Tag: purchasing

aboutSLIt’s now been close to three weeks since Snow Leopard arrived in stores, and the Internet has now had a chance to go through the entire system and find the good, the bad and the barely changed. I’ve been using it since that time too, and like some of the subtle changes. Since Engadget, Gizmodo and even David Pogue have all weighed in with lengthy reviews, I’m going to avoid that here. Instead, I’m going to go through some of the changes I’ve seen and whether I think it’s worth the $35CAN upgrade fee.

This is the first of 3 operating system comparisons. Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9.04 will be up shortly.

The Improvements

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to upgrade my MacBook from 10.5 to 10.6. I inserted the DVD while logged in, the menubar and Dock faded away and I returned 50 minutes later to my original desktop. There were options for installing additional languages, printers or Rosetta, but the default installation seems to provide all the required data, with the notable exception of Rosetta. If you still run PPC based applications, be sure to click that checkbox.

animatedwifiAfter it was installed, I took a look around and found very few changes to the interface. Sure, Stacks can now scroll when using the tile arrangement, and some menubars have more function, but by and large, the upgrade is behind the scenes. The Airport menu is slightly animated when not connected to a network, as shown on the left. Doing an option+click on the menu items now brings up a condensed system preference panel with the most important functions front and centre. The Sound menu item brings what is probably the most convenient small update, with the ability to choose the audio input and output on the computer with entering System Preferences.

Snow Leopard also seems to change the behaviour of computers exiting from sleep as well. On my MacBook, sleeping the computer for an extended period of time (about 2 hours or so) sometimes causes it to go into deep-sleep mode. That means when it wakes again, you must load the contents of RAM from the hard drive, which can take an extra 30 seconds or so. I’ve yet to determine if this is a change to the OS itself, or simply a flaw with my computer.

Ideal customer

Apple has taken a new strategy here with Snow Leopard. By keeping the interface familiar and improving the underlying technology, they allow users to gain familiarity with the software. As a $35 CAN upgrade, it is easy to recommend, but for regular users of Leopard who use their computer more for email and web than pushing the boundary of computing, it’s probably not all that necessary.

Interestingly, I think Snow Leopard works better as an upgrade for those users still running pre-Leopard installations. As a move from Tiger, or even Panther, SL offers many new features that make computing much, much easier. I’m excited about the new applications that will be released shortly that take advantage of this new technology — it just looks like I’ll have to get a new computer to fully use all the new tools.

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px100Using a computer, and especially an iPod with music means having a set of headphones that sound good, pack well, and don’t break the bank.

For the last year or so I’ve been rocking a set of Sennheiser PX100 foldable headphones and I believe they satisfy all the above criteria.

The Sound

The most important aspect of any piece of audio equipment is of course, the sound. Despite the small package, these Sennheisers provide excellent sound in many configurations. They pump the bass for rock music, while maintaining the mid and high notes for classical, or even regular talking in podcasts. I find it very enjoyable to listen to movies using these headphones as well.

The fit

The PX100s work in an on-the-ear configuration, where the pads don’t actually cover the entire ear and instead rest on them. This means that ambient noise is not cancelled or blocked in any meaningful way, unlike the PX200 which have an over the ear design.

I find the design of these headphones very comfortable. They do not clamp too much, and the soft pads mean I can wear them for many hours without discomfort. That said, I sometimes find that they tilt forward on my head, to the point where I need to readjust them to be comfortable again. This doesn’t detract from the usability of the ‘phones at all, though.

Value

At $80 CAN, the Sennheiser PX100 headphones are somewhat expensive, but I think you get what you pay for. In this case, you get a solid pair headphones, plus a plastic carrying case that is crucial for everyday use. With the case, I don’t have second thoughts about tossing them into my backpack, which was how my previous pair of Sonys broke.

Only time will tell how they hold up to daily use, but over more than one year of nearly everyday listening, my ‘phones show very few signs of wear. They are an excellent choice for listening to any type of music.

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It has come to my attention recently that I am an advanced computer user. I think it was when I had Parallels, Quicktime, Mail, Safari, Adium, Transmission, iSquint and Keynote all open and working and my MacBook had slowed to a crawl. Maybe it was when I realized I didn’t have enough storage space in my house and to buy a new hard drive.

In any case, I’ve become more aware of ways in which my MacBook can’t keep up with the increased demands I’ve put on it.

I want a new MacBook

Ever since YouTube went widescreen, I’ve noticed how every website with even a small amount of Flash content causes the fans to ramp up to 6200 RPM. I can’t be certain, but I think I saw the computer rise just a little under the thrust produced. The reason for the increased air flow is because my current Core 2 Duo MacBook uses the integrated Intel GMA950 graphics chip. For casual work and operating system usage you’ll rarely notice it, but as soon as you get into anything slightly sophisticated, the graphics system steals resources and the rest of your computer experience slows down noticeably. In the new MacBooks, however, nVIDIA came through with an integrated chip that provides 5 – 6 times more graphics power than the old Intel unit.

