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Viewing entries tagged with 'apple'

new iMac vs. Dell PC

8 August 2007 | 19 Comments | Tags:

I had to laugh when Steve Jobs showed this comparison of the new cleanly designed iMac versus a normal Dell PC with a rat's nest of cables behind it.

iMac vs Dell

faith and the iPhone

4 June 2007 | 1 Comments | Tags:

I was watching this interview with Apple CEO Steve Jobs and tech-writer Walt Mossberg on (among other things) the upcoming iPhone. One thing definitely comes through in the video: Jobs really believes in his product. He isn't trying to "push" or "hype" the iPhone. He simply and truly believes that it will be the best phone, iPod and Internet communicator in the world. Such genuine faith is very compelling and much more effective at making others believe similarly than trying to be artificially enthusiastic, as, for example, Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer famously has been.

Indeed, such authentic enthusiasm is the best preaching. In my experience the best way to tell other people about Krishna consciousness is to be so genuinely enthusiastic about it that you can't help but tell everyone you know how great it is (not counting the initial "fanatic" stage that most people go through when they first take up the Krishna conscious practices). Faking it just doesn't work (as Sitapati also recently blogged about). People can tell the difference. Just like I'm sure everyone can tell the difference between Steve Jobs and Steve Balmer's enthusiasm.

Golden ratio in the design of the iPhone, or why does the iPhone have that black stripe on the bottom?

12 January 2007 | 53 Comments | Tags:

The Apple iPhone: Apple's amazing entry into mobile phone market. It blows away any other phone on the market in terms of form, flexibility, features and functionality (and also has a price tag to match: $500 with a 2-year contract).

The iPhone has an amazing design. The front is occupied by a large 3.5-inch multi-touch screen rimmed with silver. The back is also silver, but there is a black stripe along the bottom. It looks kind of strange, but is certainly memorable. Everyone will be able to tell the iPhones from other smartphones when people walk around with them held up against their heads.

Iphone Black Stripe
(image courtesy of AppleInsider.com)
However, I think there is more to this black stripe than just trying to be different. It has to do with the golden ratio. I blogged about the golden ratio in the iPod design a while ago. The rectangle of the iPod is closer to the golden ratio than any other MP3-player. This no-doubt factors into to it's immense appeal.

The iPhone is however far too long to be a golden ratio rectangle.

The 5th-gen iPod's measurements: 103.5 x 61.8 x 11.0 mm
The Apple iPhone's measurements: 115.0 x 61.0 x 11.6 mm

5g iPod ratio: 1.67 : 1
iPhone ratio: 1.88 : 1
Golden ratio: 1.62 : 1

So, has Apple lost its design touch?

No. Judging from the pictures I estimate the silver section along the back of the iPhone is about 95 mm high and the black is 20 mm. This works out to:

iPhone silver sub-section ratio: 1.56 : 1

Pretty close to the golden ratio. The black stripe is barely noticeable next to the polished silver. So, someone looking at the phone from the back will see a near golden ratio rectangle and will be instantly bedazzled by its beauty.

Why is it not exactly the golden ratio? My guess is that because the iPhone has rounded edges, it appears to be less high than it actually is, so, to the human eye, it actually does look exactly like a perfect golden ratio.

Apple design is yet again triumphant: the iPhone miraculously manages to combined the best of both worlds: looking more like a traditional candy-bar phone while simultaneously maintaining an appealing golden ratio shape. Jonathan Ives definitely knows his stuff.

Dropped the MacBook Pro

8 January 2007 | 514 Comments | Tags:

Today I accidentally dropped my MacBook Pro.

I had it open on a stand on a desk with some headphones plugged into it. I took the headphones off my head, got up out of my chair, caught my foot on the (overly long) headphone cord and, as I walked away, the mac came crashing to the floor, yanked off the desk by the headphone cord.

*crash*
*bang*

So, I picked it up, dusted it off and opened the lid (which had snapped shut during the fall). Much to my surprise, it came right back out of sleep as if nothing had happened. Inspecting the case there was no damage, not even a dent. The only sign of the incident is that now pressing down a specific part of the case makes a slight squeaking noise.

Impressive, most impressive. The aluminum clad MacBook Pro is one tough, sturdy, well-built, resilient, solid piece of computing equipment that knows how to take a punch and keep on going.

As a comparison: I once dropped my old Dell Inspiron 4150 from a similar distance while it was turned off and inside a protective laptop bag (Kensington Saddlebag). It still worked after the crash, but the plastic case was cracked and severely warped, the DVD-drive wouldn't fit anymore and several keys popped out. Dell, to their credit, later repaired the damage under warranty when the motherboard died.

However, if you have a habit of dropping your laptop it's probably a good idea to have an external backup, and for even more security you can protect your files with an online backup. A good place to start for choosing an online backup is to read a few just cloud reviews to get an idea of the services and features typically offered for protecting your files online.

(The hard drive on the MacBook Pros is protected during falls by a sudden motion sensor. There is a gyroscope built into the Mac which detects if it is accelerating too fast for its own good and then, in mid flight, quickly moves the hard drive into a protective "parked" position so it isn't damaged by the inevitable impact.)

Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro

25 October 2006 | 152 Comments | Tags:

Apple yesterday released an updated MacBook Pro. The major change is the inclusion of the new Intel Core 2 Duo processor. This is big news for me because the Core 2 Duo is a 64-bit processor, meaning that it can address more physical memory than the previous generation 32-bit processor. It should also work a bit faster if an application is written to take advantage of it.

