Showing posts from July, 2008

iPhone 3G Second Look

There are a couple of things I've noticed about the iPhone 3G that I didn't mention in my original post that I would like to cover. First off, the iPhone comes with what look at first glance like standard earbuds. I simply ignored them since they looked like the little white earbuds that I received with every other iPod I own.

These earbuds are different though. They include a little microphone 5 inches below the right earbud, harking back to the wired headsets that were popular before Bluetooth headsets became all the rage. You can use the them to listen to your music and it produces very serviceable sound. The best part though is when you use it for a phone call; the sound is loud, crystal clear and comes into both ears, something I rarely experience with a phone since I tend to use single ear headsets or just press the handset up to my ear.

The other cool feature is that the little microphone is also a switch that can be used while playing music. A single click pauses the cur…

Goodbye Sprint, hello iPhone

Last week the proverbial last straw was placed on my back by Sprint. Though they have tried like crazy to retain my business over the years and I still had 4 phones under contract I had had enough. At our home on the Eastern Shore of Delaware our signal had been deteriorating for many months, to the point where you could only maintain a phone call for 15-20 seconds. People would call, you'd look at the phone and see two bars, start to talk and POOF! The call would fail mid-sentence. Fan-flippin-tastic. Five different phones, all got the same result.

I called Sprint to complain. The first person I spoke to told me that he would be happy to give me additional minutes on my account to compensate for the problem. Though a nice gesture, I declined because the phones were basically useless unless you liked to carry on Twitter like conversations with everyone. He suggested I speak to someone in the technical support group and transferred me over there.

After a lengthy hold a nice guy from …

The role of Apple marketing in my switch

Just a few weeks ago I was contacted by Beth Bulik at Advertising Age to talk about my transition from Windows to Mac. We had a long ranging discussion about the merits of switching to Mac. This got me to thinking, what role has Apple's marketing played in my switch? How heavily was I influenced by the regular drumbeat of TV ads, online ads, store displays, etc.?

Though I am an entrepreneur and business owner my marketing experience has been with smaller companies. I never had the budget to run large scale ad campaigns so my knowledge of their effectiveness is minimal at best. I can however view them as an educated layman. What follows are my impressions of the campaigns and marketing material I have been exposed to from Apple and the role it has played in my switch.

The TV Ads
I'll just come out and say that I really like the TV ads with Mac vs. PC. Ironically it's the PC character, brilliantly played by John Hodgman, that I enjoy the most. His angst, the utter frustration h…

Let your Mac turn you into a ventriloquist

There are times that computers can be the most amazing devices; capable of automating mundane tasks, enabling communication with colleagues, friends and family or simply opening access to the great storehouse of knowledge represented by the interwebs.

Then there are times you just want to have a little fun. I've mentioned before that Alex is one of the best synthetic voices I've ever heard, complete with pauses and breaths that make it sound much more natural than the cyborg sounding voices of the past. What I love about Alex is that you can read off sentences directly from the command line. Just open up Terminal and enter:

say "This is coming from Alex"

It may take a second but shortly you will hear Alex's voice emanating from your speakers. The ability to speak text directly from the command line is incredibly cool, but invaluable when you combine it with the ability to SSH into a machine.

SSH and Remote Access
SSH—which stands for Secure Shell—allows you to remotel…

iPod Touch - upgrading to 2.0

Since I got my iPod Touch last month it has quickly worked its way into my daily use. Though I still keep the iPod Nano around for running, the Touch is my preferred device for general entertainment and music listening, especially if I'm within reach of a WiFi point I can access. On Saturday I upgraded the software on it to 2.0 and downloaded a couple of the free applications from the iTunes store. I'll talk about the ones I like in a future post.

Overall I do like the new software. The ability to download applications directly from the App Store into my iPod through WiFi is fantastic. If I download an application and then later connect to iTunes it asks me if I also want to place the application into iTunes so that I have it there as well. It's very nicely implemented.

The only problem that I've encountered so far is that the WiFi connection is now a bit unstable initially. Whereas before I could pop into Mail or Safari every time and it simply worked, now very often my…

Not everyone can get an iPhone

My nephew Dan—a Computer Science major at the University of Washington—is interning with me this summer. He gets an education in what it's like to create a start-up from scratch and I get a really bright young resource for a low weekly rate. I've known Dan his entire life and he's an exceptional young man. He and I get along extremely well and I've been looking forward to helping him learn the ins and outs of starting up a software business.

There's just one catch; Dan is a hardcore Windows guy.

We're building our product in Ruby on Rails so this isn't really a big issue. He's using an HP laptop running Vista and I'm using my Mac Pro and MacBook Pro. Needless to say a lot of good natured ribbing goes on between the two of us as I continually tell him how easy things are on my Macs.

A New Hope
It was then that I found out that Dan really wanted to get an iPhone. Many of his friends at school have them and he was thoroughly impressed with them. Though I d…

Keyboard vs. Mouse

Late in the 20th Century Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott is at the PLEXICORP offices with Dr. McCoy and trying to explain how to construct "transparent aluminum" to Dr. Nichols, the plant manager.

