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Macs, Movies, Games, Books, etc. The Rants of a Mad Man.

Archives Posts

My thoughts on the 3G iPhone

June 12th, 2008 by Raj

iPhone 3G

It’s OK people, put down the pitchforks and dowse the torches I’ve finally gotten around to documenting my reactions to good-old-Steve’s announcement on Monday for the 3G iPhone (Apple’s worst kept secret ever). This is how it’s going to work; I’m going to run through the bigger features of the phone and basically pick at stupid tiny mistakes just like every other blogger out there in teh internets using my trademarked sarcasm tone. You know you love it ;)

3G over EDGE
In Apple’s haste to launch the iPhone last year they pretty much forgot the rest of the world and built the phone using around it’s US-centric core market (as usual, but fair enough) meaning that if you were to use the thing in any other country you had data speeds of a mule. Granted the phone wasn’t actually supposed to be available outside the US (for the most part) but besides 3G being better and faster it actually opens up the Asia-Pacific market as well as more of Europe. Personally they should’ve had this in the first place if you ask me.

The App Store
For those of you who’ve unlocked your iPhone already you’ve probably got a great app on it called “Installer”. Well Apple have basically ripped it off and chucked in some DRM and a costing structure to provide a more “approved” style of application deployment. It will be interesting to see just how many people still unlock their phones now that this has come about (other than to use it on other networks) and just what will happen to the booming developer market utilising Installer. I’m sad to say it but I think it will disappear pretty quickly, but who knows hey?

Exchange (ActiveSync) Support
This is a biggie and RIM (the Blackberry dudes) will be shitting themselves now. It was bad enough that the iPhone last year encroached on their market share without having Exchange integration where as now they’re looking at a massive dip should everything actually work the way it’s supposed to. If I had shares in the poor Canadian lads I’d be jumping ship rather quickly, it’s not like they didn’t see it coming, we all knew Apple licensed ActiveSync from Microsoft some time ago which explains their soon to be released touch screen based Blackberry Thunder. Good luck RIM, you’ll need it!

MobileMe
“Exchange for the little people” as I like to call it. Forget that crap .Mac that Apple has been blatantly screwing people over with for years, this might actually be worth the US$99/year! MobileMe essentially syncs address book, calendar and email between your phone, web and computer. Better yet it’s fully supported over Mac’s & PC’s which shoves another hot poker in RIM’s ass. On top of that they’re bumping up their only DAV storage (iDisk) to 20GB and then you have the other stuff in there still like web hosting still, but no one really cares. Oh and what’s with “MobileMe”, the marketing guys take a few months off when you came up with that one?

GPS
Now this is what I really wanted. I have no use for GPS really but I’m a sucker for the technology, it just makes me all warm & tingly! Whilst Apple’s implementation of GPS in the new iPhone is basically locating you on Google Maps and geotagging photos wait until 3rd party guys really get things going. True there’s yet another social network that already have an app out (loopt) but give me car navigation, star maps and all that junk. I can’t wait!!

Black & White
Apple has a long history with white products, the iPod was one of the main reasons that Apple are still around today and they owe the colour a lot of praise for that; however, in recent times the colour white has been used more as a marker to separate consumer based products from professional. With that in mind I think it’s a pretty smart move for Apple to offer the choice. You’re student will generally like to stand out with the latest fashion of white while your law firm exec is most likely going to take the more perceivably accepted black approach. Also they’re only offering the white on the more expensive version, again another trademark (and clever) Apple move.

What’s missing
1. A 2nd video camera, for those six people out there that actually enjoy using video chat on your 3G phone you can’t do it. Personally I could care less but I’m sure you’ll hear lots of bitching about it.
2. There needs to be more memory! Yes it’s bumped up to 16GB, yes you get better battery life, and yes the thing’s supposedly cheaper but 16GB? Come on!! Minimum, MINIMUM 32GB please!
3. MMS or “Picture Messaging”. So the American’s might not use it much, the rest of the world does. I guess we’ll just have to resort to 3rd party apps again that have crippled functionality when it comes to that department for the time being.

Well I think that just about covers it all. I know there’s things like battery life I didn’t talk about much but I’m fine with the current life and it’s boring, so there. You’d have to be from another planet to not understand that I’m getting one the day they’re available on July 11th I mean come on people, it’s the iPhone 3G!!!

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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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Archives Posts

Microsoft Office 2008: A long wait for not much

January 23rd, 2008 by Raj

It’s been four years in waiting since Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit (Mac BU) gave the world a fully-fledged version of Microsoft Office. Sure, ask anyone from the Mac BU and they “but, but” and splutter until the cows come home that there was that wonderful Service Pack release a while back but just like their Operating System release schedule Office 2008 has been a long, long time coming.

For me there was really only one reason that I cared about its release, and no it wasn’t for a Universal Binary so it ran faster on my Intel Mac, although that is a very nice bonus, no for me all I wanted was a version on Entourage that actually had some real Exchange support in it.

MS Office 2008

In less time than it took to install the Standard version (the cheaper Edu/Home version has no support at all for Exchange in Entourage) I tried connecting to my work’s Exchange server and was greeted with the same crap message that it couldn’t connect. Game over, Office 2008, you suck balls, just like 2004 and version X.

You see ever since the last, and still to this day best, Exchange email client that Microsoft ever released, Outlook 2001, operations for the included email program in Microsoft’s Mac Office suite has been handled not by the Exchange development team but by the Mac BU. You’d think, “Hey, these two divisions still work for the same big company don’t they? Can’t they have a little meet & greet to sort this out?” But obviously that’s just a pipe dream and once again Mac users are left in the dark.

Entourage does have some limited ability to connect to Exchange servers but it does require that server to be running the option of Outlook Web Access (OWA) in order for the client to connect successfully rather than the Outlook standard of MAPI & HTTP-DAV. Unfortunately for me my employer’s IT gods deem OWA unnecessary as 99% of desks are PC’s and I’m left running Outlook 2001 via Classic or Outlook 2007 in Parallels.

I may be being a little harsh on poor old billion dollar Microsoft, Office does have some neat little things in it, namingly the ability to open their new whizz bang Office 2007 XML formats and the best feature I’ve found so far…. No more retarded transparent floating menus! Thank you!!! I’m sure there’s more in there too but frankly I could care less until Entourage grows some balls and gets out the kiddie pool.

If you’d like to know more about how inept Entourage’s Exchange ability really is there’s a great article by John Welch over at MacWorld.

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