Archive for the 'Hardware' Category

Dell finally gives in to Apple

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Dell: “OK Apple, you were right. You do design the best-looking laptops. So rather than trying to innovate, we’ll just copy yours (badly)!”

That has to be the ugliest-looking keyboard I’ve ever seen. And those Intel and Windows stickers plastered all over it really add to its sexy appeal. 😉

They must really be getting desperate. Let’s hope Apple doesn’t sue them for copying their innovative style, eh?

[via Daring Fireball]

Ars reviews the Motorola Xoom

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Ars Technica’s in-depth review of the Motorola Xoom tablet includes this nugget:

Getting music onto the device wasn’t as straightforward as I had hoped. Most Android phones have limited internal storage capacity and are built with the assumption that the user will store media on a microSD card. The Xoom, however, has lots of internal storage and, at the present time, no working microSD slot.

This is an issue because Android typically doesn’t allow the user to mount the system’s internal flash memory as a conventional mass storage device. You can’t just plug the Xoom into a USB port to drag and drop your music onto the filesystem.

The Xoom uses the MTP protocol to expose the user-visible parts of the device’s internal storage to a desktop computer. MTP tends to work pretty well-out-of-the-box on Windows, but Mac OS X users will need to install the Android File Transfer program. Unfortunately, no such application is available for Linux users. If you want to access the Xoom’s internal storage through Linux, your best bet is to try mtpfs, a FUSE-based MTP protocol implementation.

And people moan about iTunes…

MacBook Pro 17″ 2010 Review

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

I’ve been wanting to write this review for over a month, but various events such as babies, tummy bugs and flickering screens have got in the way. But all that stuff is (mostly) behind me now. So here are some of my thoughts about my new 17″ MacBook Pro. I hope you enjoy reading them!

As regular readers will know, I recently decided it was time to replace my ageing 2006 Intel iMac 20″ with something more modern and zippy. At the same time, I was being booted out of the office to make way for offspring #2, so I needed to (a) move into the corner of our bedroom with a tiny desk, and (b) have the flexibility to move around (or even outside) the house when the noise of screaming kids became too much.

At the time, many readers recommended I got the 15″ MBP and an external big display, giving the best of both worlds: Portability when I needed it, and a big screen when I was at home. In many ways, this is a great philosophy. However, in my particular case it would mean that I was stuck with a small screen a lot of the time, when I wasn’t in the bedroom. Plus it would mean a huge screen permanently in the bedroom (not wife-compatible). It would also cost more than just a laptop.

So to me, the 17″ MBP seemed, in many ways, the ideal solution: A big enough screen to be a desktop replacement, but a small enough computer to take up minimal space in the bedroom, and also easy to carry into other rooms of the house, the garden, or even a café.

I’ve had the MBP for a couple of months now. Was it the right choice?

The short answer is: Yes, absolutely. The longer answer follows below… 🙂


As I mentioned in my previous post, I bought a refurbished unit, saving myself around AUD $500. Unlike new Apple computers, refurb units are rather unceremoniously boxed (well they have to save money somewhere I guess). In fact, what I assumed was just outer packaging turned out to be the actual box itself, as you can see in the pics below: (more…)

A Tale of Two MacBook Pros, Flickering Screens, and AppleCare

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Well, I must first apologize for the recent lack of updates. This is mainly due to our new baby daughter taking up a lot of my time, but it’s also due to a lot of faffing around with my new Mac – a story which I am about to relate!

When I last wrote, I asked the question: What sort of new Mac should I buy? After much discussion and deliberation, I decided to get a MacBook Pro 17″, with a 2.66GHz Intel i7 CPU, 4GB RAM, 5400RPM drive, and – because I’m a bit of a traditionalist – I ponied up the extra cash for the antiglare display. (The glossy just doesn’t do it for me.)

Superb Refurb

In fact I managed to get a real bargain by waiting patiently for the right model to turn up on Apple’s Refurbished Mac list. When it did, I snapped it up for A$2749 instead of A$3259 for a new model – saving myself A$510. I’d have liked the 7200RPM drive but, apart from that, it was the exact spec I wanted.

Now I must say that I think Apple’s refurbished products are great value for money. I’ve now used 2 refurbished MacBook Pros (more on that later!) and they’ve both been as good as new. There’s been the odd very minor blemish on the case, but nothing that it wouldn’t get within a week of normal use anyway. Both machines have performed solidly without a hitch, hardware-wise.

MacBook Rave

Anyway, I didn’t want to start reviewing the MacBook Pro – I’ll save that for a later post. The point of this post is to talk about this: (more…)

Time for a new Mac!

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

It’s over 4 years since I bought my first Mac: A lovely white iMac Core Duo 20″ (the first Intel iMac IIRC). It’s served me well over the years, but in the last few months it’s really started to slow down. I’ve finally snapped and am in the market for a newer, faster Mac.

