Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Newertech miniStack

My rig - 1
Originally uploaded by rangerteper.
I've been wanting to get one of these for a good six months but kept putting it off. I finally ordered one last week and it arrived on Friday. I've been putting it through its paces ever since. So far, I give it a solid 4 stars out of 5, with possible bump up to 4.5 if things continue to go smoothly.

The only thing I don't like about it is that the fan runs continuously while the drive is operating, and I'm not convinced that's necessary. It also makes more noise accessing the disc than my mini, but that's to be expected, I suppose, with a 3.5" drive.

On the plus side, I have the mini booting off the external drive, and its faster 7200 rpm speed does seem to give my poor over-taxed computer a bit of a boost. It's not a huge improvement, but it's noticable, especially when launching applications and accessing preference panes.

I also love the extra USB and Firewire ports the miniStack enclosure has; and the drive powers up and down along with the mini.

Thus far I have partitioned the 300-gig drive into three sections: a 35-gig scratch disc for Photoshop Elements (not sure if this will improve things--any suggestions would be welcome), a 150-gig main boot partition, and a 95-gig backup partition. I love all the breathing room, and I feel so much more safe and secure knowing that I have a daily backup of all my critical files and a more extensive weekly backup. Plus I'll be cloning my boot drive (hopefully once a week too) to the mini's 80-gig drive.

Now I can free up a bunch of space on my iPod to install a boot copy of OS X for emergencies. Am I becoming a backup fanatic? Perhaps, but I've been burned once...

Friday, January 27, 2006

My prayers: answered

No sooner said than done. I will be back to writing (fridge) poetry soon. Engadget just linked to a story about some guys in Australia and Sweden who are developing a "smart" poetry fridge magnet. If you thought regular fridge poetry was cool (and who doesn't?) then this should be a quantum leap in cool.

Maybe Microsoft has been looking for that iPod killer in the wrong place? Maybe they need to think outside the (ice)box instead.

Am I right in thinking bad puns are a step in the right direction from tasteless metaphors?

The Pixar-Disney Deal and Steve Jobs

Much hay has been mown in the Apple blogosphere this week about Disney buying out Pixar. I'll spare you the links... mostly because I should be working and don't have time to "digg" them out. But Robert Cringely had a slightly different take that I found interesting:

The guy had 80 percent of his wealth tied-up in Pixar. That kind of holding is very difficult to sell on the open market. A $4 billion sell order? I don't think so. Remember this is someone who less than two years ago had a form of pancreatic cancer that has only a 50 percent five-year survival rate. I'm not saying Jobs is going to die, but I AM saying that he is in a position where he has to think about these things and his financial position at Pixar was untenable for his family, and left him too exposed if Cars turns out to be a lemon.

So according to Cringely, the Pixar deal was all about Steve's retirement and/or planning for his family's future. OK, I'll buy that as much as any take.

But that also re-raises the awful spectre of Steve's close brush with death in 2004. By all accounts, his cancer was nipped in the bud, but let me re-ask the question that has been raised many times since then: What happens if SJ leaves Apple, or, worse, kicks it? If you're like me, you can't imagine Apple today without Steve Jobs at the helm. How many companies that you can you think of have made the kind of dramatic turnaround over 5 or 6 years that Apple has? It may be just an illusion, but is sure seems like SJ is primarily responsible for that turnaround. Some may say he's an evil genius creating white computers to cover up a deal with the devil, but I'm a believer, and I'm not ready to see my saviour sacrifice himself so the computing world may have its sins forgiven.

Ugh! did I really just write such a tasteless metaphor? I think I need to focus more of my energies on writing poetry again; I'm losing my touch.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Safari RSS

OK, I really should be working, but I need to get this off my chest.

I've already come out of the closet and said that I like to use Safari as my RSS reader. Whether it's because that's what I'm used to or becasue I like having my RSS feeds in a browser so I don't have to tax the already limited resources of my mini by having another app open all the time, I'm not sure, but unless it gets really bad, I'm sticking with Safari.

That said, I think Safari's RSS support could use some improving, so here's a short wishlist:

1) Make it less flakey. I hate it when, for no apparent reason, the articles for a subscription re-load, even though I've already read them. I get all excited when I see I have 11 unread articles, only to deflate when I see it's just a bunch of old "I, Cringely" posts that Safari has apparently decided I need to read again.

2) Make updating more flexible. As it stands, I can set Safari to check my feeds every 30 minutes. For an addict like me, that's not enough. I want it to check every 5 minutes, because hey, we all know that on the Internet, 30-minute-old news is, well, old news. And I want a button that lets me force check too.

There may be other things (feel free to chime in), but these are the biggies for me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Flip4Mac news

Since my last post, I've been in e-mail contact with a support tech from Flip4Mac (can you begin to imagine my amazement when I actually got a reply to my bug report?!), and they have acknowledged the problem and say they are working on fixing it. Heck, the guy even appologised, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and reinstall once the bug is fixed.

Could it be possible that I was contacted because I have a blog and posted something about the bug? Nah... That would be a cross between a conspiracy theory and delusions of grandeur. Let's simply chalk it up to that rarest of commodities these days: good tech support.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Miscelaneous musings

This Week in Tech
If you haven't listened to the TWiT podcast this week, you really should. I usually find it entertaining (and somewhat informative), but this week the show, taped live at MacWorld Expo, is hillarious. John C. Dvorak is especially goofy and funny. Highly recommended. Too bad they aren't this funny every week.

