Monday, October 25, 2010

The Macbook Air Experiment

I wasn't paying too much attention to the October apple keynote about OS X 10.7 but at the end of it, as everyone probably knows by now, Jobs announced the new Macbook Airs. I've always loved the macbook air, but with a 13" screen it's always just seemed like a crippled macbook pro. Despite rumors predicting it, I was honestly surprised when the 11.6" mini-air was announced. Anyone who knows me and my apple addiction knows how much of a fan I am of ultra-portable laptops and the 12" powerbook. I think this laptop combines the 12" portability with the form factor of the bigger air and that's what appeals to me. Now, you'll probably ask: didn't you just get an ipad? and yes....I probably don't need the air. And yes, it's not exactly a cheap netbook like the acer aspire (waiting to be sold atm). Yes the ipad is more portable to work since it can stay in the suitcase when I go through security. Yes, unlike the acer, I'm afraid the Air will get damaged or stolen if I take it to work too much. But in our short lives, sometimes logic needs to take a backstep to emotion. Do I prefer the Air to the acer? x1000!! Do I prefer it to the ipad? well....that's the test...

First impressions of the laptop are VERY good! Despite low system specs like a 1.4GHz processor and 2gb of ram, the laptop feels very speedy. Finally, the airs have high res screens! At 1366x768 resolution, the screen space still feels like a bigger macbook. It plays back 1080p youtube video in full screen when the atomized acer choked on fullscreen 480p. It plays quakelive at about 50-70 fps. I don't plan to install bootcamp or take it to lans as my primary computer, so that's the most intense use I have planned for it. The keyboard is the same as the new macbooks and BT keyboards, it's a pleasure to type on. The 64gb SSD hard drive is small, but it fits what I want it for, and it combined with the Geforce 320m make this laptop scream. This is no netbook for sure.

As for OS X 10.7, for a first look it's not terrible. I'm very happy with Snow Leopard, so I don't want too much to change. I like that the OS finally has a unified application look (besides iTunes 10 ugh), so I don't want any theme changes. My hopes for it would be resolution independence and zfs support. The app store is not a bad idea, but I'm not too interested in a push towards fullscreen apps. Everything else is stuff I won't use. When the G3 iMacs first came out without floppy drives, everybody cringed and predicted failure, but the gamble was that the internet would be taking over for file distribution. The macbook air and the OS X 10.7 app store reinforce this concept, especially with Steve Jobs' comment "All notebooks will be like [the macbook air] someday". That's not a bad thing. So far I really like the Air.

Bring on the pics!

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Posted by eclipse on 10/25/2010 at 01:02 AM
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Friday, September 10, 2010

Quakecon 2010!

Well I forgot my headphones for my flight from Dallas to Cleveland, so all I can do is type.  Yet again, no one else has made a review of Quakecon 2010, so the job defaults to me.

Quakecon time is always my favorite time of the year.  Mostly, I am excited to have my friends come down to Texas to visit me.  This year I was really excited to have everyone over to my new house, with plenty of room for people to sleep, set up computers, and go outside.  With two spare rooms with beds plus the pull-out sofa, I thought I was well prepared, however people ended up ignoring the beds to sleep on the floor, and slept on the sofa without pulling it out.  This year I actually remembered to charge the pump for the air mattress, however it deflated a bit during the day and March slept on an under inflated mattress because I forgot to tell him where the pump was.  Sorry about that.  Sleep always seems like a minor concern though, as they are so tired from driving that they can pass out anywhere and be fine.

The best part of the entire weekend, in my opinion, was my little minilan party that I had for the people who were not volunteering.  My sunroom is a natural candidate for LAN parties.  Our new dining room table extends quite far, and I’m able to have 3-4 people on each side.  Most people have pretty decent laptops these days to make the journey easier, and this helps the minilan setup as I don’t have to run cabling and power requirements are minimal.  I will have to invest in some more fans though, as the air vent is small and the windows are big!  We had fun all day wednesday playing Quakelive and soldier of fortune 2, starcraft 2 was also played.  Quakecon 2010 was off to a good start and it hadn’t even begun yet.

