Tag Archives: Mac

The Mac Clone: Pointless in 2008

In case, you’ve missed, a company called Psystar is selling a Mac clone for $399 & up. As the Guardian noted, they are either operating out of mom & dad’s garage or in a new office.

For $399, they are offering you a Mac Mini (specs) encased in a large (but nice looking) PC case.

For some reason, this seems to excite people as if what we really want in life is a cheap knockoff of something, REALLY? This is really a goal in life? Don’t sell me the real thing, I’d rather pay slightly less money for a thing like the real thing?

A clone made sense when not just Macs but all personal computers sold in the $2,000+ range. Of course, at that price point, I’m willing to compromise a little here and there for a computer in the $999 range.

But for a savings of $200 versus a Mini? What is really the point?

They like to talk expandability as if that’s some great thing worth the savings of $2,000 versus a MacPro desktop. (Um, never mind the MacPro has a quad core and thing isn’t even a duo core).

Sure, in the days of serial ports and wonky SCSI on the Mac side, anything you could install internally pretty much meant it would be easier for the OS to find and for it to work.

But now with firewire and USB, I can daisy-chain 128 firewire devices and nearly as many USB drives with powered hubs. Sure, they don’t don’t look as attractive but how many drives can you fit into most cases anyway, 4? I can buy 4 1TB drives that stacked on top of each other take up about as much desktop space as 4 inside a desktop case.

Expandability inside the case is not that important anymore – with USB & firewire, EVERYTHING is expandable in less than 5 minutes and no chance to cut your hand open trying to fit a HDD onto a tray inside a computer.

If anything, it’s better because if an external drive is really going down, I can unmount it and plug in a new drive without even restarting.

And If you are the 5% of users who will actually replace their graphics card, are you really going to buy a underpowered $399 Mac clone just to spend $2,000 on a graphics card?

Even as recent as 10 years ago, the margins on the PC side were that you could save substantially by building your own but now if your time is money, there’s no real savings. You have to be the type that enjoys tinkering because if a component breaks, you think it’s bad trying to get Dell to admit the power supply went down now, good luck getting a power supply you bought and installed replaced yourself from some company in Muncie? And yes, you can save a little here and there but the quality of the components? How many no-name fans are built for about 6 months before they start making noise slightly louder than a F-22 flyby?

And sure, you can save $200 by not buying a Mini … but what is iLife worth to you?

Or what is it worth to you that Apple has 200 stores around the globe open and ready to take responsibility and answer any question for your Mini (or any other Mac you buy?)

The time is passed for clone makers. The $200 dollar difference is too miniscule (never mind that the website sort of implies that they don’t guarantee any other OS other than 10.5 will run on this – and never mind the legal issues or that this business seems to have started last week). Even if you started selling these at a retailer where customers could return it such as Wal-Mart, $200 savings is just not enough of a difference – now if this clone were selling for $99 or $149, then you might have a business as saving $450-$500 dollars, that’s actually substantial enough to make a difference.

But right now – pointless.

(and yea, Apple will sue – if Apple doesn’t, customers will walk into Apple stores trying to get tech support or more likely, warranty support – your OS is bundled with it?! Apple could care less if you wanted to sell an open source $399 computer but bundling Apple OS as if they had a license to bundle or sell it – implying to customers there is a relationship? That won’t fly).

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MacBook Air: Not For You So Don’t Panic

Quick, name the perfect product for everyone?

Air, the other one? The thing we breathe? Yea, how is that air in Houston in August or in Beijing?

Um, not so perfect.

Water? Who here only drinks tap? Don’t we like it flavored, carbonated, with taurine, mint or almost anyone other than tap?

So, not water … but apparently if it’s announced from Apple, it must be 100% perfect for everyone at all times.

Yea, not too high of a benchmark so that anything that falls slightly short of that is a “failure” or “disaster.”

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The MacBook Air is what it is. It’s a lightweight fairly speedy laptop with emphasis on lightweight.

Is it for everyone? No.

It’s for road warriors and those who are tired of carrying a heavy laptop around. For those that have NEVER traveled for an extended period with a laptop – you just don’t know. Holding it in a store for a minute is NOT the same thing. At the store holding it for a minute, you can’t justify spending a few hundred dollars extra but try running down a mile-long airport terminal or carrying a bag full of printed collateral and then ask yourself if 2 lbs, 4 lbs, etc. extra is worth the difference? Until you’re at that point you simply don’t know or don’t need an Air or any other ultraportable.

