Thriller to the Killer: RIP Michael Jackson!

26 06 2009

In memory of a highly gifted musician and father of the “moon walk” … he inspired millions around the world.

Be at the Philippines: 1,500 Prisoners at Cebu …

… or in India: Bollywood’s unforgettable “GIRLY MAN!”

… or the Guinness Book of World Records event: William and Mary College students…

… and maybe even a surprise wedding.

We will forever miss you!

R.I.P. Michael Jackson 1958-2009

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Google Themes Your Gmail. Cloud Computing on the rise?

19 11 2008

While at work today sometime early afternoon, I happened to accidentally click on my GMAIL tab on Firefox to find new colors running across the screen. Was it the Websense filter doing it’s job by filtering out some color script? The blue was a deeper hue than I could recall and after going through the settings on the “settings” link, was not able to find a solution for the color change. The only thing referencing to “color” was the labels. Asked Kaci if her Gmail looked any different but she replied with a negative.

Got home and checked Gmail. Surely, this wasn’t the Google Gmail blue we’ve always known. Had to check again so clicked on “Settings” on the top right corner and booyah, there was a new tab “THEMES” listed at the end – not visible when I was at work. Was this merely a cosmetic upgrade?

It was a tough choice between “Planets” and “Ninja” but we now know who won.

After Microsoft launched a half-hearted theme option on their HOTMAIL/LIVE website 2 weeks ago, I guess this was just an inevitability especially since the iGoogle page had that feature as an option some years back. Also, the iGoogle page had been tweaked recently to get all the gadgets incorporated in a seamlessly convenient package. A positive step from Google but a giant leap towards the social acceptance of cloud computing.

When we say “Cloud Computing,” think of being able to use your computer anywhere you go without having to tug along your laptop. The concept thrives on the notion that any computer that can connect to the internet can connect to your “computer” which in actuality, exists on external servers. When you download an MP3 or movie or any file for the matter, or when you write up papers or make charts, they get stored on a server making them accessible from any internet ready machine at your disposal. The trick is to make the UI (User Interface) all effortless by blurring the lines between what is stored on your computer’s physical hard drive and what is stored on your “online” computer.

In the future, when you log on to your computer, the operating system you see and interact (Mac OS / Windows / etc) won’t be stored in your hard drive. Google Docs, Adobe’s Photoshop Express, and Microsoft’s Office Live Workspace are a few examples of commercial software backed by well known companies basing their ideas on online applications. The full featured desktop operating system is on it’s way out and even Microsoft’s making sure they don’t miss out on this trend (hint: Azure).

Simply put, Google’s Gmail themes is the tip of the iceberg of bigger things to come. We are going to be seeing another major technological paradigm shift in the next 5 years and whether we like it or not, it’s already taking place.





1 month and lovin the MacBook until now…

15 10 2008

As anticipated, on October 14th, Apple renewed their tri-pronged attack in the notebook market – a more powerful MacBook Air, a completely redesigned MacBook (the bread and butter of Apple computers), and the gigantor sized multimedia heavy MacBook Pro. By the way, did you know that new Apple products are always announced on Tuesdays? Did they pick the 2nd day of the work week simply because they got too lazy to prepare over the weekend and instead laid to waste a perfectly good “Moon-Day” for prep work? Either ways, one thing is for certain, the new MacBook kicks ass. Or do they?

Physically there are differences but the dimensions are very similar to my MacBook. 1.08 x 12.78 x 8.92 inches as opposed to the new sizes – 0.95 x 12.78 x 8.94 inches. Even the keyboard is identical aside from black color (and backlit feature for the $1,599 model). 4 main physical differences between the new MacBook and mine are:

  1. Firewire Port: It’s GONE! Mac fanboys are screaming “BLASPHEMY!” after Apple’s beloved IEEE 1394 port is now MIA from the MB line. But fear not MacNerds (or aspiring MacNerds) because the now elusive 1394 port exists on the more expensive MBP (MacBook Pro) if you can’t live without it. If you have truely set yourself in a loving monogamous relationship with Apple wares, you’ll find he money to upgrade to the MBP.
  2. Screen: Black bezel around the screen with gloss glass finish to the entire lid. I hate gloss finish on screens but it appears to be implemented well on the new ‘Books.
  3. Keyboard: It’s the same only black in color and if you want the keyboard lighting feature, it’s available on the $1,599 model.
  4. Material: The neat aluminum look to fit in with the rest of Apple’s computer line. I have to say however that this makes the entire Apple product line seem very … boring in a weird way. Previously the black and white MacBook models injected some life into their notebooks.

Additionally, you could add that the battery life bar is on the left-side of the notebook instead of the bottom but that’s nitpicking.

