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A New Beginning?

January 20, 2012 Leave a comment

So after a rather long, unannounced hiatus, I’ve decided I’m going to try and start blogging again. I may have brought up last year that I planned on expanding into a new blog, with less of a focus on tech, and more of a broad overview, but I’ve decided to simply do that within this current blog. I mean, how many people will actually care eh? Haha. I’ll probably start mixing in stuff about my life pretty abruptly, and I won’t really take any time to fill in any background info. Hopefully the few who do read won’t really care. I don’t care. This blog is for me anyway.

Anyway, I’d first like to apologize for not posting much last semester. School was absolute hell. Four jobs along with twenty academic units almost killed me. Physically. Seriously. This semester won’t really be any easier (fewer academic units, but still four jobs, three of which will likely take more time). I still have Quantitative Physiology, which, incidentally, is already becoming a huge pain in my ass. I already have an annoying lab assignment to finish, but thankfully it isn’t due for about a week. As of now, I’m just really thankful that the semester hasn’t really picked up just yet. I’m still burned out from last semester despite having winter break to recuperate, and although I’ve only been back for maybe four days, I feel like I’ve been chugging along for a month now. I’m tired. Luckily, I have my wonderful girlfriend keeping me company, and I can take my temporarily free evenings to relax and (re)watch Breaking Bad with her (awesome show by the way).

Speaking of Breaking Bad: I caught up this winter break, and I can agree with all the critics; Breaking Bad really is one of the greatest TV shows of all time. The acting, writing, and filming are all superb, and the ending of season 4 seriously left me salivating for more. I figured since my girlfriend hadn’t watched it yet, this should be our next endeavor. Just for reference, my girlfriend and I have watched (and kept up with) Scrubs (twice), Supernatural, How I Met Your Mother, and will soon be there with Breaking Bad as well. I also watch Dexter myself. I will be talking about these TV shows every once in a while.

Some interesting stuff. I’ve been eyeing a SATA III 256 GB SSD now (to replace the 128 GB Toshiba that came stock with my MBP), and over break, after a good two-three weeks of just eyeballing Slickdeals, I was down to two choices: a Crucial M4, or a Samsung 830. I ended up picking up a “like-new” Crucial M4 off of a seller on Amazon. The drive was still in its anti-static packaging, the seller had merely taken it out of the box, which he incidentally didn’t have either. Who cares. I got the drive for about $310 (including shipping), which put the drive at $1.21/GB. In contrast, the cheapest Samsung 830 I’ve seen is about $370 (ignoring the Microcenter price error a couple months back at $229), or about $1.45/GB. Either way, both drives seem fairly reliable, with the M4 having a longer track record. Note: at the time of my ordering the drive, the 5200 hour bug was already patched with the 0309 firmware. The Samsung 830 seems to bench a little bit better than the M4, likely due to the Samsung Toggle Mode NAND, but in real-world use, I wouldn’t see any noticeable difference.

Aaaanyway, I picked up the drive yesterday (finally), after the drive was actually delivered on Tuesday. Thank the campus mailroom for being super bogged down with students rushing in and ordering textbooks. The drive had 0009 firmware, so the first thing I did was burn the firmware ISO to a CD and update the drive. This obviously involved a little hackery, as I had to take out my OptiBay to put the ODD back in (Macs won’t boot from external optical disc drives). After the firmware was updated, I put the 160 GB Intel X25-M into the OptiBay, and the M4 into the regular bay (which has SATA III). The rest was a breeze (well.. it all was), with a quick ~20 minute OS X installation, then approximately ~1 hour of me clean installing my software. Yeah, I skipped out on the Time Machine restore, since I figured it was time for clean system, after having tested many beta Lion builds on the previous drive. As of now, the M4 has been running great, so that’s that. I’ll update later if anything comes up. I’m not really seeing any performance difference, but I also have yet to do any large transfers. No beach balls at all, though, which I would see maybe once a day on the Toshiba.

Over Winter Break, I also beat The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past, the former of which sparked interest in the latter. I’m currently playing Phantom Hourglass (if I can find time to play during the school year), and I do still need to get to numerous other games backed up in my Steam account (Arkham City, LIMBO, Crysis, and plenty more…). I also bought Rayman Origins for $20 (actually $10, considering I paid $10 for a $20 TRU voucher, which I used for the game) over break, and only managed to play it for about 10 minutes.

This post is starting to sound a little stupid, but really, I haven’t posted for approximately 3 months. I have so much backed up stuff in my mind. I’ll stop for now, but I’ll eventually spit out whatever I feel necessary. With this blog kind of changing its tone, I will still keep reviews and tech tips fairly separate from the more personal posts. Hopefully, it won’t be too messy.