The main reason I'm interested is because 64-bit Java will probably be included in the next release of Mac OS X: 10.5 Leopard due out in Spring 2007. I frequently run programs to push up to the 1.6 GB limit of the JVM, so hopefully Leopard and this new MacBook Pro will solve that problem.

macbook pro core 2 duo

Here is a run-down of the new and upgraded features (on the base $1999 model):

  • Faster processor: up from 2.0 Ghz to 2.16 Ghz
  • 64-bit processor: up from 32-bit Core Duo to 64-bit Core 2 Duo
  • More memory: up from 512 GB to 1 GB
  • Greater amount of maximum memory: up from 2 GB max to 3 GB max
  • Larger hard drive: up from 80 GB to 120 GB
  • Larger maximum hard drive option: up from 120 GB to 200 GB (though don't buy the 200 GB drive since it is dog slow at a rotation speed of only 4200 rpm - same as the iPod).
  • Faster DVD burner: up from 4x burn speed to 6x
  • Higher capacity DVD burner: up from 4.8 GB per disk to 8.5 GB per disk (it can now burn "dual-layer" disks)
  • Faster firewire port: up from 400 to 800 Mbps (for faster external hard disks, e.g. for video editing)
  • Better battery life: up from 4.5 to 5 hours max battery life (a lot of news reports missed this one - the better battery life is most likely due to the better power saving technology built into the newer Core 2 processor)
  • 802.11n wifi: 11n wifi is five times faster than 802.11g wifi which is supposed to have a maximum speed of 56 mbps. So, in practical terms this means that we'll probably see a sustained transfer speeds increase from 2 MB/sec to 10 MB/sec (however, the final standard for 802.11n is not agreed yet, so Apple has not yet enabled this feature - I expect it to become active when the iTV product is released = January)

Conclusion: a very nice update, especially considering the price is the same (I bet your kicking yourself if you bought one two days ago).
Nw9440

On a side note: I was looking at some IBM/Lenovo, HP and Sony notebooks in a local store today and I must say: "Man, those things are ugly!" (the picture above doesn't do them justice, since their photographers obviously know how to make even something ugly look at least "okay")

All of them had all kinds of hocks and knobs jutting out from everywhere, stickers pasted all over them, random ports and connectors arranged unsymmetrically. They were just plain horrible to look at. None of them care even close to the clean, refined look of the MacBook Pro.

Why, oh why, does Apple seem to be the only company in the world that has any kind of design esthetic? Are Jonathan Ives and Steve Jobs the only computer executives in the world with good taste? Apparently so!

AppleCare MacBook Pro repair experience

22 August 2006 | 5 Comments | Tags:

My MacBook Pro needed a repair. So then, here is a first hand account of my experience with the AppleCare tech support.

Appl MacBook Pro
The first problem I had was the battery malfunctioning. It would continually display a battery life estimate of 55 hours (which would have been nice, if true), even when empty. So, I phoned Apple and the tech support person ran me through a long list of trouble-shooting steps. She concluded that the battery was indeed faulty and arranged to send me a new battery. The new battery arrived two days later. With the battery came a prepaid UPS box to send the faulty battery back (Apple took my credit card number, so if I did not returned the old battery they will bill me for it).

Then I decided to complain about the infamous "whine" problem. The MacBook Pros make a faint, high-pitched whining/buzzing noise when running idle while on battery power. Apple had been denying the problem until last month when they announced a fix. I again phoned Apple support and (after about 45 minutes of running through every possible other thing that might be causing the noise) the tech support person arranged for the MacBook to be picked up for repair. The very next day a box for the computer arrived by UPS. UPS collected the computer a few hours later that same day.

Now the trouble started. It seems that since practically all MacBook Pros had this "whining noise" problem, everyone on the planet decided to send their laptop into Apple for repair at the same time. The result was that Apple was very short on the part (motherboard/logicboard) needed for the repair. To cut a long story short, after 4 weeks of my repair being "on hold - in queue for part" I phoned Apple and told them I critically needed my laptop. 3 days later it arrived in the post fully repaired and in good working order.

Tech support staff were always friendly, expert and helpful. The longest I was on hold for was about 3 minutes. They explained the situation with the long queue for the part, saying that repairs normally will take no longer than 7 days. They then upgraded the priority of my repair so it would "jump the queue".

I learnt the key words to say when talking to an Apple tech support person. They are "critical" and "unacceptable" . The staff are trained to agree to repair almost any complaint, however small, if you say it is "unacceptable". If you say the use of your computer is "critical", the priority of the repair gets boosted and it is completed in record time.

Apple recently has won a whole load of tech support awards. They are generally rated equally to Lenovo (both got grade A). In this particular review of computer tech support the other manufacturers scored as follows:

  1. Apple: A
  2. IBM/Lenovo: A
  3. Fujitsu/Siemens: A-
  4. Dell: B+
  5. Gateway: B+
  6. Sony: B
  7. HP: B
  8. Acer: C
  9. Toshiba: D-

(also check out PCMag's recent consumer satisfaction survey. Yup, Apple comes first there, too.)

Swansea visit Day 3: Yoga and Technology

30 July 2006 | 5 Comments | Tags: , ,

Karana Karana Devi DasiSome of Karana Karana??(TM)s yoga students commented something interesting. They were admiring Karana??(TM)s use of technology in her yoga sessions. Specifically, they loved how she used her trusty 12?? Apple Powerbook to both play the really nice high-quality background music and remind her of the lesson plan.

No paper. No cassette player (do those still exist?). No ugly monster computer filled full of virus and spyware that crashes every 5 seconds (although there was one like that in the office next door).

She could also, of course, access any other lesson plan, burn practice CDs for students, swap-in other music, print-out handouts (ok, maybe some paper does exist), create custom audio loops and time the class.

The students were saying that, in their experience, no other yoga teacher used technology at all, let alone in such an effective and impressive way.

We call it: yukta-vairagya. Here is an essay by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami on the topic.

unique MacBook (Pro) features review (hardware & software)

12 July 2006 | 4 Comments | Tags:

macbook pro galleryAnd now for a review of the various hardware features that make an Apple Macbook notebook computer stand out. All these are reasons to purchase a Macbook or Macbook Pro instead of a standard, run-of-a-mill PC.

