30 November 2008

I’m Finally Digital

TV, that is… I don’t watch much TV, but for at least two years I’ve been eying the impending switch to digital broadcast. I don’t feel like paying $35/month for cable, so it seemed like upgrading my TV was the way to go (rather than paying for a converter — even with the coupon). We’re using a 19 inch model we inherited (the 19 inch model I bought in 1980 is essentially a spare). So it seemed like I could kill two birds with one stone — upgrade to HDTV, and switch to digital.

But two years ago this would have cost about $1200 for a 32 inch model. This year, I was able to find a Black Friday special model for $499: a Samsung LN32A300. Everyone had them for the same price, so I want to a local store (Magnolia Audio/Video).

I was really amazed at how much better the picture is. Hooking up the same rabbit ear antenna we used before, the picture is now totally sharp, where most of the channels were rather fuzzy before. Even the VCR looks a lot better (no doubt because it’s now connected via video instead of RF on channel 2).

Elise tried getting a new antenna with an amplifier, but this actually made things worse (one channel would cut off with the amplifier on), so she returned it.

The remote seems reasonably well designed (though it doesn’t light up), and the menu system is quite usable.

I haven’t tried hooking up a computer yet (need to track down a reasonably priced DVI/HDMI cable), but I’m sure I will at some point.

So we now have more channels (many of the stations apparently have a second or even third signal, though I’m not entirely sure what they use it for), about twice the screen size (by area), and no longer have to futz with the antenna to get an OK picture. I’m surprised at how pleased I am.

21 November 2008

Pandora on iPhone

Due to an upgrade glitch, I didn’t have any music on my iPhone for the half hour bus ride home. So I decided to use Pandora Radio.

Even though I had only an EDGE connection, the experience was fine. The app did take a while to start up and play the first song, but then I just listened to music. Some of which I already own, some that I think was new to me. But all worth listening to, and all free. And I didn’t hear any “buffering” style pauses — just continuous music. (There were apparently ads, but only on screen.)

Pandora Radio is not built in like the iPod application, so you can’t do anything else while it’s running, but I didn’t need to.

It’s worth getting this, and spending a little time customizing it so it can recommend music (I had originally done this a Macintosh using their online service — your account is available from any device).

04 November 2008

I Voted For President!

For the first time in my life, I have voted for a president! (I’ve always voted, but my candidate had never won.)

31 October 2008

Life Without Walls

Microsoft’s new ad campaign is “Windows: Life Without Walls.”

But if we don’t have walls, why do we need windows?

22 October 2008

Voting Machine Problems Redux

Hey, sometimes the errors do benefit Democrats!

In some ways, the more failures the better, so we can get rid of some of the bad technology being used. Though of course votes being miscounted in any direction is bad, and it’s not clear that we’d get something more resistant to fraud than what’s currently out there.

20 October 2008

Fund Raising Tricks

According to the New York Times, “Mr. McCain is now taking public financing for the general election, but he has continued to raise money through his joint fund-raising committees, something that frustrates campaign finance watchdogs, because they argue that a goal of public financing is to get candidates out of the private money-raising business.”

I just got a request from McCain-Palin Victory 2008, which is apparently a joint fund-raising committee; they’re asking for up to $5000 (which is well above the normal $2300 limit). So you don’t have to take the word of the NYT.

Say what you want about money and elections (and I tend to go with the Freakonomics idea that contributions reflect appeal rather than greatly influencing elections — certainly the fact that Obama is getting many small donations is significant), you can’t both condemn your opponent for not using the funding-limited public financing, and then also find a loophole to raise your own money. As far as I’m concerned, a letter with McCain’s signature asking for money is no different from a letter from Obama asking for money. The fact that it goes though the shell committee of McCain-Palin Victory 2008 instead of directly to Obama For America is a meaningless distinction. It’s a political donation to elect a specific candidate.

(Obama is also using joint fund-raising committees, but at least isn’t hypocritical about it.)

Voting Machine Problems

Why do problems like this never seem to benefit Democrats?