All you see is what’s “missing” but when you’re schelping a 5 lb or 7 lb laptop from room to room and then around a giant Pentagon like building – that’s when you wonder – how much weight are those extra CAMERA memory slots or how many peripherals do I need to plug into this thing at once? This is NOT a desktop machine for everyone. Is Apple not manufacturing any of their other lines or computers? No. You want full power and have the room? Buy the desktop Mac Pro. You want an all-in-one? Buy an iMac. You want portability on a budget and are willing to trade a little speed and screen size? Buy a MacBook. Need the most features, speed and screen size? Buy a MacBook Pro. You choose what you want – everything in this world including Macs are a compromise in some way because there’s no perfect for everyone 100% of the time but for those who want thin, light, good enough speed, a nice screen, OSX, and a full keyboard?

The MacBook Air has a lot of nice touches …

The Apple Air has built in WiFi and the new Remote which lets you mount a CD or DVD on a nearby machine – what more do you need?

Want security or recovery utilities – a 16 GB USB stick weighs a few ounces or would you rather carry around a bulky optical drive internally or externally?

Still without WiFi at home or at the office? How about a $8 connector from Ethernet to USB that weighs a few ounces.

Can’t live without extra USB ports? Unpowered or Powered.

At home, you can add the Apple Time Capsule so you can print, share a hard drive and of course access the internet via WiFi:

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As for the “non-removable” battery, AppleInsider points out it’s a three minute job but more importantly, in a few weeks, I’m sure there will be a USB long life external battery which is even BETTER that it’s external. First, you’re going to have to carry a spare battery anyway whether it’s internal or external, they both weigh about the same – and with an external battery, you can charge it without having to insert it into your larop OR carry around its own charger AND even better, when your internal battery goes low, you can simply plug in the external battery (presumably through the USB) and best of all, without having to shut down and remove the other battery.

So for those worried to no end about a battery that is not removeable is simply over worrying the solution. Of course, the perfect solution would be a battery that would run for 19 hours but until we get to that point, saving a few lbs is much more important than whether the additional 1 lb battery I have to carry anyway is external or internal.

The MacBook Air is clearly NOT for everyone but finally a full sized laptop in screen, speed & keyboard but one that weighs much like a sub notebook. The thin-ness is an extra bonus. Just ask the ‘road warriors’ what’s at the top of their wish list? The MacBook Air delivers 98% of what’s most important – bulk, screen size, processor speed, battery life and keyboard size.

Along with the built-in WiFi and a USB stick, the remaining 2% is easily manageable.

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The Apple CGI I’m a Mac Santa Holiday Ad

In case you missed it – cute, funny, nicely done!

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(click on screen shot – Apple.com)

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How to Fix Your Mac DVD & Other DVD Players for $7

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While not exactly the most exciting bit of technology, before you rip out a wonky DVD player from your Mac (or throw your AV DVD player away), spend $7 to run this cleaning DVD with brushes over the laser eye – in many cases, the ONLY reason your DVD player is working spotty and wonky is the household dust on the lens is diffusing the laser.

While the link here is to Amazon, you can buy it at most places like Target, WM or your electronic stores … from what I’ve seen, most places charge around $7-$8 and paying more isn’t really going to get you much better …

For those who’ve never used one, it’s the simplest cleaner device. Put it in, press PLAY. Nothing to spray, nothing to wipe. Press PLAY a second time to just to be sure. Eject. Done.

The Memorex one also has a speaker tester, nothing sophisticated but you get a speaker testing portion – highs, lows, seperation, left, right, etc … so give it a shot, it can’t hurt and after you run it twice and you still have problems, THEN you should consider replacing the DVD-R … Good luck!

(You can also run it for your AV DVD player as well as your car deck).

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Apple iPhone Forced to Unlock in Europe – Crying to the Bank …

While Apple is being forced to unlock the iPhone in Europe, it is tragic … because Apple is going to pay so much more in taxes from the HUGE profit they will be making … yea, that’s quite a tragedy.

The deal will be much like T-Mobile’s just-announced revised deal in Germany. Get the iPhone for $590 (in USD) if you sign a 2-year contract (monthly rates are like the US – about $50 to $100 (converted to USD)). If you want to buy an unlocked phone, it’s @$1,500 (USD).

So the consequences for Apple will be either make $500 + $20 a month from T-Mobile for each iPhone customer … or make some $1,300 in one fell swoop now.