No viruses or spyware: no need to run a virus scanner, spyware removal tool, or third-party firewall. Macs just don't get computer viruses (note: they might in the future, but for the moment there are zero viruses on the Mac platform).

Super-fast dual core processor: no slow down. By far the fastest computer I've ever used. Two processors means that while the computer is busy doing a processor intensive operation, there is no interface slow-down. The other processor turns on and helps out. The net-effect is a computer that is nearly double as fast as an older laptop equipped with the Pentium-M processor (which often still retail for around the same price as Macs). According to systemshoot, my 2.16 Ghz MacBook Pro is equivalent to a hypothetical 5.2 Ghz Pentium 4 processor. Don't be fooled by the Mhz-myth. Higher clock-rate number does not necessarily mean faster computer. Don't be ripped off by last year's significantly slower processor technology.

Front-row remote control: a tidy, simple, 6-button, infrared remote control comes with the Mac. It can be used to remote control presentations, music playback, DVD playback, show photo slideshows and adjust the volume. A special enlarged interface flies out from the screen at the press of a button, so you can see all the controls from across the room.

Sudden motion sensor: in built-gyroscope that detects if the computer is dropped and secures the hard drive in mid-air to prevent any damage or data-loss.

In-built iSight camera: high-resolution built-in video camera that can be used for video chat over the Internet and taking pictures of oneself (with Apple's fun little Photobooth application). It also works surprisingly well in low light. Much better than any other webcam I've used.

ATi Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics card: a super-powerful graphics card that can easily drive the nice 3D graphic effects of the operating systems. It can also easily drive a 30-inch external display (resolutions up to 2560 x 1600 pixels). It can also handle any modern, graphics-intensive game you can throw at it. Downside of all this power is that the graphics card eats battery power. If Apple had gone with a less powerful graphic card, the computer would probably last an hour longer when running on battery.

MagSafe power connector: the power connector attaches magnetically. Just move it near the edge of the computer and it snaps into place by itself. Much better than any clumsy plug-in connector. It also removes just as easily, so accidentally tripping over the power cord won't send the computer flying off the table. It also has a little light on the connector that tells you instantly if the battery is still charging, or fully charged.

Power supply cable ties: two little "feet" flip out from the power supply and can be used to wrap the power cord up quickly and tidily.

Slot-loading DVD drive. Just push the disk in and the drive sucks it in. No breakable pop-out tray to take care of. No delicate laser lens to get smudged.

Ambient light sensor: A sensor under the speaker grills detects the amount of ambient light and adjusts the screen brightness accordingly. The computer won't blast you with an ultra-bright screen if it's not necessary, saving both your eyes and battery life.

Bright screen: the screen is really clear, crisp and bright.

Instant sleep and restore: close the lid and the computer reliably goes to sleep. Open the lid and two seconds later the computer is read to use again, wireless Internet working, music playing, etc. It just works. The system also automatically saves the contents of the memory to disk (hibernate / safe-sleep) in case the battery power runs out, or someone removes / swaps the battery.

Magnetic / disappearing latch: the MacBook Pro has a disappearing latch. No ugly hook on the top of the lid, the latch retracts into the case when not in use. The MacBook takes this even further: it has no latch whatsoever, but secures the lid using a magnet. No moving parts to break (the latch is one of the things that frequently breaks on laptops).

Silent operation: makes almost no sound. Even when the fan comes on it is quieter than my old laptop running without its fan.

Hot swappable battery: put the computer to sleep by closing the lid, flick the spring-loaded levels on the bottom of the laptop and remove the battery. Put in a replacement battery, open the lid, wait a few seconds and continue working right where you left off. No need to save work, no need to reboot. Each battery also has a little read-out that displays how much charge it carries, so one can check the state of a battery without plugging it in.

Scrolling trackpad: using two fingers on the trackpad allows one to scroll the window. This may not sound like much of a feature, but is really useful. It's very intuitive to just scroll with two fingers. No more hunting for the tiny scroll bar on the side of the window.

Built-in microphone: a microphone is built in to the case somewhere, so audio chat just works, without the need for an extra external mic. Very good quality, too. Apples own iChat application even does perfect echo cancellation, so one does not even need a headset for audio chats. Unfortunately, Skype has not yet figured out how to do this, so chatting using that is not quite as perfect an experience.

Bluetooth (2.0) that actually works: a friend's IBM laptop has bluetooth, but it doesn't actually work because Windows messes up the driver. Bluetooth headsets, bluetooth mice, bluetooth keyboards, bluetooth phone synchronization (so you can, for example, write text messages on the Mac and send them using the phone, or go online through the phone's wireless connection); it all just works. Extra bonus is version 2.0 of bluetooth gives three times faster data transfer rates, better battery life and stereo audio support (though Apple has not yet implemented that feature).

Wifi: good wireless range in spite of the metal case and super easy configuration on any wireless network. The wireless antenna is on the hinge connecting the display to the bottom-case, which greatly improves reception from the previous generation Apple Powerbooks.

Firewire port: to plug in digital video cameras and download films directly onto the computer. Most PCs don't have this connector.

Optical 5.1 audio in/out: headphone and mic input that support up to 6 channels of simultaneous audio.

Good keyboard: nice responsive keyboard with sturdy keys that don't appear like they're about to fall off at any moment (unlike my old Dell laptop).

Works well with the iPod: synchronizes flawlessly and quickly with the iPod MP3 player.

Single hinge design: the entire back panel of the computer is one continuous hinge. No cheap plastic hinge that can break off easily (something that has happened to me on every other laptop I've owned).