27″ of Glossy Goodness

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment

I was planning to upload a whole slew of unboxing and setup photos, but iOS5 seems to have eaten most of my pictures. I’m too lazy to put the display back in the box and reshoot all the unboxing pics, so I won’t.

I’ve only just gotten the gorgeous display set up, so this isn’t much of a review for now. I did run some tests to make sure the display was a good unit, and I was fairly pleased. I didn’t see any backlight bleed, and definitely no yellowing. I’ll post back in a couple days after using this guy for a while, but as of now, my $1k was well spent. For now, I have my 17″ MBP in clamshell mode. That may or may not change if I decide I don’t want to waste that extra 17″ of real estate, but I think 2560 x 1440 might be enough pixels for me. We’ll see.

Categories: Impressions, Random

Customer Service

September 15, 2011 1 comment

My luck has been pretty good as of late. A couple nights ago I was just walking across campus and gosh-darnit, there, lying on the ground was a nice pair of black Klipsch image s4i’s. My girlfriend was just looking into getting a new pair of earbuds! Well, they had rubber tips already, and I didn’t really want to stick used earbud tips in either of our ears, so I started looking into new tips.

Google. Google. Google. Comply Foam caught my eye (LOTS of forums rave about these tips for Klipsch buds), so I figured I’d look into getting some. Until today, I’ve never used foam earbud tips so I had absolutely no clue about sizing, comfort, durability, etc. I saw a 3-pack on Amazon for about $15, so I really didn’t feel like spending that much on essentially an experiment, especially if I didn’t even know they would fit. Here’s where the fun came in. I dug around, and apparently, Comply Foam has a fairly good reputation for doing social stuff on Facebook (giving out free tips, earbuds, etc), so I figured, why not? I emailed them and flat out asked for a free sample. They probably wouldn’t even respond to me (as most companies typically don’t).

Monday: A kind Mr. Nate Knox in the customer service department of Comply Foam emailed me back. He asked for an address and a pack of T-100’s was heading my way. Ok, to be honest, at this point, I thought I might’ve emailed a fake address, got tricked into some phishing scam. I gave them one of my secondary email addresses and my school mailing address, so it wasn’t really THAT big a deal, even if I did start getting a shitton of spam. No big deal.

Today I get a package at the mailroom. There, in a normal medium yellow envelope was a 3-pack (different sizes) of Comply Foam T-100s.

At this point I guess I’ll cut the dramatization short, because there really wasn’t anything else too exciting. I popped the small size tips on my s4i’s, and I basically had an orgasm in my ear. I had to get to class (where I am now – yes, I really should be paying attention), and I just really, really didn’t want to take the earbuds out. The foam is REEEEAAALLY comfortable, and the sound with them is just amazing. I thought my Klipsch’s were awesome with the included rubber tips. Well, they’re not. I will definitely be buying a pack or two more of the T-100s (replacements, for my gf, etc), because they’re just incredible.

Thank you so much, Nate. You’ve shown me amazing customer service, and I’m very happy to have contacted you.

Categories: Discussion, Impressions

Apple Porn

July 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Let’s get the porn outta the way first eh?

AEBS

So being stuck at home all summer has its perks and drawbacks. I can’t say I don’t completely appreciate the super fast Comcast internet we’ve had, but the reliability was just all over the place. The last few weeks, our internet started cutting out very frequently, often requiring a router and modem restart every 30-40 minutes or so during the worst hours. This sucked. I finally got pretty damn fed up, so we sprung for one of the recently-updated Airport Extreme Base Stations. My dad had been talking about setting up a wireless backup system anyway.

The system took me all of 5 minutes to set up, and since I used the same network name and password as our last router, none of the computers in the house had to be tweaked to work with the new AEBS. Awesome! Long story short, I now have speeds of roughly 4-5 times faster overall (largely thanks to the simultaneous dual band (2.4 and 5 GHz), hence eliminating slowdowns due to older machines on the network. I can confidently say that the network disconnects have been cut down to about 1/100 the frequency with the old D-Link router, with the remaining DCs probably attributable to either the modem or Comcast messing around. As you can see in the last of the AEBS pictures, I’ve also hooked up one of my spare external hard drives (in a Hornettek Hover enclosure). Yes, Time Machine is working fine (with Lion too) over an external hooked up to the AEBS.