So in essence, the new MacBook IS a “mini” MacBook Pro. It packs a powerful punch with a dedicated GPU from NVIDIA’s 9400M line (the graphics card uses shared DDR3 RAM unlike the DDR2 stuff on my “white” MacBook) and it looks just like the new MBP, only better portability. I like it but the price hike and the lack of customization can be a factor – you only have 2 choices:

  1. $1,299 for the Intel Core2Duo 2.0GHz and 160GB HDD
  2. $1,599 for the Intel Core2Duo 2.4GHz and 250GB HDD w/ backlit keyboard

On the plus side, the weight has been reduced by 1 pound and both options use more efficient LED lighting for the screens. Also, the touchpad/trackpad no longer has the button at the end and supports 4-finger multi-touch (which is customizable) like the MBA (MacBook Air) and the MBP. It is made of glass and should be flashy enough to cause some to upgrade.

Finally, here’s a picture of my (now previous generation) MacBook. In my opinion, it can hold it’s own and has a very cleancut image without appearing to do a “me-too” look like the rest of the Apple line.

… I also thought I should share a picture of the new iPod Touch (2nd generation) placed alongside my workhorse communications device, Nokia E61. The one to the left is a protector screen sticker thing pasted on top of the iPod in it’s plastic glass case. Boy have I jumped over to the dark side.

If you’re pissed off about not getting Firewire support for the MacBooks, look at the MacBook Pro line. The 15″ is currently on sale and the 17-18″ should be joining soon next month.

My verdict: Wait until the new Mac OS X Snow Leopard’s out (sometime early next year sayz the rumors), then purchase the MacBook without having to pay $$$ for the upgrade. This should also allow ample time for Apple to smooth out the kinks on the new system and hopefully lower prices or even better hardware.





Macbook + Free iPod Touch v New Macbook (the real deal)

28 08 2008

Alright. This is the actual post about the Macbook. So Apple is having their annual “Back to School” special which ties anyone with a school email address to purchase Macbooks at a discount and receive a free iPod. The free iPod deal also encompasses the flashy iPod Touch (only the $299 8GB version) and is done through a worry free efficient rebate system from Apple.

This is also about the time for me to upgrade my laptop from an ungainly old P4 2.7GHz Windows system to a Core 2 Duo MacBook running the latest Mac OS X Leopard which would make sense because I need a new MP3 player, namely the fancy iPod Touch. After going to the Mac store with my old college email address (which still works 🙂 ) and configuring a nice setup for $1700, I realized something.

TO MAC OR NOT TO MAC!

The deal has it’s cons. It’s only valid till September 15th and there’s rumors that there’s going to be a completely redesigned MacBook this time around. There are other stories circulating the interwebs about an all-aluminum metal enclosure instead of the cheap white plastic (or black) highly popular MacBook. It’s also going to feature a multi-touch touchpad similar to the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. That and the iPod Touch will be redesigned and that all these changes are to be set in SEPTEMBER. It’s the 28th today and in a month, my new MacBook and iTouch will look outdated.

The downside to waiting for a new MacBook (if it comes true) is that I’m going to miss out on a free iPod deal and what if Apple jacks up the price? That and the wireless components on a metal encasing will suffer in terms of performance just like the MacBook Pro. After consulting with some Mac-philes today, I’ve decided to embrace the old saying “patience is virtue” and keeping my fingers crossed.

PS: The weirdest thing is the day I started looking for a MacBook and noticed the free iPod deal, it was posted on the popular consumer-advocacy website Consumerist.com.





The all new 2009 Mazda6 hiding at dealer lots?

17 06 2008

Despite not being released out for sale, you might be lucky enough to spot the newly redesigned 2009 Mazda6 plying on the roads out to nearby dealerships. Just last Friday, saw one of those beauties heading out west (NW) on MN-55 (aka Olson Memorial Hwy) in Minneapolis while on my way to work at like 8:15AM. The car took a left (west) on CR-6 possibly to take a left on Xenium Ln and get back on 394W where 2 Mazda dealerships lie close.

It just stood out very clear from the Camrys, Accords, and Passats with the swooping lines and the heavily accentuated wheel arcs jutting out in a muscular sporty way. I thought it was strange body-kit on an RX-8 from the rear until I got closer and realized it was a 4-door 6. The headlights were unmistakable and so was the overall design. In terms of looks alone, this is a must-have. Sorry Accord. You’re upscale but if the girlfriend thinks you’re “boring” everything I point you out enthusiastically, you have no chance.

Obviously, the plan is that the dealers get peeks at the new Mazda6’s in person to get the extra push to sell off all of their remaining rather plain looking current generation 6. No wonder you see Mazda putting them on the ads on tv every day.

Update: Pictures of the new and unreleased Mazda 6 out in the open, courtesy of Autoblog.





Super Nippon Battle! “WRX” vs “Evolution X”

18 04 2008

A few weeks ago while driving down right off-of Central Avenue by Columbia Heights and Fridley, I saw an angry velociraptor-like vehicle driving towards me on the other side of the 2-lane road. My heart skipped a beat, the pupils of my eyes dilated, and everything went into slow-mo. It was starting to get dark but the low-slung advancing menacing outline was quite unmistakably the brand new 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Fleeting seconds yawned into minutes and the world seemed to pause giving me the kind of experience space travelers would be going through in the distant future as they engaged into warp speed.