The very second that I had finished packing up my desktop for the LAN, we got word from Tim that the line was moving, and the convention was accepting computers for drop-off.  So we hastily packed up the Jetta and sped off downtown to get in line.  Only to our welcome surprise there was no line!  I’m not sure if there was just no one around, since no one had pre-registered this year, or if the system was so good that it destroyed the line in 45 minutes, but we cruised right in and started filling out our information.  The registration system had its up and downs this year.  It was lightning quick, but the only things you could register this year was a computer, monitor, mouse, keyboard, and headphones.  Everything else was left at-risk.  I’ve never felt less secure at Quakecon, but most people are decent folk, and as long as you don’t leave tempting items in full view, you’re probably fine.  As far as I’m aware, no one from our group lost anything. 

This year we followed my new seating suggestion, which was to sit our group with the aisle between us instead of the table, which I thought was much better.  I got to sit next to Jo and Matt, but all I had to do to talk to everyone else was turn around and it was easy to talk to Ben, Joe, and Steve.  I also tried to keep Jo and I on a schedule of arriving later and leaving later in the day to be around more when the Tech Desk volunteers were finished with their shifts.  It’s strange to think about being lonely in a LAN party of 3000 people, and I felt that way in 2006, but I definitely had fun with everyone this year.

There were problems however, as anyone who follows the event knows.  The story is, that at the last minute the provider of the network switches and routers backed out at the last minute.  This caused the staff to have to use older, slower equipment which was quickly overloaded.  Internet connectivity has never been fast at Quakecon, but I’ve never seen so many computers tethered to phones before.  These days you are lucky if a game even comes out for the PC.  You are luckier still if it has multiplayer mode.  But now for certain, if it has multiplayer support, you know you won’t be able to play it unless you have an internet connection.  So without the internet, basically every single new game wasn’t working, including their own Quakelive. 

Well you’d think that’s not such a big deal, we can just play some old school games like the good ol’ days.  Some Quake3, Jedi Knight 2, SoF 2, etc.. Only this year was also the beginning of the new authoritarian “no file-sharing” policy.  While I won’t deny there is potential for illegal file transfers, file sharing through direct connect is the easiest way to share legal files like game patches and updates.  While Adam did get a file server up and running later in the event, the effort it took to take files over to him, and get people motivated proved to be too much for most people.  Quakecon can function without the internet, and it can function without file sharing, but without both of them combined, the party largely stalled and became IRCon 2010. 

A big complaint many people had this year was that Quakecon has finally “sold out”.  People point to paying to skip the (nonexistent) line, and the “Quakecon Store” where you could buy shirts instead of fighting for them.  I hated fighting for shirts anyways, so those complaints didn’t bother me.  But I do agree that the vendor area has a different aura about it than when I started attending.  Maybe the new-ness has just worn off, but I thought in the beginning it was more personal.  You could really actually use and test the new products instead of just look at tech specs and demos.  A lot of vendors just play videos, and I have youtube at home.  I forced myself to walk around, but I still don’t understand the rage about Rage or why there is a spaceship there.  Now there are two mustangs for you to win a chance to lose, instead of 600 video cards which would be cooler and more useful anyways.

My usual review of the LAN events still stand also.  The quickdraw tournaments are a hassle to get in the running for, and more of a hassle to actually get chosen for.  I’m pretty sure that the winners from last year still haven’t received their prize money anyways.  About the only reason to actually try for the quickdraw is that Quakelive actually worked on those computers, and not in the BYOC.  Quakecon 09 ruined most of the events in my mind, as I have absolutely no desire to watch people humiliate themselves for a video card that will be outdated in 2 months anyways, or quakecon girls who are hired to distract you from the fact that there’s nothing interesting going on. 

I have a lot of bad things to say about Quakecon in recent years, but the fact remains that it’s still one of the best things that happens every year.  The fact that everyone wants to get together once a year and have a weekend just like old times means way more than a faulty network and stale events.  I’ll host Quakecon myself next year if I have to, and I hope everyone will try to take time in August 2011 to keep the tradition alive.  There were many good times, like the minilan, watching Avatar, going out to eat, and I did have fun playing the games we got to play.  To the people who took the time to come, I still had a great time with you.  To everyone, I hope you’ll come next year.

