Apple, Computers, TECH, Videogames

Apple is the new Nintendo (which is the new Apple!)

Somedays it is easy to believe that I have waken up in Bizarro-world.  Apple recently decided that the iPod Touch was going to be a game machine.  Nintendo turned the DS into a music player with the DSi, (using Apple’s codec, of all things!)  In addition, Nintendo announced the DS XL not even a year after the DSi’s release.

What’s next, a new version of Windows that actually works?

Oh…

I have thought of Nintendo as being the “Apple” of the video game industry for some time.  Much like Apple, they march to their own beat and don’t worry about what “the other guys” are doing.  Sometimes it works out great, sometimes they trip over their own innovations, and sometimes they are just too far ahead of the curve for their own good.  At the end of the day, they make lots of money and have lots of die-hard fans.

Apple, of course, has long been known for “thinking different,” as well as for Steve Jobs, overpriced hardware, constantly re-releasing new iterations of said hardware with minor updates, and not being very interested in gaming.  At the end of the day, they also make lots of money and have lots of die-hard fans.

Thus, it came as a surprise to see Apple take a page out of Nintendo’s book, as they touted the iPod Touch as their new portable “game machine.”  Apple was also pretty blatant in promoting their device as being superior to Nintendo and Sony’s portable offerings.  The beauty of Apple’s approach is that Apple itself does not have to make any of the games themselves.

Nintendo, for its part, recently announced the DS XL, a curious move which defies traditional gadget logic.  After all, things are supposed to get smaller over time, not bigger!  In fact, the 4-inch screen of the XL nearly brings it to par with Sony’s PSP.

Speaking of Sony, Lord only knows what they’re thinking…I mean, seriously, $250 for the PSPgo?

For all of the hype, I don’t see games being a big part of Apple’s overall strategy; instead they will be another revenue stream just like apps and music.  The games themselves have been mostly casual affairs, the ‘big budget’ titles have come from EA and their ilk…as if they needed another platform to release Madden onto.

It remains to be seen whether Nintendo will be adding other multimedia functions to take advantage of the DS XL’s bigger screen.  While a video player would be much appreciated by DS users, it won’t contribute to Nintendo’s bottom line, so I doubt we will see that happening anytime soon.

While Nintendo and Apple have taken pages out of each other’s business plans, the fundamental core of what both companies will remain the same, so long as the DS and iPod continue to be money-makers.

I suppose Bizarro-world isn’t such a bad place to be after all.

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Apple, Computers, TECH

Mac and Me – Not Quite A Mighty Mouse

I like buttons.  They’re fun to push, and they usually make something that I want to happen, happen!  Heck, a standard keyboard (a standard PC keyboard anyway) has over 100 of them, whee!  Apple, on the other hand, does not like buttons.

Seriously;  the one button on the iMac is hidden in the back, the mouse that came with it does not appear to have any at all, and  I’m sure that somewhere within the bowels of Apple, some engineer is scratching their head trying to figure out a way to get rid of the single button on the iPhone’s face.

As I mentioned last week, the Mac’s Mighty Mouse (seriously, that’s what Apple calls it) is the one part of the Mac experience that irritates me the most.  It lacks a distinct right click button and refuses to acknowledge my futile attempts at right-clicking.  After another week of missed right-clicks and re-right-clicks I finally replaced it with a $20 Logitech wireless mouse.  Its colored black, so it ruins the aesthetic of my workspace somewhat, but I’ll gladly take functionality over fashion.  Actually, I’ll take anything over fashion, but that’s a discussion for another day.

I tossed the Mighty Mouse into my netbook bag where it will ruin the aesthetic of my HP Mini 1000, and thus, the balance of the universe is maintained!

Once I adjusted to the Logitech’s heft, all was well.  Now if I could just figure out a way to get my keyboard shortcuts back, everything would be PERFECT.  I may also give Safari another shot, I’m hearing good things about the beta.

It has been two weeks since I took the plunge and my Mac has been treating me pretty good so far.  I’ll boot into Vista occasionally to play a game or work with Microsoft Money, but otherwise all is well with Mac and Me!

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Apple, Computers, TECH

Mac and Me – One Week Later

My new PC-free desktop!

