My new Apple MacBook and gripes about it

14 09 2008

So I did say screw it to patience and went ahead and bought a MacBook from the local Apple store. Quick basic specs on this device running Mac OS X Leopard (10.5.4) are:

13.3″ (widescreen 1280×800) TFT (gloss finish), 2.4GHz Core2Duo, 2GB (2 sticks – 1GB each – 667MHz DDR2), 3Mb L2 Cache, 160GB HDD (actual storage 149GB) @ 5,400 rpm, 144MB Intel GMA X3100, 800MHz FSB

Then I got an iPod Touch 8GB and a HP Photosmart C4480 color inkjet printer thrown in for free along with an Apple carry bag totalling for around $1200 w/ the notebook (after calculating mail-in rebates of $299 + $100 and 10% off using my old student ID card). Not a bad deal at all. Oh and I had to make a separate purchase of a VGA connector cable for an additional $19.

An interesting point to note is that the cooler-looking “black” MacBook had a 250GB HDD instead of the 160GB as an attempt to justify a $225 price premium over my top-of-the-line “white” MacBook. Pretty weak of Apple to stifle a consumer’s color choice but it’s either this or another ugly Windows Vista notebook. Steve Job’s Apple finally has the upper hand in the OS wars and they know it.

Despite getting a great deal with the MacBook which comes standard with bluetooth, a nice non-VGA webcam, built-in microphone, a line-in jack for an additional audio input, a firewire port, proprietary video-out port (mini-DVI), slot-loaded 8x dvd/cd burner and the regular stuff like 2 USB ports, ethernet, audio out, and power (it’s magnetic!), I had my gripes.

  1. There are no dedicated HOME/END/PGUP/PGDN/DEL keys

    – Cmd+Left Arrow / Cmd+Right Arrow = Home / End
    – Cmd+Up Arrow / Cmd+Down Arrow = Page Up / Page Down
    – Hitting Cmd+Left Arrow while blogging on Firefox 3 also serves as the BACK key. Delete does the same function making that redundant. Wiped out my post as I was typing.
    – Hitting Cmd+Right Arrow took me back to the typing page but everything was gone.
    – FN+delete = Delete
    – The delete key by itself is actually the beloved “backspace.”

  2. The touch pad isn’t depressed making it prone to accidental touching even with the “Ignore accidental trackpad input” checked in the mouse/trackpad settings.
  3. No simple way to turn off MacBook screen like in Windows XP.

    – You can switch the back light off by pushing the brightness setting all the way to the bottom but I’d like to have the power to the LCD turned off completely.
    – OR you can switch the primary screen to the HDTV, shut the lid of the MacBook, wait for it to go into stand-by, and then lift up the lid again.

  4. There is no physical right-click button on the MacBook even though Apple supports it. The only way to do it is through the touchpad.

    – One-Hand Method (preferred): Tap on the touchpad with 2 fingers spread apart.
    – Two-Hand Method: Another option is hold the “control” key and tap.

  5. Minor issue: No WinAmp. Will need to get acquainted with iTunes 8.

Up next is my post on why I like the new MacBook.





From fake watches to fake fireworks, China continues to live it’s stereotype!

11 08 2008

For decades now, people around the world have been assailed by pirated wares from the most clamped down mega society in the world. As if fake Louis Vuitton handbags and Rolexes weren’t enough, reports from the Telegraph reveal a portion of the unbelievable “LIVE” video footage of fireworks during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics were inserted digitally and done over months of editing.

GOOD: Audience at the stadium and viewers around the world were able to see all of the fireworks on the giant screens.

BAD: A majority of those fireworks were digitally created.

GOOD: Fireworks resembling the ones on the screens actually took place outside.

BAD: People were made to believe the video they were seeing were real and clustered in one spot.

GOOD: The organizers had “good” intentions – safeguard the helicopter video recording crew from getting hurt by fireworks since it would be near impossible to capture them all live from the air.