Attractive durable case design: the MacBook Pro's aluminum case looks very beautiful. Great design. No frankenstein-like case with ports, buttons and connectors jutting out of everywhere. There is not even a visible fan air exhaust hole in the case. Apple has cleverly hidden the cooling fan slots under the display's hinge, making them all but invisible. The casing is also more durable than the typical plastic case. Metal doesn't tend to chip, split, scratch, or crack. The MacBook is made out of polycarbonate plastic (the same stuff that bullet proof glass is made out of), making it even more resilient than the MacBook Pro.

Super thin: only one inch thin. Every other laptop looks fat and clunky in comparison. The Macbook Pro is at least an inch thinner than most competing laptops.

Ultra-light weight: at 5.6 pounds (2.54 kg) the MacBook Pro is about 1 kg lighter than the equivalent Dell laptops. It is surprisingly lightweight for the size of the machine.
Gigabit ethernet: wired LAN networking that has 10 times faster file transfers than the usual 100 megabit network that is standard on most PCs.

Potentially low EMF radiation: the all metal body may reduce the EMF radiation emitted by the computer, though I have not been able to test this as of yet.
Stable: hardly ever crashes. No random restarts. No performance degradation over time. The Mac OS X operating system keeps itself in running order without user intervention.

Good tech support: Apple support is rated the best in the industry (and Dell isn't doing too well lately). You can also walk into any of the world-wide Apple stores, or many authorized service provider shops and get support from the so-called "Mac Geniuses" there.

Automatic external display configuration: plug an external display or projector in and the computer auto-detects it and configures the correct display setting automatically.
Runs windows: can use a software called Parallels to run Windows XP in a window from inside the Mac operating system, or can use Apple's own free Boot Camp software (recently updated) to reboot into Windows and use the Mac just like any other (really fast) Windows computer (and, for those Unix hacker out there: it does Linux, too).

Runs Microsoft Office. Microsoft make Word, Excel and Powerpoint for the Mac operating system.

iLife: the best suite of digital lifestyle applications out there. iPhoto stores digital camera pictures, iMovie is a full-blown movie editor, iDVD makes making professional looking DVD film disks easy, iWeb allows easy authoring of websites, iTunes stores and organizes MP3s, GarageBand makes podcast production easy and is the perfect software for recording one's own band (and all these applications work together seamlessly).

iWork: the Pages word processor is faster and easier to use than Microsoft Word and allows one to produce much more stylish looking printed pages. The Keynote presentation software is in a different class altogether from Powerpoint. Much easier to use, professional looking slides and transitions and some unique, cool and useful features.

Easy to use, elegant, feature filled Mac OS X operating system. No other operating system even comes close. It's like night and day going from Windows to Mac OS X: it just works. USB devices recognized instantly, drag and drop works between every application, can zoom into a portion of the screen for magnified reading, or detailed editing, can tile each window using a tool called Expos?© to quickly switch between applications, near instant full-text searching of every file on the hard drive, a dashboard of useful little widget utilities (currency converter, language translator, dictionary, world clock, calendar, calculator, notepad, etc) can be called up at a touch of a button, built-in voice recognition (to control the computer by talking to it) and screen-reader, automatic as-you-type spell-checker in every application, the list of useful features and nice little touches goes on and on and on ...

Price: only slightly ($100 - $200) more expensive than a PC from HP or Dell with the same basic hardware configuration. Though, of course, those computers don't come with any of the extras I've just listed.

Negatives can be summed up in two issues: heat and battery life.

This thing gets hot, really hot. It may be because the metal case conducts heat more easily, it may be that the invisible cooling fan slots impedes airflow, it may be that the fan is set to come on at too high a temperature, or it may just be because the computer is so darn thin. Whatever the cause, the Macbook Pro (and, to a lesser extent, the Macbook) can be very hot to the touch / lap. It's fine when just writing emails, but as soon as the computer has to work hard at some calculation the temperature really becomes noticeable. Apple even warns: don't put the "laptop" on your lap. It might burn you.

Then there is battery life. The bright screen, powerful graphics card and speedy processor certainly take their toll on the battery. On top of that comes the super-thin case, which does not allow for a large hulking battery. So, while Apple is using the latest high-tech lithium-polymer battery, the battery life sucks! I get only 2 - 3 hours of battery power (wifi on, normal screen brightness, moderate use, no sound playing).

Unfortunately, some faults have occurred with this machine: the fan occasionally makes a ratcheting noise, like a piece of card being stuck in the spokes of a bike's wheel; the computer makes the infamous whining noise when on battery power (though that might now be solved); and my battery has died on me. However, Apple support was quick, friendly and forthcoming with repairs (apart from the whine - I'm still going to hassle them about that), so no hard feelings. Still, one gets the impression that there are still a few bugs to work out with the hardware.

All in all: I recommend the MacBook to everyone. In my opinion, there is no reason whatsoever that anyone should buy anything other than an Apple notebook computer. The MacBook Pro is the ultimate power-user machine. The MacBook is a really great deal (cheaper even than the equivalent dull Dell) and almost as powerful as the Pro.

(and here a picture gallery of the MacBook Pro)

Mac software review/roundup

10 July 2006 | 1 Comments | Tags:

I switched to using an Apple Macbook Pro about a month ago. What follows is an in-depth review of some of the software I've been using on the Mac.

Positives
Parallels Desktop for Mac OS X is simply amazing. It seems to run Windows better than a Windows PC does. If given enough RAM, it can launch Windows XP in 10 seconds flat! How long does Windows take to boot on your PC, I wonder? You can have Windows running in one Window on the Mac and simply move the mouse into that and use it as you would any other application. You can also set it to rotate the screen between the operating systems with a cube effect: so Windows is running on one side of a cube and Mac OS X on the other. Applications run at almost full speed (although they can only use one of the two processors at a time). No slowdown whatsoever from what I could tell. You can also copy and paste text between the two operating systems. Finally, Windows can access any of the Mac hardware and filesystem (if you let it), even though they are completely different systems (of course, some Mac specific features, such as tracking file creation time, don't work when creating files in the Mac filesystem using Windows). Network connections can either be shared, or the guest operating system can appear as a separate computer. All in all, everything just works. Very nice. Want more info? Ars Technica has posted a very detailed review.