21 September 2008

Things We Think About Games

This thin book is a mix of thoughts not only about designing games (“If a rule is optional, give it a name”), but playing them (“Take your turn, already”). Thin in word count (some pages consist only of a single sentence) but dense in information. I don’t agree with everything, but it often made me think.

I definitely recommend Things We Think About Games for any designer (of either computer or physical games).

09 September 2008

iTunes Genius

New in iTunes 8.0 is a “Genius” feature that’s supposed to show music related to a particular track.

Of course, anything called “Genius” had better be smart. And this isn’t. One search turned up songs I can’t buy. A number of cover versions don’t list the original (e.g. Gnarls Barkley’s version of “Gone Daddy Gone” doesn’t link you to the original by Violent Femmes).

However, I really like this status message that I got during the initial process.

Overall, Genius seems to do a better job than the “you may also like” feature that used to be on the iTunes store (in my case, I’m sure that’s because it knows about all the music I bought from eMusic). I might even buy some music from its recommendations!

Microsoft Does Learn

Apparently the new Zune will finally be able to tell time: “Additional updates to the software will add a clock.” You’d think this critical feature would have been in earlier Zunes, but maybe nobody at Microsoft waits for a bus while listening to music. I must have pulled out my iPod several times a week to see how late the bus was.

I haven’t kept track, but I think this may actually be the third release, traditionally when Microsoft finally gets it.

26 August 2008

Rest Stop WiFi

What’s with the free WiFi on Interstate 90 in Washington? I must have stopped at 4 different rest stops over the last couple days. Each had a sign saying there would be WiFi. None of them actually had any. (I saw a guy get off his motorcycle and open a laptop; I figure he was looking too.)

As I recall, the situation was the same on I-5 back in December.

23 August 2008

MacBook Air Update

Looks like Apple’s MacBook Air Update does solve the issue where a core would drop out, particularly during Time Machine backups. (This didn’t happen when the machine was new, so I suspect it’s partly heat-related — its onset coincided with warmer weather.)

08 August 2008

Security Update Broke FogBugz

[Warning: highly technical post, partly so I can find this again if need be.]

I just installed the latest security update (2008-005) on Mac OS X 10.5, and while Fogbugz is accessible, it doesn’t seem like the maintenance service is running. (I can manually run the heartbeat to process e-mail.)

% sudo ./fogbugzmaintd start
FogBugz Maintenance Service started
% ps -A | grep fog
  124 ??         1:06.48 mono /Library/WebServer/fogbugz/Accessories/SearchTool.exe -server /Library/WebServer/fogbugz/Accessories/search.socket
 8546 ttys001    0:00.00 grep fog
% ps -A | grep php
 8549 ttys001    0:00.00 grep php

I guess it's likely that there’s a different PHP or something...

% which php
% php --version
PHP 5.2.6 (cli) (built: Jul 15 2008 12:18:21) 
Copyright (c) 1997-2008 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v2.2.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2008 Zend Technologies

I changed a line in fogbugzmaintd to read

    (cd ${PREFIX}/Accessories; nohup /opt/local/bin/php -d max_execution_time=0 -d allow_call_time_pass_reference=Yes ./fogbugzmaintd.php >/dev/null &)

and it seems fine.

06 August 2008

David Dunham in History

Apparently I have a famous namesake, whom Dunham Place in Brooklyn is named for. (Thanks to Ian Lynch Smith for the pointer.)

05 August 2008

King of Dragon Pass Walkthrough

What a blast from the past! Kalle is posting a walkthrough of King of Dragon Pass in the Quarter To Three Forums. Frankly, I think we probably should have done something like this instead of the marketing we did try. I think it really brings the game alive.

It’s worth mentioning that the game is still available from A Sharp.

I notice that at least one of the team has commented in the thread. As he pointed out, most of the team members are illustrated in the game; it was like going through a photo album seeing their pictures again. (And cool to see the one of the illustrations I have hanging on my wall.)

Thanks Kalle! And thanks to those who’ve ordered the game because of this. I’m really happy that new players can discover it.

