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Quick Apple (or pc) Tip #2 March 5, 2010

Posted by antimeme in Uncategorized.
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For inexpensive cables, it is hard to beast monoprice.com. I just bought two 20-foot Cat5 cables, two 14-foot Cat5 cables and a 6-foot HDMI cable for less than twenty-five dollars. That includes expedited shipping. You would have a hard time getting the HDMI cable alone for that price anywhere else.

Quick Apple Tip #1 February 19, 2010

Posted by antimeme in Uncategorized.
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This is one of those, “Why didn’t I notice that before?” tips. If the red circle has a darker dot inside it, the file has been changed but not saved.

I’ve gotten to the point now where it is a Pavlovian response to save (Command-S) every time I see the dot. It has probably kept me from losing hours of work.

Demo of changed file

This one needs to be saved!

Richard Solo 1800 charger for iPhone/iPod February 18, 2010

Posted by antimeme in Apple.
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Richard Solo 1800

It has a flashlight and a laser pointer. Who wouldn't want one?

A Cool Idea, But Does It Work?

I use my iPhone a lot when I am out and about. I am constantly listening to audiobooks or music. I take calls and I text. I use it for notes, reminders and taking photos. And if I am standing in line somewhere, I play The Creeps, The Deep, or The Plataeu. The only problem I have is that the measley 1200mA battery runs down long before I do.

Lots of Extras

Enter the Richard Solo 1800. RichardSolo.com is the brainchild of Richard Thalheimer. You’ll remember him as the founder of The Sharper Image, so you know he has good ideas. Is this charger one of them? Yes and no. Mostly no.

When both my iPhone and this device are fully charged, I get a theoretical 2-1/2 times the battery life. Reality makes it closer to just a doubling of useable time, but for most purposes, that is more than good enough.  The device also sports a flashlight and a laser pointer, in addition to three status lights and a global but mostly useless on/off switch.

It's retractable and useful.

The entire package also has a lot of useful swag. The charging cable is modular and retractable; it coils up into a nice compact unit. It is a standard USB on one side and a mini plug that goes into the RS 1800. This side, too, uses a standard plug that is compatible with many of the devices you already own. The USB connector can go straight into a (powered) USB port on your computer. It can also plug into the supplied wall charging unit. Even nicer, they have thrown in a dual-USB car charging unit, so you can charge the RS1800 (and your iPhone) as well as your GPS device on your way to wherever it is you’re going.

The other good news is that it charges pretty quickly. The marketing copy says it takes 90 minutes to fully charge an iPhone, but it feels faster than that to me. Using the RS 1800, I can go from about 20% to 60% in less than twenty minutes. That’s impressive.

So what’s wrong with it?

Sadly, there is a lot wrong with this device. I’ll start with the biggest issue.

dual USB car charger

There's room for two (USB devices)

The iPhone is about 4-1/2 inches long. The RichardSolo 1800 is about 4 inches. Put them together, and you now have a device that is 8-1/2 half inches long. It won’t fit in a shirt pocket. If you have it in your pants pocket, you feel it whenever you sit. Worse, you can feel the stress caused from bending. That stress is concentrated at the connector. Yes, it comes with various support braces. These things help. A lot. But even with them, there is a lot of stress on that connector. I think that stress has damaged the dock connector. The phone doesn’t always charge when it is plugged in. Sometimes when I plug it into a charger – any charger – it shows the charge icon but doesn’t charge. Other times, it shows the fully-charged icon regardless of the actual charge level. Sometimes it does nothing at all.  Sometimes it works fine. My iPhone is pretty promiscuous – it

iPhone docked with RS 1800

Are you charging your iPhone or are you just happy to see me?

plugs into a lot of devices and cables. So I cannot say with absolute certainty that the RS 1800 is the culprit. But it seems likely to me.

I see that the company also offers a charger that has a cable rather than a direct connection. That would be better for the dock connector than the setup I have. Even so, I still wouldn’t get one. This thing has…

Other Issues

There are three status lights on the RS 1800: A blue one, a green one, and a red one. The blue one tells you that the RS 1800 is charging an iPhone/iPod. The blue light will stay on even when the iPhone is fully charged. They call this the “topping off” period.  It will keep charging your phone until the RS 1800 is drained. At that point, the red light comes on, and the RS 1800 will stop charging.

The green light comes on when the RS 1800 is plugged in to be charged. If it is flashing, the RS 1800 is charging. If it is a solid green, the RS 1800 is full. Think about this. If it isn’t either plugged in and charging or connected to a phone and completely drained, there is no way to tell the status of the device. Even if it is charging, you only can tell if it is full. If it is at 95% full or 95% empty, the green light flashes. That is no help at all to me.

