Monday, June 29, 2009

iPhone 3GS

Getting the phones
- Picked up two of them: one for me and one for the wife. I've only had my iPhone 3G (go read that review for more info that I won't bother covering again here) for about 6 months so I had to pay the $500. The wife's 2yr contract was up in May so she qualified for the $300 price. She's coming off of the AT&T 8525 (htc hermes windows mobile). I think the biggest thing I'll miss about that 8525 was the super easy bluetooth PAN tethering.
- So I preordered them from AT&T the day after the announcement through Yeah for preorder! Yeah no waiting in lines!
- Both were shipped out thurs June 18th and arrived via fedex overnight on the 19th.
- So I get ready to upgrade myself from 3G to 3GS by following these instructions which recommends you use the new sim cards that came with the new phones. I noticed each of the boxes had a sticker with each of our mobile phone numbers on them.
- First thing I noticed wrong was I got no message to activate when connecting to itunes on either of the phones. On my wife's it just went to creating the apple id and then the sync. Neither phone on two different computers both with the latest itunes updated would ask me to activate the phone.
- I had to call att at this #1-800-331-0500
apparently they didn't associate the new sim #'s with my account:
seems to have happened to a few people.
After giving her my iccid and imei #'s (both in settings|general|about)
she typed them in, I powered down all my phones, she sent an over the air activation, powered back up the phone, searching...,boom activated. After that she called me and then had me make a call to make sure it was all working good. Then we did it with my wife's phone. Whew ok all is working now.
Sad that at&t or apple or somebody screwed this up in the first place. Glad I was able to track down the issue, the phone #, and got a really helpful lady.
- Next, the camera is dead on my wife's iphone. As soon as I click on the camera app and go into preview, I see a bunch of graphical glitchy lines and then the phone reboots.
- So I get to the at&t store right at open (10am) the next day and of course they have none and send me to the apple store. 5min later I'm at the apple store, showed the crazy messed up camera, and they say yeah it's broke. They slip me in line as a special case and begin the long process of swapping it out. Since it is so new they gave me a new one straight out of the box. What made things a bit more complicated was the fact I had bought the phones from at&t. You know next time I'll just buy it from apple. But after about 1hr 15min later everything was straightened out and we now have two good working iphone 3gs's.
- Yeah that was NOT a good "premium" apple experience.
- To help recoup some of the costs I decided to sell my old iphone 3G. I decided to give a try instead of the usual ebay route. The day before 3gs was released prices were around $232. After the weekend it dropped to $212 which is when I decided to sell mine. It is currently going for $192. Sure you could get more on ebay but this is really no hassle. They send you the box, they pay for shipping, and paypal you the money. Just make sure you do a factory restore (quicker if you do it using itunes) and remove your old sim. I confirmed with Gazelle that they do not need or want your old sim card.
- I did think about keeping the old iphone 3g just as a nice ipod touch since it worked perfectly fine with wifi and all the apps and ipod functionality worked just great without a sim card. But in the end I really did need to recover some of that $800 we just spent on 3gs's.