BAD: Only adds fuel to fire about China’s reputation especially when conducted from the government level and designed to deceive people.

The official reason does seem plausible but my question here is since when did China care about safety? The shoddy construction of the buildings in the earthquake ravaged Sichuan / Sale of 90% of weapons in conflict zones like Darfur / their extremely unsafe cars (check youtube for videos) / lead paint poison in millions of regular everyday products / dangerous chemicals in their toothpaste / etc.

The Chinese government doesn’t even care for their own – forcefully evicting ordinary Chinese citizens from their homes, the Tibet issue, religious freedom, press freedoms and including muffling reporting on the murder of a fellow Minnesotan and entrepreneur in Beijing, etc.

Then there was the thing about how China would change for the Olympics. They went out and even granted designated spots in 3 parks for protests given that groups registered ahead of time. Only problem is they don’t hand out spots and the people who tried to register ended up getting threatened by the police. Some even went missing. Not to forget the mishandling of some Japanese journalists. Not a way to show the world that are a global player.

The world is getting tired of berating the inhumane acts of the Chinese government in this modern era. It’s time for all Chinese to rise up against this regime and bring back pride to their culture.





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.





The Best OS for your old laptop? Pt 1 of 2

29 05 2008

Do you have a spare old computer lying around collecting dust?

OR

What do you do when you have an aged laptop or desktop and running Windows XP is a pain in the ass? A friend of mine wanted me to fix his sister’s old computer, a Dell Inspiron 2100 laptop running ……

Microsoft Windows XP SP2
Intel Pentium III 700Mhz
128MB RAM (1 slot, upgradeable to 256)
10GB HDD

A sticker on his diminutive laptop (now called a sub-notebook) carried the l’terrible Windows ME sticker in a corner galvanizing me to set forth on an adventure to seek out the best usable Operating System for that old POS. Since the end-user would require a familiar user-interface, my first bet was Windows XP. It was bad. Really bad and took a longer time to load and operate than expected.

Being the honorable ninja, I was began looking for “free” Operating Systems devoid of commercial value. So the next thing to XP, since Vista is definitely out of the equation, was TinyXP. You can google it up and download the ISO file via torrents for free. Install the ISO as I have detailed in this post and try setting it up on your computer. Remember that when you install it on a drive, you will have to format the drive so backup everything you have on DVDs or CDs or another hard drive.

So how’s TinyXP? It’s great for that laptop when I installed Rev08 and it’s the same as Windows XP for the regular user other than certain disabled features. Only took like 500MB so was pretty neat. The only problem was after installing all the different add-ons like Flash Player for YouTube and Office 2003 etc etc, the laptop became slow. There are options to remove printers and other features and even after combing out everything from the start-up and uninstalling McAfee Anti-Virus, it wasn’t as fun. The wallpaper and theme figures into the slowness of the operations of the computer as well. Oh and you can’t run updates to secure your machine on the internet.

After these problems with TinyXP, I said fuggit and formatted the drive with the much heralded Fluxbox variant of the already open-source and “free” Ubuntu known as Fluxbuntu. After formatting the drive to EXT3 and getting Flux on it, to my shock, it was a plain Linux screen where everything had to be done manually. Click on the terminal window to install applications (example: sudo apt-get install firefox) but to it’s credit, Fluxbuntu did have some nice looking preloaded themes to it.

To get an updated repository list of applications, you would have to open up the terminal window and type in sudo update-menus before you can do the sudo apt-get install [name of application]. It did not recognize my Western Digital external hard drive and had trouble loading my flash drives. Apparently you have to manually mount them to the computer through commands on the terminal. Pfffft. Gave it another 24 hours and blah. Gave up on it. It’s light-weight and great for an old workstation but simply not user-friendly enough for the average person like my friend’s sister.

