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The One September 27, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Alternatives, Announcements, Hardware, iMacs, The Other Side of the Fence.

It seems the fading Gateway still has some fight left in it. The former computer giant has unveiled its contender for the iMac throne with something Gateway calls, simply, One.

Tale of the tape:

  • 3.6″ thick all in all
  • 19-inch widescreen LCD
  • 2 models at US$1300/US$1800
  • 1.5GHz/2GHz Core 2 Duo
  • 2GB/3GB memory
  • 320gb/500gb hard drive
  • special online-only model at US$1500
  • all black front
  • metal shell
  • all cords and most ports out of sight (all on the power adapter)
  • side-mounted slot-loading DVD burner
  • no announced date of availability, but soon

Now call me silly, but doesn’t that look like something we all know?

Blogger thanks Apple for making him switch back to Vista (Eh?) September 24, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Alternatives, Hardware, Microsoft, Oddities, Operating System, The Other Side of the Fence.

A blogger posted a big thank you to Apple for making him switch from Vista to Mac, then back to Vista. While on the surface this sounds like a back-handed compliment, it actually makes sense – I think.

Aviv Eyal, co-founder and VP of Grouper Networks (which was eventually acquired by Sony), and co-founder of Friskit, wrote in his blog that Macs made him appreciate Windows Vista, which had previously confounded him no end:

I was getting very frustrated with Vista on several of my PCs and laptops on a daily basis to a point that I stopped enjoying working on computers. On a clean Vista Pro install with just IE, Outlook and Office on strong Dell workstations and on a Vaio laptop, I kept getting hangs and crashes left and right. I now run Vista using the excellent Parallels Desktop for Mac software. It is worth every penny.

Eyal calls Windows the “light” side of the force, and Macs and OS X the “dark” side. He expounds further on this odd compliment:

With 4GB of RAM on a 2.4ghz Intel core 2 duo MacBook Pro laptop, I get very decent performance from Vista running virtually in Parallels, in full-screen mode it is easy to forget that you are not running Vista natively, so if I need to use word or powerpoint I just switch back to the dark side virtually on Parallels and if Vista hangs crashes I just quickly restore the virtual machine to a previous state while I keep working on my Mac apps.

Uh …ok. I think. At least this underscores that fact that there is no reason not to buy a Mac these days. Even if it’s for the wrong reasons.

Check out Eyal’s post on his blog here.

WinDiscrimination: Microsoft slaps Mac users; apologizes September 23, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apps, Issues, Microsoft, The Other Side of the Fence.
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Several days ago users of Microsoft‘s Windows Live Messenger who used dotMac addresses to get their Windows Live IDs found out that they were being blocked from using the online service. When trying to log in, it would return an error message that told them they had now had to change their address in order to continue using the service.

Because of a recent system update, you must change the email address that you use to sign in to Windows Live Messenger. Until you change your email address, you won’t be able to use Windows Live Messenger.

Eh? Ex-squeeze me? Baking powder?

Other users who registered with other addresses like GMail were not affected, and only those with .Mac-related logins were specifically rejected from the Microsoft service.

MacNN contacted Microsoft about this, and MS officials told MacNN that it had recently become aware of an

…internal error during routine testing that resulted in customers using .Mac domains being asked to change their e-mail address in order to access to their Windows Live IDs.

Internal error. Surrrrre it was. Some code became wonky and spontaneously, independently and without human intervention, began mysteriously blocking their IM users, but somehow only those using dotMac addresses. Internal error. Creepy code, that.

Microsoft immediately created a support page for affected users and further apologized in a statement that read in part:

Access to Live IDs has been restored to our customers who use .Mac domains. We regret any inconvenience this caused for our customers.

Hmph. We regret it too.

(This begs the question: why would some folk who obviously use Macs actually sign up for a Microsoft online service? Does this imply that they deserve what they got? Hmm.)

Send in the clones September 21, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Alternatives, iPhone, New Stuff, The Other Side of the Fence.
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The first contender for the iPhone throne has been unveiled. Or at least what it would look like it if had been.

At the Intel Developers Forum (Fall 07)’s ultramobility keynote today, Intel revealed a hybrid handheld PC/phone running on their new low-cost, low-power Moorestown platform (the more highly integrated successor to the Silverthorne chipset they’re still developing), that looks suspiciously like a stretched-out something we all know.

Actually, this is a mock-up of something that the Moorestown chip might be useful for (like iPhones), and the iPhone-ish-ness of the phony device is intentional. But it does give us a clue to where all this stuff Apple started is going to go.

Hmm. Well, all’s fair in love and tech development.

More pics and details from AnandTech.

iPhone killer it isn’t July 21, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Hardware, iPhone, The Other Side of the Fence, Video.
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Been looking for anything as iPhone-like as possible that I can tinker with now to make the interminable wait easier, and I came across something in the office that, uh, touched closer than the others – the HTC Touch.

