Posts Tagged Mac

Magic Trackpad on a non-Apple computer

I’m sitting at an AMD Fusion-powered nettop, writing this post. The computer sips power, yet is still respectable enough to drive light workstation tasks on my 24-inch, 1080p monitor. I’m confident enough about this rig’s performance that I’ll be ordering another LCD soon…but I digress. The topic of this post revolves around the fact that, in addition to a trusty lowish-end Logitech mouse, I’m using Apple’s much-hyped Magic Trackpad as a fully functional pointing device for a computer that’s never seen an Apple logo. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Microsoft Needs To Do With Windows

http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/4459205/Windows_XP_Performance_Edition_SP3_-_October_2008

Yes, it’s a ThePirateBay link. If you feel bad about downloading it, don’t do it unless you already have a valid Windows XP install on the computer on which you’re downloading this for. Tortured sentence structure I know, but it’s 3 a.m.

What Microsoft should do is take this torrent, tweak the ISO just slightly to improve usability (very, very small things like bringing back the SendTo menu and having the option in the context menu to open a command prompt at whatever location), then package it up and sell it to end users via download for $30-$50.

If users want more applications or features, Microsoft should bring back the “Add Features” control panel option, a la Windows 98. This time, however, features will be downloadable online rather than from CD. It’s a 21st century thing. If they want drivers, Microsoft has Windows Update…just get more manufacturer support so all the drivers are in one place. Speaking of which, control panels should be separate from basic drivers; a computer should have full capability to work with no third-party icons in the system tray. None whatsoever.

With a few optimizations, such an OS could run full-fledged in under 1GB of disk space. Well under, even. On top of this platform OEMs can slipstream drivers (required) and crapware (optional, just like the extraneous Windows features) as needed. At any time, aside from required drivers, consumers should be able to distill Windows down to bare-metal elegance.

If you want to complain about user choice and such, the easy way out is to allow for feature installation during Windows setup, which will otherwise be a very short process in such a small installation (five minutes in a virtual machine…more on that later). A la the usual in regular software setups, have “Standard” (regular WinXP if you must), Minimal (Performance edition) or Custom as installation size options on regular install discs, with OEM products built into the standard and available in the Custom profiles. For the $30-$50 version, standard becomes a non-option and custom doesn’t have as many options. Something akin to “Windows Anytime Upgrade” can be used later on if Microsoft wants to charge users to upgrade to a fuller experience.

In case you’re wondering, WinXP Performance Edition runs wonderfully in a virtual machine with 768 MB of memory…it’s fast enough that all but the most graphics-intensive activities feel like you’re using them bare-metal on a system that’s two-thirds the price of whatever you’re actually using. That is to say, absolutely usable, even speedy. This is on VirtualBox, Sun’s free virtual machine product. I have VMWare Fusion on my Mac and stopped using it…VirtualBox plus XP Performance Edition is significantly faster than either Parallels or VMWare running even XP.

The bottom line is this: I don’t thik I’m alone in wanting an operating system that just works. I do’t need bells and whistles, and the OS can look like Windows 98 for all I care (preferably Windows XP in Classic mode with search in the Start menu, however…P PE, but for the search box, does nicely). I just want something that will run any Windows app I throw at it, and that will run that app quickly and efficiently. If I need extra features, I’d like to be able to get them, but they don’t need to come standard. I want a cheap operating system that I can get legally. I want something that will fit on, and run perfectly from, a $10 USB drive.

XP PE pretty much is what I’m looking for, with one problem: it’s on the torrents rather than on Microsoft’s onlinestore page. I do use it anyway, but I’d love to pay for something even slightly more refined.

In conslusion, Windows 7 promises to be to Windows Vista what XP PE is to XP. It delivers on this promise, however that’s like saying your new product is much more enjoyable than a swift kick to the balls…you’ve got a low standard to rise above. Windows 7 is not as light as Windows XP, though it does run better than standard XP in a virtual machine, at least that’s what it seems like from here. In short, Win7 is a big step in the right direction after Vista (which isn’t bad, it just isn’t good enough to go out and upgrade to if you have XP in 99.99% of situations), no doubt. However Microsoft would do well to slim down Windows 7 until it has the same system requirements as Windows XP, or release WIndows 7 alongside “Windows LE”, aka a legit, low-cost, supported version of Windows XP Performance Edition.

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Apple Schmapple, Black Friday Edition

I decided not to go to bed just yet…

…because of this and this.

