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Cool Hardware

It’s so … black!

MacBook pictureA new MacBook has joined the stable here at macosxhints' HQ--this one's all mine, though, not a Macworld asset like the mini! And yes, I chose to pay the $150 color tax, and bought the black one (five bonus points to the first reader to identify the source of the title of this post). I chose to upgrade because, with two kids in the house, I'm doing more work from my laptop in various rooms of the house, and the 12" PowerBook G4's 1024x768 resolution can be quite limiting. I was tempted by the 15" MacBook Pro, but the one I would want was well over $2500. When the MacBook came out at $1,500, I decided it was time...

I had two major concerns prior to purchasing--the keyboard and the glossy screen. It took but a couple seconds of typing in the store to allay the keyboard issue. The keys, though they look decidely non-standard, have very standard spacing. I had no troubles at all with touch typing, and I loved the amazingly solid feel of the keyboard.

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An April Fool’s Day reject

Tiny iPod imageFor the past few years on April Fool's Day, I've run some sort of prank announcement on from switching to WindowsXP hints to the triple-CPU G5 Cubed to running OS X on an iPod to this year's 30th Anniversary Mac.

When thinking about what to do for this year, the Apple Music/Apple Computer lawsuit was getting a lot of press. Using that as the setup, I thought I'd run a cool story about a new Apple/Apple agreement that would finally put Beatles music on iPods. I even went so far as to mock up a line of special edition iPods created just for the occasion. Ultimately, I trashed the concept and went with the Intel/PowerPC Mac, but I thought I'd share the Beatles Special Edition iPod designs here (click the image for a larger version):

Beatle iPods

I had written up most of the story, too, but that's long since gone. The only other thing I have left is the sales flyer sheet I put together with some specs on the units--you can see the full-size flyer by clicking on the small image at the top right of this story. You'll see a full view of each iPod, along with some tech notes about the units. Be aware that the full-size image is a 173KB PNG file, so those with modems (are there any of you?) may wish to avoid doing that.

In the end, I felt the Intel/PowerPC thing would be more interesting, so that's what I went with. But when I look at the custom iPods, I think "geez, if Apple offered some sort of custom iPod image silkscreening feature, I'd probably buy one." I think they'd look much more interesting than the current plain black or white versions, based on looking at even my relatively poor Photoshop work. And it'd be a nice way to customize your unit, by including an image of your choice directly on the machine itself.

A maximum look at a mini Mac

Macworld logoAfter receiving my first-ever Intel-powered Mac, a new Core Duo mini, I spent the better part of a week testing out the machine in nearly every aspect of performance I could think up. This started as a three-part series, but based on feedback from the first three parts, we added two additional sections. Here's how the entire series came out:

  1. Setup, configuration and application tests
  2. General observations, audio & video, gaming
  3. Testing methods, Intel transition and conclusions
  4. More RAM, more tests
  5. HD issues and final thoughts

While not at the technical level of an Ars Technica report (I won't even pretend to have the skills to go there), this is a very detailed look at the machine from a somewhat typical user's perspective.

Sometimes I’m SO-DIMM!

Macworld logoEver wondered how to tell if you've bought the wrong brand of RAM for your mini Mac? Thanks to a recent misadventure, I can now tell you exactly how you'll know. Ugh.

Yes, I really did purchase standard-size RAM for the mini, and (even worse than buying it) not even notice that it was way to large to fit inside that small case until I got it home.

Protect your iPod Nano’s screen…

Apparently the new iPod Nano is very susceptible to screen scratches (The Register article, Apple Discussions). My wife and I just bought a white Nano to replace her Mini, so these stories concerned me quite a bit—the last thing you’d want is to have the already-dimunitive screen scratched to the point where text and images are hard to discern. People are talking about returning their devices, class action lawsuits, etc. I really like the Nano, and would rather not return it. And since ours isn’t yet scratched, I thought I’d try some preventative medicine.

Knowing that it will be a while yet before any customized Nano screen protectors and/or cases ship, I took a (very minor) risk and thought I’d try to make my own. I started, of course, with someone else’s handiwork—these Treo screen protectors. These are probably the best screen protectors I’ve seen for the Treo; they’re basically invisible, and they don’t permanently mar your Treo’s screen if/when you remove them. I had a couple left over from my Treo (as the protectors come in a three-pack), so I did a bit of measuring and got out the scissors. A minute or so later, I had my completed Nano screen protector. I peeled off the backing, stuck it to the Nano’s front, and it worked perfectly — it basically disappeared once placed (though I intentionally cut the border slightly larger than the Nano’s screen). It’s hard to take pictures of, but I tried my best; click on either image below for a larger version:

Nano unlitNano lit

As you can see, the protector is nearly invisible (and yes, the perfectionist in me has since gone back and re-centered it horizontally) whether the Nano is on or off. Since I did leave a slight border around the screen area, that edge is visible in the shots above (but it actually looks sort of natural there). Had I chosen to make the cover the exact size of the screen area, it would be even less visible. However, by leaving a border, I’ve made it easier to remove the cover in the future without risk of scratching the screen itself.

