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Review: Apple MacBook Pro (2008)

March 5th, 2008 by Raj

To the casual observer Apple’s latest MacBook Pro (MBP) would undoubtably be indistinguishable over it previous iterations. Right now sitting side by side with my previous, now 10 month old, MBP the only way I can tell them apart is the one on the left has that new machine feel on its keys and is a tad cleaner overall. Aesthetically there is very little different between the two machines, adorning the F7 through F9 keys you now have the iTunes controls we’ve come to love on Apple’s newer external keyboards, as well as the Expose & Dashboard icons on the F3 & F4 keys respectively. Personally I’d rather the F3 & F4 keys to not be branded as one of the first things I do is remap these functions to others, but thats by the by.

IMG_0467.jpg
Can you tell which one is the new version? I can’t!

Beyond the keyboard the only other distinguishable visual difference is the semi-new LED backlit screen. Whilst this screen has been available in the prior model it wasn’t until this release that it has been available across the board in both the 15 and 17 inch variations. The evenness of the backlight provides a much needed colour boost to the screen almost comparable with “gloss” screens, which is still an option should you not have an issue with glare in your work area. To be honest I’ve had to turn down the brightness a tad off full because it felt like the white was cooking my retinas from the inside out, an experience that completely shames my prior machine.

Aesthetics aside, its under the hood of the new MBP’s now tired shell where this new model really starts to break away. At the heart of the machine is the new Intel Penryn 45nm processor, ranging from 2.4Ghz to 2.6Ghz depending on your selected configuration. As with the exterior of the machine, looking at the clock speed itself you’d think nothing’s changed but its the 45nm build of the chip that makes both a difference in operating temperatures and battery life. No longer will you endure 3rd degree burns after 15 minutes of use, instead they’ll only be 2nd degree and take an extra 10 minutes! w00t! There’s also the added bonus of 6MB of L2 cache on the CPU also for that extra kick.

Standard now in all models is what I’d consider an above average laptop hard drive size of 250GB @ 5400rpm. This is a nice improvement over previous pitiful options topping out at 160GB. Should you have the cash to burn there’s even a 300GB option available in the 17″ model however you take a speed hit with the drive only running at 4800rpm. For the video editors out there there’s also the 7200rpm option but Apple tops out at 200GB.

The video card also receives a mild bump, more to “keep up with the Jones’s”, than anything else. Retaining the same Nvidia 8600M GT card the VRAM is boosted to 512MB in the top 15″ and 17″ models but stays at 256MB in the cheaper 15″ option.

IMG_0466.jpg

Lastly, in line with the recently released MacBook Air the MBP receives the new Multi-Touch trackpad. The trackpad enables the user to make use of the “pinch” and other movements to manipulate photos and other rudimentary functions that the majority of people will dismiss or probably never even know the trackpad can do. Luckily there’s a new, slightly more useful, function Multi-Touch can do in allowing you to swipe between webpages by using 3 fingers on the trackpad instead of 2 fingers that you would use for scrolling. OK, so maybe its not the innovation of the century but I might use it once in a while.

With all of these new components, most important of which is the CPU, Apple claim a new battery life of 5 “wireless working” hours. It seems with this new release Apple PR have decided to now measure battery life in how long their laptops can actually be used continuously with a wireless network connection. A bold move considering their prior models were advertised with 4.5 hours of “optimal” life and now to the average Joe their new machine does basically the same?! How many are going to read the fine print to figure out you can actually use it for that full 5 hours instead of about 3 (if you’re lucky) on the previous model? Whilst the newly advertised 5 is probably a stretch, I’m sitting at 3.5 now and still have 15% left in the pack so I’m happy.

