Monday, August 20, 2007

Oops, I did it again

I'm pleasantly surprised at how well I'm doing typing on the iPhone.
No, I couldn't think of a better allusion.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Epiphany of the Day #4

Not sure if you noticed the 'DVDs are for losers' vibe at last week's Apple press event, but I sensed that there would be no next version of iDVD. See where I'm going with this? Among computer manufacturers, Apple sided with Dell and Sony in supporting the Blu-ray Disc format against notably Microsoft and Toshiba's support of HD-DVD. Other manufacturers have begun offering Blu-ray disc drives and burners on their computers, but Apple seems to be waiting for it to reach critical mass.

Count on Apple to jump in just before that moment with support in the Mac Pro and eventually in an iDVD replacement (iBD anyone?). iBD won't be a killer app or anything, but if released, is likely to mark the triumph of the format.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Favorite little features of iLife '08

I didn't think I'd be upgrading my bundled version of iLife, Apple's Mac-only entry-level digital media lifestyle software suite. Every new Mac comes with iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD, Garage Band and iWeb. I think this time it's a good value even if you have to pay the full price to 'upgrade'. As a little introductory rant, iLife can be viewed as a package of demos for Apple's professional software offerings. iPhoto is an ultra light version of Aperture. iMovie is a basic version of Final Cut Express and Final Cut Pro. Garage Band is the baby version of Logic Express and Logic Pro. The two features I'm about to mention are so valuable yet deliberately left out of iLife for all the previous versions.

If you've ever taken video using your digital camera in the portrait orientation, you probably regretted it after loading it onto your computer since it'd only display in landscape view anyway. One cool new feature in the new iMovie is cropping and rotating video. Previously, this feature was also available from Apple as part of Quicktime Pro (29 USD) or sold as a third-party iMovie plugin. Windows users can use VirtualDub, although it's not the paragon of user-friendliness.

The other feature I liked that was only briefly mentioned in the press event is notation printing in Garage Band. In previous versions, Garage Band would show you the musical notation of tracks you create but the ability to print it out was found only in the premium Logic offerings. Now, even if you don't write music in your spare time, you can open up a MIDI file in Garage Band to view the notation and then theoretically print it out to play on the piano.

Sorry this is getting long, but if you're not already bored, bear with me for just a bit longer.

I can't talk about iLife without also mentioning the brand new iMovie. It borrows a feature of Windows MovieMaker where it will automatically create scenes within in your videos by looking at when the camera was stopped and restarted. It also has speeds up the process of creating videos by including a really fast way to 'scrub' through and select scenese by mousing over the thumbnails. Conservatively speaking, iMovie and iPhoto themselves are worth the 79 dollar cost of iLife, not including educational or corporate discounts. It's worth mentioning that iPhoto has a new feature to easily if not automatically group the photos in your library into events. I'm also going to get iWork. You've doubtlessly heard at least of past rumors about its slick new spreadsheet application, but I have less of a legitimate reason for getting it. Takers?

Product links: iLife, iWork

Monday, August 06, 2007

On my aging Dell laptop

My Dell Inspiron 6000 is getting old. I've only had it for about 18 months, and although I don't use it very much I still like it a lot. The first sign its aging was the increasingly intolerable slowness. I haven't reinstalled Windows on it but I will very soon. If you have a Dell, there's a good chance that you don't have installation media as Dell provides a recovery partition on the hard drive. Dell supplies one copy of backup installation media if you request it.

What you don't necessarily want to do is to get your replacement batteries from them. Dell doesn't have a huge incentive to keep making fresh batteries for old models like mine, so anything they have in stock is refurbished or old. Since lithium-ion batteries age from the day they're made, old batteries are almost as bad as refurbished ones. Plus, they still try to charge you as if they're fresh even though none of the customer reviews make three out of five stars.

I mentioned before that Dell batteries have indicator lights that show charge and battery wear. Check this out:
Unfortunately, that's not the charge; it's complete battery wear and it's completely accurate. I bought a higher capacity battery (80 to my 53 WH) on eBay for less than half the price of replacing the original. The after-market battery even comes with the charge-indicator lights.