The 3GS Experience
- I'm not going to go through what a billion excellent reviews out there have already cover. I'll just say "s" for speed is so true. It permeates the entire experience, and you can really fell the difference on a day to day basis on pretty much everything you do with the phone from app load times, surfing, simplify music load times, games, etc.
- The digital compass should come in handy for geocaching if they ever update the in app compass to use it.
- With 256mb of memory free memory isn't so critical anymore. Seeing 146mb of free memory on a clean reboot is pretty cool.
- With 32gb of storage I'm just loading up more movies that were converted with handbrake.
- I like having 11 pages of apps now since I was always full and swapping out apps. Having spotlight will let me go beyond 11 pages if I need to though they still need a better way to organize app icons (hello nested folders please!!??!?!)
- a2dp support is half ass on the iphone 3.0 (3gs or 3g). Ok more accurately AVRCP support sucks. The sound works fine. The pause/play does too. Next/Previous track is a no go. I tried it on both phones with 2 different headsets. Reading online nobody has gotten this feature to work. Apparently it's just not implemented in os 3.0. It's not a big deal but what happened to "apple doesn't implement something unless they do it right" mentality? This surely isn't right! Still, I'm enjoying a2dp with my Sony Stereo Headset. It is so much more convenient than having to use a dongle transmitter.
- Push notification pretty much rocks. AP news is ok but it's really cool with textfree lite and BeeJive 3.0. The wife and I basically use beejive as our free way of texting each other. I just set us up with gtalk, jabber, aim, and msn accounts for redundancy and combined them into a meta contact. They just need to stabilize their servers a bit and add group chat and it will be perfect. Textfree lite is still handy when I want to send a free sms to other mobile phones. Yes, I REFUSE to pay for an sms plan because it's a big scam and costs AT&T basically nothing.
- The touch to zoom and auto focus/macro is nice. I've recorded a few videos which is quite handy and convenient.
- I can't wait to see what game developers do with the bump in cpu, gpu, and memory.
- 7.2mbps HSDPA hasn't really rolled out yet. It might be my imagination but the 3gs seems to be a bit better than 3g connection wise. Doing a few speed tests didn't really show any dramatic differences though.
- Notes now syncs with outlook though we've mostly migrated to evernote now.

- My wife picked up the iskin Solo FX (light blue) case which she really likes and has gotten quite a few complements on. I'm still using my iskin solo black case. I picked it up new in retail box for $25 shipped from ebay.
- Power Support Anti-Glare Film. I'm getting much better at putting these on. Start near the top of the phone where the sleep button is. Then just lay it down. If you can't quite get it lined up right the first time I use a bit of scotch tape on the end near the home button to lift up the film and realign.
- I highly recommend you get power/sync cable accessories from Quick, reliable, and much better quality control than the junk on ebay and it ships much faster than Here are some that I have tried and work great:
Sync Cable
USB Charger that works with iphone 3gs
Car Charger
Wall Charger
- The bastards broke compatibility with my cheap composite cable. Now I have to buy the apple ones for $50!

Notable Apps
Logmein - Yeah $30 is crazy expensive but it is also a very cool app. I like how the pointer stays centered and you move the screen around beneath the pointer.
mSecure - An alternative to 1password and you can backup to pc (not just mac).
Star defense - my new favorite tower defense game
Defender Chronicles
Knights Onrush
Flight Control
Zenonia - zelda-ish
Space Ace - Awesome port. Play Ace level/unlimited lives to see all the levels. Very smooth, very little pausing between scenes.
Top Gun - kind of reminds me of afterburner
F.A.S.T. - like ace combat/hawx
Asphault 4
Soonr - kind of like dropbox but with a free iphone app

Overall, highly recommended. I wasn't expecting such a big improvement in my every day use and experience with the iPhone. If you are a power user/gamer you really should consider pickup up a 3GS. My wife has been adjusting pretty quickly to the touch keyboard though the spelling natzi (auto correction) does get on her nerves sometimes. But overall she is liking it too.

UPDATE: 7/10/09
- Gazelle just posted $212 into my paypal account so everything went very smoothly. It's a pretty good service if you are ok with the price they offer (which I admit is pretty low).

UPDATE: 7/20/09
- I ran into the wrong icon issue where the app would have the wrong icon associated with it. Here is a solution (post #22) that worked every time for me. This is all done on the iPhone. Delete the app, go to the app store, re-download it, pause the download by tapping on the app icon, power off the phone like normal (hold down sleep then slide), power the phone back up, resume the download/install of the app. Presto, your icon should be properly restored.

Monday, June 22, 2009

MacBook Pro 13-inch 2.53ghz (mid 2009)


MacBook Pro 13" vs Dell Inspiron 8600 15.4"

- Yes this grizzled PC veteran has finally bought a mac. This is my first mac so it was quite a learning curve (and still is!) for me. So this post will be from a complete mac osx noob perspective. So hopefully this might help those that are trying out a mac for the first time while most of you osx veterans can start rolling your eyes about now.