At that very moment, my heart beats were obnoxiously loud as they blended with the rumbling sounds from the 2008 Evolution’s dual-exhaust tail-pipes leaving behind only a haunting melody. A flash of red and the doppler effect acting upon the exhaust notes blew by as I sat in my Civic mesmerized by it all.

I said “OMG DID you SEE that? That was the brand new Mitsubishi Evolution X!!!” to which Kaci said “That green car up ahead?” motioning to some soulless home appliance of a Ford Taurus as it pulled into our lane and sped away.

A week prior to the sighting of this rare beast, I happened upon the previous incarnation of it on Larpenteur Rd with Nima and Kaci in tow. The Evolution IX was a beauty to behold but in terms of sheet-metal magic, the new Evolution (no longer called the Evolution X) was decades ahead of the car it was replacing.

Above is a picture of what the new $32,990 (plus a handsome $5,000 in additional junk any dealer would throw in to bump the price) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution looks like. It comes with an intercooler turbo mounted to feed the stampeding 291 horses hidden in the 2.0 liter MIVEC engine. All 4 wheels roll on the usual grippy S-AWC (Super-All Wheel Control) AWD (all-wheel drive) setup allowing you for greater control in slippery conditions than any FWD (front-wheel drive) or RWD (rear-wheel drive) automobile.

So why did I bring this up? Was driving out on 10th St today heading west when all of a sudden, I felt a sense of deja-vu. The space time continuum ripped to shreds as time stood still. My hands gripped the now seemingly unfamiliar steering wheel of the Civic as an ominous shadow loomed in at my one O’clock. A black 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX peered out from a back road looking to get onto the busy street. If you’re into cars, you are most likely to understand the immense rivalry between the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Subaru Impreza WRX (STi) fans.

Unfortunately for Subaru, ever since Toyota bought a majority stake in Fuji Heavy Industries, the parent company of Subaru, it was to be expected that the wild bluestars of World Rally Championship legends was finally going to be tamed. So when the 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX (the WRX STi is eye-candy but is quite a bit more expensive) was unveiled, there was a visual sigh of disappointment from millions of fans across the world. While the exterior design elements focused on function over form, the spongy suspension system on the AWD (All-Wheel Drive) didn’t make much sense. After all, this was an Impreza WRX, not a Subaru Legacy (the car you pick if you prefer comfort with AWD in a Subaru).

It wasn’t supposed to be comfortable. It wasn’t supposed to look like a doorstop. Most of all, it wasn’t supposed to be a Corolla. But for the brief 5 seconds that I got to see it, I could tell it was almost as tall as the ugly Dodge Caliber but the giant turbo scoop on the front brought things into perspective. It was a nice looking ride but then again, somewhat plain-jane like a MazdaSpeed3. The black paint definitely helped.

As I drove by admiring the car (What a hypocrite. I just dissed it right here in my blog in this very post), my eyes fixated themselves on a vertical black-sprayed metal thing behind the front grill and the oval logo. Not sure why but everything was in slow-motion and it felt like I was quickly panning the car to look for something that stood out other than the air-intake hood scoop. Controlling the movements of my eye balls felt like using a dusty old analog computer mouse that needed cleaning and you knew it because of the jerky cursor movements on the screen. I duly noted that this WAS indeed the brand new turbo-charged 224 hp $24,850 Impreza WRX and not the STi nor the Legacy nor anything else. And then, I drove past it.

An album of the British band, The Subways, was blaring out OH YEA OH YEA on my CD player and so I missed the chance to even hear the toned down whimpers of the Mitsubishi Evolution’s once great arch-nemesis. Oh Subaru. You will be loved … again someday.

A couple of videos on the Impreza WRX STi against the Lancer Evolution.





Nabaztag <3 bedtime childrens books

5 03 2008

As most senseless gadget geeks, I’ve always wanted the Nabaztag. Half of it’s functions borders on the useless but the cute little cuddly French wifi (802.xx) rabbit has a strong personality. Now there’s even more reason to love it and it comes in the form of being able to read books with RFID tags. That is if you get the rabbit with the “/tag” suffix.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags were originally used in WWII. Allied aircrafts had giant transistory units weighing hundreds of pounds and helped ground forces identify friendlies. Nowadays, credit cards, passports, proxy cards, etc carry them the RFID chips. In the case of the Nabaztag, it just reads books with those tags. Then there’s also the RFID stickers you can purchase to have your Nabaztag read news, weather, etc.

Oh and it’ll set you back by $165 + taxes. The first gen bunny goes for a very hot price of $95.

With Easter coming up, this is almost a “must-have” item for families with little ones.

Click here for the online store if you’re interested.

EDIT: Forgot to cite Engadget for the reporting.