Oh, what a tragedy for Apple.

While $1,500 is a lot for a phone, people have a choice but the bottom line is it doesn’t hurt Apple’s bottom line.

Consumers can get the full experience with T-Mobile or get slightly less with another carrier but don’t have to worry about a contract. It’s a win-win for Apple.

That’s why Apple is on a roll. They win by winning and they win by “losing.”

They will not only INCREASE sales but make more money upfront as a “consequence” of the ruling.

So, yes, the tax department will have to work a little harder and Apple will probably have to come up with more upgrades to deter people from buying a US phone (where the dollar is much cheaper), unlocking it and using it in Europe but all the bricking fears will silence most buyers – most that want an unlocked phone would rather pay $1,500 for an official phone they can take into an Apple store versus saving some money upfront but maybe worrying that every 2 months, there will be some major upgrade and their phone might die … you can bet adding the ablity to run 3rd party apps next year wll be a major upgrade and brick many unlocked older phones.

Again, win by winning and win by “losing.”

That’s how you plan ahead and run a business – where your worst consequence is you make more money and have more tax hassles …

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iPhone “Free” Custom Ringtones Are Back – How To Make Your Own

UPGRADE SOME COMPONENTS FIRST

You will need to make sure your iPhone is updated to 1.1.2 and iTunes 7.5 & maybe even Quicktime 7.3. Of course, your iPhone upgrade is best handled by clicking on UPDATE after you dock your iPhone and turn on iTunes 7.5. This is a pretty big upgrade including a firmware upgrade so it will take 10-15 minutes in total – maybe sure you can do it un-interrupted.

READY

Yes, you can still pay $.99 for a ringtone from Apple which is the least amount of work required and sounds the best – but it’s very limited – maybe one of every 20 tracks is available to scrub as a ringtone, you also can’t merge different parts of a song together and of course, personally, if I buy a song, I should be able to mash, squeeze it and manipulate to my hearts content as long as I’m not selling it … but anyway, custom ringtones are back and here are some basic guidelines to converting your tracks to .m4r ringtones.

STEP 1

You will need some software that can open music tracks and let you edit portions. It’s would also be nice if that software offered you features to manipulate the sound – in particular, useful features available to you include:

Raising/Lowering Volume
Fade In & Fade Out
Boosting Bass

Note, the update of 1.1.2 seems to have raised the volume again (yes!) so you don’t need to increase as much as previously, in fact, I actually had to turn the ringer down slightly.

Fade In & Out is SO much classier than it just jumping in to the track and jumping out.

Boosting the Bass – most AIFF to mp3 to AAC to .m4r conversion seems to strip out the bass so it can sound kind of tinny – try to boost the bass a bit but not too much.

Also keep in mind, it has to be below :30 seconds.

WHAT TO USE?

If you are extremely lazy, the track sounds okay and you don’t care about FADE IN or OUT, you can even use iTunes. Insert your CD. Click on the track, Select GET INFO and shorten the in & out points to what you want and select CONVERT TO AAC. You now have a :30 track. Go down to instructions beoow on conversion to .m4r and you are set to go.

You can kludge iMovie also to get a FADE IN & FADE OUT but much more work is involved. If you only intend to create one ringtone, it is a way to go.

Or QT Pro will also allow editing but again, not very precise and a last resort.

REAL EDITING SOFTWARE

SOUND STUDIO

If you got SOUND STUDIO with your Mac purchase as I did you are set (currently, it’s $79.99), select IMPORT WITH QUICKTIME to open any MP3 file, highlight the areas you want and paste into a new file – you can even clip, edit and smooth out your edits – just keep it around :30 seconds and use the Fade in and Fade Out – then EXPORT with QUICKTIME to create an AIFF file. Then drag into iTUNES and convert to AAC.

GARAGEBAND

I don’t use GarageBand much but it’s free if you don’t have SOUND STUDIO. Create NEW Podcast. Open your ITUNES LIBRARY – search for song, drag TRACK to JINGLES – edit and manipulate away. Export PODCAST TO DISK – it will already be an AAC file.

Note, podcast export files are low fidelity but then it is a ringtone so you can decide.

FISSION

Rogue Amoeba also offers FISSION if you don’t have SOUND STUDIO. It’s around $32 and offers additional MP3 features other than just editing. Can’t go wrong with a solid app like Fission.

OTHERS

There are probably 50 other editors ranging from freeware to studio quality music editors if you have other software you prefer – just make sure the volume is okay, add fade in and outs and boost the bass a bit.