Why a Mac
- I think I might need to explain myself a bit on why I decided to finally buy a mac:
- I need a new laptop. We have one very old dell Inspiron 8600 which I still use daily but I've been eyeing a new laptop for sometime.
- I wanted something more portable and easier to travel with. I've been looking at netbooks but then I just got into World of Warcraft, and I wanted something that could play that at an acceptable framerate. Having just built a SFF PC built on the nvidia 9400m platform I knew that level performance would be good enough.
- I've been seriously looking into doing some iphone development and well the sdk only works on osx.
- I've looked at hackintosh, osx86, etc but I figure if I'm going to do this I want to do it right. Developing for iphone is going to be hard enough without having to worry about if the hackintosh is causing issues.
- The new macbook pro 13" fit pretty nicely. Yes I know you pay an "apple tax" but I see it as getting two computers in one (loading up windows with bootcamp). The tax isn't as big as you might think though. A comparable spec'd Dell Studio XPS 13" runs $1374 (or $1454 with 9 cell battery) with the same cpu/memory but with 9500m graphics and a bigger hard drive (500gb). So yeah you pay around a $200 or so apple tax but to me it was worth it for all the flexibility it gains me.
- So it's got the newfangled battery that is suppose to run 7hrs which greatly depends on what you are doing and your screen brightness. I do like the auto sensing brightness adjustment based on ambient light. In a pitch black room it dims quite nicely. So lithium polymer batteries have been around forever but I guess apple's trick up its sleeve is some sort of special controller chip that manages how the cells get recharged. I guess we will find out if the 1000 charges holds up after 3 yrs.
- Yes, the battery is not user removable. Yes, I hate that fact but the battery is easy to get to, and I'm sure long after the warranty is over I'll be able to find a supplier for these batteries and swap it out myself (or you could always just pay apple to do it for you at an apple retail store).
- Firewire is back (though I don't use firewire that often) and a sd card reader. No express card slot. The SD slot is bootable so you could say install another copy of osx on it in case of emergencies.

"The Apple Experience"
- Going into the apple store still creeps me out. The worst was when I went in to buy the macbook. I guess it came up in conversation that this was my first mac. The sales person was trying to push all this mac software crap, mobile me, one on one, etc. I was tempted to just say look I'm just going to go home, format the sucker, and install windows 7 :-) Anyways, when I checked out and they handed me the goods they said "Welcome to the family".....creepy.

500GB Hard Drive Upgrade

- So I wanted 500gb so I could do the bootcamp thing and install windows and still have plenty of space for both os's. I also plan to use this notebook as my portable media machine while on vacation. No more bringing a binder full of dvd's. I went with the Seagate Momentus 7200.4 7200 rpm 500gb sata hard drive for $130. Another popular option is the Western Digital Scorpio Blue 5400 rpm drive for $95. Here is a pretty good roundup on 2.5" 500gb hdd.
- Swapping the hard drive is pretty easy. The instructions are actually in the manual. What it doesn't mention is the need of a Torx T6 screwdriver to remove the four small mounting screws on the hard drive itself. I've been needing to pick up a torx set anyways so I grabbed the Kronus 20-Piece Electronics Bit-Driver Set from the local Radio Shack for $16.50. Also, the screws to remove the back plate are all different sizes so just make sure you keep them all straight.
- So I thought I would give the free Carbon Copy Cloner a try which seemed like a nice Acronis True Image type of app. I connect up the new drive using my blacx over usb and imaged the current boot drive to this new hdd. Everything seemed to go well. I was able to swap the drive easily now that I had a torx 6 screwdriver. The new 7200rpm 500gb seagate booted up just fine. So I go run bootcamp and it tells me it can't repartition or something. I learned the hard way that when I prepared the new hdd I picked something apple or another instead of GUID when I partitioned it. Yeah BAD BAD BAD. GUID GOOD.
- So next I try out time machine which is pretty slick if a bit cheesy (ok the flying through space and the different version of finder when you enter the time machine is a bit much). I just happened to have a 320gb 2.5" hdd in a usb enclosure (usb powered) I wasn't really using for anything. I did a complete time machine backup which took a while but went smoothly. I then boot with my mac osx disc (I see holding down option on boot up lets you pick the boot device), delete the partition, recreate it using the disk utility. I then try and restore from time machine but it would no't see my new hdd as a destination. It took some fumbling around but I finally just rebooted and then it let me choose my 500gb hdd for the destination of my restore. After the time machine restore (which works surprisingly well) I was finally able to run bootcamp assistant and partition for windows. Uggggg!!!!!
- Anybody try time machine over a samba share before? It sounds interesting.
- SuperDuper is another popular pay option but from my experience it seems time machine pretty much does it all.
- Here are some folders you might want to exclude from time machine.
- I did get the prohibitory sign one time on boot up. I decided to reset my PRAM and NVRAM just in case. It hasn't happened again since then.
- UPDATE: The seagate has been working well so far. It's quite speedy and quiet. This was run under bootcamp win7 x64 rc. Even though I've applied the EFI Firmware Update 1.7, and I can confirm in osx that it is indeed 3.0Gbps, it seems under windows it's still limited to 1.5Gbps by looking at the burst speed. This could be a bootcamp issue or even me running HD Tach in win 7 (you have to set compatibility mode to winxp). Either way it's still a speedy drive.