04 August 2008

Macally AIR2NET (USB Ethernet adapter)

I decided I wanted to get another USB Ethernet adapter for my MacBook Air, since backup (over 802.11n) sometimes takes way too long. Amazon listed Apple’s adapter, but also the Macally AIR2NET, which I decided to take a chance and order.

So far so good. I just plugged it in. The MacBook Air recognized it, and considered it separate from my Apple adapter (which makes sense, as they should each have a unique MAC address). I then noticed that I was supposed to install a driver. Since the device was working, I decided not to. (I tried contacting Macally to find out what the driver actually did, and while they gave a prompt answer, it was confusing.) My guess is that you do need the driver if you’re running an earlier version of Mac OS X (or presumably Windows), and that the driver is still compatible with 10.5.

One reason to have a USB Ethernet adapter is for travel, when you can’t guarantee finding a WiFi signal. (Or for places like my office, where WiFi is not the internal network I need to access.) Unfortunately, the AIR2NET is a lot bigger than the Apple adapter. Fortunately, I have my choice of which to travel with.

On the other hand, it seems to run a little cooler than the Apple adapter. And it has flashing lights, which might be useful if there’s a problem.

Both devices only support 100 megabit Ethernet, and it’s not yet clear that it will make a difference in backup speed. (My other machines do backup a lot faster via Ethernet, but I’m not sure where the real delay lies.) But the device does seem to work as advertised

29 July 2008

Not that Cuil

There’s been a bit of buzz of late over the new search engine cuil. I decided to put it to the obvious test — search for myself.

Google finds my personal site as the #1 hit, which seems right to me. Cuil found the A Sharp site — that’s my company, so it’s not a bad #1. And it chose the company logo to illustrate the search result. But it used the same company logo to illustrate the story below, about some football player.

There was also a mailing list message from me on the first results page. This was illustrated with a picture of two adult males. One of them might share my name, but has nothing to do with the web site that archived the mailing list.

For fun, I tried searching for “google.” The picture next to the #1 result (which was at least www.google.com) was a broken link…

So I think they have a ways to go on relevance, and need to make sure pictures are actually connected to the search result.

19 July 2008

Clang Static Code Analysis Rocks

Wow. I’d seen Quentin Carnicelli’s note about the Clang static analyzer, but my first attempt to use it was on a C++/Objective-C++ project, and all it did was find potential problems in open source libraries. Turns out it doesn’t really have a C++ parser yet.

Today I tried it on an Objective-C project, Opal. Pay dirt! It found a number of memory leaks (some in code that’s not released yet, but some in code that I didn’t exercise while looking for leaks, such as printing with headers). One of the reported leaks was actually a false positive, but the others were valid problems.

And dead store found some small optimizations (why calculate something you never use?).

The tool is trivial to use (just invoke it from the command line, it figures out your Xcode project from there), and really does find code flaws. Oh, and it’s free. I’m looking forward to being able to use with C++ code.

(It’s available pre-built for Mac OS X developers. Others will have to build it from source.) If you’re using C or Objective-C, you should use it.


The phone company sent a mailing which included a list of common SMS abbreviations. While I sometimes feel I should use them to be an authentic texter, with the iPhone’s automatic spelling correction I find it’s usually almost as fast and more accurate to type “see you” rather than “c u.”

(Besides, it gets my money’s worth from SMS by sending more data…)

04 July 2008

iPhone App Store

According to Anita Hamilton in Time, Apple’s upcoming App Store will be “anything but a bargain. … Popcap (sic) Games … plans to charge $9.99 for its popular puzzle game Bejeweled.”

Um, but Bejewelled regularly sells for $14.95. (Bejeweled 2 is $19.99.) This seems entirely reasonable pricing to me: it’s cheaper to buy the iPhone version.

The one main difference, not touched upon in the article, is that the download (Windows or Mac) version is available as a free trial — you get an hour to try it out before being asked to pay. The App Store doesn’t seem to have any way to do this. Developers have informally talked about developing two versions, one limited but free, and the full version for sale, but this would give a much worse user experience than you get downloading a trial game for your PC. Hopefully Apple can resolve this by the time the AppStore launches next week.