Tech specs and changes aside lets have a look at some real life figures to see if there is any difference at all, and whether or not my extra A$250 to spring for the 2.6Ghz CPU was worth it. I’ll be comparing my previous model (Mid 2007 – 2.4Ghz, 2GB RAM, 120GB @5400rpm HDD) against the brand new Penryn based MBP (Early 2008 – 2.6Ghz, 2GB RAM, 250GB @5400rpm). Both machines have a fresh install of Mac OS X 10.5.2.

Test 1: Boot time (to desktop, with autologin enabled)
Mid 2007: 59 seconds
Early 2008: 48 seconds

Test 2: AAC Encode (4 minute 160kbps CBR MP3 converted to 160kbps CBR AAC using iTunes)
Mid 2007: 8.9 seconds
Early 2008: 7.4 seconds

Test 3: Video Encode (190MB DivX to 2 pass H.264 using ffmpeg via VisualHub)
Mid 2007: 18 minutes, 29 seconds
Early 2008: 15 minutes, 37 seconds
Note: The old model had its fan running at full speed almost from the second I started the encode where as the new machine barely even spun the fan at all.

As you can see there’s a small improvement in each task, the video encoding especially a welcome relief whenever there is less time involved, but realistically if you currently own a MBP from 2007 is it really worth the upgrade? If you’re happy with your current machine and tossing up whether to fork out the cash that you may not necessarily have lying around then my answer is no, it’s not particularly worth it and with rumours already circulating about another update in June with Intel’s new line of chips as well as the long awaited Blu-Ray drive and hopefully new enclosure I’d recommend holding off. Video/Photographic professionals and gamers will most likely be the ones to benefit from the new CPU and increased VRAM but thats where the benefits end in my opinion.

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Superman Returns

April 16th, 2007 by Raj

Explicit tag

Superman Poster
Directed By: Brian Singer
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth
Running time: 154 minutes
Links: IMDB | Trailer
Rating: 4/5

If you haven’t seen this movie stop here, the next line is about to fuck it all up, I warned yee…..

Whale oil beef hooked*, look who’s gone and got themselves a little baby boy in their absence. How the fuck did I go ten months from its theatrical release to watching this movie on DVD and not find out about this! Either everyone I know hates Superman or I’ve done a freakin’ amazing job of subconsciously steering clear of any Superman Returns related information. I must admit I’ve never really been a huge fan of the man in steel, which may perhaps account for my lack of enthusiasm in wanting to see the movie in the first place but come on… he’s got a kid for crying out loud!

Let me rewind just a little there; I’m not a comic geek, a geek yes, but a comic geek no. I’ve probably missed the comic-book-boat here and Superman’s already had twelve rug-rats, calling them “Spanky1” through “Spanky12” because of his underlying love for the Little Rascals Character. So the fact that Lois Lane has popped out little asthma-boy “Jason” in the latest film is something most of you knew about seven years ago? Who knows, who cares? I know I don’t; just don’t spam me with hate mail because I’m too lazy to research thing. One thing I do know & can be glad of is that we can finally put to rest the eternal geek debate of “Can Superman boink a normal chick?” Well hallelujah all, looks like we didn’t need Wonder Woman’s uterus to contain the Kryptonian unborn and Soup’s (yeah that’s right I’m calling Superman “Soup”, he’s my pal!) spunk isn’t going to blow right through poor Lois’s back.

superman-boy.jpg

Now lets get down to the nitty gritty here shall we; Soup (Bradon Routh) returns to Earth after a five year round trip to his home planet (or rather absence of a planet) Krypton to find Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) hooked up with Cyclops; shit.. I mean Richard White (James Marsden – aka Cyclops from X-Men) the nephew of the Daily Planet’s editor and touting a sickly boy Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu). Not to mention Lex Luther (Kevin Spacey), Soup’s nemesis has managed to wangle himself out of a two time life sentence to once again terrorize the world. The world seems pretty fucked up for my pal in the first twenty minutes but pretty soon he’s back in the swing of things saving people from all over the world, Lois falling back in love and Lex; well Lex decides growing a land mass off the East coast of the US out of Soup’s Dad’s crystal farm would be a good idea. Those crazy evil guys and their whacky ways I tells ya!

