another two weeks.

    2/25/08

    I was drooling over the features of the 32GB iPod Touch, and thinking to myself that it may be the most perfect portable media device in the world. At 32GB it can hold most of my music and a couple movies. I was dreaming of kicking back on my next plane flight and watching a widescreen movie in widescreen with stereo sound in my Bluetooth wireless headphones… but wait, the iPod Touch doesn’t have Bluetooth? This has me scratching my head. When they were stripping down the iPhone to make the Touch, I can understand why they didn’t put a camera in it, but why did they leave out the speaker, the mic and the Bluetooth? I can believe it’s a cost issue, the 8GB Touch is a hundred bucks cheaper than an 8GB Phone, and the 32GB Touch is the same price as the iPhone 16GB.
    I still can’t justify getting an iPhone myself, but for most I can see why they would spend their half a grand on an iPhone over a Touch. I would consider a Predam iPhone, but as of firmware update 1.1.3, no A2DP stereo Bluetooth on the iPhone either.
    I know I could just buy a $49 iCombi stereo Bluetooth adaptor for the Touch or the iPhone. But that is just plain ugly and ruins the elegance of the device. C’mon Apple, have the Bluetooth fairy bring us A2DP Bluetooth in the next iPod touch and implement A2DP in the next iPhone update, please.

    2/24/08

    If you believe the rumors, the iPhone SDK is going to be delayed until March. But the SDK is more than just a “development kit,” it will most likely also come with a distribution method.
    Two worlds collide here: the mobile phone world and the computer software world. In the mobile phone world, you get your application on a phone by making a deal with the phone company. And you need to have money and power to do that. They are the gatekeepers, and act as the distributors of the applications, collecting money and paying royalties to the developer/publisher. They only allow a few applications at a time, and have no direct way to contact them. It is all back-room deals.
    On the other hand, computer software is a complete open distribution. Anyone can make a Mac application, distribute it, and collect money, keeping it all. Apple even gives us the tools to make applications, right down to an installer builder. Tons of 3rd party application companies, from Microsoft and Adobe to single-person shops in spare bedrooms offer great software. Apple also seems to be happy to feature everyone on the Apple.com Web site.
    So which of these two extremes will be the model for 3rd-party iPhone applications? Will Apple insist that approved apps be downloaded only through iTunes store and then pay royalties? Or will Apple just open it up? Maybe something in between?
    If Apple follows the path of the mobile phone companies and keeps a tight reign on distribution, then that is bad news. This has only lead to the stifling of innovation. For instance, the mobile phone companies favor boring game clones featuring licensed characters over innovative play. A single person with a great idea can’t hope to see their app on a phone unless they have the time and money to deal with business issues.
    No matter how great the SDK is when it comes out, and how excited developers are about it, look for the distribution model to predict how successful 3rd-party applications will be.

    2/22/08

    Devin, Gary and Will talk about open source software for the Mac, including Firefox, GIMP, VLC, Open Office and more.
    2/22/08

    Plantronics .Audio 910

    My Plantronics .Audio 910 completes me. I cannot say enough about this magical little device. I’ve owned nice headsets before, but all have been wired. If I had known the joyous sense of freedom a Bluetooth headset provides, I would have gotten one a long time ago.

    The .Audio 910 is so light weight I forget I’m wearing it. And in my humble opinion, it has a much sexier form factor than most of the Bluetooth headsets out there. And if the flashing blue light makes you feel more like a dork than a power-user, there is a setting that will turn it off.

    Perhaps most importantly, this single ear piece does the work of two: the .Audio 910 will sync with both your computer and your Bluetooth enabled phone, letting you switch channels between the two with the touch of a button. According to the manual, it lasts for 6 hours of talk time, which may be ample for a typical user, especially if you are primarily using it to talk on your mobile. However in a perfect world, I’d like a longer battery, since I enjoy listening to various streaming media from my computer through the day. To remedy this problem, I intend to purchase another and alternate charging the two.

    Why? Because this headset completes me. I would have it surgically implanted if I could, and perhaps it could draw bio-energy from caffeine consumed. Attention Plantronics: if you happen to be looking for human test subjects, I’d happily volunteer to be transformed into the first Bluetooth Bionic Woman. But until science opens the door to cyborg-dom, the current off-the-shelf version of the Plantronics .Audio 910 makes my world a better place to live and play. You can pick yourself up one for an MSRP of 150 dollars, but with only minimal cyber-sleuthing you can bag one for under $100.