Then there is that useless on/off switch. As far as I can tell, its only purpose is to allow/prevent you from using the flashlight or laser pointer. This is silly. It isn’t like either of those lights will ever turn on accidentally. It takes a fair amount of pressure activate them. When you remove the pressure, they turn off. There is no way to have either light remain on without holding the button down – it would have been nice to have a stay-on-until-I-turn-you-off option, which would have made the on/off thing in the back useful. But it doesn’t, so it isn’t.

Final Thoughts

I need supplemental charging when I am out. And the 1800 mA provided by the RS 1800 is enough for my needs. Anything less would not be. And the charging time is relatively fast. But its flaws far outweigh these benefits. It puts far too much stress on the iPhone’s dock connector. The status meter of “somewhere between empty and 99%, inclusive” is worthless. The flashlight and laser pointers are cool, but totally unnecessary. All in all, this is a great idea that is executed poorly. And it costs the better part of seventy bucks. There are better products that cost less. Skip this one.

Don’t come unhinged. March 30, 2009

Posted by antimeme in Uncategorized.
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If you check the Apple discussion sites, you’ll see that Air owners are experiencing catastrophic failures of the hinge mechanisms. What’s worse is that Apple is balking at repairs, claiming it is human error rather than a design flaw. I’m sorry, Apple. You are wrong.

Apple calls its portable computers “notebooks”. Others call them laptops. The Macbook Air is among the very lightest around. It seems perfectly suited to sitting on your lap or resting on your knees when you are stretched out on the couch. That’s where the problem lies. If you have the Air positioned so you can use it, chances are that you will be placing a lot of the weight on the bottom rear of the computer with most of the weight being borne on the back end. If you look, you’ll see that the bottom edge of the top half (the half that holds the screen). Therefore, the two parts that are feeling the most pressure? The hinges.

In my mind, this falls under the category of “design” flaw. Yes, users should not rest the Air on its back lid edge. But that is the most likely resting place when you have it on your lap – especially if your knees are at all raised. Apple should acknowledge its error, and pay for the repairs when necessary.

Use your head – use a cooling pad

If you use a cooling pad, the laptop rests on its feet. This will avoid the problem. Also, never, ever carry the laptop with the lid open. Close it – it will be exactly as you left it when you get to the couch or the throne room or wherever you are carying the thing, and you’ll do it without stressing the hinges.

But if you do have a problem with the hinges, be persistent with the Apple support team. It seems that if you refuse to take no for an answer, Apple will eventually fix the problem for you.

Air on a Theme February 24, 2009

Posted by antimeme in Apple, Switcher.
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Ok, first impressions of the Macbook Air.

  • Fit and finish: Mostly excellent. There is a slight bow on the left side that is noticeable when you close the lid. That  is the only noticeable defect I can see. There are no scratches, dings, smudges, or blemishes anywhere.
  • Screen: Bright, crisp. Viewable in almost any light.  No dead pixels. 13 inches is a perfect size for me.  I am perfectly comfortable using this thing outside at midday or basking in the evening glow of the tv.
  • Keyboard: Full size, quiet and responsive keys. Best part – backlit keys let me work in the dark. Worst part – full size does not mean full keyboard. I’m not talking about a numeric keypad – I’ve never had a laptop that had those keys.  But coming from a Windows world, I miss the Page Up/Page Down, Insert/Delete and Home/End keys. I don’t know if those keys are on any other Apple product, but I  used those keyboard navigation keys a lot. I miss them.
  • Trackpad: Wow. Since I already have an iPhone, the trackpad  was immediately understandable. It’s funny –  the motions are exactly backwards from what happens on an iPhone. On an iPhone, you flick up to move to the bottom of the page. On the Air, you slide down. What’s weird is that both ways feel natural, and I never scroll the wrong way on either machine. The size of the trackpad is plenty big, but I could have done without the button. One of the options for the trackpad is to have a tap work like a mouse click – a two-finger tap works as a right-click. If it worked that way from startup, I could live without that button. The only complaint I have is that I sometimes inadvertently hit the trackpad with my palm while typing, which means I sometimes type stuff into the middle of other stuff I typed.
  • Battery life: about 3 hours of normal usage – mostly typing, some browsing, including the occasional YouTube video.
  • Heat: yes. It gets HOT. This happens when you do processor-intensive tasks. The thing gets pretty warm sitting in my lap.
  • Hinges: I’ve seen a lot of reports that the hinges break rather quickly. It seems to happen after repeatedly opening the Air all the way back. And really, all the way back is about the only way the screen feels right. In fact, I’d be happy if it opened a few degrees farther. I find myself often wishing I could tilt the screen back just a little bit more.
  • MagSafe power connector. How cool is that? Having broken one laptop already because I tripped over the power cord and pulled the whole thing onto the floor, using the MagSafe makes me wonder why nobody thought of this before.
  • Ports: Ok, there’s only three. So what? The Micro-DVI works fine. Actually, it works GREAT. I connected my 22″ LCD Monitor, and it looked beautiful. I ran Keynote, and had the presentation on the monitor, and the notes, timer and next slide all showed on the Air – really nice. One USB. So what? Apple has bluetooth mice and keyboards, so you don’t need the USB for them. I use it for my backup hard drive and for charging/synching my iPhone. Well, sort of. My music is on an external drive, so synching music is … interesting.  I’ll be writing more about that later, so stay tuned. The headphones that work on my iPhone also work really well on my Air. The fit of devices into the ports – especially the USB port – is really tight. It takes some effort to remove anything plugged in. This worries me some, because I a afraid I am eventually going to pull something too hard, and break the port door or something. And maybe it is just that I haven’t got the hang of it yet, but I have to lift the whole thing up and look under it whenever I want to plug something in. It is a little annoying.