- Also, I am NOT having any issues like this. There are NO weird pauses, clicks, or beeps. I think that's because the model I'm using is the AS and NOT the ASG that apple uses. The AS lacks the drop sensor so I guess there is no chance to conflict with the one built into the macbook pro.

Exploring OSX
- So the first thing I do is install firefox and all my favorite plugins. After it was all setup I felt right at home. Safari 4 was ok but I really hate how in osx "maximize" doesn't always expand the window to your entire screen (I'm looking at you safari). I guess it's consistently inconsistent with red "close" button doesn't always mean quit the application. What apple "genius" thought that was a good idea. Also, I think they made double click the window title bar to minimize and window state buttons on the left which are exactly the opposite of windows just to drive windows users crazy.
- Where are the buttons? That was what my wife said when she first tried out the laptop. She was referring to the mousepad buttons which of course the macbook pro doesn't have any. I told her apple hates buttons and you push down the entire touch pad to click. Actually, I prefer tap to click and all those single finger drag/lock options. I was at least sort of use to a more "touch/gesture" interface from my iphone so this helped me transition a bit better. I do find some of the 3 finger and 4 finger gestures very handy. Two finger scroll feels very natural and works much better than the right side touchpad vertical strip on PC laptops. Sucked when I found out my 3 finger back/forward gestures didn't work in firefox until I discovered MultiClutch which fixed the problem. UPDATE: firefox 3.5 now supports 3 finger gestures natively (about:config filter on swipe. It also supports twist gestures).
- I had some confusion with how some apps let you create multiple instances, other apps are multi document (sort of like MDI but without a parent frame), others were single instance/single document apps. Like how command-n launches another copy of finder.
- Messed around with spaces. Pretty neat implementation of linux like virtual desktops. I'll have to mess with it more to see how I can best utilize it. Assigning vmware fusion on a different space works well. Same with wow. This way I can keep space 1 for firefox with wowhead or mapwow up.
- Stacks: I just stick folders there and load them up with shortcuts....errr I mean aliases. Great for quickly getting to downloads (I like to sort by date) and documents.
- Yeah, discovered about aliases the hard way. There were a few cases where when I thought I was creating an alias I was instead actually moving the entire app. Then when I deleted it (and emptied the trash) I accidentally deleted the app. No big deal on re-installing the app (I love how easy it is to install/uninstall apps in osx) and nice that settings are stored elsewhere (in the Library?). The command + option drag method for creating aliases sucks compared to right click drag in windows for a context sensitive menu when you release the right mouse button. This is where I really miss a physical second mouse button.
- I'm looking for an equivalent to locknote
What I did was create an encrypted disk image (10mb) with aes 128bit encryption and makes sure you don't save the password in the keychain. Then I guess I could just save a text file in that disk image. It's not quite the same so I'm still looking for a good locknote replacement if anybody knows of one. Also, I thought about using maybe a keychain and storing sensitive data in the notes section. I like how osx has really good native support for the concept of mounting disk images (.dmg/.iso).
- I tried out 1password but it doesn't let you search within a secure note. My final solutions was running locknote in crossover.
- Connected to vista with the built in vnc and it worked just fine though yeah it was a bit slow. I might look into vine or chicken. But it works in a pinch.
- I have this bluetooth 5 button dell mouse that paired up just fine with the mac. But to get the forward/back buttons to work correctly I had to install Steer Mouse. I wonder if installing Intellipoint osx drivers would also do the trick. I didn't bother trying. There are a few reports of sleep issues after installing the intellipoint drivers, and besides the mouse works great with just steer mouse installed.