    MacMost Now 47: Finding Full Episode TV Shows for Free
    2/22/08
    Gary Rosenzweig looks at the Web sites where you can find full episodes of new television shows that you can watch for free on your Mac. Check the post at MacMost.com for a list of links.
    2/22/08

    My friend Dave Taylor posted his list of critical Mac software at his blog today. While I like his choices of Firefox and SnapzPro, and agree that the rest are all useful, my list would be quite different.
    First, I wouldn’t recommend Microsoft Office to anyone, unless they had a critical need for something that was 100% compatible with other Office users. Otherwise, iWork is far cheaper and will get you where you need to go. Office is $400, which is a lot to spend for the casual Mac user.
    Dave recommeds 1Password, and I hear good things about it, but I have been using Password Retriever for years and love it.
    GraphicConverter makes a lot of people’s lists, but it always seemed a little buggy to me. For a little more money, I’d get PhotoShop Elements.
    My favorite FTP program is Transmit. It works well with another critical piece of software for me: BBEdit. But more casual users may want to get TextWrangler instead.
    I still use StuffIt as my main compression tool.
    Dave seems to be much more into IM and Twitter than I am, so iChat and Twitter’s Web interface are fine for me.
    But I’ll have to add Audacity to my list as an audio editor, and a free one at that. Also, I love VoodooPad, a small but powerful Wiki application that allows me to take notes and keep track of things in ways that calendars and to-do lists can’t.

    2/22/08

    Each Friday, you may notice Twitter gets quite a bit greener. No, not Al Gore green, but pea green! Many Twitter users incorporate peas into their avatar in honor of Frozen Pea Fridays, and to raise awareness for the Frozen Pea Fund.

    It all started when Susan Renyolds, who is currently fighting breast cancer, wrote a touching blog post involving the comfort of frozen peas. Now she maintains a blog entitled Boobs on Ice, about her battle with the disease, where you can stay in touch with her progress.

    The Frozen Pea has raised over $8,000 towards its goal of $25,000. The fundraiser benefits the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer research programs. The effort has spread through most other social networks as well, and the story has been covered by several mainstream media outlets as an outstanding example of social media community and activism. You can receive regular updates regarding the Frozen Pea Fund by following the user PEAple on twitter.

    If you’d like to contribute, you can donate the cost of a package or two of frozen peas to The Frozen Pea Fund. And at no cost, you can also help raise awareness by simply adding peas to your social media avatars each Friday! Then the next time you’re in a fancy restaurant and you get chided for texting again (I know you’re a Twitter addict), just reply “ahem, I’m just doing my part to fight breast cancer!”

    For example: D-list web-lebrity and Twitter user GeekGirlTV:
    GeekGirlTV

    and D-list web-lebrity and Twitter user GeekGirlTV on Fridays:
    GeekGirlTV on Fridays

    2/21/08

    Eve, Jay and Gary talk about mobile phone outages and what we expect from phone and net services.
    2/21/08

    Okay, say you’re NOT an Idol fan, but you’re a Mac fan, Why should you care that the iTunes store is selling the performances from this years American Idol?
    It means there are going to be about a bazillion PC users that are going to be installing iTunes and Quicktime on their PCs. And they will be setting up purchasing accounts in iTunes And after they’ve purchased and downloaded all their favorite performances. They are going to be buying a lot more music in iTunes. in other words Idol is going to be the Gateway drug to iTunes, iPods and eventually all things Apple.
    It means the stock will go up and the reality distortion field will widen and we’ll have iTablets in no time.
    It means that iTunes could become the Tivo in the Cloud, where people will drop their cable subscriptions and get all their TV shows ala carte on iTunes.
    It means that rabid Idol fans are going to mob Apple stores demanding more Apple TVs, So they can keep the next Carrie Underwood’s performance immortalized in HD.
    It means that Simon and Steve will be Kings of the world!
    Okay, I’m blowing this out of proportion but isn’t that the stuff that dreams are made of, just like American Idol.