Overall, I am very happy. Apple does all of the little things right, and the Macbook Air is one sweet machine.

Woohoo! February 6, 2009

Posted by antimeme in Apple.
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It is here!!

I was going to do yet another unboxing, but I just couldn’t wait to set up the camera and the lighting and so on. As it turns out, Shane was wrong. A refurbished Air or a refurbished SuperDrive – just like a refurbished nano – comes in a plain cardboard box rather than the original packaging. You get everything that was in the original box – all the cables, all the disks and documentation, even the cleaning cloth and the stickers – you just don’t get the box. Not a big deal. Shane was correct about iLife ’09, though. There is a disk right here in the box.

 

So. Here it is.

It is true, what all the reviews say. If you haven’t seen the Air – held it in your hands – you have no idea how thin this thing is. And it feels both lighter and more solid than its three pound weight might suggest. It is really beautiful – simple and clean. No lid latch switch, magnets keep it closed. All the ports are hidden behind a small door.  The MagSafe connector is unobtrusive. Just beautiful.

 

Start Me Up

Pressing the On switch, a small bar of light shines from the front right lip. There’s a startup sound – is that gonna happen every time I turn it on? Now I am looking at a grey apple logo centered on a light grey background. Ten seconds later, A screen dialog asks what language I want to use. After a few seconds, a man’s voice asks, “English?” Apparently, I can let Leopard read all the stuff on the screen to me. Cool. Hope I never have to use it. I select English.

Next, I am treated to what Chris Pirillo calls, “the Mac Experience”. A silver Apple floats through space. Music starts. A guy sings doo doo doo while the word “Welcome” is displayed in several languages. Cool. Wonder if I will be able to play that again without reinstalling the OS.

The song ends and I am guided through the setup process. No, I don’t want to transfer my settings from another Mac. Yes, I do want to connect to the cakeisalie network. Yes, I do have an Apple ID – got one when I got my iPod. I sign in, and now the system fills in my name, address, phone. Cool! Suddenly, I am looking at myself on screen. The system turned on the iSight camera so I can get a picture for my user account. Nice touch.

I am guided through a few more setup steps, and then I am set free on the desktop. Woohoo, I am using a Mac! First step, install iLife ’09. Let me see if that Remote Disc thing works. While set that up, I will also switch over to writing this on Safari.

 

…Two Hours Later…

How utterly frustrating. It is working now. But man, I was pulling my hair out! I installed the DVD or CD Sharing tool onto the Vista partition of Zen, my AMD desktop. When I went to run it, my only option was to use remote disc to install OS X on the Air. There was no option to use the DVD drive in any other way. Tried repairing the installation – same result. Tried uninstalling and reinstalling – no dice. Tried restarting – without reinstalling, then with. Aaaargh!

Ok. Deep breath. Look in Program Files. Oh, look! CD or DVD Sharing. ODSAgent doesn’t seem to do anything. But ODSOptions looks like it is the ticket. I select Enable DVD or CD Sharing and disable the “Ask me before using…” option. Go back to the Mac. Click on Remote Disc. Now it sees the Zen. Clicking on Zen shows the iLife disc. Finally! Click on the disc. Wait.

 

Wait.

 

Wait.

Finally, the install screen comes up. There’s the iLife logo, a ReadMe pdf file, and an icon showing a cardboard box over a file called iLife ’09.mpkg. Double click it and… Zen reports the network is down.  Repeat steps beginning with clicking on Remote disc.