It has been a week since I took the Apple plunge, and I my iMac/OS X experience has been pretty good so far (the one big fark-up was my fault).  I moved the files from my PC’s old hard drive last night, so its time to “move in” to the Mac for good.  My thoughts so far:

SCREEN

I have to start by talking about the iMac’s screen, it is gorgeous. I’m not sure what is different about it, but everything just looks better; more sharper, more vibrant.  The 24″ of real estate is a dream to work on.  Why have multiple monitors cluttering the desk when one honkin’ HUGE one will do?  I have yet to use the camera and mic as of yet, but I’m looking forward to trying them out.

The DVD drive is a located a little farther back than I would like, I’ve already dropped a disc trying to find the slot, and the occasional not-quite-perfectly-flat disc can get a little noisy, but that’s true for all DVD drives, so I can’t knock it too much for that.

The built-in speakers are the worst part of the screen/CPU/whatever Apple calls it.  I’m no audiophile, but they sound pretty bad to me, I quickly plugged in my basic 3-piece Altec Lansing set and Huey Lewis sounds just as good as he did on my PC.

KEYBOARD

The small keyboard freaked me out at first, especially since I like using the numeric keypad.  It is just bigger than the keyboard on my HP Mini 1000 netbook, with more space inbetween the keys.  The action on the keyboard is nice and typing is pretty quiet. I’ve had to re-learn typing shortcuts, due to the lack of HOME/END and PGUP/PGDN keys, but it hasn’t been too painful.  That cord is just too damned short, though.  I was taught that it was a bad idea to be sitting so close to a computer screen.  A USB extension cord fixed that problem easily enough, and I placed a USB hub on the end of it, because you can never have too many ports.

MIGHTY MOUSE

The mouse took some getting used to, particularly due to the lack of distinct buttons.  The Mighty Mouse is not Apple’s worst mouse ever (that distinction goes to the “hockey puck”) but the right-click is pretty finicky, and the “4th button” (pressed by squeezing the indentations you see on the sides) all but drove me bonkers.  I don’t exactly have basketball-player sized hands, but I am accustomed to having my hand covering up the entire mouse.  At random intervals this would activate the 4th button and I would be yanked out of whatever I was doing and taken into Expose, which shows you all open windows at once.  Very distracting, especially when I’m trying to beat my Bejeweled Blitz high score.  Disabling Expose fixed that problem, and I’m not sure how useful I’m really going to find the 4th button.  Much to my surprise, I have had no problems with the teeny scroll ball.  If worse comes to worse, I’ll drop $20 on a new Logitech mouse.

PERFORMANCE

I haven’t really put the iMac through its paces yet (i.e. video editing) but so far it seems to handle multitasking quite well.  As I type this into Firefox, CDs are being ripped into iTunes and I am also IMing a friend.  Everything runs without any hesitations or hiccups so I guess that’s pretty good.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE

I have to say, the Mac life is pretty good.  I have yet to experience any of the frustrations that I have long considered to be the “facts of life” of using computers:

No more defragging, no more anti-virus, no more anti-spyware, no more hunting for old driver CDs, no more wondering why the CPU fan is still spinning even though the computer is in sleep mode, no more long boot times, no more waiting for that last program to close when I’m shutting down, no more wondering why flash drives and memory cards won’t unmount even though they aren’t being used, no more wondering if removing that startup program or changing that Registry entry is going to blow the whole thing up, and no more farking annual re-installations of Windows!

I plug in my camera, and up comes iPhoto.  I plug in my printer, and a minute later, I can print.  I drag an external drive to the Trash to eject it, and it unmounts.  Stuff just works! Heck, even Windows Vista works well now that I have enough horsepower to make it happy.

While I’m not sure I will do everything “The Mac Way” I’m looking forward to spending less time maintaining my computer, and more time actually DOING stuff.

After all, isn’t that the whole point of having a computer?

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Apple, Computers, TECH

Mac and Me – VistaMac!

As it turned out, I had screwed up my Mac by trying to install a version of Windows that could not “see” the newly created Boot Camp partition.  Thus, my retail boxed copy of XP was pretty much useless; I would need an XP Service Pack 2 disc.

Fortunately, I had one handy that I “borrowed” from one of my previous employers *evil grin*  Sadly, it would not accept the retail license key I had, so I had to punt and install Vista instead.

My previous experiences with Vista were less than pleasant, but then again I was installing it on a two-year old machine.  Vista just was not happy running on my Gateway’s single-core CPU and 1GB of RAM.   Even after I bumped up the machine’s RAM to 2GB it plodded along, and I could hear the hard drive constantly crunching away while I computed.