Presentation software: Keynote is an application from Apple for creating jaw dropping presentation. It is much, much (!) better than Powerpoint. Steve Jobs, the Apple CEO, uses it for all his famous presentations. Al Gore used it for his presentation on global warming which was recently made into a feature length film (An Inconvenient Truth). I haven't seen it, but its getting rave reviews and has made $10 million at the box office so far. Pretty good given that the film is basically just a video of Gore giving a Keynote presentation using his Apple notebook computer.

Aside: it is becoming easier and easier to create quality presentations/videos. Now everyone's doing it. For example: Angela Merkel, the new German Chancellor, has just started giving a weekly video podcast. Aim: "Directly addressing the people", "appeal to the youth", etc. etc.

Rosetta emulation is good, but not great. Almost all emulated software runs fine. However, if you attempt to open and edit a Word document that contains lots of images the computer grinds to a halt. Word is otherwise okay to use. There is a very slight, but noticeable delay before every action, but it is still perfectly usable (just not with images in a document). Of course, there are plenty of other word processor alternatives that will also read (and save) Word documents. However, none are however as fully featured / bloated as Word. Grammar checking, for example, is not included in any of them.

The Ecto blog writing software I use is really good. It makes it very easy to write blog entries offline and post them with a touch of a button. You can even include pictures and set them to upload with the main article. Lots of options, lots of features. It does however currently still runs in Rosetta emulation, but you'd never know. It's lightning quick.

Endo is a brilliant little RSS reader. I was previously using Bloglines, but Endo has replace it. It makes reading loads and loads of RSS feeds fast and easy. RSS is different from email. I scan RSS quickly for something that might interest me, while I read and respond to email in detail. Endo allows me eat through loads of feeds in practically no time at all.
Apple's Mail app is great. Fast (really fast), simple and uncluttered, yet can do almost everything that Outlook can. It's spam filter is also quite good. It can learn from what you label as spam or not-spam. Over time it will learn to catch most spam and never label something that isn't spam as such. Some spam will always slip through the net, of course.

iPhoto is a great photo management application. It completely replaces the traditional folder structure for pictures with a much more useful interface. Unlike similar tools on the PC (Photoshop Elements or Picasa), there are lots of plug-ins available that enable you to directly and easily export pictures into online galleries (flickr, coppermine, gallery, etc.). iPhoto can automatically handle all the resizing, re-naming and uploading. Simple.

SuperDuper! is the best backup software I've ever used. I wouldn't have thought that creating a backup is so difficult, but SuperDuper seems to be the only software in the world that that is easy to use and does fast, accurate and smart hard drive synchronization. The process for backing up my 120 GB hard drive is: plug in external hard drive, launch SuperDuper, press the "backup now" button, wait 20 minutes, done (the software only copies the changed files and removes any deleted files). You can, should your computer's hard drive fail, plug in the backup drive, boot the computer via USB and carry-on working, as if nothing had happened. Mac OS X has a special feature that you can seamlessly boot from and use an external drive as the main system drive.

Bonuses
No need for virus checker, anti-spyware tool, or third-party firewall needed. Zero viruses and spyware on the Mac. A good firewall is built into the operating system.

Real plug and play. For example: the process for using a new, unknown printer is: Plug in, press print. No hunting for drivers, no millions of pop-up boxes telling you that the new hardware is being recognized. It just works (Apple has included about 2 GB of common drivers with the OS).

Lots and lots of little things. Every time I've wished: "if only it could do that", I've found that it actually could do that. The Mac platform just oozes with attention to detail.

Negatives
Software sometimes crashes. That will always be there. Nothing disastrous, just annoying. I expect better from Apple! The entire operating system has even hung and/or crashed on me a few times. It seems that Apple is still struggling to get rid of some of the glitches in the new Intel hardware.

Firefox is not as good on the Mac as it is on Windows (not bad, of course, just has a few quirks). There are however plenty of alternative web-browsers: Camino, Safari, Shiira, Opera and Omniweb and (cough) Internet Explorer. You can pick the one that you like best.

Video Skype has not yet materialized. It is definitely being worked on, but no fruits so far.

Synchronization software for Windows Mobile 5 (for my T-mobile MDA Vario smartphone) has also not yet materialized. The two companies (missing sync and pocketmac) that make this kind of software have had about a year to work on it already, but, once again, no fruits as of yet.

Some older hardware does not work. I could not, for example, format my backup drive for the Mac. I had to use a different, older, PowerPC-based Mac computer to do that. Also, my digital camera can't directly connect to the Mac (it can however connect to Windows running in Parallels and, in that round-about way, transfer files). I usually just use an external card reader.

Some relearning required: things work differently on the Mac. Keyboard shortcuts are different (but actually make sense), windows have different buttons, the equivalent of the Windows-explorer is not quite as intuitive. It all takes some getting used to, but is worth it, in the end.

new Apple switch ads: get a Mac

2 May 2006 | 3 Comments | Tags:

Apple has just released a new series of TV ads for advertizing the Mac. They are really well done. Fun, modern, short, to the point, good looking and trendy, imaginative. I think they'll be a huge success.

Here's a link directly to the videos.

I'm thinking that a similar type of ad for highlighting the benefit/coolness of Krishna consciousness could work wonders. Imagine:

Old disgruntled unhappy person: "Hi, I'm a religious believer."
Modern smart looking person: "Hi, I'm a Hare Krishna."

