Hell Yes

September 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Ok. I couldn’t resist. I placed my order for a 27″ Apple Thunderbolt Display yesterday. It’s going to set me back a couple paychecks, but I’ll just starve for a bit. I kid. Anyway, people are going to point their fingers at me and label me a fanboy (I’m definitely a fanboy), but the way I see it, my display wasn’t determined based on an act of fanboyism. Sure, there are much cheaper displays out there, but at 27″ and 2560 x 1440 pixels on an IPS display, there aren’t any cheaper than the $800 that Dell might sell theirs for occasionally. I did look at the Ultrasharps too, if anyone is wondering, and I feel that the $200 premium I’m paying over it is worth it to get my beautiful Thunderbolt base station (essentially). When the prices of Thunderbolt cables and hard drive enclosures drop (I’m not paying $50 for a cable, even if it does have actual chips in it), I will play with daisy chaining too. In the meantime, I’ll sit on the order status page and constantly refresh till I get my shiny new screen set up in front of me. Stay tuned for a review.

Categories: Random

That Time of Year

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, we’re into September, so it’s time to start speculating about what Apple has up its sleeve this Fall. We’ve been seeing a good deal of leaked “iPhone 4S” pictures, including logic board and front panel leaks. Most of the actually leaked material looks just like the current iPhone 4. The exception, of course, is the fact that a bunch of cases have come out from China depicting a completely different design for the speculated “iPhone 5.” Personally, I’d just like OS X 10.7.2, iOS5, and iCloud to just launch already, and the only thing really holding them back is that Apple needs to push out their next round of hardware before they’ll finally release the software.

I don’t expect iPods to get much this year, and last thing: where the hell are the SB Mac Pros!?

Categories: Discussion, 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

Finally, maybe? Some news..

September 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m convinced I’m just lazy. The semester has been looking busy, but not THAT busy. I’m pretty sure I COULD have found some time to make a post in the last couple weeks, but I guess I just didn’t feel up to it. Anyhow, at some point in the near future, I’m planning to migrate this blog over to a more universal one, so I won’t feel entirely obligated to post only about tech stuff. Every once in a while, I do feel like posting about my life outside of my toys, but the blog is called “Tech Junkie Review.” Maybe the transition will be motivation to post more, maybe…

Ok let’s get to some actual content. Not all that much has really happened in the last couple weeks. We do have a good amount of Apple gossip, but gossip is gossip. The way I see it, Jobs stepping down won’t make any difference in the way Apple works, considering the man has been silently looming instead of actively managing for months now. Cook will do just fine. iPhone 5 rumors are really ramping up, with VERY mixed information: some say it’ll only be a “4S” with a mere spec bump and improved antenna. Others seem to be incredibly convinced that the iPhone 5 will have the teardrop shape, a giant screen, and a different home button. I know a lot of people who are waiting for the thing, but I probably won’t be picking one up myself, unless AT&T really entices me with the full discount in contract renewal pricing. More than likely, I’ll be waiting for the first LTE iPhone, at which time I will buy one unlocked (so I can use it in Asia or Europe, maybe…). I have been eyeing a Thunderbolt Display since they were announced too, but I’m not sure I want to spend the grand on a display just yet. My primary use would be the docking capabilities and cable simplicity, and of course movies, but Belkin now has that Thunderbolt dock on the horizon, which could save me a bit of money. I don’t really NEED the big-ass display either. I’d just really, really like one. It’s pretty.

I hadn’t looked at any Microsoft news until two nights ago, when the Windows 8 Developer Preview was released. I was incredibly surprised there were no strings attached to the DL: no developer fee, no NDA, nothing. Just go to the page, click the download, and there you have an ISO of a slick new OS. Apple might want to learn from this.