First, if Apple is going to lift a commercial from the US that states something quantifiable (twice as fast [as the original iPhone]) on their iPhone 3G commercial, which is focused on speed, they had better quantify it better than “really fast”, especially when the only quantifiable thing in the ad is the (simulared) screenhot video of the phone…going much faster than it would in real life.

For all the fanboys out there, I know that, in theory, the phone could pull down a PDF file as fast as it did on the commercial over HSDPA. In reality, however, such speed would never happen on a consumer network. Surpise: Apple is selling the iPhones to consumers on a consumer 3G network, and the ad cites the iPhone’s 3G speeds. I’ll hand it to you, WiFi may be able to download at the speeds shown for Google Maps and the attachment download, but definitely not HSDPA. The reason? HSDPA (the iPhone doesn’t have HSUPA to my knowledge) has latencies in excess of 300 ms on average, so tack that on to anything you want to download. Think of it as halfway between low-end DSL and a high-quality satellite connection. Or what you get on your normal, non-super-3G cell phone.

Honestly, WiFi on the iphone isn’t much better than the practical limits of 3G. Assuming that you have a big enough pipe coming into your WiFi network, the iPhone tests out at only about 4.5 megabits per second…and this test was made via a special speedtest app on my Comcast connection, which bursts above 20 Mbps, sometimes above 30 Mbps. Certainly above 4.5 Mbps.

Random: is it just me, or did anyone else see an earlier version of this “twice as fast” commercial where the disembodied hand was downloading a QuickTime movie? It may have just been me, but if that ad was aired, let loose all the dogs of Truth In Advertising…there’s no way a phone could download a file that fast with current technology, even over WiFi.

Back to the 3G: web browsing involves rendering of the page. The only way for the iPhone to load and render like was seen on the ad? Cacheing. Possible, but not a showcase of the phone’s 3G abiity. Strike…three?

Enough with that rant…

My second point of contention: Google had to break Apple’s software development rules in order to create what’s arguably one of the most compelling apps available on the iphone right now. When you hear a hacker whining about this it’s one thing; when Google speaks, it’s quite anotherr. Hopefully Apple doesn’t go ballistic and shoo Google’s Mobile App out of the iTunes store for their infraction, but on the other hand Google did step outside Apple’s rather obsessive little box for developers (no background processes, no turn-by-turn directions, do crossing the yellow tape), and the company tends to be rather draconian when it comes to punishment for such things. But in all seriousness this would only hurt Apple’s cause, so they probably won’t do it; Google has its own mobile platform now, and the more Apple takes, the more Google will pay attention to Android.

Lastly, a potshot at Apple smugness: their Black Friday deals were unappealing. The smattering of discounts on hardware basically said “Yeah, it’s a sale day, whaddya gonna do about it?”, nothing more. Apple fanboys were doubtless pleased, but the discounts were in most cases less than what educational buyers get 24x7x365. Keep in mind that we’re talking about the biggest shopping, biggest discount, day of the year, where 42″ HDTVs are sold for well under $800, and retailers both online and on the ground slash prices by a few dozen percent to get stocks moving. But, if I may say so, typical Apple…I’m sure their products sold well enough anyway…

That is all. Good night and good luck.

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Darwin Awards: A Critical Review of Leopard’s 300+ New Features

For the original list, look here: http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/300.html

Address Book (worth 99c)
Google Map Addresses – Decent feature, though it’s trivial to implement.
Sync with Yahoo – Legitimate feature as well. Though not earth-shattering.

AppleScript (worth $15)
Full unicode support – okay, good job, but this is devs-only
Scripting bridge for objective-C, Enhanced Application Object Model,
Read/Write Property Lists, Updated anguage Guide, Descriptive Error
messages, Updated Folder Action Support – see above

Automator (worth $20)
Starting points, Improved Inerface, UI Recording and Playback, CLI,
Workflow Variables, Workflow Looping, New Actions – Good, now Automator
is useful for the common man. But the whole system is still rather
techie.

Boot Camp (worth $20)
I suppose hereshould be a cost to take the app ut of beta, but
it’s just a beta app turned gold, nothing added from last version.

Dashboard (worth $10)
Web Clip – This is the bit  of genius that makes Dashboard worth something in the upgrade…it’s very useful.
Movies in Dashboard – Next? Google and Yahoo have this one, right?
Okay, maybe without the trailer but still, I don’t use this feature.
Sync via .Mac – Yay, the $99 package keeps getting better at
sync-ing…and it’s that for-pay package, not the Dashboard app, that
really benefits

Dashcode IDE (worth $20)
Okay, good, you added a new app to develop for another app to mae
it worthwhile to use. Maybe it’s worth paying for, probably not.