28 June 2008

A Better iPhone

I don’t think I’ll be buying a new iPhone in July, largely due to what we know of AT&T’s rate plans (the reasonable monthly fee for the original iPhone factored heavily into my decision to buy one on launch day).

But, I will still have a better iPhone. That’s the cool — and so far as I know, unique* — thing about it. It actually gets better over time, as Apple improves the software.

* I did once have a phone that ran Palm OS; it’s possible that I upgraded that at one point but I can’t recall. Certainly it wasn’t as significant an upgrade as iPhone OS 2.0.

24 June 2008

How Can iSuppli Know?

Kind of amazing to see cost estimates for the 3G iPhone when it’s still 2 1/2 weeks away from release… Wouldn’t it make more sense to actually look inside a shipping unit before spouting off about what it’s made from?

21 May 2008

View of Delft

We recently visited Den Haag (The Hague) to see Jan Vermeer’s “View of Delft.” Reproductions just don’t do it justice. The actual painting had a big emotional impact. I’m not entirely sure why — it’s just a landscape, a city I’d never been to. Probably some of it’s just the sheer technical brilliance — the colors and texture of the painting were so unexpected based on reproductions I’d seen.

I think this is probably one of my top two favorites by Vermeer (“The Kitchen Maid” is the other; it also sparkles in real life but not in reproductions).

By contrast, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” seems to reproduce pretty well — the reproductions look better than “View of Delft,” but the actual painting doesn’t add as much.

29 March 2008

Cable Matters

Earlier I wondered why my G5 wasn’t connecting to my home network at 1000BASE-T speeds. Yesterday I bought some Cat-6 Ethernet cables. I replaced the cable from the computer to the wall (I had cable pulled when I moved into my house, and plugs installed in several rooms), and everything started working!

Which was a good thing, as I did the wiring of my patch panel myself, and I’m a little suspicious of it at times (once in a while a connection goes out and I have to wiggle things a bit).

I replaced another cable, and now I can get gigabit Ethernet speeds to my MacBook Pro as well.

On the other hand, I don’t think any of the short patch cables are Cat-6, and I also have a PowerBook that connects just fine with a Cat-5 cable to the wall.

25 March 2008

Apostrophe double header

Here’s an entry that works for Apostrophe Atrophy (the one in the logo should be curved) and also gets “its” wrong (but with a curved apostrophe)! (“It’s” is a contraction for “it is,” not the possessive of “it.”)

By the way, we’re not talking “smart apostrophes,” since “smart quotes” refers to a process, not the result.

24 March 2008

Even More Backing Up Metrics

I added another machine to my Time Capsule. It took 14:20 to back up 48.4 GB, ~3.4 GB/hour — and this is the one machine in the house that is connecting at 1000BASE-T. This is the slowest backup yet. Admittedly other machines were backing up during part of this time, but no large amounts.

I think there are occasional performance issues, and have filed bug 5801685 with Apple.

23 March 2008

Bank Error In Your Favor

I tend to be paranoid about getting my checking account to balance every month. When it didn’t, I had to go back and make sure each transaction matched (in case I’d written it wrong, which once in a while occurs).

This time, there was a check for $383 that had gone through as $363. Did I write it correctly in my check register? My bank, Washington Mutual, no longer sends back checks. But they do put a scan online. Sure enough, the digitized check clearly read $383. After a slight debate, I clicked on the link next to the check to report an error.

The bank wrote back, saying they would investigate my claim that the check was really for $38.

I replied, reminding them that it should have been $383.

Their reply was that they couldn’t complete the investigation. Huh? All they had to do was click the link that shows a picture of the check.

At this point, I give up. Bank error in my favor, just like in Monopoly.

13 March 2008

Another dumb idea from the music business

So if the music industry makes us pay for pirated music, isn’t that telling us we should pirate? After all, if I’m being forced to pay $5/month for something I am not doing, my natural reaction is to stick it to them and stop buying music, but instead just go for free downloads.

