Tag Archives: macbook

Are Apple displacing Microsoft (as greedy inc.)

blemished apple
blemished apple

On Monday I received a new iPhone 4. A year or so ago I had bought a Macbook Pro and was impressed despite a handful of gripes. I’ve owned a Nokia N95 for a while and this is a good phone but I felt it was time to update. I read a few reviews and watched a few Youtube comparisons and all the modern smart phones seem very good. I did not want to spend my life comparing technical data and so, having a Macbook, the obvious choice was an iPhone 4. I thought this way I’d avoid any connectivity and interoperability issues……..

My initial impression on the iPhone was negative. After switching on it insisted on being connected to a Mac and immediately demanded my credit card details. Presumably in case I ever buy anything from iTunes. I have to say that I find this grossly invasive! I had not intended to buy anything much and I am one of the generation who grew up with vinyl and CDs and so my music consists of digitised albums, scanned CDs and downloads from Amazing Radio.

However, what’s done is done, so I synched the phone and started looking around. Weirdly the much vaunted iTunes is not the music player on the iPhone. Instead it seems to be a shop window for Apple to flog me stuff. One has to find the iPod icon to play the music which has been transferred from my macbook.

The iPhone 4 is, of course, a great phone and I am impressed but one glaring failure is that the phone will not sync with my macbook through blue tooth or Wifi. This is pathetic. Despite the Bluetooth interface on the macbook referring to smart phones when I try to pair my Apple iPhone 4 with my Apple Macbook Pro I am told that the macbook “is not supported”. What utter bollocks!

I now own a device with the specific purpose of mobile communication. It has three separate methods of wireless communications (3G, Wifi and Bluetooth). Yet the only way of synching it is to plug in a cable! Hello Apple, this is 2011 not 1995.

Further investigation revealed that a Wifi syncing app had been created but rejected by Apple and so could now only be used on Jailbroke iPhones.

I was also a bit miffed to discover that there is no obvious way of transferring general files from the Macbook to the iPhone. The iTunes application on the Mac allows transfer of music, movies, photos etc but not other files such as PDFs or Word processor docs and the iPhone storage does not appear in the Finder so you can’t simply drag and drop files across.

Another issue is the ring tones. On my Nokia I could select a track from my music collection as a ring tone or I could create a sound file myself. With the iPhone there are presets or you can “buy” a ringtone from iTunes. There’s that word again “buy”.

It’s odd that Apple users used to consider themselves as innovative free thinkers and contrasted themselves with the monolithic big business drones that used Microsoft. After a bit of hunting around in the Apple forums I found discussions going back to 2007 on Bluetooth synching including the arrogant posts by people who appeared to have no imagination and slavishly followed the Apple line even when this ran contrary to obvious user preferences. This used to be the territory of Microsoft not Apple.

The iPhone’s lack of basic functionality and the fact that Apple are so greedy that the very first thing that they need me to do is register my credit card details and then try to charge for piffling ring tones give me a very poor impression. It is interesting that Google Suggest reports the top three phrases starting with “Apple are” to be:

  • Apple are evil
  • Apple are greedy
  • Apple are greedy bastards

I have never been a great fan of Microsoft but feel that, perhaps now that Microsoft are starting to lose their grip, they may be becoming a bit more cooperative. Apple on the other hand appear to have caught the Microsoft disease and think they will rule the world.

Apple share price
Apple share price

The share price for Apple continues to rise but if one looks at the chart one sees a steep rise as Apple introduced music players, smart phones and tablets. But having established the market and set the bar the competition is now replicating their products and I suggest that when you reach the top there is only one way to go. I just wish I’d bought some Apple shares as now must be the time to sell.

Am I being over critical? I think not. I have not bought a product from some minority Korean company. I have bought a top of the range product from the acclaimed industry leader. A company that is now valued at more than Microsoft.

So, for the moment I have an Apple Macbook Pro and an Apple iPhone 4 and, with some reservations, I am generally satisfied with them.

