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Showing posts from September, 2008

Adding a Logitech VX Nano to my wife's MacBook

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I really love the trackpad on my MacBook Pro and finally got to the point where I stopped using my Logitech Mx510 mouse with it. While the trackpad doesn't give me the control that a mouse does—especially when doing fine point adjustments in an image editor—I found myself quite comfortable just using the trackpad nearly all the time.

My wife however will be a different story. Her birthday is Monday and I've pretty much put the finishing touches on the MacBook I got her. I know however that she hates trackpads and since she's already going through enough of a change from Windows to Mac I figured I would get her a decent wireless mouse to help ease the transition.

I had a couple of people on this blog mention the Logitech VX Nano as a great little mouse and decided to give that a try. Though what I really wanted was a Bluetooth based solution I heard several reports of the Bluetooth mice having interference issues and as a result not being smooth all the time.

Wireless mice are…

Upgrade the memory in a MacBook in 3 minutes

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When I bought my wife's refurbished MacBook I got it with the smallest amount of RAM I could get, in this case 1GB. The reason is that Apple charges a lot more for memory than what you can buy from aftermarket sellers like Memory America or Other World Computing, both great resource for Mac memory and hard drives.

I purchased a 2GB memory upgrade from OWC for $41, which included the cost of shipping. For perspective if you bump the memory on a MacBook from Apple up from 1GB to 2GB there is a $100 charge for it as of this writing. The nice thing about the OWC site is that they will help you identify exactly which memory works for your model of MacBook. If you have another good resource for Mac memory please add it to the comments below.

While 1GB of memory is adequate to run OS X smoothly on a MacBook I think it's important to have as much memory as you are comfortable putting in your machine. Some applications— especially Firefox, my primary web browser—leak memory pretty badly …

Setting up a Time Capsule

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When I purchased a refurbished MacBook for my wife I also grabbed a refurbished 500GB Time Capsule from the Apple web site at the same time. At $249 it saved me $50 off the price of a new one and should provide a nice simple way to keep her MacBook backed up. Since I made the switch to Mac I've been raving about the simplicity of Time Machine and having a Time Capsule behind it sounded perfect.

Once again the device came in a non-descript cardboard box and included the Time Capsule, a package of instructions, a CD containing the AirPort Utility for configuring the Time Capsule and a power cord. I was disappointed to find that a standard ethernet patch cord was not included; fortunately I have a ton of them sitting around the house.

For those that haven't seen one a Time Capsule is a very sleek looking little device that includes not only a 500GB drive for backups through Time Machine but also has a USB port for adding printers, hard drives or even a USB hub to attach several dev…

Buying a refurbished MacBook for my wife

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Ah, the sound of a delivery truck in front of the house is always a welcome sound for a gear-head like me. I've gotten to the point where I can distinguish between UPS and FedEx by the squeal their brakes make. After a 1 day delay because I left the house for 15 minutes yesterday and that happened to be the window for the FedEx Ground guy, I had to wait an extra day to actually get my wife's new MacBook in hand.

As you can see from the picture below, Allison's refurbished MacBook came in a rather nondescript cardboard box, a far cry from the slick version you get when you buy new.



The machine inside however looked completely flawless. There were no marks and it appeared like a brand new machine, though it cost quite a bit less than a new one at $949. I pulled out the machine, fired it up and started to go through the registration process. It quickly saw and attached to my wireless network and after a few minutes I was sitting at the OS X desktop.

The unfortunate part was that…

Skype + LaunchBar = Ultimate Landline Style Phone

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Though I started playing with Skype a couple of months ago I did it primarily as an alternate video conferencing option to iChat. My family members in California running Windows never seemed to be able to get their video based AIM tools to work, yet once they installed Skype we were able to hook up quickly and easily. All was good and Skype became my occasional use tool for chatting with the family and a few Skype enabled friends.

The nice part about using Skype this way is that it's completely free. Skype doesn't allow you to call a land line for free though; for that you can pay as you go or set up a monthly account that gives you voicemail and unlimited calls (10K minutes) to various parts of the world. For access here in the US to any number in the US or Canada the cost is $2.95 / month. While you can't use it to place calls to 911, it's excellent for making a call wherever you happen to have a decent internet connection. That's what I set up - unlimited calls t…

Converting my wife from Windows to Mac is about to begin

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Last Saturday my wife and I went to our local Apple store with the intent of buying her a new MacBook and taking advantage of the educational offer they had; buy a qualifying Mac and get up to a $299 iPod free. My hope was that we would be able to get one of the new iPods but instead they told us we could only get either an older 8GB iPod Touch or a previous generation Nano. We decided to pass this up and simply wait a little longer since Allison's birthday isn't until the end of the month.

I thought about holding off until the next generation MacBooks are released (highly likely they will be next month) but came to the conclusion that it was better to simply get her a new machine right now instead of waiting. I want to have the machine in-house and set up for her so that she has it for her birthday.

I've had good luck with Apple Refurbished systems—my Mac Pro being one of them—so I decided to go that route. Since her needs are really minimal and she likes both of my daughte…

Some quick terminal keystroke shortcuts

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When I made the switch to Mac from Windows one of the things that I enjoyed the most was having access to a full featured console window. The Terminal in OSX is much more powerful than the Command shell in Windows out of the box. Not only do I have quick access to all of the great Unix commands for things like file viewing and management, I can quickly SSH into my remote Linux based servers very easily.