- What is up with the keyboard with no home, end, page up, page down, or forward delete. Bootcamp keyboard mapping.
- Disable command Left/Right from moving page back/forward in firefox. Instead I want it to jump to the beginning and end of the line like it should. After you install the extension go to tools keyconfig. You want to disable gobackkb, goforwardkb. Command [ or ] still works fine for page navigation.
- 802.11n and gigabit ethernet both worked great and performed better than my pc's. Gigabit ethernet was faster than any vista to vista transfers I've done before.
- I'm using Leech (discount code at end of video) as a nice free download manger replacement (well except it isn't free).
- SilverKeeper is a nice little free utility if you just want to sync a few folder pairs. It works over smb shares too.
- Beware about how copying folders and merging works. In windows if you copied a folder to another drive with the same folder name, the contents and sub directories would merge. If you choose replace in osx it really does replace. It's like erasing all the contents in the destination folder first and then copying the contents from the source.
- Activity Monitor reminds me of task manager and lets you kill processes too.
- I haven't had much time to dig into the iLife stuff yet.
- Some external monitor tips (like how to get full resolution without being stuck in extended desktop or the max resolution of the macbook in mirror mode)
I haven't tried this yet but it sounds like it should work.
- Why doesn't finder let you cut and paste files like in windows? Sure you can copy and paste but for some reason cut is disabled (command X). I find this really annoying. Sure there are some kludgey work arounds but it really should just work.
- Display complete path in finder.
- Setup firmware level password. It's not substitute for encryption but it might come in handy.
- Some other useful utilities: - Nice little site for finding useful apps
NTFS-3G - read/write ntfs partitions. Should come in handy for bootcamp users. Works great and is stupid easy to install.
AppFresh - Keep your apps up to date
AppCleaner - Completely remove an app including all its settings and other files like those kept in Library
Adium - IM
Grow - notifications
Perian - QT plugin for other media types. This didn't work that well for me. I still prefer VLC.
iStat Pro - system monitoring widget.
iStat Menus - I really like the network monitor and the hard drive activity. You can set it up to display the little color coded activity arrows to mimic the funciton of a hdd activity led. I really miss my hard drive light and this works just fine. It also displays temps which you can compare to this list of temps.
Onyx - multifunction utility. maintenance
TinkerTool - easy access to hidden settings and preferences.
The Unarchiver - It's no winrar but then again what is.
ClamXav - antivirus
coconutBattery - all sorts of neat battery info
Handbrake - great transcoding utiltiy though I mostly use it on my quad core PC.
JollysFastVNC - It's much faster than the built in vnc client and has an interesting zoom mode.
iStumbler - find wifi hot spots.

Network Shares
- Connection to windows shares (smb) is pretty easy (command K or finder, go, connect to server, save password to key ring, save as favorite). I did get an error code -41 periodically when trying to connect to one of my vista machines. I was getting an error in the event log with event ID 2017. Here are some potential solutions which seems to have fixed the issue for me:
- I created an apple script and compiled it as an application and stuck a alias on my desktop so I could quickly and easily remount all my shares when I needed them.
tell application "Finder"

mount volume "smb://uncpath"
end try

mount volume "smb://uncpath"
end try
end tell

- One odd thing was when sharing from windows to mac I had to use the mac ip address. I haven't figured out how to use a more friendly unc path. I guess I could always just edit the hosts file.