It was released earlier in the year and talk has been circulating, as talk will, that this one would sort of steal the thunder of the iPhone a bit on its release. Not quite. Truth be told, it’s just a touch-screen Windows smartphone with a thin veneer of iPhone-ness painted delicately on top. Once you get used to the TouchFLO interface (which would be really really really fast – it’s more of a showy gimmick than anything) the HTC Touch is just a Windows Mobile smartphone with a few nice tweaks.

TouchFLO is just three repeating screens you can swipe across to change, and once you tap on a menu item, boom, it drops you into regular Windows Mobile Land. Swipe up to get the screen back, down to remove. Otherwise, nothing new. That’s it. You can even just ignore TouchFlo entirely if you wanted to, and it would be easy to do.

To be fair, it’s pretty responsive and fast, extremely light and compact (if not the lightest, most convenient to use smartphone ever) and if I were into Windows smartphones this would be the one I’d buy. But this isn’t serious competition for the iPhone.

Full review in the next issue of my magazine Mobile Philippines. Meantime, here’s a little video I made of the TouchFLO interface so you have an idea what I’m talking about:

The Big Experiment Part 4: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Conclusion) June 29, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apple Inc., Microsoft, Operating System, The Big Experiment, The Other Side of the Fence.
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I suppose it’s time to take a definitive stand, and this is as good a time as any.

I am a Mac user. The outcome of this experiment was never in any doubt, was it? But at least it comes with experience and authority now, rather than just unsubstantiated, uninformed tech bigotry and xenophobia.

Truly, Windows sucks. Without a doubt. Surprisingly though, not as much as I was expecting. But why does it suck at all?

Through no fault of the user, that’s for sure. If anything, the Windows user is complicit only because he tolerates the crap. No one should be made to go through the hoops that Microsoft requires its users. As Peter Finch screamed into the TV camera in Network: I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!

Fight back. Just say no. I think if enough people expressed that opinion Bill and Co. would comply.

It’s horrible that even the most basic things in Windows will screw up. Just booting up is an interesting experience. The simple task of opening or closing a window might bring grief, or installing a simple shareware app might cripple the system. To get the ball to just roll might require additional expenditure in terms of memory and storage, or of video ram; let us not even get into the complicated and arcane field of processor speeds or multiple processor cores. Think Vista, and experience despair.

Why does this have to be? I’ve mentioned this before in the previous post in this series. Windows is screwed up because it’s a step forward and five steps back; trying to live in (and for) their storied and profitable past is taking a major toll. Maintaining a relationship with that which should be obsolete might keep the revenue up and running, but at what cost?

The Gordian Knot analogy is apt. This knotted ball of problems is best cut in half, and starting over is the perhaps the only solution. This requires a penalty that Microsoft and its millions of acolytes mired in the glorious mess might not be ready to pay.

The ugly part is that Windows Vista users are doomed to work on a bright, pretty new system built partly on rotting foundations, akin to dollying up a cadaver with a wig, make-up and a nice dress.


Stoning the competition some more June 27, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Music, New Stuff, The Other Side of the Fence.
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Creative announced late last week an update to their new iPod shuffle killer Creative Zen Stone, dubbed the Zen Stone Plus. What, so soon?

Build quality and plastic look comments aside, the Zen Stone’s advantages over Apple’s shuffle are considerable – the price, and the sound quality, which has been a Creative strength across the board ever since. Apparently they’ve had another Stone up their sleeve the whole time.

And it’s not one of those ninny incremental upgrades – it’s a whole new animal – with the big surprise that this one has a screen! Not in color, though; that’d be asking too much – but at least it’s blue OLED, if that’s significant.

It has lots more goodies : it’s twice the capacity (2gb), it’s got an FM tuner, it records, it has stopwatch and timing abilities, runs for 9.5 hours, plus some other features that’d put it up against the nano more than the shuffle (save for the color screen, of course). It also has a host of new accessories available, including a strap that lets you wear the Stone Plus as a wristwatch.

And for all this, it just retails for about US$69!

Take that, you iPod meanie, you.

The Big Experiment Part 2: The Little Things May 13, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Operating System, The Big Experiment, The Other Side of the Fence.
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Not Likes:

1. I am having trouble getting used to the fact that the red X button on the top right of a window shuts the app down – and not merely close the window. Dang. I unlearned it before, now I have to relearn it again.

2. Is the constant rebooting really necessary?

3. Closing the lid and letting the T43 hibernate or sleep instead of turning it off is like Russian Roulette – you never know if it’s going to screw up. Must I resort to physically turning it on and off every time? I miss just shutting the lid when I’m taking a break and then just opening it and jumping right back in without waiting and worrying.

4. The biometric finger scanning is cool, but sometimes it simply refuses to read my digits when at other times a casual swipe is all it takes. Sometimes it accepts the scan and seems to proceed, but sometimes stops and asks me to swipe a second time, as if it got suspicious and changed its mind. Duh?