MBA

Well, this guy is clearly the reason anybody (at all) would read this blog post. Apple announced these guys on Wednesday (with me trawling those forums hourly) alongside Lion. I was in the store on Wednesday (a decent 20 minute drive away), and after like an hour of shitting around with a nice employee named Ryan (who was repeatedly trying to scan the machine and get it to check out properly), I was told that they couldn’t sell me the machine because their system hadn’t been updated. Yes, MacRumors forums members already said that repeatedly throughout the morning (that the stores actually weren’t supposed to sell until the next day), but I had really hoped to get lucky. Didn’t work. Oh well. It came out to about 2 hours wasted overall, that I could have been using to be much more productive.

I went back the next day, and got my machine within 20 minutes. I have to say, I felt like a total badass walking into the store and walking out with a brand new machine 20 minutes later. I’ve always ordered my stuff online, so you don’t really get that Apple store satisfaction. I’m pretty sure if I’d waited until I got back to school to buy this guy, I could’ve saved like $60 on taxes, but given that I’ll be moving around with my machine a lot in the near future, I figured it be nicer to have an Air to tote around vs. a 7 lb MacBook Pro. $60 to shave 4-5 lb off seems to be a decent deal, actually.

I ordered the mid-range model 11″ (1.6Ghz/128GHz/4GB) to replace my prior 1.4 GHz/64GB/4GB machine. I’d been paranoid that 4 GB RAM would be a BTO option again, thus screwing me out of having the Air for traveling unless I bought an ultimate in store. I’m so glad 4 GB is BASICALLY standard on all the models except the base machine. I paid about $1250 for this guy (with a student discount), whereas the ultimate (1.8GHz/256GB/4GB) would have cost about $400 more. When the RAM is all I cared about, that $400 is a big f***ing deal. On the topic of money, these Airs have dropped a good deal in price, considering the last gen 11″ 1.6GHz/128GB/4GB (which was actually the ultimate) ran for about $1450 including tax, and that was a crappy Core 2 Duo (it’s not really crappy, though, since most people on 11″ machines aren’t going to even max that out – I was the exception). So, by selling my last machine for a $100 loss, then buying this machine for $400 on top of what I actually earned back from that machine, I’ve effectively upgraded an old machine for $500. Doesn’t sound like too bad a deal. Overall, these guys are going to sell like freakin’ hotcakes. On a side note, the Apple stores carry 3 standard configurations for the 11″ machines: the base (1.6GHz/64GB/2GB), the mid-range (mine), and the ultimate. Given that the ultimate is actually displayed as a configuration in stores (it’s shown on the iPad thing as a choice), Apple is definitely well prepared this time.

Well, I took the machine home and did the whole new computer thing (boot up, check for dead pixels and cosmetic damage, install all programs, and sync dropbox/accounts, etc). For some reason, I truly enjoy this process (I’m sure there are those who absolutely hate the tedious monotony that comes with so much installing). I now have the machine completely up and running (and I went ahead and paid for Little Snitch and iStat Menus while I was at it, since I’d been using them errrr liberally before this). While I am currently not typing up this post on the Air, I can say that it definitely has felt snappier than my previous machine. Another interesting note is that my Pro and Air now have the exact same size internal SSD, and media is shared using a portable hard drive (where I keep my iTunes and Aperture libraries) and Dropbox; yet, the Air actually has a bit more free space thanks to some of the bigger programs I have installed on the Pro. Since I like to keep stuff between my machines sync-ed, that extra space is probably never gonna find a use, which is just fine, since I like to keep SSDs as empty as possible anyway.

A lot of people got really excited and started wetting themselves at the now-brought-back backlit keyboard. I honestly can’t say I give a rat’s ass about it. I’ve been using computers for a while now, and it really isn’t that hard to type without looking at the keyboard. My wireless bluetooth keyboard is not backlit, and I’m doing just fine. To each his own I guess, but I really don’t see why this was a deciding factor for so many people, and for that matter, why Apple found it necessary to remove the lights just to restore them. I have to admit, Scumbag Apple was pretty transparent this time: pulls backlit keyboard from new design; adds backlit keyboard after everybody already bought the previous one. I guess that meme pretty much sums it up.

Just a couple of small things to point out about these new machines. Obviously, due to Apple’s secrecy and fear of leaking information out in software, the new hardware comes with custom OS X builds. My 11″ Air came with Lion build 11A2063, instead of the 11A511 (or 11A494 for some) in the GM and RTM versions of Lion. Also, there was some hot debate over what kinds of SSDs Apple would be using this time. iFixit proved that they’re still the mSATA drives. Some people also noticed Apple mixing it up with Samsung and Toshiba drives in the last gen, with the Samsung drives being significantly faster (due to Native Command Queuing). My machine has a Samsung, so that may add to why it feels faster than the last one. Other than that, using this guy feels exactly the same as using my last machine. I’m just glad to have the portable computer back.