Media Playback
- VLC as awesome as it was on PC is even more awesome on osx. It just looks more polished. It still plays about everything under the sun. The highest quality 1080p high bitrate MKV's will push the cpu to 80% but plays perfectly smooth. Most HD MKV's use < href="">dvd assist though I didn't bother trying.
- I picked up the little apple IR remote ($20). Pretty neat for controlling front row, itunes, and to a limited extent the latest VLC. It should come in handy when using the macbook pro as a media player while on vacation like in a hotel room. Some buttons you can hold for a different function.
- An interesting app if you want to do more with the remote. I haven't tried it yet.
- I also tried the iphone remote app. Not bad for free if you just want to control itunes with it over wifi.
- TV OUT: Look at Chris Innanen post in this thread.
Mini display port to vga $19
VGA to RCA-Composite/S-Video converter $27
VGA Gender Changer $1
Make sure you flip both dip switches DOWN for NTSC.
It's a pretty nice solution: very small and compact and the converter is usb powered so no additional ac adapters to carry around. Quality is pretty good for what it is.
Just add a set of composite cables (6ft for around $3), and a 1/8" stereo to rca L/R splitter (though I would probably go find one color coded) and you should be able to hook your macbook up to almost any hotel TV.
- Monoprice also carries the mini display port -> hdmi and dvi for less. They also have the mini toslink cables for getting optical spdif out of the headphone jack.
- I you want to get spdif audio into your hdmi you might try this adapter. (I have not personally tried this adapter)
- I tried two XBMC derivatives: Boxee and Plex. Both offer slick interfaces, works with apple remote, internet streaming support, and tons of file formats (seems to rank up there with VLC). They are a lot more flexible than frontrow. Boxee for some reason dropped the "resume" feature for video. It might return in the future but for now that is a deal killer. Plex works well with better hulu integration. Netflix streaming worked fine in both apps. For now I'll probably stick with plex.
- Hulu desktop is pretty slick and also works great with the apple remote but it's a bit redundant if you use plex.

Running Windows
- So I decided to try windows 7 x64 RC since I plan to wipe and install the final version when it is released on Oct 22. Surprisingly it went very smooth. I just inserted the win 7 disc, cold boot while holding option, picked the disc, chose the right partition (the one called BOOTCAMP), and format to ntfs. After first boot of win 7 I installed the bootcamp drivers from the osx install disc. Those went in just fine without the need for a LIMO patch. The only thing I had to install manually from the osx disc were the 64bit nvidia drivers which went in just fine. rthdribl ran at 70+ fps. World of Warcraft ran at 40fps on GOOD settings (same as the osx build). Guild Wars runs at a solid 60fps with everything maxed out. This is exactly in line with my SFF 9400m so go read that if you want more gaming benchmarks. I might do more windows gaming benchmarks on this laptop when I get the chance. The one known issue is the sound. These new macbook pro's now use a Cirrus Logic chipset and not realtek. Basically the sound is really quiet (about half volume at max) and the optical emitter is always on in the headphone jack. There is no known solution at this time. You can read more about the issue here.
UPDATE: Here is one possible solution for vista and windows 7 users.
UPDATE 2: I finally tried the solution and it does work but I had to do a few extra steps (at least for windows 7 x64). After following the steps in the solution, click your speaker icon in the system tray which should have a red x on it. It will fix itself. At this point the device manager will show ms hd audio and you will have no audio at all. Just run dpinst /F one more time and it will change to cirrus logic and all is good. No need to reboot.
UPDATE 3: Here is another possible solution.
- Hey look the win 7 task bar is now almost like the osx dock where running apps and launching are all shared on the same icon.
- Next, I installed vmware Fusion and patched it to the latest version. I had no problems booting it off of the bootcamp win7 x64 partition. All the vmware fusion tools installed just fine on first bootup within fusion. After that I went back to bootcamp to make sure the fusion tools didn't screw up anything. Everything seemed fine. Unity view is pretty cool where fusion will strip away everything around the app and makes your app look like it's running in native osx. Oh and sound works just fine in fusion since it kind of goes through a HW emulation layer.
- Finally, I gave wine (specifically darwine) a try. I was really impressed by the tech and the ability to emulate and map all the win32 api calls without any windows dll's. It actually ran locknote ok but would always throw some error when closing. It also opens all sorts of messy windows like logs, x11, processes, etc. It's free so it might be worth a try.
- I then gave crossover a shot which is basically a much more advance and polished version of wine. After creating a winxp winebottle and setting it as default I was able to run locknote perfectly straight from finder. It really does seamlessly run windows apps in osx and much quicker than firing up an entire virtual machine. It's great if your app is supported. I went ahead and purchased crossover (quite pricey I might add) as my locknote solution.
- I gave crossover games a try with guild wars. It installed just fine (created the appropriate wine bottle). After the initial download I quit gw and decided to copy the gw.dat (that was already complete) from my bootcamp partition into this wine bottle (just go to configuremanage wine bottle, advanced, and open c: drive in finder). I was quite impressed with the results. The graphics looked fine with no corruption and the framerates were pretty smooth and very playable.