07 March 2008

More Backing Up Metrics

I added a desktop machine to my Time Capsule tonight: a G5 connected over Ethernet (100BASE-T). Backup of about 12 GB took just over 2 hours. That is indeed slightly slower than I got over 802.11n.

(I need to figure out why my wiring isn’t working at 1000BASE-T speeds…)

05 March 2008

Time Machine

Great article on Time Machine by Sven-S. Porst. Buried the middle is how to figure out which files have changed (I haven’t had the opportunity to try this, but I’ve been dying to figure it out because it seems like Time Machine backs up more than my Retrospect configuration. I’m sure I’ll have a followup post when I have time to investigate.)

04 March 2008

Backing Up

The initial backup of my MacBook Air (about 38 GB) took about 5 hours, via AirPort (802.11n), to a Time Capsule.

Well, that’s not strictly true. It took an extra day, because I’d accidentally reset the Time Capsule in the middle of backing up. Apple warned that such an interruption would take a long time for Time Machine to validate the backup the next time. I let this run overnight and it hadn’t completed by morning. So I reformatted the Time Capsule’s hard disk.

Tonight I started a brand new backup, and that’s what took 5 hours. When I add other machines, I’ll make sure to have them wired, and try real hard not to interrupt!

I think this may actually have been the fastest way to back up the MacBook Air — it reports a wireless rate of 130 (I assume that's Mbit/s, which is faster than using the USB Ethernet connector, which maxes out at 100BASE-T).

21 February 2008

My main machine

David Morgenstern noticed my recent posts, and speculated that the MacBook Air was my primary computer. He’s right.

The machine isn’t perfect (I keep seeing reflections in the glossy screen, and I miss the peace of mind the Kensington security slot gave me with my MacBook Pro), but it does all the things a computer needs to do for most people.

And yes, it could be faster. But it doesn’t lag in normal operations, and I don’t need to compile an entire application that often. The speed penalty is really minimal compared to an existing machine (if I were weighing an MBA against other current machines, the difference would be a little more pronounced).

And even though it’s not the speediest Mac you can buy, it still beats the dual G5 tower in compiling the larger code base:
Power Mac G5: 3:31.4
MacBook Air: 2:53.1
I do want to correct one thing David wrote: “He’s … a game player.” Yes, but I wouldn’t recommend a MacBook Air (or a MacBook for that matter) for any computer game that makes heavy use of 3D graphics. The Intel integrated video (GMA X3100) is simply not up to the 2 year old Radeon X800XT that’s in my MacBook Pro. However, the MBP should do just fine for casual games (like the ones we create at GameHouse). And I’d guess the lower-powered chip is, well, lower-powered: it uses less battery and thus generates less heat.

As I mentioned earlier, I did take a few steps to make sure the MBA would work as a sole machine. I got the external DVD/CD drive so I can burn CDs if necessary. I put my music on an external drive (it actually would fit on the internal drive, but things would get way too tight). I already had an external portrait display to use as a second screen.

I still marvel when I pack up the MacBook Air — it’s so much lighter than my MacBook Pro. And the slightly smaller size makes it easier to use on the bus (and presumably on an airplane, but I don’t fly every day). And I appreciate the times it’s quieter (not always, as the fans kick in when hitting the disk a lot, like a large Time Machine backup).

I think I’ll be tempted to replace the machine in a year, when solid state disks are more affordable, but I suspect I’ll be replacing it with a similar machine. I’m a convert.

18 February 2008

MacBook Air: More Timing

I tried building a larger Xcode project: a small game with 6 sub-projects. Most of this is C++, with some in C and some Objective-C++. The timings:

MacBook Pro: 2:05.4
MacBook Air: 2:53.1

This is probably a good comparison (and likely one where a faster disk would make a difference). The MBP takes about 72% as long, or the MBA takes 38% longer. I suspect I can live with this — it’s not like I rebuild all files daily.