One of the reasons I like this screen protector a lot is that it’s easily removable and cleanable. The instructions state that you can lift the cover with a piece of scotch tape, but I’ve had better luck carefully sliding the edge of a sharp knife under the plastic, then prying up the corner. Once removed, you can wash the cover off with water to remove any dust, let it dry, and then put it back in place. I’ve had this one on and off a few times now, and (so far) it hasn’t left any marks on either the Nano’s case or screen.

This may not be a perfect solution, and who knows how well it will hold up over time, but for now, it seems like a reasonable investment to keep the Nano’s screen in scratch-free condition. As always, though, your mileage may vary and proceed at your own risk :).

A cold day in Hades?

Mighty Mouse imageIn case you missed the news, Apple today released Mighty Mouse, (no, not that one), the company's first-ever multi-button scrolling mouse! I haven't yet seen it in person (though I intend to visit a dealer today to check it out; they appear to be in stock at many places), but at first glance, it looks like (as is typical of Apple) the industrial design has been very well thought out.

No big huge scroll wheel, just a small scroll dot that enables scrolling in many directions (up, down, diagonally). Reversible buttons for left- and right-handed users. Touch-sensitive top buttons (left, right, and scroll), and a "force sensitive" side button -- note that though the images show two side buttons, Apple only claims four programmable buttons, so I think the two side buttons will act essentially as one button. The programming software is built right into the OS X Mouse & Keyboard control panel, and looks quite well thought out.

About the only downside I see is that this is not a wireless mouse (for now?); it's wired-only, which is a bit of a bummer -- I've grown quite fond of my wireless Microsoft Intellimouse. I'm not sure if this is a Bluetooth bandwidth limitation (as they don't want to introduce a USB-based plug-in remote device, I don't think), or just a packaging and/or time-to-market issue. Hopefully we'll see Mighty Mouse 2 with Bluetooth wireless connectivity sometime in the near future.

Even without wireless, though, this mouse looks like it could be a winner. I'll post an addendum here later today if I'm able to get some hands-on time with one in the store. And at $49, it's expensive, but not so much so that I'm not tempted to buy one!

But the real $64,000 question is ... when (if ever) will Apple make this the standard shipping mouse with new hardware purchases?

Free iTunes songs from Audi!

A3 PictureThe car in the picture is Audi's new A3, which just launched here in the USA. I was browsing Audi's site last night, looking for some info, when I stumbled onto a pretty cool promo ... Audi USA is offering this deal, but not for much longer:

Test drive an A3, and get 33 free iTunes songs!

This promo ends today, so if you've got any free time and a local Audi dealer (I have both today, luckily), it might be worth a lunchtime test drive. Just fill out the form, print the email you'll receive, then visit the dealer. I'm don't think I'm all that interested in the car, but heck, test driving new cars is always fun. Throw in $32.67 worth of free music, and I think it'll be worth the 45 minutes of sales pitch from the rep. Who knows, maybe I'll like the car, too! :)

Sorry for the short notice, but I just found out about this promo last night.

The technology of baby monitors…

Baby monitorsRemember I warned you that anything of interest to me was fair game for The Robservatory? Well, here's the first non-Mac-related post, but it's at least vaguely technology related.

My wife and I have a nearly two-year-old daughter, Kylie. Way back when at the baby shower, someone gave us The First Year's 900 MHz Two Receiver Monitor set. For those without children, the purpose of these devices is to dramatically increase the stress level in new parents. After placing the transmitter in the child's room, the receivers pick up the child's every sound. So basically, every noise your child makes at night or while napping becomes something new to worry about -- "Honey, did that breath sound labored? Is she getting a cold? Did you remember the blanket, I think her teeth are chattering! Is she breathing? I can't hear her now -- quick, go check on her!!"

In all seriousness, these are very handy devices for monitoring your child without having to sit outside the door to their room. In our case, Kylie's room is upstairs and on the other side of the house from ours, and I sleep quite soundly, so I really need the speaker to jar me awake in case she needs something overnight. So why am I talking about monitors here? While our unit worked well at first, it had recently started to get very noisy. Every so often (like 10 times a minute, really!), we'd get a loud burst of static, or very loud "white noise" sound that would last 20 seconds or so. Sometimes we could even hear half of the neighbor's phone conversations.
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