Guild Wars (RA lobby):
Bootcamp: 60fps all settings maxed out. Perfect of course.
Corssover: 20fps all settings maxed out, 33fps medium settings (pretty smooth and quite playable)
fusion: 8fps all settings maxed out (jerky, not playable), 15fps lowest settings -dx8 (still pretty jerky), 20fps -dx8 -noshaders (barely playable though I really wouldn't want to). Pretty impressive that it even kind of works in a virtual machine but in practical terms it was not very useful.

- Lapinator + Mousitizer $25 + $10 + shipping. This is my second lapinator and the mousitizer is equally awesome. It even comes with a lip that prevents your mouse from sliding off when both hands are on the keyboard. It's very comfortable and keeps my lap nice and cool. Tip: when sticking on the rubber feet make sure it doesn't get in the way of the mousitizer.

- Case Logic 13" MacBook Sleeve $26. Fits the macbook pro like a glove. Has a pocket for the ac adapter.
- Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 (bluetooth) $38. It has all 5 buttons. Laser. Works great with the built in bluetooth on the macbook (no need to use the included dongle). Too bad the forward/back buttons couldn't be on the same side. Also, the scroll wheel is smooth though it does have a bit of friction to it. I prefer notched. It uses 2XAAA and comes with a pretty nice carrying case too. It's your typical smallish notebook mouse. The volume controls even work. All in all it's my favorite bluetooth mouse right now.
- Wenger Synergy Backpack $66 (haven't received this yet but it looks pretty good)
- 2 X 60w magsafe power adapters from ebay from this seller: satisfactionassured. $24 each. They get a bit warm but seem to work ok. Yeah, I'm still a bit worried about using these but dang compared to the $80 apple tax it was hard to resist. After using them a bit more they seem fine.
- The sony stereo bluetooth headphones that I use with my iphone also works quite well with the macbook.

Special thanks to the fine folks at QT3 for all the wonderful suggestions and help.

Overall I'm very impressed by the hardware. It is really well built and performs great. You pay a bit more but if you want the best it's worth it. OSX is nice but I'm still getting use to it. A lot of things still feel pretty quirky to me. Plus you get a great windows machine out of it though I'm pretty much trying to stay in OSX and do things the osx way as much as possible during this learning period. If you are looking for a high end laptop then you can't do much better than the new MacBook Pro. Highly recommended!

UPDATE: 7/9/09
- So I finally got around to booting back to bootcamp windows 7 x64 RC and ran some gaming benchmarks. Most of the games are off of steam using these settings: 1280X800, vsync off when possible, AA off, trilinear (AF off) when possible. I used the benchmark feature in the latest fraps. The wow numbers between windows and osx is almost identical so I play wow under osx.

2009-07-08 23:33:00 - Guild Wars (max, vsync off, no aa, running around RA lobby)
Frames: 2575 - Time: 38718ms - Avg: 66.506 - Min: 47 - Max: 90

2009-07-08 23:40:10 - World of Warcraft (ironforge, good setting on the slider)
Frames: 3194 - Time: 50256ms - Avg: 63.554 - Min: 46 - Max: 75

2009-07-08 23:41:44 - World of Warcraft (stormwind)
Frames: 1550 - Time: 37882ms - Avg: 40.916 - Min: 35 - Max: 51

2009-07-08 23:49:56 - bioshock (plane crash, low settings)
Frames: 2393 - Time: 75350ms - Avg: 31.758 - Min: 16 - Max: 60