After a good day of deliberation and forum-trawling, I decided to Boot Camp my fairly new MBA and give it a shot. Most threads said that it installed fairly easily, and the drivers worked for the most part. Several posters went as far to say that the OS was incredibly polished for a developer preview. Ehh… It took me all of 15 minutes of usage before I deleted the partition. I was incredibly impressed by the install itself (took about 10 minutes total), but shit, in the 15 minutes I actually used the OS, 5 minutes were on restarting the machine because it’d become completely unresponsive. I couldn’t get the drivers to install at all, and frankly, the Metro UI is an ugly piece of crap. It’s kind of like Lion’s Launchpad (which also kind of sucks), but uglier, and less thought out. On tablets, hell yes. It has that touchscreen mentality to it. Using a mouse with Metro is incredibly weird, and really just doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I’m reaching that point in life when I’m supposed to start feeling old due to the “hip,” new technology. Probably not…

I did disable Metro (lots of quick instructions online for that), but at that point, the OS kinda just looked like Windows 7 except a little bit slicker, and while it worked, much, much quicker. It’s definitely a zippy OS, and it really feels like Microsoft’s Snow Leopard. Once it gets a little bit more polished, and the Boot Camp drivers start to work (not likely until the official release comes out), it’ll definitely be a pretty awesome OS to use (especially with that spiffy, native EFI support).

I realize I sound like I don’t really like Lion right now, and I guess that’s not fully true. But, the Wi-Fi bugs with Lion have irritated me to no end for the last few weeks. I work IT, the school uses WPA2-enterprise. When hundreds of freshmen arrive with their brand-spanking new Macs (all with Lion), and the Wi-Fi doesn’t work, people get pissed. Then there’s the loss of Samba (breaking our network printing system), which just leads to a whole different set of nightmares. I’ve been testing 10.7.2 also, and obviously Samba’s not back, and the Wi-Fi problems don’t seem to be fixed. There it goes again. I just lost my connection. Whoa, a self-assigned IP error. Haven’t seen one of those myself since 10.6.6.

Categories: Discussion, Random

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

Inertia

July 4, 2011 Leave a comment

I should really get my shit together. I keep telling myself I’m going to post more, but then I get lazy. This summer is really not going like I planned at all… I haven’t gotten any tech projects going, and I definitely haven’t been studying enough. Either way, it’s July 4th, and I figure I owe it to myself to take some time and make a post.

I’ve been on the Lion GM for a while, and I gotta say, I’m very happy with how it’s working. I hope iCloud comes out of beta soon as well, but I really can’t complain about how it’s working (pretty great). Lion itself is incredibly stable (I really have yet to find a problem with it), and despite it not really having all that many “revolutionary” updates, I really appreciate the under-the-hood changes, as well as the really nice UI overhaul. Lion is like the Snow Leopard to Snow Leopard, if you know what I mean.

I sold my 11″ MBA a week and a half ago in anticipation of an impending spec bump. When I bought the machine, I told myself it was just for portability, and I really wouldn’t need to be doing any spec chasing. Well, I’m not too good at resisting that kind of temptation. Considering I was able to sell the machine at about 85% of my original cost, I’m pretty happy. I’m actually very much looking forward to this boost in performance, since I’d been totally maxing out the 1.4 GHz CPU as well as the 4 GB of RAM. Hopefully, Apple will give us some more upgrade options on the 11″ this round.

Rumors on 9to5 Mac and Apple Insider this morning suggest that Apple might even ditch the blade SSDs in favor of some ONFI 3.0 tech. Essentially, it’s one more step to killing off user upgradeability. What this entails, essentially, is NAND flash soldered directly onto the motherboard, allowing speeds of up to 400 Mbps. While I really hate the idea of not being able to put in my own SSD, I really can’t complain about 400 Mbps on such a small machine. Though I have my doubts (mainly that Samsung isn’t quite on board with this tech yet, and Samsung is one of Apple’s main suppliers of flash memory; and that Apple JUST introduced the blade mSATA SSDs a couple of months ago), I can’t say this wouldn’t be an unwelcome addition that would make the snappy machines even more snappy. Thunderbolt is really just icing on the cake. My next big purchase is likely going to be some sort of external display (a 25″ HDTV as a monitor is really starting to look like crap next to a 17″ MBP). If Apple can deliver a new 27″ LED Cinema Display using Thunderbolt (a minor, but worthwhile upgrade), I might be picking one up. Sure, Thunderbolt peripherals are expensive, but I can’t help but imagine the possibility of using the Thunderbolt port to power the USB/Firewire hub that the displays carry. Granted, price will still be a major consideration, but the thought of a set of machines working in perfect synergy seriously appeals to me.

Categories: Discussion, Random

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