5. The video output is …chunky. I’m used to the beauty, grace and clarity of OS X’s Quartz Extreme. ClearType? Pwe!

6. What’s with the constant updating? Every. Single. Day. There. Is. Something. Critical.

7. I miss the Apple Key. (Incidentally, the T43 is the one Windows laptop that does NOT have a Windows key.)

8. Sometimes I notice that the hard drive activity light flashes endlessly, even if I’m not doing anything, and the little network activity indicator flashes just as often. (No, I don’t have any background processes set up and running. I’m not a newbie; I’d know the difference.) So WTF is it constantly doing? Viruses hard at work? Nope, I’m clear, according to Windows Defender, AVG and Norton AntiVirus. Are the Microsoft gnomes playing with my data when I’m not looking, changing it around and sending it home so that the other gnomes in Redmond can have a good laugh? It’s making me paranoid. Creepy, man.

9. The trackpad of the T43 is crowned by a set of large buttons with colors (this is apart from the two large ones below it), and there is this red pencil eraser smack dab in the middle of the keyboard. Crowd me, why don’t you? I feel like I’m going to accidentally trigger WWIII with a wayward button press.

10. Sometimes doing simple things, like just dragging a file to a folder, drives the OS into a deep coma, and I face the choice of either being patient and see if it eventually slips from its funk, or just reboot the damn thing.

11. That little viper nest of a billion useless icons (I think it’s called the Taskbar?) on the lower right corner is maddeningly distracting, with all its blinking and dialog bubbles popping up constantly.

12. I miss my Dock.

13. I miss Dashboard and my beloved widgets.

14. I miss jamming the cursor into a corner and seeing my desktop clear instantly.

15. Why does it have to be “My” everything? My Network Places. My Bluetooth Places. My Computer. My Documents. My Programs... I mean, I know they’re mine, am I that insecure that I need to remind myself I own them every time I look at the screen?

16. While we’re on the topic of naming things, why is the trash can called Recycle Bin anyway? What are we recycling?

17. Just the act of installing a little piece of shareware can freeze the whole thing and turn it into an expensive paperweight. Why can’t this billion-trillion-gazillion industry fix such a small thing?

18. Microsoft will only let you update the system via web if you’re using Internet Explorer. Is that childish or what?

19. It takes forever to just unplug a USB flash drive.

20. Control Panel is a crowded, confusing, complicated jumble of potentially dangerous choices. Give me System Preferences any day.


1. I like the games.

The Big Experiment Part 1: Reboot Ad Nauseam May 5, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in The Big Experiment, The Other Side of the Fence.
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Just to get you up to speed if you didn’t read the posting that explains this series, this dyed-in-the-wool Mac loyalist is currently using an IBM/ Lenovo Thinkpad T43 with Windows XP Professional as his office laptop. *shudder*. (The original post is here, if you’re at all interested.)

This series is being written to chronicle my experiences using Windows again, extensively, from a standpoint of a Mac fanboy. I realize there are thousands of you used to working on both (particularly the MacIntel crowd), but this series is for those breast-fed and weaned exclusively on Macs, or former PC users who dropped Windows years ago and haven’t looked back since (or those few impenetrable Mac bigots – you know who you are). A lot of us fanboys tend to snipe and shoot gleefully at the Windows world, often from an uninformed, knee-jerk canned response because we feel that is normally what is expected of us. I have to admit my personal bias sometimes clouds my judgment and it was a great struggle especially in my line of work as a tech review editor.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised most of the time during my first week using the Thinkpad. Let me say right off, those of you looking for smug confirmation of your worst fears won’t get it here. At least not for now.

I guess using a good quality, branded high-end laptop with licensed software colors my impressions greatly. If I had been using a heavy, clunky budget laptop with pirateware I figure my experience would have turned out very differently.

The day I got it, I loaded up the included software from the dedicated partition in the hard disk. It went without a hitch. There were a few tedious configuration hurdles and the inevitable reboots to get the thing running. This included enrolling some of my fingers for the biometric security software that was a novelty at first. (More on this in a bit.) The first sign that I was in for a long and drawn out process was when the upgrading of the system software started.

This being a year-old model, the built-in software was of course behind the times, and the machine made me go through hoops through numerous upgrades and updates, which was for some reason not packaged in one ginormous update but doled out in bits and pieces, some big, some small, and most of them requiring me to restart the system. For the platform rebooting ad nauseam was par for the course even until now; nothing had changed. This was made a bit more unbearable by the fact that the biometric system had me scan my finger in before it could reboot, and back then I was still getting the hang of it; I must have have scraped off several layers of skin from my fingers on the sensor by the time I was through.


Stoning the competition May 3, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Alternatives, iPods, The Other Side of the Fence.
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It’s war in Lilliput!

Creative has announced its first display-less 1GB digital music player called the Creative Zen Stone.

It plays MP3 and WMA, has a 10-hour battery life and comes in six different colors: black, white, pink, blue, green and red. It’s small and light and can carry about 250 songs, give or take. It has two basic modes: play and random play. Oh, it has a clip in back too.

Sounds awfully familiar, don’t it?

There is one big difference though – it costs about half that of that other screen-less thing it looks like.

The Creative Zen Stone will be available beginning May 14, and will cost about US$39.99, or about a little under P2K.