2009-07-08 23:55:39 - bioshock (beginning of rapture)
Frames: 3153 - Time: 101748ms - Avg: 30.988 - Min: 24 - Max: 52

Counter Strike Source Video Stress Test: 87fps

2009-07-09 00:02:41 - hl2 (counter strike source, high settings, 9 bots, de_dust)
Frames: 1922 - Time: 47937ms - Avg: 40.094 - Min: 28 - Max: 44

2009-07-09 00:05:58 - hl2 (counter strike source, medium settings)
Frames: 7341 - Time: 84491ms - Avg: 86.884 - Min: 59 - Max: 104

2009-07-09 00:12:39 - left4dead (survival, last stand, low settings, local server)
Frames: 3251 - Time: 149374ms - Avg: 21.764 - Min: 15 - Max: 31

Saturday, June 20, 2009


- Great graphics, sound, presentation.
- HUD view works well and was my favorite view to play from.
- Assistant Mode Off takes a bit getting use to. It becomes more critical later on when dog fighting aces but I wish it didn't force you into the totally retarded and awkward 3rd person "action" cam. I would have prefer the "turn on a dime" maneuverability while keeping me in HUD view. You'll eventually come to grips with it and become effective but never quite comfortable with it.
- We finished the entire campaign with 3 player co-op (it supports up to 4). It makes things a bit easier since as long as one of you stays alive the other players will respawn after 15 sec or so. Co-op is a blast and is definitely highly recommended you experience the campaign that way if you can.
- Mission design was pretty good with only a couple of frustrating ones. The story is forgettable and the ending is rather abrupt.
- There is a bug where you don't always get your achievements. This happened to me on the last 3-4 missions. So even though I finished it all on the hardest difficulty level I didn't get my achievements. Ubisoft you hear me! You owe me my achievements! Replaying the missions didn't help.

Overall I enjoyed the game quite a bit until the achievement bug and now the game is dead to me. DEAD TO ME!!!! Still, it's worth picking up if you can find it for cheap say around the $20-30 range.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bluetooth 2.0 A2DP AVRCP Stereo Music Receiver and Handsfree

- You can pick it up from dealextreme for around $13 shipped
- So the idea behind this device is you can use your own headphones or really any audio device that accepts a standard 1/8" headphone jack.
- It charges with a little usb cable through the same headphone jack.
- Battery life is rather poor at around 3 - 4 hrs max so there is no way you can make it through an entire work day. I had bought two so I could just swap between them.
- You'll still have a short wire from your wired headphones to the bluetooth receiver. I would just slip the BT receiver into my pocket. It's really tiny.
- With the proper audio adapters (say 1/8" mini stereo -> L/R composite rca) you could hook one of these BT receivers up to say your home theater receiver and beam music across the room. It's a rather handy and flexible device.
- Paired just fine with my maxfun transmitter which I used with my iphone 3g (this is before os 3.0 release).
- Sound quality is pretty good with just a bit of hiss but isn't really noticeable when music is playing.
- It has your usual controls and a built in mic which I didn't bother testing.
- It worked quite well for about 2 weeks and then all of a sudden BOTH of my units would no longer charge (I tried usb hubs, plugging into a pc, etc, nothing!). Also, the sound quality all of a sudden went horribly bad. It almost sounded like mono, all the voices were quiet and distorted. It basically sounded like you were underwater.
- So I began the rma process with dealextreme. To my suprise they have a facitilty in the US that handles returns and exchanges. If it is within 30 days they pay shipping both ways. Unfortunately as with everything about dealextreme response times are slow. It took them over a week to get back to me and by the time my rma for exchange was all setup 30 days had passed. So basically I'm out $8 shipping to them and then another $4 to ship the replacements to me. Basically I just paid for another unit.
- I'll give these one last chance but if they break in to the trash they go!

The price is right, the sound quality was pretty good, the battery life kind of sucked, and quality control is horrible. I really can't recommend wasting money on something that breaks so easily unless I just got really really unlucky (having both units die at the same time in the same way). I'll report back when I get my replacement units.

UPDATE: 7/9/09
- Just received my two replacement units and they seem to be working well so far. So I can say the deal extreme support experience works and goes pretty smoothly but just takes quite a bit of patience.