And it’s still nothing like the Xbench 1.3 difference (the MBP weighs in at 1.78 times as fast)…

17 February 2008

MacBook Air: First Impressions

Well, the obvious first impression is “My God, this is thin and light!” But I’ve been using my new laptop for a little while now, and have something a little more substantive. It’ll probably take a couple weeks of use to really see how it differs from my MacBook Pro, a 2.16 GHz model that’s about two years old.

Photos don’t really do the machine justice. Yes it’s thin, but it really has a different feel. Picking it up and carrying it around is more like holding a notebook than holding a hardcover book (the MacBook Pro).

My goal is to completely replace the old laptop. Surprisingly, migration didn’t go smoothly. The first attempt to use the Migration Assistant worked fine — except that resource forks didn’t transfer, which rendered fonts, aliases, and a number of applications useless (rdar://5745037). I tried Carbon Copy Cloner, but had problems there too (perhaps because I was cloning a version of Mac OS X that didn’t have everything needed for a MacBook Air, despite being 10.5.2). And I had problems getting Time Machine to work. Finally I reinstalled the MBA’s special 10.5.1, applied the updates, and then migrated my personal account. Some folders didn’t have their custom icons, but I can fix those via the command line (after installing the developer tools):

% SetFile -a C DoW/

% SetFile -a V DoW/Icon^M

I don’t have any problems adapting to the new keyboard and larger trackpad, other than missing the enter key (which Apple replaced with a second option). It looks like the keys are recessed and thus won’t leave marks on the screen, but I’m using a RadTech ScreenSavrz to be on the safe side (the one from my 15 inch machine works fine). Apple includes a polishing cloth, but it’s not as large as the screen.

Speaking of screens: it’s definitely bright, and I can’t see any bad pixels. I would have ordered a matte screen if I had the chance, but the glossy isn’t a problem in my home office — it might be at work.
And it can drive a rotated second screen! I’ve got a 1240 x 1280 pixel Dell attached to the little video adapter. (The MacBook Pro let you just plug in a digital display, which was a lot more convenient.) The MBP has more pixels — 1440 x 800 vs 1280 x 800, but it’s not that far off. I’m sure I’ll miss the 100 vertical pixels (widescreen really doesn’t have much value).

It sits solidly on my desk. It did wobble once, but hasn’t since. I must have gotten something underneath that time.

And speaking of solid: I managed to have it slide off my desk and land, thin point down, on a carpeted floor. No problems.

The MagSafe power connector is a little harder to connect than the MacBook Pro, in part because you can’t see it under the curvature. The door covering the ports opens and closes solidly. Connecting video, USB, and audio have a similar problem, since you can’t see them.

I bought the DVD player, and I’m bummed that I can’t plug it into a hub — I was hoping to just dock the machine. On the other hand, I don’t need it often (and did in fact use the remote disc feature once).

I had thought I’d be using the USB-Ethernet adapter at home, but since the MacBook Air uses the faster 802.11n, I might not need to (I can’t run at full n speed, since I have non-n devices on my WiFi network, but the transmit rate is reported at 78-130 MHz, as opposed to the MacBook Pro which is always at 54 MHz — 802.11g speed).

I paired the Pro’s remote with the Air. Technically you don’t need it, since the keyboard has dedicated keys, but my muscle memory says that F11 = Exposé, so I configure the keyboard so I can press F11 without the fn key.

The MacBook Air runs quieter, until it warms up. Then its fan is louder. Probably because it’s pretty aggressive about keeping cool — it generally runs a lot cooler than the MacBook Pro. The disk is a lot quieter, however.

OK, now the part I was dreading: speed. Xbench 1.3 reports my MacBook Pro (which has the 7200 rpm disk) at 96.3, but the MacBook Air (which has only a 4200 rpm disk) at 54.2. Was the new machine going to be half the speed?

It certainly doesn’t seem like it. Large disk copies may indeed be slower (I haven’t done tests). That might be because it’s using USB-2 instead of FireWire. In any case, large copies aren’t that common (once the machine is set up). A more reasonable test is something I do every day: compiling Mac applications. I tried compiling Opal (a moderate-sized Objective-C application, with two plug-ins) on both machines.