But I am now aware that buying Apple does not mean easy interoperability or cutting edge functionality. With Windows 7, Microsoft appear to have refined the user interface and there are some very nice Android and Windows phones out there. When I come to replace my Apple kit I will be very wary of Apple. Perhaps Apple’s image of innovation is now no more than a useful brand image used by their marketing department to sell to people who are more interested in “style” than substance?

maximise mac window – just like Microsoft

Ever since I got my macbook I have been agrevated by the behaviour of the green button on the top of mac windows. It’s touted as a “maximize” button but it does not maximise. It just resizes. A maximize button is normal in Microsoft Windows – I know, wash my mouth out with soap. Having now used mac OS and Windows 7 I have to say that WIndows 7 windows behaviour is superior. Tell a mac user that and they will not understand. Perhas they enjoyr wasting time dragging window size about.

However, here is a neat little free tool that makes the green button do what it’s suposed to do. Something Apple should have sorted out by now.

Right Zoom for Mac 1.7 – freeware (language: English)

Time to replace the record deck?

Goldring G101
Goldring G101

For a while now I have been looking for the ideal device to play music at home. I have an old fashioned stereo system with a record deck, a broken CD player, an amplifier and speakers. I need to go digital but I don’t want to replace my amp and speakers so what do I do? I have been plugging my phone into the stereo and this works fine. I have also plumbed my PC into the stereo and this also works. The problem with these two methods is that they are fiddly. If I crack open a beer and sit back and want to put on some music I do not want to be either booting up my PC and clicking away at a keyboard or fiddling around with a device with a screen the size of a postage stamp.

I’d looked at some of the products available such as the hand held controllers from Sonos but they don’t seem to get it. When I am relaxing I don’t want to be reading a lot of bloody menus.

Get an iPod? Well, maybe, but the screen is still pretty small and even then I would have to plug it in….or so I thought.

Recently I went downstairs. The pop star who lives there is into Apple macs in a big way and I asked him what h does. He showed me that he had plugged a little gadget known as an Apple Airport into the back of his amplifier and now plays music direct from his macbook. Hmmmm….wireless ay? Very interesting. He had a spare airport which I hooked up and sure enough I can play music direct from my macbook. Hmmm……we were getting there.

I am still left with a fiddly interface but if I got an iPod this could also play music wirelessly but I want a big screen.

Kapil Sibal and the £23 computer
Kapil Sibal and the £23 computer

The latest useless device that Apple have just launched might fit the bill. Since it’s launch I have not been inspired by the iPad. I am not going to carry it with me on a train as it’s too big. If I go on holiday I wouldn’t take it as it has no keyboard. OK, if you have too much spare cash, it’s a fun device but I can’t see a market for it. Then the penny dropped.

One could get an iPad, load it up with music and hang it on the wall. Whenever you want to play music you rub your fingers over the iPad and hey presto! This scenario is almost possible. I am told that, as yet, the iPad does not have that nifty interface for music that the iPod has. The one when you can flick through the album covers. I’m told that this interface will be available in the next version of the iPad software.

So is that it? Is the iPad the answer to my music playing problem? Has the iPad found it’s niche?

Not quite. It is odd just how much we are prepared to pay for this sort of technology. A modern amplifier costs about £150. A speaker system perhaps £200. A CD player about £75. So why would I spend £500 on a control panel?

This is also my main gripe about book reading devices such as the kindle. They are so expensive that you would be scared of leaving it on a bus.

Well India may be about to help us out. The Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and the Indian Institute of Science in Bengalooru have developed a touchscreen device similar to an iPad but costing around £23!

Is the Macbook all it’s cracked up to be?

macbook pro
macbook pro

I have just bought myself a Macbook Pro with 250gb hard disk and 4 gig of RAM!!! It cost me £ 1150 from Dixons. Yehhaaaa!.

I have complained about Microsoft Windows since Windows 3.1 but seen it improve gradually though to my mind not enough. So I took the plunge and bought a Mac. Was it worth it? Read on.

I’ve worked with computers since before the PC. My first machine was a Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) System 10 when I was at school in 1974 and this ran an Operating System  called TOPS-20. My first job in IT was in 1978 working on a PDP11 running an Operating System called RSTS/E. Since then I’ve worked on, VMS, Pic, MPE, CICS, Unix of many flavours, Linux, Amiga OS, Windows blah blah and a variety of other obscure ones.

When Dos & Windows came along I was sort of annoyed that all the gains that had been made with mini computer OSs like VMS or Unix did not exist in Windows. I’m told that the mainframe guys thought the same when the mini computer came along. But OK, gradually Windows got a scheduler, Windows started multi tasking, Windows got a better interface.

