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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.

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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Macbook Air? Srsly? Are you nuts? February 2, 2009

Posted by antimeme in Apple, Switcher.
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So why am I switching, and why in heaven’s name, did I choose the slow, skimpy, underpowered, overpriced Air? I’ll answer the second question first, and save the switcher discussion for another time.

To answer the questions posed in the title: Yes. Seriously. Maybe. In that order. Let me freely admit right here that I coveted the Air for its sexiness. From the moment I heard Yael Naïm singing New Soul while that svelte beauty (the Air) was sensuously sliding from her skimpy manilla folder, I knew she had to be mine. But I didn’t buy it because of that. I bought it because it was the least expensive Mac that met all of my needs. All of the things that it has been critisized for not having were things that I didn’t need. It was a perfect fit. 

It’s called a ‘laptop’ for a reason.
I don’t know whether I am ADD, OCD, ADHD, or just flighty, but I have the attention span of a gnat. The prospect of sitting at the same desk for eight hours a day is frankly  terrifying to me. I want to be able to wander out to the kitchen, the lanai, or the park and still be able to get something done. So carrying around a 17-inch Macbook Pro is completely out of the question. For me, a 13-inch screen is just about perfect. Big enough to see, even with my 50-year-old, been-wearing-glasses-since-I-was-five, eyes. Even the 15-inch Prois a little too big (and a LOT too expensive) for me. So my choices are easily limited to the regular Macbook and the Macbook Air. 

Choices
Just like buying a car, picking a computer is a very personal thing. You really have to decide what you are going to use the thing for BEFORE you can decide which one you want. I sat down and thought about what I wanted this new thing for. I thought about it for a LONG time. Probably ten minutes or more. (Remember what I said about gnats?). Here’s what I decided:

I need this laptop so I can be a code monkey. I need it so I can create lesson plans. I need the macbook so I can create presentations. I like to carry my laptop around, so I can work whenever the mood strikes me. I like to work at night. I have a pretty healthy iTunes library and I want to use the laptop to sync up my iPhone/iPod. I don’t want to play games or watch movies, and I don’t plan on taking any intercontinental flights. My budget is $1400 (USD), which seems to put me at ‘entry level’ for Apple, but well more than double what I spent on my last Windows laptop. 

So, I decided on a refurbished MacBook Air. With a wireless Mighty Mouse, SuperDrive and iWork ’09, the total cost is less than $1300. My second choice was the 2.4Ghz aluminum MacBook, because it also had an illuminated keyboard. But the refurb model was $1399 – and that was without the mouse and iWork. It’s funny how the one laptop I was lusting after turned out to be the best value for me as well. 🙂

Just what we need – another mac fanboy blog February 1, 2009

Posted by antimeme in Apple.
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Hi. I am Antimeme, and at this very moment, I am very impatiently awaiting the arrival of my brand new (refurbished) Macbook Air. Yes, I am a switcher. I am so giddy that I am practically shivering with antici…

…pation.

I have been constantly refreshing the FedEx tracking status page. It hasn’t changed from :

Departed FedEx location
SACRAMENTO, CA

…since 8:02 on Saturday morning. The estimated delivery is still showing Friday, but Shane, my Apple Customer Care rep, said I might get it as soon as tomorrow. I hope he’s right. I hope I hope I hope I hope.

I hope it gets here sooner rather than later. I also hope you’ll stick around with me as I transition from a fanboy wannabe to a real Apple guy. I would really appreciate any comments, suggestions and help in my quest to ust my new toy productivity tool to its fullest potential.

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