MacBook Pro 46.0 s
MacBook Air 48.4 s

That’s barely a speed penalty! I’ll have to try with some larger code bases, but this is in line with what I was hoping for (there’s a larger cache and faster bus on the MacBook Air, which may counteract the slower clock and use of some RAM for graphics).

Oh, and no comments about battery life, since I haven’t really had a chance to test. I think it will be longer than the MacBook Pro.

Carrying the MacBook Air
Since the machine is light and thin, I wanted a minimalist case to carry it in (OK, plus I’m a carrying case junky). But not as minimal as a notebook sleeve — I like an actual case that can carry other things. I finally settled on STM’s Small Brink, which also has the advantage of being inexpensive as bags go (I got mine for $45). I ordered sight-unseen, but remembered seeing STM at Macworld Expo in years past. The bag is much lighter than my previous bag, and the MBA fits. The padding seems thicker than other bags I’ve owned. It has less cargo space than my previous bags, and the handle seems a bit thin, so I won’t know for a couple weeks if this was a good switch.


Due to a project at work, I created a Facebook account.

It’s certainly a much prettier experience than MySpace (which I was familiar with mostly via teenager web sites). And not at all the same as the more professionally-oriented LinkedIn (which I’d been using before).

Facebook seems to be geared around applications, and my biggest peeve is not being able to preview applications. I’ve got to way to “try before I buy in” — I have to give the application access without being able to try out the user experience. Accordingly, I’ve added very few applications, and actively ignore requests from friends.

On the one hand, I admire their viral nature — great way to spread. But I just don’t feel informed enough to want to spread them myself. And in particular, I won’t spread the word in advance (like the awful “What iPod are you?” which requires you to provide the names of 9 friends to even take the test).

I don’t know how to provide a link to me, but if you use Facebook, feel free to hook up.

27 January 2008

MacBook Air

It took me several days to decide, but I did order my MacBook Air, and am waiting for it to arrive.

Lots of people have been claiming that it’s not a good first machine (as opposed to being a secondary portable). I’m not sure I agree — in part because it probably will be my first machine.

It’s true that it’s not going to be faster than my MacBook Pro, like a new MacBookPro would be. On the other hand, my MBP was of the first generation. The MBA clearly doesn’t beat its specs, but it does have as much RAM (since I upgraded the MBP). The hard disk is a little smaller, and certainly fewer RPM. The CPU runs at a slower clock speed.

But it’s a Core 2 Duo as opposed to a Core Duo — that’s a small improvement. And it has a faster bus (800 MHz as opposed to 667 MHz) and a bigger L2 cache (4 MB as opposed to 2 MB).

I’ll know for sure once the machine arrives and I do some real world tests (as well as standard benchmarks), but I suspect it will be about the same speed.

To lose over 1 kg (3.0 lbs/1.36 kg vs 5.4 lbs/2.45 kg) is probably worth the small speed penalty — I commute with the machine, and plan on taking at least two trips to Europe this year. And the smaller screen will make it more usable on the bus, and make little difference when I can plug either machine into a larger external display.

The one real drawback is the smaller disk size. To deal with this, I copied my 31 GB of music (it’s legally downloaded) to an external drive. I don’t really need to travel with that, since I load up my iPhone with almost 2 days worth of music.

Oh, and the lack of a security slot. That omission seems odd. Hopefully it won’t become an issue!

Networking will probably be the same — for some reason, I don’t get more than 100 Mb/s from my Ethernet at home, and that’s as fast as the switch at work. And 802.1n is actually faster than that…

I’m looking forward to wireless backup at reasonable speeds — I’ve ordered a Time Capsule to make use of Apple’s excellent Time Machine.

Perhaps I should be waiting, but Apple tends to keep prices the same for the life of a product, so buying early in the product cycle makes more sense. And I have a developer discount expiring soon — I could wait for the next MacBook Pro, but that probably won’t be a huge improvement (other than RAM capacity).

It could be that the new machine will be slower than what I’ve been using, and I’ll be sorry. On the other hand, this seems like a good way to change things up a bit, and get a lot more wireless. I’ll soon find out.