I hoped that running it on more capable hardware would provide a better experience.  I figured it should be happy running on a 2.66Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB of RAM.  Sure enough, everything went well except for having to sit for about two hours downloading and installing various updates.

I wonder if at some point does it just become cheaper to mail everyone update CDs?  Bandwidth ain’t cheap!

Anyways, once the updates were done and the Mac drivers (and the anti-virus…sigh) were installed, Vista ran like a dream.  After I got Vista up and running, it was really late, so I couldn’t do much else.  Next, I will transfer my PC files over from the Gateway’s old hard drive onto the Mac.

That’s when things should get really interesting!

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Apple, Computers, TECH

Mac and Me – Just Like Starting Over…

Well, THAT was a close one…apparently I got a little too button-happy during the Boot Camp process and farked up my iMac’s hard drive…oops.  The fact that I read ahead in the Boot Camp instructions just a teensy may have contributed as well.

Luckily, I found a solution after digging around Apple’s support website for a bit.  I just have to reformat the hard drive and reinstall OS X, which should be done about the time I wake up tomorrow…argh.

Despite the setback, I intend to try Boot Camp again, hopefully the second attempt will go better (frankly, I don’t see how it could go worse).  Nothing lost but time.

I had taken the liberty of not deleting the pictures from my camera in the event that something went Horribly Horribly Wrong.  It probably says something about me that I planned for something going HHW, but hey, learning the hard way is still learning, so onward and upward!

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Apple, Computers, TECH

Mac and Me – Booted by Boot Camp

So now it was time to install Windows, I decided to go with Boot Camp since were are some apps (and games) that I wanted to still use and I wanted to unleash all the horsepower contained in my new Mac.  I copied the PDF with the instructions onto my Netbook for reference and proceeded to go through the process.

It is a little disconcerting to see the giant blue installation screen on the Mac, but in no time, I was going through the Windows installation process for what I hope will be the last time.

I went through the XP install blue screens, rebooted…and it went back to the blue screens…I rebooted again and held down “Option” to get the boot options.  There was no option for OS X.

Aw crap…

to be continued…

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Apple, Computers, TECH

Mac and Me – iTunes

I had initially tried iTunes a few years ago, and I have to admit, it is one of the few pieces of software that I can honestly say pissed me off.

I like having my music files organized by artist, and then by album.   Apparently that wasn’t good enough for iTunes, after asking it to find my music, it then went ahead and REARRANGED MY MUSIC FILES.

Everything worked fine in iTunes, but when I went to open my music files in other programs, I could not find a damn thing.  My meticulously organized files were all over the place.  I immediately uninstalled iTunes and swore to never use it again.  Instead, I used Windows Media Player to rip my CDs and purchased individual MP3s from Amazon.com.

I recently bought a DSi, and it comes with a music player, which is pretty cool, BUT it only works with AAC encoded files, i.e. the ones that iTunes also uses.  As far as it is concerned, I have about 9GB of useless MP3s on my PC’s old hard drive.  Thus, any music I wanted to use on my DSi I would have to re-rip using iTunes.

Well, fark.

I started iTunes, grabbed some CDs from my collection (AC/DC, might as well start from the top) and popped one into the iMac.  iTunes pretty much looked the same way it did on that fateful day so many years ago (I had to reset my iTunes store password, yeah it had been THAT long) and things went as expected, which was fine.  I then decided to check and see where iTunes had placed the files, and sure enough, there they were, organized by artist, and then album.

I guess it isn’t going to be so bad after all, but I’ll hold my breath and see what happens when I put some MP3 files I had bought from Amazon.com on there.  iTunes didn’t find the album covers for “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and “Who Made Who,” which was somewhat disappointing.

I guess the folks at Apple aren’t AC/DC fans.

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Apple, Computers, TECH

Mac and Me – iPhoto and Safari

To get the full Mac experience, I have resolved to try and do things “the Mac way” first before falling back on old habits.  This came to light when I finished setting up and wanted to transfer the unboxing pictures from my camera to the Mac.

When I was using Windows, I would remove the memory card from my camera, pop it into my PC’s card reader, create a new directory within My Photos under My Documents, and copy the pictures to the new folder.

We’re going to try doing things the Mac way, so instead of reaching for my SD card reader, I decided to plug in my camera (using the convenient USB plug built into the keyboard)  to see what would happen.