But what new Mac to buy? I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts/questions, partly to help me think things through, but also to ask you, the reader, for your opinions. Also I hope this post might be useful for others looking to buy a new Mac.

My current old banger

My trusty iMac 2GHz Core Duo 20″ (2GB RAM) that I bought back in May 2006 is finally getting long in the tooth, I fear. The poor dear now grinds to a halt in daily use. Here’s what I tend to have running, on average:

  • Mail
  • Firefox with 10-20 tabs
  • Safari with a couple of tabs
  • Photoshop CS3
  • OfficeTime
  • Things
  • iTunes

It just about copes with that (although it can take a second or 2 to switch between apps). But then if I need to open a couple more apps, like

  • OpenOffice
  • Chrome
  • Preview

…then it really starts to slow down, with plenty of beachballs.

Then if I fire up WinXP in VMware Fusion 3 to test a website in IE… forget it! Might as well go and make a cup of coffee while it boots the VM.


I suspect the main culprit with this old iMac is the 2GB RAM limit. Even before firing up VMware, I’m at about 70% RAM usage according to iStat Menus. Fire up VMware, and stuff starts paging like crazy.

(At the back of my mind, though, is this thought: My iMac was nice and fast when I bought it, so why is it so slow now? I’m still running pretty much the same stuff now as I was back then. I suspect a lot of it is down to VMware Fusion 3 being more power-hungry than my original Parallels Desktop 2, combined with software generally becoming more bloated over time, but I’m not sure.)

For the record, I’m a web designer/developer and use my Mac all day, every day for browsing websites, blogging, coding, browser testing and Photoshop work, plus the usual office type apps. (more…)

Antennagate: Why Didn’t Apple Pick A Better Weak Spot?

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Like many people I’ve been following the iPhone 4 Antennagate issue with some interest, since I’m thinking about upgrading from my old iPhone 3G to the new iPhone 4 when it arrives here in Australia.

I can understand how the old signal strength bars could make people think that the attenuation was bigger than it really is (although 24dB is still a big drop, whichever way you look at it).

I can also appreciate that all phones have antenna weak spots, and although the iPhone 4 attenuation is worse than most, this is counterbalanced by the improved reception overall.

Drawing attention to the weak spot with a black bar – X marks the spot, as Steve Jobs put it – certainly doesn’t help matters.

However, what I don’t understand is is this: Why did Apple put the weak spot where most people would touch the phone when using it? This, to me, is a design flaw.

Look at Apple’s own comparison with other phones’ weak spots. All the other phones have the weak spot on the top or bottom. These areas aren’t normally touched when holding the phone, so the weak spots aren’t a problem. Common sense.

So why didn’t Apple put the weak spot on the top or bottom of the iPhone 4?

I also don’t understand the whole “don’t hold it that way” thing. Many people on the MacRumors forums seem to think that most people wouldn’t hold a phone with the ball of their thumb touching the bottom left hand corner – unless they’re left handed. I’m right handed, and this is the natural position that I hold my iPhone 3G in when using it (and when making calls):

How else are you supposed to hold it? Like this?

I don’t get it.

I have no problem with a phone’s signal attenuating when held – that is to be expected. What I don’t understand is why Apple put the weak spot in such a commonly-held place on the iPhone 4, then told people to change the way they hold the phone. Just seems like madness.

Maybe someone who knows more about antenna technology than me (not hard!) can explain…?

iPad Launch Roundup

Monday, April 5th, 2010

No doubt you’ve heard that the iPad was launched on the weekend. Naturally most Apple blogs have been falling over themselves to post hands-on reviews, opinions and pics. Here’s the cream of the crop:

Why some people will never buy an iPad

Even before the iPad went on sale, Cory Doctorow stirred things up with a debate about the closed nature of the iPad and its OS. Personally I agree more with John Gruber’s stance on the matter – the iPad is a tool, not something to hack on – although you have to respect Cory’s commitment to the principles of open computing.

Hands-on reviews of the iPad

Before the iPad was officially launched, Michael Arrington managed to get a first look at a chained-to-the-desk iPad via an app developer. Cheeky!

On launch day, Engadget breathlessly covered the frenzy at the New York Apple Store, and Joshua Topolsky gave us a nice thorough review of the iPad’s hardware, software and battery life, and also took a look at the official iPad accessories.

Now that the early adopters have their mucky paws on their iPads, more hands-on reviews are coming in. Leander posted his positive first impressions over at Cult of Mac, then followed it up later with a useful iPad review “for the rest of us”. John Biggs of CrunchGear gave his first impressions (“Groundbreaking or not, it’s still amazing“).


