QuickBitz – Windows, Minis, iDefrag & Adobe

I’m not usually one for an outpouring of comments about the way of the world, probably because the internet is already rich with folk who can express their opinions much better than I. Nevertheless, I do encounter ‘oddities’ on my computing travels, and have assembled a few quickies below for posterity.

Aperture 3 – What, no Windows version?!

I was idly browsing through PC Magazine the other day, a magazine that often covers Mac hardware and Aperture 3software. Within its pages I found a review of Apple’s latest and greatest photo offering – Aperture 3. The reviewer was very complimentary about the product, but in the final reckoning marked it down because… there is no Windows version. No Windows version of a Mac  OS X product? Shock horror. Of course the magazine often hands out five star ratings to Windows software without knocking off a point because “there’s no Mac OS X version”. Good to know that double standards are alive and well, and talking of double standards…

New ‘Mid-2010’ Mac Mini pricing in the UK

Mac mini 2010The svelte new all aluminium (that’s ‘aluminum’ for my US friends) Mac Mini can be yours for just $699 plus sales tax (on average 5%). Here in the UK that translates to a base price of £475 , which with good old Value Added Tax (VAT) at 17.5% would come to £558 . But check that price in the UK Apple Store… £649. Ouch, I hope the extra £91 is going to a good cause.

iDefrag – Great but… unneccessary?

My early 2008 Mac Pro that shipped with Leopard 10.5 has only ever been rebuilt once and that was to do a clean install of Snow Leopard 10.6. So for however long I have been messing with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of files on my four internal 1.5Tb drives. So how badly fragmented do you suppose my boot drive was when I asked iDefrag to take a look? Well the Volume Contents showed 0.2% fragmentation, and the Volume Catalogue showed 0.0% fragmentation! So then… not an awful lot for iDefrag to actually do?

iDefrag showing my boot partition

iDefrag showing my boot partition

Adobe, Apple and that whole Flash thing

I watched the Steve Jobs interview on D8 and I read various commentaries (from both sides) about Apple’s decision to exclude Flash from the supported technologies on the iPad/iPhone. You can probably see where my sentiments lie if I give you this analogy…

A large motor manufacturer in the US decides to launch a new model of car, and they choose to make it an electric car. The largest oil company in the US then publicly complains that the car manufacturer won’t support the use of their fossil fuel in this new car. They argue that fossil fuel allows car users to enjoy seeing a great many parts of the world, and that there’s a huge infrastructure supporting the use of fossil fuel, so really this is unfair. The car manufacturer on the other hand says that it’s their choice to make an electric car, and that they’re just trying to make the best car experience they can for those that want to buy it.

Well that’s my way of looking at it…  😉

iPad 32Gb WiFi Screen Problem – Holy Rainbows Batman!

Yes I’ll admit it, I got an Ipad on launch day in the UK, but it wasn’t for me it was on behalf of a friend who wanted one – a 32Gb WiFi model to be exact. I’m sure the salesperson didn’t believe that I wasn’t buying it for myself, but he very patiently went through all the necessary steps so that all my friend had to do was to switch it on and start using it.

Purchased along with the camera connection kit (yes I too wish the iPad had an SD card slot built in but I expect that’s something Apple can market to ooh’s and ahh’s in the future), this particular iPad did sterling service from day one. My friends family were mightily impressed and enjoyed being able to see a huge collection of photos taken only earlier in the day. It continued to impress at my friends workplace and no less than 7 people (yes that’s seven people) placed orders as a result of having spent some time with it. In fact it was becoming quite the little star until last night the screen went haywire.

Jobs coat of many colours...

It’s almost as though the resolution and colour depth changed to the most basic settings, almost like an old Windows PC that you had to boot into Safe Mode with only 16-colour VGA support because of some graphics card driver issue. So while technically the iPad was usable, it was a struggle to make out what was happening on screen. A call to AppleCare got the suggestion of restoring the iPad to its default factory settings, but alas no joy. No amount of resets were able to cure the problem, so I got the call to help (being the ‘techie’ in the family) and this morning we ventured down to the local Apple Retail Store to see what they could do. Of however many hundred (thousand?) they’d sold, this was the first iPad failure they’d encountered and were unable to give any snap diagnosis. Given that they were suffering the usual Saturday morning rush, I agreed to a Genius Bar appointment on Monday evening next week and was assured that they would do something to get this resolved. We were told they couldn’t provide a replacement unit there and then simply because they didn’t have any spare in stock.

So, the little iPad went from hero to zero in a short space of time, but in all fairness no-one, not even Apple, can make hardware with a 0% failure rate, and both AppleCare and the store staff have been really apologetic and have promised to help. Fingers crossed the iPad is back on the crest of it’s own ‘magical’ wave before too long. I’ll keep you updated… In the meantime, here’s a few more shots of what the iPad screen might look like if you’ve eaten some dodgy mushrooms!

UPDATE June 22nd – Well I wish I could give you a cool story about how doing XYZ miraculously fixed the stricken iPad but no. It was as simple as the guy in the Apple Store being very apologetic and swapping it for a brand new boxed 32Gb WiFi iPad.

What’s on my iPhone (3G)?

iPhone screenIt’s fair to say that I take a certain amount of stick for being a Mac user, and in particular for being an iPhone user. Many of my friends seem to think that using an iPhone is more about it being a fashion statement than of any real practical use. That couldn’t be further from the truth because it’s the apps that make it what it is for me. As phone’s go, I’d be the first to agree that it does have it’s shortcomings – not so great battery life (and a battery you can’t easily change yourself), ‘only’ a 2 megapixel camera, limited Bluetooth support, the albatross that is iTunes, etc. However for me it’s the apps that are a real part of my life, and it’s wanting to continue using these apps that will see me upgrading to the iPhone 4.