The new machines look pretty sweet, too. I’ve always hoped that a MacBook would come in an aluminum enclosure, and now it is. Carrying my computer every day to school, it is also handy that the new laptop comes in half a pound lighter. There has been quite an uproar over the glossy screens available on the new MacBook, mostly because they almost turn into mirrors under less than ideal lighting conditions. While I have yet to try one of these things at an Apple store, the screen on my current MacBook doesn’t bother me in the least, leading me to believe the new one won’t either, assuming it’s similar to the new iMacs that I have seen.

Along with new graphics, most of the other components of the system got a serious upgrade, as well. A faster system bus, memory system, and even easier hard drive upgrades ensure that a computer like this will work properly with much of the latest technology that will inevitably come out in the next few years.

Finally, the top-of-the-line MacBook has a feature that I’ve always wanted: a backlit keyboard. I don’t really use my computer in pitch-black conditions often, but something like this really separates high quality machines from others. Of course, since it is only available on the high-end configuration, it means I’ll have to save just a little more.

…I think I’ll wait a little longer

As a semi-regular video enthusiast, I was a little disappointed when I heard there was no FireWire 400 port. The MiniDV camcorder I use has this port, and it works great. It has been pointed out on various websites that many of the latest cameras now use internal hard drives, which is likely the way of the future. I find that tapes offer an easier way to store footage, and don’t take up excessive disk space. It is also much easier to slip in a new tape when the old one is full than it is to run to a computer and transfer the footage.

In addition to the connection with video cameras, FireWire offered a time-tested method of transferring data between two computers. Target Disk Mode enables a computer to turn into a large external hard drive when connected to another system. Not only does it help when you want to set up a new computer from an old one, it can often save you when one computer goes kaput and you need your data. It was a troubleshooter’s best friend.

What does all this mean? It likely means that by the time I can afford a new computer, Apple will have come out with something lighter, faster and cooler. So until then, I’ll be sticking with my trusty MacBook, and hopefully the fans don’t break down by then.

[tags]computer, laptop, MacBook, upgrade[/tags]

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In 2001, Apple introduced the 5GB iPod. At first it wasn’t the amazing success it is today, but soon people realized that Apple’s hardware/software integration made the MP3 player experience that much better. Soon Apple came out with different models, and today there are 4 models to choose from. Each model has benefits and drawbacks that make it best for a specific type of user.

Continuing on from my Pick the right Mac post, here is a guide to pick the right iPod for your music listening needs.
Read More »

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When I initially got my iPod touch, I was very impressed with its features, capabilities and design. Suddenly I was no longer chained to my MacBook for portable computing.

Last evening I upgraded to iPod software 2.0, and in a very short time, I am already impressed. The process itself is quite straightforward, though you should be warned that iTunes does not give much warning about charging your credit card. Whatever card is connected to your iTunes account will be charged immediately. The download itself is quite hefty — 222 MB. iTunes does all the work for you, though, as it backs up your device, updates the software, and restores the settings and media.

The App Store is also an excellent way to organize and keep track of new applications. It is also very straightforward to use and add applications to your device. Since I’ve only had a few hours minutes with the new software, I’ve only been able to install 3 applications, but those 3 are very cool.

Remote

This application has me most excited, even in the short time I’ve been able to use it. Created by Apple, Remote is an excellent showcase for how iPod applications can be used. It turns your iPod or iPhone into, well, a remote for either iTunes or an Apple TV. You can browse through the computer’s library just like you would on the iPod — in fact, visually it’s almost too hard to tell if you’re listening to music locally or on another computer — and Remote makes the music play. To add a library (be able to control a computer), find your device in the iTunes source window (you’ll need to move to iTunes 7.7, on both OS X and Windows) and insert the 4 digit security code found on the iPod. Once the connection is made, you can control the computer from anywhere on the network. This app is going to get plenty of play time on my iPod.

Weatherbug

People have an incredible fascination with the weather, and Weatherbug makes it easy to get the local forecast, radar picture and severe weather reports right on your iPhone. It has access to thousands of airports, universities and weather stations around the world, and in many cases you have to choose which station you want for a particular location. The program allows up to 3 locations at once to reside next to each other, and has data like wind direction, humidity, high and low temperatures and even local weather cameras. The only complaint I have thus far is that there seems to be no Celsius option.

PayPal

Perhaps the simplest application of these 3, PayPal Mobile is simply a native access point for your PayPal account. The bottom of the screen gives options for account balance, sending money and more information. Once you’ve logged in, you can email money to anyone in your address book. While not quite as ground breaking as Super Monkey Ball or Remote, PayPal will definitely be on my home screen for some time to come.

So in the limited time I’ve been able to use the iPod touch 2.0 software, I’ve noticed some great improvements — passwords now display the last character you’ve entered to make sure you have it typed correctly, and by holding the home and sleep button, you can take screenshots (all the photos on this post were taken with this method). With the addition of the App Store and 3rd party applications, the iPhone has the opportunity become a viable portable computing platform. Now, where’s my WiFi scanner and iTunes library browser?

[tags]Mac OS X, Apple, iPod touch, iPhone, SDK, software[/tags]

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