And so our ninja trod on towards his next project, KDE. I remembered having problems installing Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon – Gnome) and knew that similar issues could arise during installation of Kubuntu (KDE Ubuntu) so ran the lazy man’s way of installing Kubuntu over Flux.

[To Be Continued…]





Can Nokia’s N-Gage engage Google’s Android?

10 05 2008

What does Nokia’s N-Gage have anything to do with Google’s upcoming mobile operating system, Android? Well they both have been hyped a lot and are both supported by large global technology leaders. The biggest similarity is that they are both vying for that exclusive spot in your pocket and unless you happen to be one of those who carry two phones, there is room for only one even if you have multiple pockets.

Late last year, Nokia unveiled their newly rebranded “N-Gage” system for online mobile gaming and “Arena” community support. A lot of hype was tossed about and around on the various gaming blog sites like Joystiq.com and IGN.com to name a few. In theory, the idea seemed like a perfect strategy with a dedicated platform of gaming phones of all shapes and sizes on the so-so popular Symbian-based S60 OS. To back that up, a report in 2006 showed that roughly 80 million converged-devices (smart phones) were sold that year and a considerable chunk of that (67%) ran on the Symbian operating system on their phones compared to WindowsMobile (14%), RIM (Blackberry 7%), Linux (6%), and Palm (5%).

Types of Symbian Operating System

Those numbers look good until you realize that there are many variants of the Symbian operating system based on the type of user interface (UI) designed for the phones. Nokia’s UI are tagged with “Series” followed by a two-digit integer as a suffix. Among the 3 types of Nokia smartphone interfaces (note: the S40 is not a smartphone), the S60 is the more popular choice in relation to the decadent S80 and S90. Japan’s fancy schmancy cool phones run on NTT DoCoMo’s proprietary UI tagged as MOAP/FOMA “Mobile Orientated Applications Platform” and Sony Ericsson has their UIQ system. There are probably more but these are the major global players in the Symbian family.

Global Marketshare of Symbian OS

If we assume that the Nokia Series (60, 80, 90), UIQ, and MOAP are all equally represented in the 67% market share, that would mean that each of them have 22.33% of the market. Do note that this here is simply a false assumption because it is not taking into consideration the proliferation of Nokia handsets in this industry with respect to their other Symbian counterparts. However, due to time limitations and lack of sources, I have decided to go with a 50-50 split.

So for Nokia out of 22.33%, let us make another assumption using a 95% S60 dominance over S80 or S90 (since those 2 are nearly dead) and this leaves S60 with a still strong 21.21% overall global market share.

Within the S60, we have yet another subdivision with THREE generations aptly named – S60, S60 2nd Edition, S60 3rd Edition. Let us make yet another assumption that all 3 generations are equally distributed on this 21.21% plane which provides each edition of the S60 with a paltry 7.07% globally. The “3rd Edition” is the current/newest version out since late 2006.

The reason why I broke down the market share for S60 into three is because applications designed for either one of those editions are not compatible with the other. So basically, they can be considered as three separate mobile operating systems due to the lack of interoperability between them in terms of hardware or software.

Now you see that out of this 7.07%, the S60 3rd Edition can be broken down into (again) three sub-categories … the cheaper but functional devices (these are numbered for Nokia like the 6120 or 3rd party manufacturers like Samsung’s SGH-i550), the E-series (Nokia’s Enterprise/Business devices), and the top of the line multimedia N-Series. Applications between these devices are generally compatible depending on the application’s design (widescreen 320×240 or portrait 240×320) structure and use of certain hardware requirements like a GPS, accelerometer, cameras (front and rear), 3D GPU (Graphical Processing Unit – aka 3D Gfx card), etc.

The N-Gage Focus

Even with those tiny numbers, Nokia is only willing to put their “N-Gage” system on ONE out of the 3 sub-categories – the expensive line of N-Series handsets. What they mean to say is that the N-Gage will only be compatible on 3.36% of the global smart-phone industry. This is bad news in my opinion because it highlights the frailty of a system for which a lot of time, effort, and money were invested.