Posted by eclipse on 09/10/2010 at 10:58 PM
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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Drivers Wanted

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Posted by eclipse on 08/07/2010 at 11:02 PM
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

iPhone 4 rant

Ok quick rant about the iPhone 4!

It’s new and shiny and people can’t stop talking about it!  Literally, this is all that is on the news.  Apparently if you hold the bottom of the phone a certain way, it loses signal and can even drop the call!  People are so worked up about this that there is even a class action lawsuit starting against Apple over this!  You bought a phone you had never seen or touched before and it didn’t live up to your expectations.  Someone call a lawyer.  You deserve all of Steve Jobs’ millions of dollars for this outrage!  If you don’t like it, then you can fucking return it.  You can hold it a different way, you could even buy a case for it.  You could use your iphone 3Gs.  No one forced you to buy an iPhone 4.  Sometimes things just don’t quite work as well as you’d like.

Here is a “funny” video poking fun at iphone 4 fanboys (or fangirls in this case).  It’s always easy to kick around the fanboys for a few good laughs, but of course the shopkeeper fails to bring up any of the features the iphone 4 IS actually better at, such as the high resolution retina display, the new gyroscope, the fact that it works with their numerous iphone ready accessories, and the big one:  It syncs with their iTunes. 

Actually, there is really nothing revolutionary about the iPhone 4.  What is revolutionary is still the iPhone.  Apple already has the music player market cornered with their iPods and iTunes, and when a phone was added to that: BOOM revolution in smart phones.  People like the iPhone because it’s easy.  Because it really does just work for them.  Other phones might let you install whatever app you want or have a slightly bigger screen, but until you can make the experience easier than the iPhone + iTunes, people will still want the iPhone because that’s what their smartphone experience is built around now.  If anyone wants to compete, they will have to tear customers away from their already established investment in iTunes.  It can be done, but you’ll need a prettier phone/mp3 player than even Apple can make.  Good luck.

For that reason, I still prefer my original iPhone to any of the new phones out today.  The iPhone 4 isn’t any more another revolution than a droid or evo or hero or any other iPhone killer.  But if someone wants to spend the extra money for the new iPhone 4, let them.  It doesn’t automatically make them a fanboy.  It just means they will be the first to find these issues and let the rest of us know.  That’s the risk you take with a pre-order.

Extra Bonus Rant:
It’s just a phone!  Who cares!?

Posted by eclipse on 06/30/2010 at 03:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New House Pictures!

Alright!  As promised, here are new house pictures.  We’ve had about 3 months with the house so far and things are moving quickly.  Quite a few of these pictures are already outdated, but if I keep waiting for everything to be perfect, I’ll never get this done.  I think it’s cool to see the evolution of the different rooms and you get a better feel of the work we’ve done. 

Kitchen

The first project was the kitchen.  Having the keys to the house for only a few hours, Alison, her aunt and I started work on painting the kitchen.  Looking at the original pictures makes me cringe now.  All that wood color….ugh.  Well we brightened everything up very well with 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of white paint.  From the original picture, you can see the washer and dryer hookups which were flipped around so those could be in the garage.  Those things are noisy and they fit perfectly in the garage far away where they won’t bother us.  The new refrigerator is nice with ice and water in the doors.  We then painted the walls blue.  The last pic is already outdated because we’ve removed part of the cabinets and tiled the wall between the cabinets and the counter top.

    

Living Room

The living room is challenging because it’s pretty small.  Our couch only fits well in one spot, facing the kitchen.  We’ve added some little tables behind the couch to push it away from the wall.  The TV was kind of pushed in the corner, until it was replaced with a bigger, more elaborate TV center which pushes it out of the corner a little better.  It is finally mounted on the wall, cables nicely behind the wall. 

  

Sunroom / Dining Room

Our sunroom is one of the nicest rooms we have, with its big windows and nice view of the yard and all the trees we have around us.  It doubles as our dining room.  There is also a little sitting area just through the door with a nice view.  When there is company the chairs can be pulled into the living room for extra seating.