Desktop (worth $10)
Here, stacks are cool…sort of like the Start Menu except lots of
them. .Mac sync, again, is Mac specific, so I don’t consider that a
huge feature. The spring-loaded feature I didn’t know about, but hey,
that’s a PowerToy-ish thing.

Disctionary (worth $10)
Wikipedia is a good adition, though there’s also something called
your web browser, or a Dashboard widget, to use that. Apple dictionary?
You mean Apple needs to define its terms? The extra front and back
matter stuff is interesting, though not earth-shattering, and Japanese
language support appeals to just a small bunch of users. Why did the
turn it into two features?

DVD Player (worth $15)
I don’t watch many DVDs but hey, the Mac DVD player is no worthwhile,
maybe een cooler than Windows’ offerings. Though you’re not going to
use most of the features that have been introduced, I’d think…or they
were features that shoulda been in there to start with.

Finder (worth $40)
Okay, CoverFlow is very cool. Back to my Mac is worth something
(namely the $30 upgrade on the Windows side to a business version that
includes the time-tested Remote Desktop) but then again it requires
.Mac. Other features, like the sidebar, icon preview, the path bar,
folder options and folder sharing…either I’ve seen those in Windows
XP or I’ve seen those in Vista. Nice catch-up game, Apple.

Fonts (worth $4.95)
S0 you can print fonts out…Windows has been able to do this for
awhile now. If I remember correctly, since Windows 95. Other stuff?
Blah. Sorry, nothing terribly new there.

Front Row (worth $20)
Nice job Apple…you’re now relatively on par with Windows’ Media
Center product.  Which is $20 above the basic version of Windows (which
costs $100). Big. Whoop.

Graphics and Media (worth $20)
Okay, I’m spreading the cost of this one over consumers. Developers
would give their firstborn for this I know, but for the rest of us it
might mean a cool looking Leopard-only app. Probably not cheaper than
an equally good app elsewhere not utilizing these frameworks.

iCal (worth $10)
Why worth so little? Well, asie from from the drop box, auto pick
and…looks ike that is about it… you’ve got Windows’ built-in
calendar (on Vista), or Mozilla Sunbird.

iChat (worth $20)
Most of the new features can be found elsewhere for free, but iChat
Theater, AAC-LD, Backdrop effects and Screen Sharing might put it $20
above something free like Adium.

Imaging (worth $5)
Okay, three features that are rather limited and rather evolutionary. Pros might pay for them. Everyone else? Nah.

Instruments (worth $5)
Again, spreading things around between developers and end users, this
one is dev-only. Maybe it lets you create better apps, but the end-user
application is very small.

International (worth the international market)
Yay, now Leopard approaches the worldwide0ness of Windows. You mean
that Tiger DOESN’T support these locales?!? And they aren’t gonna do
anything about it !?!

Mail (worth $15)
Okay, so Mail catches up with Windows Mail and Thunderbird, plus you
get data detectors  and…dot-Mac sync. Good for you, Apple.

Networking (worth $5)
Why is it just worth $5? Because Windows XP has the first feature, and Windows Vista has the second. Something new please?

Parental Controls (worth $20)
Congrats, Leopard. Meet Vista, which got to this market nine months before you did. Yep, Windows beats Mac to the punch here.

Photo Booth (worth $10)
This is a gimmicky feature, and is thus worth as much as a gimmicky
feature. There’s nothing like it built into Windows, and I think I know
the reason: it’s for people under the age of 21 for extended periods of
use.

Preview (worth $15)
Sure, WIndows XP and Vista have similar features, but Preview is a bit
nicer with PDF manipulation and with a tiny UI. So it’s worth something.

Printing (worth $10)
Congrats, Apple. Now can we have more drivers?

Quick Look (worth $20)
Hey, it’s a great feature. It’s worth something. Good.

Safari (worth $5)
I’ll just be nice here. Firefox is better except maybe for speed. End
of story. Web clipping was mentioned in the Dashboard section so can’t
be here.

Screen Savers (worth $5)
Okay, so you get new screen savers, for people with desktops who don’t
have their screen auto-off in a few minutes. Oh, and with every version
of Windows you got new screen savers. Snore.

Security (worth $15)
Windows has all these features too…XP and Vista…except maybe for
sandboxing. But for mainstream users the User Account Control will keep
ay ill from happening, right? Okay, here’s you $15.

Spaces (worth 99c)
Sorry guys. WIndows XP has a PowerToy for this, and has had one for a
long time. It even works quite well. It’s a great feature but nothing
extraordinary.

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