STEP 2

Once you have your tracks as AAC files – the easiest is to use the FREE Make iPhone Ringtone courtesy of Rogue Amoeba.

Download the MAKEIPHONERINGTONE app. That is the direct link to the app – Rogue’s blog notes are here.

Launch MakeiPhoneRingtone – drag your AAC file onto the front panel, it will auto convert, launch and place the file into the newly created RINGTONE line in your iTUNES LIBRARY.

Then sync and you are ready to go.

So, good luck – as long as you can convert the file to AAC, MAKE IPHONE RINGTONES will take care of the rest.

So if time is money, then you have the easy way but if you don’t mind a few minutes of work to save $.99, there are lots of ways to go.

Thanks to Engadget, we have the legal go-ahead.

ALSO

Remember you can assign different tracks to different people in your contacts … just make sure your boss & your significant other gets an appropriate track …

For those who need a primer on using Apple’s iTunes ringtone maker feature, read our previous post.

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Guide to Installing Mac Leopard OSX 10.5 On Day One

For PC users, they don’t understand or even believe that on the Mac, you can randomly just upgrade your Mac and that for 99% of people, they can come back after 30-minutes when all is installed and ready, hit RESTART and while it might take a few ticks longer to reboot the first time, they are set to go.

I have upgraded an old iMac from 10.1 to 10.4 with nary a problem and again, PC users will flat out not believe me when I tell it runs faster and more stable … of course, I witnessed a virus app upgrade killing a PC hard drive so I understand the pain on the other side … Perhaps this analogy will be useful for you:

PC OS Upgrade much like a KIDNEY TRANSPLANT.

Hopefully, it won’t die on the operating table.
Hopefully it won’t rejected the transplant and die
Hopefully it won’t a staph infection and die.

It’s risky and if you can use the dialysis machine to get a few more months or years, so be it … it’s the last resort and/or for the very brave to get the transplant.

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Mac OS Upgrade – much like buying a new SHIRT.

The labels tell you exactly what you will get.
You might have to wait 30-minutes after washing it before you can wear it.
There might a tag you forgot to remove – causing you a minute discomfort.

With that said – however – there’s the 1% chance you could encounter major problems so you have to ask yourself if you absolutely need to do it on day one?

If you’re buying a new Mac, no point in buying it beforehand, might as well wait and get it with OSX 10.5 Leopard on the 26th – can you wait 3 days :-)

If you need your Mac for work and/or to make a living … why risk it unless your job is testing out OSes? There’s no real harm in waiting a few days or weeks until the small hiccups are worked out – in fact, the odds are pretty good there will be an updater or more importantly, small things may or may not work – printer drivers are not always in sync with major OS upgrades so while it might print “standard” stuff okay, if you need to print ColorSync colors on special thick art paper, it might not understand all the right settings … or system utilities that designers might need like font managers so while the odds are good all will be fine – why take a nap on railroad tracks?

But if you absolutely need or want to install Leopard on Day One – take this advice.

1) BACKUP your hard drive!*
2) SHUT DOWN.
3) Unplug/umount all your USB and Firewire external devices from you Mac.
4) Repair Permissions via APPLE DISC UTILITY**
5) Run OSX 10.5 installer.
6) Restart.
7) If everything appears to boot okay. SHUTDOWN. Plug everything back in.
8) RESTART.

For 99% of you, start testing out the new OSX and start blogging.

* If all is well, after a couple days, you can erase it and use it as your new TIME MACHINE backup drive.
** Some people say it’s un-necessary but it doesn’t really hurt anything – might as well do it.

TIME MACHINE is the new addition to OSX that will create a VISUAL backup of each and EVERY folder so you can visually “go back in time.” What’s also nice is that you can use several Macs on one hard drive. More details at Apple.

Here is the page to read more about the main new features.

Here is the guided tour video from Apple.

Amazon is offering a $20 pre-order discount (so hurry?). The 5-install (family) pack is also discounted.

Or PowerMax will include a free-shirt and a plush stuffed leopard.

One other difference – if you buy the Leopard package from the Amazon or PowerMax links above, you are buying the FULL version that can be installed on any Mac machine. The $9.95 upgrade disc (for recent Mac buyers) gives you a disc that will upgrade that specific type of machine so for instance, if you upgrade your Mac Pro laptop, you cannot use that disc to upgrade your iMac – make sense?

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