Scotty is offered up the use of a Macintosh sitting on a nearby desk in order to demonstrate the design.Scotty speaks out in a loud voice: "Computer..."

The Mac Plus sits there. Bones grabs the mouse and hands it to Scotty. Scotty pulls the mouse up to his face and says "Hello computer?"

Dr. Nichols looks concerned and instructs Scotty to "just use the keyboard".

Scotty says "The keyboard... how quaint"

After stretching his fingers like a concert pianist Scotty begins typing furiously on the Mac's keyboard, quickly producing a detailed 3-D graphic to describe how to manufacture transparent aluminum.

As Scotty would tell you, using the keyboard is clearly better than using a mouse.

I mentioned before that one of the myths that I clung to before c…

My daughter got my MacBook

David's Note: A couple of weeks ago I bought myself a MacBook Pro, which enabled my youngest daughter to obtain my beloved MacBook for her 13th birthday. Julia has always been comfortable around computers and loves to explore what's possible with them. If my wife has a technical problem on her machine and I'm not around then Julia is second tier technical support. I have no idea where she gets that from.

One of my conditions in giving her the MacBook was that after she had it for a few days that she write up her impressions for me so that I could put them in my blog. She happily complied and provided the article below. The title and all of the text are hers, not mine, with just a couple of minor edits.

Once you get a Mac you can’t go back to Windows
By Julia Alison

I finally got my first MacBook. It is very nice looking, clean, neat, simple, just all around beautiful. The machine itself is very good, I like the feel of the keyboard, and the nice big trackpad, it is very conven…

LaunchBar as a Quicksilver replacement?

After my last blog post about Quicksilver I got a number of comments and e-mails from people indicating that Quicksilver was not going to be supported much longer and that the developer was working on other projects. I followed up on a lot of the links people provided to me and confirmed the following:

Nicholas Jitkoff (aka Alcor)—the original developer for Quicksilver—has released Quicksilver as an Open Source project. While Ankur Kothari has taken up development work on it and has made some significant improvements in performance and memory utilization, I now have some concerns about where Quicksilver is ultimately headed. This is in no small part due to Jitkoff indicating to LifeHacker that people should move to more stable and well supported alternatives like LaunchBar. As recently as June 2008 Jitkoff stated that he is not encouraging people to work on Quicksilver because he is planning on making it obsolete. He is working on a number of other projects and one that may well be a f…

Adding Quicksilver to your Mac

My friend Dylan—one of the guys that got me to consider a Mac in the first place—asked me the other day why I liked Quicksilver.

"I don't see what I can get from it that I don't get from Spotlight".

Given the relatively steep learning curve that Quicksilver can have I understand why Dylan feels that way; I experienced nearly the same thing myself when I first tried using QuickSilver. Because Quicksilver is so powerful and has so many options I think people are either too intimidated to use it or simply don't see how they will get that much value out of it.

I see a lot of similarities between using Quicksilver over other methods (Finder/Spotlight/Dock/etc) and switching to Mac from Windows. When I was considering the switch to Mac and asking Mac users about their machines they would tell me enlightening things like "it just works" or "it's so easy". Rarely did people give me hard, specific reasons that made me say "Oh wow, I gotta get me …

Adding a Mic to a Mac

The other day my buddy Jeff sent me a link to a video someone had put together that was one of the funniest things I had seen in a long, long time:

The Web Site is Down

Warning: you have to have been in an IT capacity to really appreciate the support desk style humor involved. What was amusing about this was that Jeff and I both thought man, Skype (which figures prominently in the video) looks pretty cool. Determined to check it out I decided that I needed to add a microphone to my Mac Pro in order to get this up and running properly.

When I switched from Windows to Mac I had a number of peripherals that were suddenly available. While most, like printers, USB hubs, memory card readers, speakers, etc. just plugged in and worked, my little standard boom microphone didn't. I plugged it into the back of my Mac Pro and it just didn't record sound.

The reason is the back of the Mac Pro has an audio-in port and I mistakenly assumed was a mic-in port. It's actually a line-in and requi…

Some cool Firefox add-ons

For the last week and a half I've been trying out Firefox as my primary web browser. Back when I was a Windows guy I switched to Firefox because of the innovations it introduced and most importantly the extensions available for it. Now that I'm exclusively a Mac / Linux guy I figured I would check out the Firefox add-on market and see what's available.

It's important to note that the web browser is more than just a device to view web pages. I personally do a lot of data entry through web pages, mainly with this blog. Since I use Blogger I end up composing these posts using the in-page editor. Obviously if you comment on this blog you will be using a simple text editing surface to enter your comments. This can extend further when you look at online products like those offered from Google, including e-mail, word processing and spreadsheets.

I also do a lot of my development work using a web browser. In some cases it is to simply see the results of the application I am work…