Most people are aware of the standard things you can do in a Terminal shell, much like you can do in a Windows Command prompt: hit the up arrow to cycle through previous commands and hit the Tab key to help complete the name of a directory/folder. There are a couple of other things that I've found that really help out:

Search Command History (Control-R)
Rather than hitting the Up Arrow 10 times to get to an older and lengthy command you can simply hit Control-R. This will give you a prompt that allows you to start typing in a command and the first match it finds from your command hist…

I just don't get the new MS commercials

The new commercials Microsoft is running are now out, disclosing the strategy Microsoft will be employing to make the argument to buy Microsoft based products now and in the near future. Apparently the strategy is to mildly amuse people and convince us that Microsoft has some great new stuff coming out, as evidenced by Bill's subtle gestures to Jerry at the end of each commercial.



As is typical of the Windows experience, there seems to be a lot going on in these commercials, in sharp contrast to the simple presentation of products and solutions in the Apple commercials.

I chatted with a good friend of mine online that's a Windows / Linux guy about this. His portion of the chat went like this:
Jeff: here's my take
Jeff: Mac commercials - plain, simple, easy to make sense of, not too many moving parts
Jeff: Win commercials - no f'n clue what they're doing, long, bloated, inscrutable, stuff happening everywhere and you can't relate it to anything that makes sense
Jeff: …

First impressions of iTunes 8

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Since iTunes was released today I figured I'd try it out and see how it worked. It was a relatively quick download and included a new QuickTime Player update as well. All told it was 54.8MB for my Mac Pro and 67.5MB for my MacBook Pro.

After a reboot iTunes was ready to roll. It asked me if I wanted to turn the Genius on. Doing so requires that your song information is sent to Apple in an anonymous form so that trends in music can be established and dynamic playlists created. Here's a link that tells you a little more about what Genius is actually doing behind the scenes.

The process of gathering this information, even on my monster of a Mac Pro with RAM and processors to spare, took a very, very long time. Granted, I have a rather large music collection, having put virtually every CD I had ever purchased into my collection, but wow. At least 3 hours, though it did work in the background and I could use iTunes to listen to my music while it was going on. Be prepared for a pretty…

The fuss over DRM

After years of delays Electronic Arts finally released Spore, a game that allows you to create your own life forms, starting at single cell entities and moving them up through intelligent life forms that can travel into space. The hype surrounding this game has been pretty big for years, mainly because of footage released a while back showing off the creature creator in very early stages.

The game appears to be selling well in it's initial run, though not without some strong controversy over the Digital Rights Management (DRM) used in the game. Just take a look at the reviews of the game on Amazon and you can see the incredible anger people have over the DRM that's included.

As a software developer myself I understand the reason a publisher wants to have a copy protection scheme in place. All too often software and copyrighted material is simply pirated without any regard to the people that created the product in the first place.

The Software Developer Perspective
Back in 1998 I r…

Does invisibleSHIELD really work?

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Though I received a screen protector with my dermaSHOT case it recently became a bit scratched up and got a couple of small nicks in it. I figured screen protectors are kind of disposable so I went out to my local BestBuy to see what they had in stock. I looked at a couple of different products but one jumped out at me: the ZAGG invisibleSHIELD. There was only a single shield in the little box, unlike a competitor that had 5 shields in it, but it came with a lifetime warranty. Reading through the information on the box it looked like it was worth a try.

The invisibleSHIELD claims to be made from the same material designed to protect the leading edge of helicopter blades. The material itself is very durable and reminds me of the invisible car masks applied to the front of cars. I figured that anything designed to withstand supersonic gravel pelting would probably be overkill on my little iPhone but that's fine.

Turns out the invisibleSHIELD is rather difficult to apply. First off, ma…

Living with the iPhone

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I've now had my 3G iPhone for just over a month. It has become my constant companion, even though my use of it as a phone is relatively light. I'm one of those people that has to have a phone handy, a habit I picked up from a decade of being deeply involved in the operation of an online service that had to be running 24x7.

The Good
I've found that nearly every day I'm using more and more features on the phone. I use the Notes feature like crazy now, jotting down shopping lists and thoughts. The e-mail capability on the iPhone is wonderful. I've adapted to the keyboard pretty well, though I'm using only my right index finger to do all the work. I wouldn't want to write a blog entry with it but quickly responding to e-mails and text messages are a piece of cake.

Browsing the web on an iPhone is fantastic, especially with a Wi-Fi connection. It will render virtually any Flash-less site and do it accurately. Some of the more complex sites can take a little while t…

Using Crossover Games to run Team Fortress 2 on a Mac

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One of my favorite pastimes when I was purely a Windows guy was playing games on my machine. In fact, my last Windows machine was designed from the ground up to be a gaming rig first and foremost—with gaming being a very demanding application type, everything else I needed to do was easy. About the time I got into Macs I was burnt out on the gaming scene, switching my down time to playing with my new Mac and working on this blog. Lately my favorite game from the Windows platform—Team Fortress 2—received a significant upgrade with some new game types, maps and features. I decided to check it out and see if it was as fun as I remembered.

TF2 is one of the most compelling multi-player, first person shooters I've ever played, right up there with Battlefield 2. The teamwork required to play it is pretty important to success, the player classes provide a wide range of styles for approaching the game and the graphics, music and effects are laugh out loud funny. The only problem? I couldn&…