   

Bedroom

Not much special about the bedroom.  I complained about the lack of doors to the bathroom a lot when showing the initial pictures, but with so much to do it’s been pushed to the bottom of the list.  It sounds like such a huge project and the spare bathroom has been working fine for us so far.  It’s one of the few rooms lucky enough to get some paint.  I like the white color, but Alison wants something more colorful.  Anything is better than the tan that’s everywhere else. 

   

Den / Computer Room

Finally, my favorite room (of course) is the computer room.  It has presented great challenges to my setup, which are overcome as I get new furniture and computer hardware.  I was originally forced to put my desk in front of the window.  There is only one outlet in the back (pic #1) and only half of it works.  I could fix it probably, but I’m so lazy.  That’s not enough for my setup, so I had to start off on the other side of the room.  I set it up just as it was before we left the apartment with the two monitors taking up basically the whole desk.  The room is pretty large and with only our two desks in it, it was very empty.  So off I went to finally get the large desk I’ve always wanted.  I got an ikea galant desk with a few extensions.  Putting my old desk drawers by it lets it fill up the entire wall side of the back of the room, and it’s long enough to reach the other power outlet so I can run power along the entire desk discretely.  I could finally split up the computers, which were originally 90 degrees apart, but now the gaming computer is in the corner.

  

New additions to the setup, thanks to tax returns are a 16gb wifi ipad and a like-new 30” Cinema display off of craigslist.  The 30” is awesome and actually makes my old monitor look small.  Games are amazing with it.  Text is a little small.  I wanted the 30” because I’m not a fan of multiple monitor setups, and it would give me the most desktop space.  I could sell the 23” to make up some of the cost, but they look so good together right now!  The third picture is a photoshop of the color I want to paint the room sometime. 

  

My setup acts as two workstations in one.  Typically, the power-hungry gaming computer stays off, and I use the black workstation.  While it appears to be a hackintosh desktop, the black computer is the NAS file server, and the display comes from the macbook pro laptop running to its left.  This setup is great because it’s whisper quiet, wakes quickly from sleep, and still usable for almost everything I do.  To the far left are the routers for U-Verse and the internal network.  The black monitor is also an HDTV with U-verse setup on it.  The iPad is great to pick up and use around the house so I don’t have to unplug the laptop very often.

When I plan on spending more time in the computer room or playing some games, I can turn on the silver desktop and take advantage of the great screens with more screen space than I know what to deal with.  The black station can run aim or web browsing while I play games, or I can watch TV off to the side while I use the other one.  The oldest part of my setup is my awesome lava lamp on the right.  Probably one of the things I’ve owned for the longest amount of time, the lava lamp is on a timer and comes on automatically and is always fun to watch and relax.  My desk backlighting is along the back wall between the black and silver stations.  I had to get some extension cables and move the silver desktop from the corner because I kept kicking it.  I’ve moved the small black table away from under the desk and moved the computer there.  It’s currently torn apart while I install a blu ray disc drive.

 

Alison gets my old desk, and the tiny one she had was sold.  She likes the bigger desk and I really like my new setup as well.  I just need some more posters and art up, as well as some bookcases and other little peices of furniture to fill up the space and make it look really nice.

Other

Lastly, some other random pictures include the deck in the back of the house which was been stained and now has a wonderful dark brown wood color.  Alison has been doing lots of landscape work and as long as the Texas sun doesn’t kill all the plants it will look great.  We pulled up an old monster truck tire and replaced it with a white birdbath and feeder that are attracting cool birds like cardinals and blue jays.  Alison’s parents brought some old furniture down from Cleveland and we have a classic theme going on in our guestroom featuring a queen size bed.  That combined with the queen pullout sofa bed makes a lot of room for guests to come down during quakecon.  :D And lastly, here’s some pics of the garage.  Featuring the new Jetta and the washer and dryer.  Plenty of room for the washer and dryer…why would you put these inside the kitchen?  But also why would you not have doors on the bathroom…

    

Phew!  Got that post out of the way.

Posted by eclipse on 06/29/2010 at 04:09 AM
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