BlogZOT promotion

25 April 2006 | 1 Comments | Tags:

A website called BlogZOT is doing an interesting promotion. They giving away the SubEthaEdit from CodingMonkeys software for free, provided enough people post blog entries pointing at their website (like I just did). Altogether MacZOT and TheCodingMonkeys will award $105,000 in Mac software to bloggers around the world. But mainly, I think, the idea is to increase people??(TM)s awareness of both of these websites. I think a lot more copies of SubEthaEdit will be sold in this way. If nothing else, their Google PageRank will skyrocket (PageRank is Google??(TM)s way of measuring the importance of a website on the Internet). This is a good promotion strategy.

Check it out at: BLOGZOT 2.0 on MacZOT.com

Three types of branding

3 April 2006 | 2 Comments | Tags: ,

Brand is a very powerful in business. There are three basic branding strategies:

  1. Unique brand
  2. Corporate brand
  3. Range brand

Unique branding is used by a company like Proctor & Gamble. All its many different household products use have a unique identity. P&G owns popular brands such as: Ariel, Braun, Crest, Duracell, Fairy, Gillette, Lenor, Oral-B, Pampers, Pringles, Head & Shoulders, Olay and Wella.

A unique branding strategy allows a company to dominate a product area by building a successful brand that stands for just one thing. Such a brand can often become synonymous with the product: Kleenex, for example. Also, if a brand is unsuccessful, its failure does not affect the other brands the company owns. Moreover, the company can even compete against itself by launching different brands in the same product category. No matter which product the consumer buys, the parent company is successful. The disadvantage is that each brand must be marketed separately. It takes a significant investment in time, money and effort to establish a new brand.

Corporate brand strategy means using a single brand for all products. Apple uses this strategy. New products share the awareness of the established brand identity. Time to launch a new product is greatly reduced. Customers already know and trust the existing brand. However, as a corporation extends its product lines into many different markets, it can become difficult to maintain consistent quality for all products and the whole brand suffers as a result. One failed product can bring the entire company's image down. Also, when the company is not perceived as a dedicated provider of a single category of product, people may begin to doubt the corporation's devotion to each of its product lines. The result: brand loyalty is reduced.

Range branding is a mixture of the two. For example, Toyota created the Lexus brand in order to establish a new brand for its luxury cars. The Toyota brand already had too much of an established market identity in order to compete in the high-priced market segment.

Atma Yoga is following the unique branding strategy (or possibly range, it's too early to tell). One might consider call it Krishna Yoga, or even ISKCON Yoga, but an unsuccessfully executed corporate brand strategy prevents that from being a good idea. It will take considerable time and effort to establish brand loyalty and awareness, but the potential payoff is also quite high.

MacBook Pro thoughts and opinion

4 February 2006 | 84 Comments | Tags:

So, I've watched Steve Job's presentation, studied the specifications, read the various opinions online and now offer my thoughts about the new Apple MacBook Pro (hate the name!) notebook computers:

Positives:

  • Fair price ($2000). A similarly configured laptop from other vendors costs:
    • Gateway NX560 = $1800 (good specs, but historically terrible quality)
    • Dell E1705 = $2300 (they only sell a 17" system, which naturally costs more)
    • IBM T60 = $2049 (somewhat inferior specs in comparison to Apple)
    • Acer 8204 = $2000 (with better specs than the Apple, but ??¦ four letter word for computer disaster)
    • HP dv1000t = $1900 (significantly worse specs than the Apple)

    And yes, we can argue at great length over what it means to be similarly configured, but I've found, in general, that Apple's pricing is within 10% of everyone else. So, all things considered, no luxury tax from Apple.

  • Lighter (5.6 pounds) and smaller (1 inch thick) than any equivalent notebook I know of. For example, the IBM Thinkpad T43 weights 6.0 pounds, has a 15" (vs. 15.4") screen and is 1.4 inches thick.
  • Built-in high quality video camera (for when Skype eventually get around to releasing video skype for Mac ??" which should be "real soon now")
  • Has a dual core Pentium-M (or I guess Intel is calling them Core Duo now) processor in it. Two processors on one chip for double the speed. In reality, depending on the application, it will only be about 30% - 60% faster. It does however really shine when doing multiple things at once. For example: try, all at once, burning a CD, downloading something from the Internet, playing a video, browsing a photo library and creating a backup and watch a single core chip grind to a halt.
  • Battery life is currently unknown (but will be pretty good since it uses a new lithium-polymer battery technology instead of standard lithium-ion)
  • Very bright screen. Apple says it is as good as an external LCD monitor. Better than most other laptop screens on the market (those super-bright Sony screens may look nice, but the glair off the ultra-reflective surface makes them very difficult to read text on. What use is a screen that is difficult to read off of?!).
  • Much, much, much better graphics card (ATi Mobility Radeon X1600) than anything else on the market. This is important because Mac OS X takes full advantage of the graphics card, unlike Windows, which makes no use of it whatsoever (until Windows Vista is released next Christmas).

Negatives:

  • Costs an extra $200 - $300 for novelty of getting the latest and greatest Intel processor. But, when the processor prices come down, Apple will probably keep the MacBook price the same and just add more features, so no harm in buying one now.
  • Doesn't have a modem. Steve Jobs has decided they are obsolete (an external USB-modem costs $50).
  • Cheaper consumer iBook laptops with smaller screens will probably be release in April or July.
  • Can't yet run Windows applications inside of Mac OS X. However, many people (Microsoft included) are feverously working on this.
  • No two-button mouse on the touchpad. Mac OS X does not need a right mouse button, but it may be difficult to use Windows (once it is available on the MacBook) without plugging in an external mouse.
  • Some notable Mac application providers haven't created so called "universal binaries" yet that are needed to achieve optimum performance on Intel processors. Key applications (for example Office and Photoshop) will run relatively slowly (at 50-80% of original speed) until new versions come out.
  • Seems ever so slightly rushed: same basic case as the previous model. No revolutionary new feature. (Apple is being smart by not changing too many things at once). Nothing that fundamentally distinguishes it from a standard PC (apart from the camera, weight, size, "front-row" remote control, software and operating system). Okay, there is actually plenty unique stuff about this computer. I eat my words.
  • The MacBook Pro is, for all intents and purposes, an iMac desktop computer in a portable case. However, the iMac is roughly half the price. This is realistic pricing for the added portability and miniaturization, but feels rather uncomfortable, since the two systems are otherwise so similar.