Like the new platform, the original N-Gage was also mutually exclusive (N-Gage and N-Gage QD) but on a smaller scale (N-Gage and N-Gage QD). The “unbreakable” games were cracked shortly after launch to run on all S60 (1st edition) handsets which made people realize that the N-Gage games were simply S60 games but of a higher quality and standard. The N-Gage games also offered added value like Bluetooth or online multiplayer gaming on their cell phones against people around all parts of the world. Unfortunately for Nokia, that project was doomed to fail due to the exclusivity of the product to just 2 phones and an already aged operating system as a backbone.

And if you thought the Espoo Finland-based giant learned from their mistakes, think again. They’re doing the same thing with the new N-Gage, only marketing it to their N-Series lineup and their decision to go Han Solo will once again undermine their chances of a global success in my opinion.

N-Gage Service or Nokia Phones?

Nokia is at a T-intersection and is using the “N-Gage Gaming” as an additional feature to market their N-series phones instead of the other way round. What we can take from that is the “N-Gage” is still NOT a focus for Nokia. They are still in the business of selling their “Nokia” branded phones which is fine by me but that focused-strategy is dragging the N-Gage into the same hole it was looking to crawl out from. They are not willing to create a separate enterprise (aka Global N-Gage System), rather they are preferring to go with a lackluster one-console approach in the same vein as the failed original N-Gage.

Recommendations for the N-Gage

With all the rumors nowadays of the Sony Playstation Phone and the Nintendo Phone, the best way to negate those possibilities is to work with your rivals. A cross-platform N-Gage Arena experience (hint: UIQ, S60, MOAP) would help the “N-Gage” division thanks to a much global exposure from the synergies created by working with rivals like Sony.

The N-Gage is a software like the S60 and should be allowed to perform on multiple platforms. By sharing their proprietary online gaming system on all Symbian phones, the biggest gaming leaders like Nintendo and Sony could integrate the system into their phone OS like the MOAP and UIQ thus providing legitimacy to the N-Gage application. The combined experience of Nokia, Sony, and Nintendo in the communications and gaming industry would only benefit Nokia’s N-Gage.

So does Nokia want the N-Gage to fare better this time around? We would hope yes because of all the money poured into the program but it seems like they’re doing a half-assed job of it.

If they are so worried about a cross platform N-Gage system stealing sales of their phones to other handset makers like SonyEricsson (why buy a Nokia to play games online if you can do the same on a SonyEricsson), my recommendation for them is to work on promoting their core competencies – excellent hardware support, sturdy product build and reliability, up-to-date fashion design cues, and quality “multimedia” handsets. Those are the reasons people bought Nokias and still continue to do so.

They don’t have to go all out with ALL SYMBIAN interoperability for the N-Gage for now but I highly recommend pushing it out to all S60 3rd Edition devices. The difference between the regular S60, an E-series, and the N-series should be:

1. The regular models will be wimpy in hardware specs (smaller screens, no GPS, no 3D cards, etc) but cheaper.

2. The E-series will be similar to the N-series but will lack prepackaged multimedia applications. Less power could be a way to make this cheaper.

3. The N-series will feature a slew of free prepackaged apps and additional hardware pluses like 3D cards and GPS.

I’m not saying the Finnish masters haven’t done their research but from a strictly consumer’s point of view, those are my opinions.

Can Nokia’s N-Gage engage Google’s Android?

From what we know above, the answer is a resounding NO. There is simply no incentive to use a Nokia phone if the best features are reserved for the most expensive devices. For a product that requires mass appeal, the N-Gage’s limited product-line (software/hardware) hinders growth in the market while Google’s mobile operating system will feature on different sets of hardware (phone) manufacturers. Android also has this cooler looking interface and I guess we’ll have to wait and see but a storm is coming…