It would appear that the latest Tiger update (10.4.4) has wreaked havok with my RSS feeds (something to do with synching Safari bookmarks with my .Mac account), so I downloaded the trial version of NetNewsWire to ensure I get my RSS fix. And while everyone swears by it, and I can't really say anything negative about it (except that it's one more app that I have to have open), I really prefer getting my RSS fix from Safari. So until Apple fixes the .Mac bug, I have disabled bookmark syching. And yes, I realize that I'm probably just about the only person in the world who likes Safari's RSS support. But there you have it. [Cue David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel"]

While MicroSoft announced a 5-year committment to Office for the Mac last week, they also announced they were discontinuing support for Windows Media Player for Mac. Instead, a new version of Flip4Mac (2.0) is being offered for free. So, intrepid soul that I am, I installed it right away. Bad move! Not only did they have to release 2.01 within nanoseconds of the original release, I have found--after an evening and morning of fiddling--that 2.01 prevents me from importing .AVI files into iMovie. So long Flip4Mac. See ya 'round.

Much hay was made of Steve Jobs' slip when he said the new iPhoto "scrolls like butter." I think a new idiom has entered the English language. Henceforth, the savvy will refer to the smooth gliding of a page as "scrolling like butter"--indeed, I think the quotation marks will be gone within a month.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Thoughts on the Macworld Keynote

I didn't get a chance to participate in the keynote hysteria euphoria on Tuesday as I was out doing something in the real world (remember that place?--you can check one of the photographic products of my ski trip on my other blog). So I watched the stream on Wednesday morning (when I should have been working). I tend to agree with those who say it was a disappointing and somewhat strange keynote. And I know for a fact that I'm not the only one who was astounded to see Intel CEO Paul Otellini come out in a "bunny suit" to announce that the Intel chips were ready. Things must be getting pretty bad at Intel these days if the CEO is willing to humiliate himself. (OK, maybe he didn't exactly humiliate himself, but still...)

Anyway, the new Intel Macs look nice, but the iMac's the same machine as it was before, just faster (so they say) and from what I've been reading, the (ahem) MacBook Pro may not be ready for the show just yet.

You know you've witnessed a mediocre keynote when the most exciting thing announced was an update to iLife. Personally, I'm quite interested in the new iPhoto and iMovie programs, and am thrilled that the new iDVD supports third party burners (since I don't have a superdrive). I'm sure my parents would love the "photocasting" feature of the new iPhoto, and I'm very interested in the card and calendar features too. They look pretty slick. I doubt I'd use iWeb though. I don't have a website, but if I did, I'm sure I'd rather use something like Rapidweaver. I'll wait for some more in-depth reviews before deciding whether to fork over the $89.

But now everyone's asking what they had to take out of Steve's keynote and when whatever it was will be announced. Ahh... let the rumour mill begin churning yet again (as if it ever stopped). One nice thing is that they didn't announce a new iBook, which means that I made the right decision in getting my mother to buy hers after Christmas.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

And the winner is...

Originally uploaded by rangerteper.
The Canon A620. I finally made a choice and so far I'm very impressed with this camera. It has everything I wanted, namely full manual control over a ton of features like shutter speed, aperture and ISO--it even has a manual focus option. The 640x480 at 30fps video is amazing, and I can even edit video on the camera, which is useful when the memory card is getting full. Did I mention it sports a whopping 7.1 megapixels? Perhaps more than is necessary for my needs, but then again, I just cropped about 60 percent out of a recent snapshot and the resulting image is still perfectly sharp when I blow it up to fill my 20" monitor. I could quite easily make an 8x10 print of this. That's the kind of flexibility 7mp brings. It may not be as compact as some cameras, but this one feels nice and solid in my rather large hands.

I'm still learning to use it, and that will take some time. It's been many years since I took an artistic approach to photography. As with most of these smaller digicams, they don't do all that well in low light, so one of my first accessory purchases will be a light tripod. If my reader(s) have a recommendation or warning about tripods (or some other must-have accessory), I'd be very happy to hear it.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

My mother's iBook

Safely back home in Montreal for four days after an exhausting week in Calgary with family for the holidays. I find the Christmas season pretty tiresome at best (since the holidays are over, I won't go there), but adding the stress of setting up your retired mother with a new computer and ISP is enough to break the camel's back many times over.

Especially when you have to deal with Telus. Ugh! I won't go into the gory details in an attempt to avoid driving my readers away even more than usual, but sufice it to say that it took three long days to get her DSL hooked up. Once that was done, setting up the iBook was (as I expected) a piece of cake.

I set her up with an AIM screen name and now we're video chatting every day (and often several times a day). I'm sure the novelty of it will wear off eventually, but right now, it's kind of neat to see her discovering the possibilities of the Internet.

My sister recently bought an HP laptop for the family and I had the dubious pleasure of playing with Windows XP for the first time. I guess I'm jaded by the simplicity of OS X because I found XP to be unbelievably and needlessly complicated, especially when you have to deal with things like a Spyware filter and Norton AV. Too bad, because other than that, it seems like quite a nice machine. I think my nephews are a little jealous of Grandma's iBook though.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

iPod case mod update

iPod case mod
Originally uploaded by rangerteper.
The holidays have been an eventful time for me, full of much fruit for blogging. For the moment, however, I will simply post a photo I took of the iPod case with carabiner/belt clip, which I blogged about last week.

The mod has performed really well. It clips and unclips really easily and yet is very secure--as secure as the D-ring and leather strap, at any rate. It also hangs down a little lower than the belt, which means it's not in the way of seatbelts or airline seat armrests and such.

I give it the full five stars, and not just because it's my wife's idea.