Some gripes: I’m actually a little bit ticked about a couple things on these new Airs.

1. Apple left out the FaceTime HD camera. Honestly, I don’t care if my camera is HD or not, but I can’t help but feel that Apple is just pulling another scumbag move here.

2. Why is the SD card slot still only on the 13″? It’s very possible that they really just can’t fit the card reader in there, but I bet it’ll eventually show up.

3. Why is the bezel on MBAs still so damn big?

4. This is probably my biggest complaint. The Sandy Bridge processors were supposed to increase energy efficiency, ESPECIALLY with the loss of the NVidia 320m. With the crappier Intel HD3000 graphics, I really hoped to see some battery improvements. Several sites have already determined that there’s actually about a 30 minute loss in battery life. I’m really not going to complain about that too much, since I rarely will actually drain my computer down in one sitting, but it’s really just about peace of mind, of being able to keep working without worrying about my battery.

Overall, I’d say the new Airs are basically just as good as the previous ones at that time. A couple new features justifies the months since the last release, and it’s rather fitting. With the price decrease, anybody looking at a new Mac should seriously consider getting an Air if his/her tasks aren’t too intensive. People too often overestimate what they do (YouTube and iTunes really don’t need that much power…). They can save themselves a little bit of money and actually get a machine that feels faster from the get-go (yay SSD!).

Lion

I’ve been using Lion for a while now through the Dev Preview period. Everybody has Lion now. There isn’t really a reason for me to give many impressions or review of it. My personal opinion right now is that Lion is a tad unpolished (my friend experienced some pretty strange Mission Control behavior, and I really dislike how all the Spaces are all linear now, with no way of setting the order manually). Some people have also complained about multiple display behavior (you can’t have 2 screens with a space on each), which is really just stupid and defeats the purpose of these linear spaces. I’m sure 10.7.1, 10.7.2, and so on will bring some needed changes. Thanks to the system feeling a bit snappier, and the low cost, I’d still absolutely recommend upgrading, as my gripes are basically just with new features, and everything under the hood is just fantastic.

Final Note

Along with the Airs and Lion, Apple also released the new Mac minis and Thunderbolt displays. It’s pretty interesting to see that the minis ditched the optical drive in favor of an empty slot (where a hard drive can fit if you can get another SATA cable). I’m not too sure about that move, however, since most people buy minis as media centers. A media center really needs a disc player.. Other than that, the new specs look pretty great. The minis have traditionally carried the same specs as the white MacBook (which is now discontinued, thank goodness) and the low end 13″ MBP. The new minis actually have the option for a discrete GPU now, which is just terrific. As for the Thunderbolt displays, I’m incredibly tempted to pick one up when I get back to school and recoup some of my funds. With FW800 and gigabit ethernet, one of those displays can act as a really nice hub for any Mac with a Thunderbolt port. Since they’re not actually shipping yet, nobody knows for sure, but some fear that Apple might have just effectively terminated the usefulness of Macs with just the MiniDisplayPort. I hope this is not the case, since the most powerful Mac Pros still don’t have Thunderbolt. I guess we’ll find out in 6-8 weeks.

Categories: Impressions, Review

Well then..

June 8, 2011 Leave a comment

So Monday’s event came, and despite the lack of any new hardware, I was pretty impressed. So Apple definitely pulled another “you did it first, but we do it better” ploys with all the new iOS5 features (especially notifications), but honestly, who gives a shit? At the current point in the game, if (and only if) Apple delivers on all of those iOS5 features, iOS5 will have ALL of the features of most mobile OSes, and iOS5 will be doing it in a cleaner, better way. I know very well that I look like the biggest fanboy in the world right now, but I can’t help but feel that most people out there feel the same way. Just looking at some of the features, iMessage seems to stand out quite a bit. I’m still a little skeptical on whether or not the carriers will allow it, but we’ll see. The feature would effectively make all iOS to iOS texting free. That RIDICULOUSLY overpriced $20 a month for unlimited texting will be a thing of the past. But we’ll see.. iCloud is definitely a marvel, though much of its appeal lies in the fact that it is FREE. All that seamless integration (hopefully Apple doesn’t pull another MobileMe debacle) for free. iCloud effectively draws in the iOS Windows users, since OS X will be that much more appealing with this sort of synergy.

What’s there to say about Lion? Well, anybody reading this blog has probably seen the keynote, or at least the highlights. I won’t bore you with those details. I’m currently downloading DP4, and hopefully, all those bugs are nicely ironed out. This should be fun!