But I was always annoyed that my Commodore Amiga with 512K of RAM could switch tasks in an instant at the touch of a key while Windows has to jerk me around and freeze the screen. Even now with vast amounts of processing power and RAM windows still seems to have problems prioritising tasks so that the user is not brought to a halt. I’m speaking of Windows up to XP. All I’ve heard about Vista is bad and I have no experience of Windows 7.

So I bought myself a Mac. A Unix variant under the bonnet and a slick interface. It sounds perfect.

Well to start with the packaging was great as it was simple and limited. The physical design of the silver macbook is of course beautiful. Again simplicity and utility. Apple have always been famous for this and they have excelled themselves this time.

Switching on and starting up must have been easy because I cannot remember much about it. It asked me a few questions and I think I set up a user and that was it. I’d played with one in a shop and, come on, it’s just another OS, so it was easy enough to find my way around. I found the touch pad a little odd to start with but I’m getting used to it and I think I will learn to prefer it though a mouse is still preferable for some work such as image manipulation. The magnetic power connector is fantastic and saves a lot of fiddling around.

I downloaded Open Office and found that software installation was much more straightforward and quicker than most Windows apps. I like the way I can download an app and run it without installing it. I like the way that when I upgraded to Snow Leopard it asked me a couple of questions and then said that it was going to do it and it would take some time. I was then free to leave it going without worrying that it was ask some dumb question. When I came back it was done.
I downloaded an app to synch my mac with my Nokia N95 and without much optimism I installed it and ran it. It installed extremely easily and was very simple to synch with the N95. Within minutes it was done.

I like the dock or task bar or whatever it’s called. You may, by now, have noticed that I am not an Apple techy. I am not sure of all the terminology but that is a very key point. Having worked with numerous systems for year and learned the technobabble of our industry I now what something that just works. When I switch my TV on I don’t want to have to learn a lot of twaddle to make it work. When I pick up my phone I don’t want to read the manual. And when I want to browse the web or write a letter I don’t want to have to take an MCSE. The mac achieves this objective. The top level is simplicity. To someone used to Windows, like myself, it may even seem a little limited but I am learning that all the functionality is still there, it is just packaged more slickly.
I have dropped down to the shell a couple of times for a look around but not stayed there long. This machine is for writing and Internet work. It’s like a pen in the hands of an author. I might get more into the technical side later but for now I just want to us it.

The Finder is the mac version of Windows explorer and, though initially sceptical, I think it is growing on me.

The battery life is excellent and Apple have done a very good job of the look and feel, both physical, visual and ergonomic. For example the SD card slots seems tightly bound to the case so that when inserting a card it fits firmly.

The screen is excellent. I opened an image I’d taken at night and on the mac it had enough light to look reasonable. I printed it on a good quality Epsom Stylus Pro 4000 and the image was pretty much as on the screen. I opened the same image on my PC and the image was much too dark. I increased the brightness of the image and printed it on the same printer and the result was too washed out. The conclusion is that the mac displays a more realistic impression of the image than the PC.

There are downsides.

Though the keyboard feels and looks beautiful it is has a slightly different layout. Like a US keyboard on a PC the @ and the “ are in different places. It has function keys but these perform different functions. I miss being able to hit F2 to edit a spreadsheet cell. On the Mac the F2 brings up a nifty Clock, calender, calculator, weather screen.

Minidisplay to VGA
Minidisplay to VGA

The mac has a mini display port for connecting an external screen. I had to purchase a mini display to VGA adapter for the extortionate price of £20 only to discover that, though this has a reasonably thin cable, it is only 3 inches long meaning that the slick, simplicity of the macbook is compromised by a bloody great VGA adapter sticking out of the side.

One thing I find strange is that there appears to be no ability to blow up a window to maximum size with a click of a widget. A widget exists but this only blows it up to the largest size it has been set at. To get it to take up the whole screen you have to move and drag it around with the mouse or touch pad. I find this very frustrating as it is something one often needs to do and I see no reason why this facility does not exist.

In summary, I am pleased that I bought the mac but sometimes find myself frustrated. I think this is because I have become so trained on the Windows platform. As I use a PC at work I wonder whether I will always find myself hitting the wrong function keys inadvertently as I switch back and forth but I don’t think so. I think I will gradually get used to two systems.