I got a prompt asking me if I want to use iPhoto, so I clicked yes.  The pictures that were on my camera then appeared in iPhoto.  I also had pictures from the family reunion I went to this past weekend on the camera as well.  They weren’t on the Mac yet, I had to type in an “Event Name”  I typed “Family Reunion,” selected all of those pictures (out of habit, I used the Shift key, but much to my surprise, it worked) and a minute or so later, there they were!

I repeated the process with my “New iMac” pictures, and so far, I am pretty impressed.  Despite my outdated 3.1 MP camera, the pictures looked pretty good.  I saw a “slideshow” option at the bottom of the window, and upon clicking it, was greeted with a slideshow set to Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got A  Friend In Me.”

That was cool, but now I want to watch Toy Story.  I was finished with the camera, but I wasn’t sure if there was anything special I need to do…you know, like in Windows.  I didn’t see anything obvious, so I just unplugged it, held my breath, and…nothing happened.  I guess that’s it…

I then opened Safari in order to upload the pictures I took during the unboxing to my Flickr account.  My initial impression was good; pages popped up fairly quickly, and I logged into my Flickr account in order to upload the 22 pics I had chosen to document the start of my Mac journey.

About 16 pics in, Safari crapped out on me.  I didn’t get a “blue screen” or even the “swirly ball of doom” I’d heard of.  Instead, Safari just sat there waiting for either me or the Flickr server to do something.  I closed the window, and uploaded the rest of the pics.  Okay, no biggie, browsers are picky things.

I then thought I would upload a pic to this site (the one where I’m giving a thumbs-up with a goofy smile) and WordPress just did not like Safari.  WordPress provides two ways to upload pics, and Safari failed both ways.

My next stop was to Mozilla.org in order to download Firefox.

Firefox handled everything just fine, but I’m not terribly dissapointed, after all, I rarely use Internet Explorer either.

Overall, I like working on the Mac, it is responsive, and the videos that Apple provides on their website do a good job of introducing PC slobs like myself to this new world of computing.

The only real learning curve I’ve experienced so far has been with the keyboard.  Typing is not a problem, but Mac keyboards don’t have the Page Up/Down or Home/End keys that have gotten so used to, so I have to re-learn many of the typing shortcuts I have gotten used to, like hitting “END” to reach the end of a line (now its command+right arrow) or doing CTRL+left to back up a word at a time (now its option+left arrow).

I think I’ll give iTunes a shot next, my PC experience with it was less than ideal (I removed it that same day) but that story’s for next time!

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Apple, TECH

Mac and Me – The Unboxing (and cleaning!)

Check out the purdy pictures

Technolust is a scary thing.  It can make (somewhat) normal men go to Gamestop in the middle of the night to pick up a new video game or game system (I’ve done both).  It also just made me buy a 24-inch iMac instead of the 20-incher I had initially planned on.

*checks budget* yeah, I should be okay there…

Setting up the iMac wasn’t too big a deal, but for the picture-taking.  Now, cleaning up my cluttered desk to make room for it was a job in itself.  I need to either dust more frequently or stop buying black furniture.

Observations:

  • Ooh, the screen sure is purdy, I can see myself!
  • Keyboard cord is almost too short
  • Same for the power cable, grr
  • I’m not hearing the PC fan jet-engine noise…is this thing even ON?
  • That’s alot of updates to download…just like Windows, I guess *shrug*
  • Woo-hoo!  Let’s do some computery stuff, now!
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Computers, TECH

Mac and Me – Intro

I have decided to buy a Mac.

After thinking it over for about a week, considering the alternatives, and crunching the numbers, I will be going to Best Buy, and will return with a 20-inch iMac.  It was not an easy decision to come to, particularly given that I am buying a new computer because I need one, following the early death of my Gateway (for what its worth, it was a pretty good machine up to that point).

I am one of those guys that defended Windows (and by association, Microsoft) with gusto, deriding Apple users as rabid fanboys lying prostate at the feet of Jobs and throwing him money for what on the surface appear to be incremental updates to OS X.  On the surface, it does seem screwy, after all, who else who pays for a DECIMAL upgrade?

I won’t be fogoing the world of Windows anytime soon, though.  After all, I have no intention of abandoning my netbook (which runs XP, and allowed me to maintain a semblance of sanity this last desktop-free week) and of course my cell phone runs Windows Mobile, which is deserving of a good tongue-lashing once I have time to get it all down on paper.  I will also probably install XP on my Mac as well, there are a few things (particularly old programs) that I don’t think will have a Mac equivalent.

It is time to find out how the “other side” lives.

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