Soup

OK, so the story isn’t exactly something out of Jane Austin but this is Superman, what did you expect? I was a tad skeptical going into the movie if only because the only people I actually recognized in the opening credits was Spacey and Kal Penn. I had serious doubts that Kumar was going to save this film! To my pleasant surprise I found Routh pulled off Soup quite well, his interpretation of the dough eyed idiot of Clark Kent was excellent and his heroic posture & tone as Superman was well executed; sorry Dean Cain this is the guy for the job. Bosworth did well but I had a hard time thinking of her as a mother figure after remembering her in “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton” and Cyclops is type cast for the rest of his days in my opinion, sorry James Marsden. Spacey as you’d expect steals the show, what more could you ask for from this man? Not quite “The Usual Suspects” but a well rounded, professional performance that does the Lex Luther character credit.

Lex Luther

Lets look beyond the actors though; beyond the special effects; beyond the story; let’s look at the franchise, is this the Superman movie we all hoped for? Yes, I think it is. I’ve never been a Superman fan and seeing as though it took me almost a year to see it I think you’d agree but I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. Granted it’s nothing to rival the giant that’s Spiderman in the Comic/Movie ranks but this film certainly did a lot in returning the franchise to its rightful glory.


* Say it fast with an English or Irish accent….. turns into…. (well I’ll be fucked)


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The Totally Rad Show

March 28th, 2007 by Raj

TRS logo
Hosted By: Alex Albrecht, Jefft Cannata, Dan Trachtenberg
Links: Website | MySpace Page
Rating: 3/5
Comments: Nicely put together but nothing new.

Launching today “The Totally Rad Show” (TRS) is the latest Internet based TV show to come from Kevin Rose’s Revision3 company. Billed as “the summer blockbuster of geek news shows” TRS is yet another show from the online network containing Rose’s good friend and ex “The Screen Savers” participant Alex Albrecht. Joining Albrecht are Dan Trachtenberg (Geekdrome), newcomer Jeff Cannata & a rather vocal cameraman, following foot in Diggnation’s setup, Steve.

I’m a regular viewer of Diggnation (the weekly video podcast for the social news website Digg.com, of which you’ll find Albrecht hosting the show with the man of the moment Kevin Rose) and for the past few weeks all we’ve heard about is this fantastic new show coming out from Alex & co. that I must admit I thought was supposed to be an online sitcom. Obviously I’ve got my wires crossed because after about five minutes it soon became apparent that the show was not in-fact a 20 minute comedy (although the opening was quite amusing) but instead yet another show with a discussion panel talking about the regular geeky things; movies, video games, tv & comics.

TRS shot 1

The show uses an equal three host format, each not really having any direction bar a whiteboard that the guys discuss for about 10 minutes that apparently no-one reads before shooting. Obviously things are early on for the trio as points are often thrown over the top of another whilst speaking, some lulls and dead space but nothing that makes the show unbearable and I’m sure will be worked out as the trio get used of working together more frequently on air. “Trumors”, the first episode of the show, gives us some insight into a rather lax format that I’m sure will remain to give it that laid back, cool, low budget feel that Diggnation markets its fan base too. Essentially each episode will contain review(s) of a movie/video game/comic etc. with some news and random tangents of conversation. I don’t believe the premise of the show is to make it funny but the off screen relationship and comfort between the three hosts is very prevalent and makes their on screen banter enjoyable and comical in parts.

TRS shot 3

Currently the show is scheduled to be released weekly. Unfortunately the only show that has managed to keep to it’s actual shooting timeline from Revision3 is Diggnation, the network’s big killer. With Albrecht’s co hosting duties on “Ctl-Alt-Chicken” (no new episode since Oct. 6th 2006) and Diggnation, Dan’s directing work (Trachtenberg recently completed some commercial work directing for Lexus) and I’m sure Jeff has a day job too it will remain to be seen if they can come through with the weekly promise. I certainly hope they can!