So, what are these great apps that make the iPhone so worthwhile?

  • Maps – yes the built-in Maps app is actually really useful. Only the other day I was out with the family and faced with a diversion in an unfamiliar area, I was able to use Maps to help navigate the driver back to somewhere familiar, and even take in a few new interesting sights on the way.
  • Shazam – hardly needs any introduction. Numerous times I’ve heard something I like and have been able to use Shazam to find out what it is. The Record industry should be paying these guys commission!
  • Trains – live arrival & departure information. Sadly you can no longer download it (you’ll have to get  National Rail’s own offering), but it still works just fine for me.
  • MyBus – if you ever need to catch a bus, this little app is indispensable. Tells you where the bus stops are, what buses stop there and what time the arrive.
  • ATM Hunter – need to find a cash machine when you’re somewhere unfamiliar? This app couldn’t make it easier. It’s not perfect, but worth a download as it’s free.
  • DropBox – while I don’t do much file processing on my iPhone, but this at least keeps me in the loop with my Mac Pro and Mac Mini and even my Windows laptop (that I have to use for work).
  • Evernote – being able to take a note and have it sync’ed to every other device I’ve got is a real marvel (especially for someone as disorganised as I am).
  • Flook – tell others where the great places are. Find somewhere great to visit, a fantastic pub or restaurant, some hidden local secret? Just Flook it! Discover the great places that others have found nearby, and collect/follow your favourites.
  • 1Password – allows me to sync passwords and other secure info between my Mac(s) and iPhone. If I’m away from my Mac and need a password, e.g. to log in to a website on a friends PC/Mac, then it’s all in there in my pocket.
  • WalkMeter – fascinating app that logs where you’ve walked, how long it took, how many calories you burned, and even emails you a Google map of the trip! In fact it does even more, so best way to find out is to use it.
  • ConvertBot – if you’re old school like me (remember feet, inches, miles, ounces, etc.?) then this makes life a whole lot easier to deal with. Superb interface too. Note – I still can’t think in kilometers!
  • Postage – Take a photo of a scene, dress it up and send it to friends for fun. Kids seem to love this one.
  • RAC Traffic – very handy for spotting traffic jams before you become a part of them!
  • RedLaser – I have saved a few quid while out shopping thanks to RedLaser telling me I could buy something cheaper online.
  • Facebook – while I’m not a huge Facebook user, I can still dip my toe into that particular social quagmire when I need to thanks to this mobile app.
  • Osfoora – until recently my Twitter client of choice on the iPhone was Twitterrific. It’s still a great app, but Osfoora looks just as good and is taking the lead on features.
  • Doodle Jump – the most addictive game there is for the iPhone, and the best 59p you’ll spend. End of story!
  • Wurdle – cool little word game for when I want to tax my brain a little.
  • Frenzic – marvelous for getting the old hand/eye co-ordination back to full strength. What I would love to know is how the global high scores are so… high?!
  • t Chess Pro – I have always found chess fascinating, and if I’m feeling cerebral, then t Chess gives me a mental workout (and usually reminds me that I really should practice more).
  • FlightControl – such a simple idea, that very quickly gets completely out of control. Love that old style music as well.
  • Angry Birds – the sound effects alone make this worth it. Even so, it’s a great game.
  • Diamedic – a great way to track your blood sugar and other related info, and then have it easily to hand when the doctor needs it.
  • WiScale – paired up with the Withings WiFi Scale I purchased a while back, it’s a fun and informative way to keep your weight & BMI on track. Ok the app is free but the scales cost £100 – even so, they look really cool and work a treat! In fact if Apple design a bathroom scale, they’d probably look like this.

These aren’t the only apps on my phone, just the ones I use the most and there are many more I could mention like – CalenGoo, Tube Deluxe, Air Sharing, The Good Beer Guide, National Trust, FlickIt, ShowTimes, Family Tree, Road Trip LE, Skype, AirVideo, Spotify, Snowtape, SnowRemote, Glyder/Glyder 2, Crayon, Traffic Rush and Tap Tap to name a few.

It’s the sheer wealth of apps, many of which are very high quality, that make life just that little bit easier… and if you ever needed an excuse to buy an iPad, well many of these are available in iPad-specific ‘HD’ versions too.

Xobni for Mac OS X

XobniWhen I was a Windows user (over two years ago now), I used MS Outlook 2007 as my email client together with a great plug-in called Xobni. Xobni added features that allowed you to do all sorts of clever things, analysing your mail, showing you trends, info about your contacts, searching, etc., etc.

Now that I’m (mostly) a Mail.app user, Xobni is one of the few things I miss from my Windows days. In the early stages of the beta there was talk of Xobni being made available for other platforms like OS X but the emphasis was obviously on getting the Windows version cooked first. Two years on and sadly there’s still no hint of an OS X version ever emerging. I say sadly because Xobni has some great features, plus if figures are to be believed, Mac OS X represents something approaching 9% of the desktop OS market meaning there’s a LOT of Mac users and thus potential customers out there.

So if you’re a Mac OS X user and you’d be interested in a version of Xobni for the Mac then tell them, either here or by commenting on their blog, or by emailing them, or by commenting below.Who knows, with Office 2011 for Mac on the horizon, maybe a new version of ‘Outlook for Mac’ would be just the impetus they need for a Xobni plug-in?

PS, in case you’re wondering about the name – Xobni is ‘inbox’ spelled backwards.