It is a really good laptop. I was however wishing it to be lighter than the previous model, have a bigger hard drive, have enhanced application startup performance using Intel's Robson flash-memory caching technology and use faster Core Duo processors than 1.83 Ghz (they go up to 2.16 Ghz), all of which should have been possible, but would, of course, have driven up the cost.

Also, Apple engineers aren't magicians. While the MacBook Pro's hardware is, in my opinion, better than everything else on the market, it is only by a slight margin. The main reason for buying this computer is the Mac OS X operating system, not the hardware.

So, in review, on all accounts a great machine. Only a few unknowns still need to get resolves. I'll wait at least until April before buying one for myself . I'd really like something smaller and lighter than the current offering to replace my prehistoric Dell Inspiron 4150 monster. For example: a 13-inch MacBook Pro would hit the spot ...

Update: Apple has upgraded the MacBook Pro processor options to feature the fastest Intel processors currently available (2.16 Ghz) and boosted their default "low-end" model up to 1.83 Ghz. Large hard drives are also available as build-to-order options. Battery life also appears to be at least as good as the old Powerbooks'. However, the new MagSafe power supply brick (85W) is roughly 30% larger than the the old 15" Powerbook power supply (65W).

So, all I'm left wishing for is Robson and slightly less weight (especially since the larger power supply makes this new Mac heavier than the previous model).

Podcasting tutorial

16 January 2006 | 40 Comments | Tags:

Apple has created a short video tutorial on how to plan a good podcast. It is somewhat focused on their new GarageBand podcast-enabled audio editor (which looks like a superb application, by the way), but has some good tips on creating a nice, fun, high-quality, downloadable, timeshiftable, RSS-subscribeable online radio show. Check it out.

Golden ratio in the design of the iPod

6 January 2006 | 39 Comments | Tags:

The Apple iPod is the world's most beautiful MP3 player.

The iPod was designed by Jonathan Ive and his team of designers. Their goal was to create the perfect product. They achieved this with an extreme amount of attention to detail.

One aspect of the design is the basic shape of the device. The rectangle that is the iPod comes closer than any other MP3 player to the golden ratio 1 : 1.618 (also sometimes called the golden section). This ratio appeals to us at an unconscious level.

Attractive human faces have proportions that correspond to the golden ratio, indeed, the human body itself exemplifies this ratio, the Greek Parthenon and many other famous ancient monuments use the ratio throughout their design, the logarithmic spiral on a Nautilus Shell conforms the to golden ratio and even a TV image using those proportion is more appealing (that's why widescreen TV is 16:10). The golden section is deeply ingrained in the design of the Universe. We can't help but be attracted by it.

Here are the ratios of several popular MP3 players:

ipod iriver h10 creative nomad zen xtra

1 : 1.67 = iPod
1 : 1.75 = iRiver H10
1 : 1.47 = Creative Nomad Zen Xtra

The iRiver is too tall, the Nomad is far too fat, but the iPod's shape, though also slightly too tall, comes closest to this magic ratio. It is certainly no accident that it is the most visually appealing. I am however surprised that no other company has created an MP3 player that exactly uses the golden section (the iRiver H320 comes close by using the same ratio as the iPod, but otherwise looks like an ugly brick - sigh).

So remember, whenever you design anything try to use this golden ratio and people will become instinctively attracted.

Polish

5 December 2005 | 19 Comments | Tags: ,

In today??(TM)s world it is not enough simply to offer some service or product. Products and services are very quickly becoming commoditized, so one must offer some extra value in order to stand out of the crowd. One??(TM)s offering needs to be polished. Here are some examples:

Mac OS X is a very polished computer operating system software: much more so than Windows and much, much more so than Linux (which might have all the features, but lacks the glitter). Polish may seem irrelevant to someone who just wants something that will get the job done, but most people want more. My parents were certainly impressed at the rotating cube fast user switching effect on their Mac mini. That sort of good impression is much more important than the ability to open a file a few milliseconds more quickly.

A good yoga teacher will not just show the yoga asanas (postures). He or she will give a running commentary, tell jokes, tell stories, correct the students??(TM) postures, offer complements to the students when they perform a difficult asana, play background music, light incense, in short, offer a whole polished yoga-experience. Anyone can, after all, do gymnastic exercise.

Chanting the Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra is easy. You just say the words. However, attentive chanting is difficult (at least for me). The aim is to be so fixed in one??(TM)s attention and cry out with such sincerity that Krishna can??(TM)t help but take personal notice. Even chanting just one mantra in such a pure fashion can make someone completely Krishna conscious in an instant. All material contamination is brushed aside. Someone like me however is far away from that stage of shininess and needs to keep polishing. Luckily, practicing the chanting is the very means of polish.

The Guru behind Apple

30 October 2005 | 0 Comments | Tags:

UK newspaper The Independent published a very interesting article about Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple and Pixar. It talks about his eating at a Hare Krishna temple every week when we was young and traveling to India. He is a Buddhist and has a realistic outlook on the material world. Now if he could only add Krishna ...