News Roundup: Cut-out Jobs, Odd Apple iPhone Film Ban, no WP7 Copy & Paste, & More

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Here are some interesting and fun Apple stories I’ve read in the last week or so:

  • Make a cut-out Steve Jobs: With a bit of work and lots of patience, you can create your very own turtlenecked Apple CEO cubee using nothing but paper, scissors and a scalpel. And if that whets your appetite, why not make your own Apple product launch, complete with baying Apple fans? Essential accessories for any desk. 🙂
  • iPad apps: Looks like the iPad is going to hit the ground running app-wise when it launches next week. Mac Rumours revealed various apps from the yet-to-be-launched iPad app store, as well as Filemaker’s Bento for the iPad. Meanwhile, Boy Genius Report has a list – with screenshots – of 60 upcoming iPad apps. Can’t wait to see what other apps the iPad will have at launch.
  • Apple bans protective films from its stores: For some strange reason that no-one can fathom, Apple has banned all sales of films that protect the screens of iPhones, iPods and more from scratches. iLounge follows up this story with a selection of possible theories from readers.
  • Windows Phone 7 won’t have copy & paste: Engadget reports that WP7 won’t have the ability to select, cut, copy or paste text or other content. It appears Microsoft copies Apple in all things – not just when adding features, but even when it comes to leaving features out. 😉 Talking of missing features, it sounds like a future version of the iPhone OS may finally bring us a unified mailbox.
  • Watching movies on your iPhone: James Cameron has opined on the stupidity of watching films on your iPhone (as did David Lynch in no uncertain terms a while back). However, if, after all that, you do fancy watching a movie or two then MoviePeg looks like a very handy iPhone accessory to have. Clever design too!
  • Opera Mini for iPhone coming soon: Here’s a video of it in action – looks super-fast (assuming you don’t mind Opera’s servers caching all of the sites you browse). The question is: Will Apple approve it?
  • The dangers of carrying a Mac Pro: Finally, if you’re 4ft 6in tall, don’t even think about carrying a 40-pound Mac Pro up a flight of stairs…

Oh, and before I forget: Happy 9th Birthday, Mac OS X! 🙂

Should You Buy a Mac?

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009


My esteemed colleague (and fellow Mac user) Simon Meek recently wrote a piece about why designers tend to use Macs. This got me thinking: Why did I buy a Mac? I’m more of a coder/”computer nerd” than a designer. And what sort of people (apart from designers) are Macs suited to?

Here are some handy guidelines to help you decide whether or not a Mac is right for you. First, some good reasons to buy a Mac…

You should buy a Mac if:
  • You’re a creative type. Macs are very well suited to designers (as already mentioned), musicians, artists, photographers, and folks in the film and TV industries. Pretty much all the best creative software is available for the Mac (some of it is Mac-only), and many creative studios run mainly Mac networks.
  • You want to edit your photos and movies. Macs come bundled with Apple’s iLife: a very nice, easy to use software suite that lets you edit photos and movies, and create slideshows and DVDs, right out of the box. No third party software to buy.
  • You want a computer for the living room. This is partly personal taste, but Macs simply look nicer in the living room than pretty much any PC. iMacs are also whisper quiet so there’s no annoying fan noise, and Apple makes an effort to reduce the amount of cables needed (and even makes the cables look relatively pleasant!). You can even wall-mount an iMac these days, and a 27-inch version has just come out. Front Row and the Apple Remote are also a great way to watch movies and view slideshows from the comfort of the sofa.
  • You want something that “just works”. Sure, Macs crash and burn just like any computer (sometimes quite spectacularly). On the whole, though, you’ll probably find a Mac to be easier to use and more trouble-free than the average Windows or Linux box. Apple pays a lot of attention to ease of use and stability; having control over both the hardware and the operating system really helps here too.
  • You’re used to Unix. If you’re a fan of Unix-derivatives such as Linux or FreeBSD (but are fed up with tinkering with your computer all the time) then you’ll be right at home with Mac OS X. You can mess about on the command line; compile stuff with gcc; get stuck into shell scripting, and so on.

Macs aren’t for everyone though. Here are some reasons to buy a PC instead… (more…)

Problems with AirPort and waking from sleep

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

It’s not been a good couple of months for my work iMac. After the recent green pixels and dying hard drive issues, my iMac’s AirPort card has been looking distinctly dodgy over the last few weeks.

Basically it’s OK once it’s up and running, but the problems start when waking the iMac from sleep. 2 out of 3 times it’s fine, but at other times, the AirPort icon shows that the AirPort is off after the Mac wakes up:

Any attempts to turn the AirPort back on, either from the menu bar or in Network Preferences, fail. There’s no error dialog, but the AirPort stays off.

I think it also happened once even after power cycling the Mac. It fixed itself on the boot after that.

The AirPort card shows up fine in System Profiler.

These are some of the errors I see in /var/log/system.log when waking from sleep or manually trying to restart the AirPort: (more…)