Last on my list of things to talk about. Gaming. Sony delivered with some interesting stuff on Monday, I have to admit. Though after the whole PSN scandal, and Sony’s seeming lack of reliability, I still can’t say I would bite on a PS3. Nintendo’s presentation intrigued me, especially with that slick-looking tablet controller. While Apple’s AirPlay is generally about putting your media and games onto the TV, Wii U stresses multiplayer, by streaming the content from the TV onto the controller. I’m not sure how well gaming will really work on this system (they didn’t give much of a real demo), but it’s definitely interesting. More concerning to me is the cost. Let’s assume that the Wii U system itself costs the same as the Wii originally did: $250. Factor in Nintendo’s recent trends of upping prices, and the original cost of Wii controllers, the Wii U is looking to be a pricey commitment. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if those controller tablets ended up costing $100 a piece. Only time will tell, and I have been a loyal Nintendo follower for years, but if Nintendo can’t keep up that reputation of delivering innovation for less, they may be on a slow road to death.

Categories: Discussion, Impressions

Updates coming…

February 10, 2011 Leave a comment

I really haven’t updated this in a long time. College is much more time consuming than it should be… Haha… There’s a lot of stuff I will be posting in the next couple of days, now that I’ve essentially gotten through my first “hell week” this semester. I ordered a refurb MacBook Air 11″ and will hopefully be running it through its paces this weekend.

I also anticipate finally customizing this blog’s layout. I never had time to make it look… right. This is a tech blog after all. Better get to work on that…

On a separate note, I’m quite impressed with HPs newly announced lineup today (Pre3, Touchpad, Veer). Too bad that the Verizon iPhone launch is still overshadowing any news of the Pre3, and news of an iPad 3 are already floating around (yes, the iPad 2 has yet to be announced). Rumor has it that Apple will be accelerating the iPad refresh cycle so it can do some tech ass-kicking with the launches of the 1.2 GHz dual core Touchpad and the beastly Moto Xoom looming. I just ordered myself an ultraportable after deciding against an iPad this year, but truly, 2011 is going to be a huge year for tablets. While I won’t be getting one, I am plenty excited to watch all this pan out.

Also, still waiting on the quad-core MacBook Pro. Intel’s already announced that it will be resuming shipment of Cougar Point chipsets to manufacturers that won’t be affected by the flaw (I’m looking at you, Apple) – notebook manufacturers who’ll only be using the 2 unaffected SATA III ports anyway.

I’m sure Apple has a flood of announcements just waiting to be made. Of course, they need to spread it out a little bit, so that the news can keep coming all year. Right now, all eyes on Verizon and the still flawed but magnificent iPhone 4. Let’s see if Verizon can REALLY handle iPhone users like they say they can.

Categories: Discussion, Impressions

Recent Impressions

January 11, 2011 Leave a comment

So I’ve been on break and haven’t updated in a little while. The last couple days have been an onslaught of technological goodness, and I am excited.

CES brought a heapload of tablets, 3DTVs, and other goodies. Honeycomb is looking pretty impressive, but overall, we’re going to wait and see about how it performs at the actual launch. Regarding 3DTV’s, I’m pretty sure I do not care much. As a college student, I spend very little time in front of an actual TV, and I’m still in the camp that thinks 3D is nothing more than a cheap gimmick that causes headaches (both figuratively and literally)

Sandy Bridge has been officially announced. Anandtech seems to get a pretty good impression on performance, and while the Intel graphics are now much better, the agreement between Nvidia and Intel (Intel is now allowed to use Nvidia graphics in the future) makes me very excited. The Intel graphics, despite improvement, are still a step down. I am very excited to hear what Apple has in mind for this year’s Macs.

I’d like to discuss the possibility of a quad-core Sandy Bridge CPU in the next MBP’s specifically. There has been much talk about how the TDP of the quad-cores are too high (45W compared to the current 35W). I personally believe that this is easily alleviated if we are too accept the other talk that the ODD may be removed. The extra 20% gained internally would allow more battery and better cooling, both of which would make 45W not much of an issue. I believe it is very possible, and it really needs to happen, if Apple wants to keep its pro users on board.

Verizon announced its iPhone this morning. Hooray. It’s just an iPhone 4, with a fixed antenna, and possible software exclusives like the wi-fi hotspot feature. Exciting news in that it will shut up all the “when is the Verizon iPhone coming?” people, and that AT&T’s network may get a break from the congestion. However, the real news will come when Apple brings LTE to the iPhone.

Categories: Impressions