Mac mini + OS X review

28 October 2005 | 2 Comments | Tags:

I got my parents a new Mac mini computer (cost: US$500). I was using it when I visited them last week. Here are my impressions / review:

Shortcomings:

  • No preview of image files in the Finder. Windows can easily do this. What was Apple thinking?
  • Inconsistent Home/End key effects. End usually goes to the end of the document (expect in Word or some other Windows centric text editors).
  • I have to relearn to use the Windows/Cloverleaf/Apple key. Nearly all keyboard shortcuts use it. Of course, I can remap the key to CTRL and all is well.
  • Safari is a decent enough web-browser, but it crashes too much. Firefox rulez!
  • When the Dock crashes, spin-locks, or hangs the Apple equivalent of Ctrl-Alt-Del, which is Command-Alt-ESC, cannot be used to Force Quit and restart it. It is a special hidden process. I have to start the Activity Monitor to restart the Dock. However, when Dock crashes it is impossible to start the Activity Monitor (because I have to use the Dock to start the application). Bad design!
  • The 1.42 Ghz G4 processor is seriously underpowered. Compared with a modern Pentium-M based notebook this machine is a real dog, especially when I??(TM)m heavily multi-tasking. No wonder Apple is switching to Intel processors.
  • The dual-core P-M (code name Yonah) processor (due to come out in early 2006) will hopefully fix all this.

The good:

  • Expos?© is great. Instead of Alt-Tab I found myself flicking to a screen corner and clicking on a preview-window. It is a much more sure way of switching between applications. No more guess work when I switch applications.
  • The Dock: It may be inconsistent and bastardized to do too many different things, but, somehow or other, it just works. It does what it should and does so very well. I like it.
  • Setup via System Preferences is very nice, understandable and clean. Much better than the Windows control panel and much, much, much (!) better than the various home-grown Linux config tools.
  • Application installation and uninstallation is (mostly) very intuitive. Just drag and drop.
  • Software update is quick and painless. Unlike Windows-Update, it doesn??(TM)t bewilder you with too many unnecessary options.
  • Core applications are small, light and start quickly. No overblown monsters like Microsoft Outlook.
  • The H.264 video codec is amazing. Downloaded HD-video content looks terrific. However, decoding the video bring the processor to its knees. Major meltdown (cooling fan kick-in).
  • Security is really good. One can clearly see that Apple have thought about protecting users from viruses and spyware without insulting our intelligence, or hurting ease of use.
  • Blend transitions are used everywhere. No harsh flicker. The whole interface looks very elegant and refined. Animations are smooth, fast and useful.
  • The maximize button is smart. It makes a window use only as much screen space as it needs. This makes using widescreen displays useful. Applications can be placed side-by-side with a minimum of effort.
  • Bluetooth support is excellent. Plug and play. Bluetooth on Windows is a nightmare. I??(TM)ve never gotten any Bluetooth gear to work with a Windows-box.
  • Scroll-wheel focus actually works. Windows don??(TM)t suddenly loose focus for no reason. However, web-browser windows do frequently and annoyingly steal the focus. Just like in Windows.
  • The Mac mini computer itself is tiny and beautiful. 30 times smaller than the old tower case it replaced. Faster too.

Podcasting on the Mac

14 July 2005 | 0 Comments | Tags:

Prominent blogger John Gruber has posted a very good article on his "Daring Fireball" blog about what Apple is doing to support podcasting on the Macintosh. Among other things he comments on how quickly Apple has picked up on this very new phenomenon and developed software to handle it. They must see major growth potential (as also predicted by Adam Curry, see here).

All the tools and tech are outlined in detail. Check it out if you want to create Podcasts and own a Mac (or just use iTunes on the PC and want to listen-in).

On powerpoint presentations

25 June 2005 | 3 Comments | Tags: , ,

Powerpoint is ubiquitous in the commercial world. Seemingly every talk, presentation, meeting, lecture and discussion must be accompanied by a presentation. There are some good presentation and very many bad ones. Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the largest Christian publishing company in the world, has given a few useful guidelines on effective presentations in his blog.

In the devotee world presentations are very rare. The Vedic process of dissemination of knowledge is by sabda, or sound. Up until 5000 years ago no one even saw the need to write anything down. Western education, on the other hand, is almost completely visually focused. Many people, myself included, find it somewhat difficult to switch between the two paradigms.

My spiritual master tried giving a presentation in Wellington using a projector and a few simple presentation slides. He was blown away by the result. The attentiveness, retention, quality of questions asked afterwards, all were phenomenal. The audience even applauded afterwards. All because of having a projector screen to look at.

I suggest combining the transcendental sound vibrations of Vedic knowledge and expertly constructed visual imagery of the western world. The result: ultimate learning experience.

(Side note from Michael Hyatt that I also agree with: dump PowerPoint and use Apple Keynote instead. It produces much better looking presentations. Unlike Microsoft, Apple software has a sense of style.)

Steve Jobs: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

19 June 2005 | 0 Comments | Tags: , ,

In a speech at Stanford University Apple CEO Steve Jobs talks about his life after dropping out of College. He describes how he used to walk 7 miles to the local Hare Krishna temple to get a good meal.

Hmm, Jobs has been purified by prasadam. Preaching opportunity I wonder?

Steve Jobs certainly was some kind of demigod in his previous life. You need some special kind of karma to create a $2 billion company by the age of 30. He also is reputed to have quite an ego: "My way, or the highway". Another symptom of his having had some serious power in his previous life. Now, of course, the question is: where is he headed next?

In his speech, he also talks about a piece of advice he was given when he was 17. The Srimad Bhagavatam recommends that you live your life as if today were the last day of your life. He doesn't mention the Bhagavatam, of course, but that's probably where he got it from. In any case, he took that advice to heart and has accomplished so much.

So then: let's go out there and do something amazing! (and if we can recruit Steve Jobs' help, all the better...)