…Two MORE Hours Later…

I give up. Four, no FIVE tries. The best I could manage was getting 16%  of  iPhoto installed. All I can say is, I am glad I sprang for the SuperDrive. I will never, ever use remote disc again. It would intermittently disconnect for no reason, and when it was working, it was painfully, dreadfully slow. This is on an ‘n’ network that has been, until now, rock solid and pretty speedy.  SuperDrive install worked perfectly and took fewer than ten minutes.

 

I’m exhausted. More later.

Today’s the Day! February 6, 2009

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I woke up this morning to the first change in delivery status. Sometime overnight, my precious Air arrived in Tampa. As I write, the package is ‘out for delivery’. I am so excited, I can barley tpye.

My iPod and my iPhone both have invisible shields. They have protected these devices so well, that I just ordered one for the Air as well. I know that it is going to be a lot harder to put on the Air, but it will be worth it. I am not gentle on my electronics. The invisible shield does an amazing job of protecting the metal from scratches. When I finally decide to get rid of the Air, it should look just as good as the day I got it.

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part February 4, 2009

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Thursday morning.

Shane was overly optimistic about the shipping. Yanno, I wouldn’t have expected it to be here at all were it not for Shane’s rosy estimate of delivery time. As it is, the laptop and the SuperDrive are still “In Transit” from San Francisco. The mouse and iWork are another story altogether. They are being shipped by DHL. Estimated delivery date has been updated to next Wednesday for them. How sad.

In the meantime, I have been reading up on my new toy. Most of the folks who have actually used the thing have discussed the issue of heat – the laptop gets hot, and then either slows or shuts down. This usually happens when doing graphically intensive things, like watching YouTube or Apple Developer Connection videos. That could present a problem.

What, Me Worry? February 3, 2009

Posted by antimeme in Apple, Switcher, Uncategorized.
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I have concerns. I also have issues, but that’s another story. Allow me to explain…

I am not worried about the lack of ports. I have never, ever used firewire. My ex had a firewire connector on her 2nd gen nano, but it didn’t do anything when I plugged it in. And one USB is plenty. I usually only have my wireless keyboard and mouse plugged in to my desktop. the only other things I use USB for is for charging and syncing my devices, and for printing. The mouse and keyboard are bluetooth, so I don’t need them. I can print remotely, so I don’t need that. One device at a time for the other stuff is fine with me. 
I am also unconcerned about the other ports. I have an iPod and an iPhone, so I know the headphones I have will fit. I also like that there is just that one port for video output. with one simple connector, I can connect to a VGA device, or a DVI, or even Dual-Link DVI. It is a simple, elegant solution that works perfectly for me, as I have all of those types of devices.
I have little need for a CD/DVD drive, but I got the SuperDrive just in case. I doubt I’ll be taking it anywhere, but it is nice to have if I need it.  Here again, Apple came up with a simple solution that works for me. 

I am similarly unconcerned with the lack of a microphone jack. I have never had a mike that was quiet and effective until I got a Logitech USB headset. 
I hope that I get 3.5 – 4 hours on the battery. That will be better than any laptop I’ve had previously. I once took a flight where I wanted to watch a couple of DVDs, so I brought a spare battery. It turned out to be more trouble than it was worth, so I never did it again. I plan to use my iPhone for entertainment, and I have extra power for that. Another potential problem solved.

So, the only real problem I have is the skimpy hard drive.

I have spent years ripping all of my music into digital format. I have more music than the entire capacity of the 80Gb PATA hard drive that will be on my Air. I could transfer them onto a USB drive, but I don’t want to. What I’d really like to do is to leave them on my desktop hard drive and access them wirelessly. But, I don’t want to just connect to the iTunes library remotely – I want the files stored on the Windows machine to actually be my Library on the Air. You see, one of the things I want to do is to sync my iPhone through the MacBook. I understand that the calendar and contact functions will actually work on the Air. 

I hope it will be possible.

Shane Says February 2, 2009

Posted by antimeme in Apple.
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Shane is the Customer Service rep I talked to at 1-800-MY APPLE. Shane told me the following things (we’ll find out if Shane told the truth soon enough):

  • I could not get the $49 iWork deal, since a refurbished model is technically not new. He gave me a small discount anyway – $65, rather than $79.
  • It was a Friday when I called. I asked if I should expect delivery the following Friday. Shane said it might be here as soon as Monday. “They are pretty fast, usually,” he said.
  • I did not need to order the $9.95 iLife Up-to-date package. He (i)thought(/i) iLife ’09 would be thrown into the box.
  • Shane charged me $63 for the wireless Mighty Mouse. I don’t know why. It lists for $69.
  • My refurbished nano came in a plain cardboard box – not the cool clear plastic box that new ones come in. Shane said that he thought they shipped the Air in the original black box. Same for the SuperDrive

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