TRS shot 2

When it comes down to it TRS is not exactly something new for the Internet. There are plenty of video podcasts around that cover these same topics individually or jointly and have been doing so for quite some time. The one thing that TRS has going for it that the others don’t is a massive following from the behemoth that is Diggnation in the podcasting world. Capture just a tenth of that audience and we should see the show reach success and continue on a regular timeline. Playing devil’s advocate the number of shows Revision3 has begun and not continued, Ctl-Alt-Chicken, Web Drifter and Systm to name a few, leave the network with a bad track record. All were fantastic shows that we’d love to see more of but seem to have magically stopped production without explanation. For the independent Internet network to survive, as much as I hate to say it, a little more professionalism and a little less fun needs to come into the running and production of Revision3 just to ensure things are ticking along and not keeping its beloved fans in the dark.

Some alternatives to “The Totally Rad Show”:

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Hot Fuzz

March 25th, 2007 by Raj

Hot Fuzz poster
Directed By: Edgar Pegg
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
Running time: 121 minutes
Links: IMDB | Trailer
Rating: 3.5/5

“Hot Fuzz” is the second film from writing duo Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, the same couple that unleashed the surprise cult hit “Shaun of the Dead” on the world a few years ago. Not since Guy Ritchie’s rise to fame has there been such hype over an English produced film. Fortunately just as Ritchie did the English proud by wowing us with “Snatch” Wright & Pegg have done the same. Lets just hope for their sakes they don’t follow any further in Ritchie’s footsteps and make a “Revolver”*.

The film revolves around Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), a London police officer that is making the rest of the force look bad by doing his job too well. Because of this his superiors have decided to have him shipped off to the small village of Sandford where the biggest crime for the month is a run away swan. Nick’s joined by his new partner Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) to patrol the sleepy town where they discover there might be something deeper the series of deadly actions of late. In addition to Pegg & Frost is a fantastic supporting cast including the likes of Bill Bailey (Black Books), Timothy Dalton (ex James Bond), Martin Freeman (The Office) and Bill Nighy (Love Actually) to name a few.

To begin with “Hot Fuzz” is your classic fish-out-water flick, it spends a good 30 minutes establishing the story with little hilarity only to be followed up by another 30 minutes of plot development littered with sight gags and slapstick. That’s not to say it’s not funny, quite the opposite actually, Pegg & Frost’s on screen partnership is comedic gold, it’s just that you find yourself expecting them to be funny in every scene and at times you seem to be waiting an eternity for something funny to happen. The second half of the film is where it truly comes into its own right. You can quickly forgive the slow feeling of the prior hour as the story unfolds into a creation that could only come from the minds of Wright & Pegg.

Hot Fuzz picture

Forget all that crap though, lets just cut to the chase; what’s better, “Shaun of the Dead” or “Hot Fuzz”? Well for me it was the first. “Shaun of the Dead” reinvented British comedy for me and although “Hot Fuzz” was extremely funny in its own right I couldn’t help but feel that it dragged on that little too much at first. “Shaun of the Dead” on the other hand kept a much more constant flow of laughs. That’s your decision to make though, I have friends that disagree and if you’ve never seen “Shaun of the Dead” do yourself a favor and go rent it today!

All in all “Hot Fuzz” is a fantastic, funny film that you shouldn’t miss. If you’re a fan of British comedy and enjoy TV shows like “Black Books”, “Black Adder” and “The Mighty Boosh” you’ll love this too.


* Never heard of “Revolver”? Don’t feel too bad, it had a theatrical release that lasted a couple of weeks (or should have) and anyone that has actually seen the film doesn’t know what happened and couldn’t tell you what it was about. Mind you that didn’t stop me paying 15 squid to see it opening week while I was on holiday in London. Yeah I got screwed!

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